India rejects e-visas of hundreds of Afghan students. Here's why it's a problem

More than 2,000 Afghan students, who were enrolled in Indian universities when the pandemic broke, were left stranded in Afghanistan after the Taliban came to power
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

Afghan students enrolled in Indian universities woke up to a rude shock yesterday, November 20, when they discovered that their application for the e-Emergency X-Misc Visa was rejected by the Government of India. This special electronic visa was made available only to citizens of Afghanistan, given the takeover of the country by the terror group Taliban. It was to be valid only for six months. However, for Afghan students stranded in their country since the pandemic broke out, with their studies here in India suspended, the situation is dire as they search for ways to return to India to complete their education. 

"We have been waiting for more than 15 months now for the Indian government to allow us to return to India. Our careers have already been affected by this. The Indian Embassy in Afghanistan does not give us any dates or directions. Everything is unknown and we are fast losing hope," Ahmedzai Salim, a student of Civil Engineering at Delhi Technological University, whose e-visa was rejected, tells EdexLive. Physical classes began in Indian universities in February this year and in the absence of visas from the Indian government, more than 2,000 Afghan students were forced to miss their exams and drop a semester. 

Some students still await the conduct of their final exams, in the absence of which they have not yet been awarded their degrees. "From the month of August, final semester students who are stuck in Afghanistan are waiting for their exams to be taken so they can enrol in higher education courses in other countries. However, the Indian government is just wasting our precious time," contests Sameer Sultani, a final-year student at Pune University. He is another student whose e-visa was rejected. "We don't know why our visas have been rejected," says Isaaq Safi, a final-year BBA student at Goa University. "The Indian government has not been listening to our concerns for the last year since they cancelled our visas after the Taliban took over in August 2021," he adds. 

These students, who have been campaigning on social media sites such as Twitter as well for a solution from the Indian government, now hint that they might gather near the Indian Embassy in Kabul to demand action from the Indian and Afghan authorities. One of the students tells EdexLive that even though they are not allowed to stand in front of the Indian Embassy by the Afghan government, they will attempt to protest in its vicinity. 

The students suggest two possible solutions to their conundrum. They urge the Indian government to take the route opted by countries such as Turkey, which does not have a functioning embassy in Afghanistan but provides visas to Afghan students via Iran. Other countries such as Russia are also doing the same and providing visas through Iran or Pakistan, students claim. "We want India to consider this option as well, otherwise, this will destroy our future. We have studied and worked hard and now our future is at risk," says Salim.

Another option that the students propose is that the Indian universities conduct their final semester exams online. "The students who are now stuck back in Afghanistan earned scholarships to go and study in India, which is not easy. These are all intelligent students. I joined one of the best universities in Afghanistan after topping the entrance exam here but chose to move to India to complete my BBA because of the high-quality education here. However, now, all my classmates, both back home in Afghanistan and in India, have graduated, and I am still awaiting my degree," Safi rues.

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