Being Kashmiri in Delhi

Banihal Tunnel in the Pir Panjal mountain range, to connect Kashmir valley with rest of the state and India.

For decades, the mountain range, Pir Panjal in the South Kashmir was the boundary for young Kashmiris. The valley was their only world; living, thinking and dreaming within its boundaries. Since a few years ago they have crossed boundaries now. Their dreams are not confined to any borders. The younger generation of the valley has started to explore new horizons outside Kashmir. The reason may be the result of lack of opportunities in the valley caused by the long pending dispute of the territory or their zeal to move out to reach heights.

For most of these youngsters the first stop has been Delhi, the capital of India, 1000 kms from Srinagar. The reason to move out often remains higher education and jobs. Their migration or shift from the valley to any other state of India provides them good career opportunities but they also face several hardships. They often get exposed to susceptible conditions whether it is Delhi, Madhya Pradesh or Mumbai. In Delhi, Kashmiri students living here not only have to come up against the dilemma of being Kashmiris, who get harassed and singled out, but also some of them lose their roots. At times get swindled into bad things too.

While talking to some Kashmiri students in Delhi, who have come from the valley to do join different courses in universities and colleges here, the views on life in the city are different. Shakir Ahmed who is studying engineering, said, “Some of the students who come here to do Bachelors degree are influenced very easily by their new surroundings. I know a few who have started smoking weeds. They don’t know how to handle this excess of freedom. They even feel ashamed of talking in Kashmiri, I don’t know why or what they are scared or embraced off.”

Adding to this, there is another side of their story which is being prone to discrimination. “We face lot of problems. We are discriminated and alienated,” says Faiqa Amreen, an Aerospace science student. “It is not that we are not comfortable or ashamed of being Kashmiris. There are certain things which force us to adjust,” her voice grew louder as she shared an incident in the hostel when her friend had some petty fight with her roommate. Later the warden came and accused the girl of being a “terrorist”.  “Tum Kashmiri yehan aatank phelanay aaye ho,” she quotes the warden saying. (You Kashmiris come here to propagate terrorism)

Contrary to this there are people who have lived here well and feel like being at home. Instead of complaining about any issues with the system or the society these students have good memories to share. Living outside Kashmir is not easy for some of them but somehow they adjust and mingle with the colours of different cities. A business studies student, Umer Qayoom (name changed on anonymity), says that there is nothing bad in Delhi. “Everything is good here. We don’t face any problems for being Kashmiris. There are people who have lost their way so it is their fault not the place they are in.”

Tawheed Malla, a young student says most of the people around make them feel at home, people are caring and welcome us.  “Sometimes we go through identity crisis too but it is not the case all the time. Once I was discussing with my class mates about a topic in our syllabus, and suddenly one of them stood up and said “chodo yaar isse kya pata yeh to kashmiri hai” (leave it friends. he is a Kashmiri, he doesn’t know anything),” Tawheed says.

Almost all of them have had some bad experiences, but they are very optimistic and share a common view that it is not the people who are to be blamed it is the media and the propagandist, who have woven such false stereotypes wherein any one can fall prey. These people are not bad, they are just ignorant they believe what they see on Television or read in the newspapers most of which is not true. It is our responsibility as Kashmiri’s to break these stereotypes and tell them the real story of Kashmir. To earn their respect, we have to conquer their hearts.

Photo: Vinayak Razdan

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