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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?

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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

Source: Global Voices

In Afghanistan, Sikh and Hindu minority groups have for decades experienced targeted religious persecution while suffering from low access to civil rights.

Given that these injustices have been compounded by the country’s deep and growing security issues, it is hardly surprising that of the 220,000 Sikh and Hindu citizens living in Afghanistan in the 1980s, less than a thousand remain.

The Manmeet Bhullar Foundation is committed to enabling Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to achieve asylum in Canada.

They have asked the Canadian government to recognise Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan as particularly vulnerable minorities and develop an appropriate plan to evacuate them.

deadly attack on prominent Sikh leaders in July 2018 added urgency to this bid.

The July 1 suicide bombing that killed 19 people and injured 10 as Sikh and Hindu representatives made their way to a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was claimed by the Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate and sent tremors through the community.

Canada-based organisations, including the World Sikh Organization and Gurdwara communities have supported the asylum drive, claiming notable successes. The first Sikh and Hindu Afghan Refugee families arrived in Canada on March 13, 2019.

A final exodus?

As an exit door potentially opens for Afghanistan’s remaining Sikhs and Hindus, the publication in March of the “Survey of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs” conducted by the Porsesh Research and Studies Organization (PRSO), a non-profit based in Kabul feels pertinent.

The survey was conducted “to understand better the situation, and provide a clear picture of their [Afghan Hindus and Sikhs] living conditions” according to its authors.

The survey focused on the security, political participation, economic situation, civil rights, national mood, migration, and integration situation of Hindu and Sikh communities in Afghanistan.

The survey found that “Hindus and Sikhs are considerably less optimistic about the direction of Afghanistan compared to the rest of Afghans.”

Insecurity, unemployment and poverty are the factors driving this pessimism. Children lack access to education. For women, one of the main problems is “not being able to freely go outside.”

Afghan Hindu and Sikh communities have always participated in Afghan society.

While more than 50 percent turned out to vote in the most recent national elections, only a third (34.38%) of respondents say they feel they can influence their local government’s decisions. This is considerably lower than the national average and is spurred partly, the survey’s authors believe, by Sikhs and Hindus “poor representation in government administrations.”

Economically, “a quarter of the respondents reports having difficulty purchasing simple and basic food”, while others can only afford basic needs. Sikhs and Hindus invariably work in the private sector as smalltime traders and shop owners.

Regarding emigration “60.7% of survey respondents expressed desire to migrate if they were given opportunity.” The remainder cited their patriotism as a reason not to emigrate, a reminder of the roots these communities have put down in Afghanistan despite difficulties, and the emotional wrench of leaving.

At the heart of the two groups issues in the country is a systemic bias against non-Islamic religions written into the constitution, which the survey called “excessively dependent upon Islamic interpretations and (containing) many articles discriminatory towards Hindus and Sikhs.” Although both groups are free to worship, the constitution’s recognition of the supremacy of Islamic law makes it difficult for Hindus and Sikhs to live publicly according to their faith.

This has ingrained in many a perception that the state’s institutions exist to harass rather than protect them.

Sikhs and Hindus typically fear encountering the Afghan National Police more than others. More than a quarter of respondents have experienced some type of threats in the past, while a quarter also claimed to have been victims of land-grabbing or property seizure.

The survey concludes with recommendations to boost political and legal rights and access to education and employment for Sikhs and Hindus, while promoting diversity and pluralism in the country as a whole.

Ehsan Shayagan, Founder and CEO of PRSO expressed hope that the survey “will help in inclusion of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs in the peace and development process in Afghanistan.”

Sadly, it may be too late for that.

Link to the book on Amazon.com and  Amazon.in

InderjeetSinghBook

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