‘Will come back in normalcy’: Non-local workers flee Kashmir after targeted killings

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Srinagar city’s Tourist Reception Centre on Monday saw an unusual scene as dozens of non-local labourers had gathered there to board outbound vehicles to leave Kashmir as five non-local labourers were killed in recent days.

The killing spree of civilians has created a sense of “fear and insecurity” among people. The month of October saw an unprecedented targeted killings in the region as nearly 12 civilians were killed in Kashmir.

On Sunday evening, two labourers belonging to Bihar state were killed after gunmen, as per eyewitnesses, entered their rented accommodation in Wanpoh area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district and indiscriminately fired upon them leaving two dead and one injured.

Among those at the TRC in Srinagar was fifty-year-old Dependar Kumar Singh, who has been working in Kashmir for the past ten years. 

“We are feeling threatened,” he told The Kashmir Walla. “Don’t know why [people] are being killed. Labour is Labour. We will come back once the situation turns normal.”

The Jammu and Kashmir police has taken measures to provide secure accommodation to the non-locals as many were shifted to secure zones late night on Sunday after killings in Kulgam.

“We were told that the police will come and take us to [secure accommodation]. What will we do there? For how many days can we stay there? How can we earn?” asked Pramod Kumar of Bihar, who has been coming to Kashmir for the past seven years.

“Some people told us to leave as the situation is bad and some said do not leave, earn and stay here. But we decided to leave as we are labourers. What will we do here without earning,” he said.

In the last few weeks, the first attack on non-local labourers was carried out on 5 October on a street vendor. He was identified as Virender Paswan of Bihar, who was shot dead in Lal Bazar area of Srinagar city. The attack was claimed by an outfit called ISIS-K. 

Eleven days later on 16 October in two separate attacks in Pulwama and Srinagar, Sagir Ahmad of Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh and Arvind Kumar, a street vendor of Bihar were killed respectively.

Nearly 24 hours later two non-local labourers were killed by suspected militants in Kulgam district who were later identified by police as Raja Rishi Dev and Jogindar Rishi Dev, both residents of Bihar.

Kumar, seated in a vehicle that was about to leave for Jammu, recalls the time he has spent here, “people here are humble, they behave well with us. Kashmiris are not bad, we are leaving because of the prevailing situation. We will come back once the situation is normal”.

Similar scenes of non-locals leaving Kashmir were witnessed at railway stations across Kashmir.

The Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Police, Central Kashmir, Sujit Kumar told The Kashmir Walla, “they [non locals] have been coming to local police stations seeking help and we have been providing them secure accommodation. When somebody is feeling frightened, we help them”.

The official added, “we should not be afraid and worried by the act [killings] committed by a few people. Kashmiris are as loving as they were and Kashmiriyat is as strong”.

“It is not like that people of Kashmir are happy when someone attacks you [non-locals], they are pained by this,” he added.

Kashmir region saw a spurt of civilian killings this year as over 32 were killed by suspected militants among them five belong to different parts of the country.

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