Coronavirus: Stranded in Kyrgyzstan, Kashmiri Students Demand Evacuation

by Saima Bhat

SRINAGAR: As the Coronavirus pandemic has engulfed more than 190 countries, sealed borders and suspended air traffic has emerged as a social challenge for many people caught between political borders. People far away from their homes, working or studying, want to return to their families but there is no means around.

Kyrgyzcentral asiacentral as cops enforcing restrictions in the Jalalabad town of Kyrgyzstan. Photo: AKIpress

With around 20,000 dead and many more infected due to the outbreak, the scare has stuck people from moving around. The grounded planes, parked road transport coupled with worldwide lockdown have led to new anxieties that there is no way to fly back. Various countries including the USA have started offering bail-outs to keep the businesses afloat, especially the travel sector.

In India, after 277 people stranded in Iran were flown back in a special aeroplane, similar demands of evacuation are raised from Kyrgyzstan, where around 800 Kashmiri students are presently caught in different cities of the country.

In Kyrgyzstan, reportedly 5000 students from India are presently enrolled in different colleges include at least 800 Kashmiri students. All the students from Kashmir stuck there are studying medicine.

Accusing the establishment of not coming to their help, the students allege that they have been left to go nowhere.

Narrating her ordeal, a final year medical student, Badeeyah told Kashmir Life from Osh City of Kyrgyzstan that they have already talked to the Indian embassy but alleged nobody helped them. “They told us to stay at where you are.”

Busy with their exams when the country was hit by the pandemic, the students said they had no time to think or act. Right now, they say the country is having 44 positive cases.

“We are having difficult times,” Badeeyah said, adding “We were busy with our exams when this virus reached here. So we couldn’t think of leaving the city.”

As the number of infected patients surges, Badeeyah claims the college authorities requested all the foreign students to leave hostels as they had to be turned into isolation centres to quarantine the patients.

“We are presently living in private accommodations. We had exams and the college authorities initially started giving us online classes. All of a sudden everything was suspended,” she added, “Our exams have been postponed till September.”

A health worker in Kyrgyzstan working in a laboratory. Photo: AKIpress

While speaking to Kashmir Life over the phone, another student said, their present living condition is compromised. “Markets are already closed and we don’t have enough food,” she said.

The students claim Kyrgyzstan has strict rules for foreign students. “We are not even allowed to come out from the windows,” said another student.

Conscious of their depleting stocks, the students say they have restricted their meals to once in a day. “We had stock for 15 days only and now we have started taking food only once in a day,” Badeeyah said, added “I don’t want to take any risk. What if my stock is over? We may have to sleep empty stomach then.”

Depleting stocks apart, the students are facing a cash crunch as well. “Though milkman gets the supply in the morning I don’t have the cash to buy anything. We can’t go out to get cash from the ATMs,” said Badeeyah.

Badeeyah, a resident of Pampore, is a student in the International Medical Faculty of Osh University. She says they are at least 80 Kashmiri students enrolled in the same university and a total of 2500 Indian students. She said at least 5000 students must be enrolled in different cities like Bishkek, Jalalabad.

Apart from difficulties in living, the students far away from home say they are scared and anxiety is mounting on each passing day.

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Another student, Fatimah, a resident of Channapora and presently pursuing her medicine in Jalabad University informed Kashmir Life that anxiety is consuming their lives.

“We are not even allowed to open our windows. Lockdown is not a problem, the issue is that we don’t have food now. We are completely depressed. The shops are closed. We don’t wanna die here out of hunger,” she said.

These students have put many videos on social networking sites seeking help but allege so far nobody has approached them.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, seventeen Kashmiri students presently in Bangladesh were stuck on the India-Bangladesh border as India is under complete lockdown. The Indian High Commission on Wednesday advised these stranded students to go back to their colleges and not to try to cross the border.

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