Srinagar: Muhammad Akbar was running a sweet shop in Srinagar’s Khanyar area for the past two decades and more. He lived with his family of four in a rented room in the same roadside building. The turbulence that has been an inseparable facet of Kashmir’s everyday life for years never bothered him.
A day after Parliament approved a resolution abrogating the special status for J&K under Article 370 and a Bill for splitting the state into two Union territories, thus also removing the legal impediments in owning of land and other immovable properties in the region by non-locals, Akbar, a resident of Bijnour (Uttar Pradesh) told a local resident: “Ab mujhe yahan sey koi nahi nikaal sakta hai (Now, no one can evict me from here)”.
The word spread quickly. The very next morning, Akbar was visited by his landlord who asked him to vacate the premises within 24 hours. His plea that whatever he had said was only a mazakh (joke) went unheeded.
Akbar and his family were soon out. In summer, Kashmir also becomes home to tens of thousands of seasonal labourers, small-time traders and other workers, mainly from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
There were roughly 4,00,000 such “non-locals” in the Valley prior to August 2 when the state home department issued the “advisory” to pilgrims, asking them to cut short their trip.
While a few thousand panic-stricken seasonal labourers also headed for home in whatever means of transport was available, hundreds others were coerced by the security forces to leave. However, a majority of the non-local workforce chose to stay put, ostensibly in the hope that things will return to normal soon.
But with the Valley and some other parts of the region having been pushed into a chaotic situation due to the prolonged clampdowns and complete communications blockade, thousands more started leaving the Valley in the past 10 days.
Most of them moved out on their own but there were many instances when they were asked to leave by locals....