Tajikistan/Bengaluru, It is but natural that India’s MEA officials in Kabul are coordinating with the stranded Indians waiting for evacuation from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, but surprisingly an Indian, along with few hundreds, was almost treated like guests by the Talibanis for three hours a couple of days back.
Speaking to UNI from Tajikistan, Tony Gerald, named changed for security reasons, narrated the experience his group had with the Talibanis and India’s Ministry of External Affairs officials. He was airlifted along with sixty others from Hamid Karzai International Airport to Tajikistan Monday afternoon in an Indian Air Force aircraft.
Sharing his experience in Kabul, Gerald said, “As we were sitting in a hall near Kabul airport, 30-odd gun wielding Talibanis came and started to talk with our Afghan coordinator deputed by the MEA. They asked to give his mobile phone, but he did not. This angered the Talibanis and one of them slapped him and took his mobile phone and the other two pushed him inside the vehicle. This scared us all. They pushed us all in other vehicles.”
“During the trip, men and women were crying, but I told them that they won’t do anything because, before forming the government, they would not do anything that will bring bad name to them.”
“After reaching the destination, we were asked to sit in a line on a grassy lawn. Those who were thirsty, they gave them water. They were making announcements that they won’t harm us and would verify their documents,” Gerald said.
“They noted down our names, fathers’ names, and other documents in their notebook, but they did not take down our passport details. After that, they separated men and women, and took us all to another room, where we were made to sit down,” he said.
“After a while, they took us to another hall. They clicked our photos and took our videos and sent them to their commanders. After that they invited us for meals. It was a lovely sumptuous Kabuli pulao meal, both veg and non veg,” Gerald said.
“After serving the meals, we were asked to wait for five minutes. They wanted to get the clearance from their commanders. And then left us,” he said. “For three hours, my group was with the Talibanis and all of them were wielding guns,” he added.
Gerald did not stop at this, he also shared the good work being carried out by MEA officials amidst all odds, sometimes getting scolded and abused by NATO officials.
“One thing I want to tell you. The US soldiers belonging to NATO were very very rude to our officers. I was surprised and shocked. They were rudely scolding our officials.”
“And, it hardly mattered for the NATO officials that we all were standing under the scorching sun, without a shelter over us. Kudos to our officials. Despite the abuses and scoldings, they did everything possible. I then realised how difficult it was for the India officials to get clearance for evacuation,” Gerald said.
“The MEA officials are getting in touch with us. Confirming our names in the list. They were guiding us to safe locations, but the NATO troops were arrogant. It is not that the Indian government is not doing anything, but the ground situation was different,” he said.
“Here in Tajikistan too, the MEA has been very helpful and coordinating very well. On an enquiry with Tajikistan officials, I came to know that the Indian government has hired the Tajikistan Army base for evacuation,” Gerald said.
“We have been provided with mats to lie down, meals, washrooms, tea and everything. It was difficult in Kabul. That was terrible,” he added.
Gerald is expected to be airlifted along with another batch of sixty-odd people to India any day.