Undeterred from political developments and least bothered about war cry on polarisation of regions over varied issues, a section of work force from Kashmir is wordlessly continuing to move Jammu and its economy since ages.
They descend from Anantnag and adjoining areas of Kashmir in Jammu to do all kind of physical work and make their both ends meet. This workforce is also joined by Desi (Local) lads from mountainous areas of Ramnagar, Kud, Batote, Billawar and even Akhnoor areas besides that from Rajouri and Poonch.
Addressed as ‘Mazdoors’or ‘Pandis’, they have become part and parcel of Jammu’s economy and are the real ‘Driving Force’ behind businesses. They have become an inseparable part of business community as well as civil population in this part of the region. Away from politics of hatred these people are tirelessly engaged in earning bread for their families since ages, with several of them having lived here throughout their lives and even died here in Jammu.
While fortunate boys and girls who have access to education in these areas are doing wonders, a marginalised section of the society from same places are working hard to make their both ends meet.
Many of these ‘Mazdoors’ have free access to the homes of those whom they work for and have become part of their families as well. That’s their level of trust that they have won over the period of time. While words like ‘Peace’ and ‘Coexistence’ might be real tough for many to spell out and live by, they are ‘Way of Life’ for these workers who are identified with ropes hanging on their shoulders in search of work. They stay engrossed in their work to the extent that they even don’t claim any perks as labourers and guided by labour laws.
If Dabbawallaas of Mumbai can make a difference in the lives of working class of ‘Financial Capital of India’by their hard work and even make Prince of Wales, Prince Charles to descend in Maharashtra only to meet them and extend formal invitation to visit Bakingham Palace in London then this workforce from almost all regions of Jammu and Kashmir are no less than any ‘Hero’ who make Jammu move every day.
Curfews, strikes, hostile weather conditions, communal riots or festivals of any religion have never stopped them from being at work at different places, at different times and according to different needs of business community of Jammu besides local population.
The amount of goods that even a load carries or Autorickshaw cannot lift to enter wrong side of the road to reach godowns of any ‘Shah’ of Kanak Mandi, specially designed Rehris (Wheel-Carts) of these Mazdoors lift anything to reach anywhere in this old City of Temples. These people can be spotted at General Bus Stands, Kanak Mandi, warehouse, almost all Chowks of old Jammu city and in almost every tent house besides ration shops and godowns of wholesale dealers thereby running the economy of Jammu.
Frankly speaking if Tonga of KanakMandicould find a reference in famous poem “KanakMandi Da Tonga Chalya”, these Mazdoors too have all the right to at least find some mention in any write up like this one for they too are associated with KanakMandi since ages. Along with these labourers from Kashmir a sizeable workforce from remote areas of Jammu too contributes a lot in running business and other establishments in Jammu but their presence remains negligible as most of their wards have now switched over to others means of earning bread.
In old city of Jammu there is hardly any person who would not have had asked for work to these men with ropes on their shoulders. Those who have grown up in 60s are very much associated with them and know how these people used to wait for buses to arrive in Jammu from Kashmir only to pick up luggage of commuters and make some money. Harsh winters or scorching summers never deter them from work as well.
These people who live in small rooms and accommodations available in the city have become household name in Jammu. Strangely each and every worker is known to each and every resident of the locality and their trust level is so high that several of them are now running full-fledged businesses of small traders. Right from 50s those associated with this work have faced worst ever days to make a living with no help pouring in from any quarters.
Identified by their specially designed ropes hanging around their shoulders they could be found at almost every place in old Jammu city. Many of them are now just a call away as almost each one of them owns a mobile telephone. Widening their sphere many of these Mazdoors have now switched over to transporting building material or working in small industries. Slopes of Jammu including that of Peermitha, Purani Mandi, Gurdwara Sunder Singh Road, City Chowk or Shalamar never discourage them and they possess a never dying spirit to move Jammu’s economy swiftly.
Pace of moving goods by these Mazdoors might be slow but their race is long. Many a time those driving cars or youth on bikes condemn, criticise or even abuse them but giving a deaf ear to these uncalled for remarks they keep sweating for paltry sum which finally makes them The Winners. Mazdoors have also faced days when they were treated as aliens but their patience and hardwork has not only made them acceptable but also percolate down into the hearts of people.
Their trust level and affection with their masters or landlords is so high that one such Mazdoor even ensured to go right down up to Jogi Gate Crematorium to bid adieu to his master who used to love him like his son. Never ever recognised by government or extended any financial help, these people have been living to the glory with dignity. Militancy or Peace time, communal riots of 1984 or AmarnathLand Row days, Mazdoors unlike other labourers in other states never ever engage themselves into loot or arson.
While both houses of state legislature had for several times heard voices for other underprivileged classes, no one has ever cared to even make a mention about these Mazdoors. For many Mazdoors this is their second or third generation which is into the same work and nothing has changed for them including their ropes and the way they lift tons of loads on their backs, heads and Rehris (Wheel-Carts).
And for those who believe that working in cubicles of any multinational company give them happiness or pleasure by sharing videos, jokes and music these Mazdoors are now gadget savvy and know how to operate their smart phones or get them loaded with latest videos and songs only to watch and listen the same during leisure times. This is because they don’t desire to ride any political bandwagon and have perfected the art of looking beyond worries.