It was a productive educational tour of 32 Kashmiri girls, who had come to Pune for training purpose in a nursing course and placement under Skill India. But little did those girls knew that the effective tour would turn out to be a nightmare.
Just five days of their arrival, the situation changed drastically in their hometown as the central government scrapped Article 370 after which all means of communication- internet and phone services were suspended in order to avert unwanted incidents of ‘stone-pelting and other types of violence’.
These girls had unfortunately lost contact with their family members and relatives as well. As the days passed by, they became more mentally disturbed as returning their home was not an easy one. Meanwhile, a Delhi-based Sikh activist, at the need of the hour, stepped forward as a saviour for these frightened girls.
Harminder Singh Ahluwalia uploaded a video on his Facebook page on August 5 adding that if there was any Kashmiri man or woman in distress, they could approach the nearest gurudwara for food and shelter or could contact him for assistance.
“The girls had come out of the state for the first time and were quite scared after restrictions were clamped on Kashmir and the derogatory messages against young women posted on social media. Memories of assault on some Kashmiri students post Pulwama attack had also created panic.
Looking at the rising apprehensions on the issue, I posted a video message on my Facebook page on August 5 that if there was any Kashmiri man or woman in distress, they could go to the nearest gurdwara for stay and food or could go to the nearest gurdwara for stay and food or could contact me,” said Harminder Singh Ahluwalia.
He received a call from girls’ supervisor Rukaya Kirmani for assistance. Ahluwalia along with his friends Harmeet Singh Khanpuri and Baljeet Singh Babbu arranged some money and booked air tickets including other travel expenses.
“Entire money was donated by Sikhs from different places while one Kashmiri student contributed Rs 200. The total expenditure on air ticket was around Rs. 3.20 lakh”, he told. The girls were then flown to the national capital on Friday morning and then to Srinagar.
The 32 girls were safely escorted by Ahluwalia, Harmeet Singh Khanpuri, Baljeet Singh Babbu, supervisor Rukaya and her colleague Sambhav Kumar Sharma. After arriving at Srinagar airport, Army officers assisted them and provided cars to transport the girls to their homes in various parts of Kashmir.
“While the girls stayed at the house of a girl at Srinagar we stayed at Army Guest House. Army officials extended full cooperation and provided their vehicles to transport the girls to their homes. We took every girl to her home,” he said