JAMMU: “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 again.
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 in 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.
Thousands of labourers, mostly Hindus and some Muslims, from different states arrived at railway stations and bus stands in Jammu and Udhampur after leaving the Valley.
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.