Afghanistan is not very far from Delhi

A colony in the city feels like home for Afghans who come here as traders, refugees

When winter sets in, hundreds of Afghans flock to Delhi. From December to February everything gets covered in snow in Afghanistan. So businessmen and patients find it convenient to spend this quarter of the year here.

Coming to Delhi has become synonymous with staying in south Delhi’s affluent suburb Lajpat Nagar, and to be more precise, in Kasturba Niketan Colony, where almost every flat houses an Afghan. The area is also known as mini Afghanistan.

Not only this, even Central Market in Lajpat Nagar has many shops run by Afghans. “We find it better here. We are treated equally in Delhi. I have never come across any bad experience,” says 40-year-old Asif, who has been staying in Kasturba Colony since 2011. “Back in Afghanistan one has to live in fear. But in India we feel safe.”

The flats in Kasturba Niketan Colony are given on rent from Rs 500 per day to Rs 15,000 per month.

Some Indians have opened Afghan restaurants to cater to this community. Devender Sehgal says winter is a tourist season and some 5,000 Afghans come to Delhi. “It’s a lucrative business to serve Afghans because they comprise a large chunk of people living in Lajpat Nagar,” adds the owner of The Lazeez Hotel. 

“I have a close connection with Afghanistan as I have worked there from 2005 to 2011,” says the 39-year-old businessman.

Afghans also come to Delhi in this season as it’s suitable for doing business, Sehgal adds. 

“They come to Delhi, stay here for nearly three months and during this time they roam around the city and its neighbouring states and buy raw materials. They take the goods back home after the weather gets clear in Afghanistan,” he says.

Apart from such visitors, there are Afghans living with families here who have taken refuge in India. “The United Nations gives us the status of refugees and the Indian government allows us to stay here,” says Kasim, who lives in Lajpat Nagar with his family. “We are treated at par with Indians here. We have never felt for once that we are in a foreign land,” he adds. “Almost 90 per cent of Afghans who come to India know Hindi, so there is no problem in communicating with locals.” 

Bollywood movies and old Hindi songs are a huge hit in Afghanistan.

“These days too one can find cassettes of old Hindi songs of Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar or composed by Naushad, among others, in every household in Afghanistan,” says 55-year-old Kasim. “We like watching old Hindi movies.”

Himesh Reshammiya is a huge hit among youngsters in Afghanistan, he adds. “They play his songs in their cars back in Afghanistan.”

Afghans also come to Delhi for medical treatment. “India and especially Delhi is known for providing world-class medical facilities at very economical rates. So we like to come here for big surgeries,” says Waheed, who arrived in Delhi in December.

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