August 1998 News

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Himachal Government Turns Spotlight on Kashmir

14th August 1998
Hindustan Times

SHIMLA, Thousands of Kashmiri labourers working in Himachal Pradesh have come under the scrutiny of the State police following reports that militants from the neighboring trouble-torn State of Jammu and Kashmir were trying to mingle in their ranks to create more disturbance in this hill State. Following the massacre in the Tissa area of Chamba district, in which 35 persons were shot dead by Kashmiri militants and suspected Afghan mercenaries recently, the authorities are taking no chances with the big work force of Kashmiri labourers whose population is spread in all big and small towns of the State as well as interior areas where projects are coming up. Most of the Kashmiri labourers had come to Himachal Pradesh in the beginning of this decade after the going got tough for them in their own State due to increased terrorism. The influx of the Kashmiri labourers into this State has been continuing ever since and every year more such labourers get added to the list. The authorities in various districts of this State, who had till now turned a blind eye to the unchecked influx of the Kashmiri labourers, have now become wary of the Kashmiri population. Major towns like the State capital Shimla, Dharamsala, Kangra, Kullu, Manali, Mandi, Chamba etc have a big population of Kashmiris. Most of them are engaged as labourers here. The economy of a majority of these towns is dependent on the Kashmiri labour. Many of the Kashmiri labourers have also turned to the hotel and tourism industry, given the heavy returns that they get from it.

Most of them are acting as touts for big and small hotels as well as tour operators and can be easily seen luring tourists at major tourist destinations like Shimla, Manali and Dharamsala. Enquiries reveal that some of these Kashmiris earn over Rs 1,000 a day during peak season as they are paid by hoteliers for bringing business to their hotels. Highly-placed sources here have confirmed that a thorough screening of the entire Kashmiri population in the State had started in the aftermath of the Chamba massacre and intelligence reports that the Kashmiri militants could sneak into other parts of the State in the guise of Kashmiri labourers and create disturbance in the otherwise peaceful State. It is likely that authorities in all districts of this State would make it mandatory for Kashmiri labour to get themselves registered before starting to work here. There is a talk of issuing identity cards to the Kashmiris working in this State. Till now, the authorities had not paid much attention to the increasing population of the Kashmiris in various areas of the State.

The 'madarsas' of the minority community in the State are also being kept under strict vigil. In the past, the State police as well as the J&K police and other security agencies have caught certain Kashmiris working in this State for their involvement in militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir. Police officials do not rule out the possibility of some of the hard core terrorists from Kashmir coming into this State to escape the pressure osympathizern them from security forces in J&K. The State police have nabbed a few Kashmiris from various parts of the State during the last couple of years.

Later, it was found that some of them were members of one or the other militant outfit in the neighboring State. Police sources admit that the Kashmiri militant groups were trying to create their bases and sympathizer inside this State also. Some of them had partially succeeded in this effort also, the officials say.


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