Indians stuck in Afghanistan struggle to return home

Updated on Aug 17, 2021 04:53 AM IST

India on Monday said it will take all steps for the security of Indians and its interests in Afghanistan and facilitate the repatriation of Sikhs and Hindus who wish to leave the war-torn country.

A Taliban fighter holds a weapon while standing on a building outside Kabul airport, Kabul, Afghanistan(REUTERS )
A Taliban fighter holds a weapon while standing on a building outside Kabul airport, Kabul, Afghanistan(REUTERS )
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Indian citizens scrambling to escape the Taliban occupation in Afghanistan are facing several challenges, ranging from the inability to get in touch with any embassy official and a sealed airport to difficulties in getting Covid test reports as necessitated by the Indian government for taking a flight, even as the ministry of external affairs on Monday said that the Centre will “ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals in Afghanistan”.

A 32-year-old man from Kolkata, West Bengal, working with a local non-government organisationin Kabul for the last two years spent Monday morning in vain trying to reach the Hamid Karzai International airport only to find out that it was shut for commercial flights.

Taliban fighters swept into Afghanistan’s capital on Sunday after the government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani left the country.

According to a NOTAM (notice to airmen) issued by the Kabul airport authorities on Monday, the Afghan airspace has been released to the military and any aircraft transit through it “will be uncontrolled”. In another NOTAM, it was stated that the civilian side of the Kabul airport has been shut down until further notice

“I managed to reach Kabul airport but there were 8,000 or 9000 people trying to get a flight, none of them had tickets. They were out of control and the airport was guarded by Taliban and they couldn’t control the crowds and so they opened fire. I was running to save my life and later on I came to know that commercial flights are banned and only military flights are allowed,” said this person, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of persecution.

India on Monday said it will take all steps for the security of Indians and its interests in Afghanistan and facilitate the repatriation of Sikhs and Hindus who wish to leave the war-torn country.

“The security situation in Kabul has deteriorated significantly in the last few days. It is changing rapidly even as we speak. The Government of India has been closely monitoring all developments in Afghanistan,” said external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

“We had circulated emergency contact numbers and had also been extending assistance to community members. We are aware that there are still some Indian nationals in Afghanistan who wish to return and we are in touch with them,” Bagchi added.

While speaking to HT, sirens of police vehicles could be heard behind him. “Even the world’s best analysts couldn’t predict that they (Taliban) will take over so soon... we thought it would take weeks,’’ said this person.

He said that he was in touch with several other Indians who were also stranded but they had not heard or got any response from the Indian embassy.

“I was supposed to take the last flight out yesterday but couldn’t get a Covid negative report as mandated by the Indian authorities for taking a flight to India. So I booked today’s (Monday’s) flight,’’ he said.

“From news reports, we got to know that C-17 flights have been sent by India for evacuation mission but we cannot enter the airport so the embassy needs to respond to our calls and messages... Our lives are in danger,” he said.

India had kept C 17 Globemasters on standby for evacuation missions. One of them was sent to Afghanistan on Sunday and a second one took off from the Hindon air force station on the outskirts of Delhi on Monday.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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