You can see Hindu Chowk noted on the map.
by Tony Cross
Afghanistan’s presidential election this year brought to light potential tension between its various ethnic groups. But there are also small religious minorities in this overwhelmingly Muslim nation. What is life like for Afghanistan’s Sikhs?
On a quiet but dusty Kabul street, turbaned men stroll and children in topknots play. These are rare sights in the Afghan capital. They are Sikhs, living around the Dharamsal temple, where they observe their faith.
Sikhs are a tiny minority of the country’s estimated 31 million population – about 3,000 according to their leaders, scattered across the country. There are even fewer Hindus, they say, putting their number at about 1,000.
Over three decades of war most of their community have left for India, Canada and other destinations. As their numbers shrank, so did their weight in Afghan life.
Until the civil war of the 1990s, Hindus, Sikhs and Jews controlled money markets in major towns, according to author and journalist Ahmed Rashid in his book Taliban. Afghan kings borrowed money off them when they went to war.
Now the community is impoverished, according to Daya Singh Anjaan, the spokesperson of the Afghan Hindu-Sikh Society. Once they had businesses, now they struggle to make ends meet.
Muslim Afghans see no difference between Hindus and Sikhs, referring to them all as Hindus. There are no elected MPs from either group. While traditional migrants, known as Kuchis, have ten reserved seats, no parliamentary posts are put aside for Sikhs and Hindus.
President Hamid Karzai has appointed one senator to represent both communities. He is Awtar Singh, a tall man wearing a blue turban, who took his seat six months ago. He replaced another representative, who, he says, was not doing the job.
Does it worry him that the country he lives in declares itself to be an Islamic republic?
“No, that’s not actually a problem,” he says. “Muslims and Sikhs have communication. We are respecting Islam and the Muslims are respecting us. Before out forefathers had good relations and we have good relations.”
But the Sikhs have had their problems. When the Taliban ruled the country before the 2001 invasion, they ordered Hindus and Sikhs to wear yellow tags, sparking alarm in the community and abroad, and they ordered Sikh women to wear the veil.
But they were not really worse than the anti-Communist mujahedin governments which preceded them, says Daya Singh Anjaan.
The date that sticks in the Sikhs’ minds is 1992. That year the country had its first mujahedin president and a Hindu mob destroyed the Babri mosque in the Indian city of Ayodhya. In Kabul the Sikh temple was burned down as a reprisal. Then war erupted between mujahedin factions.
Rashid, too, sees the date as the end of centuries of inter-ethnic harmony and religious tolerance.
“The civil war has divided Islamic sects and ethnic groups in a way that before was unimaginable to ordinary Afghans,” he writes.
As a senator, Awtar Singh says that he is campaigning for the return of rights that the Sikhs used to have. Under the Soviet-backed President, Najibullah, many Sikhs had good jobs, he says.
“We had many people working in ministries and many schools and many colleges … This is our right that we don’t have now.”
Sikh monuments have been destroyed in the war and, in one case, turned into a mausoleum for a dead president, according to Daya Singh.
Further problems came when a group of people built houses near the Kabul ghat, the place where the Sikhs traditionally cremate their dead. The newcomers demanded that the practise end and that has created tension.
And Sikhs living in Ghazni province were harassed by Taliban insurgents before the rebels lost ground in the area.
But what annoys Daya Singh most is the lack of official recognition that Sikhs and Hindus exist. A new national anthem mentions all Afghanistan’s ethnic groups, except the Hindus and the Sikhs. The same goes for speeches at official ceremonies.
“Why? We are from Afghanistan. If we have done something bad then we will leave this country. We haven’t done anything wrong in this country.”
Outside of Afghanistan
|Asamai Temple||Flushing, New York USA||Managed by Afghan Hindu Association in New York.
Established in 1991.Schedule:
7:00PM – 8:30PM – Sundarkand and Hanuman Chalisa followed by Prasad and Langar
|Hindu Community Center||Hicksville, New York USA||Managed by Afghan Hindu Association in New York.
Established in 2005.80 East Barclay Street,
Hicksville, Long Island, New York
Every Sunday at Community Center, Hicksville.
Every Monday at Community Center, Hicksville
Hindi and Religious classes for kids started on April 10th 2005.
