BENGALURU: For the past 28 years, Sheik Rafiq (58) and his family have been residing in a small asbestos-roof house amidst many tombs at Jewish Burial Ground on Mysore Road. After moving in, he and his family members have not cast their votes as they do not have an electoral or any identity card. Various government agencies refuse to accept their residential address — the burial ground.
Sheik, along with his wife Maqbool Jaan and three children moved into the tiny house located in the burial ground after he was offered work as a watchman. The Jewish Burial Grounds, better known as Moses Burial Grounds, was a gift from the then Mysuru Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar to the Jewish Moses family in 1904. The land now belongs to the third generation of this family. The house where Sheikh lives has no door number or any identity number.
Sheik had been maintaining the cemetery till recently, clearing the weeds, sweeping the grounds and carrying out general maintenance. Sheik suffered a stroke, and since then his son Sadiq Rizwan has taken over the duties. “I do my father’s job. We are a family of five — me, my wife Amreen Taj, my parents and my girl baby. My two sisters are married. The Moses family gives us a regular monthly salary and I earn a bit too by running a small tea stall,” says Sadiq. He makes a couple of hundreds every day, with a little
Sadiq (27) was just an infant when they moved here. “I have not cast my vote though it’s been almost 10 years since I attained the eligible age. My father used to vote when he was residing in a different house, around 28 years back… We tried applying for a voter’s card, but whenever we entered Moses Burial Grounds, Mysuru Road as the address, people would look at us suspiciously. A few even thought we were fooling them,” he says.
Not just voter ID, but when the family of Sheik Rafiq (58), who have been residing in a small asbestos-roof house inside Jewish Burial Ground on Mysore Road here applied for an Aadhaar card, their application for the card was also rejected.
“We do not have a house number, and we are not the owners of our residence. We have applied for the card at least 10 times and we were rejected every time, and sometimes humiliated too. We have to produce any identity proof to get Aadhaar. There is no rental agreement and no document that says that we are residents of this house,” says Sadiq Rizwan, son of Sheik Rafiq.
He says that he has been running pillar to post to get an Aadhaar card or address proof of any kind, for the last five years. Sadiq needed one desperately to treat his father.
“My father keeps poor health. We were told that with a BPL card, medical treatment will be free and affordable. But for the BPL card, we needed Aadhaar. We did not know what to do without an Aadhaar or address proof. We were traumatised. Finally, with help from the local councillor (of Jagjeevan Ram Nagar ward) Seema and her husband Althaf Khan, we managed to get a BPL card. Our address was accepted, since the endorsement letter came from an elected representative,” he says.
“We have now applied for Aadhaar as well as voter IDs and hope that both will be available on time. I really want to vote with my family. It is my duty to vote for a better government,” he says.