Migrant workers leaving

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The onus lies on us to stop the exodus 

No religion allows anyone to be killed in the name of religion. Those behind these killings are the actual cowards this valley has ever seen

Mudasir Dar

Apart from the beautiful landscapes endowed with heavenly mountains and hills, springs, mesmerizing water bodies and conflict, the Valley of Kashmir is also known globally for its hospitality. Beauty doesn’t lie in the Mughal Gardens alone. It also lies in brotherhood and in sharing – in making our land a friendly space. Our land is blessed with good-natured people who are beautiful not only by their faces but by their hearts as well. We Kashmiris are caring people. We look after our guests.

Despite all the chaos and uncertainty over the last few decades, Kashmiris have never forgotten to welcome the guests that come here from every nook and corner of the world or other Indian states. During the harshest of conflict-evolved circumstances and braving all odds, our tradition of serving guests has never died. We receive and welcome our guests through thick and thin. We have plenty of examples of how Kashmiri people upheld brotherhood and hospitality – be it the 2014 flood, through shutdowns or curfews. Even during the strict Covid lockdown, Kashmiris sacrificed their convenience to make their guests comfortable. People here consider every tourist or non-local labourer their guest and try to serve them in the best possible way. The recent innocent killings of non-local migrants have let every one of us down.  It has shaken us deeply. Externally we may not be showing it for fear of terrorists. But internally we are shaken.

credit for picture: The Indian Express

When non-local poor street vendors and labourers who barely make ends meet are killed hundreds of kilometres away from their homes, it pains. An unarmed civilian comes from Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh or any other Indian state to Kashmir to earn his livelihood. Making them the target of bullets has collectively shaken the Kashmiri society.  Everyone among us is deeply pained seeing the scenes of non-local workers leaving the valley in groups due to a sense of fear of getting killed by terrorists.

No religion on earth allows these things to happen. Those behind these killings are the actual cowards this valley has ever seen. It is a high time we come out of our homes and start protesting against these killings, and save ourselves from getting blamed for being mute spectators by our Hindu brothers and sisters. We will never be able to forgive ourselves if we won’t raise our voice against this exodus.

Kashmir Cannot Function Without The Non-Local Labour

The migrant workers are an important part of our society. We cannot afford to let them go. Our economic, social, agricultural, construction, and even domestic workforce are being provided by them. They are here to make their ends meet. It is our duty to stand for the destitute and oppressed.

Leaving these non-local labourers is also worrisome for our society. The co-existence that we were witnessing despite all chaos over the last few decades will come to an end if it is not prevented. The need of the hour is to come out and condemn these brutal and innocent killings in every capacity we can, and open the doors of our homes for these poor workers who are being targeted. I recall that some days before when I was at home, I got a call from some non-local migrant labour who used to work in my village. The man was frightened by the killings and requested me to shelter him for some days. I brought him home.

The next day the man got a call from the concerned police station to submit his Aadhar card. When he came back, he told me that he would leave the next day. When I asked him what happened, tears started rolling from his eyes. I couldn’t control my emotions and hugged him tearfully. He had only one question. “Why are we being killed? For what reason?” The man has been here for 15 years. He has never witnessed what he is seeing today.

Our Sikh Brothers Helped Us When We Needed Help. It Is Our Turn Now

We remember what our Sikh brothers did for all Kashmiris in 2019. After the Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF men were killed, every Kashmiri was being asked to leave the Indian states. The Sikh brothers opened their gurudwaras and helped thousands of Kashmiris by providing them with shelter and other related things. They used Khalsa Aid to help panic-stricken Kashmiri students and helped them to come back to the valley.

At this crucial juncture, the migrant labour and the minorities need us and our religious organisations to safeguard them from these terrorist activities the way they helped us and safeguarded our people in 2019 after the Pulwama attack. Safeguarding the needy in crucial times is what my religion teaches me. It is what my beloved Prophet Mohammed (SAW) has taught me about “safety of others”. This is what Islam is about. These people need us as much as we need them, as much as we needed them in the past. At the same time, we must condemn and boycott the hate being manufactured by some Indian media houses. They are accusing and blaming every Kashmiri, and negatively labeling the people of Kashmir. Their attitude is totally wrong. No humane heart stands with those known or unknown killers who target peace-loving and destitute civilians.

Our Religious Leaders, Our Seminaries Must Stop Migrant Workers From Leaving

We should not allow the non-local labourers to leave with a bitter taste from a region, which is known for its hospitality around the world. We should make them feel they are in the same place where they chose to make a living by showing them sympathy and offering them free space.

The fear that they feel must not end our relationship with the migrant workers. The onus lies on us to open the doors for them and stop the exodus. The least that a common citizen of this valley can do is to condemn and protest against these killings. Our religious leaders and seminaries must come forward to stop the migrant workers from leaving. We must show them that we care for their lives and that they are an important part of our society.

Author is a social activist based in South Kashmir and can be reached at mudasirdariust@gmail.com.

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