‘Burned down my house’: Afghan evacuees recount harrowing Taliban experience

NEW DELHI: With scenes of widespread terror still afresh, dozens of Afghanistan evacuees who came to India early Sunday expressed gratitude to authorities for bringing them back safely and said they are reluctant to return to the war-torn country.
Thousands of fearful Afghans have been desperately fleeing the country since the Taliban’s sweeping takeover.
Those who came to India recalled horrific tales of terror in the Taliban-ruled country.
‘They burned down my house’
Speaking to news agency ANI after landing at the Hindon air force base in Ghaziabad in an IAF flight, the evacuees said the situation is dire in Afghanistan.
“Situation was deteriorating in Afghanistan, so I came here with my daughter and two grandchildren. Our Indian brothers and sisters came to our rescue. They (Taliban) burned down my house. Women are not safe in Afghanistan. I thank India for helping us,” she added.
She said there is immense fear among people in Afghanistan. “We have witnessed casual firing over crowds.”
Recounting similar scenes, a Sikh evacuee said that firing and gunshot sounds were heard everywhere in Kabul and the surrounding areas.
“The situation is dire in Afghanistan … I am very grateful to India for stepping forward to help us. We were taking shelter at the Gurdwara before boarding the plane,” the evacuee told ANI.

People who were stranded in crisis-hit Afghanistan arrive by a special repatriation flight of IAF at the Hindan Air Force Station, in Ghaziabad. (PTI)
‘All achievements of last 20 years lost’
An Afghan lawmaker of Sikh origin turned emotional while speaking to reporters after landing in India, saying that all the achievements of the last 20 years in Afghanistan have been lost.
“All achievements of the last 20 years in Afghanistan have been lost. Nothing is left. It’s zero now,” said Afghan lawmaker Narender Singh Khalsa soon after his arrival.
The Sikh lawmaker thanked the Indian government for rescuing him, his family and several other members of his community following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul and most parts of Afghanistan.
“India is our second home. Even if we are Afghans and live in that country, people often call us Hindustanis,” the lawmaker told reporters at the airbase near Delhi.

Asked about the current situation in Afghanistan and how he felt about the latest developments in the country, Khalsa, with tears in his eyes, said all the gains of the past 20 years have been undone.
“I feel like crying. Everything is finished. It is a very difficult and painful decision to leave the country. We have not seen such a situation. Everything has been snatched away. It’s all over,” he said.
Recalling the harrowing experience of the past seven days after the Taliban took control of Kabul, Khalsa said the situation is “very bad” and appealed to the Indian government to rescue the remaining stranded Hindus and Sikhs from the war-torn country.
“Situation is very bad. We had to face a lot of difficulties. Thank God for saving our lives as we had to face harrowing times in the last few days. My expectation from the Indian government is that all those who are still stuck are brought back,” he said.
“The Taliban used to ask us to remain in Afghanistan saying your security is our responsibility. As there are so many groups of Taliban, we do not know whom to speak to and whom to believe. That’s why we decided to leave as the situation is serious,” he added.
Evacuations continue
India on Sunday brought back 392, including two Afghan lawmakers, in three different flights as part of its efforts to evacuate its citizens from Kabul.
A total of 168 people including 107 Indians and 23 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, were flown from Kabul to Hindon airbase near Delhi in a C-17 heavy-lift military transport aircraft of the IAF.
Another group of 87 Indians and two Nepalese nationals were brought back in a special Air India flight from Dushanbe, a day after they were evacuated to the Tajikistan capital in an IAF aircraft, officials said.
Separately, 135 Indians, who were earlier evacuated from Kabul to Doha in the last few days by the US and NATO aircraft, were flown back from the Qatari capital city to Delhi on a special flight, they said.
India carried out the evacuation missions in coordination with the US and several other friendly countries.
Two days after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, India evacuated 200 people including the Indian envoy and other staffers of its embassy in Kabul in two C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft of the IAF.
The first evacuation flight brought back over 40 people, mostly staffers at the Indian embassy, on Monday last.
The second C-17 aircraft evacuated around 150 people including Indian diplomats, officials, security personnel and some stranded Indians from Kabul on Tuesday.
(With inputs from ANI, PTI)

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