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Kashmiri Students in Kazakhstan Fearful Amid Violent Anti-Govt Protests
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Kashmiri Students in Kazakhstan Fearful Amid Violent Anti-Govt Protests

The families of the students said that their children have run out of essential supplies as the authorities have enforced a strict curfew.


SRINAGAR — The families of Kashmiri students studying in various universities and colleges of Kazakhstan, the Central Asian Republic, are worried about their children as the country is caught in major unrest and the authorities have forced a blockade to thwart anti-government protests.

Parents of many students told Mountain Ink that their children are living in fear and anxiety after the violent demonstrations broke out in various cities and towns of the Central Asian Republic. Many other parents said that they have not been able to contact their children for the past three days.

Farooq Ahmad, father of an MBBS student studying in Almaty, the capital city of the Kazakh Republic, said that they have run out of essential supplies. “They don’t have food, drinking water and other necessary items available,” Ahmad said. 

The protests broke out in Kazakhstan on January 2 over a fuel price hike, and have snowballed into the biggest political crisis that the oil-rich Central Asian country’s leadership has faced in over three decades.

Kazakhstan, which broke away from the Soviet Union to become an independent republic in 1991, has been tightly ruled by “strong men” ever since. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s powerful leader, stepped down as President in 2019 but retained an outsize influence over the government successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

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The government has snapped the internet across the major cities while the banks have run out of cash. “The students can’t even access the ATMs as they are cash-starved,” Ahmad said.

Hundreds of Kashmiri students are studying in Kazakhstan, mostly medicine. 

“I spoke to my cousin a few hours ago and she said their hostel mess has run out of ration, and henceforth, they will be provided only one meal per day,” Tanzeela, one of the students’ cousin, said. 

Tanzeela hasn’t been able to contact her cousin since. “I dropped her many texts but the messages aren’t getting delivered,” she said.

Nazir Ahmad, father of another student, Tayyib Nazir, said that he has not been able to contact his son since January 6. The last time I spoke to him, he said, Tayyib was worried. “The shopkeepers are charging ten times the normal price and as the curfew is getting stricter, purchasing essential supplies and medicines is getting difficult,” Nazir quoted his son.

Dozens of people have been killed, thousands detained and public buildings across Kazakhstan have been torched over the past week.

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The demonstrations began as a response to a fuel price hike but swelled into a broad movement against Tokayev’s government and 81-year-old Nazarbayev.

Even though the fuel prices were reduced, the protestors didn’t budge.

On January 5, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed to the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for assistance in combating what he described as a “terrorist threat” from foreign-trained gangs. 

Russia answered Tokayev’s appeal by sending 3,000 odd paratroopers’, part of the CSTO peacekeeping force, on Friday, January 6. According to a local news channel, more than 3,000 protestors have been arrested.

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Meanwhile, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, P K Pole, told News Click that he would reach out to the authorities and seek their intervention to help the students in distress. “I will take up this matter with the higher authorities and will do the needful for the families in anguish,” Pole said.

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