'We Are Afraid, Want to Go Home': Migrant Workers Flee J&K After Recent Killings

·4 min read

With as many as five migrant workers reported dead in the recent spate of civilian killings in Jammu and Kashmir, a sense of foreboding looms large among the workers settled in the Union territory.

"We come here to work. If the condition becomes hostile here, then how will we stay? We come to Kashmir to earn a livelihood," says Mohammad Shahid Hussain, who hails from Bihar.

Many reiterate Hussain's fears.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Migrant workers wait at a railway station in Srinagar on Monday, 18 October.</p></div>

Migrant workers wait at a railway station in Srinagar on Monday, 18 October.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Panic-stricken migrant labourers arrive to Jammu from Kashmir on Monday, 18 October.</p></div>

Panic-stricken migrant labourers arrive to Jammu from Kashmir on Monday, 18 October.

'We Come to Kashmir With Faith in the Locals'

"We have faced many atrocities this month. We are labourers. We work all day and then face such attacks at our rented places. We come to Kashmir keeping faith in the locals here. The incidents happening since the past two weeks should not be happening," Mohammed Salauddin, another migrant worker, told The Quint.

"After yesterday's incident, we are afraid," Salauddin added, alluding to the militant attacks on three workers from Bihar at Kulgam district's Wanpoh. Two of the labourers had been murdered by the militant assailants.

"We are filled with fear. We want to return home if an arrangement could be made," Salauddin said.

Five migrant workers have been killed in J&K over the last couple of weeks. Sagir Ahmad, a carpenter from Saharanpur, and Bihar natives Virender Paswan, Raja Reshi, Joginder Reshi, and Arvind Kumar Sah have lost their lives in the attacks.

'He Was the Sole Earner': Kin of Killed Street Vendor

Arvind Kumar Sah, a native of Bihar, had earned his livelihood by selling gol-gappas in Kashmir. The street vendor was killed by terrorists in the capital city of Srinagar on Saturday, 16 October.

"He used to sell gol-gappas there (Kashmir). He was the sole earner of the family. We don't have anything else," say a member of Sah's family, which lives in Bihar's Banka.

The slain migrant's father, Devendra Sah, told The Quint, "They checked his Aadhaar card and shot him dead."

The militant-orchestrated killings have largely targeted Hindus and Sikhs, instilling fear within the minority communities in the Valley.

"So many days have passed since the abrogation of Article 370. The central government has full control of the security there. Despite this, militants are killing people based on their Aadhaar card details," observed Sachiranand Sah, the deceased vendor's brother.

Meanwhile, Devendra Sah, who had lost another son to the devastating second wave of COVID-19, said he worries about the family's finances.

"We need a job and a compensation of Rs 50 lakh for the family. How can I feed the family? My elder son died due to COVID, six months ago," he added.

The family of Sahranpur native Sagir Ahmad, a migrant worker who had succumbed after being critically injured in an attack in Pulwama, told news agency ANI that he had been living in Kashmir for work over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He had to migrate to the Valley, leaving behind his family, including four daughters and a son.

"Earlier today, we received a call from the Kashmir Police. They told us to reach there and collect Ahmad's body. But we are poor people, how will we afford to visit Kashmir," Ahmad's brother told ANI.

In Bihar, Families Urge Migrants to Return

Neeraj Kumar Sah, a resident of Bihar, whose brother has settled in Jammu and Kashmir upon being unable to find employment around his hometown, told The Quint that he now sought his brother's return.

"I have asked my brother to come back to the family. If the government had provided job here, then they wouldn't have gone there. There also, they are not safe. Now labourers are being targeted, earlier terrorists used to target security forces," said Sah.

Also Read: Civilian Killings in J&K: Two More Non-Local Labourers Shot Dead

The kin of other migrants from Bihar have similar anxieties to share.

"My daughter-in-law and grandson are there. We haven't eaten since last night. We called him last night and asked them to come back," said state resident Mahendra Pratap Singh.

The fear for life has surpassed the the worries of economic hardship for Bihar resident Chandra Shekhar as well. "We are terrorised. Out of fear, we wish our family makes it back to home. We will somehow survive on salt and bread," he said.

Also Read: 'No Jobs in Bihar': Tejashwi Yadav Attacks Nitish Over Migrants' Deaths in J&K

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