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Archive for August, 2014

Source: Sikh 24 .com

BY YUDHVIR RANA / IN ASIA, WORLD / AUGUST 26, 2014

AMRITSAR SAHIB, Punjab (August 26, 2014)—Sikh groups here have volunteered to perform “sewa” at various Gurdwaras in Afghanistan after the recent spate of migration of the community following their persecution by the Taliban.
“Sikhs are leaving Afghanistan. We have several historical Gurdwaras there. Who will take care of them? So we have decided to send Sikh jathas to Afghanistan to perform sewa in these Gurdwaras,” said Nankana Sahib Sikh Yatree Jatha president Swaran Singh Gill on Thursday.

Thirty-five Afghan Sikhs, including 13 children, were recently found in a shipping container in the UK’s Tilbury docks. The Sikhs from Afghanistan were forced to leave their country following harassment by the Taliban.

Gill said he had written to both the home ministry and the Afghanistan embassy urging to grant them permission to send an 11-member Sikh jatha to Afghanistan before they leave for Pakistan to celebrate the birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in November.

Acting president of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Bishan Singh told TOI over phone from Lahore on Thursday that there were historical Gurdwaras in Kabul, Jalalabad and Ghzani in Afghanistan.

During his way back from Mecca,Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji had traveled through Afghanistan and had held discourses with Muslim holy saints in Kabul. He said the migration of Sikhs was due to their discrimination and persecution. He said around two decade ago, there were more than 225,000 Sikh populated in Afghanistan which has now come down to only a few thousand. There was a sizable number of Sikhs in Ghazni but many of them had migrated to Pakistan or India.

Gill also said he would also meet officials of home ministry and Afghanistan embassy in Delhi to expedite the matter.

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Source: The Conversation

Jasjit Singh – 20 August 2014, 3.59pm BST

The recent discovery of 35 men, women and children in a shipping container at Tilbury docks in Essex is shocking for many reasons. Few had known that people were being brought into the UK in shipping containers and even fewer knew the kind of dangers these people face in the process. But it has also brought a little-known community to public attention – the Afghan Sikhs.

Questions are now being asked about who this group is and why they would risk death to flee their country. The truth is, Afghan Sikhs have been persecuted for decades. In the past they were pushed to convert to Islam and, these days they face threats of kidnapping for money.

The Afghan Sikhs are indeed a small community, but they are well established. One of the few pieces of research about them explains how this group has maintained a presence in Afghanistan for more than 500 years.

The majority are the descendants of members of the indigenous Afghan population who aligned themselves with the teachings of Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs, during his visits to Kabul in the 15th century. The Afghan Sikh population grew in 1947 as Sikhs from the Potohar region of the newly formed Pakistan arrived fleeing persecution following the partition of India.

There was a Sikh and Hindu population of as much as a quarter of a million people in Afghanistan in the early 1940s. Both religions were well represented in trade and government administration. The Sikhs particularly prospered during the 1933-1973 reign of Zakir Shah and during the strongly secular period of Soviet rule.

But the withdrawal of the Russian forces and arrival of the Mujahedeen placed the Sikhs of Afghanistan in severe difficulty. Their situation became worse still when the Taliban swept to power in 1994.

Hindus and Sikhs were forced to wear yellow stars on their clothing and, research suggests, “ever more vigorous efforts” were made to convert them to Islam. They were required to make financial contributions to the jihad and threats to their families if they didn’t.

In a 2010 interview with the BBC World Service, Afghan Sikh Anarkali Kaur described how her community had significantly dwindled in numbers since 1991, with only 3,000 people remaining. A mass exodus of Sikhs from Afghanistan had begun in 1992 and continued throughout the 1990s and early 2000s as a result of the persecution of non-Muslims by the Taliban.

One of the biggest problems faced by Afghan Sikhs when trying to assert their rights is that Afghans regularly view them as immigrants from India. They have struggled to articulate their status and not been able protect their rights.

The personal security of Hindus and Sikhs in general remains a problem in Afghanistan, especially in the form of kidnap threats from unknown gunmen who believe that all Sikhs and Hindus are rich (even if most of their businesses have now closed down).

The problems faced by Afghan Sikhs in their country has caused them to leave for some years and fresh instability has left them vulnerable again. There is a growing presence of Afghan Sikhs in a number of European countries as a result, including Sweden and the UK. The Afghan Sikh community in Britain is largely concentrated in Southall, West London, where its members have established the gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar (Afghan Ekta Society). Viewing Afghanistan as their homeland and speaking Pasto and Dari, the Afghan Sikh community differs in a number of ways from the mainly Punjabi speaking Sikh community which settled in the UK throughout the 20th century.

