Majorda: After last week`s backlash against Nigerians in Goa, are Kashmiris next in line?
The gram sabha of south Goa`s Majorda village, located 35 km from Panaji, saw agitated deliberation Sunday over banning of Kashmiris from owning and conducting business within the village jurisdiction.
Mozes Vaz, the sarpanch (headman) of Majorda, a popular beach village told IANS Monday that he was open to the idea of conducting a survey to identify Kashmiris conducting business within village limits.
"The demand from the villagers during the gram sabha yesterday (Sunday) was to cancel licences to Kashmiris to conduct business here. I have told them that a survey will be conducted to identify Kashmiris doing business here. Action can be taken after that," Vaz said.
The elected official also said that said that a large chunk of Kashmiris who migrate to coastal Goa, including Majorda village for seasonal business annually had an "understanding" with local businessman.
"The Kashmiri`s say that they are only managing businesses for local residents," Vaz said, adding that the survey would help get to the bottom of the matter.
The suspicion of the coastal Goan village against Kashmiris comes on the heels of two villages deciding to virtually resolving to ostracise the Nigerian community from their jurisdiction, following the violence between a Nigerian and local drug pushers.
The villages of Siolim-Sodiem and Parra have formally resolved to ban Nigerians from taking rooms on rent, although Parra has specifically identified Nigerians on students visas, as the ones who should not be given rented accommodation.
"They come here. Live on fake papers, deal in drugs and cause a lot of nuisance," according to Parra Sarpanch Delilah Lobo, who while passing the formal resolution had claimed that Nigerians were "troublesome".
The ostracism of Nigerians along coastal Goa is a result of an open conflict Oct 31, when a mob of over 200 Nigerians attacked police, locals and blocked a key national highway for several hours demanding justice and a fair investigation to a compatriot who was murdered by a local drug gang.
The incident triggered a knee-jerk reaction from the state government, which initiated a drive against all foreigners living in Goa on inadequate documents, which includes the several hundred Nigerians living in Parra alone. Authorities have claimed that only one of the 50 rioters had a valid passport, while the rest had bogus documents.
Tension has also been simmering between the natives and the two to three thousand odd Kashmiris who arrive in Goa every year to set up handicraft stores during the tourist season from October to March.
A spate of arrests involving Kashmiris for drug peddling over the years however has resulted in the entire community being viewed in suspicion. And a much publicized move by the state police last year to make it mandatory for Kashmiris to fill up `Stranger Rolls` only made matters perceptibly worse.
The `Stranger Roll` move had triggered outrage in the Jammu and Kashmir with the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) calling the move discriminatory and "insulting".
Yashodhan Wanage, who oversees drug enforcement in Western India, specifically Goa and Maharashtra claims that he had come across cases where young Kashmiris were also being used as mules to ferry drugs from the hashish growing regions of northern India to Goa.
"The number of youths being used as drug mules is on the rise. They are being lured with easy money by suppliers. A trip to Mumbai is an additional incentive," the official has said.
A Kashmiri businessman operating in the tourism hub of Calangute however said that police as well as harassment by government agencies was commonplace during the beginning of the tourist season.
"The police always threaten us with closing our business before a tourist season to increase their protection money cut. We have also been forced to pay local gangs too to ensure that we can carry out our business for these six months (October-March)," the Kashmiri businessman said, requesting anonymity.