Afghan students urge India to grant visas

Unable to continue with online education because of “frequent disruption” of Internet, they say

A group of Afghan students have written to Ambassador for Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon asking for speedy processing of visas that has been delayed for months.

The letter written by 43 students of the South Asia University (SAU) said they are unable to continue with online education because of the “frequent disruption” of Internet connectivity in Kabul after the takeover by the Taliban.

“Please understand that we are writing this letter to you because of the dire situation we are in. With periodic disruption of virtual connectivity, we are now unable to attend classes online from Afghanistan, and that is seriously jeopardising our studies,” said the students in the letter. Mr. Tandon was evacuated along with other members of the embassy but India has designated a travel agency in Kabul to facilitate Indian visas. New Delhi has not recognised the Taliban administration but the visas are expected to be granted through the travel agency.

The students however said the service provider — Shahir Travel Agency — had informed them that the passports would be returned with visas by August 16 but that did not happen. “Eventually Shahir Travel Agency returned the passports of all masters students of the SAU but none of the passports of the Ph.D. students deposited in the embassy … could be found,” the letter said, informing that they were not given any reason by the agency for misplacing the passports.

The students requested Mr. Tandon to process the visas and explain the way the passports have been handled so far. The students said all the Ph.D. students who applied for visa in the 2020 batch are members of the ethnic minorities and women who are being specifically targeted in the Taliban rule.

On September 8, a Hazara Ph.D. student of the SAU Sayed Habibullah Farzad was severely beaten up by the Taliban guards when he participated in a peaceful protest demanding women’s rights. Mr. Farzad is from Ghazni but was living in Kabul as his passport had been pending with the travel agency since December 2020, said the letter.

“There are a large number of SAU students and alumni who are now waiting in queue having applied for e-visas. Most of them feel threatened under the new regime and they appeal to the Indian government to facilitate the Indian e-visa,” said the students.

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