Ripples of the Muzaffarnagar riots have made their way to far away Murshidabad in West Bengal.
For decades, around this time of the year, farm labourers from Murshidabad and adjoining areas leave their villages to take part in the sugarcane harvesting operations in Uttar Pradesh and bring home some much-needed extra money. This time, however, they won’t be doing so.
Following the communal flare-up, a large number of the farm hands here have decided against going to Muzaffarnagar and other parts of Uttar Pradesh for the harvesting work this year.
Rahman Mollah, a 65-year-old from Loknathpur in Murshidabad who has been working in the farms for the past 50 years, says this time of the year gives sugarcane farm labourers here lucrative opportunities to work outside the state. He knows because he too had made several trips in the past to different places across the country although now he says he is too old for that.
“There are labour contractors who take people from our village to several places across the country. One such place is Uttar Pradesh. I have grown up seeing every season people from the village and even some of my family members going for a few weeks to Bulandshahr, Muzaffarnagar, Azamgarh and Sitapur districts in Uttar Pradesh. Of late, these people are also in demand in different areas of Jammu and Kashmir,” he says.
But, Rahman says, this year not a single person from the village has volunteered to go there and the elders have also dissuaded the youngsters from going to Uttar Pradesh because of the riots that claimed the lives of several Muslims. He says he too has told his three sons not to venture out this year.
“A day’s work outside would fetch over three times of what labourers are paid in the village but I would still say it is not worth risking your life,” he says.
Shukrullah Sheikh, another farm hand from Murshidabad who is in his 50s, says it was better to stay with family and earn a little less. “From the time the riots broke out, many of us decided that our family members