Today, Afghanistan is celebrating its 101st year of Independence from the British Empire. I got in touch with Jalaluddin Hakimi, a young Afghan student studying at Pune University, and struck a conversation with him to learn more about his education, the India-Afghan connect and what independence means to him amid the turmoil back home. Sharing some excerpts:
Could you please tell our readers a bit about yourself, your tribe/clan and which part of Afghanistan you belong to?
I am Jalaluddin Hakimi from Baghlan province, which lies in the north eastern region of Afghanistan. As a person from the 21st century, and as a moderate, I do not believe in tribe and ethnic divisions, but I do believe that ethnicity is crucial for human communities to recognize each other and establish stable and peaceful relationships between themselves. My country Afghanistan is a land of various ethnicities; I belong to the Aimaq Tribe which is among the 14 minorities recognized by our Constitution.
How has your experience been as a student in India? How will studying here help you professionally, especially when you return to your country?
I am currently pursuing a Masters degree in Defence and Strategic Studies at Pune University. I find India to be a rich cultural society, democratic and with high level of tolerance. Indians are peace-loving people. As a student, I believe India’s good education system is at the centre of communicating different cultures, opinion, and beliefs effectively. My stay in Pune is very pleasant due to the city’s weather, and also because the city attracts a lot of foreign students.
Higher education institutes back in Afghanistan do not provide the course I am studying in Pune. Hence, my education here [in Pune] will help me when I return back to my country as my learning here will be useful for our national security issues.
Afghanistan is an ancient civilization with diverse culture and ethnicities. What are some similarities that you were able to draw with Indian culture?
Both India and Afghanistan have a rich culture and our connections go back way beyond 3-4 millennia. Similarities abound across various fields – society, language, music, architecture, religion – you name it. During the Mughal period, Farsi/Persian was the official court language in India; the Buddha statues in Bamiyan province of Afghanistan are a monumental example of our ancient cultural linkages.
Indian cinema has a huge cultural influence on Afghanistan as the Hindi/Urdu language is famous; those who love movies can definitely speak and understand Hindi/Urdu. We also learn a lot about India’s social traditions from movies. Ustad Mohammad Hussain Sarahang was and continues to be the most famous musician and singer of Afghanistan. He has studied Indian Classical Music in the Patiala Gharana. This is a very significant cultural linkage that has strengthened Indian-Afghan relationship.
The scholarship programme of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) is one of the most important programmes for us. In the last 15 years, it has helped thousands of Afghan students to study in India and the outcome of such programmes has helped in connecting common Indians and Afghans in friendship and building stable relations between the two nations.
Afghanistan is celebrating its 101st year of independence from the British empire. How is Independence Day usually celebrated in Afghanistan?
Afghanistan got its independence from British Empire under the leadership of King Amanullah Khan. Both government and the people celebrate this day. State authorities at national and provincial levels hold flag hoisting ceremonies and deliver official speeches. They tell stories of the bravery and struggle of our ancestors and encourage the younger generations to participate in nation-building. The armed forces also organize special ceremonies, and schools host singing programmes by and for students.
Common citizens celebrate through folk music and dance such as Qataghani, Attan and Qarsak on this day and since it is a holiday, they also go out for picnics with friends and families.
From 1935 to 1985, Afghans celebrated their Independence Day with much pomp, glory, and splendour, but today, due to security issues, people cannot celebrate the day as they desire.
There is lot of political turmoil going on in Afghanistan, plus the security situation is fragile. In these conditions what do the people of Afghanistan aspire for?
The security situation is not good. Our government is weak and cannot deliver the required services to the people. Unemployment and poverty rates are very high as well, but the most critical of all is the security crisis. Taliban, ISIS and so many other armed and insurgent groups are our biggest security issues.
Currently, discussions of peace are underway between the US, the Taliban, and the Afghan Government. Recently, the Loya Jirga (Assembly of Elders) voted in favour of releasing 400 Taliban prisoners, hoping that it will help build mutual trust between the Taliban and the Afghan Government, and accelerate intra-Afghan peace talks/dialogues.
Afghans aspire to have a stable, peaceful, and sustainable security situation where there is no more bloodshed, no more threats to people’s lives. Afghan people want their Constitution to be upheld. They prize freedom of speech, women’s rights and human rights, democracy, and similar liberal values. They are eager to defend and protect whatever they have achieved in these areas in the last two decades.
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