Kerala

It’s anxious moments for Kashmiris in far-off Kochi

Democratic Youth Federation of India activists take out a march in Kollam on Monday against the Union government’s decision to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir. C. Sureshkumar

Democratic Youth Federation of India activists take out a march in Kollam on Monday against the Union government’s decision to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir. C. Sureshkumar  

Members of the 400-strong trading community are worried about their families back home

Kashmiri traders in Kochi are far from home... and worried. On Monday morning, the streets of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry were abuzz with news on Home Minister Amit Shah’s resolution to revoke provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir.

Sajid Khatai, 44, president of the Kashmiri Traders Welfare Association, is worried about his parents and sisters in Srinagar. “I had asked them to stock groceries and essentials a few days ago. When I spoke to them last evening, they were not expecting anything serious. They presumed that the troop build-up was because of Pakistan’s attack in Keran a few days ago. We are shocked,” said Mr. Khatai.

Kashmiris own around 110 shops in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry and most owners had gathered in Mr. Khatai’s store in Mattancherry to discuss the issue.

Most of them are hoping that phone networks and Internet connection will be restored soon. “In a high-handed move, they have taken a decision on Kashmir and left the people in the dark,” said Mr. Khatai, who has been living in Kochi for 21 years.

Sahil Abbas, who owns a store in Fort Kochi, feels there will be violence and is keeping his fingers crossed for his parents in Srinagar. “We are used to being worried now, considering how often the situation in Kashmir worsens,” he said.

“Most people at home are for retaining the State’s special status. The people, particularly youngsters, who have grown up with the sound of rifles around them will not be happy,” said Ijaz Hussain, from Srinagar, working in Mattancherry for two years.

‘No quick solution’

The workers in Mr. Khatai’s store have gone home to Budgam and Srinagar for Bakrid. He wonders when they will return. “Removing special status is not a solution to the problem. You cannot end 32 years of turmoil in a jiffy. How does this help the Kashmiris,” he asked.

Firdaus Rathore from Srinagar is not glued to his phone. He is confident that no harm will befall his family.

“We’re seen with distrust in most places in the country,” said Mr. Hussain, “but Kerala has been welcoming.” Mr. Khatai moved to Kochi in the early 1990s when militancy began to plague Kashmir. The community is 400-member strong in Kochi.

But surveillance persists. Every six months, Mr. Khatai is required to send the biodata of all men working in the area to the police for “security reasons.”

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 7:08:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/its-anxious-moments-for-kashmiris-in-far-off-kochi/article28828196.ece

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