Pahalgam Tourists Find Delight in Mumtaza’s Furry Friends
Out of options
ANANTNAG: With the Union administration in Jammu Kashmir having issued eviction notices to most Gujjar families here demanding they vacate their homes, 12 year old Mumtaza earns for her family alone, leaving no stone unturned to find a new land for them to live.
Her ailing father left unable to work the past few years, Mumtaza, from Pahalgam in the district of Anantnag, earns a living with the help of her innocent (and adorable) pet rabbits in the biting cold.
To support her family of eight, Mumtaza has tamed two pet rabbits, and takes them out every day around town, so tourists can take pictures with them.
An optimistic fifth-grader at the government middle school in Pahalgam, Mumtaza is a determined girl, and started looking for ways to feed her family even as many children her age enjoy their winter vacations in playgrounds and parks.
She has no other option.
She earns 10 rupees per picture from tourists who pose with her rabbits, who help her earn with dignity this harsh winter.
Mumtaza stays outside with her pet rabbits all day long in the world famous tourist destination of Pahalgam, giving them to tourists for a photograph.
The little girl helps her family, and with the help of her rabbits she has a dream.
“I want to study and become a doctor or an engineer. My father was a labourer in one of the Pahalgam villages. He was earning good money to feed us comfortably, before he fell ill seven years back. Since then health concerns haven’t allowed him to continue his work, which compelled me to come out and earn,” she tells The Citizen.
The family’s eldest daughter, with these earnings Mumtaza can feed her parents, two brothers and three kid sisters.
They live in a mud house in Pahalgam. She says her childhood has been very challenging as her father, Abdul Majeed Awana, has suffered from TB or tuberculosis for several years.
“I earn around 200 rupees a day, but my family needs much more. I work hard to find more and more tourists in and around Pahalgam to fulfil their needs by giving them my rabbits to click the pictures,” she explains.
She wants to build a concrete house one day to shelter her family comfortably in all seasons.
Mumtaza encourages her brothers and sisters, and is trying hard to find extra work to help them gain a good education in difficult times, besides caring for her mother and ailing father.
Her father, Abdul Majeed Awana, told The Citizen he used to work as a labourer to feed his family, but later “fell ill, due to which I am unable to do any work now.”
He said his daughter is the family’s only source of income. He is hopeful his land will be registered under the 2006 Forest Rights Act “being implemented in Jammu Kashmir, which may ease our daily suffering.”