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Following attacks, scores of non-local labourers on way out

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Some say, though they are scared, won’t leave

Photo: Javed Khan

Srinagar: In the wake of killings of non-locals in Kashmir, hundreds of non-J&K residents, who were working in the Valley, have decided to flee.

Those who have left or are leaving Kashmir because of fear, however, are all praise for the hospitality of the Kashmiri people.

Many who continue to stay put in Kashmir urged the police to provide them security till they get their hard-earned money.

“I was working as a mason at Anantnag, but since the killing of a few of our fellow brothers, I am so afraid that I have decided to leave,” said Dharmendera, a resident of Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh. “I got so many calls from my parents and wife. All of them asked me to come back. They even told me to leave the money which I am yet to realize from some people I have worked for.”

Local news agency KNO quoted a group of non-local labourers saying that they are thankful to people of Kashmir for their hospitality and love.

“We remember how locals treated us during Covid lockdown last year. We got everything at our doorsteps without going out,” they said adding, “we will never forget the treatment meted out to us by locals of Kashmir.”

A non-local labourer Vinod said that they were living in a rented accommodation in Srinagar and that they are yet to get the money they have earned in the past 15 days. “We can’t leave without money. We urge the administration and police to provide us security till we get our money. Once we get the money, we will proceed for our homes,” he said.

Scores of non-local residents flooded the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) Srinagar Monday morning looking for the buses and cabs to reach their respective states in the wake of recent attacks.

Gulab Ram, a resident of Uttar-Pradesh said that there is a fear all-over Kashmir owing to the killing of non-locals.

“We are afraid. We are here at TRC to get tickets for Jammu from where we will proceed to UP,” he said with fear visible on his face.

“I was told buses aren’t available today and we have to wait till tomorrow,” said Vijay, a carpenter from Bihar.

Many non-locals decided to stay put at the TRC for a night so that they can proceed to their respective states early tomorrow.

Pertinently on Sunday evening a “fake police advisory” asking non-locals to reach police stations and army camps have only added to the fear and chaos across Kashmir.

Labourers from several parts of the country come to the Valley every year in early March for skilled and unskilled jobs such as masonry, carpentry, welding and farming, and go back home before the onset of winter in November.

“We are scared but we are not going back to Bihar, at least not yet. We go back in the first week of November every year and that is how it will be this time too,” Shankar Narayan, a 45-year-old labourer from Bihar, told PTI.

Narayan has been coming to Kashmir every March for the past 15 years and works here till the first week of November before returning home.

He said he has not faced any problem during his stay in Kashmir.

“People have been helpful. When there was complete shutdown for five months in 2016, we were not harmed even though locals suffered a lot,” he said.

Narayan said he would not have come here if he could have got similar wages anywhere else.

“We would not have come here in the first place but wages back home are not even half of what we get here. Also, people are very kind and generous,” he said.

Riyaz Ahmad, a carpenter from Uttar Pradesh, has brought his entire family — wife and three kids — to Kashmir.

“Life here is better than back home. I and my wife get work regularly,” Ahmad said.

The 36-year-old is hoping to save enough to buy his own house in a few years.

“I work as a carpenter and my wife is a house help. The earnings and savings are enough…  I should be able to buy my own house in Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh) in two to three years,” Ahmad said.

Is he scared following the killings?

“Darr to lagta hai par bhook say zyada darr lagta hai (I am scared but I fear hunger more than death),” he said as he pointed to his kids adding “back home we won’t be able to find square meals”.

In the latest of the five killings, two non-locals were shot dead by militants in Srinagar and Pulwama districts on Saturday. (With KNO & PTI Inputs)

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