New Delhi: Earlier this month, 27-year-old Hashim Sofi, a research scholar from Jammu and Kashmir’s Bandipora district, walked into Birla Institute of Technology & Science in Pilani, Rajasthan with dreams in his eyes. A Junior Research Fellow, Sofi joined the the premier institute’s Department of Science and Technology, Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) for his doctorate. 

“The atmosphere in the campus was really good. I was really looking forward to my research and laboratory work. I had very less time for socializing. After finishing my dinner at the mess, I used to go to my room and rest. There was hardly any interaction with anyone,” Sofi told ScoopWhoop News. 

“As a Kashmiri outside the state, you expect people to ask you questions about certain things. But that didn’t happen here at all,” he stressed. 

b’Hashim Sofi | Source: Facebook/Hashim Sofixc2xa0′

Perhaps, that is why he was more “puzzled” last Friday morning when he saw racial slurs and death threats written on his hostel door. 

‘Let us kill jihadi Kashmere bastard inside (sic)’, the chilling scribble running top down on the door read. 

But it wasn’t only the door. The slurs like ‘U r such a shame Kashmire dog!!! (sic)’, ‘Anti national Kashmire pervert no place fr eu!!(sic)’, had also been inked on his clothes he had hung to dry in the balcony of Malviya Bhawan Hostel. 

“There was also something written in Hindi but I couldn’t read it. It was horrifying. I quickly brought the matter to the notice of administration and my research guide. They were very cooperative and I was shifted to quarters,” he said. 

Despite threats, Sofi carried on with his daily schedule at the institute. 

“Initially, I took the matter lightly because I am from a certain environment…because in Kashmir everyday we see somebody killed. When I informed my parents, they said leave your PhD and return home as soon as possible. They just wanted to see my face,” Sofi added.    

b’BITS Pilani campus | Source: BITS Pilani Website’

On Saturday, Sofi left BITS Pilani, promising to “never return”. 

“I just don’t want to go back. Not because I am afraid but as a matter of self-respect, dignity, I think I shouldn’t return. The horrifying comments are very insulting,” said Sofi, who worked as a project assistant at Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow from 2014-2015. 

In a telephonic interview with ScoopWhoop News, Sofi said the contrasting experiences of his earlier education outside Kashmir with his brief time at BITS, Pilani, means India hasn’t remained the same.  

“India is changing. Many non-Kashmiri friends on my Facebook profile say ‘Kashmiris are like cancer, they need fumigation, Kashmiris are like weeds’, etc. These are research scholars…a minister says stone-pelters in Kashmiris should be dealt with bullets. When you have this attitude from a minister what will you expect from an 18-year-boy who has just entered an engineering college?”, he remarked.  

However, Sofi said he doesn’t want to blame them. 

“They are being presented with a different picture. I am sure if mainland Indians get a chance to live and see what Kashmiris go through, I strongly believe they will have a different view of Kashmir.” 

b’The death threats and racial slurs inked on the door and clothes of Hashim Sofi in BITS Pilani | Source: Hashim Sofi/Facebool’

As of now Sofi is staying home. He’s hopeful many “other” opportunities will be on its way.  

Career to bantey rahengay (Careers will be made). I can work anywhere. I can go to Delhi, Hyderabad or Andhra Pradesh but I won’t go to UP or Ahmedabad. I will find some other place to work. I am just fed up,” Sofi, who said his relatives and friends also study in different places of India, added. 

Reflecting on the situation he had undergone at Pilani, Sofi also regrets highlighting the incident on Facebook.  

“I feel I shouldn’t have put my views on Facebook in order to avoid things from going out of proportion. There were no friends, who i oculd have shared this with. On news, I can see people abusing me. I don’t want to even look at them. I have also deactivated my Facebook account,” he said. 

“Nowadays, it’s a sin to be a Kashmiri when you are outside the state. Only the mention of the word Kashmiri gets you labelled as stone-pelter, terrorist etc. It’s our country. The way it’s for every other citizen of India, why isn’t it same for us. My thinking is that the entire world is like a country and everyone should be allowed to be wherever he/she wants,” Sofi related of the experience of being a Kashmiri Muslim outside the state.    

“In my entire life, wherever I have lived, I was never made to feel I am a different person and that I am an anti-national. Sadly, every Kashmiri is feeling that today,” he concluded. 

Feature image source: Facebook/Hashim Sofi