Afghans in India

Afghan Indians are Indian citizens and non-citizen residents born in, or with ancestors from, Afghanistan.[6][7] As of early 2021, there are at least 15,806 Afghans temporarily residing in India under a special protection and care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).[1][2] Apart from citizens and expatriates, there are a number of communities in India who trace their ancestry back to Pashtun forefathers of Pashtunistan.

Afghans in India
Total population
15,806 Afghan refugees (2021)[1][2]
4,504 Afghan students (2021)[3]
Regions with significant populations
Delhi · Kolkata · Bangalore · Visakhapatnam · Hyderabad
Hindi · Urdu · Pashto · Dari
Hinduism · Sikhism · Islam · Christianity[4][5]


The earliest record of Afghans in India is during the late 13th century when they began migrating during the Khalji dynasty who formed an empire in Northern India. It was founded by Jalal ud din Firuz Khalji and became the second Muslim dynasty to rule the Delhi sultanate of India.[8][9] The Lodi dynasty ruled Northern India until the invasion of Babur in 1526, at which point the Mughal Empire was created. During this period Afghans from Kabulistan began arriving to India for business and pleasure. The Sur Empire replaced the Mughal Empire from 1540 to 1557. Other Pashtuns began invading India until the Sikh Empire came to power. This formed a barrier between Afghanistan (Durrani Empire) and British India. Afghans were required visas to enter India after this period.

The Pashtun emperor Sher Shah Suri (Farid Khan) defeated the Mughal Empire in 1540. After his accidental death in 1545, his son Islam Shah became his successor. He first served as a private before rising to become a commander in the Mughal army under Babur and then as the governor of Bihar. In 1537, when Babur's son Humayun was elsewhere on an expedition, Sher Shah overran the state of Bengal and established the Sur Dynasty. A brilliant strategist, Sher Shah proved himself a gifted administrator as well as a capable general. His reorganization of the empire laid the foundations for the later Mughal emperors, notably Akbar, son of Humayun. He extended the Grand Trunk Road from Chittagong in the frontiers of the province of Bengal in near eastern India to Kabul in Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.

During the 19th century many Afghans migrated to India. Prominent among them were the families of Nawab of Sardhana[10] and the Qizilbashi Agha family of Srinagar, Kashmir.[11] Both the families had martial lineage and belonged to the feudal aristocracy.[12]

Partition of India and the arrival of Afghan refugeesEdit

Bollywood actor and director Feroz Khan in 2005

Before and after the partition of India in 1947, a number of Afghans left their native areas in order to take permanent residency in major Indian cities such as Mumbai and Bangalore. Some of those immigrants got involved in the Bollywood film industry, which had already been dominated by people originating from the Pashtunistan region. Some of the well-known Indian actors and producers of Afghan heritage are Feroz Khan, Salim Khan and Kader Khan. All of the early Afghans have acquired citizenship of India in accordance with Indian law. As such, they are widely recognized as Indians.

After the start of the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979, approximately 60,000 Afghans took temporary residency in India, most of them being Hindu and Sikh Afghans.[13][14][15] Many of them have subsequently immigrated to countries in Europe, North America and Oceania. Some have returned to their native areas in Afghanistan after the formation of the Karzai administration in late 2001.[16] Those that remained in India have applied for citizenship of India.[6]

On January 1, 2016, Adnan Sami became a citizen of India. He is a Pashtun from his father Arshad Sami Khan's side. Adnan's grandfather General Mehfooz Jan hailed from Herat in Afghanistan and was the governor of four provinces in that country, namely Herat, Kabul, Nangarhar and Balkh, under the reign of King Amanullah Khan. Adnan's great-grandfather General Ahmed Jan was the military adviser to King Abdur Rahman Khan. General Ahmed Jan was the conqueror of Kafiristan and named it Nuristan. However, at the time of the Habibullah Kalakani revolution in Afghanistan, Adnan's grandfather General Mehfooz Jan was assassinated. The family moved to Peshawar, which was a part of British India at that time.[17]

According to UNHCR, India currently hosts at least 15,806 Afghan refugees within its borders.[1][2][18] Religiously, they include Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians[19][6][20][21] The majority of them reside in the capital Delhi, specifically in the neighborhoods of Lajpat Nagar, Bhogal and Malviya Nagar.[22] In addition to the refugees, thousands of Afghan students study in Indian universities.[3]

Afghan citizens use India as a temporary place of residence until they are firmly settled in countries of Europe, North America or Oceania.[23] Those who are denied admission into those countries can either remain in India, travel to another country, or return to Afghanistan. In 2021, following the end of the latest war in Afghanistan, India offered an emergency visa (the 'e-Emergency X-Misc Visa') to some Afghan nationals.[19][24][15] Much of Afghanistan's Christian community thrives within India. Prior to 2021, Some Afghani refugees have trouble getting long term visas enabling work and permission to study despite being granted refugee status by UNHCR. Many had issues with enrolling their children in school.[23] Despite these difficulties, some had managed to operate "shops, restaurants and pharmacies."[22][7][25]

Pashto-speaking communities in IndiaEdit

The following are places where Pashtun culture can be found: Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal and Indore); Punjab (Maler Kotla); Bihar (Gaya, Sherghati, Patna, Aurangabad and Sasaram); and Uttar Pradesh (Malihabad, Etawah, Shahjahanpur, Rampur).

