My Name Is Khan! Misery of migrant ‘Khans’ in Himachal

These days lots of controversy is generated over the latest Hindi movie – My name is Khan. I do not intend to write a review on it as I have not got the opportunity to watch it as yet. But going through the several reviews I could infer what the movies is all about. But to have a feeling of being a ‘Khan’ – a synonym for a  muslim one does not have to go too far off to US or any other continent , such a feeling of alienation can be had even around us, in fact all around us in the so called democratic polity of our country.

khan-porter-shimla I reproduce down below some of the concrete examples where a ‘Khan’ and that too if he is a worker is subject to second rate citizenry. A few days back  I happened to be a participant in one of the seminars on migration organized by the CWDS at Delhi. Prof Dunu Roy while presenting his paper on migration and Urban population, I remember, concluded that the workers would be targeted to various kinds of harassment  from their identity verification to their hutments and if the worker happens to be a ‘Khan’ the trouble would be more. Some of the participants contested these viewpoints citing the constitution of the country that provides equality in legal terms.  But, as I came across the concrete realities in Shimla town and that too at a place where the democratic movement is not that weak as it is in other cities and towns of the country, I memorized the movie ‘My name is Khan’ and the agony of being a ‘Khan’.

(Migrant Kashmiri laborers in Shimla are popularly known as ‘Khan’)

Unique Identification Process

Abdul Sattar Ganai aged 52 years, permanent resident of village and Post Office Dooru, Tehsil and District Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir and presently residing in Jama Masjid , Lower Bazar Shimla was picked up by the Shimla police and kept in a lock up for more than 24 hours u/s 107, 151 of the Criminal Procedure court. Ganai had to pay a fees of Rs 1500 to the lawyer to bail him out . Crime! Just  a preventive arrest for want of verification which is an ongoing process theses days in Shimla town . This is not an isolated example.   There are hundreds of such  migrant workers who are being harassed by the police for want of verification.

The journey of verification

To listen and notice this journey of verification especially of a ‘Khan’ -a worker even Nandanporter-shimla Nilekani  chairperson of the Unique identification project would feel embarrassed. The process started from 1990 after the militancy struck the chords in Kashmir.

1. In 1990 the first verification process started under the tutelage of the Municipal Corporation Shimla, where tokens were used to the workers the ‘Khans’.

2. Not sufficient with that in 1993-94 the Labour Commissioner of J&K stationed at Shimla took the reins and started the process of identification by providing them with ID cards.

3. This verification did not last long and in 1996 the Shimla police started photo identity cards .The entries of ‘Khans’ were made in the police registers. This process continued for a short period and the worker-‘Khan’ was even asked to pay some bribe for that.

4. Then in 1998 the CID intervened and started preparing identity cards; the police station cards were made redundant. The intelligence was a factor attached hence CID was the issuing agency. Any Khan caught without an ID card would spend several days in the lock up.

5. Then came the more aggressive form of identification in 2005-06’. The finger prints of ‘Khans’ were taken by the police and a separate record maintained with the innovative new technology.

6. But this also did not dampen the spirit of our security agencies and in 2009 promulgated a new scheme where the ‘Khans’ and such other workers would get a ‘bonafide honest’ , ‘integral’, ‘patriot’ certificate from their respective police stations i.e. from Kashmir or UP or wherever the migrant worker is from.

It is indeed obnoxious as the ID cards issued by the police previously had the home addresses of the migrant workers and their antecedents were got verified by the respective police stations in their states. Even for passport verification the police does it on its own. But now ‘assuming a new threat’ the police have asked the ‘Khans’ to get the verification done all by them which is not only atrocious but untenable as well.

Are ‘Khans’  terrorists!

Never in the past any incident of terrorist  activity has taken place in Shimla town. Despite that come 26th January  and 15th August  there would be a number of arrests of ‘Khans’ termed as just preventive ones. Despite such a rich background the migrant workers are a harassed lot, I wonder a situation in the absence of a democratic movement what would be the fate of ‘Khan’ and  profoundly would have to endlessly utter a certification ‘My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist’.

Images credit: The Internet

This is a guest post by Tikender Panwar, member secretariat CPI(M) and Dy. Mayor, Shimla. Tikender is based in Shimla and writes on social issues.

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10 Responses to "My Name Is Khan! Misery of migrant ‘Khans’ in Himachal"

  1. Unknown Name   February 23, 2010 at 3:02 am

    You are Khan. You are terrorist.
    My Name is Khan and I am not terrorist.
    It does not make any difference to anyone out there because they all are dumb and coward including me. the people need to understand that there is no religion on earth.

  2. manu   February 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

    This author has very myopic knowldge of such workers. In heyday of terrorism in Punjab lot of terrorists were working in Himachal. One notable case was of a tailor in Hamirpur later nabbed by Punjab police who was wanted for dozen of murders. Also from another angle these people are treated very well compared to how any indian will be treated in their homeland of Kashmir. I hope authors like this can think out of talking points provided by their party politburo.

  3. rajeevkhanna   February 23, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Brilliant piece Tiki…..You have hit the nail on the head….

  4. Pingback: Locals against proposed abattoir… and other news « Shimla Daily News

  5. aryan   February 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    this is a half baked story………….. only a comunist (of china loving ) can write like this……… i stay in shimla n nothing like this has ever happened….

  6. roshanjaswal   February 26, 2010 at 7:36 am

    आपकी शुभकामनाये मिली आभार आप से बहुत कुछ सीखने को मिलता है!

  7. kotgarh   February 27, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Its unfair to lable or brand anyone untill and unless proven guilty. But we live in dangerous times, caution is what the authorities seems to be exercising (which might be a taking a difficult route) but it is imperative.

    Everyone has the right to express themselves and air their opinions. Author seem to have done a fair job in bringing the story to the fore.

  8. vividhaditya   April 6, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Tikender, a nice story indeed.
    More than 25 years ago when I was just a kid of about 8/10 years, I used to live in Jakhu in Shimla. There was this Halwaai shop near Virbhadra Singh's residence. And there used to be a Khan (we knew him as Khan only) who used to live with the Halwaai, do some odd jobs for them and work as a coolie too. He was a jolly fellow, and had a nice humour.

    Our gas agency was in Sanjauli – Durga Gas Agency. We were building up a house in Sanjauli and anticipating a shift in residence had booked gas in Sanjauli. Since Durga Gas Agency did not supply to Jakhu we had to take cylinders on our own to Sanjauli to get a refill. I remember once, we hired Khan and I accompanied him to Sanjauli to get a refill. We took the forest route. Those were the days when even IGMC road was deserted. The forest route was obviously scary. On our way, Khan narrated me many a stories. He told me how he ran away at the age of 15 from home. How he missed his Ammi. he was an old guy by that time. Must be 60 or above. In the jungle I had tremendous fear – what if the old man died under the burden of the cylinder. I would be homeless and one day would have to work as a coolie like Khan. However, we reached home safely. After that I grew a fondness for Khan. So whenever we met, I wished him Aslaam wale kum. and he would smile back at me and say – Waale kum Aslaam. I didn't know what it meant and whether it had any religious connotations. Childhood is innocent indeed. It was only when I grew up, I got more knowledge about the militancy factor in Kashmir.
    It is this article that made me remember Khan today.
    I'm not going it details of the good or bad about the Khans' plight in Shimla. Just remembering my friend. I'm not sure if Khan is alive today or not. May God bless him wherever he is.

  9. Sebastian Teetz   July 7, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Wonderful to read!

  10. Sebastian Teetz   July 7, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Wonderful to read!


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