With trembling lips and teary eyes, Abubakar sheikh, 32, standing at the trijunction of the road with a bag hanging over his shoulders, says, "How will I go home? What will I tell them?"
He along with another non-local, Sadar Sheikh, had come to meet their colleagues on Wednesday morning. However, they found out that their colleagues were shot dead last evening.
They were to leave Kashmir on Wednesday morning, but fate had other plans.
The two started wailing in the middle of the road where security forces had gathered for investigation.
"We always felt safe here. What happened this time?" said Abubakar.
In Katrasu village of south Kashmir's Kulgam district, Wednesday began with a search and cordon operation after terrorists killed five non-locals and injured one the night before. Making announcements through loudspeakers, the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the Indian Army were ordering the locals in the area to come out of their houses as they launched a search operation to nab the militants behind the attack.
The night of the attack
On Tuesday at around 7.10 pm, Baseerul Sarkar had gone to the house of Ghulam Rasool, the owner of the orchard where he and six of his colleagues were working for the day, to fetch dinner. It was then that he heard the gunshots. The orchard owner's family asked him not to venture out of the house as they sensed something was wrong.
After half an hour, there was a heavy deployment of security forces in the area and almost everyone including Sarkar came to know about the killings.
Sadar and Abubakar were supposed to meet the victims on Wednesday as they had planned to leave for their home in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. They were living together in a rented accommodation in the same village.
Those killed on Tuesday were identified as Rafiq Sheikh, Qamar din, Mursaleen Sheikh, Nadeem-ud-din and Rafiqul sheikh. Another labourer, Zahoor-din Sheikh, was injured in the attack and is currently recovering at a hospital in Srinagar.
Meanwhile, the police has arrested eight people from the village in connection to the incident. Locals said that their mobile phones have been snatched by the security forces including that of women in the village; everyone fears they might have to suffer a backlash from forces.
A police officer anonymously said that the militants had forcefully taken them away after barging into their rooms and killed them 150 metres away from their place of accommodation.
"Five died on the spot while the one who got injured who was later rescued from the spot," he said.
Villagers in shock
The victims had left the village and went back home after the Central Government had issued an advisory in August, ordering all non-locals to leave the state. They had returned to Jammu and Kashmir 20 days ago to resume working as labourers in Kulgam.
"It was shocking for everyone in the village," said a villager who saw the bodies of the victims drenched in blood
The residents also said that they knew the non-local labourers, and were equally surprised with the killing.
"They had been coming to Kashmir for the last 12 years. The way they have been killed is brutal," said Basheer Ahmad, another resident of Katrasu village.
Migrant workers a target of militants
The attack on the West Bengal labourers on Tuesday is the seventh and the biggest attack on non-locals after the Government of India scrapped Articles 370 and 35a, thus revoking the special status accorded to the state of Jammu and Kashmir by the Constitution of India.
Eleven non-locals have been killed so far, all of them were either truck drivers or migrant labourers.
The killing took place on the same day a European delegation comprising 27-members of the European Parliament visited the state. While all shops were shut, stone-pelting occurred at almost 40 places in Kashmir. After 5 August, this was the only day when stone-pelting occurred in most places.
On Tuesday, the board examination for Class 10 students also took place in the state.
Besides, considering, the bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh comes to effect at midnight (Wednesday-Thursday), the state has been witnessing complete shutdown over the last two days.
Even before the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A, top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo had warned about consequences if "something big might happen from the government". He had then said that non-locals will become the main target.
Though no militant group has claimed the responsibility for the attack on labourers on Tuesday, the state police and the army believes that militants were behind such attacks. After the attacks on the migrant labourers came to the fore, many non-locals have started leaving the state.
In Shopian district, the police has, in fact, been advising non-locals to leave the district. Over the last few days, in many places in South Kashmir, the police also advised truck drivers to live around safe places such as near army cantonments, etc.
Abubakar and Sadar said that they always used to come to Kashmir together for work, and everyone used to treat them nicely in the Valley, but this time they are leaving without five of their colleagues. "We don't know what to answer to their families," they said.
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Updated Date: Oct 30, 2019 21:12:32 IST