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Poverty, Sexual Abuse and Nowhere to Call Home: The Life of a Homeless Cycle-Rickshaw Puller in Delhi (Watch)

Karwan-e-Mohabbat brings to you the heartwarming tale of Mohammad Abdul Kasim Ali Shaikh.

Mohammad Abdul Kasim Ali Shaikh is a cycle-rickshaw puller in New Delhi. Abdul belongs to the faceless mass of an estimated 2.5 lakh homeless people in the capital city. He sleeps at one of the 250-odd homeless shelters in Delhi — this one is at Geeta Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna river.

Abdul’s story of impoverishment is not uncommon, yet it is one that rarely reaches enthused discussions of social classes and poverty. He moved to Delhi from his village when he was eight and has since remained homeless in the capital. Abdul was sexually abused when he was a child multiple times by multiple men. As a naive child in a big city with no one to look after him, he was lured by abusers with the promise of nothing more than a meal. “The worse I appear, the better for me. No one will approach me,” he says in a short film made by the civil society group Karwan-e-Mohabbat.

Abdul’s story reflects the nightmarish reality that many people living on the streets of Delhi have to face on a regular basis. According to a report by the NGO Save the Children, more than half the homeless children who were interviewed said that they have been sexually abused. As per a Childline India Foundation survey of the 9,589 child care institutions across the country that was undertaken over two years, from December 2015 till March 2017, 1,575 children suffered sexual abuse before they were rescued and placed in shelter homes — 1,286 were girls and 286 were boys.

Abdul is now HIV positive. The fact that his disease has made sure he never goes back home to his family, however, has not crushed his resilience. “If you chase me from here, I’ll go to Jaipur. If I’m chased from Jaipur, I’ll go to Ajmer. If I’m chased for Ajmer, I’ll move to Kanpur. If I’m chased away from Kanpur, I’ll be off to Kolkata. And if they chase me from there too, I’ll come back to Delhi,” says Abdul, not willing to be stopped by a world that has never shown him kindness.

Patri ka aadmi patri mein hi rehta hai” — a man of the streets will forever remain on the streets.

Also read: As Religious Tolerance Wanes, Karwan-e-Mohabbat’s ‘Last in Line’ Documentary Offers Hope of Secularism

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