The takeover of Kabul and other regions of Afghanistan by the Taliban has unleashed a wave of panic among Afghan nationals residing in India, who fear for the safety of their friends and families back home. Scared and heartbroken at the state of affairs in their homeland, students, working personnel and even unemployed Afghan nationals turned up at the Afghanistan embassy here on Tuesday to find out ways to ensure that they do not have to return to their country of birth.
Mohammad Jawid was one of them. The 26-year-old first arrived in India six years ago with an aim of getting education that he hoped would help him bring about positive changes back in his country.
Now, however, he hopes he never has to return home. "I had a dream of working for Afghanistan's development after completing my education here, but now my future is uncertain as I think that Taliban do not need educated people like me," he said.
Currently residing in Delhi's Lajpat Nagar area, Jawid pursued his BBA from Bengaluru, and is currently enrolled in an MBA programme at the Dayanand University here. He said that he was at the embassy to apply for a visa extension that expired on August 5.
"I think that I will have to go back after completing my MBA, if I don't get a visa. Everyone is disappointed due to what is happening in Afghanistan. Everything is uncertain," he said. His visa, however, is not the only thing on his mind. His family - parents and seven siblings are all back home in Kabul that was seized by the Taliban on Sunday.
Recalling his last call with his sister a few days ago, an anxious Jawid said, "The situation back home is very terrifying. I spoke to one of my sisters who is in class 12 and she said it felt like they were living in a prison. "She said that all her hard work would go to waste if she's not able to complete her education and pursue her dreams." And, the worries have only been mounting.
"Even if my family manages to leave Afghanistan, where will they go? Which country will accept them? Is there any place better than one's own home? But, unfortunately, right now the priority is to stay alive. I just don't know what to do," Jawid said. Capping its month-long rapid advances, the Taliban took positions in Kabul hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country on Sunday for an unknown destination, paving way for a bloodless takeover of the capital city but triggering fear, chaos and uncertainty among its residents.
Also, facing the threat of deportation from India like Jawid is Khairullah Noori, who has been living in Ahmedabad with his family since 2018. The 25-year-old was at the embassy to renew his passport, and subsequently his visa that will lapse on August 29.
"The validity of my passport has expired and I had an appointment to get a new one. We do not want to go back to Afghanistan. Our relatives are in Kabul, and they are extremely afraid due to the ongoing situation," he said. Noori is currently pursuing a degree in BBA from Gujarat University. While his father does make a living from his job at a shoe factory in Ahmedabad, Noori largely has to depend on financial aid from his relatives in Canada for his education.
The Taliban have been reported to have assured to do things differently this time around, including promising peace and inclusivity, but Noori, like most of his fellow Afghans back home, has little faith in the words of the Islamist fundamentalist group that wreaked havoc on the nation during their previous regime from 1996 to 2001. "Taliban has issues with us. They have their own rules. They are promising something now, but we know that they will impose their rules. They won't let women come out of their homes," he said.
For Abdul Fatah and Hamid Azimi, both in their late thirties, a life of poverty in a foreign land, seems a better alternative to living like a captive in one's own country. Fatah has been living in the East of Kailash here for over four years now with his family of four. Income has been irregular, but going back to Afghanistan is not even a consideration.
"We do not have a regular income. Sometimes I manage to make some money by helping out other Afghans in Delhi who have language issues. "But, we definitely don't want to go back. People there cannot make decisions by themselves. They must follow the Taliban's decision," Fatah said.
Azimi, who has been living in Tilak Nagar with his family since 2017, agreed, and added that they have been looking at employment opportunities in Turkey due to their deteriorating financial condition here. He was at the embassy to explore options for a Turkish visa, he said.
Elaborating on the present circumstances in Afghanistan, 32-year-old Mohammad who is on a visit to India on a pre-existing appointment at the embassy preceding the Taliban takeover, said the situation in his country was only going to get worse. "Everything is banned, banks are closed and you cannot withdraw a single penny. My sister who is a cancer patient needs money for her treatment, but she can no longer access the bank, and unfortunately, her husband is currently out of the country.
"Her daughter who was a student at the Kabul university had to be escorted by male members of the family to ensure her safe return," Mohammad said. In wake of the situation in Afghanistan, the security has been increased at the Afghan embassy, with Delhi Police personnel, along with paramilitary staff guarding the premises.