People visit us daily, offer all possible help: Patients
Like every year, Ramadan has brought new hope for the leprosy patients, who otherwise feel neglected and isolated from the rest of the society.
Living in isolation the hospital cum rehabilitation centre at Leper Colony Lal Bazar, the patients are often seen waiting after Zuhr prayers for visitors to bring smile on the wrinkled faces.
Situated on the banks of Nigeen Lake and spread over 312 Kanals of land, the colony was established during the 19th century under Kashmir Medical Mission by the British to isolate leprosy patients from the rest of the population.
Bashir Ahmad, 70, a patient living in the colony from the past 45 years says that Ramadan is a hope for them as dozens of people visit their vicinity on daily basis.
He says after the year 2004, people started visiting their colony otherwise they were feeling alienated from the rest of the world.
“During the month of Ramadan people from far-flung areas and other localities visit the colony. They help us financially and also take care of our meals,” Ahmad said.
Bashir says people give us alms and help us in different ways, although help from government cannot be underestimated. After Allah, we are thankful to everyone, he said.
Ahmad says now people have changed traditional approach towards the leprosy patients. In the past, he said they were facing dozens of problems in the society.
“Visitors often take care of our medicines which we have to buy from the market,” he says adding that the government should also provide them free tests and medicine in its hospitals.
Bashir added that during Ramadan in the year 2015, 39 patients in the colony were diagnosed by doctors for Hepatitis (C) and the expenditure for the single patient was 50,000 to 70,000 rupees.
“For seeking financial help, patients visited every government official and political leader help but no one turned up. Finally, Allah listened to our pleas and people came forward and helped us,” he said.
Sitting adjacent to the donation room, rotating the prayer beads, Abdul Razzak a patient from Kulgam living in the colony from three and a half decades says now people are also coming forward to help them.
“Apart from the free monthly ration, government also provides a monthly stipend of 1000 rupees through the Social Welfare Department but that is very less,” Razzak said.
“The month of Ramadan is the hope for the families here. People give us alms, charity and other things. We use that amount throughout the year,” he said.
Sharing his experience in the colony, Razzak said earlier people feared to visit the colony. He said before the 1990s we even did not know the location of this colony.
“We were separated from the rest of the world; it was the worst stage of our lives. Even our families refused to accept us,” he said with tears rolling from his eyes.
In the meantime, Kashmiri bread reached the colony and president of the families living there distributed it among them.
In-charge of the food distribution, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din from Srinagar says there is a lot of difference between present and past time.
“Ramadan is a month of blessings and approach of people towards leper patients becomes quite warm. They visit this place every day. It seems patients are no longer alienated now,” Mohi-ud-Din said.
He said presently 73 patients and their families are living in the colony.
Mohi-ud-Din says that some of the patients have their children, who are enrolled in a different school in the locality. People are also helping them in paying their monthly dues, he said.
“We appeal government to grant some category status to our children so that they won’t suffer in the society,” Mohi-ud-Din said while receiving a packed Kheer from a local for Iftaar.
Another patient Abdul Gani Baba from Zaingeer Sopore said that during Ramadan people from every corner of Kashmir are coming up with donations and charity.
“Some people still have that hatred in their minds against us but we have left it to Allah to change their thinking too. Like them, Allah has created us as well and it is the duty of mankind to take care of weaker sections of the society,” Baba said.