Published: 17th August 2021
More than 11k Afghan students in India scared, clueless as Taliban take over Afghanistan
According to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) data, less than 2,500 students are here on government scholarships, and they have no cause for worry
An estimated 11,000-plus Afghan students are shaken and deeply worried over their future in India as their motherland has apparently collapsed under the Taliban fury, watched with dazed horror by the world in the past few days.
Of these 11,000-plus Afghan students studying in different colleges and universities across India, the largest chunk of around 5,000 are in Maharashtra alone. "Around 3,000 are in Pune, some 700 in Mumbai and the rest scattered in different cities in the state," said Afghan Students Association of Pune (ASAP) President Wali R Rahmani.
According to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) data, less than 2,500 students are here on government scholarships, and they have no cause for worry. However, Rahmani said that the rest who are here through self-finance modes could be the worst-hit due to communication breakdown with their families.
"They have practically lost all contacts with families, relatives and friends back home. There's no clarity on the ground realities barring the shocking images or news that they monitor in the electronic media or social networks," said Pune-based NGO Sarhad President Sanjay Nahar grimly. Barring those sponsored through the ICCR, Rahmani said that the other students who have already taken admissions for the current academic year (AY-2021-2022) face major problems as they are unable to arrange finance from home in view of the grave situation in Afghanistan.
"Another 500-odd students had returned to Afghanistan for vacations or the Covid pandemic or other reasons in the past few months. With the change in the political situation there, they are unable to travel to India to resume their academics. Plus, the Indian visa of 500 more living here has expired or on the verge of expiry," Rahmani said.
Nahar said that Sarhad has launched all-out efforts to help these stranded students, both here and in Afghanistan, with the help of the Indian Government, Afghan authorities and NGOs in that simmering country. "Many students depending on their fees or rentals from home are in big jeopardy. Most are deeply worried about the safety of their families, relatives with little or no contacts, facing dilemmas over continuing with their academics, and others desperate to return home," he said.
The Sarhad would arrange psychological counseling for those requiring it, legal help for students facing visa issues, lodging-boarding for a few in dire need, or even jobs for others to tide over the current distress, Nahar assured.
Official sources said that normally when visas of foreign students expire, they are weaned out by the local police and ordered to either extend their visas or "to pack up and leave India". However, this time - as a humanitarian gesture - no such extreme measures are initiated in view of the delicate - and still unfolding - crisis that has engulfed Afghanistan, the sympathetic officials.
For the present, Sarhad has started a helpline (0-9007066900), and appealed to all stranded Afghani students anywhere in Maharashtra to get in touch for any kind of problems they may encounter.