Militancy-hit Kashmiris Make Goa Their Second Home
31 March 2006
Panaji: Hit by militancy back home, Goa has become the second home for Kashmiris, engaged in carpet and jewellery business for almost a decade. However, local businessmen allege Kashmiris have encroached upon the traditional business of Goans while Kashmiris term the charge as 'wrong'. A local businessman Sachin Kurtikar says'Kashmiris are dotting the coastal belt with their shops which basically sell carpets'. Responding to the allegation, Ghulam Rasool, who runs a carpet shop in Candolim area, said 'we are into carpet business and Goans were never into this trade. They can't claim that we have encroached upon their field'. 'We are not militants. In fact, we are law-abiding citizens of this country. People are categorising Kashmiris as militants the same way as they categorised Sikhs post-Indira Gandhi's massacre,' he said. Police say that despite the sizable population of Kashmiris, their involvement in crime is rare. Migration of Kashmiris to Goa had begun two decades back and increased. Unofficial figures say Cangute- Candolim-Baga belt has around 3,000 Kashmiris. 'Most of the people settled here are from Srinagar. The militancy, coupled with death blow to tourism in Kashmir, forced them to migrate', said M Yousaf Tuman, a Kashmiri businessman owning Indian Arts Exposition at Candolim. 'The products which we used to sell in Kashmir are being sold in Goa. We have shifted our destinations but not the products,' he said. With strong backing of politicians, the Kashmiris living in Calangute-Camdolim-Baga belt play a major role in deciding the fate of the local panchayat canadidates. 'There are 800 Kashmiri voters in this belt. This chunk can be decisive and hence no politician would dare to disturb them', said Kurtikar. Renting out houses to Kashmiris is also a craze among easy money-making Goans, said Kurtikar. 'Many people have sub-let their premises to Kashmiris which is not permitted as per law but we can't act until there are complaints,' said Calangute sarpanch Joseph Sequeira. Candolim sarpanch Agnelo Fernandes, who also happens to be parliamentary secretary to the government, strongly supported Kashmiris by saying 'We can't stop them. They too are Indians and they have the right to do business anywhere.' Tourism Director Sandeep Jacques said there was no proper data with his department on Kashmiri businessmen. 'All business establishments in tourism belt are supposed to be registered with the department but many do not do it. Now we are initiating the drive to register them with the department,' Jacques added.