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Sikhi and Sindhi Hindus

Here’s a scholarly article by Inderjeet Singh who has also written about Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. Although the article is about Sindhis in Pakistan, much of it applies also to Sindhis in Afghanistan.

Source: The Print

Afghan Sikhs who feel unsafe and targeted for their religion in Afghanistan have been coming to India. However, once here, the reality is a different kind of struggle.

Komaldeep Kaur wanted to become a doctor, but after her father’s death, the family’s financial condition has not allowed her to study. They are among the many Afghan Sikh families who have moved to India in search of a better life | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

New Delhi: Two years ago, after the death of her husband, Hardeep Kaur and her family shifted to Delhi’s Tilak Nagar with the help of the city’s Guru Arjun Dev Ji Gurdwara. The 40-year-old widow stays in Galli No. 5 of Krishna Park with her 12-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son.

Her husband Rawal Singh Partan was among the 19 Afghan Sikhs killed in the Jalalabad suicide attack of 2018. The family then thought they’d have a better life in Delhi, but two years later, surviving in Delhi has been very difficult for the family.

Kaur tells ThePrint that she is happy to be with her children, but it is tough for them to meet daily needs. Her daughter Komaldeep cannot attend school because of financial problems, and during the lockdown, her son lost his job. She depends on the gurdwara or her relatives for help.

Since the attack on the Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul’s Shor Bazaar area on 25 March 2020, many Sikh families living in Afghanistan have been requesting to leave the country as they continue to face security threats. The Indian government has been facilitating the arrival of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in the country.

A new chapter in India

Gorjeet Singh was in the first batch to arrive from Afghanistan with his family on 26 July. He had lost his father in the 25 March attack. His family has been living in Afghanistan for ages, but he said, “My family was not safe there. We wanted to have a simple life, where my children can go to school, my wife can roam freely without any fear and does not have to wear a burqa.”

Surjeet Singh, who reached India on 14 August said, “We cannot go back to that country anymore. We want to see what the future holds for us here in India.”

ThePrint’s Manisha Mondal and Urjita Bhardwaj visited the Gurdwara Shri Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi to meet some of these evacuees who are settling in India. They also met relatives of Afghan Sikhs who died in the Jalalabad attack.

Source: India Tribune

BY RAHUL KUMAR
New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS)
 The beleaguered Hindu and Sikh minorities of Afghanistan have found support in not just India, but also in the US.
A resolution, introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Jackie Speier and co-sponsored by seven others, seeks to resettle persecuted religious communities in Afghanistan to the US.
Introduced last week, the resolution said: “Sikhs and Hindus are indigenous but endangered minorities in Afghanistan, numbering approximately 700 out of a community that recently included over 8,000 members.”

The resolution added: “These acts follow a greater pattern of targeted violence against Sikhs, Hindus, and other minorities in Afghanistan in recent years.”
Members from these two communities will be resettled under the US Refugee Admissions Program.
According to Tolo News, the Afghan news agency, nearly 99 per cent of the two minority communities have migrated from Afghanistan in the last three decades.
Hindus, once ancient rulers of Afghanistan, have depleted to negligible numbers while the Sikhs, who have a 500-year-old history, number just 600, too are likely to go extinct as the last handful leave the war-torn country. Together, the two communities number just 700, from a hefty 700,000 in the 1970s. Upheavals and conflicts in Afghanistan coupled with discrimination and terror attacks have led to a steady decline over the decades.

For the Sikhs who had been holding on to their citizenship in the Afghan cities of Kabul and Jalalabad, two attacks — a suicide attack on July 1, 2018, in Jalalabad which killed 19 Sikhs and Hindus, and this year’s attack on March 25 at Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib, Kabul, that killed 25 — were the last straw. They have decided to leave their homeland.
In June, a bipartisan group of 20 US senators had urged the Trump administration to grant emergency refugee protection to Sikh and Hindu communities from Afghanistan.

“Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities,” they said in the letter.
The attack on Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib not just led to the exodus but also put a spotlight on the condition of the two communities.
As the Indian government expedited visas for the beleaguered community in July, Congressman Jim Costa applauded India’s stand in a tweet: “This marks an important step toward protecting Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities from imminent destruction at the hands of terrorists.”
The Indian government had on July 23 said that besides providing visas to Afghan Hindus and Sikhs to travel to India, the government is also looking at their request for Indian citizenship.
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Shrivastava said that Central government was receiving requests from these communities that “they want to move to India and settle down here.” Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, “we are facilitating the requests.”
Ironically, the Citizenship Amendment Act-2019 (CAA), which was vehemently opposed by certain sections of people and led to wanton rioting in Delhi will enable these minority communities to gain Indian citizenship.
The main aim of the CAA was to fast track citizenship for migrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities belonging to three neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As Afghanistan falls into a bigger chaos, the last remaining Hindu and Sikh minorities will find shelter in India, USA and Europe all liberal and democratic nations.
Their religious institutions, the temples and gurdwaras, which have come down to barely a dozen in number will no longer have the priests to perform the celebrations, cultural and religious festivals which so deeply symbolise these two religions.
As the last remaining Hindus and Sikhs leave their Afghan homeland, once a land that nurtured Hindus and Buddhists too, only a miniscule minority across the world knows it is witness to a few thousand-year-old ancient history being erased completely, and a new one being written afresh.
(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

Source: The Indian Express

Since a terror attack by an IS gunman killed 25 Sikhs at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul on March 25, the small Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan have made multiple appeals to the Indian government for “immediate evacuation”. A look at these communities’ history in Afghanistan:

When did Hinduism reach Afghanistan?

According to historian Inderjeet Singh, author of ‘Afghan Hindus and Sikhs: A History of A Thousand Years’, Hindu rulers once reigned over Eastern Afghanistan, including Kabul.

“Islam entered Afghanistan in the 7th century. The Zunbil dynasty is believed to be the earliest Hindus who ruled over Kandahar to Ghazni regions of Afghanistan, from 600 to 870 AD. Later the Hindu Shahi dynasty ruled. They were replaced only by the end of the 10th century by Ghaznavids, who maintained Hindu forces,” Singh said. “It was only in 1504 that Mughal Emperor Babur captured Kabul… Babur used to refer to Kabul as ‘Hindustan’s own market’ and the province of Kabul remained with Hindustan until 1738.”

When did Sikhism reach Afghanistan?

Sikhism founder Guru Nanak visited Afghanistan in the early 16th century and laid the foundation of Sikhism there. As per the history of his travels recorded in the earliest janamsakhis, it was during his fourth udaasi (travels) during 1519-21 , with his companion Bhai Mardana, that Guru Nanak reached Afghanistan and visited present-day Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Sultanpur. All these places now have gurdwaras. Kabul was then under Babur’s rule. Guru Nanak’s followers from Kabul also started visiting present-day Punjab region. The seventh Sikh Guru, Har Rai, too played a pivotal role in sending Sikh missionaries to Kabul and a dharamsaal (earlier name for gurdwara) was established there.

“Several documents record the thriving trade of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghan society but today, 99 per cent of them have left the country. Afghanistan now refuses to acknowledge them as their natives but they have made contribution to their motherland despite a turbulent journey. Can an Afghan be a Hindu or a Sikh? History says, YES,” Singh writes in his book.

When did their exodus from the country start?

According to Singh, there were at least 2 lakh Sikhs and Hindus (in a 60:40 ratio) in Afghanistan until the 1970s.

In 1988, on the first day of Baisakhi festivities, a man with an AK-47 stormed a gurdwara in Jalalabad and gunned down 13 Sikhs and four Afghan soldiers. In 1989, Gurdwara Guru Teg Bahadur Singh in Jalalabad was hit by rockets fired by the Mujahideen and 17 Sikhs were killed.

The exodus started in 1992 when the Mujahideen took over. “The Soviet intervention, which started in 1979, lasted for a decade and Afghanistan became a battleground for the Cold War. The US and its allies started providing weapons to Mujahideen to fight a proxy war against the Soviet occupation. The Soviets withdrew in 1989… The Mujahideen captured Kabul in 1992 and deposed President Najibullah… A large number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus started the exodus and left the country,” Inderjeet Singh writes.

Under the Mujahideen, there were widespread kidnappings, extortion, property grabbing incidents, religious persecution, targeting Sikhs and Hindus which became the trigger point for exodus. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan, those who remained continued to face persecution.

Where did those who moved out settle?

“During those days, it was extremely difficult for anyone in Afghanistan to get a passport. But still the Afghan government (in the months before the Mujahideen took over entire Kabul) issued speedy passports under a scheme called Aab Gang pilgrimage passport (Aab meaning water, Gang meaning river Ganga). The Indian Embassy set up an on-the-go visa department at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Shor Bazar of Kabul to rapidly issue visas to Hindus and Sikhs. Some 50,000 people left Afghanistan under this scheme and came to India,” said Inderjeet Singh.

