“Is there not among you a single right-
minded man?” (AI-Qur’an 11:78)
Muhammad Subhan Hajam showed that
there was no dearth of right-minded
men in Kashmir those days, when a
major portion of the state’s revenues
came from prostitution. A barber by
profession, and hailing from Maisuma,
Hajamwas a social engineer, a political
thinker, a philosopher, a poet, a
revolutionary and a statesman.
Prostitution had been legalized during
his times, and was eating into the vitals
of the society.
Hajam would spend only a couple of
hours at his shop, earn a few rupees, and
come out in the afternoon to fight the
Arrested several times, and booked in
fictitious cases, he was also humiliated
and offered money to keep his mouth
But Hajam fought on, and won.
Prostitution was banned. According to
old-timers, he would go around
neighbourhoods beating a drum, and
use witty, self-coined slogans to urge
people to keep away from brothels.
The police, the government, the goons
who enjoyed the patronage of the
prostitutes, and influential people
involved in the trade resented his
activities. Though goons manhandled
Hajam several times, he continued
Authorities booked him under Section 36
of the Police Act.
The charges brought before the City
Judge read:
“The accused was arrested for
addressing people at Maisuma. He was
telling them not to go to prostitution
centers. The assembly caused traffic
blockade and subjected people to
Hajam pleaded not guilty. Rejecting the
police allegations, he told the court that
he had not blocked traffic as he had
gathered people on the roadside.
“Does this act of mine invite the
provisions of Section 36 of the Police
Act?” Hajam said before the judge, Pandit
Bishember Nath. “I have been asking
people to desist from immoral practices. I
have been stressing on character-
He was acquitted for want of sufficient
proof. And he did not look back.
In Hajam Ki Faryaad, one among a
number of Urdu and Kashmiri pamphlets
Hajam brought out in his long campaign,
he wrote:
“The government takes me very lightly
and does not extend its cooperation. Had
the government helped me, prostitution
would have been eradicated by now. The
government must take my reports and
statements seriously. That will go a long
way in eradicating this menace.”
And further:
“I have faced problems from various
quarters. Vested interests have tried their
best to sabotage my mission, but Allah
the Almighty helped me, and I stood like a
rock. I have been told that the courts do
not award proper punishment to
prostitutes. This will encourage the
practice once again. When a person is
arrested for prostitution, I approach
respectable citizens of the locality and get
their signed statements, which I have
been submitting to the authorities. But I
have been
told that some vested interests have been
telling authorities that I extract money
from the people. I am only concerned
about my mission. Cheap tactics and false
allegations cannot deter me from
pursuing it.”
The pamphlet bears no date, and must
probably have been published around
the time the government had been
compelled to consider banning
Deeply perturbed over the spread of
prostitution and the organized trade it
had become, even in the heart of
Srinagar, Muhammad Subhan Hajam once
said: “There are three prostitution
centers in Maisuma: one at Takia (Gaw
Kadal), the second in a tailoring shop, and
the third near a liquor shop. These
centers enjoy the patronage of local
According to him, most women involved
in the trade were bhungies (sweepers).
“They change their names and sit in a
prostitution center. This relieves them of
the hard work of sweeping roads and
Hajam tried his best to muster support
for his campaign and, to a large extent,
Taking care to involve people from all
schools of thought, he persuaded seven
hundred signatories, including a good
number of Pandits and Sikhs, to submit a
memorandum to the district magistrate
in Srinagar, asking prostitution to be
In it, he suggested making a list of pimps
who, according to him, were responsible
for spreading the vice.
“A big and strong group is always
associated with the prostitutes,” the
memorandum said. “We call
them dallaas (pimps). They are criminals
involved in serious offences. If a list of
the pimps is made, and they are called for
questioning at regular intervals, the crime
rate will also come down.” ‘These people
marry women and then sell them for
hefty sums in big
cities like Lahore, Calcutta, Peshawar,
Bombay, Karachi and Delhi.”
Hajam also suggested barring prostitutes
from wearing the burqa (veil). “When the
prostitutes use the veil, the life of
charactered women becomes miserable.
Unless a prostitute proves that she is no
longer involved in the detested practice,
she should not be allowed to use the
Hajam also made clear that his campaign
was totally apolitical.
“We have nothing to do with politics. But
laws meant for political activists are
being invoked against us. This is being
done with a purpose. Authorities want us
to give up our campaign, but that cannot
When this memorandum was submitted,
the government had just exempted
female singers from tax. Hajam objected
He said that this would encourage
prostitution as, in his view, those
involved in the trade were mostly female
singers who also worked in hotels and
Hajam had to face many problems during
his campaign spread over several years,
but he was too determined to give up his
And when crowned with success finally,
he graciously thanked the district
magistrate in Srinagar for ridding the city
of the vice.
Soon after his campaign forced the
government to ban prostitution in
Srinagar, Muhammad Subhan Hajam
came to know that two hotels in Lal
Chowk, one owned by a Hindu and the
other by a Muslim, were still involved in
the illicit trade.
He wrote to the proprietors, threatening
to make their names public if they carried
on with their immoral activities:
“I warn you to stop the detestable trade
forthwith. Or I will publish your names in
a poster and expose you.”
The warning had the desired effect.
Similarly, when Hajam came to know that
some women were running brothels in
the Buchwara and Dalgate areas, he
published their names in a pamphlet, and
the dens were closed down.
He was also very critical of the role of the
According to him, newspaper editors had
sealed their mouths in lieu of handsome
considerations which, he said, they
received regularly from the trade
Hajam and Politics: Though Hajam tried
his best to stay away from
politics, believing that it would harm his
campaign, he could not remain apolitical
for long.
Forced by circumstances to make a
political statement, he issued yet another
of his pamphlets, Mulki Halaat Aur
Munafiqeen Ki Amn Soz Harkaat, writing:
“I have been saying time and again that
my campaign is free from politics. But I
have never said that taking part
in politics is a sin. I fully understand the
political situation of
my state. It is a virtue to take part in
constructive politics meant
for the betterment of the people.”
A Humble Person: Deeply concerned over
the deteriorating social order, Hajam
regularly urged people through his
pamphlets to live strictly in accordance
with the sayings of the most revered
Prophet (PBUH):
“I am a humble person, in fact a sinner. I
feel ashamed of advising people. But I am
a follower of the most revered Prophet
(PBUH), and it is in this capacity that I
dare address society.”
He said that bakers made their
womenfolk sit on their shops thinking
that a beautiful face would attract more
He also came down hard on street goons
who habitually teased fisherwomen.
“Rural women do not wear anything
beneath their pherans,” he wrote. “This
must be avoided.”
Rights of Labourers: Hajam did not
confine himself to fighting prostitution
but raised his voice against the
exploitation of carpet-weavers and
workers in the Government Silk Factory.
“Labourers in the Silk Factory work in
miserable conditions, and for meager
wages. If the factory is running on a loss,
it should be closed down.
The government must have a sympathetic
attitude towards its laborers. The director
has recently denied that the factory was
running into losses. The labourers have
been forced to resort to agitation. I urge
the government to address their
Though such words appear tame and
casual in today’s terms, in Hajam’s days
they could land one in serious trouble.
Taking up the issue of carpet-weavers, he
wrote: “Loom-owners have been
exploiting their workers. I urge the
government to solve the weavers’
problems, or withdraw the concessions
given to their masters.”


About ان کی گلیوں میں

Pro-Khilafa. Anti-Democrate. Student of Political Math. Occassional Cook. Writer.
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