Bikers take on the 'begging mafia'

Couple of years ago, 34-year-old Mohamad Farooq saw a child beggar bleeding profusely and crying at a traffic signal in South Delhi’s Munirka. Farooq, who was travelling on his motor-cycle brought his vehicle to a halt and proceeded towards the child, not more than five years old.

Upon asking why the child was crying, he was told that a man who was standing a few feet away from where he had parked his motor-cycle had hit the child on her head.

“I asked him why he had hit the girl and he told me that she was his daughter and he could do whatever pleases him,” said Farooq, adding that he reluctantly left the spot and the child to her fate.

The incident, Farooq says disturbed him greatly and refused to die down in his memory until 2013 when his own niece disappeared right from outside her home.

“We filed a complaint and also started to search for her ourselves. We managed to find her the next day outside the Select Citywalk mall. A woman who was sitting near my niece revealed that she had found her crying on the roadside and taken her in.

She also told us that had the begging mafia got hold of her, the child would have been sent to other parts of India to get recruited as a beggar and then transported to metropolitan cities after a two-year period. By then the child is unrecognisable,” Farooq said.

It was this event that led him to establish a group called Ride4Cause to make people aware of the nefarious activities of the begging mafia.

“We can’t take such a serious issue so lightly. There is a high chance that the children whom we see begging at traffic signals might have been kidnapped or abducted. People need to know this,” Farooq, who has a business of interior designing in South Delhi, tells Metrolife.

Rahul Sharma (36), an engineer by profession, is another member of the Ride4Cause. He says that while their group’s activities for now include awareness campaigns, they want to take on the ‘begging mafia’ by depriving them of profits.

“We keep on telling people during our rides that don’t pay the children. Instead, give them packed food after opening the package so it is not resold. The mafia will slowly realise that the profits are decreasing and they will eventually pull out,” Sharma said.

Asked if there is a risk involved with these so-called mafias pressuring the children to work harder for money, Sharma responded, “That’s a risk we have to take. There is no other alternative for civilians who wish to fight this menace. Police claims there is no organised mafia in the city,” Sharma added while referring to a court
hearing in 2013.

The Delhi High Court in 2013 issued notices to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Women and Child Development seeking their response on the increasing cases of child kidnapping and trafficking.

The court's directions had come while hearing a case of a three-year old boy, who went missing in May 2012. Notices were also issued to Delhi Police along with Department of Social Welfare and Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

In its submission, the police claimed that the investigations ruled out the possibility of any organised gang in these cases. “We have to do something on our own,” Sharma concluded.

On 7 December 2014, the group drove across the Capital urging people not to pay child beggars. More than 150 bikers from all walks of life participated in the event. Going by the participants’ understanding of the issue, the riders’ plan seems to be working. 

Tariq Afaq, a civil engineer in a Saudi-based company, is part of the Royal Mavericks, a group constituting Royal Enfield owners and had joined the ‘movement’ against the begging mafia.

“We heard about Ride4Cause and we immediately decided that we have to be a part of such a noble cause,” Afaq said. He said that his group has more than 2,500 members and many among them have expressed their wish to participate in future events of Ride4Cause.

“We have driven to far off places including Leh, Ladakh but nothing was as intense as this particular ride. This feeling that our contribution might change someone’s life is out of the world and yet so real,” he concluded.

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