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August 24, 2019

Kashmiri refugees in AJK in as much trauma as those in IHK


August 24, 2019

Islamabad: Mst Khadeeja Bibi and her husband, along with two little children fled in the thick of night, taking cover of darkness and a heavy downpour, from their village in Kupwara district in the Indian Held Kashmir and managed to cross over the Line of Control (LoC) to reach the safety of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on the Pakistan side in 1995.

With the advent of modern technology, the internet and ‘Whatsapp’ Khadeeja and her family became very comfortable as they were able to talk and see their relatives left behind in Kupwara and other parts of Indian Held Kashmir through these apps available on smart phones.

However, since 5th August decision by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the State of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Leh and Ladakh of their special status not only Khadeeja and her family but thousands and thousands of Kashmiri refugee families are facing traumatic conditions on this side of the LoC.

Narindra Modi’s government of BJP sent almost 200,000 troops and tens of thousands of RSS activists to IOK before he announced the decision. And even before making the announcement the Indian government imposed a blanket curfew over the whole of IOK, suspended all forms of communications including internet services.

Now these Kashmiri refugee families are living a nightmare every moment of their lives. All of a sudden they are no more able to contact their near and dear ones across the LoC where a human crisis is unfolding.

For Khadeeja the ordeal is much worse. Her father died the day the curfew was clamped in IOK and communications broke down. The only information she received from the other side of LoC was that her 75-year-old father, who was badly beaten by Indian occupation forces a couple of weeks ago when he was caught in middle of a protest and was taken to a hospital in Srinagar, where he was admitted for treatment. But he died on the day the curfew was imposed.

Her 22-year-old daughter, Ms Shams, a student of BS in the University of AJ&K, received the picture of her grandfather, dead and wrapped in the shroud, lying on a cot from her cousin in Srinagar hospital and since then there is a total blackout.

“I went into a state of shock when I received his (grandfather’s) picture and a small message from my cousin. I was sitting with my family in the room. With my father, mother and brothers and sisters.

“All of a sudden I was suffocating and tears were spilling out of my eyes but I was unable to speak as I sat there with my head down. I knew if I told mother about the news, she will go frantic. I stepped out of the room and called father and I told him the news. I thought he will break the news to mother in a better way and will be able to control her. However, mother was wailing and beating her chest as soon as she was told about death of grandfather,” Ms Shams recalled.

“My life has become a hell since the day I heard about death of my father. How unfortunate I am that I could not see the fact of my father for the last time and talk to my brothers and sisters back there in my village,” Mst Khadeeja said while talking to this scribe.

“Since then the net is totally shut down. No information about them is coming. No information about them or their situation at all. Their wellbeing! How are they? In what conditions they are? My father has died. I am devastated,” cried Mst Khadeeja.

And this not the story of only Mst Khadeeja Bibi and her family! Every single house in the Manak Payian refugee camp in Muzaffarabad, AJ&K is resonating with similar stories. There seems to be a pal of gloom looming low over the place. Even children talking in hushed tones as they look at the tear-stained and worried faces of their parents.

“We don’t know what is happening with our people back there. They are confined for so long in their homes. They must have run out of food. Nobody can store that much food to survive for such a long blockage. The children must be going hungry. We really don’t know if when the curfew will be lifted those will be people stepping out or their corpses being taken out?” said Usman Shami, another Kashmiri refugee from Kupwara district in IOK.

Muhammad Akbar, a 40-year-old Kashmiri refugee, was more agitated over the situation. “How long it will take the world to realize as to what is going on in Kashmir and when they will react to save our lives. We are spilling our blood and dying every day. The whole world is watching all this barbarism, this genocide of Kashmiri Muslims and yet everybody is keeping their mum. Why don’t they react the way they reacted in case of East Timor? Only because it was Christian voice for help in East Timor and here it is a Muslim voice for help?” Muhammad Akbar said.

“We appeal to the world, the UN, the UNICEF, the Amnesty International, the Red Cross and all the champions of human rights to rush to Kashmir and help the poor Kashmiri people who are struggling for freedom for last over 70 years now,” he added.