Kashmir labourer’s last call to daughter and the dress that’ll never come
All the five labourers, and the one injured, hailed from remote Bahalnagar village under Sagardighi police station area in Murshidabad district of West Bengal, around 240 km away from Kolkata, and worked as daily labourers in orchards and paddy fields.Updated: Oct 30, 2019, 11:46 IST
Murshalim Sheikh spoke to his daughter in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district on Saturday, promising to be home soon. Two days later, on Tuesday, militants barged into his room in Kulgam’s Katrasoo village in Kashmir, dragged him and five others out and shot them dead.
This happened on the day a 23-member EU parliamentarians’ delegation was in the Valley to assess the ground situation in the wake of the scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories.
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.
All the six labourers hailed from remote Bahalnagar village under Sagardighi police station area in Murshidabad district of West Bengal, around 240 km away from Kolkata, and worked as daily labourers in orchards and paddy fields.
“Every year when he returned my father used to bring me a dress,” said Suhana Khatun, who last spoke to her father Murshalim Sheikh on Saturday.
“We have 10 cottahs of land in Sagardighi. It does not yield crops throughout the year, and therefore, my father used to go to Kashmir around this time every year in search of work,” said Suhana, a class 8 student.
“We got to know about the terrorist attack last night through TV and internet. Later in the night police came to our home and informed us that my father has been a victim,” said Suhana.
A Kashmiri villager, who often lent his phone to the labourers to make calls to their families, said they worked as agricultural labourers. “All of them came from Murshidabad district of Bengal and used to stay in a single room in the village. They used to work as agricultural labourers here. Two of the eight went out to get food on Tuesday evening when the attack took place,” said Murtaza Butt.
Butt said that the police have removed migrant labourers in the area to safer areas after the attack.
“My brother went to Kashmir in search of work only 25 days ago. He used to work as a daily wage earner there. He used to work in apple orchards and paddy fields,” said Joshimuddin Sheikh, elder brother of Naimuddin Sheikh, one of the labourers killed.
Joshimuddin said that his brother has been going to Kashmir for the past 18 years. “He used to stay there for about three months before returning to the village in Sagardighi,” he said.
Naimuddin has left behind three sons and one daughter. His eldest son Lalchand Sheikh has also gone to Kerala for work.
Baker Ali, the brother of another victim Kamaruddin Sheikh, said that they would be grateful if the government arranged for compensation for the poor families.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has promised all help. “We are shocked and deeply saddened at the brutal killings in Kashmir. Five workers from Murshidabad lost their lives. Words will not take away the grief of the families of the deceased. All help will be extended to the families in this tragic situation,” tweeted Banerjee.
“Kashmir witnessed a dastardly attack today with terrorists killing five poor people. They were all residents of my district Murshidabad. They lost their lives after relying on the assurance of the Central government that everything in normal is Kashmir,” wrote Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Chowdhury on social media.