“We miss him a lot, we want him to join us soon” — a heartbreaking plea to the Indian government by a nine-year-old girl awaiting return of her father, an Afghan national and a post-doctoral fellow in the University of Kerala who is stranded abroad for over two years for want of visa, so that they can live “happily ever after”.
Gulabmir Rahmany, a post-doctoral fellow in the Sociology department of the university, went to Afghanistan in 2020 to renew his visa and to collect data in connection with his post-doctoral research on that country.
Unfortunately for him, the United States troops stationed there since 2001 began their withdrawal in 2020 and the Taliban took over the country.
What was supposed to be a routine exercise of visa renewal, turned into a nightmare for Rahmany’s family as the Indian government cancelled visas of those in Afghanistan in view of the change in the geopolitical scenario and resultantly, he was stranded there.
He also attempted to come to India via Iran, but has had no luck till now and is still waiting in Tehran for nearly an year to secure a visa.
“My research topic was related to Afghanistan and I went there for data collection. I also had to renew my visa. However, the political situation changed in Afghanistan and I was stranded there,” Rahmany said.
“I got a visa to Iran and went there so that I can go back to India from there. But I am stranded in Tehran in Iran for nearly a year as the Indian embassy is refusing to issue me a visa,” he said while speaking to PTI from Iran on a WhatsApp call which was frequently disconnected due to poor internet connectivity.
Professor Sabu Joseph, Director of the varsity’s Centre for Global Academics (CGA), who is aware of Rahmany’s predicament, said that while stranded aboard, his family — wife and three kids — were having a tough time here.
Rahmany’s wife, Zamzama, who is pursuing PhD in Physics from University of Kerala, narrated the ordeal she has undergone while trying to manage her studies, household chores and take care of her children’s needs in the absence of her husband in the last two years.
“I got infected with COVID-19 and had to be quarantined at home as there was no one to take care of my children. I have to do all household chores, take the children to hospital when required, go buy groceries, all that I have to do on my own along with my studies. I cannot do research from home as I also have lab work.
“It is not easy. I am always tired. I have health issues. Sometimes I want to leave everything and go away but that is not possible,” she said with an exasperated laugh.
“We miss him a lot. We are not able to speak to him properly due to internet issues there. Our mother cannot take care of us on her own. We want him to join us soon, so that we can live happily ever after,” Rahmany’s nine-year-old daughter, amidst sobs, said.
Professor Joseph said that a request on Rahmany’s behalf was sent by the university to the Kerala government which in turn, after a police verification, had recommended to the Centre to grant visa to him.
“But, thereafter, there has been no response from the Indian government. Meanwhile, he is saying his life is under threat from the Taliban and that they have targeted him,” Joseph said.
During the voice call with Rahmany on WhatsApp, the research scholar said: “I miss my children and they miss their father. I humbly request the Government of India to grant me a visa so that I can return to my family.” Zamzama and her elder daughter prayed that the Indian government would issue him a visa as soon as possible.
“We are academicians. We have been in India for several years. We are not terrorists. Giving him a visa would not be harmful to India,” she said, barely managing to hold back tears.
Zamzama said the situation prevailing in Afghanistan is such that she does not want to return there and no one is able to come from there to help her out.
“The money I get as part of my scholarship is not enough to take care of my family. We have borrowed a lot of money from my parents and relatives. But even they are in a financial crisis now due to the situation prevailing there,” she said.
Rahmany, who completed his PhD from Osmania University in Hyderabad, is also in a financial predicament in Tehran and depends on money sent by his family in Afghanistan.
The stipend he gets as part of the Bridge scholarship given by the university is much lower than what Zamzama gets under her Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholarship, professor Joseph said.
Zamzama said that if her husband is able to come back, he could share in the household and family responsibilities and that would give her more time to complete her studies.
“I am in my fourth year and have to complete my course quickly. His presence will help with that.
“Moreover, the children are very attached to him. It is becoming difficult to answer their daily queries as to when their father will return,” she said with a sigh.
Rahmany’s wife said that she had sent several pleas to the Indian government via email and met with officials but to no avail.
She also met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and a recommendation was forwarded by the state government to provide a visa to her husband, but there was no response from the Centre, she claimed.
“I request them to consider him as an innocent man, a scholar and give him a visa so that he can be with his family,” she said.