Tear gas shells make this Kashmiri smile

March 1st, 2009 - 1:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Amarnath ShrineSrinagar, March 1 (IANS) There is a silver lining to each smoky burst of a tear gas shell in the uptown Maisuma area here - at least for 35-year-old Kashmiri scrap collector Muhammad Amin.

Amin earns his living by collecting empty tear gas shells after each clash between stone pelting protesters and security forces in Maisuma where he lives. It is one of the strangest ways to make money in the Jammu and Kashmir summer capital.

“I normally work as an unskilled labourer, but since last July I have chosen a different profession. I collect the empty tear gas shells after the clashes,” Amin said.

Maisuma, the stronghold of the separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), has for long witnessed regular violence between the security forces and the protesters.

But after widespread protests broke out here in July last year against the order alloting forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, the Maisuma area has seen almost daily clashes.

“The police use tear gas to disperse the protesters and after things have quietened, I step in collecting the empty brass shells which I sell as scrap,” Amin told IANS.

“On a lucky day - when the clashes are fierce and scores of shells are fired - I make a good living. Sometimes I earn as much as Rs.500 a day,” he said.

“I am also thankful to the mobile machine that fires dozens of these shells in a matter of minutes!” he said.

Amin was referring to the multi-barrel tear gas shell firing vehicle called Agnivarsha, which the security forces use to fire tear smoke shells mechanically at large protesting mobs.

Isn’t he afraid of making his living in a situation that could some day endanger his life?

“Not at all. After the clashes have subsided, the protesters and police leave the streets which are almost deserted and that gives me ample time to collect the shells,” he said.

He said the scrap buyers give him Rs.50 for each kg of the empty tear gas shells and after a big clash in his area, collecting around 10 kg of empty shells is no big deal for him.

People make the most of adversity in the strangest of ways, but none perhaps in stranger than the story of this local scrap collector. Tear gas usually forces both the protesters and the police to shed tears, but in a bizarre manner, it also brings cheer to this one man.

(By F. Ahmed can be contacted at f.ahmed@ians.in)

-Indo-Asian News Service

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