From D.N. Chaturvedi
Tribune News Service
Tuesday, July 21, 1998
FARIDABAD, July 20 — Thousands of Afghans, mostly Hindus and Sikhs who
had taken refuge in India after fundamentalists came to power in Kabul
in 1992, have been seeking Indian citizenship since then, but of no
avail. More than 1,500 of them have settled in Faridabad and the rest
in Delhi. A few Muslim families are also living here.
An Afghan Hindu, who did not wish to be identified, said their
forefathers had settled in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandhar, Ghazni and
Pakteya centuries back and were working as shopkeepers and employees
of private firms. They had to flee homeland after the fundamentalists
led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar started pressurising them either to leave
the country or convert to Islam.
Kidnappings of girls and young women and rape became the order of the
day. Cremation of bodies was prohibited and they were left with no
alternative but to perform the last rites in temples and gurdwaras.
They came to India via Pakistan in trucks and boarded the train to
Amritsar in Lahore leaving behind heavy household goods. The behaviour
of Pakistanis towards them was also not good and their cash was
snatched by the police.
Some Hindus and Sikhs are still living in Afghanistan because they
have not been able to get visas to come to India as the Embassy of the
country has closed down due to the uncertain conditions there.
The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) has granted
them a refugee status and gives financial assistance which has since
been reduced. The monetary help of the UN body is too meagre to meet
the need for food, shelter and school and college fees of children.
The Afghan refugees are not able to purchase foodgrain, kerosene and
LPG connections from the public distribution system as ration cards
have not been given to them because they are not Indian citizens.
They still hold Afghan passports and go to the foreigners’
registration office for extension of visas after every three months.
This is done only if the UNHCR refugee status certificate and valid
passports are produced.
The expired passports are not easily renewed by the Afghan Embassy in
Delhi which sometimes does not accept the UNHCR certificate. A fee of
Rs 3,000 for the renewal of each passport is also demanded which they
are unable to pay.
The problems of the Afghan refugees can be solved to a great extent if
they are granted Indian citizenship at the earliest.
The refugees are determined not to go back to Afghanistan because
there is no hope of any liberal government coming to power there.
Most of the Afghan refugees have taken up jobs in private companies
and shops. A large number of them have sold costly goods to purchase
daily necessities and pay rents of houses.
When contacted police sources said a close watch was being kept on the
refugees as there were some bad elements among them. Recently Kalyan
Singh, alias Inder Singh, had deported to Afghanistan by air for
indulging in smuggling activities.