Mysterious Letter Asks Non-local Labourers To Leave Sopore

24 June 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Majid Jahangir

Srinagar: Close on the heels of threats to the telecom operators and a series of killings in volatile Sopore district of north Kashmir, a mysterious letter addressed to the head of the grand mosque in the apple town has asked non-local labourers to leave the town in the next three days. Though the mysterious letter is not attributed to any militant group, there is clear threat that has been issued to the non-local labourers and the landlords who had provided shelter to them. The J&K Police said they were checking the veracity of the threat letter. The letter from an unidentified group addressed to the Imam (head priest) of Jamia Masjid, Sopore, has given a three-day ultimatum to the non-local labourers to leave the area. 'The non-local labourers are informers of the Army and they have settled here under well-thought conspiracy to keep an eye on each Kashmiri,' the letter read, a copy of which has been accessed by The Tribune. 'The warning is also for those people who have provided shelter to them as they (landlords) will also be considered as informers and will be shot dead in their homes,' it added. 'Whosoever violates our dictate should know that they are inviting death. Those who have opposed our decision so far have become our target and were killed,' it read. The threat letter was handed over to the local priest by unidentified men on Tuesday and he passed the letter to the local committee. The local priest was advised to read the letter in the mosque. The letter has created panic among the non-local labourers in the town and reports from the area indicate that many labourers are contemplating to move out of the volatile town. Deputy Inspector General, police, north Kashmir, Gareeb Das said, 'We are checking the authenticity of the letter. Recently, the posters of Tehreek-i-Taliban, Jammu and Kashmir, were plastered. They had a passing reference to the presence of non-local labourers,' Das said. These posters had warned liquor shops, cable operators and gamblers of dire consequences if they continue operating. There are nearly 25,000 non-local labourers in Sopore and its adjacent villages, mostly engaged as construction workers or hired labourers in the sprawling apple orchards by apple growers. Kashmir according to estimates houses nearly 4 lakh non-local labourers and if they decide to move it will hit the construction industry across the Valley. A leading economist, Nissar Ali, said, 'Kashmir has labour shortage. If non-locals leave there would be a problem in every sector.' 'Twentyfive per cent of our income comes from the construction industry and one can imagine if the non-local labourers decide to leave. Our economy will severely hit,' Ali said. 'The non-local labourers are engaged in almost all sectors,' he added.