Highway closure: ‘Out of money’, 45 Kashmiri students stranded in Jammu crying for help

Srinagar: Among many other commuters, 45 Kashmiri students from Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) are stranded in Jammu as the Highway remained shut on the seventh consecutive day due to bad weather.

With no money left in their pockets and ‘communal atmosphere’ against Kashmiris around, the students have appealed the government to help them reach back home “like those they selectively airlifted.”

The group of students, males and females, pursuing B.Tech in Electronics and Communication had left for Mohali, Chandigarh on January 6 to attend to their internship programs. Around 10 students had opted to go by air while the rest of them travelled by road in State Road Transport Corporation buses. After a month’s stay, they left from Chandigarh on February 6. They have been stuck in Jammu since then.

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Narrating the ordeal of seven days, one of the students says, “We have no money now. Till now, we were managing by contributing the money we had. Now, we are set for begging.” Adding, the students ask, “If the authorities knew about the bad weather, why did they not ask us to stay in Chandigarh?”

“Some students who had chosen to come back by air have left; some are stuck after the flights got cancelled. They might be able to leave on 13th and 15th now,” the students informed Free Press Kashmir over a telephonic conversation.

“With one of our mentors with us, we reached here in the night. The university authorities had arranged accommodation for us in Kalikadam Yatri Niwas near Tavi Railway Station. We are able to charge our phones in here but those who are staying in cars on Highways are asked to pay Rs 50 per hour to charge their phones,” the student says adding around 18 female students have been shifted to a guest house in Bhathindi.

“One bed per student at Kalikadam at Rs 100 per day charges has been arranged by the university. Rest, we are arranging everything on our own. We have started skipping one meal a day,” one of the students says.

What agitates the students more, they say, is that the army airlifted only those students who had been on Army training.

“They airlifted only those who had been on Army training. It was selective,” one of the students on condition of anonymity says.

The students have registered for Dakota service but have not received any response from the service providers so far. While they were getting registered, they say, stones were hurled on Kashmiris on Highway by Jammu students, leaving Kashmiris more anxious and perturbed.

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“Everyone here is thinking about surviving, arranging food or charging phones to get in touch with families. We are already in distress and this adds to it. I was not there when the stone pelting had occurred but I think we already have too much to think about than anything else,” says a student.

While many discourage Jammu locals for hurling stones on already anxious Kashmiri commuters and shopkeepers for charging money to charge phones, some Sikhs have been inviting the stranded commuters to reach to Gurdwaras and eat from a free Langar arranged by them.

Meanwhile, the IUST authorities say they are doing everything they can. “We are continuously in touch with them. It is a natural phenomenon. We can do only as much as we are able to,” says Dr Aijaz Private Secretary to VC, IUST.

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