Professor’s Pandemic Plea: ‘Bring Them Home’

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Amid deafening political silence in the valley, one veteran unionist has found voice and cause in the current crisis involving stranded Kashmiris. Lately as 300 of them sent SOS from Muscat, the congressman knocked the Indian foreign office for emergency help.

 Jyotsna Bharti

AS phone rings and announces the alarming situation, senior Congress leader and former union minister Prof. Saifuddin Soz appeals Raj Bhavan and New Delhi to come to the rescue of stranded Kashmiris — some of whom have already reached on the verge of starvation and mental breakdown in some foreign land, during pandemic lockdown.

The senior leader has been actively participating in bringing back the marooned Kashmiris home from various Indian states and different parts of the world and making all the required arrangements for it.

For his ‘selfless’ gesture, the unionist has already become “Salvador” for these stranded Kashmiris.

Lately, as yet another evacuation call became an outcry, Professor beckoned Minister of External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jainshankar.

“I pleaded strongly with him that it is a worrisome situation for Kashmir from where many people have travelled to Iran for studies and other pursuits in life,” he said.

“I’ve requested him to ensure that these students should travel back to their families as per their requirement.”

Even as the government says it’s already on job, a video shot by stranded Kashmiris from Muscat is now doing rounds on the internet and shrilling the evacuation cry.

“We’re over 300 people stranded in Muscat,” a Kashmiri man says in the video.

“Some of us have expired visas. We’re stuck here without money. It’s hard to sustain here. We’re in utmost need.”

Many of these Kashmiris are stuck in Muscat with their families.

“We don’t have food to eat or money to feed our families,” says another Kashmiri in the video.

“Our children are starving here. I strongly plead to the Indian Government to evacuate us, before we die here.”

At this crucial time, Prof. Soz has once again resurfaced as the ‘go to man’ for stranded Kashmiris.

“I strongly pleaded with Minister for External Affairs, that he should immediately repatriate a group of Kashmiris stranded at Muscat,” Soz said.

“I explained in detail to the minister that there’re women and children in this group. Many among them had lost jobs and the system wants them to fend for themselves when the times have become very hard due to the coronavirus.”

A seasoned parliamentarian, Prof. Soz, a native of Sopore, sought voluntary retirement from government service to enter politics in 1983.

That year, he contested Lok Sabha election, and won the Baramulla seat as a candidate of National Conference.

Soz went on to win three more Lok Sabha elections as NC member, before, in 1999, he was expelled from the party for voting against the Vajpayee government.

His vote brought the BJP government down which led the then Prime Minister to tender his resignation.

After joining Congress party in 2003, Soz was elected to the Rajya Sabha. Inducted as Minister of Water Resources in Manmohan Singh government in 2006, Soz was appointed President of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh (state) Congress Committee in 2008.

The recipient of Soviet Land Nehru Award, Prof. Soz earlier helped stranded Kashmiri labourers in Kagda and other areas of Himachal Pradesh to return to their homes.

“The government of Oman [Muscat] will not accept any kind of responsibility for what happens to the needy group of Kashmiris stranded there,” the professor said.

“So, I earnestly pleaded with Dr Jai Shanker to repatriate the stranded group, as early as possible.”

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Jyotsna Bharti

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