As Pandemic Persists, Stranded Kashmiris Scream for Homecoming


Kashmiri students at Airport

Amid global lockdown, many Kashmiris stranded in different parts of the world have shot SOS-style messages on social media for homecoming.

Jyotsna Bharti

On April 19, 2020, a former union minister received frantic calls from stranded Kashmiri labourers in Kangra and other areas of Himachal Pradesh for help to return to their homes in Kupwara and other districts of Kashmir.

The callers introduced themselves as labour leaders named Mohammad Shafi and Fayaz Ahmad Mir.

The duo sounded stressed and, in an anxious voice, explained their ordeal — that since lockdown got imposed, they got unemployed and were exposed to hardships of life.

Shafi and Mir informed that over 300 labourers could walk upto Pathankot, wherefrom they should be taken to their home districts of Kupwara and elsewhere.

Many more, they said, are stranded in other parts of the Himachal Pradesh.

Following this call, Prof. Saifuddin Soz urged the J&K union territory government to organize a sizeable effort to help stranded Kashmiri labourers in Himachal Pradesh.

“It’s a matter that needs to be taken up with the Himachal Pradesh Govt. on war-footing,” Prof stressed.

But before those frantic calls would ring the congress leader’s residence, many had joined hands to #BringBackKashmiriStudents on social media.

Mehvash Munshi, a doctor by profession, said that she will not stop asking for help until the students stuck in Bangladesh will not be brought back to their homes.

About 80 Kashmiri students stranded at Benapole on the India-Bangladesh border are not able to cross the border even after having the passport, she said. “The students are from a medical college in Bangladesh.”

Munshi’s tweet came at a time when the lockdown-induced agony is increasingly faring on various platforms of social media and showing the growing restlessness among the stranded Kashmiris in different parts of the world.

Among those stranded Kashmiris is Sabreen and her sister.

The siblings are stuck in Ludhiana, Punjab, ever since lockdown. Even after constantly asking for help from the administration, they said, they aren’t getting any response.

Similarly, Fahad Rehman, another stranded Kashmiri student has appealed the J&K government to take adequate action and bring back students from Rajasthan.

Around 300 Kashmiri students, he said, are stuck in Rajasthan even though they have already completed a mandatory 14-day quarantine period and tested negative for Covid-19.

“There’s rage and anger in all the students who have been asking for help,” he said.

Some reports even suggest that hundreds of Kashmiri students are stranded at airports or in their paying guest accommodations across India due to Covid-19 lockdown.

“We are trying our best to bring these students back,” a senior government official said.

“But due to the nationwide lockdown, it’s becoming almost impossible to do so. We’ve taken up the issue with higher authorities and hope that some solution arrives soon.”

However, according to Amir Khatana, a law student from Kashmir, even as the various state governments have taken initiatives to bring their students and labourers back home, Kashmir government isn’t taking it seriously.

Former EJAC President and social activist Abdul Qayoom Wani also asked the authorities to bring back all Kashmiris stranded in and outside India.

“Students, as well as their families, are in pain and distress and authorities must look into the matter at the earliest and bring them back immediately,” Wani, a former PDP leader, said.

Due to travel ban amid the current situation, hundreds of Kashmiri students stranded in Ukraine, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Iran and several other countries have now joined the growing social media chorus for homecoming.

“All I want is to be at home,” said one stranded Kashmiri student. “Even if I have to die, I want to die in Kashmir, in my home. I don’t want to die here.”

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Jyotsna Bharti

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