Pulwama (Kashmir): On October 30, a migrant labourer from Uttar Pradesh was shot dead by unidentified militants in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
The victim, Mukesh Kumar, was found dead in Nowpora village.
The attack took place a day after the Resistance Front (RTF), an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Taiba, shot at a police inspector while he was off duty in Srinagar. He was grievously injured and was admitted to a hospital.
Even in such a volatile environment, Mukesh, along with 15 others, came to Pulwama from Uttar Pradesh’s Purwa to earn a better wage.
However, just hours after finishing his job, he was killed.
Rajesh Kumar, one of the 15 men who had come all the way from UP, recalled how he kept urging Mukesh not to venture out alone, even if it meant sending money home. “He wanted to send money urgently to his wife and four children. His desperation led him to his death like this,” he said.
Twenty-eight migrant workers had been killed since 2017, according to government data.
After identifying Mukesh’s body, his fellow colleagues were taken to a safe house, where they wondered how to send his body back to his family in Purwa.
Their problem was solved when Faisal Parray, a school teacher and resident of Pulwama, stepped in to help transport Mukesh’s body back to Purwa. Parray also assisted in getting the body embalmed to ensure that Mukesh would be received by his family in an undecayed condition.
Since 2022, he has voluntarily helped facilitate the return of at least 20 migrants who had died in the valley back home.
“We didn’t even know his name. He wasn’t a part of the police or the army. Yet he helped us through his own sources and money,” Rajesh said.
“I know how painful it is, firstly, to lose someone and secondly, to run from pillar to post to obtain their body and send it back to their hometown,” said Parray, recalling his trauma of losing a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, he had helped Deepsha Dey, who lost her father, Pradeep Kumar Dey, during a vacation in the valley. The road accident occurred on May 25, 2023, on NH44 near Awantipora.
Parray facilitated the local transfer of the body.
Dey also credited the local police for assisting her at every step, even when the death certificate of her father had a spelling error. She remembered how helpful the locals were to her.
She had decided to donate her father’s body to a local anatomy college.
Recently, Nasir Raza found himself trapped in a similar situation when his cousin Zahid Ahmed, a labourer, was killed in a road accident.
On November 26, Ahmed and his relative were killed in a road accident near Pulwama while being transported to a work site.
Raza, who was called after his relatives passed away, had to establish the identity of Ahmed, who had no documents linked to him back home.
“I got a call from the police in Kashmir that my brother had died, but there was no document to confirm that it was, by all possibilities, my own brother. With this, Faisal [Parray] sir reached out to me. He helped me understand the ways in which we could ascertain my brother’s identity,” Raza told The Wire.
He explained that for two days after the deaths, both bodies remained in Kashmir because their identities couldn’t be confirmed.
Raza also shared how, at his own expense, Parray sent the bodies of Ahmed and the other relative to Delhi. He also arranged for an ambulance that transported Raza and the bodies of his relatives from the airport in Delhi to Bareilly. From there, they took a vehicle to reach their hometown, Bisalpur, in Uttar Pradesh.
While a senior police officer motivated Parray to undertake this voluntary work, Parray personally funds the assistance provided to these families.
“Seeking reimbursement from the authorities is a tough task, and the process is slow. But it doesn’t stop me from helping the helpless,” Parray told The Wire.