Migrants fleeing Kashmir after terror killings throng railway stations, bus stands; Congress hits out at govt

"There is exodus of hope from Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government, which speaks all the time of security, is missing," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said

A street in Srinagar (Representational file photo)
A street in Srinagar (Representational file photo)
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PTI

Thousands of migrant workers who fled Kashmir along with their families queued up outside ticket counters at railway stations and bus stops in Jammu and Udhampur on Tuesday, while more were leaving the Valley as the targeted killing of non-locals by terrorists in recent weeks triggered a fresh exodus.

The opposition Congress hit out at the Modi government, alleging it has proved to be a "complete failure in controlling the violence and providing security in Kashmir".

Officials said that security in and around the railway stations and bus stands in Jammu and Udhampur and in Kashmir has been beefed up as a precautionary measure as people have been arriving in large numbers desperate to leave.

Outside the Jammu railway station, men, women and children were waiting with their meagre belongings on the roadside in long queues without water or shelter.

The exodus started after the killing of Sageer Ansari from Saharanpur (UP) in Pulwama on October 16 and that of Raja Reshi Dev and Joginder Rishi Dev - both from Bihar- in adjacent Kulgam on October 17 triggered panic among workers from other states, especially those working in the volatile south Kashmir region.

Eleven civilians were killed in targeted attacks in Jammu and Kashmir this month alone.

Various parties from across the political spectrum have condemned the killings.

An estimated three to four lakh migrant labourers from different parts of the country come to the Valley every year in early March for skilled and unskilled jobs such as masonry, carpentry and farming, and go back home before the onset of winter in November. This year, however, several are choosing to go back earlier.

The non-locals, engaged in apple orchards, and cardboard and bat factories, used to spend around six months in the Valley before returning home, an official said.

Another official from the security establishment claimed that around 600 people from south Kashmir have already moved towards safer places.

Trains are the preferred route out of the Valley with many saying they will ensure their safety.

About 50 migrant labourers, many of them from Bihar, arrived at the Nowgam railway station late on Monday night from nearby Budgam district where they worked in brick kilns.

"We spent the night in the open but we felt more secure due to the presence of security forces guarding the railway station," Mithilesh Kumar told PTI at the station on Tuesday.

"We are leaving Kashmir earlier than usual... There is too much fear, " he added.

"Nobody told us to leave but who will be responsible if someone among us gets killed. One moment we are told security will be provided and the next we are on our own," said Deepak Kumar, a resident of Bihar's Madhubani district.

Scores of migrant labourers and their families who reached Jammu said they have experienced "hell'' in the last couple of weeks may not ever come back to Kashmir after the ordeal.

"I am very unhappy leaving the valley. This has become hell. We come here to earn for our families not to get killed on streets," said Chintu Singh from Chhattisgarh, who had been working for four-five months every year in the Valley for over a decade now and is leaving along with a group of 20 Hindu labourers working in a brick kiln in Pulwama district.

While some labourers said that their wages were paid, there were others who complained that they were driven out by employers in the valley forcibly without their wages.

Ajay Kumar of Besangoan, Bihar, who fled along with his wife Sarita and two kids from a brick kiln at Pulwama in South Kashmir and reached Jammu railway station, wept bitterly saying his employer refused to pay Rs 27,000 in pending wages and appealed to authorities to intervene.

"We had no money. I along with my wife and two children got some money from others and left the valley. The owner forced us out without paying us the remaining wages", said Ajay Kumar and showed a diary with his wage bill.

There were also reports of migrant labourers from other parts of the Valley leaving in taxis and buses early in the morning.

However, hundreds could also be seen at major intersections in Srinagar, hoping to be hired for work.

Hawal Chowk, rechristened Bihari Chowk by city dwellers, has not witnessed any significant decrease in the number of migrant workers there.

The first migrant worker -- Virender Paswan -- was shot dead by militants in Hawal area.

The scenes were no different at Rambagh, less than two kilometres from where prominent Kashmiri Pandit businessman Makhan Lal Bindroo was shot dead at point-blank range in his shop earlier this month.

The workers at Nowgam station praised the locals and said they ensured the group reached the station safely.

"People of Kashmir are kind but few people do politics and the masses have to suffer," Deepak Kumar said.

Sooraj, a resident of Bihar working at a garment shop in Srinagar, has already packed his bags and is leaving the Valley soon.

Javed, who is from Hapur in Uttar Pradesh and works at a saloon, is also planning to leave.

"Fear is in the air. My owner takes care of me but he can't be with me 24-hours. My other friends working elsewhere have already moved out of the Valley. Unfortunately, I have to start something afresh," he said.

The Congress said that innocents are being killed or forced to leave Jammu and Kashmir.

"There is exodus of hope from Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government, which speaks all the time of security, is missing," party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.

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    Published: 19 Oct 2021, 9:11 PM