Non-Kashmiri workforce returning to Kashmir

Srinagar: Even as militants killed a non-Kashmiri labourer in Pulwama and a driver and fruit merchant in Shopian last week, the non-Kashmiri workforce is making its way back to Kashmir.

Last week Darshan Kumar returned to Kashmir and went straight to work. The mason from Bihar had left Kashmir days after Article 370 was revoked. Darshan said, “Leaving Kashmir two months ago was financially tolling as I was jobless for two months. But the situation is better now”.

Darshan Kumar is not alone. Many migrant workers, especially, barbers and labourers, have begun returning to Kashmir and are resuming work.

On August 2, the J&K government advisory asking Amarnath yatris and tourists to leave Kashmir triggered panic. This led to an exodus of non-Kashmiri migrant workers. Curfew and a communication blackout in Kashmir added to the sense of insecurity among the migrant labour force.

But some migrants stayed back. Vijay Kumar from Gujarat did not leave Kashmir. For 25 years the cloth merchant has been living with his family in Srinagar. Most of Vijay Kumar’s relatives left after Article 370 was scrapped. But, he was confident of his safety with fellow Kashmiris he has lived with for all these years.

Vijay Kumar said, “I don’t feel unsafe in Kashmir. I trust my Kashmiri friends. They have always supported and protected me.”

Every year thousands of migrant construction workers and vendors come to Kashmir for work. This migrant workforce plays an important role in Kashmir’s economy. They did not move out of Kashmir despite years of violence.

The non-Kashmiri work force who have already returned will inspire many more to come back.

Zaffar Iqbal

Zaffar Iqbal is a senior journalist from Jammu and Kashmir. In a career spanning 20 years, he has reported on a wide range of issues ranging from conflict, armed encounters, environment, crime, politics culture and human rights. Zafar has worked as bureau chief (J&K)/ North India for NDTV- (New Delhi Television and Tiranga TV)- leading teams of journalists for producing quality TV news and online video content.

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