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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Didn’t expect things to unravel so fast, says doctor who spent 16 years in Kabul

He was among a few civilians who were evacuated from Afghanistan along with ITBP personnel and officials of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan on Tuesday

Written by Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: August 18, 2021 10:44:34 am
Didn’t expect things to unravel so fast, says doctor who spent 16 years in KabulIndia evacuated around 150 people, including diplomats, officials, security personnel and some stranded Indians from Kabul on Tuesday. (Express Photo: Shubhajit Roy)

For a doctor who has lived and worked in Kabul for the past 16 years and calls the city his second home, the last few days were a rude shock.

“We were in panic mode,” he said hours after landing in Delhi. “In all these years, I have not seen so much confusion. My four-year-old daughter had food poisoning and was on medication, and we were watching videos of the Taliban entering Kabul. We could hear gunshots outside at nighttime,” said the doctor, who asked not to be identified. “It was scary; we were not expecting the situation to get worse so suddenly. We thought it would take a few months, but it all happened in two-three days.”

He was among a few civilians who were evacuated from Afghanistan along with ITBP personnel and officials of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan on Tuesday. The return to Delhi was an “emotional” one, he said. “While we were lucky to get to the embassy and on a flight, there are so many waiting to get out,” he said. While they are natives of Srinagar, the family called Delhi home for a while.

The doctor, who has trained Afghans in emergency medical aid, plans on returning to the country once the situation normalises. “They really need help there. They are lagging in so many ways,” he said. Besides, it is a country that has given him immense love and respect, and leaving was painful, he added.

Contacting the Indian embassy in Kabul and reaching it was by itself a harrowing ordeal, said the doctor’s wife. “The Taliban has imposed a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am, which made it difficult for us to reach the embassy on Monday evening,” she said. The doctor had been working at the hospital till Monday evening. After a three-hour wait outside the embassy, though, they managed to find their way inside, she said. Even once they got to the airbase for the flight, there was a crowd outside that made it difficult for them to get in, she added.

The C-17 aircraft of the Indian Air Force landed at the Hindon air base near Delhi a little after 5 pm on Tuesday. It flew from Kabul to Jamnagar from where it departed after a brief halt. Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon was also on board the flight, besides other staff from the embassy, journalists and security personnel.

On landing here, the ITBP personnel were greeted by crowds outside the gates of the air base, while they were taken by military trucks either to quarantine at home or to separate quarantine facilities. According to a member of the security force who was evacuated on Tuesday, around 150 people were on board the aircraft — 129 people were ITBP personnel and MEA staff, while the remaining were civilians. The ITBP personnel who were evacuated were deployed as security at the Indian embassy in Afghanistan and at the four Indian consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad, all of which have been closed now.

In the past few days, pressure had been mounting on security personnel since they were unaware of what the Taliban might do and were worried about an attack, said the member of the security force.

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