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Migrant labourers fleeing Kashmir, women who were 35A’d dreaming of return

August 10, 2019
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Migrant labourers fleeing Kashmir, women who were 35A’d dreaming of return

By Bivek Mathur and Rahul Singh Shekhawat

Patna, Jammu, Dehradun: Kashmir’s relation with people hitherto classified as outsiders is changing now that the Centre has scrapped Articles 370 and 35A.

These Articles barred a non-native from becoming a permanent resident of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and buying land there, besides stating that a Kashmiri woman who married a non-Kashmiri would lose the right to own property.

As the news of revocation of these Articles is sinking in the region, the locals are allegedly driving out the labourers hailing from other states who have been working there, lest they begin aspiring to settle there now that permanent residency is not outlawed. At the same time, native women who had become outsiders by marrying a non-Kashmiri are now eagerly dreaming to go back and buy a house where they grew up.

About 9.15 pm on Thursday, the packed Jammu Tawi-Rajendra Nagar Terminal Archana Express reached Patna Junction. Most of the passengers were migrant labourers from J&K who had to flee because of the worsening situation in the Valley. Some said Kashmiris threatened them of dire consequences while others said their landlord advised them to leave the Valley until the situation improved.

Fleeing in fear

Originally from Bihar, Raju, a painter working in Srinagar, said Bihari labourers were not being allowed to fill water from a community tap. “Every time a Bihari went out to fill water, stones were pelted by the Kashmiris,” he alleged.

Kolkata resident Pawan Mandal, who works at a sand extraction unit in Bijbehara in Anantnag district, said the owner of the unit cautioned them to leave citing tension in the region. He said the owner assured them that when the tension ends, he will call them back. Samastipur resident Brij Nath Kumar, a manual labourer in Srinagar, said the police were advising the migrants to leave the Valley because of conflict in the region.

While the ensuing tension is the major reason behind people leaving, Amit from Samastipur said he left because of the shortage of essentials and food owing to the curfew in the Valley. Such is the rush among migrant labourers to leave that many are finding it hard to find transportation.

Originally from Banka in Bihar, Kailash Paswan, a gol gappa and ice cream seller in Srinagar, said he wasn’t getting any transport facility to reach the railway station in Jammu. While he finally got a bus, security checks were so tight it took him more than 16 hours to reach Udhampur and then Jammu, which is about 60 kilometres away.

Homecoming dreams

While this section of outsiders can’t wait to get out, Kashmiri women who had lost citizenship of J&K by marrying an outsider are vying to go back now that they are free to own property and settle down in their hometown.

Hailing from Kashmir, Supriya Mazari and her family had shifted to Dehradun in the early 1990s, when she was in her early teens. She got married to a Maharashtrian and thus lost the rights to own any property in J&K as per Article 35A.

With happiness evident in her demeanour, she said she can finally go back to her motherland as the central government has removed the restrictions that prevented Kashmiri women who had married non-Kashmiris from buying land or property.

Supriya said their ancestral house was in Nai Sadak, close to the iconic Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Her alma mater, Lal Ded Memorial High School, has now transformed into Lal Ded Cultural Center.

Supriya said thoughts of settling in her motherland began surfacing in her mind when she started reconnecting with her school friends on social media. When she approached her father with a desire to build a house in Kashmir, he made her realise that since she had married an ‘outsider’, local laws won’t allow her to buy any property there.

“This was how I came to know about the ridiculous provisions and practical implications of Article 370 and 35A for the first time,” she said.

Supriya shared how they had to leave Srinagar in the early 90s as Kashmiri Pandits were being attacked in the city. “Rifle-toting terrorists used to pass through our neighbourhood. Although no one was killed in my house, people were shot and killed in the neighbourhood,” she reminisced.

She also mentioned that her husband sometimes jokes about visiting his ‘real’ in-laws in Kashmir. She said she hadn’t visited the Valley after leaving it in the 90s owing to the ordeal she had to go through.

She lauded the Centre’s move to repeal Articles 370 and 35A and said she can finally move to Kashmir as the central government has removed the restrictions imposed seven decades ago.

As the hope of resettling in the Valley is rising among the ones who had left fearing persecution, Supriya also hopes to return to her roots.

[With inputs from Umesh Kumar Ray]