Afghan refugees in India refuse to return fearing violence

Afghan refugees in India refuse to return fearing violence

December 22, 2013: As US forces' drawdown from Afghanistan looms, Afghan refugees living in the national capital refuse to return to their homes fearing violence.

Refugees from the war-torn country thronged Lajpat Nagar, an affluent suburb of the South Delhi, in 1979, following the invasion by the then Soviet Union. And, a large number of Afghans continued to migrate to India after their country was taken over by the Taliban.

There were more than 18,000 refugees in India as of 2011, according to the External Affairs Ministry. And about 10,000 Afghan refugees are registered with UNHCR at present.

Their is pervasive fear among Afghan refugees here about returning home mainly due to continued violence and the threat of Taliban's ascendancy once the US-led ISAF troops leave Afghanistan.

Sher Mohammad, 35, came to India about an year ago, escaping the threats of Taliban which "abducted his younger son, Amir (11), to employ him as a laborer".

"They let him go after I negotiated with them. We came to India immediately after the incident. They would have killed us all," he said.

Mohammad, who fled from Ghazini province, is one among the thousands of Afghan refugees living in India. He is reluctant to return to his country, fearing threat to his family from Taliban.

"If I return, they will not let us live. They will kill us. Sab Khatam...(Everything ends)," he said.

Mohammad and his elder son Hamid, 15, run a fastfood stall in the chock-full market of Lajpat Nagar. Both his sons study in Don Bosco school in Alaknanda. After school, Hamid comes to his father to help him make burgers and rotis. "This is not a big business but it is ok. It feeds us. It is better than being maimed at the hands of Taliban," said Hamid.

Though living in Delhi is expensive and he is hardly able to earn enough to pay his rent and eat, Mohammad said his family is at-least safe this way.

Sulaiman, 26, an Afghan graduate, from Kabul, shares the same concerns. "The situation in Afghanistan is still bad. There is no sign of peace. People fear that once they (NATO troops) return, the country will be in hands of Taliban again. This is not the safe time to return," Sulaiman said. He, however, is not sure whether US would withdraw by next year as ambiguity looms over signing of the bilateral security agreement.

"The security pact is yet to be signed. Who knows when they will go back or stay for longer. The situation, however, remains hostile. Refugees are returning though but they continue to live on the edge as there are no jobs or money. As such, a large number of them do not want to go back," he said.



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