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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Taliban sweep hits hopes, dreams of young Afghans studying in India

Hundred of youngsters currently reside across India as students under India's aid of human resource development and capacity building to Afghanistan.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Chandigarh |
Updated: August 15, 2021 10:23:20 am
Afghan Students in India protesting to condemn Taliban attack and violence in Afghanistan. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

As Taliban tear through Afghanistan making seemingly inexorable advances, youngsters from the country residing in India are living with constant anxiety over the violence exploding back home.

Hundred of youngsters currently reside across India as students under India’s aid of human resource development and capacity building to Afghanistan. As part of this programme, India offers 1,000 educational scholarships to Afghan nationals each year with a 100 per cent utilisation in most years.

Farhad Haqyar, 25, has been here on a scholarship for the past two years now. He says he has renewed fears for his family in Kabul as Taliban inch closer to the Afghan capital.

Hailing from a small province in Afghanistan, his family had shifted to Kabul a few years back for his father to easily work in the security wing of the Afghan government.

Back in 2019, when Farhad had left his home to pursue his Master’s in Journalism from Panjab University, Chandigarh, he had seen a bright future for him and his family.

“Almost one year back my family was excited. They wanted me to come back home as soon as I was done with my master’s here,” says Farhad. But things have changed drastically since then.

‘The future seems to be our past’

“I am 25 and for my whole life, we have seen a different situation. There were new hopes we saw for the future of our country. We were looking forward to go abroad, learn and then serve our country. It was our generation, that was born and brought up looking forward but now it is all slipping away. The future seems to be our past. Hopes of millions now seem to be dwindling. So many of us left our countries in hopes to return back and be the better future,” he says adding, “But we are back in the past with even basic survival being a privilege.”

As news of US retreat broke out and attacks of Taliban gathered pace, Farhad’s family is one among many to have insisted that their son remains away for good.

“They want me to stay here, find a life and a job. Even if I earn enough to live here, be able to rent a room and find something to eat it is enough for them. They do not want me to return at any cost.”

‘I fear for my brothers’

Syed Hassan Anwary (27), student of journalism in Jain University, Bangalore hails from a district which has already been taken over. “My father is a farmer back in Afghanistan. My district Dehdadi was attacked few weeks back. The district is now under the Taliban’s control. My father cannot go to his farm anymore. My whole family is stuck there,” says Anwary, who has his father, two mothers and five younger brothers back home.

“While several neighbours have evacuated, my family cannot even imagine moving out. They are too many people. We fear my younger brothers, all of whom are in school, would be captured by the Taliban to be used in their fight,” he adds.

Several days have passed since he has had a chance to talk to his family.

“Taliban is known to attack the power sources first, with no power, communications go down. My family has been living like that. We have not talked for days because there is no electricity and no way to charge phones et al. I am worried sick but cannot do anything,” he says.

While food, rent and fee is all taken care of under the scholarship, Anwary — with no financial support from family and no job in hand — has had to borrow money from his cousin in Germany. “My family is in a bad situation and cannot support me financially anymore. I am hunting for a job here,” he says.

He echoes the sentiments shared by Farhad’s family. “My family was happy when I had left. But have told me not to come back. ‘We do not know if you will live if you come back,’ they say.”

‘We know the horrors in store’

The people who have lived under the Taliban rule know of the horrors that unfold and are not fazed by what they may be claiming to the world right now. Abdul Haidi Sharifi, 30, PhD scholar of Management at Punjabi University, Patiala remarks, “They may pretend to be whatever but we know their truth. We have seen how they work. The Taiban does not believe in democracy, in human rights, in rights for women. They are a terrorist group and that is all that they are. However much they might pretend to be civilised. The world may have forgotten, but we have not,” he says.
But there is courage and resistance in the hearts of the people.

“The people of my country will not accept their rule. We will continue to resist their occupation of Afghanistan. Taliban is not familiar with the current face of Afghanistan. In the past twenty years, we have grown. Millions of us have been to schools and colleges. The country has produced several doctors, teachers, engineers, journalists, managers, philosophers and much more. Even currently, hundred thousands of us receive knowledge as they continue their barbaric fight. While we learn, at least 80 per cent of those who join Taliban remain completely illiterate, backwards. This will be their downfall,” says Abdul.

Even as his elder brother fights the Taliban alongside the Afghanistan army, Abdul is not scared of their future.
“If there is a need for men to join the army, I will leave my career and my future here to go back and support my brother against the Taliban repression. Either they control us or we fight,” he says.

‘Fight between darkness, light’

And even in the face of tragedy and horror there are many who are willing to work for the future of the country.
Mohammed Quais Rezwani, 32, PhD scholar of Human Resources Management at Kurukshetra University, Haryana has been in India since 2019. He had earlier done his MBA from Shimla as well but had moved back to work at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Afghanistan before reaching India again for his PhD.

Even as he fears for the future of his wife and two toddler daughters, he is firm when he says that he wants to go back.

“The situation is critical in Afghanistan. Taliban is the enemy of knowledge and growth. This is a fight between darkness and light. I would want to move back as soon as I finish my PhD here. I want to contribute towards the building of my country. My wife and daughters can become targets for Taliban if I move back and work for the government and future seems uncertain but I have to go back. I cannot leave my people alone,” he says.

Dreams shattered

As violence continues unabated, it is not just the devastation of a country or a place that encompasses but the destruction of hopes of millions.
Farhad wanted to become a lecturer, Anwary a journalist, Abdul wanted to work for an MNC and Rezwani wanted to go back and work for the Afghanistan government. None of them has seen their families since they left the country. But as Taliban continues to breach the borders and take over cities, hopes and futures seem dwindling as their lives hang in uncertainty.

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