STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: Thousands of migrant workers fleeing Kashmir along with their families queued up outside ticket counters of railway stations and bus stops here on Tuesday as targeted killing of minorities and non-locals by terrorists triggered an exodus from the Valley.The security in and around the railway stations and bus stands in Jammu and Udhampur has been beefed up as a precautionary measure as people have been arriving in large numbers, desperate to leave ahead of schedule and more are on the way, officials said.Outside the railway station in Jammu, men, women and children were seen waiting on the roadside in long queues without basic facilities of water or shelter.As per rough estimates, 3 to 4 lakh migrant labourers, most of them Hindus, from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand come to the Valley every year in early March for skilled and unskilled jobs such as masonry, carpentry, welding and farming, and go back home before the onset of winter in November.But the selective killings have triggered a fear psychosis among them, propelling them to flee before they had planned to.On Sunday, two labourers from Bihar were gunned down when terrorists barged into their accommodation in Kulgam district, taking the number of civilians killed in targeted attacks in Jammu and Kashmir this month to 11. Another labourer sustained bullet injuries.“There is grave fear and terror after the killings of labourers. This has never happened in the past. So we fled the Valley to save our lives and also our children,” Santosh Kumar of Bihar’s Sitamarhi district said.A brick kiln worker in the Rajpora area of Pulwama district, Kumar said most of those fleeing are scared as there is no guarantee of their security.“It is the last gift from Kashmir. I will not go there again to earn my livelihood,” said a distraught Mintu Singh, a labourer from Chattisgargh, holding a cricket bat. Like him, scores of migrant labourers and their families have fled the Valley, saying they have experienced “hell” in the last couple of weeks after terrorists carried out targeted killings of 11 non-locals.Many said they may not ever come back to Kashmir after the ordeal.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 of pending wages.Several others had the same complaint and appealed to authorities to intervene.“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, who had been working for four-five months every year in the Valley for over a decade now.“I brought this gift (cricket bat) from Kashmir for a friend’s children. It is the last gift from Kashmir. I will not come to Kashmir again to earn livelihood. The situation is very bad due to fear and terror there (as result of killings)”, said Singh, who fled 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.“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.Like him, Ram Sharan and Santosh Kumar of Bihar, and Rakesh Dass and Alok Chand Darma (Chattisgarh) also complained about non-payment of wages and urged authorities to facilitate the transfer of their wages from their employers in Kashmir valley.Chunni Devi from Jharkhand, who reached Jammu railway station in a Tata Sumo vehicle from Kashmir along with her husband and children, said, “We came to Kashmir after getting to know it is paradise of earth. But it is not paradise. It is hell.“They have shown us pictures of hell. They killed innocent Hindu labourers. We will never come to Kashmir to work again”.She said that they were living in constant fear after the killings. “Our parents and family in Jharkhand were also anxious for our safety. Now we are in Jammu. There is no fear. We will go to Punjab, Haryana or Delhi to earn our livelihood, but not Kashmir,” she said.The labourers complained they received little help from the administration and the police.“Our employer told us (30 labourers) to leave for our home. He told us to go to the police. We spent these days in trauma due to the fear of killings. No one helped us”, Mohmmad Jabaar of Bihar said.
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