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Link to the book on Amazon.in

Can an Afghan be a Hindu or even a Sikh? History says yes. Islam entered Afghanistan in the 7th century. The Hindu Shahi rulers of kabulistan were replaced only by the end of the 10th century by the Ghaznavides, who maintained Hindu forces. For three-quarters of the 13th century, The pagan Mongol ruled the region. Timur the lame fought with the jats in Central Asia in the 14th century. Babur, who captured Kabul in 1504, refers to Kabul as hindustan’s own market. Further, Guru Nanak visit in the early 16th century laid the foundation of Sikhism in Afghanistan. Several documents record the native Hindus and Sikhs in the Afghan society and their thriving trade. But today, almost 99 percent of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs have left the country. The khurasan of yore accommodated Hindus and Sikhs as its own, yet today’s Afghanistan refuses to see them as natives. Will history claim justice for the original ‘lalas’? Afghan Hindus and Sikhs narrates the history of their rich contribution and turbulent journey in the last millennium.

Source: MENAFN, ToloNews

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(MENAFN – Daily Outlook Afghanistan) KABUL – Afghan Hindus and Sikhs at a ceremony in Kabul on Friday said their community has also been affected by insecurity and violence and that they fully support the ongoing efforts for peace as they are tired of war same as other citizens of Afghanistan.

They said they hope to see a peaceful Afghanistan in the not-so-distant future.
The Hindus and Sikhs remembered the 13 fallen members of their community who lost their lives in a suicide attack in eastern Nangarhar province last year. The ceremony was attended by a number of Kabul residents and government officials.

On July 2018, when a number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus wanted to visit President Ashraf Ghani in Jalalabad city in Nangarhar, a suicide bomber attacked them and killed 13 of them, including Afghan Sikh leader Avtar Singh Khalsa.
‘My father who headed the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus Council and was a teacher lost his life in that incident. Our representatives from Ghazni, our elders and prominent young people were killed in that incident, said Narender Singh Khalsa, son of Avtar Singh Khalsa.
Khalsa was the only candidate for parliamentary elections from the Hindus and Sikhs community. His son ran for parliamentary elections after his father’s death.
Royender Singh Khalsa, daughter of Khalsa, said they are not only faced with insecurity but they are suffering from injustices in society.

She said they want a peaceful life and that they support peace efforts.
‘My two sisters were killed in the past and my uncle was killed when the Kochis attacked our Dharamshala. What has remained for us in this city that we should love it and live for it? Nothing has left for us, our elders have been killed and now only widows and orphans have remained, Royender said.

Yusuf Pashtun, an advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, said at the ceremony that the Hindus and Sikhs have been living in Afghanistan for long time and that they have deep roots here.
‘There is no doubt that we accepted Islam, but we are from one tribe, we are brother and we should continue this brotherhood, said Pashtun.

An investigation by TOLOnews from last June shows that close to 99 percent of former Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan have left the country over the past three decades.
The investigation revealed that the Sikh and Hindu population number was 220,000 in the 1980s. That number dropped sharply to 15,000 when the mujahedeen were in power during the 1990s and remained at that level during the Taliban regime. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country.
According to the findings, the main reasons behind their departure include religious discrimination and government’s neglect of the minority group, during the Taliban era in particular.
The TOLOnews findings indicate that where Hindus and Sikhs were once very active in business within the country, they are now faced with increasing poverty.
The findings also show that Hindus and Sikhs had suffered huge setbacks after the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001. This forced a large number of them to leave the countryside and to migrate to Kabul for a living. As a result, there are no Sikh or Hindu citizens living in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Despite their problems, remaining Hindu and Sikh residents have said they are trying to continue with their lives in Afghanistan as they are optimistic about the country’s future. (Tolo news)

Source: Vancouver Sun

Husband Shamsheer Singh Khalsa, back left, and wife Havinder Kaur Khalsa, back right. Their children, from left, Tirath, 11, Jasmeet, 8, and Zorawer, 6. Fathe, 3, is in his father’s arms. The Surrey Sikh community sponsored this Afghan-Sikh refugee family. FRANCIS GEORGIAN / PNG

On the steps of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Tirath Singh Khalsa, 11, and his sister, Jasmeet Kaur, 8, waved small Canadian flags and smiled as dozens of members of Surrey’s Sikh community surrounded them.

The children, along with siblings Zorawer, 6, Fathe, 3, and parents Havinder Kaur Khalsa, 30, and Shamsheer Singh Khalsa, 40, had just arrived from India, part of a group of Afghan-Sikh refugees privately sponsored by the local community.

Their family had been part of the very small Punjabi Sikh and Hindu community living as a persecuted minority in northeastern Afghanistan. Shamsheer said the family lived in fear of Isis and the Taliban, and resisted threats to change their religion to Islam. Khalsa had been a shopkeeper, but said that because he wouldn’t convert to Islam, he was considered “an infidel.”

Prem Singh Vinning, past-president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, acted as a translator for the group, and said everyday life for the Punjabi community in northeastern Afghanistan is very difficult.

“The kids can’t go to school, because they would have to cut their hair and remove their turbans. The women would have to wear burkas, otherwise they are not safe at all, they are stoned. It’s very difficult and very challenging,” Vinning said.

Shamsheer said locals were warned by the Taliban not to patronize his shop: “Our business stopped.”

He said the family is very grateful to Canada for the welcome.

“I feel so happy, and say thanks to all Canadians. Canada is a safe country, and everyone wants to be safe and have (human) rights.”

