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Freedom, a far cry in Valley

A handful of Kashmiri students in JU managed to speak with parents and family members back home on their cellphones

By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta

  • Published 16.10.19, 5:47 AM
  • Updated 16.10.19, 5:47 AM
The Kashmiri students of Jadavpur University inside the hostel compound on Tuesday
The Kashmiri students of Jadavpur University inside the hostel compound on Tuesday Telegraph picture

Freedom for a first-year engineering student at Jadavpur University is stepping out of the hostel at 2am for a treat of piping hot rosogollas.

The 19-year-old hails from Srinagar and when he is home, he is not allowed to step out after 8pm, no matter what.

The sense of alienation was underlined yet again when a handful of Kashmiri students at the varsity managed to speak with parents and family members back home on their cellphones as mobile connections sprang to life on Monday afternoon in the Valley.

The cellphone connections were snapped since Kashmir’s special status was revoked on August 5. Only the suspension on post-paid connections has been lifted on October 14.

“I managed to speak to my mother around 2pm. Every time I asked her about the situation back home, she said she was fine and asked me to take care of myself. I know nothing is fine there but I cannot do anything about it. This helplessness is killing me,” said a final-year civil engineering student.

A first-year student of electronics and telecommunication was the only one in the lot who managed to go home — for a small break — since the special status was revoked and came back a few days ago. The reason — his home is in the heart of Srinagar, 4km from the airport, and considered “reasonably safe”.

“The whole city has come to a standstill. Most shops are closed. There is virtually no public transport. Every 50 metres, there is a soldier,” he said.

Elders in the house are particularly worried about young men like him. He was not allowed to step out of home after 8pm. “Even if I stepped out in the day, my mother insisted I carry an identity card. Young people are being picked up at random for questioning. Many are being tortured,” he said.

He said he has understood the meaning of freedom after coming to Calcutta and living in the JU hostel. “The seniors took us out post midnight one of these days. We went to a sweet shop that was closed. We entered their kitchen through a back door and savoured hot rosogollas. For them, it was normal but for me, it was surreal.”

A second-year civil engineering student had called up a friend in Anantnag. The friend studies in a college in Pune but was allegedly summoned by the Jammu and Kashmir police recently in connection with an old case.

“He was crying over the phone. He has to report to the local police station every day and is routinely thrashed by the cops,” the student said.

A third-year student of history in JU said the general mood among his parents, the older generation in the Valley, was that of gloom and dejection. The student, who takes keen interest in public speaking, was one of the best speakers in a youth parliament conducted at JU, judged by representatives from the capital.

He said his father recited a poem when they spoke on Monday afternoon. He wrote a few lines for Metro and did a rough translation. The Kashmiri original reads: Gobur, parvai chunae kaenh; Yi chu saeri kasheer khatrae. Aes chinae kunizaen ath manz kaenh ( Don’t worry, my son. This grief has befallen entire Kashmir. Whatever happens, we share the same fate).