“Just want to return Kashmir”: Cancer patient stuck in Delhi amid lockdown

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Srinagar: In late February, this year, Mukhtar Ahmad Dar, a 45-year-old resident of Srinagar, travelled to New Delhi for the surgery of his pancreas. However, his family hit rock bottom when he was instead diagnosed with second-stage pancreatic cancer in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). 

A general store owner squeezed his pockets to meet the costs; his son, Shaizan Ahmad Dar, 21, lodged into a hotel room in Gautam Nagar, New Delhi, for a thousand rupees per night. “He was admitted in the hospital for twenty days after his surgery on 7 March,” says Dar, the son. “We were just waiting for one more appointment, then we could leave for our home.”

However, then came COVID-19. On 24 March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown. Since then, the lockdown has been extended twice and is currently in place at least till 17 May. 

This sudden announcement halted lives across the country and within a few days, exposed fault lines — creating a migrant exodus crisis. But the Dars decided to stay put and moved to Okhla, New Delhi, in a rented accommodation for 20,000 a month.

From the commencement of the lockdown, AIIMS also shut its Out-patient Department. Hence, Dar was trapped in a rented-room, with no option to fix an appointment with the doctor. 

“We’ve run out of money and have already spent more than we could,” says Dar, the son. “We just want to return home. But no one is permitting us. The DM [District Magistrate] asks us to get permission from Srinagar and they will not permit us.”

Last week, on the directions of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the government of Jammu and Kashmir designated officials to look after the return of stranded people back to states and Union Territories. It also announced a 21-day institutional quarantine in Lakhanpur, the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir, in Kathua district for all those who arrive without prior permission of the administration.

Dar has also filed an application under this plan but is yet to receive any response.

“The cases of COVID-19 are rising in Delhi and my father’s condition is also worsening,” says Dar. “He is also missing on his chemotherapies because no doctor would see him here. We just want to return to our home in Kashmir.”

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