After arriving in India, many Sikhs and Hindus moved to other countries and are currently spread across the UK, Europe, US etc. “The majority of Afghan Hindus are now settled in Germany and Sikhs in the UK. Others live in Austria, Belgium, Holland, France, Canada and the US,” said Pritpal Singh, an Afghan Sikh settled in London and director of the documentary Mission Afghanistan.

Currently, how many Afghan Sikhs are settled in India?

Khajinder Singh, head of Afghan Hindu Sikh Welfare Society in Delhi, said, “Approximately, there are 18,000 Afghan Sikhs living in India, of whom 50-60% have citizenship and the rest are living as refugees or on long-term visas. Most are living in Delhi followed by Punjab and Haryana.”

How many Sikhs and Hindus are left in Afghanistan?

Not more than 700. Chhabol Singh, member, managing committee, Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Singh Sabha Karte Parwan, Kabul, said, “There are around 650 Sikhs (90-100 families) and nearly 50 Hindus left here… No one wants to live here now after the Kabul gurdwara attack.”

On July 1, 2018, a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad killed at least 19 Sikhs and Hindus. But the tipping point was the attack at Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib on March 25 this year when an IS gunman killed at least 25 persons.

“Even after the 2018 attack, they did not want to leave their businesses and shops. But the 2020 attack was the final nail in the coffin because an attacker stormed inside a gurdwara and killed them. Gurdwaras are also homes for Sikhs in Afghanistan as most of them don’t have their own houses. Also, Sikhs in Afghanistan took heart from the Citizenship Amendment Act in India, knowing that getting Indian citizenship would be easier than before,” said Khajinder Singh.

Will the CAA help them?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which reduces the period of mandatory stay in India from 11 years to five years for minorities from three countries including Afghanistan, will help those Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in getting the Indian citizenship, who moved to India before the cut-off date of December 31, 2014. The Home Ministry, however, is yet to frame the rules for CAA.

How many gurdwaras and temples are left in Afghanistan?

Till the beginning of the 1990s, there used to be at least 63 functional gurdwaras in Afghanistan. Now barely ten of them are functioning, with hardly anyone left to do sewa. The main ones are: Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib (now closed after March 2020 attack), Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Singh Sabha Karte Parwan (central gurdwara), Gurdwara Baba Sri Chand, Gurdwara Khalsa ji, Gurdwara Baba Almast, Gurdwara Baba Mansa Singh Ji — all in Kabul.

Asamai Mandir and Dargah Peer Rattan Nath Mandir in Kabul, Dargah Mathura Dass in Jalalabad, Dargah Peer Rattan in Ghazni and some in Kandahar are among a few temples functional in Afghanistan.

Source: NDTV

Washington: 

An influential American congressman has praised India for giving refugee status to Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan and urged the Trump administration to do the same for the persecuted religious minorities from the war-torn country.

The Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that there has been a recent spurt of attacks on Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan by terrorists at the behest of their “external supporters” and India has been providing necessary visas to members of these communities who want to come.

“We have been receiving requests from the members of these communities. They want to move to India, they want to settle down here, and despite the ongoing COVID situation, we are facilitating these requests,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

He said once those who want to come and settle in India arrive in the country, their requests will be examined and acted upon based on existing rules and policies.

Responding to India’s move, Congressman Jim Costa said in a tweet, “This marks an important step toward protecting Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities from imminent destruction at the hands of terrorists.”

“While I’m pleased that India has offered them refuge, more needs to be done to ensure their safety in the long term. I will continue to advocate for more permanent solutions that will provide these families with security, economic stability, and a brighter future,” Mr Costa said as he referred to a news story from The New York Times.

In April the lawmaker had written a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking similar refugee status for Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan.

“In April, I wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo urging him to provide help to these families and consideration for potential resettlement in the US,” Mr Costa tweeted.

In its news story, The New York Times reported the statement of Ministry of External Affairs that India has decided to facilitate the return to India of Afghan Hindu and Sikh community members facing security threats in Afghanistan.

According to the daily, the Hindu and Sikh communities in Afghanistan once numbered in the tens, if not the hundreds, of thousands, with well-established businesses and high-ranking positions in the government. But nearly all have fled to India, Europe, or North America over decades of war and persecution.

Last month, a bipartisan group of 20 US senators urged the Trump administration to grant emergency refugee protection to Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan facing persecution as religious minorities.

“Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities,” they said in the letter.

The Sikhs and Hindus once numbered around 250,000, but now fewer than 1,000 people live in Afghanistan due to decades of persecution, they added, the senators wrote.

A heavily armed ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) suicide bomber attacked a gurdwara in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital on March 25, killing 25 Sikhs and injuring eight others.