Last week there were three small news items that got neglected in the flow of routine. All three news items involved non-locals living in Kashmir. But the nature of these three news items was completely different as so has to be its impact.
The first one read that four non-locals (including two non-Muslims) were caught pelting stones in the downtown area of Srinagar. It was one such incident where heads were sure to turn, tongues were bound to wag, and eyebrows were definitely going to be raised. Non-locals at the most are seen intruders by the natives, but never the saviours who would risk their lives and stand shoulder to shoulder with Kashmiris and pelt stones. It was really an out of the league phenomenon that demands explanation. Though the police official press release played down the incident by saying that these non-local stone pelters were forced by locals for the act and will be released after investigation is over, but the fact is that non-locals are making their presence felt after all. Another theory says that these non-locals, who are now around 5 lakh in numbers, are very much part of the society and breathe the same oppressed air as natives. So this reaction is genuine and not the forced one as police likes people to believe.
Another argument puts it like this that while going berserk CRPF does not discriminate between locals and non locals. They simply charge towards the crowd and fire bullets, without thinking it might hit a non-local as well. So this vulnerability makes non-locals very much part of the society and makes them feel our pain. So the anger, and the idea of getting revenge, prompts both locals and non-locals to get out and fight.
The second news item read that two non-locals were arrested by the police in Batamaloo area while selling Fukki. In the recent past the consumption of drugs in Kashmir has seen an alarming rise, and many believe that non-locals play a key role in paddling the same. There are instances where non-locals are caught running the rackets from the top. They are the movers and shakers of the drug economy.
The close interaction of non-locals with natives has helped them earn their trust and stay low profile.
The third news item interestingly was a press release from senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani who has expressed his concern over presence of non-locals in Kashmiri homes.
Time and again Geelani has been warning locals that getting too close to non-locals could prove to be counterproductive in the long run. He has been crying at top of his voice that such an overwhelming presence of non-locals in troubled Kashmir is part of India’s strategy to change the demography of Kashmir.
But one look at the presence of non-locals in Kashmir and you think that Geelani is right. There is not even a single village left where you won’t find a non-local working. They are the ones who keep the local economy moving by doing small odd jobs. But in last few years these non-locals have slightly but significantly moved a notch up from being just labourers. They are now into construction. They are the ones who control the labour market for us. If they stop working for a day we will be back to stone ages. But then they are into stones too!