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India will prioritize Hindus and Sikhs in issuing 'emergency visas' to Afghan nationals.

There are no reports that India prioritized any religion for repatriation from Afghanistan. All Afghan nationals are eligible for the e-Visa.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, social media has seen a surge in posts and videos on the matter. Countries are involved in evacuating their citizens back to their country. One such contention made by journalists and netizens was, "India will prioritize Hindus and Sikhs in issuing emergency visas to Afghan nationals." However, the Indian government has made no statement in support of religion being prioritized while issuing e-Visa.

The New York Times published an article on August 17, 2021, claiming India prioritized Hindus and Sikhs' repatriation from Afghanistan. Following that, Kanchan Gupta, Senior Adviser of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, rebuffed the report on the same day. He cited The New York Times article in one of his tweets and said, "India has promptly introduced an emergency e-visa for Afghanistan nationals. No religious criteria were mentioned. Apart from Hindus and Sikhs, India has said it stands by and will offer all assistance to Afghan friends." Gupta also attached the e-Visa online application form image, which did not mention the religion criteria.

Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs, India, on August 16, tweeted, "MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) has set up a Special Afghanistan Cell to coordinate repatriation and other requests from Afghanistan." Further, the tweet had all the contact details.

On August 16, Bagchi said, "We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan." He exclaimed that there were Afghans who had been their "partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people-to-people endeavors," and following which India would stand by them. He also added that they were aware that many other Indian nationals in Afghanistan were willing to return to India, and they were in touch with them also, All India Radio News reported.

All India Radio News also informed that the Indian government was constantly monitoring the prevailing situation in Afghanistan; in response, the MEA had circulated emergency contact numbers and even extended their assistance to community members.

The MEA released a situation report on Afghanistan on August 17, which said the "main challenge for travel to and from Afghanistan is the operational status of Kabul airport." But the Government of India is committed to the safe return of all Indian nationals. The report informed that they have been issuing periodic travel and security advisories for all Indian nationals in Afghanistan. "Our immediate priority is to obtain accurate information about all Indian nationals currently in Afghanistan."

The Spokesperson of MEA tweeted after reviewing visa provisions in view of the current situation in Afghanistan, "A new category of electronic visa called "e-Emergency X-Misc Visa" introduced; to fast-track visa applications for entry into India." This type of visa may be granted only once and for a particular period of time, depending on the purpose of the travel. It is non-extendable and non-convertible to any other type of visa. In addition, it also announces that the previous emergency visas which were issued to Afghanistan nationals are suspended on August 25 over the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan.

Therefore, e-Visa issued by the Indian government is applicable to all Afghanistan nationals who wish to travel to India, not only for people of certain religions.

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