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No money, food or shelter: Stories of stranded Kashmiris across country

Kashmiri students are staring at eviction as landlords have issued an ultimatum to pay the rent or vacate their premises in Delhi’s Hauz Khas area. (Screengrab from the video appeal posted by the girls)

Srinagar:  Short of money and supplies, thousands of stranded Kashmiris face a mountain of hardships at the onset of Ramadan.

From Jammu to Delhi and from Bangalore to Goa, students, labourers, employees, and businessmen are living in miserable conditions without money, food, and shelter.

 

Sample this: A group of eight labourers hailing from the district Anantnag are huddled together in a makeshift shed at Jammu. Short of money, they are sending SOS calls to the district administration for help.

“We were working in Akhnoor when the countrywide lockdown was announced. On March 26, we boarded a cab home but were sent back from Nagrota. We have exhausted all our money on daily groceries and essentials. Also, we sent three emails to DC office but got no response,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a 24-year-old labourer.

The tale of suffering does not end here. Grappling with high temperature, a group of 400 Kashmiri female students are waiting for evacuation in Kota, Rajasthan.

“We are living in the hostel of Allen Career Institute, Kota, where we were receiving coaching for NEET examinations. We booked flights for April 15 and 16. Both the times, the flights got cancelled due to the lockdown. Despite our umpteen requests for evacuation, the J&K administration is not paying any heed,” said Arsheen, a 19-year-old student from Srinagar.

Similarly, the Centre’s advisory notwithstanding, around seven Kashmiri students are staring at eviction as landlords have issued an ultimatum to pay the rent or vacate their premises in Delhi’s Hauz Khas area.

Ministry of Home Affairs had recently issued orders advising landlords to desist from demanding rent from the migrant labourers, students, and workers.

“Where ever the students, including the migrant workers are living in rented accommodation, the landlords of those properties shall not demand payment of rent for one month. If any landlord is forcing labourers and students to vacate their premises, they will be liable for action under the Act,” read the MHA order

Huzaifa, a 25-year-old student, said they have exhausted all their savings on buying food and groceries. “We have paid the rent for March and April. I requested my landlord to suspend Rs 7000 rent for May, but he refused,” she said.

She noted that she had booked tickets for March 27 and April 16 but due to lockdown, the flights got suspended. “We are going through a lot of problems. Now we don’t know where to go. Every last bit of savings has been spent on essentials,” she said.

Figures reveal that around 1500 to 1600 people are stranded in Goa (mostly shawl vendors and businessmen), 400 in Kota (students), 200 in Bangladesh (students), 300 in Punjab (mostly engineering students), 250 in Bhopal (students), 50-60 in Uttar Pradesh (students, businessmen, shawl vendors) and 2500 in Delhi (students, malignancy patients, shawl vendors, families, businessmen)

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Pandurang K Pole told The Kashmir Monitor that proper arrangements for food and shelter are being taken care of by the administration.

“We acknowledge that the stranded Kashmiris in various states are longing to be home and join their families especially in the month of Ramadan. But they also have to understand the fact that traveling amid COVID-19 times is fraught with dangers,” Pole said.

Pole noted that unless the central government doesn’t come up with proper guidelines on travel, the UT administration cannot override the rules.

He said the central government has issued guidelines advising landlords to desist from demanding rent from the migrant labourers, students, and workers.

“Coming to their food and shelter requirements, the administration will do the best it can to offer help,” Pole said.

He added that the DC office receives multiple distress calls every day.

“People away from their homes are constantly battling the anxiety caused by the pandemic. We have provided counsellors who can help them lessen their stress levels,” Pole said.