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Giani Maskeen Singh talks about Afghan Sikh history, Guru Nanak’s trip to Kandahar, Baba Sri Chand’s trip to Afghanistan and Nanak Panthis

Source: VOA News

Afghan Hindu and Sikh families wait for lunch inside a Gurudwara, or a Sikh temple, during a religious ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

SLAMABAD – Following a militant attack in late March that killed 25 Sikhs in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, a dwindling community of Sikhs and Hindus is now weighing whether or not it is safe to stay in the war-torn country where the minority group is subject to constant threats by militants and discrimination by others. 

The March 25th gunman attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul’s Shor Bazar Gurdwara area was claimed by the Islamic State terror group. Many Sikh and Hindu activists have since appealed for international assistance to help relocate them to outside of Afghanistan. 

“If you stop a Sikh child and ask him what he wishes, he will say that he wants to leave Afghanistan,” said Singh, a 22-year-old Sikh who was among nearly 150 people trapped in the religious complex assailed by a group of IS militants. “Who is not happy to live in peace?”   

Singh requested anonymity over concerns for his safety for speaking openly.

Recalling the horrific incident that ended after about six hours of fire exchange between IS militants and Afghan security forces, he told VOA that he considers his survival a miracle.    

“We went to a room and locked the door from inside. I saw the shadow of him [an IS fighter].” 

Singh’s father, nephew, and sister-in-law were among the 25 people killed in the IS attack. Heartbroken by the loss, he says he is now committed to leave Afghanistan with his family “to have a better future, where there is no fear.”Activists Concerned About Safety of Hindus, Sikhs in Afghanistan Concerned About Safety of Hindus, Sikhs in Afghanistan

Activists Concerned About Safety of Hindus, Sikhs in Afghanistan | Voice of America – English

The two minority groups were once thriving with a substantial involvement in Afghanistan’s trade and business. But, since the 1978 conflict, Sikhs and Hindus have found themselves increasingly targeted.  The population of both minorities has shrunk from about 250,000 to less than a thousand. 

Deepak Ahluwalia, a California-based immigration attorney and Sikh rights activists, said that he believed Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan were facing religious persecution and “are being threatened with genocide.”

Broad Discrimination  

The Taliban in the past have ordered the Sikhs to wear yellow armbands so they could be easily distinguished from the Muslim majority. A more extremist Sunni group, IS, considers both Hindus and Sikhs to be pagans.   

According to Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the two minorities also face institutional and cultural discrimination.

 Zabihullah Farhang, a spokesperson for AIHRC, told VOA that Hindus and Sikhs “face a lot of discrimination in the public places, with their children in schools, with employment and work opportunities.”

Farhang said that Hindus and Sikhs were not given the same rights as Afghan Muslims, and the minority groups felt increasingly targeted. 

“One of the main reasons that they are leaving their country, without doubt, is cultural issues,” he added. 

Illegal property seizure

The country’s constitution and government have further deepened the isolation, charged Rajdeep Jolly, a Sikh rights attorney in Washington, DC. He said Article 62 of the Afghan constitution that states only a Muslim can run for president shows religious minorities are looked down upon.

“Even in the absence of genocidal violence, the Afghan legal system has relegated Sikhs and Hindus to second-class citizenship,” said Jolly, adding that the two communities face obstacles from basic religious rituals such as cremation to judicial bias and illegal property seizures.  

Afghan government says they are doing their best to protect them from militant attacks.

“The Afghan Security Council has started some measures and they will take serious actions for their security,” Dawa Khan Menapal, a spokesman for the Afghan president, told VOA.

Menapal said the country in the past few years under President Ashraf Ghani has made significant progress to address the issues these communities face. He said Hindus and Sikhs have two members in the Afghan parliament “who raise the voices and concerns of their constituencies.”

Some Stay

Some members of the minority groups say they are not willing to give in despite continued terror attacks and discrimination. 

Commenting on whether Hindus and Sikhs in recent weeks have begun to flee to the West, Narinder Singh Khalsa, a lawmaker representing Hindus and Sikhs in Wolesi Jirga or the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament, told VOA that the two communities “have not made such a decision yet.” 

“Reports published by media outlets outside Afghanistan saying that Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan are trying to seek asylum are all baseless,” he said.

‘It is our country’

Gornam Singh,24, is determined to stay in Afghanistan. He told VOA that Afghanistan has issues at all levels, but this is his country. 

 “The whole Afghanistan has concerns. All are worried, from the president to a vender but this is Afghanistan. It is our country,” Singh said.  

Balbeer Singh Pahwa, the vice president of an Afghan-Sikh Gurdwara in New York, who was born and raised in Kabul said he does not remember an intolerant Afghanistan when he lived in it and regretted the path Afghanistan has since taken.    

 “Afghanistan was very different then. Kabul was like living in a European country, we had no problem of religion at that time,” he said. 

Pahwa left Afghanistan in 1983 due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of the country.He said that they were able to freely perform their religious rituals when he lived in Kabul.   

