Issues

No place for a Kashmiri

By Qayum Hamid Changal
 
I completed my medical studies from Chittagong, Bangladesh, in 2012. The course encyclopedic is scope, comprehensive and detailed. More importantly, it was my parents’ dream that I become a doctor. Thus I chose this profession.. I hail from Kashmir, the heaven on earth. However, for the inhabitants of this place it has been turned into hell part of it. We are separated (or connected) with the rest of India by the 2.5 km Jawahar Tunnel. The people from Kashmir are made to feel discriminated against at least once in their lifetime outside Kashmir, in India.

A few years ago I was coming back from Dhaka to Kolkata. I stayed a couple of nights in the city before heading for Srinagar. I still remember the city was very crowded, more than usual as people were busy with Durga Puja celebrations. As usual after reaching the Marques Street I started hunting for a comfortable hotel room. I was tired and was carrying a heavy luggage. AT noon, under a scorching sun I had a glass of mango shake and entered a hotel with a smile on my face. It was tough to wear a smile in such high temperature.

The receptionist was a middle-aged man with a prominent moustache. “Good afternoon, Sir”, I said in a polite way. As I requested for an airconditioned room, he was busy looking at my tired but smiling face. Maybe, he was trying to judge me because of my fair complexion and golden beard. He  questioned, “Are you from Kashmir?” I was happy that at least he had recognised me. I introduced myself to him politely in detail. But what was followed wasn’t pleasant for me at all.

He looked annoyed. His shrewd mind was cooking an excuse as he exclaimed, “All rooms, both AC and non-AC are occupied”. But God had some different plans. At the very same time another person arrived at the reception and asked for a room. And I decided not to leave the place, waiting for receptionist’s reply to him. It was a weird situation: the receptionist wasn’t answering him. The visitor was baffled and I was looking at the faces of both of them. After a minute or so, when the visitor again requested for the room, the receptionist couldn’t resist himself from blurting out the truth. “Yes, sir. We have rooms available!” And after that he very confidently looked into my eyes and said,”Kashmiri, no room for you”.

I was devastated. After all, I wasn’t booking the room for free. He could give a room to some visitor from Europe but not a Kashmiri student. I am sure his definition for Kashmir would have been an integral part of India, but is it only the land? Or, its people also? It wasn’t the first time I had to face this apartheid. A year earlier also my friends and I had to face the same treatment in this city. Not only in Kolkata, once we were refused a room in a hotel in Delhi as well. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of good Indians. But it hurts a lot when on one hand Kashmir is embraced as an integral part of India and on the other the people of this heaven on earth are treated so shabbily. Twice with me it has happened that boys from Delhi have shouted at me without any reason. On both occasions I stood silent and patient because back in Kashmir we were taught not to shout back.

I am not painting all Indians with the same brush. But there are times when we are treated differently in an unacceptable way. Now I realise how much embarrassment  MK Gandhi had to face in South Africa. Last year there were floods in Kashmir, but the Government of India never considered helping common Kashmiris. There is an open discrimination that one can actually see, but many prefer to be blind. As goes the saying, “Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches”.

The writer is a doctor by profession. He can be mailed at qhchangal@gmail.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2015 on page no. 2

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