“It is a beautiful and peaceful state and we can roam around here freely, day and night without any fear. There are more opportunities here and we now have become part of the lives of people in Shimla and their businesses.
“We don’t feel outsiders here, it is like home, and we are working here since our childhood,” said Abdul Majil.
Abdul, aged 54, hails from Anantnag, Kashmir works here in Shimla as a porter and earns 600-700 in a day and many times nothing at all. These Kashmiri porters, popularly known as ‘Kashmiri Khans’, carry goods and other heavy items to small shops and homes in and around Shimla where vehicles can’t go.
The community is scattered in different parts of Himachal, in Shimla, Kullu, Kangra, Chamba and Solan. They are the backbone of the economy in Shimla and they have migrated here to earn a living. They can be seen everywhere on the streets carrying LPG cylinders, refrigerators, and all the items one cannot imagine a person can lift on their backs on the road uphill, even during snowfall. Most of them have their families living in Kashmir
As Munir Ahmed, 26, climbs the road towards the Mall, with sweat dripping from his body and heavy breaths, he comments, “It involves massive physical labor but this is the only option I have.”
Post Pulwama terror attacks, there were incidents of assault on Kashmiri migrants at different places and many returned home out of fear temporarily. Gul Mohammed, who is working here since 30 years now, said, “With disturbance in Kashmir or any attacks, people see us with suspicion. They see us differently. We are here to earn because the conditions are not good there.”
“We aspire for peace in Kashmir like it is in Himachal and any other part of India. This is my personal view that Kashmir has much more opportunities of tourism and scenic beauty, we have gardens and valleys. Here there are big factories, jobs, companies and shops. There is no work back home.” asserted Rafiq as he waits outside an electronics showroom for work.
Another Kashmiri migrant, Abdul has two daughters, both pursuing Bachelor of Science and two sons, who are teachers in a private school. “Media is showing only the view of some people and not the poor ones or the people who need jobs,” he rued. He said a coon man does not have a view point.
He however added that locals have less to do with this fight and bloodshed. “ The condition is bad, there is no denying to that. There are talks and talks with the government,” he added.
“We just pray for peace and we miss our land. We love this place, the administration, the people and this freedom. We pray the same for Kashmir. I hope our generation doesn’t have to do this job, but the future is bleak, more and more youth is migrating for work and doing this menial job”, said Rehman, another porter.