Thousands of labourers flee Kashmir after killings

Fayaz Bukhari
Srinagar, Oct 30: Thousands of migrant labourers have fled Kashmir during past two weeks after the killing of 11 truckers and labourers in South Kashmir.
According to an official, there were around 50,000 non-Kashmiri labourers working here in mid October this year when the first trucker from Rajasthan was killed two weeks ago. The killing was followed by gunning down of a fruit merchant and then two more truckers that led to panic among non-Kashmiri labourers.
The official said that around 25,000 labourers have fled during last one week and last night’s killing of 5 West Bengali labourers have led to more panic and exodus of these workers.
Last night, five labourers from West Bengal were shot dead and another was injured in Kulgam district of South Kashmir. Police said that the construction workers were living in a rented room and were lined up and killed last night by militants. They were identified as Mursaleem Sheikh, Qamarudin, Mohammad Rafiq, Naeemudin Sheikh and Rafiqul Sheikh from Sagar Dighi, Murshidabad, West Bengal.
So far 11 non-Kashmiris have been killed in last two weeks in a series of attacks on non-locals working here in South Kashmir. These included six labourers.
An official said that normally 5 lakh workers from different States especially Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, come to work in Kashmir each year. But this year only 2 lakh workers came here after Pulwama attack on CRPF, tensions created by air strike in Pakistan and restrictions on the movement of civilian traffic on the National Highway.
The official said that 90 percent of the non-locals fled Kashmir after the Government issued an advisory in August this year asking tourists, pilgrims and non-local labourers to leave Kashmir. He, however, said that since September, 30,000 labourers had returned to Kashmir but now most of them have fled after series of attacks.
Mohammed Sagheer from Bihar has worked as a construction labourer in Kashmir for over a decade and he has been here through worst years of voilence. “I have never seen such a scare about working in Kashmir so far”, he said.
Although he was working at a construction site in Lal Chowk area but he was tense. “We want to see for a couple of days how things shape up and will take decision after that”, he said.
Mohammad Hareem from Bihar has been working here for last two decades. “I used to come in spring and leave in autumn. I have never faced any problem. I come here for better wages and it means a lot for my family back home”, he said.
“The situation is now difficult”, he said as he works at a construction site and is apprehensive about his future.
He returned to Kashmir last week but the killings of non-locals is haunting him. “My wife is insisting me to come home. But the contractor told me there is no problem and situation will be alright. I am in a fix and don’t know what to do”, he said.

Comments are closed.