Shimla rape-murder: Backbone of apple economy, Nepalese threaten agitation
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Shimla rape-murder: Backbone of apple economy, Nepalese threaten agitation

There are nearly 1.84 lakh migrant labourers in Himachal of whom 17.5% are from Nepal.

india Updated: Jul 22, 2017 17:45 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Kotkhai/Shimla
Shimla rape-murder,Kotkhai gangrape,Shimla
People protest during the ‘Shimla Bandh’ and demand justice for teenage school girl who was raped and murder at Kotkhai, in Shimla on Thursday.(PTI Photo)

At a time when apple-growers are preparing for harvest, the Nepalese, who form the backbone of the 4000-crore apple economy, are agitated over the custodial death of Suraj, a Nepalese arrested for the rape and murder of a schoolgirl that sparked off a violent agitation in the state.

There are nearly 1.84 lakh migrant labourers in Himachal of whom 17.5% are from Nepal.

Suraj, 29, who was arrested last week, died in custody on Wednesday after an alleged scuffle with another accused, Rajender, triggering another bout of violent protests against the police investigations.

The Nepalese migrants, who flock to the apple belt for seasonal employment during the harvesting season from mid July to September end, are now threatening to launch an agitation against the custodial death of their countryman, even as the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) formally took over the case late last evening.

This is a worrisome news for the farmers of Kotkhai, one of the most affluent regions of the state due to the handsome revenue generated from the sale of apples. “The Nepalese were at the forefront of the protest when the police station was burnt down in Kotkhai on Thursday. They are clearly very angry,” Rohit Chauhan, a local orchardist in Kotkhai told HT.

Migrant labourers in Himachal
  • Total No: 184712
  • From Jammu & Kashmir: 12708
  • From Uttar Pradesh: 55845
  • From Bihar: 41055
  • From Nepal: 33803
  • From Jharkhand: 6259
  • Others: 60242

Shimla district, which produced 2,65987 tonnes of apples last year as per the Himachal government records, is facing the wrath of the Nepalese who have now threatened to boycott work. The Akhil Bharatiya Nepali Ekta Manch has submitted a memorandum to the government demanding an impartial probe into the custodial death.

“It is sad that the Nepalese are being treated so badly. We come here to earn our livelihood. What was the fault of Suraj, and who are people who killed him,” fumed Shoba Ram, president of Akhil Bharatiya Nepali Ekta Samaj in Shimla.

“I visited Suraj’s young widow, what is her mistake? The government should compensate her and arrange for her livelihood,” rasped another Nepalese leader Jokha Ram, who heads the Nepali Ekta Manch.

He warned that if the government does not probe the matter impartially, he will ask all the Nepalese to stop working in the orchards.

Interestingly, some Nepalese were clueless about the Kotkhai murder or Suraj’s death. “I don’t know about the murder, I have just come from Nepal and will work with an orchardist at Ratnari,” said Man Bahadur who hails from Dhang district in Nepal. He says he is here for the apple season and will return after it ends.

First Published: Jul 22, 2017 17:45 IST