 “Every year for Basakhi, Sikhs families would all travel to Sultanpur and Jalalabad. There were maybe 2000 people, about 500-600 families at the time. We would set up tents and stay there for a week. Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak was there,” he added.

Major loss of culture

Some minority activists see the end of Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan as a major loss for the country’s rich culture. A more diverse and tolerant Afghan society, they argue, could play a major role in developing the country.    

Manmeet Singh, a U.S.-based activist and filmmaker, said the remaining Hindus and Sikhs in the county were “the last descendants of a pre-Islamic civilization dating back thousands of years.”  

He warned “their exodus from Afghanistan will be a triumph for fanatics and a tragedy for the world.”

Mehr Chand Kapoor

Source: Catch News

The Afghan Sikh community living in the United States has urged the Indian Government to help in the resettlement of the Sikhs living in Afghanistan, terming it to be the only ‘viable’ option for less than 650 families that are hard hit by the violence in the country.

Worried for the lives of the Sikh minorities living in Kabul, Jalalabad and Ghazi in Afghanistan, this minuscule Sikh community is seeking refuge in India.

Encouraged by the steps taken in the past by the Indian government, the Afghan Sikh community leaders have made an appeal to India to accommodate the Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan and grant them legal entry and political asylum with long term residency multiple entry visas.

The community leaders living in the United States said it is imperative to alleviate the dire situation of religious minorities in Afghanistan who look to India as the only safe haven in the region.

Speaking to ANI, Afghan American Paramjit Singh Bedi, Chairman of Afghanistan Committee for Global Sikh Council, said, “At a time when the attention is focused on the coronavirus pandemic and India is under lockdown, we understand India’s worry but I still urge GoI to take quick action as we fear the safety of the Sikhs living in Afghanistan.”

“We further request the Modi government to arrange a special flight from Kabul and request India to intervene as soon as possible on their (Sikhs in Afghanistan) behalf before it’s too late,” Bedi said.

Bedi laid out his concerns, highlighting the terror attack by ISIS March 25 that killed 25 Sikhs at their gurdwara in Kabul. “The victims included women, the elderly, and a four-year-old girl. They had gathered to pray that morning for the health and recovery of people afflicted with COVID-19, but their lives were cut short by religious bigotry,” Bedi recounted the tragic terror attack.

Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu has expressed solidarity with Sikh community of Afghanistan. “India has always stood in solidarity with the Sikh and Hindu community in Afghanistan and extended help and refuge in difficult circumstances,” he tweeted on Friday.

Meanwhile, ANI reached out to the US Department of State to understand US’ commitment of bringing the persecuted Afghan Sikh and Hindu group to safety. A Department spokesperson told ANI that its leadership, including ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback, are aware of the gravity of the Sikh community’s situation in Afghanistan.

“I met last week with a number of members of the Sikh community in the United States about trying to help out with the resolution of the crisis for the Sikhs in Afghanistan. Those discussions are ongoing. I think they’re ongoing with a number of branches within the U.S. Government,” Ambassador Brownback told ANI

“I don’t know of any decisions that have been reached at this time, but it is a dire situation for the Sikhs in Afghanistan, and many of them, if not the entire community, seeks to leave Afghanistan to get to a safer place for their community after these attacks have taken place. We will continue to work with them, but I don’t have any announcements at this time,” he added.

The Department of State’s spokesperson also told ANI that it is deeply concerned about the violence perpetrated and threatened against Sikhs and other religious minorities in Afghanistan.

The spokesperson also added that Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has condemned the recent attacks against the Sikh community in Kabul and has urged all Afghans to come together to negotiate a political settlement to help confront the militant group that is threatening the safety of that community and others.

The spokesperson also informed ANI that the US Embassy in Kabul is in regular contact with the Sikh community and Afghan government regarding the Sikh community’s concerns in Afghanistan.

“Sikhs constitute an important part of the fabric of Afghan society. We encourage and welcome outreach by the Government of Afghanistan to reassure the Sikh community of the importance attached to their safety and continued contribution to Afghanistan,” the spokesperson further told ANI.

In the wake of the terror attack on a 400-year-old Gurdwara in Shor Bazar in Kabul on March 25, the United States had expressed concerns about the safety of the Sikh community in Afghanistan.

“I remain deeply concerned about the safety of the Sikh community in Afghanistan. Afghan Sikhs have long been an integral part of the multicultural tapestry of Afghanistan and Afghans must come together now to ensure the security of religious minorities,” senior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells tweeted.

US’ House Foreign Affairs Committee has also urged Trump Administration to consider Afghan Sikhs and Hindus for emergency refugee protection under the Fiscal Year 2020 US Refugee Admissions Program.

“Concerned for the safety of the Sikh community in Afghanistan, recently targeted by ISIS, and urge the administration to consider Afghan Sikhs and Hindus for emergency refugee protection under the Fiscal Year 2020 U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” House Foreign Affairs Committee tweeted.