The center is also open for birthday functions, weddings, mundans, kirtans, chhands, family gatherings, lectures, classes, conferences etc. It is also available for anyone, including seniors and teenagers to simply get together!
Professional basketball court, and other facilities, such as computers with internet access and video and audio equipment in the classroom.
(516) 433 -4388 or (516) 433-4394.
|Afghan Hindu Temple||Hamburg, Germany||Afghan Hindu Association, Hamburg, Germany (Afghanisher, Hindus Gemeind E.V. – Hamburg)The association of Afghan Hindus was established in 1991 with a membership of sixty families. In March of 1994 the first Hindu temple was opened in Hamburg under the association in a rented building (3000 DM / Month). There were 200 Afghan Hindu families living at that time in Hamburg. The association purchased a building for the temple in 1996 with the price tag of 1,700,000 DM. The temple was moved into the new building in June of 1997. With the generous help of Ram Baba (from London, UK), the deities were established in 1998.
Afghan Hindu Temple, Hamburg
Address: Bill Strasse 77, 20539 Hamburg, Germany
Hours: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM everyday
Special Events: Ladies satsang on Tuesdays and weekly service on Sunday from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM (with tea and langar).
|Hindu Tempel||Essen, Germany||Kultureller Verein afghnischer Hindus in Deutschland e. V.
Tel. 0201. 248 72 20
|Hari Om Mandir||Cologne, Germany||Managed by Kandharis.
Afganische Hindus Gemeinde in Köln e.V.
Wikingersttr. 62, – 51107
Köln (Rath/ Heumar) Germany
Tel. (0221) 8300009
Info line 0221. 830 08355
Fax . (0221) 802 78 15
|Hindu Temple||Kassel, Germany||Hindu Temple
|Sanatan Hari Om Mandir||Cologne, Germany||Managed by Kabulis.
Afghan- Hindu – Kultur- Verein e. V. 1993
Rheinstein Str. 2
50968 Köln .
Tel. 0221. 340 44 84
Fax. 0221. 720 03 22
|Aasamai Mandir||Frankfurt, Germany||Salzschlirfer Street 12
Established on January 20th 2002 by Afghan Hindu culture Society of Frankfurt.
|Gurdwara||Stuttgard, Germany||Managed by Afghan Hindu Sikh Verein e. V.Gurudowara Singh Saheb
Tel. 0711. 336 11 02
|Asamai Netherlands||Amsterdam, Netherlands||Stichting Asamai
1102 AA Amsterdam
|Aasamai Temple||Faridabad, Haryana, India||facebook page|
When many Hindus and Sikhs were living in Afghanistan before the war, they enjoyed freedom of religion, they practiced their religion and celebrated their festivals, there were many temples, dharamsalas, and gurudwaras in Kandahar and Kabul. Following is a list of temple, dharamsalas, and gurudwaras. Some have been destroyed, others are being rebuild and some survived the destruction.
Kandahar – Shikarpuri Bazaar
|Center||Comments||Devotees – Family Names|
|Narsing-dwara||Deity: Narsing Bhagwaan||Khanija, Jagga, Gosai, Pawa|
|Vadi-Dhramsal (Big Dharamsala)||Srichand Gurudwara (Srichand was Guru Nanak’s son)||Sindhi, Other Kandhari, Pawa|
|Akhara||Managed by Thakar Maharaj|
|Thaan-sahib||Deity: Jyoti Swaroop||Busri|
|Lalji-dwara||Deity: Krishna, Gopi-nath||Goswami, Chabra, Gawri, Muthreja|
|Mahabeer||Deity: Shiv-ji, Managed by Chuchi Maharaj||Sharma|
|Choti-dharamsal (small dharamsala)||Gurudwara, Managed by baba Parma|
|Sham-ji-dwara||Managed by Gurden Narula||Marocha|
|Than||Managed Parsa Maharaj|
|Thakar-daira||Deity: Jyoti Swaroop|
Kandahar – Kabuli Bazaar
|Shiv-prasad-dwara||Deity: Shiva (metalic murti)|
|Rati MaRi (red smadhi)|
|Devi Mandir||Deity: Vishnu Devi
Navratra was celebrated here
|Vyas Maharaj Mandir|
|Dharamsala (Baba Jagdish)||Gurudwara|
|Bhola-nath MaRi (smadhi)||Jogi|
|Shiv-nath MaRi (smadhi)||Jogi|
|Maha-dev Mandir (Shwala)|
Kandahar – Outside of City
|Jhampeer Sahib (near Sarpooza)||Deity: Jyoti Swaroop
People visited on Sundays and nine days in summer.
