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Source: SikhArchive

Welcome to the fourth history podcast by SikhArchive, today we are joined by Inderjeet Singh from Nottingham UK to discuss his new book, titled ‘Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, history of a thousand years’. 

Inderjeet Singh is an author of several articles on SikhNet on topics related to Sikh history and has now collected and concentrated his efforts more recently to compile a short introductory book in English on the historical timeline of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan.
The book which was published in April this year was a really good read that was full of facts, tales, Janam Sakhis, and generally a great summary on the lives and heritage of the Afghani Sikh community. Chapters include, Guru Nanak and Sikhs in Afghanistan, Gurdwaras in Afghanistan and the Pathan Sikhs of Pakistan. These are just some of my favourite chapters in the book.
I reached out to Inderjeet Singh in May this year to conduct a podcast on his boo k to learn more about it and the reasons for why he undertook such a task and what motivated him. And  We had a great discussion which I am honoured to host and share with you all.

Source: The Logical Indian

“I want to tear myself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But I am here, my legs blocks of concrete, my lungs empty of air, my throat burning. There will be no floating away.” 

Sikh and Hindu families were once a thriving minority in Afghanistan. Blaming growing intolerance and discrimination, many have fled their motherland.

Chairman of the national council of Hindus and Sikhs, Avtar Singh, says that compared to around 220,000 members of the community that lived in Afghanistan before the collapse of the Kabul government in 1992, there are fewer than 220 families.

The community, which was once spread across the country, is now mainly concentrated in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Ghazni, and the capital Kabul.


Fear, Isolation And Discrimination

Afghanistan is almost entirely Muslim. However, its constitution, which was drawn up after the Taliban government was driven out in 2001 by US-led forces, theoretically guarantees the right of minority religions to be able to worship freely.

Avtar Singh, however, says that under the Taliban, conditions were worse. They imposed strict Islamic laws, staged public executions and deprived women and girls of their basic rights, including education.

“A society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated,” Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini wrote in A Thousand Splendid Suns. 

Under the Taliban rule, Hindus and Sikhs only had wear yellow patches that identified them in public. Otherwise, they were hardly ever bothered.

Neighbourhoods in Kabul have become densely populated over the years. New residents often oppose Sikh and Hindu cremations, which is a practice that Muslims, who bury their dead, are not familiar with. The smell of a body is burned makes the families feel sick, they say.

For their funerals, the community now requires police protection. According to the Sikhs, local Muslim hardliners have become extremely hostile against them.

However, Dahi-ul Haq Abid, deputy minister for Haj and religious affairs, said that the government has done their best for the well-being of the community.

“We agree that conflicts pushed them out of the country, but their condition is not as bad as they claim,” Abid said. “We have allocated them a place to burn their bodies because inside the city people complained about the smell, but they did not agree.”

Children of the community, too, complain of harassment in their schools by other kids.

“Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. A city of harelipped ghosts,” Khaled Hosseini wrote. 


Afghanistan Has Always Been War-Torn

When The Kite Runner’s Amir returns to Afghanistan years after he fled the country with his family, he comes back to a war-torn country with men, women and children, violated and mistreated, weeping at the corners of the streets, the snow-white expanses of which were smeared in blood.

Sikhs and Hindus may be the victims now, but Afghanistan has always been a war-torn country. Bombs and gunshots and weeping children are what paint the picture that Afghanistan is.

Amir’s experience of fleeing the country and coming back to it is exactly what Hosseini had gone through himself.

Talking about his return, Hosseini wrote, “When I went to Afghanistan in 2003, I walked into a war zone. Entire neighbourhoods had been demolished. There were an overwhelming number of widows and orphans and people who had been physically and emotionally damaged; every 10-year-old kid on the street knew how to dismantle a Kalashnikov in under a minute. I would flip through math textbooks intended for third grade, fourth grade, and they would include word problems such as, “If you have 100 grenades and 20 mujahideen, how many grenades per mujahideen do you get?” War has infiltrated every facet of life.”

Source: Birmingham Live

Controversial plans to convert a former travel agency in Smethwick into a Sikh temple are expected to be approved next week.

