China newspaper makes bizarre claim, says youth from India’s north-eastern states “sold in Kashmir as domestic help”

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Report by South China Morning Post demolishes Pakistan’s global propaganda on Kashmir 

Mir Qayoom

On September 26, China’s leading English newspaper South China Morning Post published a news report that claimed that youth from the northeastern states of India are sold as slaves in Kashmir. Note the serious charge and the complete disinformation against India – that youth from some north-eastern states are brought to Kashmir and sold here. This was the headline of the news report: Trafficked from Assam to Kashmir: how Indian youths are forced to work in a conflict zone.

The following were the words under the headline: The story of a young man sold as a domestic servant reveals a silent, thriving nexus of modern slavery in Srinagar, the Kashmiri capital. The gravity of the charge: sold as domestic servant. The photograph of a young man was taken with the news report with the following caption: Philimon Basumatary was trafficked to Kashmir and sold as a domestic worker.

THE GIST OF THE NEWS REPORT

Here is the gist of the news report on South China Morning Post (SCMP). Philimon Basumatary and some other youth of Assam were brought to Kashmir by some labour contractors. The group included a minor girl aged about 15. The labour contractors got the youth here on the pretext that they would be given work in an apple factory or some other good commercial establishment. Instead, the youth were forced to work as domestic servants. Kashmir has a huge demand for domestic servants or for people who can be engaged in menial labour in hotels, restaurants, hospitals, etc. The news report stated two days after working as a servant, Philimon told his employer that he had been cheated by the labour contractor, and did not want to work as a domestic servant. The employer took him to the contractor. The labour contractor did not heed the demand of the aggrieved youngsters. He attempted to force them to continue work in the same role.

Philimon Basumatary had earlier studied in Pune, Maharashtra, in an educational institute run by Sarhad, an NGO. He was able to connect with the NGO. Aqib Bhat, a member of the NGO who is a Kashmiri helped the youth. Bhat convinced the employers that the youth had been forced to work against their will. He also prevailed upon the labour contractors that the youth who did not want to work in Kashmir should be allowed to go back to their home states. By this time, the youth had been in Kashmir for about a month. With Aqib’s intervention, they were able to go back home. At multiple points, the news report makes reference to employment and the salary given to the youth brought from Assam.

Then how does the China newspaper justify this claim? …The story of a young man sold as a domestic servant..

Can a man working for a specified salary every month can be stated to be “sold as a servant”? Admittedly, the wages are low – which must be corrected. It deserves state attention and action. But does that authorize the China newspaper to say that youth from north-eastern states are sold for work in Kashmir?

Why The Report Hurts

Adil Rashid

As China’s leading English newspaper, South China Morning Post has global circulation. The news report was placed in the global mailer from South China Morning Post. It would have reached the mailboxes of readers worldwide. Imagine the reach of this disinformation against India all over the world. KZINE spoke to Adil Rashid, the journalist who wrote the misleading news report for South China Morning Post. On being asked about the grave false charge made in the news report, Adil Rashid said, “Please write about the matter to the Editor of my newspaper. I have nothing to say on the subject.” He stated that he shall provide the mail address of the newspaper editor and also his own mail address, but did not do so later.

When contacted by KZINE, Aqib Bhat expressed shock about the wrong charge made in the news report that Philimon and other youngsters had been sold. “The youngsters were being forced to work as servants against their will. We prevailed upon the labour contractors that the youth should be allowed to go back to their home states. Bringing youth from northeastern states to work in Kashmir is a common practice,” he said.

“Philimon Basumatary trafficked to Kashmir, and sold as a domestic worker”

The news report carried a photograph of a young man with the caption: Philimon Basumatary was trafficked to Kashmir and sold as a domestic worker

Examine some statements in the news report:

* …That decision led Philimon and seven others from villages in Assam, including a female minor, to be trafficked to Kashmir, where they would be sold as domestic workers

* …Indeed, Srinagar has become a nexus of modern slavery, with hundreds of shady “placement agencies” having cropped up all over the Kashmiri capital, where they are thriving amid lax official scrutiny.

* They were woken up the next day and escorted to different houses to work as domestic servants, instead of the jobs at hotels and factories they had been promised. “They waited for the night, and sold us off in the morning,” recalled Philimon, who was also told to never call his parents.