|Devi-dwara (near Dand)||Deity: Vishnu Devi
People visited on Wednesday’s and on Ashtmi
Kandahar – Ziarats
|Baba-wali Ziarat||Hindus and Muslims both visited this Ziarat. Most possibly a Sufi|
|Khalqa Sharif – Ziarat||Hindus and Muslims both visited, some hindus believe Guru Nanak’s Chokha (overcoat) was in this Ziarat.|
|Dargaa||old city||Major Hindu temple|
|Asaamai||old city||Vishnu mandir|
|Srichand Gurudwara||Shor Bazaar||Srichand was Guru Nanak’s son|
|Mansa Singh Gurudwara||Shor Bazaar|
|Khalsa Gurudwara||Shor Bazaar|
|Guru Hari Rai Gurudwara||Shor Bazaar|
|Bhairo Mandir||Shor Bazaar|
|Mangalwar Mandir||Shor Bazaar||Mahabeer|
|Gurudwara Baba Nanak||Jade Mawaind|
|Gurudwara Koth Sahib||Kabul-Tashkent Road|
Jothi Sorup Mandir (Thaan)
|Darwaza Lahuri||Containing Attal Joti of Baba Johti Sorup and Darbar Sahib|
|Gurudwara Khalsa Diwan||Chasma Sahib, Sultanpur||Guru Nanak had lived part of his life in Sultanpur.|
|Gurudwara Nanak Dev Ji||Jalalabad|
|Gurudwara Bhai Nand Lal Goya||Gazni|
|Panchayatie Gurudwara||Helmand (Lashkerga)|
Afghan minorities migrating
By Zulfiqar Ali – Dawn
PESHAWAR, Nov 8: The situation in Afghanistan has forced about 100,000 Sikhs and Hindus to migrate to India and European countries for good during the last decade.
Interviews with the representatives of the Sikh community in Peshawar showed that the post-Sept 11 situation had caused an increase in the number of those leaving Afghanistan.
About 70 Sikh families – around 450 individuals – have entered Pakistan through unfrequented routes since the US and its allies started bombing of Afghanistan.
Gurdwara Sripanja Sahib, Hasanabdal, has provided shelter to 30 displaced Sikh families who fled Afghanistan, leaving their business and property abandoned.
The shrine management told this correspondent that 40 families, out of a total 70, had migrated to India while the rest were awaiting visas.
Amer Jeet Singh, 22, who left Jalalabad when the US jets pounded some targets there, said that almost 90 per cent of about 500 Sikh families in the city had fled. “Life is now difficult in Afghanistan. Unless lasting peace returns to Afghanistan, we will never go back,” he said.
“I, too, will be moving with my family to Amritsar,” he said, adding he had filed his case with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
After India, Afghanistan used to be the second country that had a majority population of Sikhs, most of them were settled in big cities like Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad. There were 10 Sikh temples in Kabul alone.
Their bad days started when warring factions locked in fighting to capture Kabul after the fall of the last Communist regime of Dr Najeebullah.
Their property and temples in Kabul and other cities were either looted or destroyed. Nine of 10 temples in Kabul were destroyed. A historical temple in Khost was ransacked by religious zealots when the Hindu fanatics demolished Babri Mosque in Ayodhia in 1992.
Afghanistan’s only church in Kabul where the diplomatic staff attended services, was also demolished.
Dr Saib Singh, member of the Peshawar city district council, said that so far 6,000 Sikh families had shifted to Pakistan and India, out of around a total of 7,000 families, selling their property at throw-away prices. Hindus too, he added, were leaving Afghanistan.
The externally displaced Sikh families never sought refugee status in Pakistan, said Perkash Chand, a representative of the Sikh community in Peshawar, adding that they cannot live in refugee camps because they did not use packed food and also needed a lot of water.