Members of Sandwell’s planning committee had deferred the application to carry out their own inspection of the site in South Road, opposite the Grade II listed Holy Trinity Church.

Afghan Sikh Ekta Charitable Foundation is applying for permission to demolish the present office building, which is made up of three converted terraced houses believed to have been built in the late 19th century.

The site sits on the edge of Smethwick Town Centre Conservation Area and objectors have raised concerns about the temple’s impact.

The application proposes to demolish the existing building and replace it with a two-storey place of worship measuring 27 metres wide by 12 metres deep and high.

It also proposes 24 off-road car parking spaces at the side and rear of the property.

In 1999, the council gave permission for the site to be converted into a travel agents with living accommodation for staff.

Objectors say the plans do not provide enough parking spaces and the existing building could be saved from demolition by converting it into a place of worship.

But in recommending approval, planning officers say the temple could accommodate up to 220 people and the proposed on-site parking was sufficient for 150.

They add that at peaks times there is adequate spaces available on nearby roads while pointing out the Holy Trinity Church across the road provides no off-road parking at all.

Dismissing the objections, a report to the planning committee says: “This is not a valid reason for refusal. The proposal would clearly meet a local need.

“The proposed building would be purpose built as a place of worship. It is therefore understandable that the applicant would prefer this option and it would most successfully meet their needs.”

Councillors will make their decision on July 3.

 

Source: NDTV

Mr Badal said that a delegation of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) led by its president Manjinder Singh Sirsa would meet Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Tuesday …

Among other demands, the delegation will urge for giving formal permission for the DSGMC’s Nagar Kirtan to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on the occasion of 550th Parkash Parv of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It will also urge for grant of citizenship to thousands of Afghan Sikhs living in India besides urging that Jammu and Kashmir Sikhs be given minority status in Jammu and Kashmir and immediate redevelopment of Punjabi Colony, Mumbai which has been declared as dangerous.

Source: Tolo

Youths and new faces are making at least 70 percent of Afghanistan’s parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, which has 249 members. 

According to the secretary of the house, Afghan women managed to secure 27 of the seats in the parliament after October elections.

A number of new lawmakers who have secured said that they will soon start their legislative responsibilities as a routine once the current rift over the election of a new speaker of the house is over.

“We are optimistic that the young lawmakers use their abilities and try for implementation of the law in Afghanistan,” said Narendra Singh Khalsa, an MP representing Afghanistan’s Sikh minority.

“In this round, we see two positive things: first the number of young lawmakers has increased and they have more motivation for work, and second, we have educated youths and we consider it a positive step,” said Rahimullah Ghalib, deputy of parliament’s secretariat chief.

There were 249 seats in the parliament in the previous rounds of the parliament, but the Afghan government later decided to consider one seat reservation for Afghanistan’s Hindu and Sikh community.

Source: Gov.UK

A detailed report by UK government about Afghan Hindus and Sikhs

In case the above URL doesn’t work, here’s a link to local copy.

Local copy is saved for archival purposes as websites change and information is archived.

Source: SikhNet.com

Pritpal Singh, an ethnic Afghan Sikh, and media personality well known for his TV documentaries, Mission Afghanistan and Hindu Kush to Thames interviews Inderjeet Singh on his new book on Afghan Hindus & Sikhs.

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Q – Inderjeet, you used to regularly write articles on Sikh history for Sikhnet but it has been well over a year since you have written anything, have you been on a sabbatical?

A – Yes, Pritpal, you are right. I have not written an article since January 2018. I have been busy writing a book on Afghan Hindus & Sikhs.

Q – I am very pleased but equally curious about why you choose this topic? Are you an Afghan Sikh?

A – No, I am Punjabi Sikh. My paternal grandparents were from Lahore and maternal grandparents came from Lyallpur (now Faisalabad). Following the partition of Punjab, they came and settled in East Punjab in India. The Sikh community lost schools, colleges, businesses, properties, agriculture land, heritage and above all our historical Gurdwara Sahibs. And the almost same thing has happened with Sikhs (& Hindus) in Afghanistan. I was concerned that we need to document the life and time of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus before all of them leave the country.

