Kashmir’s continuing communication blackout turns its UPSC aspirants’ dreams into a nightmare

Dozens of Kashmiri students have been forced to abandon studies and return home due to inability to communicate with families and stress about their well-being

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Gulzar Bhat

Dozens of Kashmiri students who were preparing for the civil services examination in Delhi, considered the coaching hub for the same across the country, have been forced to cut short the same and return home due to the continuing communication blackout in the Valley.

Nearly 30 distraught UPSC aspirants, mostly female, left for home weeks after the ruling dispensation did away with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two union territories on August 5.

Many such aspirants had enrolled themselves in various coaching centres in Delhi and had paid hefty sum of money as fees.

“I was constantly fretting about the safety of my family back home. Finally, I decided to quit the coaching and return home,” said Ghazala, an aspirant, who hails from Pulwama.

She said that she had paid Rs 1.55 lakh as fee to a reputed coaching institute in old Rajinder Nagar area. “I was just three weeks into the coaching,” she said, adding that the institute did not refund her full fee.

Aliya, another female aspirant from the area said that it was not an easy decision for her to leave the coaching halfway through as it meant putting paid to her dreams of making it to an elite service. “Since childhood I had this ambition of becoming an IAS officer but now it seems near impossible,” Aliya said.

She held the “communication blockade” as the reason for her decision. “I come from a conservative society and my family would normally speak to me 4 to 5 times a day, which I’m obviously unable to do now,” she said.

Many aspirants who returned to the Valley recounted how they spent the past few weeks in Delhi with no contact with their families.

Bilal Ahmad, a resident of Baramulla, said that every day he would go through multiple news websites and papers to try and determine the situation in the Valley.

“It was a daily ritual even before I had my breakfast,” Bilal said, adding that in the first two weeks itself very few ground reports were coming out of Kashmir, which left him perturbed. He finally returned home on August 27.

Zakir Ahmad, a resident of Kulgam who had been preparing for the coveted service for the past eight months in Delhi, said that he was unable to to focus on his studies due to the situation.

“I did not go to the library for many days. My eyes were glued to television screen all the time, and I kept flipping through various news channels,” he said.

Zakir also returned to the Valley after waiting for more than a month for the communication blackout to be lifted.

Another aspirant, who requested anonymity, said that he travelled thrice between Delhi and Srinagar since August 5 just to confirm the well-being of his family.

Some of the aspirants to whom this reporter was able to speak, said that they had not been able to pay the rent and utility bills of their rented flats for nearly two months and their landlords were threatening to evict them.

“Our families are unable to transfer money from Kashmir. E-banking is not available there because of internet clampdown,” they said.

(The names of female aspirants have been changed to protect their identity)

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