Twenty-nine-year-old Junaid Aslam, along with his aunt Nasreena Nasim, was travelling to his home in Jammu and Kashmir when the authorities stopped them at Lakhanpur in Kathua district last Saturday.
Nasreena is suffering from arthritis; the family was returning home in Anantnag after getting a travel pass from the District Magistrate, Gurugram. After spending a night at Lakhanpur, the family was kept at the makeshift quarantine facility in Samba for the next two days.
Recalling the time he spent at the facility, Junaid said: “I have come out of prison. I feel even cattle are treated better.”
People sleep on mattresses laid on the ground at the Samba quarantine facility.
On their way home, he says nobody stopped them in Haryana or Punjab. “The authorities in Lakhapur said the entry into Jammu and Kashmir required a different pass signed by the divisional commissioner,” he told Outlook. “They also sought a health certificate issued by a government medical officer from the state and city the person was coming from.”
He added the authorities said the health certificate should state the person has been in home quarantine for at least 14 days.
At night, Junaid says, in Lakhanpur, they slept on the floor. The 29-year-old alleged the local nodal officer threatened their cab driver to return to Delhi or he would bee quarantined for 14 days.
“The driver quickly unloaded our luggage and returned to Delhi.”
The family was then moved to a makeshift quarantine centre in Samba where they spent the next two days. “We slept on the ground on a sheet,” he said.
Sometimes they would tell us that we will be tested here and then suddenly change it to district headquarters. “The rules were changing on WhatsApp for us. They didn’t seem to care about our lives, old women and children,” Junaid says.
A woman took to social media and said they were kept in Lakhanpur upon entering Jammu and Kashmir for six hours before being asked to move to Samba district. “There are no social distancing at this place and administration has no clue about when to allow stranded people to move and when to stop them.”
In the Kashmir Valley, pictures of stranded people sleeping on the floor at the Samba quarantine facility have gone on viral on social media.
Reacting to allegations, Jammu and Kashmir government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said J&K is perhaps the only state/UT which is sampling and testing 100% of its returning residents.
“As a result, each returnee has to get the sampling done at Lakhanpur. Those then found negative are sent to 14-day home quarantine.
“The 100% testing is yielding results and several positive cases which would otherwise have slipped undetected are being traced and isolated,” he told Outlook.
“This is extremely important to ensure that the virus does not spread.
“It is further clarified that all entry is governed only by the SoPs and protocols and that no additional documentation or certification is being asked.”