Express News Service
CHENNAI: Kanika Gupta was reporting from Kabul when the Taliban took over on August 15. An independent journalist who writes human stories from conflict zones, Kanika was airlifted in a special aircraft by the Indian government on Tuesday. In a telephonic interview, she tells TNIE about Kabul’s fall, the commotion, evacuation and the distraught Afghans.
When did you think Kabul’s fall was imminent?
Sunday morning, we heard that Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, has fallen. It is not very far from Kabul. We kept getting updates. After a couple of hours, we heard the Taliban were within the city limits. When they reached places like Paghman, we knew they were basically inside the city. The news was declared on radio, triggering commotion. People started running in panic. It only took an hour or so for President Ghani to step down.
How did you all prepare?
I was scared. The Indian community I was in touch with were relatively calmer, based on assurances from the Taliban that none would be hurt. We were in touch with each other. I was trying to get in touch with the Embassy, but they were inundated with phone calls. They did not have an idea what to do and instructed us to stay put. At that point, officials did not have an evacuation plan. We were basically banding together as a community and figuring out what is the best to avoid panicking. As journalists, we put a lot of pressure on the Indian government to put us on an evacuation flight.
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How helpful were the Indian authorities?
Ever since the evacuation process began and till I was brought back to India, officials were helpful and careful. For that part, I will commend them. But, my beef with the government was, I had to pull a lot of strings to get us there. Without that our evacuation would not have been possible. As of now, there are 500 civilians stuck in Afghanistan. Many of their passports are with their employers. This is crisis upon crisis.
Are you getting SOS requests?
I am flooded with calls. People are asking to somehow make the help reach them. I am asking for details and telling them I will do what I can. As a civilian journalist, I am trying to help as much as I can. But, the government is not responsive, at least till I left. At least, they have to tell people a plan is in place. This will give them confidence. Till the time I left, there was radio silence from the government, whose priority was to evacuate diplomats.