There are a large number of Pashto-speaking Pakhtuns in the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal and the territory of Jammu and Kashmir.[26] Although their exact numbers are hard to determine, it is at least in excess of 100,000 for it is known that in 1954 over 100,000 nomadic Pakhtuns living in Kashmir Valley were granted Indian citizenship.[27] Today jirgas are frequently held.[28] Those settled and living in the Kashmir Valley speak Pashto, and are found chiefly in the southwest of the valley, where Pashtun colonies have from time to time been founded. The most interesting are the Kukikhel Afridis of Dramghaihama, who retain all the old customs and speak Pashto. They wear colorful dress and carry swords and shields. The Afridis and the Machipurians, who belong to the Yusufzai tribe, are liable to military service, in return for which they hold certain villages free of revenue. The Pashtuns chiefly came in under the Durranis, but many were brought by Maharajah Gulab Singh for service on the frontier.[29] Pashto is also spoken in two villages, Dhakki and Changnar (Chaknot), located on the Line of Control in Kupwara District.[30] In response to demand by the Pashtun community living in the state, Kashir TV has recently launched a series of Pushto-language programs.[31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Onward Movements of Afghan Refugees (PDF), UNHCR, March–April 2021, retrieved 24 August 2021
  2. ^ a b c "Afghan refugees in India cast adrift amid coronavirus pandemic". DW News. 10 May 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Over 4,500 Afghan students on Indian campuses hold their breath". The Times of India. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  4. ^ An Afghan Church Grows in Delhi. July 22, 2013. Retrieved 2015-02-04.
  5. ^ Where Afghan Christians Flee After Converting to Christianity. July 25, 2013. Retrieved 2015-02-04.
  6. ^ a b c "Afghan refugees in search of Indian identity". UNHCR. 19 May 2005. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Afghan Refugees In India Fret Over The News Back Home, And Their Own Legal Status". NPR. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  8. ^ Chaurasia, Radhey Shyam (2002). History of medieval India: from 1000 A.D. to 1707 A.D. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 337. ISBN 81-269-0123-3. Retrieved 23 August 2010. The Khiljis were a Central Asian Turkic dynasty but having been long domiciled in Afghanistan, and adopted some Afghan habits and customs. They were treated as Afghans in Delhi Court
  9. ^ Cavendish, Marshall (2006). World and Its Peoples: The Middle East, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. Marshall Cavendish. p. 320. ISBN 0-7614-7571-0. Retrieved 23 August 2010. The sultans of the Slave Dynasty were Turkic Central Asians, but the members of the new dynasty, although they were also Turkic, had settled in Afghanistan and brought a new set of customs and culture to Delhi.
  10. ^ Lethbridge, Roper (31 March 1893). "The golden book of India, a genealogical and biographical dictionary of the ruling princes, chiefs, nobles, and other personages, titled or decorated, of the Indian empire". London Macmillan. Retrieved 31 March 2023 – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  12. ^ "Agha Family of Srinagar Kashmir". Agha Family of Srinagar Kashmir. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  13. ^ "Rohingyas in India" (PDF). Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2020. p. 7. Retrieved 25 August 2021. In the 1980s, the Afghan-Soviet war brought about 60,000 Afghan (majority Sikh and Hindu) refugees in India.
  14. ^ "Afghan refugees in India face an uncertain future". TRT World. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  15. ^ a b Alam, Majid (18 August 2021). "As India Mulls Giving Asylum to Afghan Nationals, A Look at Its Refugee Policy And Citizenship Rules". News18. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Indian diarist Sushmita Banerjee shot dead in Afghanistan". BBC News. 3 September 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  17. ^ "Adnan Sami: Fastest fingers first". The Times of India.
  18. ^ Lalwani, Vijayta (18 July 2021). "As tensions rise in Afghanistan, refugees in Delhi worry about their relatives back home".
  19. ^ a b "India says it will prioritize Hindus and Sikhs in issuing 'emergency visas' to Afghans". The New York Times. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  20. ^ "An Afghan Church Grows in Delhi". The New York Times. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  21. ^ "Where Afghan Christians Flee After Converting to Christianity". Christianity Today. 25 July 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  22. ^ a b Aafaq, Zafar (17 August 2021). "'Our future unknown': Afghan nationals in India wary of Taliban". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  23. ^ a b "Tough times follow Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban to Delhi". The Indian Express. 24 July 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  24. ^ "India announces emergency e-visa for Afghans". The Hindu. 17 August 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  25. ^ Iyengar, Radhika (28 July 2018). "The Afghan Christian refugees of Delhi". Mint. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  26. ^ "Special focus on Gujjars, Paharis: CM". Daily Excelsior. Retrieved 22 August 2009.[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Pashtoons in Kashmir". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 20 July 1954. Archived from the original on 9 December 2004. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  28. ^ "Justice rolls in Kashmir, Afghan-style". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  29. ^ "Saiyids, Mughals, Pashtuns and Galawans". OPF. Archived from the original on 15 May 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2007.
  30. ^ "A First Look at the Language of Kundal Shahi in Azad Kashmir" (PDF). SIL International. Retrieved 11 June 2009.
  31. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Jammu & Kashmir".

Further readingEdit

  • Gommans, Jos J. L. (2007). "Afghāns in India". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (3rd ed.). Brill Online. ISSN 1873-9830.