Kanhayalal Sharma, a mechanical installer from Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district, never thought he was strong enough to handle the mental trauma and anxiety caused during a 9-hour detention under the Taliban. in Afghanistan, to which Sharma and hundreds of other stranded Indians were subjected.
It finally reached India on Sunday, as part of a special Indian Air Force (AIF) repatriation operation, carrying 168 passengers including 107 Indians on its C-17 plane which landed at Hindon Air Base. in Ghaziabad.
“What I and the others have gone through cannot be expressed in words. Just thinking about what we’ve all been through gives me goosebumps. I am grateful to the Indian government for bringing us back safe and sound, ”said an elated Sharma, who was on her way to Mubarakpur village in Ghazipur district.
Sharma, who worked at a steel mill 3 miles from Kabul, said that while he had been successful in dealing with the trauma and anxiety, the experience had certainly traumatized him. Sharma joined the factory recently in July. With him there were 18 other UPites, who worked together in a healthy environment. He said there was not even the slightest apprehension of a crisis, until the Taliban returned.
“The situation had left us helpless. Me and the 18 other UPites had no choice but to lock ourselves in the factory where we stayed for more than 72 hours. But it was not a solution as our factory owners told us that they could not keep them safe for long. But, they were kind enough to transport us to Gurudwara-Karte Parwan Gurudwara, 10 km from Kabul airport.
“We were told that getting to the airport from here would be easy compared to other places. Therefore, we were transported to Gurudwara on August 20th. We were also in contact with the embassy staff who told us to reach the north gate of the airport, ”Sharma said.
On August 20, the kind management of Gurudwara transported Sharma and the other Indians in five buses to the north gate of the airport. “We thanked the Gurudwara people for their kindness and thought that was the end of our struggle. But we were wrong because that is when the real struggle started, ”he said.
Sharma said they were greeted by chaos at the airport – people running in panic, making futile attempts to enter the airport, while Taliban fighters fired in the air and sometimes at the crowd. in panic. “We were stopped by Taliban fighters 200 meters from the gate because there was already a huge crowd at the gate. We were surrounded by combatants and they pointed their guns at us. They said we couldn’t go any further and gave us the option to come back, but we chose to stay, ”Sharma recalls.
Sharma said she waited more than 12 hours at the north gate of the airport. After the extended hours of waiting, he said they were approached by two Taliban fighters who diverted the buses to an abandoned canteen recently captured by the Taliban. “We thought it was the end of our trip. There were about 250 Indians there, who started to cry, some started begging for life and some, like me, suffered from panic attacks. But I tried to stay calm, ”he said.
He said that although the Taliban kept saying “you are safe”, it was hard for Indians to believe them, especially after seeing their horrific videos on social media. “We remained in their detention for about nine hours.
Meanwhile, some of the detainees tweeted to the Indian government about the situation. I think it was after the intervention of the Indian government, they allowed us to go back to the airport, ”he said.
The five buses again moved to the airport but following some confusion, the buses were brought back to the canteen premises again. However, after a series of tweets addressed to the Indian government, they were eventually guided to the airport. At the airport, which he said is still under the control of the US military, they were allowed to enter the airport from where they boarded the IAF C-17 plane. . “It was an emotional moment when we finally got on the plane and we all shouted in unison – Bharat mata ki jai and we all burst into tears,” said Sharma, choked by the emotion.
Sharma reached his village of Mubarakpur, Ghazipur, safely on Monday, where he received a warm welcome. Sharma said he had given up on any plans to move abroad and would stay in the village with his mother, wife and three children until he recovered from the trauma.