South China Morning Post Demolishes Pakistan’s Propaganda Against India

The report by South China Morning Post demolishes Pakistan’s global propaganda on Kashmir. Pakistan has consistently tried to promote the falsehood that Kashmiris are persecuted by India. Pakistan has consistently tried to circulate the fake narrative that India is an occupying force and a colonial power in Kashmir.

Examine the following statement in the news report published by South China Morning Post:

Madeeha Placement Services, like other such agencies in Srinagar, provides services such as household help, drivers, and nannies to upper class and upper-middle-class working families in the city.

To be noted: A placement agency of Srinagar gets labour from other parts of India to serve at Kashmiri households as domestic servants. Similar other Kashmiri placement agencies facilitate the employment of labour from other parts of India for menial work in Kashmir’s hotels, hospitals, restaurants, shopping centers, factories and the like. Other placement agencies get skilled workers like carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons and the like for work in Kashmir. These and other statements in the news report reveal a familiar truth. The report by South China Morning Post demolishes Pakistan’s global propaganda on Kashmir. Pakistan has consistently tried to promote the falsehood that Kashmiris are persecuted by India. Pakistan has consistently tried to circulate the fake narrative that India is an occupying force and a colonial power in Kashmir.

It is a known fact that labour from other states prefer to work in Kashmir than in other parts of India. One, their employment is guaranteed. Kashmiris are not interested in doing the tasks for which they can hire labour. Hence the jobs are passed on to the needy. The employer provides for the boarding, lodging and food for the worker, provides medical care if required, and also provides clothing as may be required. The contractors may try to scrimp money from the wages given to the labour. But there have been no complaints that any Kashmiri employer denied the payment to a migrant labour.

Migrant labour from other states prefers to work in Kashmir because the wages are higher here. Kashmir does not have a strong work culture. Hence Kashmiris tend to hire migrant labour for the major haul. Kashmiris do not prefer to hire a local man for skilled or unskilled jobs. It is often observed that a local labour will take two days for the task that the migrant labour will complete in one day. Also, it is a common experience that a local Kashmiri labourer has more demands at work regarding food and comfort as compared to migrant labour.

SCMP Should Acknowledge Error In News Report

The news report of “sold as a domestic servant in Kashmir” has been filed for South China Morning Post by Kashmiri journalist Adil Rashid. South China Morning Post cannot claim that the statements made in the news report are Adil Rashid’s fault, and the newspaper is not responsible for the grave error in the news report.

During Lockdown 1, a video was being actively circulated on social media. In the video, a Chinese news anchor was visibly angry an opinion column in a leading English newspaper. In the opinion column, the writer had called corona virus a “Chinese virus”. The news anchor vehemently argued that the newspaper could not claim that it did not bear responsibility for the opinion column. She argued on the lines that if someone claims in an opinion column that the holocaust did not happen or that slavery is legal, will the newspaper publish it? It shall not. Then how could the newspaper allow anyone to call corona virus as a Chinese virus in the opinion column.

Founder of NGO Sarhad Mr Sanjay Nahar says using the word sold is wrong

Mr. Sanjay Nahar, Founder Sarhad

KZINE spoke to Mr. Sanjay Nahar, Founder of the Pune-based NGO Sarhad about the wrong charge in South China Morning Post (SCMP) that the youth were sold in Kashmir. “We received the complaint from the parents and relatives of the youth. One youngster was studying with us at Pune earlier. The youth were told that they would be given good work in some factories in Kashmir but were later made to work as domestic servants. One group brought from Assam had a minor boy, about 15-16 years old. The other group had a minor girl about the same age. But it cannot be said the youth were sold in Kashmir. That’s completely wrong. We sent Aqib Bhat, who is with our NGO, to help the youth. He helped them to go home,” said Mr. Nahar.

When contacted by KZINE, Aqib Bhat said that after he came to know of the predicament of the youngsters, he spoke to their employers and the placement agency. “The placement agency wanted that the youngsters should continue to work here. But since the youth were not happy and wanted to return, we arranged for their return to their home state. I cannot understand why the newspaper should say that the youth were sold,” said Aqib.

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