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Kashmiris in ''strangers rolls'' live in grip of fear in Goa

Written by: Staff
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Panaji, Mar 26: From roadside carpet vendors to jewellers in modern showrooms, Kashmiris in Goa, are a;; pm ''Strangers'' rolls and under the eye of the police.

Kashmiris, who migrated from the beleagured valley to eke out their livehihood in this yet another international tourist destination, are looked upon as'' suspicious and as strangers'' unlike other business communities from different states who throng here in the tourist season.

''The most unfortunate aspect of our lives is that the business communities coming from other states like Rajasthan and Gujarat spare no time in asking the customers not to visit our stalls,'' the Kashmiris complained.

The tremors are felt among the 500 odd families and another 5000 visiting Kashmiris in pursuit of business, if some of their community members are arrested for possessing ''psychotropic drugs'' or on suspicion of engaging in ''terrorist'' activities.

''We feel humiliated when we are treated as 'strangers' in our homeland while people from other states are treated like any others.

Is it a sin to visit or stay in Goa for our livelihood, leaving our properties behind in Kashmir, the ''Jannat (heaven) on the Earth?'' a Kashmiri businessman said.

Having migrated to Goa thirty years ago, he began with a small business on the pavements in Anjuna, and is now well settled.

Many such respected settlers engaged in business can be seen at famous beaches like Calangute, Baga, Anjuna, Vagatur in North Goa and Colva, Canacona, and Varca in South Goa humming with foreigners in and off season in Goa.

Visited some of these areas in the wake of the arrest of a suspected terrorist Tariq Ahmmed from Srinagar with alleged links to Lashkar-e-Toiba, the UNI correspondent found this community seething in anger against movement of such suspects posing threat to ''our livelihood''.

''We never sheltered any of the criminal elements and vow to hand over such elements in future if we come across them on suspicion. We are for peace and undisburbed lives in Goa,'' an elderly Kashnmiri said on condition of anonymity.

The Kashmiris had also decided to form a welfare association and maintain registers of all the settlers besides the frequent visitors engaged in business. They would be given proper photo identity cards and report to the concerned police station on their arrival. The police had recently introduced what it called ''Strangers Rolls,'' asking all the Kashmiris visiting Goa for the first time to fill up four copies of the forms, which seeks 24 details including their antecedents and address in the Kashmir valley as well as their place of stay in Goa One copy of it would be sent to J&K police for verification and confirmation. One copy would be with the bearer and has to be produced whenever necessary. The rest would be with the local police and intelligence police records.

The community members felt insulted and humiliated as they were treated as ''strangers'' in this part of India annd looked with suspicion on publication of news that a Kashmiri terrorist suspect was arrested for the first time in Goa.

Deputy Inspector General (Crime) Ujjwal Mishra welcomed the suggestion of introducing ''Smart ID Cards'' to the Kashmiris, instead of the ''Strangers Rolls'' sheets. ''It is not a bad idea and we will explore the possibility,'' he said.

They had also a grouse against the media which had allegedly been further sprouting the seeds of ''suspicion'' against the entire Kashmiri tribe in Goa for ''sensationalism'' and ''vested interests''.

With these adverse media reports and the peaceful situation now in the Valley, some of the community elders who had spent many years in Goa would like to go back with ''pained hearts to our Jannat,'' not hesitating to sell there property or leaving it in charge of members of the family, born and bred in Goa.

''Our contribution to Goan economy is quite higher. We promptly pay all taxes besides higher rents for the accommodation we are staying in,'' they stressed.

UNI

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