The arrival of Khalsa, his wife and their four kids, and a second Sikh refugee family of six, was an emotional moment for Baljinder Singh Bhuller. Bhuller was on hand representing his late son, former Alberta MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar.

Bhullar said his son had begun the project of bringing the Afghan-Sikh refugees to Canada before he was tragically killed in a car accident in 2015. The family’s foundation carried on with the work after his death. With the assistance of the WSO of Canada, the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation moved 65 refugee families to India, and began the process of bringing them to Canada through private sponsorship.

“For over three years we have been providing them with food, shelter and medical care through the foundation,” said Bhullar.

Shamsheer said he’s looking forward to going to school — something he was not able to do while growing up in Afghanistan.

By the end of the month the foundation hopes to have 18 families resettled in Canada.

Between 800 and 1,000 Sikh and Hindu families remain in northeastern Afghanistan.

“I would say to the Canadian government to please help them,” Shamsheer said.

Click here to read the full article from Sikh Siyasat News

 

The Indo-Canadian Voice

AS part of this year’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of the successful private sponsorship refugee program, the federal government on Tuesday welcomed the first arrival of Sikh and Hindu minority refugee families from Afghanistan which was possible through the generosity of Canadians coming together to help resettle these vulnerable refugees.

Defence Minister Harjit Singh along with BC MPs Sukh Dhaliwal and Randeep Sarai.

 

 

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan greeted the first privately-sponsored families from among the approved Afghan minority refugee claimants after their arrival in Calgary.
He noted that Canada is a global leader in resettling the world’s most vulnerable, which is why the federal government has worked very closely with the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation and other partners to ensure safe resettlement opportunities in Canada.
Manmeet Singh Bhullar was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta who was known for his compassion and support for his community. Unfortunately, he tragically lost his life while helping a stranded motorist, but his legacy continues to positively affect those in Canada and around the world. His advocacy was instrumental in starting this process to assist the vulnerable Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan.

 

 

 

The private sponsorship of refugees program has helped resettle thousands of the world’s most vulnerable. The arrival of these refugees is an example of why this program is now being emulated by countries around the world. This program is built on the generosity of Canadians and will continue to help resettle those most in need, Sajjan noted.

He added: “Our government has taken action to ensure the safety of survivors of persecution and violence in Afghanistan. Families from among the Afghan Sikh and Hindu minority population have faced extreme risk based on their ethnicity and religious beliefs. We are proud to honour the legacy of my good friend Manmeet Singh Bhullar by welcoming members of this vulnerable population to Canada to offer them a new life and home, while ensuring they have the support they need to thrive.”
The Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation said: “Today marks an important step in fulfilling Manmeet’s vision for this project. We hope to continue welcoming other families as they complete the private sponsorship journey. Minister Sajjan’s stalwart leadership, assistance from the Government of Canada, bi-partisan support, and the sheer will of community members throughout Canada to share in this work; brings us to this point. These families can now move from not only surviving, but thriving while living the Canadian dream.”

 

Manmeet Bhullar

MEANWHILE, the World Sikh Organization of Canada said it was delighted to welcome the arrival of the first Sikh and Hindu refugee families from Afghanistan to Canada.  It said Tuesday’s arrivals were the result of the tireless work of Manmeet Singh Bhullar who championed this cause prior to his tragic passing in November 2015.

The arriving refugees have been sponsored through private applications that were spearheaded by the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation with support from the World Sikh Organization of Canada, community groups and individuals carrying on the tireless work of Bhullar. By utilizing the private sponsorship stream, individuals donate the costs of refugee sponsorship, maintaining legal responsibility to ensure settlement supports are provided to refugees.

Sikhs and Hindus have endured increasing religious persecution and today face a difficult, if not unlivable situation in many parts of Afghanistan.  The Sikh and Hindu communities that have lived in Afghanistan for hundreds of years, now number less than 1,000 individuals.  Prior to 1992, their population numbered over 200,000, however due to persecution and discrimination, most have been forced to flee to other countries.  The Afghan Sikh and Hindus remaining in Afghanistan are the most vulnerable who do not have the resources or ability to relocate.

In December 2014, Sikh and Hindu families from Afghanistan’s Helmand region reached out to the WSO for help.  In turn the WSO asked Bhullar for his assistance.  Bhulla began what seemed like the impossible task of helping these families on the other side of the world, in what was and continues to be an extremely dangerous region.  He single-handedly oversaw the safe exit of each Sikh and Hindu family from Helmand to India and helped find local organizations to assist with their basic needs.  As refugees in India have no legal status, receive no government assistance and often live in poverty, Bhullar strongly advocated for steps to help bring these families to Canada.

After Bhullar’s tragic passing in November 2015, the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation carried forward his work and with the assistance of gurdwaras, elected officials, the Sikh community and the WSO, we have finally seen the arrival of the first families to Canada.

WSO President Mukhbir Singh said: “The arrival of the first Afghan Sikh and Hindu families to Canada is a proud moment for our community and a tribute to the vision and efforts of Manmeet Singh Bhullar.  Manmeet saw a community in desperate need and despite the odds, found a way to help them.  The WSO is proud to have been a part of the team that has been working on this project with Manmeet and his family since 2015.  We thank the Government of Canada for their assistance in this process and look forward to the expeditious processing of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugee applications still in queue. While the arrival of these first families is an important milestone that we are celebrating, we also know that there are approximately 1,000 Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan today in very desperate straits and who are facing severe religious persecution and continue to plead for assistance. We must ensure that urgent steps are taken to help them as well.”

Afghan Sikh Tragedy