by Tasavur Mushtaq
SRINAGAR: Thursday, April 23, Mukhtar Ahmad was moving restlessly in and out of his rented accommodation in Goa. Lost in the thoughts of his family back in Kashmir, Mukhtar was worried for not being at his ailing father’s bedside. Surrounded by many fellow families from Kashmir, he did not seem aware of their presence. He spent his night aimlessly.
A day later, when the phone rang, he picked it up and heard a wailing voice. The caller told him that his father is no more. Shattered, the magnitude of the disaster that had struck his family, he the eldest of the siblings, desperately wanted to go home. But amid the current pandemic, the possibilities denied. The hopes dashed.
Mukhtar is not the isolated case of helplessness. In Goa, hundreds of families are stranded. Out there for business during the winter months, the individuals and families are seeking help for their early return.
Scheduled to return home in the ending week of March or early April as per routine they have evolved over the years, the shopkeepers, traders, and handicraft hawkers had their tickets booked for the return. They had wound up their months-long activity in anticipation of their return to the valley.
In between, the virus got viral. The lockdown was announced and the people out in Goa got stranded.
While talking to Kashmir Life over the phone from Goa, Ajaz Ahmad said they are caught between “the devil and the deep sea.” Narrating the ordeal, Ajaz said, they had booked their tickets as per the schedule before the lockdown but could not move after borders were sealed and air traffic was suspended. Roughly said to be between 1200-1500 individuals, Ajaz said they had booked tickets second time in April but they too have been cancelled. “As of now, we booked tickets thrice. First in March, then in April and now we even tried for May,” said Ajaz.
Another man stranded in the coastal state, Shafat Nazir, said the entire season this year was ‘terrible’. “We had no business this season. The foreigners left early and we too shut our shops,” he said. “Whatever we had, we spent all these days and now we have nothing in hand.”
Shafat further said they pooled money between themselves to help the survival of all the stranded people, but now “that too is gone.”
In a video shared by Javid Ahmad, a young man along with his daughter and wife is pleading authorities to facilitate their return. “We are stranded in Goa including the families and individuals. We appeal Jammu and Kashmir government to help us to return home. All our earnings have been spent and nobody is helping us,” appealed the young man.
However, Ajaz said they were offered meals by the government agencies but not the help in going back. “They at times offered us the meals,” he said and added, “the booking amount of the tickets despite the government directions has not been refunded.”
Willing to pay, Ajaz says they want facilitation. “We only want facilitation. Leave air travel, we are willing to go by bus and pay for the facility.”
Besides Goa, the stranded Kashmiris across India have appealed the authorities stop facilitate their visit.
Reacting to the please, spokesman of the UT government Rohit Kansal tweeted, “Appeal: Please be patient. Govt is working hard to facilitate all.” This he said announcing the return of 376 students from Kota Rajasthan.
On late Tuesday evening, Srinagar mayor offered help to the stranded passengers. “For all those (from Srinagar and other districts of J&K) stuck in #Goa-kinldy share your locations and phone numbers here,” he tweeted.
Kashmir In Goa
Lamenting over the luck, Ajaz said they tried everything but did not succeed. One among credible names, Ajaz quoted was Satya Pal Malik, the incumbent governor Of Goa. Malik is a known face for Kashmir. The last governor of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, Malik who oversaw the abrogation of special status and downgrading of J&K state into two Union Territories was shifted to Goa.
A governor with many words, Malik in Goa had said that he continues to suffer from a “Kashmir hangover.”
Malik landed in political controversies many times in Kashmir. From “loag inhe jooton se maareinge” (people will beat them with shoes) while referring to Congress leaders to his advice to militants of “killing those who looted J&K”, he had bumpy tenure in Kashmir, before silently being shifted to the coastal state.
His controversies did not stop in Kashmir. During his visit to his hometown Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, he said “Governor ka koi kaam nahi hota [A Governor has no work].”
“The Governor of Kashmir simply drinks alcohol and plays golf. In other states, the governors relax and don’t involve themselves in day to day politics,” he continued.
In Goa, while taking the oath, he said: “Jammu and Kashmir was known as a very problematic place but I have dealt with it successfully and have successfully solved all the issues.”
He even has his hand in raking up the controversy regarding the appointments in J&K Bank.
He, however, had intervened to help the stranded Kashmiris. “Chief Secy Goa is on the job and concerned officials are in touch with your people and they are doing the needful,” he tweeted in response to a distress call made from Kashmir.