Kashmiri students stranded at India-Bangladesh border

A group of 70 Kashmiri students studying in Dhaka is stranded at Benaport, the border area between India and Bangladesh, after their colleges were shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left over 16,500 people dead worldwide

Mar 24, 2020
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A group of 70 Kashmiri students studying in Dhaka is stranded at Benaport, the border area between India and Bangladesh, after their colleges were shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left over 16,500 people dead worldwide.

India went for a countrywide lockdown on Monday with curfew at many places to ensure social distancing and home stay. The government has also suspended international flights, sealed all the borders, ports and entry points, in a bid to contain the epidemic. So far, over 510 people have tested positive and 10 people died in India due to the COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan city of Hubei province in China over three months ago.

Around 7,000 to 10,000 Kashmiri youth study in Bangladesh, out of which most have returned to Kashmir in the last couple of months, sources said. "However, some who stayed back are now wishing to return. A group of 70 students stuck at the border have posted a video seeking help from the Modi government," Faisal, a Kashmiri doctor told IANS.

Such large number of Kashmiris study in Bangladesh primarily because of several reasons. After the Pakistan sponsored Islamist militancy hit Kashmir's education system badly, parents began sending their children for education across India and to neighbouring countries.

Bangladesh is a popular destination for Kashmiri students, also because many rely on scholarships offered to India under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

"Moreover, Bangladesh, unlike Central Asia, is culturally similar to many places in India. Indian languages like Hindi and Urdu are easily understood, food is similar, colleges are English medium and travel is affordable. Above all, Bangladesh is also Muslim-dominated and, therefore, more comfortable and relatable," Touseef, a young career consultant in Srinagar said.

The dozens of Kashmiri students stranded at the border have alleged that their colleges asked them to vacate hostels and return to India. "But, we were not allowed to enter the Indian side and we are stuck at the border from past many hours," a Kashmiri student said in a video shared on social media. The students said they cannot go back to Bangladesh as they have already reached the border.

Official sources said that they are trying to figure out how to mitigate the problem as early as possible.

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