Homecoming Halt: Anxiety Gripping Kashmiri Students in Rajasthan

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Srinagar: The hope of returning home is fading among hundreds of Kashmiri students who have completed mandatory quarantine period in Jaisalmer city of Rajasthan after their return from Iran last month.

“With every passing day, we are losing hope,” a fourth year female student at Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS), told Kashmir Observer.

“We don’t know if we could ever go back to our homes. We have been left in lurch, abandoned.”

Hailing from Budgam district of central Kashmir, she was one among the hundreds of Kashmiri students evacuated from novel coronavirus hit Iran on March 14, and taken to Army Wellness Centre Jaisalmer for quarantine.

A week after completing mandatory quarantine process, she and her friends continue to remain ‘unattended, uninformed’ at the center.

All the evacuated students, she said went to undergo quarantine process for their safety and wellbeing of others.

However, prolonged stay was not something the students were mentally prepared for, especially when all the students have tested negative to coronavirus.

“Now, we have been left in dark, unattended and uninformed. We have no idea what’s going on here as the authorities are not being honest with us,” she said.

“There are many students who are unable to cope up with the situation. Some experience panic attacks, some even cry at the night. The situation here is bad and depressing.”

Pandemic and the alleged official apathy is not the only worry students are facing thousands of miles away from their homes.

The soaring mercury too is giving them sleepless nights.

“The temperature is rising every passing day. We aren’t used to stay in 35 Degree Celsius. It is really hard for those students who come from hilly areas,” said another student of TUMS.

“It has been 21 days now at the quarantine center. We are suffering from anxiety and despair as the return to home seems a distant dream.”

He said that anxious calls from the parents were adding to the worries of the already perturbed students.

“We pretend to be strong when our parents call us. We lie to them by saying that we are fine and doing well. We have no idea what the future holds for us,” the student added.

The uncertainty is also taking a mental toll on the parents of these students.

A group of parents on Friday even approached Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner P K Pole to seek his intervention in clearing decks for their wards’ homecoming.

“He told us that the students can’t be brought back to Valley because of the lockdown. We left disappointed,” said father of a medical student who is at Jaisalmer quarantine center.

“We are very worried about our children. Our kids are not safe there. We want their early return.”

On April 2, MHA issued standard operating procedure (SOP) for the release of people from quarantine center who test negative to Covid-19.

According to the fresh guidelines, the people who completed quarantine can return to their homes, or stay at hotels, or with friends by making their own transport arrangements.

They are also suggested to home quarantine for 14 days after reaching their destinations, as a precautionary measure.

“The transit pass for movement of vehicle(s), being used by such person(s), would be issued by the government of the State/Union Territory where they have been quarantined,” says the MHA circular.

“The transit pass will be issued for fixed route and with specified validity and such person(s) shall follow the same. The transit pass, as issued above, would be honoured /allowed by the authorities of the State/ Union Territories along the transit route.”

However, the circular has done little to bring smile on the faces of Kashmiri students lodged at Jaisalmer center.

“This is totally absurd. How am I supposed to arrange transport facility while staying thousands of miles away from home?” questioned the student of TUMS.

He said if the government can airlift sanitizers and masks to Kashmir, why is it difficult to ferry students in the same aircraft to Valley.

“We are ready to pay for the tickets if government airlifts us. If the government wishes, we can be home in hours,” he added.

Senior J&K administration officials, including the government spokesperson Rohit Kansal and Divisional Commissioner Kashmir P K Pole did not attend repeated calls by Kashmir Observer for their comments.

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Izhar Nazir Ali

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