For two years, Yasmeen Azimi, a 22-year-old Afghan student, has been struggling to obtain a visa to continue her studies in India. Despite being admitted to a postgraduate programme in political science at Chandigarh University under a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in January 2021, her visa application has been rejected three times.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) invalidated all existing Afghan visas, including student visas, following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. Consequently, Azimi and thousands of other Afghan students have been left in limbo, unable to continue their education in India.
The Indian government directed Afghan nationals to apply for e-visas, which are only valid for six months and granted in rare circumstances. However, only 300 e-visas were issued to Afghans last year, leaving more than 2,500 Afghan students enrolled in Indian universities and colleges stranded in Afghanistan.
The ICCR had previously offered 1,000 annual scholarships to Afghan nationals for undergraduate and postgraduate studies in India. More than 10,000 Afghan students are currently studying in various Indian universities. However, the cancellation of visas has disrupted the education of many Afghan students, forcing some to seek opportunities in other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Europe, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.
Meena Nizami, a 22-year-old Afghan student who pursued a master’s in psychology at the University of Delhi, had to return to Afghanistan due to the coronavirus outbreak in December 2020. Frustrated by the denial of a visa and the lack of response from Indian institutions, Nizami has now been admitted to Westford University College in the United Arab Emirates.
In 2022, Pakistan announced 4,500 scholarships for Afghan students, and more than 7,000 Afghans are currently enrolled in various graduate and postgraduate programmes in the country.
Onib Dadgar, a 30-year-old PhD student in Computer Science at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, has become an advocate for Afghan students. He has reached out to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs and run campaigns on social media to raise awareness of the issue.
Dadgar said that Gujarat Technical University (GTU) cancelled the admission of 24 Afghan engineering students last year due to visa issues. A GTU official justified the cancellation, stating that the university was following norms set by the ICCR, which had offered them scholarships.
Al Jazeera contacted other ICCR officials, including Nalini Singhal, scholarship policy and admissions programme director, but received no response. Another ICCR official refused to provide any information regarding the cancellation of admissions.
As a result, the education of hundreds of Afghan students remains disrupted. “We thought India was our second home, but it left us alone,” Dadgar said.
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