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Afghan crisis: How Indian institutes are making efforts to get Afghan students back on campus

Afghan students are connecting with the institutes with various queries -- from family accommodation to visa approvals. Institutes are trying to help students with relevant documents for speedy approval of visas.

Written by Sheetal Banchariya | New Delhi |
Updated: August 19, 2021 11:32:12 am
afghan crisis, taliban news, afghan students india, afghanistani studentsAfghan students who are currently in India are also disturbed since their families are back home, struggling for their lives. (Express photo by Sahil Walia/ representational)

Amid the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, students of the country who are enrolled in India are facing an uncertain future. Most Afghan students who are pursuing higher education at Indian educational institutes had gone back to their home country due to coronavirus pandemic and were hoping to return to the campuses once the situation became conducive. Some students — who are currently staying in India — are also worried for the safety of their families back home.

In the meantime, Indian institutes are trying to get these students back on campus so that their future is not jeopardised. In a first, IIT Bombay has announced that the institute will allow Afghan students to return to the campus and stay in the hostels.

“We offered admission to quite a few students from Afghanistan in the master’s program this year under scholarships from ICCR. Because of online instructions, they were participating in the class from home. However, due to rapidly deteriorating conditions in their homeland, they wanted to come out of their country and join the hostels on campus,” said Subhasis Chaudhuri, director, IIT Bombay, last week.

Of the 144 international students enrolled at IIT Roorkee, 58 are from Afghanistan. While 7 of these students are on campus, 31 are awaiting their return. This year, the institute enrolled 11 Afghan students in MTech and PhD programmes.

Paramasivan Arumugam, Dean of International Relations, IIT Roorkee, told indianexpress.com that the institute is issuing invitations to all these students to speed up their return process.

“We are sending out lists of these students to ICCR as they are enrolled under Study in India scheme. Extra efforts are being made to get rapid visa approvals and help them return to the campus without any hassle. Students are constantly enquiring about family accommodation as they are worried about their safety if and when they join back institutes in India,” Arumugam said.

IIT Delhi has launched a helpline number for Afghan students where they can contact the institute at +91-011 26591713, +91-9811091942 or via email at intloff@admin.iitd.ac.in. The institute will also process PhD applications of these students under the international PhD Fellowship Programme (IPFP) on a rolling basis so that students get admission if and when they apply.

There are a total of 98 international students enrolled at IIT Delhi, of which 16 are from Afghanistan, who are enrolled in MTech and PhD courses.

Naveen Garg, dean of alumni affairs & international programmes, IIT Delhi, said, “Only one Afghan student is on the campus and rest are in their home country due to Covid-19 situation. We are constantly in touch with these students and are receiving several calls regarding information on the visa process and their possible return. Since the Indian Embassy is closed in Kabul, we are unsure when and how these students will return to the campuses,” Garg said.

Wazhmia Shekib from Afghanistan’s Bamyan, who is an MA in Political Science, recently submitted her PhD application at Lovely Professional University (LPU), Jalandhar. She is on the university campus in India but is worried about her family of 7 members in Kabul.

“Two days ago at midnight, three Talibani men barged into our home in Kabul saying that they have received information about weapons in our house. They disturbed my family till 3 am and later left. I have two younger brothers who recently took admission in India but have not received their student visas,” said the 24-year-old student.

While she constantly speaks to her family back home, the messages, she said, are distressing. “Recently, my father told me that he may not be able to provide any financial help and asked me to make do with whatever money I have as of now. My mother asked me to keep checking about my brothers’ visas. She asked me not to return to Kabul. With my family at war zone, how will I ever be comfortable?” said Wazhmia.

The situation is not much different at private universities and they are also making efforts to help these students. A total of 170 Afghan students are enrolled at LPU Jalandhar .

Aman Mittal, associated director of the university, told indianexpress.com, “We have our international affairs office working 24X7 because both students who are back home or on campus do not have any emotional support. They are scared for their family’s well-being. We have extended the fee submission dates for students who are enrolling this year. Since everything will take some time to settle down, we will also introduce relaxations in exams for these students,” he said.

Mittal said the institutes in India are trying their best but it all still seems very difficult because the airport is not functioning properly and most international borders to Afghanistan are closed. “We can hope and pray. The psychological trauma of the crisis will remain with these students for a lifetime,” he said.

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