Q – How did this journey of writing the book begin?

A – I was always intrigued why and how Sindhi Hindus revere Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Gurbani? I have written a few articles on it. I also noticed that some Hindus in Baluchistan and KPK province are also Guru Nanak Naam Leva Sikhs. I started gathering information about them. I started reading the accounts of British travellers and agents of 18th and 19th century who travelled to these provinces. Some of them also went to Afghanistan and it was interesting to note that they wrote that they found Hindus shops and merchants in Kabul and Peshawar in the 1780s and early 1800s. In Peshawar, Pakistan most local Pathans/Pashtuns believe that Hindus and Sikhs came to Peshawar when Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed the city in 1834. The Maharaja first won it in 1818 and made the city his tributary. We have two British accounts to prove that Hindus & Sikhs lived in Peshawar prior to 1834. This gave me a clue that I could write something meaningful.

Q – The local Afghans don’t believe that Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are natives of Afghanistan. What do you intend to achieve from this book?

A – Yes, the locals in Afghanistan believe Afghan Sikhs and Hindus came to the country when Ahmed Shah Abdali brought them as slaves or merchants from India. Some state that Afghan Sikhs and Hindus came when Mughals joined Kabulistan with North India. I want to prove to the world that Afghan Hindus and Sikhs are the natives of Afghanistan.

Q – Most Afghans do not give much credence to writings of outsiders especially those of Europeans? Have you referred Afghan historians in your book?

A – My book covers the period approximately from 950AD to 2019. I have used contemporary or near-contemporary sources only. Till the 16th century, I had to use Farsi sources. After the 16th century onwards I have used Punjabi, European, Farsi and Afghan sources. I can’t read Farsi hence I believe some of the sources may have been missed. But most history written in South Asia has been political history, the chronology of conquests by Kings and I wrote about a small minority. Most Afghan historians make only passing reference to Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. A lot of space is given to Maharaja Ranjit Singh who was a neighbouring ruler and he annexed Attock, Derajat, Multan, Peshawar, and Kashmir from Afghans. But they were the Sikhs from Punjab and I wrote about the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. I have been very clear about this distinction.

Q – What challenges did you encounter in writing this book?

Afghan 1 Prof Ganda Singh.jpg

A – The information on Afghan Sikhs and Hindus is very minuscule. We get references of Sikh Sangat from Kabul and Peshawar coming to Punjab during the Guru Sahiban’s time but none of Afghan Hindus or Sikhs have left a written record of themselves. Hence I had to rely on other sources. Professor Ganda Singh visited Afghanistan in 1951 and left a travelogue in Punjabi which is very valuable. Despite my best efforts and I spoke to a number of Afghan Hindus but I was unable to find the history of Mandirs in Kandahar. Some people of the community were not interested in history and sadly they did not reply to my messages and phone calls, which was very disappointing. Those who returned my call developed cold feet (lest they would give inadequate information) when they came to know that I was writing a book.

Q – Did you managed to speak to Afghan Sikhs and Hindus who are living in Afghanistan?

A – Yes, I spoke to few Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan for my last chapter including late Sardar Avtar Singh Khalsa and his son Narinder Singh Khalsa. Ram Saran Bhasin from Kabul was very helpful. You gave me details about Khajinder Singh Khurana and he kindly sent his book to me which proved very useful. Dr. Joginder Singh Tej Khurana Ji, former Member of the Afghan Great Assembly who later wrote the foreword of the book was very happy to meet me and congratulated me for writing the first ever book on Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in English. This encouragement led me to write further 10,000 words when I had already submitted my final manuscript to the publisher!

Q – Thanks Inderjeet for speaking to me. I sincerely hope that your book is well received and read.

A – Thanks Pritpal for your support. I would like to tell the readers that Pritpal has been mentioned 15 times in my book. All contributions and people to whom I have spoken have been duly noted in the book. I hope through this book, the general public and especially the new generation of Afghan Hindus & Sikhs will be a little bit wiser about their history. This will also assist in raising awareness about the issues concerning Afghan Sikhs and Hindus still living in Afghanistan.

For more information visit here.
Book on Amazon India
Book on Amazon.com