Amid a charged-up atmosphere across the country over the Pulwama terror attack in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed, three panchayats of Hamirpur, Bilaspur and Kangra districts in Himachal Pradesh have banned the entry of Kashmiri migrants.
These panchayats include Bharmoti Khurd under Nadaun sub-division of Hamirpur district, Harnora in Bilaspur district and Bhariyada in Kangra district.
The panchayats have banned the entry of Kashmiri ‘pheriwalas’ (selling clothes door to door) altogether (copies of these orders are with The Statesman). If someone still wants to sell items in these panchayats, they have to take prior permission of the panchayat.
The Bhariyada panchayat in Kangra district has ordered such Kashmiri ‘pheriwalas’ to shell out Rs 1,000 to be able to sell their goods in the periphery of the panchayat. It also decided to impose a fine of Rs 500 on those families where such persons were allowed or found to be selling their products without permission.
These Kashmiri migrants have been travelling to far off villages of Himachal Pradesh, selling various daily use items and clothes, especially for women since the last few decades.
Though the Bilaspur panchayat cited security concern as the main reason for banning the entry Kashmiri migrants, the other two banned their entry without giving any reason. They have asked these people to first take permission of the police station concerned for selling goods in their area and later seek a permission from the panchayat too.
On 16 February, a few Kashmiri ‘pheriwalas’ were assaulted by locals near the Palampur bus stand in Kangra district raising questions about their safety.
Further, there were rumours in Shimla that Kashmiri migrants were fleeing to their natives places, fearing backlash after the suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir and following the attack on Kashmiris in Palampur.
The Shimla district administration had however denied the reports, and Deputy Commissioner Amit Kashyap said the law and order situation in the district was under control. “The Kashmiri migrants have nothing to worry about,” he had assured on Monday.
He had said some migrants were indeed leaving Shimla but on their annual vacation.
Police sources said the step of these panchayats was illegal and uncalled for, given the constitutional right to freedom of movement granted to every citizen of the country.
“The panchayats can’t ban the entry of Kashmiri migrants or any other persons. This is against Indian constitution which allows every citizen to go anywhere or visit places they like,” said an official.
The sources said it seemed they were just venting out their anger by taking such measures.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Hamirpur, Hitesh Lakhanpal said the Kashmiri migrants, most of the times, were already registered or verified by the police stations concerned.
“We have issued directions to all police officials and Station House Officers (SHO) to take precautionary measures and ensure the safety of Kashmiri migrants in the district,” he told The Statesman.
“We have issued directions to all Superintendents of Police to ensure safety and security of all, especially Kashmiri migrants,” said Khushal Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Law and Order, Himachal Pradesh.