Amid the Coronavirus pandemic and the three-week lockdown in India, hundreds of Kashmiri students studying Bangladesh have demanded immediate evacuation, saying they are gripped in fear and panic.
“All I want is to be at home. Even if I have to die, I want to die in Kashmir, in my home. I don’t want to die here,” one of the students, stranded at Dhaka Medical College, told Outlook.
There around 500 Kashmiri students stranded in Bangladesh. Around 7,000 to 8,000 students from different districts of Jammu and Kashmir study in different medical colleges of Bangladesh -- the educational destination for Kashmiri students for medical studies in since past decade.
In the early 1990s, Kashmiris would prefer to study medicine in central Asian countries. However, because of its geography, Bangladesh is getting preference over other countries of South Asia and Central Asia.
East West Medical College, Dhaka University, Bangladesh Medical College, Comilla Medical College, Eastern Medical College are some of the favourite education institutions among Kashmiris.
“Our hostel has 400 rooms and now we are only 30 girls here. It is true that the Bangladeshi government or the college hasn’t asked us to leave, but we are away from home. Anything can happen here. At a time when everyone is rushing home, we were pushed back from the border and have been confined to the hostel. Most of the hostel staff have gone and others would also leave, where will we go?” asks a girl student from one of the medical colleges in Dhaka. “We don’t know how long will this continue and we are about to suffer a mental breakdown,” the student said.
Omar Qazi, 21, a student from Dhaka National Medical College, says that panic is genuine among Kashmiri students in Bangladesh. He says there is lockdown in the country and borders have been sealed. “Who will not get into panic in such a situation and far from home,” he says. Qazi left Bangladesh on a March 19 flight to Delhi and then to Jammu. He said in this painful situation many in Jammu and Kashmir, instead of understanding the gravity of situation, have taken to the social media to mock Kashmiris studying in Bangladesh. “We are in panic and in trouble. The authorities have given us choice whether to stay or leave. But when everyone was leaving why shouldn’t we,” he asks. “There is nothing wrong in pursuing education in Bangladesh and nothing wrong in moving back home in this epidemic,” he says.
In a series of tweets, former chief minister Omar Abdullah has also expressed concern over the Valley stuck in Bangladesh and different states. The government in Jammu and Kashmir have put a large number of students who have come from different parts of the world in various hotels across the Valley for quarantine. The hotels are being used as quarantine facilities in the Valley.
On Tuesday, some 64 Kashmiri students in Bangladesh had taken a bus to Bangladesh-India border. They said it took them ten hours to reach the border, but at the border, Indian authorities refused permission to them to cross the border. They allege that the authorities are not coming forward to evacuate them. “We have apprehension that the situation in Bangladesh is likely to change for worse. All we desire is evacuation to home. We will follow all protocol back home like other students who earlier left this place but we should be evacuated from here,” said another student.