SRINAGAR: Pankaj Paswan from Bihar has been working in Kashmir for 27 years and never faced any problems. Despite witnessing the volatile phase of 2016, he returned to the Valley. Naturally, he was shocked when his close relative Virender, a gol gappa seller in Srinagar, was shot dead by militants 10 days ago.
"On October 5 evening, I was told that a gol gappewalla was shot dead at Lal Bazar area. I thought they were joking. Some people showed me photographs on Facebook. I rushed to the spot and came to know that his body was taken to Sher E Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, so I went there," said Pankaj, also a gol gappa seller.
According to Pankaj, the administration told him they would facilitate the return of Virender’s body to his native place. "But we were only two-three persons…I told his family we would cremate him here as per rituals. His brother and nephew were also here. They talked to his wife, children and mother and they agreed," he said.
The administration provided Rs 25,000 for Virender's cremation and a cheque for Rs 6 lakh to his family. Praising the Kashmiris for being generous, Pankaj said during the COVID lockdown last year, locals provided him ration, food items and vegetables for four months. "On their own, they came forward and helped me. Who will do that in Bihar," he said.
"I am a Hindu and my family lived here for 12 years. I never faced any problems. My children were studying here. When the situation worsened in 2016, I went back with my family. I later returned but did not bring back my children," he said.
Asked whether he or any non-local are facing any problems in the Valley, Pankaj said, Had this been the case, I would not have been coming here again and again. There is no problem here. People here are very generous and helpful."
Asked if they (the migrant workers) are scared after the killing, Pankaj replied in the negative, although he said the street vendors were never targeted earlier. "If we fear, what will we give to our families to eat? We are here to work for our livelihood. Rest depends on the Almighty," he said.