Press Trust of india

Everything fine now, say Kashmiri vendors in Lucknow

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Lucknow, Mar 08:  The abusive rant of saffron-clad men against two Kashmiris sent shock waves across the country, but timely police action and warmth of locals have brought a sense of security to the vendors who were back to selling dry fruits on Friday.

The two, who are residents of south Kashmir Kulgam's district and come in Lucknow during winters to sell dry fruits, are doing brisk business in the same locality under the watchful eyes of the police and local vendors.

"People here are very good... everything is fine now," Mohammad Afzal, one of the victims, told PTI. "We have no fear with the people extending so much love and care and there is no plan to rush back."

Asked what message they will take back for their people in the strife-torn Valley, Afzal said he would tell how people here are good. "It is only the 'goondas' (goons) here who do such thing while the people are very helping."

He said that they would depart after 20 more days and will be here again.

On Wednesday, Afzal and Abdul were selling dry fruits -- as has been the practice for the past several years -- when they were attacked with sticks by saffron-clad persons at Daliganj area, the video of which went viral on social media. Local people, however, rushed to their rescue and informed the police.

A vegetable vendor nearby said that the incident could have been avoided had the two been sitting nearby. "They were sitting a little distance away from us and so the saffron-clad youth could thrash them.... Had they been with us, we would not have allowed anyone to even touch them," Raju said.

Policemen on duty were seen moving around in the area on Friday and keeping a close eye on the crowds.

After the media focus, the two, however, have found themselves flooded with enquiries from the passersby asking them what had happened on that day.

"Many people, even those who we do not know, are coming and asking what had happened. All are very encouraging and helpful," Afzal added.

The main accused, Bajrang Sonkar, claimed to be the president of the little known right-wing group Vishwa Hindu Dal and has more than a dozen criminal cases, including that of murder.

Four persons -- Sonkar, Himanshu Garg, Aniruddh and Amar Kumar -- have been arrested in connection with the incident, the latest in a series of attacks against Kashmiris across the country after the Pulwama attack that killed 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel.

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