Stranded Kashmiri Students in Ukraine Make Frantic Calls For Evacuation

‘If This War Doesn't Kill Us, I'm Sure We'll Die Of Hunger’

Srinagar- Hundreds of Kashmiri students stranded in the war-torn Ukraine are sending frantic messages to the Government and the Indian embassies in the neighbouring countries, urging them for evacuation without any further delay as “staying in the turbulent country is turning "increasingly risky with each passing minute”.

Most of these students are stranded in three major cities of the eastern Ukraine including Kharkiv and Kyiv—the regions where the Russian forces first moved in after the war broke out as they are closer to the Russian border.

"We were hoping that the Indian government will do something for students like us who are stuck in Kyiv and Kharkiev, either by arranging flights or by the embassy helping us get to the border,”Asif, who has been living in the subway station-turned underground shelter for the past five days, told Kashmir Observer over phone. “Instead, they’re asking us to shift to borders on our own. They have not started any evacuations from Kharkiv and kyiv. Here bombs fall every few hours and sometimes even every minute, but the embassy is evacuating people from Chernivtsi and Odessa which has not seen any intense fighting so far.”

Notably, India has evacuated hundreds of students since Russia started its military operation last week. The students who had managed to cross the border into Romania and Hungary were shifted on a special evacuation flight that was arranged by the Indian government.

Pertinently, majority of those evacuated students were from Ukraine's western and south western parts which are comparatively peaceful in comparison to Ukraine's east. It is here in the three main cities—Sumy, Kharkiv and the capital city of Kyiv, where the majority of Kashmiri students are stranded either in their apartments or in underground shelters.

As per reports, the first special evacuation flight had lifted 219 stranded Indian students who had made it to Romanian capital Bucharest. The second flight carrying 250 students had arrived in New Delhi on Sunday afternoon from Romania. Many other students who had managed to reach the border of Hungary mostly by walking, are being evacuated through Hungarian capital Budapest.

“The Indian embassy has issued an advisory claiming that the curfew has been lifted and asking us to leave and reach the border of either Hungary, Romania, Poland or Moldova,” Shahid Habib, another student told Kashmir Observer over phone from Kharkiv, the theatre of fierce fighting.

“But what the embassy isn’t telling people is that we’ve to cross either through Kyiv or Sumy to reach the border, that too, by walking as no cab is available here. The nearest border is at least 800 kilometers away from our place, so are we going to walk up to that place amid shelling and fighting? If the Indian embassy doesn't change its evacuation plan, they will not be able to save us."

“They have asked us to leave Kyiv but there’s absolutely no way that we can leave because almost after every 30 minutes, a massive bombings rattle this city. They should have come up with a practical idea of evacuating us rather than playing safe for their own sake. The most practical solution for our evacuation is that the Indian government contacts the Russian Government and asks it to allow us to travel to its border because on three sides of Kharkiv lies the Russian border and that’s the nearest border for us unlike Romanian border which is 800 Kms away,” he said.

Pertinently, the Indian embassy in Ukraine has stayed active on Twitter and tweeted regularly, asking its stranded citizens to stay "patient and safe" while it attempts to evacuate all of them.

On Monday, it also issued an advisory and asked those stuck in Kyiv to proceed towards railway stations where there were special trains for evacuees. But there was no such communication for students who are stranded in the basements and underground shelters of the Kharkiv battle zone.

Several Kashmiri students stuck in Kharkiv have told this reporter that they are planning to leave the city and try to make it to Odessa port city on their own as they fear that the Embassy official will keep on delaying their evacuation.

“We fear that war in Kharkiv will take an ugly turn as Russians may try to intensify their military operation here in an attempt to reach capital Kyiv faster,” a Kashmiri student, who wished not to be named said.

Several Kashmiri students along with those from the other parts of the country have also alleged that even though the Embassy has issued an advisory asking them to leave and reach Kyiv but the hostel authorities have denied them permission citing no such order has been issued to them.

Other foreign embassies have already coordinated with university officials and evacuated their citizens. But unfortunately we’ve been left at God’s mercy,” said another student.

With war completing a week another crisis staring at the stranded students is the food shortage.

"Almost all the halal food in Kharkhiv’s supermarkets has ended. What's left is something that none of us can eat. The basic amenities like rice, beans and vegetables are completely out of stock. The embassy guys haven't been able to arrange these things for us either, how are they going to evacuate us," said Asif.

"Some supermarkets still have these items available but unfortunately as soon as we try to enter, the shop is shut on us and we are asked to leave. They're only providing these essential items to local Ukranians. We are literally eating the leftover food. If this war doesn't kill us, I'm pretty sure we'll die of hunger," he said.

35 Students Leave Kharkiv

Latest reports from Ukraine have suggested that about 25 Kashmiri students who were earlier trapped in Kharkiv had managed to leave the city last night and are on their way to Moldova. Earlier a group of 10 Kashmir students had somehow managed to leave Odessa city for Moldova, after their residential building came under bombing. After their departure from the bomb shelters Kashmir Observer has lost contact with the students.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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