‘It’s Becoming Harder Day by Day’: Campus Life Outside Kashmir

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Any major incident in the valley, which results in the death of armed forces personnel, brings trouble for Kashmiris living outside. This situation becomes more common and difficult when it comes to the students, as they are the most vulnerable group to attack. To understand this sort of difficult situation, Kashmir Observer talks to four Kashmiri students, who study outside J&K.

 By Romaan Arora

IT’S another cold morning of the winter season, and a group of young Kashmiris is busy discussing their holiday plans with each other in the IT hub of India.

One of them, Junaid Nazeer, is a third-year student of Bachelor of Engineering (BE) from Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU).

Junaid plans to go to his homeland, once the official announcement regarding the vacations is made. Speaking about his journey, he says that his family wanted him to pursue B.Tech from Chandigarh, but he never agreed, keeping his family’s low income in mind.

Yet, in the second step of the Prime Minister Special Scholarship Scheme, he finally got the opportunity to complete higher studies.

Coming to Bengaluru, the first thing Junaid noticed was the highly developed city space, and huge skyscrapers. Speaking about the people of the city, he claims that the residents there don’t interfere in each other’s affairs. As a result of which, there is no reason to fight.

“Even after the Pulwama attack of 2019, there was a complete sense of peace and calmness in Bengaluru,” he says. However, he remembers one incident in Haryana, where a shopkeeper denied him entry for being a Kashmiri.

At this point, Abdul Wahid Peer, Junaid’s senior and a resident of North Kashmir’s Handwara, jumps into the conversation.

Abdul, who came to V.T.U because of his cousin studying there, claims that in his entire 4 years of study, he hasn’t witnessed any sort of discrimination against any Kashmiri, in his varsity.

“See, no one wants to leave his homeland in the first place, but I had to come here for meaningful higher education and a promising career, which is not there in Kashmir. In the initial stages of moving here to Bengaluru, I was concerned. But to my surprise, the atmosphere was quite peaceful; people don’t care who you are and what you do.”

However, Abdul strongly reiterates the point made by his junior and further claims that North Indians don’t like Kashmiris.

“I have seen and felt it personally. There is a big difference between the treatment we receive in North and South Indian states. I haven’t faced any discrimination here in Bengaluru, but unfortunately, it’s there in northern states.”

Though Abdul and his junior Junaid agree and disagree on some points, still both of them jointly say that revealing their Kashmiri identity outside of Kashmir, does bring them a huge sort of discomfort and insecurity in the first place.

To understand the experience of other Kashmiri students, and to check the claim of Abdul and Junaid, we talk to Sukaina Ashraf, a third-year nursing student at Aman Bhalla Nursing Institute, Pathankot (Punjab).

Sukaina, who hails from Nowgam in Srinagar, says that though her family was worried about her security, yet all of them were convinced of her plans to study nursing in Punjab.

The first thing she noticed after coming to Pathankot was the unnecessary stares of people. But she was already prepared for such an experience, so it didn’t cause her any serious problem.

However, Sukaina clearly remembers the news of the Pulwama attack in her college, and how it unfolded a huge set of disturbance and insecurity for her.

“I was at the hospital duty when the news of Pulwama attack reached us. I clearly remember how the staff members and the patients shouted at us and said: ‘Get these Kashmiri terrorists out of here and shoot them indeed!’ Most of my female friends started crying at that moment. We all felt isolated and helpless. It was a horrific incident.”

Everything changed after the Pulwama attack for her.

“Everyone changed their behavior with us in a negative manner,” she recalls. “They treated and looked at us in such a way as if we the students were responsible for the attack. We weren’t allowed to go outside of the campus for one month. We felt as if we have been caged.”

Today, she doesn’t feel safe revealing her identity to anyone outside of Kashmir, especially after the kind of things she went through, post the Pulwama attack.

Sharing the same story of anguish, Mohammad Zeeshan, a final year arts student from Delhi University, remains watchful about his conduct outside the valley.

Zeeshan hails from Srinagar and has spent most of his academic life in Delhi.

“Day by day it is becoming harder and harder for a Kashmiri to get accepted here in Delhi,” Zeeshan says. “People here are filled with a huge amount of anger for Kashmiris, as they hold us responsible for the killings of their soldiers.”

His family remains quite worried about him, and repeatedly asks him to not reveal his identity to others.

“I remember my first semester in DU when I went to attend a seminar at St. Stephen’s College. There was a blind student who was asking for people to assist him to reach the cafeteria, and no one was paying any attention to him. Hence, I went to him and offered him help, to which he agreed and asked for my name. The moment I told him my name, his facial expressions changed from a smile to a state of shock and discomfort. Then he immediately took a step back and asked me to go after claiming that he can reach the cafeteria on his own. I was hurt to my core, yet I moved on.”

Another thing happened when he was in the second semester. This time, the Pulwama attack.

“People were angry, and rallies were held where inflammatory slogans were being raised all across Delhi,” he recalls. “Every rally was marked with hate speeches against Kashmiris, and there were incidents of violence against Kashmiri students and workers.”

In his own college group, a hyper-toxic nationalist started calling every Kashmiri a traitor and militant and asked for a heavy assault policy against Kashmiris, Zeeshan says.

“No one came forward to counter him,” recalls. “These back to back moments made me feel how vulnerable I will become, the moment I reveal my identity. Hence, to this day, I prefer to remain silent on many things and issues.”

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