By Fahad Shah
Every year after Holi —a Hindu festival, he visits Kashmir to earn his living, five hundred rupees per day. He sells fruit juice on a pushcart in Batmaloo near Police Control Room.
Pradeep Yadav, 25, of Debgarh, Jharkhand makes five hundred rupees every day. He is a medium height, dark complexion man with shiny white teeth. Wearing a chequered shirt over blue pants talks with ease. A pushcart made of wood on four wheels with red colour Rexine spread over, is a mobile fruit juice shop. It has two juice squeezing machines on it. Bunches of Pineapples and oranges give it a garden-fresh look. 10, 20, 25 rupees per juice glass are the rates which he offers.
Back home Pradeep has eight acres of farming land. He grows corn. He desires to continue farming but feels threat of losing land. He says government is forcing non-state-subjects to work in coal mines. “They (government) want to grab our land and make huge money. But why should we leave. Government says only educated people can work. I am illiterate that doesn’t mean I have to give up my land.”
He takes small pieces of Pineapple from a glass jar and puts them in one of the machines from top. In his right hand he holds the wooden compressor over the opening of machine and pushes it. The greenish-yellow juice drains from a small opening and falls on a nylon mesh which he holds and shakes with left hand. With every piece of the fruit, filtered nectar levels up in the steel jug placed under the mesh.
“Sonia Gandhi is very bad,” he adds while he probes my face standing on his left. “If Congress government will fall it will be a great change in India. Bhartiya Janata Party government is much better than Congress.”
Do you really think so?
“Yes off course. Did you see during Atal ji’s (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) five years rule there was no Ragdo Ragdo movement in Kashmir. Even one can see how much political vengeance is filled in Gandhi family. When Varun Gandhi married neither Sonia nor her children attended,” he replies as he empties the waste remains of squeezed fruit in a wet jute bag under the cart.
Varun Gandhi married on March 6, at the Sri Kashi Kamkoteshwar Temple on Hanuman Ghat in Varanasi. He himself went to 10, Janpath, to invite Aunt Sonia and family but neither she nor her children, Rahul or Priyanka, turned up.
Pradeep lives in a rented room just some metres away from the place he runs his business. He feels safe during protests and strikes. He sees resemblance in his protest and the Valley as he says, “No one threatens me or attacks me. People in Kashmir protest like us. It’s only because something is missing in their lives. Their protest is genuine.”
“We also have a leader in Jharkhand. We support him. He is same there like Geelani in Kashmir. He works for the welfare of locals,” he says while passing me a tip filled Pineapple juice glass.
Apart from being in Kashmir, Pradeep has lived metro life too. He has spent five years in Delhi, working at Pepsi Co in marketing section. “I used to earn 20-25 thousand per month in Delhi. Now I earn 250 rupees per day here. During May-June-July I make around 500 rupees a day,” he says when a young policeman stops near the cart and orders orange juice.
As the cop turns up the conversation shifts from political to personal. Pradeep wants to live his dream of having an educated family member who will be able to work back home. His younger brother is studying Bachelor of Education (B. Ed). He speaks with proud, “After he (brother) finishes studies I will leave from the Valley.”
What is your name?
Are you married?
“I will marry this year after returning back.”