By: Faizan Ahmad
Srinagar: Mohammad Shafi (name changed), a leper patient was left by the family members at the Leper Colony on the outskirts of Srinagar 35-years ago. Since then his loved ones have disowned him.
Shafi, a resident of Ladakh, says he was then 10-year-old when his family members left him there. Since then his family members or relatives had rarely come there to see him but were reluctant to take him back to the native place.
“My family members have been reluctant to take me back as social stigma is associated with this disease. Now I have only my sister in my family, who is married and could not bear the travel expenses to come to meet me,” he said.
Shafi has also married there but the couple is childless. “Had my family members been taken back, I would not have been here,” he said, in a feeble voice.
About 80 families of the leper patients are living in a secluded colony. The heads of these families have been abandoned by their families or relatives years back.
Mohammad Subhan (name changed) has been staying at the leper colony for the past 25-years. “I am from Jammu. The family members and other relatives came a few times to see me over these years. I consider this place my home and want to die here,” he told news agency KINS
However, he says he seldom goes to Jammu to see his relatives.
It is generally believed that such types of patients carry stigma in social life. Their kith and kin refuse to own them though this disease has been controlled and won’t spread to others.
Most of the lepers are above 50-years of age and are suffering from different ailments like blindness, paralysis and some of them are walking on crutches. The colony was established by Britishers in 1891 for lepers who were ostracized by the society. Although the government has constructed the houses for these people to live in, mud houses, constructed by the Britishers are still the only shelter for some of them.
Many among the abandoned lepers have married and have children. “We have 30 children here and few are studying in colleges and higher secondary schools. This disease has been controlled now and our children are safe from it,” a native of the colony said.
“Today we feel social stigma is not associated with this disease as people of the surrounding areas come here and interact with us,” he added. (KINS)