SRINAGAR: Khalid Lone is back home in the Valley so are his six friends, all speech and hearing impaired. As the boys look back at the past two months of the lockdown spent at Gurugram where they worked and struggled, all they feel is gratitude, so do their families, reported The Tribune.
“We can’t believe that the government, CRPF and activists came together to accomplish the impossible. Transporting seven boys who can’t communicate in the language of the world, arranging their permissions to travel from Gurugram to Srinagar, addressing their special needs along the way, feels like a dream,” says Baramulla-based Sajjad Lone, Khalid’s brother, who had lost all hopes that his disabled kin, who worked with Flipkart in Gurugram, would escape the lockdown.
But a rescue mission mounted by Kashmir-based initiative Yakjah, the governments of Jammu Kashmir, Haryana and Delhi, a sign language interpreter from Indore and CRPF’s Madadgaar helpline ensured the boys were found, understood and sent home safely, said the report.
“Disabled persons are the worst hit in pandemics. So when the first COVID lockdown was imposed, we formed a pandemic response group. Within days we heard of seven Kashmiri youth, all speech and hearing challenged, stranded in Gurugram with no money and support. Most worked at local MNCs that had shut businesses. So we decided to rescue them and a chain was formed which included government officers, CRPF personnel and NGO partners,” The Tribune quoted Ashima Kaul, Yakjah founder as saying.
Nothing was possible without first understanding what the boys were saying. So Monica Purohit, the sign interpreter from MP, became the most vital link in the chain. “The boys would record videos and share them with Monica. She would convert them into voice notes. This back and forth went on for days,” Kaul says.
The evacuation was fast-tracked at every level starting mid-May when Yakjah learnt of the challenge. It was a coincidence that women led the mission with Kaul saying, “women handle emergencies better”.
Among those involved in this evacuation were Additional Commissioner J-K House, New Delhi, Rimpy Ohri, Disability in charge of J-K Shabnam Kamli and CRPF DIG Nitu Bhattacharya.
Throughout the road journey from Gurugram to Srinagar, CRPF Madadgaar helped the boys – Jehangir, Peer Mohammad, Imran Khan, Asif Aziz, Irfan, Khalid and Arif – with food and night stays. Back in Srinagar, the group was quarantined at a hotel before being sent home this week. All the boys have tested negative for COVID, reported The Tribune.