Pictures of abandoned elderly person on footpath raises concerns about need of shelter homes in Kashmir

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As pictures of an elderly third gender Kashmiri person who had spent around 20 days lying on a footpath near the United Nation’s Office in Srinagar went viral, the incident has raised some important questions regarding the welfare of the third gender in Kashmir. 

Forced into traditional roles of matchmaking and dancing at weddings, the community faces ostracisation and neglect. While they find odd jobs during their youth, when health fails them, the society is seen abandoning them.

With a cigarette cover, some rice, an old pillow and a torn blanket on their cold body, recently one elderly third gender person was photographed sleeping on the roadside.

After the picture went viral on the social media, activists along with the Government Social Welfare Department tried to get them hospitalised.

Aijaz Ahmad, an LGBT activist and founder of Sonzal Welfare Trust, working for the marginalised communities, and LGBT minorities had rushed to the spot and posted about the issue on Facebook where netizens showed immense sympathy and offered help.

“She is from Bandipora and her name is Gulam Nabi. That is all we could gather as she is not mentally stable or in a condition to speak or reveal more details,” says Aijaz .

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Aijaz says that Ghulam Nabi was abandoned by her family 40-50 years down the line. Since then she had been staying in Srinagar.

“While trying to ascertain as to who can help her, I asked her if her family would come to help but she clearly said No. She was not able to speak. Sometimes she said she was from Sopore, sometimes from Baramulla and like that,” he says.

Aijaz feels that the elderly person was denied treatment because of the gender.

One among the third gender community in Kashmir had recognised Gulam Nabi. It had already been 20 days since she was there. Aijaz says he received a call from the community members informing him about Nabi’s heart-wrenching condition.

She is in her 90s, unable to move around by herself.

Aijaz says, he was eager to help Nabi as it reminded him of another trans woman Abdul Gani aka Gani Maam who around 4 years ago died on street as his Kangri (firepot) burnt body was feasted upon by stray dogs.

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“After his death, the next issue was where to bury him,” says Aijaz who does not want Nabi to meet the same fate.

Later that day, City Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu tweeted regarding Nabi informing that she was being taken to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital for a check-up and necessary medical care.

“We are going to look at his rehabilitation/accommodation on discharge. I will personally ensure this happens,” a few lines from his tweet read.

While she was examined at the hospital, Aijaz says the hospital administration was trying to get rid of her.

“Nabi was hospitalised at SMHS with Munshi Rambagh Police Station, Srinagar Mayor and Social Welfare Department’s Rifat and Sameena Mir’s coordination. She was there for two days. But the doctors were very reluctant in receiving her. The administration was continuously pressurising us to take her out of the hospital,” recalls Aijaz adding that her creatinine level was high. However, he says, more than anything she needed a shelter.

As per Aijaz, the doctors had said, “there are thousands of people who have been disowned, why did you bring him here?” Aijaz also believes that the social stigma against the transgender persons is also a reason behind their miseries.

To the astonishment of all those who had been following the case, Aijaz today revealed that when he along with his colleagues had gone to check on her and she was nowhere to be seen.

While speaking to Free Press Kashmir, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of SMHS says that Nabi had left on his own. “We checked everywhere and also informed the police but couldn’t find him. The CCTV cameras are defunct so we could not also track him on the footage.”

Aijaz who rejects the hospital’s statement says, “in the morning when we went to check on her, she was not there. We met the Chief Medical Officer at SMHS. We were told that the hospital was packed. With faulty CCTVs, they say they could not keep a check on her. They say she must have left on her own,” says

The CMO says that the hospital is packed. “We can provide free medicine and treatment but staying with a particular patient is not possible here. The State Welfare people could have left one attendant with him.”

“Anytime you come here, the hospital is packed. The doctors are over worked. We have been dealing with around 13 pellet victims since morning. Even if we want to, it is impossible to focus on individual cases for the doctors beyond their duty of providing immediate medical care.”

However, later in the day, Nabi was found lying in the corridor.

Meanwhile, Aijaz says he and his colleagues approached the Chief Justice who had asked them to submit an application in regard to Nabi’s case.

“We were trying to get an order from Chief Judicial Registrar and shift her to Government Psychiatric Hospital but before we could do that we don’t know what the hospital administration did to her. We are trying to knock every door in our capacity,” says Aijaz.

While Aijaz and his associates are leaving no stone un-turned for Nabi, they say that many more such elderly transgender persons roam around in the valley, with no one to take care of them.

“At present, we are helping around 20 completely abandoned transgender persons in our personal capacity. They don’t get medical treatment or medicine, have no shelter. Their case is going on in the High Court for past 7-8 years. We had asked some relief for them. The state welfare department is in slumber. They are just buying some time,” says Aijaz pressing on the absence of Shelter Homes in the valley.


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