In yet another attack on non-natives, militants on Sunday evening killed two non-local labourers and injured another one in Kulgam district of south Kashmir even as a hunt was launched by the police and security forces to track down the assailants.
The fresh attack came a day after a street hawker from Bihar and a carpenter from Uttar Pradesh were shot dead in two back-to-back attacks by militants in Srinagar and Pulwama districts.
“#Terrorists fired indiscriminately upon #NonLocal labourers at Wanpoh area of #Kulgam. In this #terror incident, 02 non-locals were killed and 01 injured. Police & SFs cordoned off the area. Further details shall follow. @JmuKmrPolice,” Kashmir Zone Police said in a tweet soon after the incident.
“Three non-local labourers fired upon by terrorists in Wanpoh, Kulgam identified as Raja Reshi Dev (dead), Joginder Reshi Dev (dead) and Chunchun Reshi Dev (injured). All are residents of Bihar,” a senior police officer from Kulgam told.
The incident, police said, took place after militants whose number is being ascertained entered the rented accommodation of the labourers at Laran Gangipora, Wanpoh in Kulgam and fired upon them indiscriminately.
“Senior officers of police, Army and paramilitary forces have arrived on the spot to take stock of the situation. A vast area is under tight cordon and intense searches are going on,” the police officer said.
On Saturday two non-local labourers were shot dead in Srinagar and Pulwama. The police identified them as Arvind Kumar of Banka Bihar and Sagir Ahmad of UP.
Earlier, on October 5 the militants had shot dead prominent Kashmiri Pandit Makhan Lal Bindroo at his shop. Within an hour of Bindroo’s killing, a non-local street food vendor from Bihar was shot dead in the Lal Bazar area of the city, which was followed by the killing of a Sumo stand president Mohammad Shafi Lone in Bandipora district of northern Kashmir.
A day later, militants shot dead a 50-year-old Sikh woman Satinder Kaur, who was principal of a government school and mother of two, and her colleague a Kashmiri Pandit Deepak Chand who was a teacher at the school in old Srinagar.
In the wake of the attacks, police have launched a massive crackdown and detained scores of people across the Union Territory for alleged links with militants.
The security forces have also intensified anti-militant operations. According to the police, 13 militants have been killed over the past week.
‘Our families want us back home safely’
Meanwhile, Pankaj Kumar, a non-local labourer, who has been working in Kashmir for the last 20 years, is preparing to leave early for his native place Bihar where his family is worried about his safety and has asked him to come home.
A day after two non-local labourers were shot dead in Srinagar and Pulwama, many of the non-native workers said that they and their families were worried and want them back home safely.
At Hawal, a four-way road stretch which is also called ‘Bihari Chowk’, non-local workers huddled together in groups were seen discussing the situation obtaining in Kashmir in the aftermath of civilian killings.
While some have decided to leave Kashmir immediately, many others want to finish their work before they leave.
“I have been selling golgappas here for the past two decades but never have I seen this fear among non-local workers,” Kumar who hails from Darbhanga district of Bihar, said.
Kumar has seen “even worse” situations in 2008, 2010, 2016 and posts abrogation Article 370 time. “But I didn’t leave then. My family was staying here with me. Kashmiri brothers fed us during Corona time when we had nothing to eat as all businesses were shut,” he said. “But unfortunate the recent killings of non-local workers have sent shivers down my spine. My family has been constantly calling me since last night asking me to return home so I have decided to go back.”
Kumar is not alone to have planned to go back. There are scores of others whose families are worried and want them to come home early. “We travel thousands of miles to come here for earning our livelihood so that we could feed our families and give education to our children. But this cannot be at the cost of our life,” Rajesh, a painter from Uttar Pradesh, said.
He added: “We have never been harmed by Kashmiris, but unknown gunmen are killing our brethren, which has forced us to decide to leave Kashmir early. We used to leave by November end, but now I have decided to leave by Friday.”