Migrant Workers Slam PDP Remark
5 June 2003
The Indian Express
Srinagar: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti's suggestion that the state should ban the entry of skilled workers into J-K has caught migrant labourers here off their guard. It has also invited severe criticism from Opposition parties. Says Bashir, who hails from Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh and who works as a mason in Srinagar, 'Kashmir is maie baap (everything) for us.' 'My roommates told me this morning the state does not want us here. They want their own people to work in our place,' adds Bashir, who lives with hundreds of labourers from Bihar, UP, Orissa, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh in the Hawal locality. Bashir, who has been working here for the last 22 years, says Mehbooba's 'anti-poor' remark is 'aimed at depriving the poor people, who came here despite the violence, of their means of livelihood.' 'Don't Kashmiris go to other states to sell their merchandise? Ask the shawlwallas this question,' pitches in Rehmat, another labourer. An anxious Ram Saran, a plumber from Orissa, asks: 'Will we be thrown out?' While Mehbooba's statement has evoked mixed reactions among the people of the state, it has come in for severe criticism from the Opposition.While Altaf Ahmed, a carpenter, says: 'Our people also trade in other states. They should also be called back by this government', Bilal Ahmad feels it would be a good thing if the state manages to boot the migrants out. National Conference president Omar Abdullah says Mehbooba's statement 'is an irresponsible, immature outburst'. A view echoed by CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami, who told the State Assembly today that 'Mehbooba should desist from making emotional statements. She is a responsible member of the House. Such slogans suit the Shiv Sena who spread hatred.'