Pune is like second home to Kashmiris, we feel safe here: Students

The students and professionals, associated with city-based NGO Sarhad, said they had managed to persuade some fellow Kashmiris, who had arrived in the city recently and were anxious after some recent reports, to stay back.

Amidst reports that some Kashmiri students in other parts of the country faced threats from local residents after the attack in Pulwama last week, a group of students and professionals in the city on Monday said there was no such problem in Pune and they felt safe and welcome here.

The students and professionals, associated with city-based NGO Sarhad, said they had managed to persuade some fellow Kashmiris, who had arrived in the city recently and were anxious after some recent reports, to stay back. “We have always found Pune, and Maharashtra in general, a safe place for Kashmiris. However, after the terror attack and some reports about Kashmiri students being threatened in Dehradun and Indore, there was growing fear, particularly among Kashmiri students who are new to Pune. We not only convinced them about their safety in the city but made them cancel their reservations (to go elsewhere),” said Javed Wani, a student of Poona College, at a press conference here on Monday.

Sarhad’s founder Sanjay Nahar said: “… We convinced them that staying back in Pune was a safe option.”

Owais Wani, who has been staying in Pune for five years now, said it felt like home. “I have never felt like an outsider here. I love this place, so much that I do not feel like returning to Kashmir now,” said Wani, a student of Business Administration at Savitribai Phule Pune University.

Another student said more parents from Jammu and Kashmir preferred to get their children admitted to colleges in Pune. “The people of Pune have immensely contributed in accommodating Kashmiris just as their own family members. Pune Police, too, has ensured that we feel safe here. Parents now prefer to get their children admitted to colleges in Pune over colleges in Delhi or Dehradun, although they are closer to home,” he said.

The biggest ambassadors of Jammu and Kashmir, according to the students, are tourists. But, over the years, tourist footfall has seen a significant fall.

“When tourists visit J&K, they return with positive stories. In the same way, students studying outside J&K connect with locals and become like family members. These interactions must resume and the flow of tourists and students in and out of J&K must continue,” a student said. Zahid Bhat said he first came to Pune as a student of law 15 years ago, and has become a resident now.

“There have never been any incident where Kashmiri people were treated differently. Since the Pulwama attack, we have been getting calls from the local residents, right from Akluj to Akola, inquiring about our well-being and safety,” he said.

The student group reiterated that the ongoing problems in their state was a political matter. “For several decades, the problem of Jammu and Kashmir has not been well understood by several governments that ruled at the Centre. It is a complete political failure,” said a student. Commenting on violence and deaths reported from J&K, Wani said the students condemned these killings. “Humanity is the biggest religion and killings are unjustifiable. Fight of any kind is no solution to the problem,” Wani said.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Srinagar, Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, on Monday issued a list of liaison officers in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Pune, Aligarh, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad. Distressed students from Jammu and Kashmir in Pune can contact Syed Ahmad Rizvi (9930734663), J&K handicrafts corporation, in Mumbai, who has been appointed as a liaison officer for Pune city.

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