Referred to as Gandhara and Vahlika in ancient Hindu-Buddhist scriptures, Hinduism (Saivite) and Buddhism (Mahayana) were the dominant faiths of the ancestors of present day Pathans inhabiting the Eastern and Southern parts of Afghanistan, before the advent of Islam. Around 654 C.E., Arab forces started attacking the Hindu Kingdoms of Kabul and Zabul ruled by the Shahiya kings. The Pathans resisted for 2 centuries before they were overwhelmed and forcibly converted to Islam3. So great was the massacre of Hindus that the local mountain range was renamed as ‘Hindu Kush’ meaning ‘Hindu slaughter’4. With the fall of the communist regime in 1980’s and after demolition of the Babri Masjid in India on December 6, 1992, the 75000 Hindu minority, mainly resident in Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandhar, was targeted selectively and their religious sites were descecrated. They fled en-masse to cities like Delhi in India, where they are settled now. Several modern day Indian Hindu communities like the Sehgals are descendent of Afghan Hindus who fled Islamic persecution in Afghanistan several centuries ago. The Afghan Hindus have set up a website, to highlight their situation.
Archive for February, 2009
Farewell to the invaders, welcome to the taliban
A correspondent looks back at the deterioration across the country over the past four years: the resurgence of both the Taliban and the old corrupt elites, the failure of the occupation forces, and the worsening conditions of life for everybody else
by Chris Sands
Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu community had been about 50,000 strong before 1992. Now it was down to 5,000. The exodus had been instigated by the Mujahideen, not the Taliban. With the same old faces back in power again, no one was happy. “The Taliban told us we had to do all our religious ceremonies in private, but they did not stop us from doing them. It was a government that was not recognised by the world, but it was better than now,” said a Sikh.
2:50pm Saturday 7th February 2009
By Saiqa Chaudhari
A MOTHER is begging officials to show “humanity” and release her teenage son from a detention centre. Satnam Gurwara, aged 16, is being held at the secure facility at Manchester Airport. The family, who are Sikh Afghan asylum seekers, live in Great Lever.
Satnam was detained on Tuesday when he went to report to immigration officials in Salford. His mother, Pretepal, aged 39, said: “We escaped the Taliban in Afghanistan for our safety, only for my son to be taken from me and put into a prison. “How would these people like it if their child was taken away from them? How would they feel? I cannot live without my son.”
Mrs Gurwara, her husband Rewandar, aged 46, their son and two daughters Jasmeen, aged 17 and Simran, aged 12, fled Afghanistan in April, 2007. They arrived in London and applied for asylum. Their application was rejected and they are awaiting the outcome of an appeal.
A campaign is now being launched to reunite the family and a petition is in circulation. A meeting in support of the family is being held at the Socialist Club in Wood Street, Bolton town centre, next Wednesday at 7.30pm.
Feature: Hidden Kabul
by Jolyon Leslie
“Let the reader conceive a broken succession of houses, composed of mud walls of different elevations, pierced here and there with wooden pipes to carry off the rain from the flat roofs…..then let him imagine… the entrance to the residence of some great man, with a mulberry tree occasionally peering over the wall; add to this a thick crowd, and he will form a good idea of a Kabul street.”
This account from 1840, of what was then the centre of Kabul, could as well apply to surviving parts of the city’s historic fabric today, nearly 170 years later. Rarely visited now, the network of narrow alleyways between traditional homes south of the Kabul River is where many of the narratives of Afghan history and society come together; shrines, mosques and daramsals (Sikh or Hindu religious buildings) embody the diverse strands of faith; crumbling houses retain traces of past prosperity and style; rickety wooden serais are stacked high with brash plastic imports; empty new office-buildings tower above ruins that are the preserve of drug-addicts; mounds of earth bear witness to fierce fighting that took place in 1993, and are all that is left of the homes of families now scattered through the city, and across the globe.
At a point in their history when they are being urged to look forward, and leave their dark past behind them, the old city seems to embody what Afghans are at risk of losing. It is as though nothing has been learned from the experience of 50 years ago when the Jade Maiwand road was driven through the historic fabric, to provide the ruling elite with a symbol of a “modern” city, but in fact it merely concealed the jumble of traditional buildings behind regular facades. Subsequent efforts by Afghan planners (and their foreign advisers) to wipe what they regarded as a “slum” off the city map also failed. It is ironic that, given their fierce opposition to modernism, it was Islamist fighters who nearly succeeded where professionals had failed, when they reduced much of the historic Nearly a decade later, it was on the site of this battle that the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) initiated a pilot conservation project. As the quality of the carved timber columns and plaster decoration of a war-damaged 19th-century mosque resurfaced from beneath layers of paint and grime, the history and experiences of a community displaced during the conflict also emerged. Having restored the first mosque to its former glory, the AKTC team has gone on to work on eight other mosques, two shrines, a madrasa, two traditional hammams (bath houses) and more than a dozen fine historic homes. This has enabled some 100 masons, carpenters and plasterers to develop their craft skills through apprenticeships. Along with the upgrading of infrastructure across an area that is home to some 20,000 people, the programme continues to generate much-needed employment within the old city.