Due to ongoing Covid-19 crisis and curbs, as thousands of Kashmiri students are helplessly stuck in different Indian states, a young student activist is coming out to their rescue and bringing them home.
WHEN old demons returned to haunt Kashmiri students in Rajasthan on April 30, 2020, a young Kashmiri boy promptly dialed Ashok Gehlot. Sounding concerned, the caller informed the state chief minister how his police thrashed students for their Kashmiri Identity.
The call came after cops flexed their muscles on stranded Kashmiris in Jaipur. The boys running short of money amid pandemic lockdown had stepped out to buy essential grocery during a relaxation period.
They came back with assaulted appearances, ripped clothes, and tears in their eyes.
By the time news reached home, in the form of bruised body images and sad bulletin, a wave of distress spread across.
But it took the timely intervention from Nasir Khuehami to save the day and pave way to a complaint against the hooligan cops, and medical treatment to the thrashed Kashmiris.
Recalling the rescue operation of sorts, the 23-year-old ‘crisis manager’ makes it sound as his “faraz” for his fellow Kashmiris.
Fuelled by his passion for humanitarian issues, the Bandipora boy with journalism degree had been involved in activism since his teens.
“I was still in college in 2015, when we founded the J&K Student Association for Kashmiri students outside the valley,” Khuehami told Kashmir Observer in a candid chat.
“We were only three students when we found JKSA, but at present the student body has over hundreds of members spread across India.”
The main idea behind the student body, he said, is to help Kashmiri students, as they’re subjected to a lot of discrimination and repeated harassment outside.
“We don’t want Kashmiri students to suffer in their careers and work owing to their identity,” Khuehami, who’s also JKSA spokesperson, said.
“We’re trying to resolve and minimise their hardships so their lives do not get affected.”
To ease the difficulties of the students, Khuehami and his team are active on social media platforms as well on ground.
“We’re trying to do our activism in a positive way and focus on building good networks and trust with civil and non-governmental organisations, activists and government officials elsewhere, for the welfare of Kashmiri students,” he said.
During the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Khuehami along with his 12-member team has been daily receiving over “200 distress calls”.
“We’re actively involved in evacuation of stranded Kashmiris who shot repeated videos for help,” he said.
Recently, the activist came to the rescue of three deaf and dumb boys from Anantnag stranded in Mohali, Punjab.
“I spoke to the Punjab government personally and they’ve agreed to help the boys,” Khuehami said. “Arrangement for their safe return will be done in a day or two.”
It was Khuehami who reached out to the higher-ups on May 1 and came to the rescue of seven Kashmiri SOS girls who were stopped at Lakhanpur border on their way home.
“Since pandemic lockdown was imposed, we’ve been able to help more than 4000 students,” the activist said. “Our team is also helping stranded students to get accommodation and food during current crisis.”
Last year, when Pulwama suicide attack killed 40 Indian paramilitary men, Kashmiri students faced hate attacks in different parts of India. The crisis situation saw Khuehami once again throwing his weight behind the distressed students.
“With the help of Khalsa Aid,” he said, “we provided accommodation and other essential commodities to nearly 5000 of Kashmiri students and ensured their safety.”
Calling it one of the trying times in his activism career, Khuehami said his team sought intervention in all the colleges and universities where Kashmiri students were harassed and resolved the issue.
After the abrogation of Article 370 last summer, Khuehami once again coordinated with Khalsa Aid, whose humanitarian works inspire him, to provide relief to Kashmiri students outside the valley.
“We were able to provide financial aid and other assistance to over 2000 Kashmiri students in different states like Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Uttarakhand,” he said. “People do acknowledge our efforts, but my parents get worried at times. But they’re proud of what I’ve been able to do for the welfare of the Kashmiri students.”
Today, as Khuehami looks back at his activism career, he’s often reminded of the day when he was denied accommodation in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar area. He doesn’t carry any grudges, he said, for he wants to rise above the hatred to help his distressed brethren.
And that’s what makes him the knight in shining armour for Kashmiri students outside their homeland today.
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