'Kabuliwalas' of Kolkata rocked by Khost earthquake, seek global intervention


Kolkata, June 22 : The earthquake in Afghanistan that has claimed over 1,000 lives has shaken up the 'Kabuliwalas' in Kolkata. Many of them have families in the Khost region of Afghanistan, the epicentre of the earthquake, but are unable to receive any information regarding the well-being of their relatives. "My brother and his family live in Khost. For several hours now, I have been trying to get in touch with them. I realise that mobile towers may have been affected due to the tremor, but there should be a helpline. Things have gone haywire ever since the Taliban took over. They have no experience in handling such a crisis. All they know is how to kill people and subjugate others," an enraged Afghan national residing in Kolkata said. The earthquake occurred at around 2.30 a.m. (IST) on Wednesday in the Paktika province. Most casualties are from Khost where houses have been flattened even as the occupants slept. It was 1.30 a.m. in Afghanistan then. This is being considered the worst earthquake to have hit Afghanistan in the last three decades. It has been more than 12 hours since then, but there has been no noticeable effort to trace the trapped people and bring them out from under the rubble. The Taliban government in charge of affairs in Afghanistan simply doesn't have the capability to handle a natural disaster of this kind. "One of my sons lives in Khost with his family. I got in touch with some relatives in Kabul but they have received no information. The international community must rush in to provide help. The Taliban is incapable. They only know how to kill, not to rescue. All information from that region has been cut off. I am also trying to get in touch with India's External Affairs Ministry," another Afghan national in Kolkata said. The number of Afghan nationals in Kolkata has dwindled over the years, but over a thousand of them, some with families, still remain. The name 'Kabuliwala' or 'a person from Kabul' came into being after Rabindranath Tagore's famous story by the same name written exactly 130 years ago in 1892. While the Kabuliwalas of Kolkata no longer go from house to house peddling dry fruits and 'Ittar', many have built a life here as money lenders (with licence). Some of them arrived in the city over the last two decades, leaving behind families in a war-torn country, in search of a livelihood. They are the ones who are worried the most about the fate of their loved ones. They refuse to give their names, fearing reprisal by the Taliban against their family members still living in Afghanistan. "We hate the Taliban and their principles. We also hate the US for having ruined our country and then fled, leaving the Taliban as vultures to scavenge among the ruins. Why is the world sitting still when such a major humanitarian crisis has affected Afghanistan? Unless rescue operations are mounted, the death toll will go up to several thousand. Our people will die," another Afghan national said. This 48-year-old man's wife and three children live in Kabul and he is making all efforts to bring them to India. His father and two brothers and their families were in Khost though till last information came in. /IANS


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