LAHORE: It might be a footpath in the eyes of law enforcement agencies and passersby, but the mystics and beggars at Data Darbar see the pavement around the shrine as their bedroom, drawing room or even dining table. It is therefore hardly surprising that these street dwellers are none too pleased to have been vacated from the sidewalk for PML-N’s rally in honour of Nawaz Sharif.
“The poor people use this footpath, located in front of Data Ali Hajveri’s shrine, to sit, sleep and eat the food which visitors give them as a langar (a communal meal).”
Talking to The Express Tribune, Bagga Sain, a malang, says he has been living on the footpath for the past 18 years. “To me, this footpath is a bedroom. I have been eating my langar here for several years,” he points out.
He says nobody can imagine the feelings that come rushing in when lying on the footpath and gazing on his Data’s shrine. “Now, I have been deprived of this opportunity and am forced to leave the footpath due to Nawaz Sharif’s rally.
“An official threatened to put me behind bars if I did not leave the footpath. I told them that Data Sarkar will see to them if I get sent to jail,” Sain said.
“It does not suit the Sharif family to force sharif people out of their bedroom (footpath) through law enforcement agencies.”
Most of the mystics, beggars and drug addicts have been living on this footpath for several years and the devotees of Data Ganj Baksh Ali Hajveri serve them langar. Those who are young can move towards the main gates of Data’s shrine to struggle for langar, but it is an uphill task for the older ones. Therefore, visitors bring the langar to them on the footpath.
The footpath is located in front of the Data Darbar shrine and starts from Gamay Shah towards Peer Makki Sarkar’s shrine where a lot of these people are found sitting, sleeping or eating food.
Another mystic named Sabir Shah, alias Malang Data Da, recalls living on that footpath for the last 10 years. He finds it disgraceful that he has had to go to Urdu Bazar to beg for food, otherwise it is always handed to him on the footpath by devotees. He blames the former PM’s rally for forcing him into this uncomfortable position.
“When I wanted to enter the Data Darbar, I was stopped and even devotees who came from far-flung areas are not being allowed to visit the shrine.”
He says the crowd of devotees has decreased to a great extent as compared to the usual days. “That is one of the reasons we never got any meals and were forced to leave.”
Those malangs seen in their specific attire inside Data Darbar have also been conspicuous in their absence. Not even a single one of them was seen at Ghulam Gardish where the grave of Data Ali Hajveri is located.
DSP Security Shaukat Ali Shaikh says the malangs have been requested to vacate Ghulam Gardish and the premises of Data’s shrine for a day to ensure their security. He said the footpath was vacated due to existing threats.
It was earlier reported that law enforcement agencies have failed to ensure foolproof security arrangements at Data Darbar ahead of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s rally.
A huge concern is that several shopkeepers around the shrine are running a business to keep the luggage of devotees and none of the baggage is properly checked. The negligence of the shopkeepers and lackadaisical approach poses a risk and could pave the way for an untoward incident, locals said.
Between Rs20 to Rs50 are charged from devotees for each bag and the luggage is not put through a proper screening process.