Fear of losing income grips migrants in Valley
A section of daily-wagers and small businessmen told HT that some of them were planning to return home, but the poorest among them were hindered by the prospects of losing income.Updated: Oct 31, 2019, 01:17 IST
The killing of six labourers from West Bengal in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district has sent shock waves through the migrant worker community, which is usually engaged in farming and construction work in the Valley.
A section of daily-wagers and small businessmen told HT that some of them were planning to return home, but the poorest among them were hindered by the prospects of losing income.
Police said three or four unidentified gunmen forced their way into a house in Kulgam’s Katrasoo village, dragged out the labourers, and shot them dead on Tuesday. The incident came on a day when a group of 23 European lawmakers met senior army and administration officials in the Valley, stoking violent protests in several parts of the region.
In the past two weeks, militants have killed four truck drivers, a trader from Punjab, and a migrant labourer from Rajasthan. The total number of victims from outside the state in this period now stands at 12. “The labourers were intimidated by the killings and we took them to the police station for their safe keeping,” said a village resident.
A non-Kashmiri man who works at a shopping mall on Residency Road in the heart of Srinagar said he was given instructions to wind up operations by 7 pm. “I would have also left the Valley but I cannot do so because the management has not cleared my dues,” he added. The renewed violence has sparked concern even among local residents.
A hotelier in Srinagar said tourism had reduced to a trickle since the government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. “There have been no visitors barring media persons and an odd guest travelling for business. We are not expecting tourists this winter.”
A Srinagar trader said a spontaneous shutdown of markets, educational institutions and local businesses is being observed to express anger at the decision to scrap Article 370. “When Ghulam Mohammed Mir of Parimpora defied the diktat of not opening shops and establishments, it was out of concern to feed his family and raise money for the wedding of his daughter. He was seen as challenging the might of the terrorists,” said the trader.
Mir, 65, was killed in a militant strike on August 29. Since then, most shopkeepers and traders have followed the routine of doing business surreptitiously and by sticking to a few hours.
Meanwhile, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre said the resurgence of terror attacks was an effort by Pakistan-sponsored groups to destabilise the reorganisation of the state on October 31. “The killings in Kulgam shows the frustration of Pakistan. The common man in Kashmir has moved away from them so they are trying to create fear,” said Ravinder Raina, chief of BJP’s J&K unit .
The state administration said it was prepared for terror groups to strike as there were posters put out by these groups announcing a shutdown in the run-up to October 31.“Many steps were taken to ensure the safety of truck drivers for instance. Six collection points were set up from where non-Kashmiri drivers could load and haul [farm produce] for transportation outside the state. Now these drivers are being stopped in Jammu itself,” said an official.