For Khatira Hossein, the Taliban's decision to bar girl students from schools and universities is a signal that their future is being played with. Khatira is one among thousands of Afghan students who have taken admissions to Indian universities and found the country as a safe haven amid the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan.
After the Taliban returned to the helm of government in Afghanistan, the Ministry of External Affairs in India (MEA) cancelled all existing Afghan visas, many of which were availed by students studying in Indian universities, and initiated an e-visa programme.
"I and some other students applied for an E-visa six months ago and every time we called the Indian Embassy, they gave us only one answer that our application is under process. We have been receiving this same statement but no progress has been made yet," said Shafiullah, a resident of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, who is studying Zoology at Ramjas College. Shafi lost his father two years ago and has been living in poverty which has made it more difficult for him to get a proper internet connection to attend online lectures for longer periods of time.
Karimullah Karimi, a Master of Science student at Savitribai Phule University in Pune, runs a social media group of more than 250 students. "I have everything from admission to scholarship letters but all our emails to the concerned Indian authorities have gone in vain. We also made them aware of the financial, security and infrastructural issues that stop us from getting the full potential of online classes, so that they understand the dire situation we are in," Karimullah added.
The constant struggle of not being able to attend online classes while also facing financial and mental woes has left the students in despair.
"Our University has stopped conducting online classes as most students are now attending the lectures from campus. With only two Afghan students being part of the batch, there's no chance that they will arrange a digital mode of learning just for us. We are also not able to pay our college fees due to transfer issues," said Noorulhuda Rahimzai, a student from IK Gujral Punjab Technical University, who lives in Kabul but is currently in Iran's capital city of Tehran where he was told to apply for e-Emergency X-Misc Visa.
Samim Sahil, a student at Delhi University, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science (H) in Computer Science, lamented the situation many like him are in and said that he feels "he will go crazy," if the situation is not resolved soon. "I am mentally not doing well but because of my fellow classmates and teachers who are supportive of me, I sometimes receive a review of the lessons from them," said Samim, who pays 850 Afghani for 10 GB of 3G which is expensive for him.
The scholarships provided by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) have proven to be a boon for many Afghan students. Under the Special Scholarship Scheme for Afghan Nationals, thousands of scholarships have been provided to students who wish to pursue university-level courses in India.
On the question of scholarships being provided to Afghan students still being vali, despite many of them not being able to attend lectures in person, Mr Kailash Chand, the Programme Director of Afghan Scholarship Section in ICCR told the Free Press Journal that it's the responsibility of the universities to see to it that Afghan students are able to attend classes or not and added that many of them are able to avail online classes. "ICCR only awards scholarships to the students who have been selected by embassies in different countries. Our aim is to continue providing scholarships to the students but it's uncertain how we will go about it in this case. Since we are under MEA, we follow the guidelines that have been mandated," said Mr Chand.
The Free Press Journal has also sent a mail to the Consulate General of Afghanistan but hasn't received a response yet. The story will be updated if we get an answer.