Patna: Two days after at least 40 CRPF jawans were killed in a terror attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, some Kashmiri shopkeepers from Patna were reportedly threatened by a group of right-wing activists. They were asked to “leave the state as soon as possible or face dire consequences”.
These shopkeepers are Kashmiri Muslims, and mostly sell woollen clothes at their shops in Patna.
“We are also sad as Indian citizens after what happened in Pulwama, as are others. But some people attacked our shops in the Lahasa market, and tried to assault us because we are Kashmiri Muslims. They issued even an ultimatum to us to leave Bihar. This has created fear and panic among us,” said Faisal Hussain, one of the shopkeepers.
Another Kashmiri shopkeeper, Mohd Basheer Ahmad, said, “We have been pained by the killing of CRPF jawans in a terror attack in Pulwama, but it was unfortunate that some people targeted us, suspected and taunted us to take revenge.”
Basheer said this is the first time that the Kashmiris are afraid in Bihar due to such an atmosphere created against them. “We have been coming to Bihar every winter season for over two decades and we had never faced a problem before. We have been roaming in streets of the urban as well as the rural areas without any fear. But for the first time, some people have attacked our shops in Patna, and have threatened to go back to Kashmir,” he added.
According to Basheer, three Kashmiri shopkeepers – Majeed Ahmad, Rayeesh and Abdul Bari sustained injuries, and were admitted in a nearby government hospital for treatment.
He further informed that a group of 25 to 30 people, armed with iron rods, hockey sticks and bamboo sticks, attacked us, abused us, and tried to loot the woollen items and the money, but were resisted by us.
Dozens of Kashmiri vendors including Mohd Reyaz, Saleem Mir, Yunus, Kafill and Mumtaz Beg, sitting near a woollen clothes shop at Sabzi Bagh locality, in the heart of Patna, expressed fear. “We have decided not to roam in the streets in different residential localities in Patna.”
Reyaz, a vendor, said that he and dozens like him in Patna hire rickshaw-pullers for their business, and visit residential colonies to sell their goods.
In different parts of Bihar, particularly at the district headquarters, a number of Kashmiris run winter shops to sell woollen clothes between October and February.
Patna police have alerted all the police stations, and have asked to ensure security of the Kashmiri shopkeepers.
Rajesh Kumar, DSP (law and order) refuted the allegation that Kashmiri shopkeepers were attacked. “It was a merely a petty incident, and a small clash involving some antisocial elements. There was no violence against Kashmiris.”
Kumar told Newsclick that additional security forces including state Rapid Action Force have been deployed at the Lahasa market where dozens of Kashmiris are running wooden clothes shops and at Sabzu Bagh and other localities where they are present.
However, another district police officer admitted that more than Kashmiri woollen shopkeepers, vendors are in panic, and have temporarily stopped visiting residential localities, sensing tension and vengeful sentiments.