New Delhi: Esmael Sakhi Zada, a 27-year-old student who secured admission into the South Asian University (SAU) in Delhi this year, hasn’t stepped out of his house in Kabul for a week now. He told ThePrint that the Taliban are everywhere and that it has become dangerous for them to even venture out.
Esmael is among many Afghan students who have been admitted into the South Asian University. Although he wants to continue his education, studying in a stressful environment is getting increasingly difficult for him, and he now wants to come to India to attend classes.
“We are living under a threat and are struggling for survival,” he told ThePrint over the phone. “Our student visas are ready but the airport has shut down and we have no means to go anywhere.”
The Taliban has taken over the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and has reportedly told local residents flocking it with hopes of escaping, to go back home.
Esmael’s helplessness is shared by several such students stuck in Afghanistan. They are now waiting for the Indian government to start commercial flights out of the country.
Another SAU student stuck in Kabul, Mohammad Shafiq Shayan, appealed to SAARC countries to help them “out of the anarchy and chaos”.
“Some Afghan students, including me, have received their visas. But due to the human crisis in the Kabul airport, we don’t have any way to get out of this chaos and uncertainty,” he told ThePrint over the phone. “We ask all those who wish to help us, especially SAU authorities, to focus their efforts on arranging a flight for us. If the request is made to SAARC officials, they may be able to implement it with the cooperation of the Indian foreign affairs ministry. We are going through a failed-state situation, anarchy, chaos and uncertainty in the capital.”
The uncertainty, however, isn’t confined to just those stuck in Kabul.
Afghan students already in Delhi and studying at the Delhi University have reached out to the university administration seeking help regarding Visa extension and jobs.
“Our families are fighting death every single day. Although they are suffering, they don’t want us to suffer,” one such DU student, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint. “We want our visas extended to be able to get jobs and two square meals a day. We are not asking for much.”
Afghan students at JNU have also reached out to their Indian counterparts asking for help from their university administration.
Universities say ‘very little’ can be done
While these students wait for the Indian government to make their move, a spokesperson of South Asian University told ThePrint that there is “very little” that they can do at this point.
“The MEA is our nodal agency; the situation is such that they are no longer physically there so there isn’t much that can be done,” the SAU spokesperson said. “As and when these developments were taking place, we had asked several of our students to come to India then itself. Most of our students have received their visas, so the university has done everything on its part to help them come back to India. The situation is such that there are currently no flights coming out of Afghanistan as of now.”
“Most of our research students and alumni have managed to come back and recently six more students have come in. They are under quarantine right now,” he added.
Administration members at the Delhi University too had a similar response.
Dr Amarjiva Lochan, deputy dean of DU’s foreign students department, told ThePrint, “There were about 150 plus Afghan students in DU this year, about 30-40 students went back to their homeland after finishing their course on 1 July. The rest of the students whose courses are about to get over in a month’s time met with us on Thursday evening to discuss their concerns.”
Among the concerns raised by the students was the request for extension of their student visa. Speaking of the request, Prof Lochan said, “Since this issue comes under the purview of the Ministry of external affairs, we can only make a recommendation, which we will.”
The students also raised concerns regarding the safety of their families and job availability. Vikas Gupta, the registrar of Delhi University, said, “Finding placements at such a short notice will be a challenging task given the pandemic-induced uncertainty in the market. But as a university, we have addressed their concerns and are looking into available options and means by which we can help them in the best capacity.”
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) had on 13 August written to the university authorities, urging them to extend visas of Afghan students.
In response to the letter, the JNU registrar had on 18 August issued a notice stating, “This is for the information of all international students of JNU (whose visa is due to expire soon) that they may approach the dean/chairperson of the concerned school/Special centres to obtain the required bonafide certificate.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)