Anantnag: Unfazed by the recent spate of killing of non-locals, hundreds of labourers and workers have decided to stay back in Kashmir, to keep working, as local people have been steadfastly supporting them.
In a series of targeted killings last month, at least 11 civilians including migrant workers were killed by militants. The attacks took place in the Srinagar and some parts of south Kashmir, leaving migrant workers worried and prompting many to leave the Valley.
But a large section of such workers decided against leaving Kashmir in the face of support received from locals. One such worker Abdul Jabar, 36, presently working in Sopore Industrial estate in north Kashmir says “I have been coming here for years to look for work, never have I felt threatened here”.
He said that the owner of the factory where he works treats him part of his family. And Jabar is not alone. There are more than 80 non- locals workers staying put at the Industrial estate.
45-year-old Muhammad Shabad, from the Bijnor area of Uttar Pradesh, told Kashmir Reader that their local bosses accompany them even while they go out to buy groceries.
“They never leave us alone and we are sure they will protect us at any cost,” he told Kashmir Reader.
President of the Industrial Estate Sopore, Javeed Ahmad Bhat, maintained that it was the moral responsibility of the locals to protect the workers.
“The administration, particularly the principal secretary industries and the police, have extended their full support to ensure the safety of our workers. I believe it is our moral responsibility to ensure their safety,” Ahmad said.
He added that the people in Kashmir need the workers as much as these people need Kashmir. “They come here to work and cater to our need for labour. It is a mutual thing and there should be mutual respect as well,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad also refuted claims that locals were scaring away workers, saying, “There have been some petty allegations that locals were scaring these workers away and have been denied their money. These allegations are baseless to the core,” he said.
In Anchidora area of Anantnag’s Industrial estate, many non-local workers staying put despite the killings. “We take precautions. We do not go out at all and stay at the factory we work in. But the boss is making sure we get everything, and even if we have to move out in an emergency he accompanies us,” Suresh, a carpenter from Bihar, told Kashmir Reader.
Apart from the industrial estates, migrant workers operating independently have stayed back as well.
Similarly, in Pulwama, Anantnag, and Shopian districts of south Kashmir, non-local workers maintain that they have been assured by the locals and asked not to worry.
“I was born here in Kashmir and have been living here ever since. I don’t even know people back in Bijnor. Why will I ever think of leaving this place? This is home, there is nowhere else to go,” a sweet maker, living in the main town Anantnag, told Kashmir Reader. He did not want to be named though.
Besides, making these people feel safe is that the spurt in such killings seems to have ebbed away. The security agencies have also been on their toes, ensuring that no such incidents are repeated.
“We have upped the ante and are ensuring every single one of these non-locals remains safe. Security has been beefed up and things are in control,” a senior police official from south Kashmir told Kashmir Reader.