Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar
"My brother had gone to Jammu and Kashmir five months ago to work as a brick mason. He used to call regularly. Today at around 2:30pm, I received a call from his co-workers informing that he was shot dead," Hariram said.
Hariram's younger brother Mukesh Kumar, a resident of Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, was allegedly shot dead by suspected militants in south Kashmir's Pulwama district on Monday, 30 October.
The Kashmir Zone Police, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), said that "terrorists fired upon one labourer identified as Mukesh of UP in Tumchi Nowpora area of Pulwama, who later succumbed to his injuries."
The police further stated that the area has been cordoned off and search operations are going on.
"Mukesh was a daily-wage worker and had been working at several brick kilns for over 15 years. He had gone to Kashmir 4-5 months ago," Mukesh's nephew Umesh Kumar told The Quint a day after his uncle's death.
Umesh, 22, added that he was on his way to Lucknow to receive his uncle's mortal remains, which will be arriving from Kashmir on 31 October, Tuesday.
'Had Gone To Purchase Groceries When He Was Shot'
The Jammu and Kashmir Police told news agency ANI that Mukesh used to work at a brick kiln at Tumchi Nowpora. He had gone to the market to purchase groceries when he was targeted by terrorists.
"He was found in an injured condition near an orchard in the area and was immediately shifted to hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead," J&K Police said.
A case has been registered at Pulwama police station under relevant sections of the Arms Act, 1959, and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2008. The investigation is ongoing and the police is trying to establish the motive and circumstances of the terror crime, the police added.
Mukesh, who was the youngest among three brothers, was the sole breadwinner of their family of six, including his wife Kusum, and four children – Nisha (19), Pankaj (14), Khushi (12), and Ankush (10).
"Only Nisha goes to school, while the others stay at home. The condition of the house is very bad. It is difficult to even find enough food for the family," Umesh told The Quint.
He added that Mukesh was a simple and hardworking man, and that his older brothers are both farmers in Unnao.
Second Shooting Incident in Two Days
The attack on the migrant worker comes a day after an off-duty police inspector Masroor Ahmad was shot at while he was playing cricket. Ahmad was reportedly fired at from close range at Eidgah ground in Srinagar. He is critically injured and undergoing treatment at a Srinagar hospital.
Besides, this is the first such killing of a migrant worker this year in the Valley, and the second attack on non-local workers in Kashmir.
In a press release from the Raj Bhavan, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha condemned the incident, saying the "killing of innocent civilian Mukesh Kumar, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, will not go unpunished."
“I strongly condemn the despicable and cowardly terrorist attack in Pulwama. Heartfelt condolences to the family of Mukesh Kumar. We are firmly resolved to eliminate the terrorist menace that continues to receive encouragement and reinforcement from across the border,” Sinha said, as reported by ANI.
According to a report in The Indian Express, three construction workers, originally hailing from Bihar, were injured after suspected militants fired at them in south Kashmir’s Shopian in July this year.
After the abrogation of Article 370, which took away the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir, in 2019, there has been a sharp increase in the number of attacks on migrant workers.
In 2022, 10 migrant workers – including a bank manager from Rajasthan and a teacher – were reportedly killed and over a dozen injured in a series of militant attacks, mostly in south Kashmir.