Aamir Ali Bhat | Jun 18, 2019 | 3 min read
Jammu & Kashmir: Deceived by netas, ignored by government, Rajasthani migrants in Kashmir have nobody to count on. Except the Kashmiri brethren, whom they can't praise enough for extending warmth and support.
With no jobs back home and no market elsewhere for the brooms they make from palm leaves, thousands of Rajasthanis migrate to Kashmir valley every March. They stay put here till November, living in tarpauline tents, performing the exacting task with their bare hands. Their job is tough, so are the living conditions and the income too is ho-hum, but the social milieu of the valley is something they can't stop gushing about.
“We have been coming to Kashmir for 12 years. Back home in Rajasthan, when anyone asks me what I like most in Kashmir, I reply, ‘Its people’,” says Ladu Bagariya. “We set up tents every year on this ground without giving any rent. Instead, the owner of this land cares for us. He sometimes visits us and tells us to live happily.”
Ladu, 60, had first come to Kashmir in 2007 as the demand for the broom they make began dwindling in other states. As thousands of brooms were sold in the valley within months, Ladu's folks began coming here every year.
They are from the Bagariya tribe, listed as a Scheduled Caste in Rajasthan. They live in abject poverty, as evident by their settlements. Back home, they say they own no property and live in mud houses and in Kashmir, where they live for nine months a year, they live in tarpauline tents.
For all the bad press Kashmir gets about being a conflict zone and anti-India undercurrents, the Bagariyas haven't faced slightest trouble from the locals.
Ladu comes here with his entire family every year. His sons, daughters, daughter-in-laws, grandchildren, all live here, assisting in making and selling brooms. He's not the only one going gaga about the warmth and hospitality of Kashmiris. Sonu Bagariya, 28, can't agree more with him.
“When I load my bicycle with 250-300 brooms and go to sell them in villages and towns, people sometimes offer me food. When my cycle gets stuck sometimes because of heavy load, passers-by come and push it. I have never seen such type of people,” chimes Sonu. “Who cares for poor people like us nowadays!”
When tension prevails and Kashmir remains under lockdown, the broom-makers say they continue their work without any interruption.
“When the valley remains under lockdown, we take alternative routes to reach villages and sell our brooms. Nobody ever treats us like outsiders. We didn’t face any problem even in 2016, when Kashmir was going through a terrible period,” says Sonu.
“Protesters don’t pelt stones on us,” he shares with a smile. “Their fight is with the forces. They always give us safe passage.”
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