Lack of work forcing migrant workers to flee Kashmir

Representative image. (PTI Photo)

Fear, cold and lack of work is forcing non-local labourers, who had stayed back in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, to leave the Valley halting all developmental activities. 

While the killing of 12 non-locals in south Kashmir last month at the hands of unidentified militants forced a large number of migrant workers to leave the Valley, the untimely heavy snowfall on November 7 has ensured that not many among them stay back.

“For the last several years, I was working as a mason in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. I didn’t leave in August and even after the killings of non-locals last month, I shifted to Srinagar where I was engaged by a contractor. However, the untimely snowfall has forced me to leave now,” 65-year-old Noor Kamal, a mason from UP told DH.

More detailed conversations with him revealed that fear and lack of work were leading migrant workers to return to their homes. “My family wanted me to return earlier also but I never felt insecure here. Similar is the case with other non-local workers. As things are shaping up here, I feel that I may never return to Kashmir again,” Kamal, who was waiting for transport at Srinagar’s TRC, to take him home, said.

His views were echoed by other migrant workers, who were also leaving Kashmir. “It’s really cold and we have not been able to get any work on account of the frequent strikes. So, we have no option but to return home,” they said.

One of them, who identified himself as Zameer, said he had fled Kashmir on August 5, but came back in September. “I had been working with a contractor in Srinagar for the last 15-years. In September, he (contractor) called me and asked me that I can come back and resume my work. However, the work on the project couldn’t resume and I was sitting idle,” he said.

“I had to spend a lot of money on travel and now I had hardly anything left to feed myself. The snowfall ensured that till April no construction work can resume,” Zameer added.

The fleeing labourers repeatedly spoke about the general environment being bad for them in Kashmir. Without access to television, some of them are even unaware of the killing of migrant workers in south Kashmir. They came to know about the killings when they spoke to their families back home, who insisted them to return. 

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