On 14th February 2019, vehicles of security forces which were on its way to reach Srinagar came under a heavy attach when a vehicle-borne bomber attacked the vehicles at Lethpora Pulwama. As a result of the attack, 49 CRPF personal died along with the person who carried the attack. As soon as the attack took place, the Kashmiri students studying in different states of India starts receiving life threats.Several Kashmiri students who were studying particularly in northern states of India were asked to leave the state as soon as possible. Not only students but migrants, traders and professionals were also forced to leave the state on priority basis. In Dehradun, the Kashmiri students studying were forced to leave the state and were asked to fly back to J&K. The college administration in Dehradun also told that they will not admit any Kashmiri student in the near future. In another instance, a senior faculty member was dismissed from his post because of his Kashmiri identity.
The situation was getting worse and there was not even a single sign of relief for Kashmiri Students. On 15th February, a video became viral on Social Media where some persons in Bihar were seen thrashing the Kashmiri based shopkeepers. They were seen asking them to leave the state as soon as possible or face dire consequences. In Maharashtra, Students were seen being slapped. They were forced to sing ‘Vande Mataram’ and shout ‘Hindustan Zindabad’. In Haryana, over 100 Kashmiri students including girls who were residing in PG accommodations were asked to leave the accommodation. They were forced to seek refuge with the authorities of a private deemed university where they were studying. Not only this, three Kashmiri shawl vendors who were only their way to Haryana were beaten.In the Uttarakhand capital, Kashmiri students were asked to vacate their accommodations by the owners as they were fearing of attacks on their properties by the local people. A Kashmir based former Assistant Professor from LPU Salman Shaheen was forced to take refuge in the washroom to save himself from a mob.
Leaving this aside, the Sikh community in Punjab rescued many Kashmiri students. Khalsa Aid, an international humanitarian NGO take the lead in rescuing Kashmiri Students. The NGO rescued many students who had locked themselves in their rooms for fear of being targeted by the locals in Dehradun. The Punjab-based NGO helped the fear-stricken students studying in Dehradun to head back to their native places under full security cover.The NGO apart from providing transportation also arranged for their accommodation and food. The NGO came in touch with Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Organisation (JKSO) and provided transportation to at least 250 students.Local gurudwaras in Punjab were thrown open for Kashmiri students. Not only this, butthe local Sikh community also provided shelter to Kashmiri Students.An image from Punjab went viral on Social Media where three persons from Sikh Community were guarding the building during night hours. Amar Preet belonging to Sikh community was constantly tweeting about the steps taken by them in safeguard Kashmiri students.
The help provided by the Sikh community was appreciated by each and everyone in Kashmir. The Social Media websites like Facebook and Twitter were flooded with appreciation posts from local people in Kashmir. On the evening of February 20th, social media websites were flooded with offers of free snow-bike rides, free hotel stays for Sikh tourists, free medical check-ups, discounts on medicine for patients belonging to Sikh community. The people of Kashmir also appreciated the Sikh community by providing free admission in educational institutes and English-speaking courses for the kids of Sikh Community. It was also seen that people of Kashmir were offering free blood donation and even kidneys to the people of the Sikh community.
The local Kashmiri press also took the lead by expressing its gratitude to the Sikh Community. Kashmir’s based leading English daily, Greater Kashmirmade a cartoon of a turban-wearing man in a boat holding out a hand to a drowning Kashmiri man.Similarly, Mudasir Ahmad from Anantnag district of the state who works as a mechanic decided to waive labor charges for washing or repairing vehicles owned by Sikh customers. Shaheen Ahmad Lone, who owns a private school in north Kashmir’s Kanispora area where around 500 Sikh families live offered free admission and free education to Sikh students from nursery to Class 10.
Meanwhile, The Sikh community responded to the generosity of the Kashmiri and once again won the hearts of the people and restored the faith in humanity. In a Viral Video on Social Media, the Sikh community thanked the people of the valley for showing the love for them.
Ishfaq Majid, Research Scholar, School of Education, Central University of Gujarat