Sleepless in Kolkata: Kashmiris live in constant fear of threats

Sleepless in Kolkata: Kashmiris live in constant fear of threats

first_imgA Kashmiri college student helping a friend write an article gave up after repeatedly trying to get Kolkata’s Kashmiris to speak. They refused to talk, the student said.“Even my father refused to talk about the nature of fear that has gripped us over the last week,” the student said on condition of anonymity, adding, “Please do not disclose my gender. I do not want to be the reason of trouble for my family and for Kashmiris.” The few hundred Kashmiris in Kolkata have experienced unprecedented hostility over the last week.“An absurd number of hate messages have flooded Facebook. Kashmiri women are issued rape threats, men are threatened with lynching and attacks on their families,” the student said, showing screenshots of hate messages. One of the screenshots notes that a similar “number of [a slang] Kashmiris are available in Bengal,” indicating that the Pulwama terror attack could be avenged in Kolkata.In the past one week, a prominent doctor has been threatened, a shawl seller was brutally beaten in Nadia district, another was threatened in Lalbag in Murshidabad, while other cases are reported but could not be verified. In Lalbag, both the accused and the victim, the shawl seller, were arrested.Many are surprised that Kashmiris in the city are not speaking up. “The reason is because it is a tiny group,” said Sabir Ahamed, organiser of a community-based campaign to diffuse communal tension, Know Your Neighbour. “The other factor, however, is even more distressing. As soon as a news report is published, people equipped to create trouble are digging out names, locations and even house numbers of the threatened persons, analysing data and issuing more threats. So media reports that are casually disclosing identities are not helping in any way,” Mr. Ahamed said.The student said news of attacks on Kashmiri traders in the city and “the Muslim-Kashmiri identity” was also a reason. They never expected “such behavior” in Kolkata as many have been living in Kolkata for generations.A Kashmiri housewife said she is planning to leave the city for Hyderabad, “because the politics of Bengal has some form of bloodiness in it, at least before the elections.” She said, “Many of our friends and cousins are trying to move to southern States. We have heard that there are fewer or no threats to Kashmiris in south. Perhaps women are safer in Karnataka compared to Bengal.”However, one Kashmiri, a government servant in Srinagar on a visit to Kolkata, said that he is not too keen to return to his home State before the scheduled date of departure.last_img

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