On a rainy morning in Srinagar, three children of Vikas Choudhary, a labourer from Bihar, are trembling in the cold as they wait for a taxi to leave Kashmir – upending a life of 18 years.
Vikas’s neighbour, Arbind Kumar, a gol-gappa seller was among the latest victims of the targeted killings of people from other states in Kashmir. He was shot dead on Saturday evening by terrorists who, officials say, want to scare such people away.
“Bihari workers are being killed. I’m scared because they want to drive us out. No one has asked us to leave but there is fear. The gol-gappa seller who was killed was living in the same apartment here,” said Vikas Choudhary.
Vikas’s colleague and neighbour, Ashish said they were given Rs 3,000 by the landlord for their bus fare – an example of the kindness of local people. But the repeated terror attacks have panicked their families back home.
“Kashmiri people are very good… house owner gave us Rs 3,000 for bus fare. They are nice. But back home, our families are perturbed… After killing of migrant workers, they are asking us to return,” he said.
The response from the security forces remains confusing. They have denied an advisory going viral on social media, asking police to corral migrants in their areas, in secure locations.
But NDTV found migrant workers were being kept in secure locations. The migrant workers say they were brought into “safe locations” last night.
“We were sleeping when the police came and asked us to come to the police station. I’m the only breadwinner in the family and there is no work available in Bihar,” said one of the workers named Rahul.
Mohammad Salaam, another labourer from Bihar, said they have never faced such a situation in Kashmir.
“We have never faced such a situation. Last night, the police brought us here. What will do here? We had come here to work,” he said.
The spate of attacks has come at a time when the army is engaged in one of its longest and toughest anti-terrorist operations in the Poonch district.
Nine soldiers including two offices have been killed in action since last Monday but so far no terrorist has been killed.
Today, loud explosions and gunfire were heard as the army pounded suspected terrorist targets in the dense forest where they are holed up.