Rising toll triggers exodus of Bihar labourers from Kashmir

Wednesday 20th October 2021 07:44 EDT

Hundreds of labourers who came to Kashmir to find work started fleeing the region, taking the first bus or train from Srinagar to Banihal for the onward journey to other states. They are driven by fear after hearing of non-locals being targeted by terrorists, the latest attack being on three labourers from Bihar in Kulgam, south Kashmir, on Sunday evening.

Two terrorists had killed two Bihari labourers and injured a third in their rented accommodation in Kulgam, an atrocity claimed by the United Liberation Front, a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Mukesh Sah, who returned to Bihar’s Banka district with the body of Arvind Kumar Sah on Sunday, claimed the militants fired at Bihari workers in Kashmir after asking for their Aadhar cards to ensure that they were non-Kashmiris.

Over 200 migrant workers from Narpatganj, Raniganj, Forbesganj and Jokihat Palasi blocks in Bihar's Araria district alone are set to leave for home due to pressure from family members to return. Many are learnt to have already boarded trains for their hometowns. Mohammed Akram, a migrant labourer from Bihar, was waiting near the tourist reception centre in Srinagar to take the morning bus to Jammu because he was feeling insecure. The heavy overnight rain had not deterred him.

Attacks part of ISI strategy to foment trouble?

Intelligence agencies say Pakistan has revived its strategy of attacking members of Kashmir’s minority community and migrant workers to create a fear psychosis. This serves a two-fold purpose for the ISI: attracting the Kashmiri population towards terrorism and driving out migrants and residual minority community members from the Valley, a top intelligence officer said. Targeted violence of this nature would also affect Kashmir’s tourism industry.

“The law and order and incident-free situation after abrogation of special status was alarmed the ISI and they tried various means to create trouble,” the officer said.

J&K administration must act swiftly: Nitish

In Patna, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said that the J&K administration must act swiftly and “also provide necessary protection in the areas where workers from other states reside”. He said they must take the steps necessary "to ensure that such targeted attacks on non-locals do not recur in the Kashmir valley”.

Nitish said he had expressed his concern at the “targeted killings" to J&K to L-G Manoj Sinha over the phone. “I told Sinha that the people of Bihar are concerned about the recurrent killings of our people. Sinha assured me that he was looking into the matter,” Nitish said. "But it is a fact that something wrong is happening in the valley. Some people are deliberately attacking those who had gone there for work. The way two labourers from Bihar were selectively killed after entering their house… We have alerted the J&K administration," he said, adding, "We are deeply hurt by the killings.”

Killings nothing but genocide: BJP

The terror attack drew strong condemnation from political parties across the spectrum. “There are no words strong enough to condemn the repeated barbaric attacks on innocent civilians. My heart goes out to their families because they leave the comforts of their homes to earn a dignified livelihood. Terribly sad,” PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.

BJP state spokesman Altaf Thakur said the killings were “nothing but pure genocide”. “The gruesome murder of non-locals is nothing but inhuman and shows the frustration of militants,” he said.

CPM leader M Y Tarigami said killing innocent labourers who have come here to earn their livelihood is a heinous crime. “This is aimed at targeting the interests of people of Kashmir and this is happening at a time when the harvesting season is at its peak,” he said.

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