Save Afghan Sikhs

http://www.saveafghansikhs.org

On March 25th, 2020, a militant attack on Gurduara Guru Harirai Sahib in the Shorbazar district of Kabul sparked a renewed call to get the remaining Sikhs of Afghanistan to safety. Global concern for this vulnerable community and campaigns for relief and resettlement are at an all-time high, but due to decades of instability and isolation, channels for meaningful distribution are few and far between. The majority of migration out of Afghanistan occured in the 90s and to date, approximately less than 1% of the community remains. The renewed call in 2020 for Sikhs to leave Afghanistan comes in the wake of a call after a 2018 attack in Jalalabad. On July 1st 2018, a suicide bomb killed 19 people in an attack on Sikh and Hindu political representatives awaiting President Ashraf Ghani.

Seeing a gap between advocacy campaigns and channels for implementation, a coalition teamed together to collect and verify data, information, and offer guidance through recommendations. They are a group of concerned Sikhs who come from the Afghan Sikh and Afghan Hindu communities or have worked extensively with these populations. All information displayed goes through rigorous fact-checking with relevant parties.

Please visit saveafghansikhs.org and see their FAQ page for current updates on the situation.

You can also follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Source: The Economic Times

Pakistan had requested his custody for further investigation as the leader of leader of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the Islamic State. The Afghan foreign ministry said as Farooqi was involved in the killing of hundreds of Afghans, he should be tried under the law of the country.

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury 

NEW DELHI: Afghanistan in a key decision turned down Pakistan’s request to hand over Aslam Farooqi, the Islamic State regional head who according to Afghan government was captured in connection with a recent bombing at a Sikh gurdwara and several other terrorist attacks. 

Pakistan had requested his custody for further investigation as the leader of leader of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the Islamic State. 

The Afghan foreign ministry said as Farooqi was involved in the killing of hundreds of Afghans, he should be tried under the law of the country. 

Afghanistan and Pakistan had no extradition treaty. 

On April 4, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), announced that they had arrested Farooqi, whose real name is Abdullah Orakzai, in Kandahar province. 

Pakistan had formally asked the neighbouring country to hand over terrorist. 

Atif Mashal, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, was summoned to the Pakistani foreign ministry to convey the request. 

“The ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and conveyed Pakistan’s views about the arrest of IS-Khorasan leader, Aslam Farooqi, by the Afghan authorities,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Office. 

The group took the responsibility of a recent attack targeting a Sikh gurdwara in Kabul, leaving scores dead. 

Source: Youth Ki Awaaz

Al Jazeera: Gunmen storm Sikh religious complex in Kabul

The distressing news of the fidayeen attack on a Sikh Gurudwara in Afghanistan’s Kabul raised severe questions over the vulnerability of minorities in the Islamic Republic of Afganistan and the region’s impending de-stability post the exit of the U.S troops. The attack took place at a critical juncture when the entire global community is confronting a deadly pandemic. 25 Sikhs including women and children lost their lives in the attack leaving 8 injured.

Global leaders were quick to express their condolences but spoke little more than their habitual jabberwocky. In the background of this terrorist strike, the article is an attempt to analyze the necessity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the possible repercussions of the U.S-Taliban peace deal.

The attack took place on the morning of 25th March inside Gurudwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul, where 150 members of the Sikh community had gathered for prayers. Investigation agencies claim that a group of four terrorists opened fire at the devotees and all the fidayeen were gunned down in a six-hour-long tussle with the security forces. Islamic State (IS) was quick to claim responsibility for the carnage through their propaganda magazine Al Naba on 26th March.

One among the four was an Indian national called Abu Khalid Al-Hindi and is identified as a Keralite named Muhammad Muhsin. But to make things worse, another bomb blast took place at the funeral venue. Even though no one was injured in the blast, deep hate towards the religious minorities in Afghanistan has been continuously shown by the radical factions. In July 2018, IS had similarly targeted a gathering of Hindus and Sikhs killing 19 people and injuring 20.

It is a genuine concern of the Indian security agencies that with the Taliban in power, Pakistan can further mobilize their resources to create further troubles in Jammu and Kashmir. During the short period of their regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban was brutal to religious minorities and women and imposed strict laws for blasphemy and adultery. People were publically executed and in most cases brutally stoned to death. Hence, a shift in Afghan polity will be against India’s strategic interests and power politics in the region.

As an answer to the central question, minorities account for just 0.2% in the total population of Afghanistan which is around 35 million. Even if the Taliban assures security to the Hindu and Sikh minorities under the peace deal, Islamic State which fights the Taliban for supremacy in the region won’t spare the ‘infidels’. Quitting Afghanistan was a poll promise of Trump and it seems that he is desperate to pull off from ground zero in the election year itself.

The idea of India’s military intervention in Afghanistan Post-U.S troop withdrawal has received mixed feedback from military experts. Feasibility and its sustenance have been debating points. Both the ways, the Afghan problem is all set to open a Pandora’s Box before the Indian government. The government, in due course of time, has to work with the government of Afghanistan and ensure its civilizational responsibility of assuring protection to the minorities of Afghanistan.