Afghan students in Bengaluru start online crowdfunding

City International Politics Top Story

The campaign that targets to raise Rs. 10 lakh will help more than 250 students in need.

Bengaluru: Afghan students in Bengaluru have started online crowdfunding to raise funds for themselves in the city.

Syed Hasan Anwari, a student at Jain University said, “After approaching multiple government institutions and civil organizations, I did not get any immediate solution for the financial problems. We decided to start online crowdfunding to help us support ourselves.”

NY Times correspondent Mujib Mashal tweets about the campaign

The Milaap crowdfunding campaign has already raised Rs. 2, 52,138 out of Rs. 10 lakh as of Sept. 28. Hasan said, if they manage to reach the target money, each student will receive Rs. 5000 to help themselves. The money will also help several students to pay for their college examination fee, which is due in November-December.

Students need help

According to data gathered by Hasan, at least 144 students studying under the Study In India (SII) scholarship and 29 self-financed students in Karnataka need immediate financial support.

Hasan attending online Cyberculture class in Bengaluru (Credit: Hasan)

On Aug. 18, 2021, Hasan formed the Afghan Students’ Association (ASA) to collectively work on the financial demands of the students in Karnataka.

He approached Dr. N. Vijayakumar, Special Officer, Secretary General, United Nations (UN), India asking for help with the list of students he had prepared. He also sent a letter to SII and Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) on Aug. 21, asking for a stipend and monetary support for the students in crisis.

Families displaced

After the Taliban forces swept through Afghanistan, several families were displaced, including those of the students in Karnataka. 

Hasan’s family had fled from their house after the Taliban invaded their village in Dehdadi District in Afghanistan on Aug. 13.

“It was a nightmare. I could not contact them for weeks after that. More than half of the students I know in Karnataka have lost contact with their families,” he added.

Omidullah Qasimi, a third-year student at Jain University said, “After Taliban captured Afghanistan, the banks closed down, my family cannot send me money. Now, I have just Rs. 1125 left with me. My passport is expiring on Dec. 12. I have no money even to visit the Afghan Consulate in Hyderabad to get my passport renewed. I don’t know what to do. The crowdfunding will definitely help me for some time.”

Indian government should step in

Lekha Adavi, a Karnataka High Court (HC) advocate and a spokesperson for the All India Students Association (AISA) said that crowdfunding is just a temporary solution for the students. 

“From Aug. 22, AISA has been working closely with the students to build a support system for them. However, the crowdfunding money will last only for some time — the stipend and scholarships from the government should be extended to the students, including the self-financed ones. We will be meeting the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority and the Chief Secretary to raise the problems. However, due to the ongoing Monsoon Session in the parliament, everything is getting delayed,” she said. 

FRRO Bengaluru said that the government is committed to helping the Afghan students in the city. According to the officials, students with expiring visas should visit the FRRO office and the committee will look forward to extending it. 

Dr. Vijayakumar said, “We have recommended the Afghan students’ concerns to the board at Secretary General, United Nations. Although we have already sanctioned the relief budget for the students, we are still awaiting the Indian government’s response on that. It may take a few weeks to come to a solution.”

Letter to the Secretary General requesting scholarships for the Afghan students (Credit: Vijayakumar)

Alice Mathew, Head of Political Science Department and Associate Professor at Mount Carmel College said, “After seeing the worst in Afghanistan, students grabbed the opportunity and came to India on a scholarship. They knew if the scholarship stops, they will have to go back. I think the Indian government should open up and extend help to the students in the country. Education should not have any barriers.”

Raoof  Mir, Assistant Professor, Media and Journalism at Alliance University also believe the support should continue. 

“India has worked closely with Afghanistan for the last two decades. Today at the time of crisis, the government’s foreign policy should not take a back step. The students in Bengaluru need support, especially from a financial aspect,” he added. 

Female journalists fear going back

Bengaluru based journalism student Faiza Ibrahimi can no longer go back home to report from Taliban-occupied Afghanistan

In addition to the financial problems, several female journalists studying in the city fear for their life if they go back. 

Shila teaching yoga to locals at Indian Embassy in Afghanistan (Credit: Shila)

Shila Azimi, a journalism student at Bangalore University said, “I came to India to complete my higher education in journalism. I am also a certified yoga teacher. I wanted to go back to Kabul and empower Afghan women with yoga. However, now everything seems impossible. Videos of me doing yoga at the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan have already been posted online. I will be on top of the Taliban list if I go back.”