Archive for September, 2001

By Vineeta Dwivedi in Delhi – Wednesday, 26 September, 2001

BBC – Source

Most of the Sikh community in Afghanistan have taken refuge in gurudwaras (Sikh temples) as fears grow of possible military action against the Taleban, according to a voluntary organisation in the Indian capital, Delhi.

The Afghan Hindu-Sikh Welfare Society says there are at least 1,500 Sikhs still living in different parts of Afghanistan, but they are unable to leave because they don’t have travel documents.These Sikhs are amongst those who went to Afghanistan centuries ago as traders or businessmen.

Until the invasion by Soviet forces and the start of conflict in the 1980s, a number of Sikh families in Afghanistan were prospering.

But after the outbreak of war, these affluent members of the community fled back to India.

However, this was all but impossible for the less privileged members of the Sikh community.

Travel problems

The Delhi office of the UNHCR says Sikh families are living in at least five Afghanistan cities – Ghazni, Kabul, Jalalabad, Ilmand and Kandahar.

The Delhi president of the Afghan Hindu-Sikh welfare society, Sardar Manohar Singh – who himself returned from Afghanistan in 1979 – told the BBC that these Sikhs stayed either because they didn’t have passports or because visas were no longer available.

Ever since the Taleban took over in Afghanistan, India has not had any diplomatic mission there, making it impossible to obtain visas.

Mr Singh also said that a few Sikh families went to Afghanistan a couple of years ago – despite the unsettled political atmosphere – because they had no other means of survival.

They found jobs as unskilled labourers.

The families of those Sikhs say they hardly if ever receive news about their relatives in Afghanistan.


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HT Correspondent
(New Delhi, September 17)
The Hindustan Times

Every evening since last Wednesday, a large number of Afghani Sikhs have been assembling at Mahavir Nagar Gurdwara in Tilak Nagar for special ‘ardas’ (prayer) for safety of their folk in Afghanistan. They want the US to give them a safe passage out of the country before any commencement of war. They collect at the gurdwara to share information from their native country. The latest news is shocking. Most of the Sikhs in Afghanisatan are huddled together in four main gurdwaras Shera Naun, Shamim, Kotla Sahib and Baba Nand Lalji and their stock of grain is almost depleted.

Anxiety has gripped the large Afghani Sikh community living in south and west Delhi. They have been unable to call their relatives in Kabul, Kandahar, Ghazanvi and Jallalabad. The only call received was two days ago by a family in block 20, Tilak Nagar, and it was a call for help. “The Afghan border on all sides has been sealed. Pakistan has refused to allow Sikhs to cross over from Turkham border. I don’t know what will happen to my brother-in-law Dilbir Singh who is a doctor there,” said Gurnam Singh, who runs a cloth shop in Amar Colony. His father came to India about 15 years ago, and left behind a large number of relatives. While they prospered in Delhi, those in Afghanistan got caught in ethnic conflict and now are on the brink of extreme poverty. “Since Tuesday, we have been trying to call our relatives. The lines are not working,” he said. Ram Singh said they are sitting in gurdwaras as the government had not provided them with any shelter. They feel neglected as the government is favouring ethnic Afghans. Sikhs, he fears, will be innocent victims of war. Zile Singh, who runs a dhaba in Tilak Nagar, says there are about 500 Sikh families in Ghaznavi, 1,000 in Kabul and about 300 in Kandahar. Hindu families are also in distress. “He came to India in 1992 with his son. But still his brothers and their families are in Afghanistan,” he recalls. Singh used to be a vegetable vendor in Kabul. Yaryam Singh, whose younger brother is in Afghanistan, says the Sikh and Hindus there are so poor that they don’t have money to apply for passports and visa. “When they don’t have financial resources to earn two meals a day, from where will they get the money to move out of the hostile country?” he asked. In the past 10 years, their situation has deteriorated.

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