We do not know if this is where the people found in the shipping container in Essex were heading. One of these people died and will never make it to his destination and it is unclear what will happen to those that survived. These are a people indigenous to Afghanistan but with the decades of repression they have faced and a struggle to assert their heritage, it’s little wonder they don’t want to go back.

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Source: Hindustan Times

Manpreet Singh   August 22, 2014

The recent incident of Afghan Sikhs rescued from a shipping container from a UK port has again brought to the limelight the plight of the Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan.

Both the minority communities have been facing discrimination at the hands of the majority Muslim community. Sikh children are not allowed to go to the schools and if they dare to, they are bullied and beaten up. Also there have been some incidents where Muslim kids have cut their hair. The Sikh women do not go out of their homes because they are insulted and laughed at. And the Sikh men, who once used to be rich traders, have been forced to work as labourers as they are not allowed to do business and buy lands. By all accounts there are absolutely no more Hindus left in Afghanistan.

Talking to many Afghan Sikh men, women and children, reveals a very poignant story about their life in present day Afghanistan. Children say “Pathans beat us and call us ‘kachaloo’ (a derogatory word that translates to sweet potato), men say “the Muslims always ask us to convert to Islam” and women say “We never leave our house – we are not safe in the streets”.

The head of Hindu and Sikh council in Afghanistan, Avtar Singh says there are fewer than 500 Sikh families left in Afghanistan who are living their lives in oblivion, and under the constant fear of Muslim community. But sadly, they don’t have enough money to leave the country as well.

The head also informed that he has appealed in the Afghanistan parliament and talked to various ministers but no one came forward to help. He said that he also asked gurdwara committees in India who also did not show any interest. Singh also said that he himself is a victim who lost 16 family members to this war of hatred and discrimination, but still he said, “I can’t leave my fellow Sikhs in Afghanistan”.
Listen to the special programme on Plight of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan here

Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have a long history, in the country. Some Sikhs settled in Afghanistan after the first Sikh guru Guru Nanak Dev visited the country in the 15th century.  But a majority settled down in 19th century for trading purpose. They were traditionally a thriving vibrant community, which was well respected in Afghanistan
Before 1990s, the Afghan Sikh and Hindu population was estimated around 50,000. But at present, there are less than 1000 people living there facing an uncertain future.

The main problem started during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan, when many Afghan Sikhs & Hindus fled to India; a second wave followed following the 1992 fall of the Najibullah regime. Gurdwaras throughout the country were destroyed in the Afghan Civil War of the 1990s, leaving only the Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul.

Under the Taliban, the Sikhs were a relatively tolerated religious minority, and allowed to practice their religion. However, the Sikh custom of cremation of the dead was prohibited by the Taliban, and cremation grounds vandalised. In addition, Sikhs were required to wear yellow patches or veils to identify themselves.

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Source: Hindustan Times

Manpreet Singh   August 22, 2014

The recent incident of Afghan Sikhs rescued from a shipping container from a UK port has again brought to the limelight the plight of the Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan.

Both the minority communities have been facing discrimination at the hands of the majority Muslim community. Sikh children are not allowed to go to the schools and if they dare to, they are bullied and beaten up. Also there have been some incidents where Muslim kids have cut their hair. The Sikh women do not go out of their homes because they are insulted and laughed at. And the Sikh men, who once used to be rich traders, have been forced to work as labourers as they are not allowed to do business and buy lands. By all accounts there are absolutely no more Hindus left in Afghanistan.

Talking to many Afghan Sikh men, women and children, reveals a very poignant story about their life in present day Afghanistan. Children say “Pathans beat us and call us ‘kachaloo’ (a derogatory word that translates to sweet potato), men say “the Muslims always ask us to convert to Islam” and women say “We never leave our house – we are not safe in the streets”.

The head of Hindu and Sikh council in Afghanistan, Avtar Singh says there are fewer than 500 Sikh families left in Afghanistan who are living their lives in oblivion, and under the constant fear of Muslim community. But sadly, they don’t have enough money to leave the country as well.

The head also informed that he has appealed in the Afghanistan parliament and talked to various ministers but no one came forward to help. He said that he also asked gurdwara committees in India who also did not show any interest. Singh also said that he himself is a victim who lost 16 family members to this war of hatred and discrimination, but still he said, “I can’t leave my fellow Sikhs in Afghanistan”.

Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have a long history, in the country. Some Sikhs settled in Afghanistan after the first Sikh guru Guru Nanak Dev visited the country in the 15th century.  But a majority settled down in 19th century for trading purpose. They were traditionally a thriving vibrant community, which was well respected in Afghanistan
Before 1990s, the Afghan Sikh and Hindu population was estimated around 50,000. But at present, there are less than 1000 people living there facing an uncertain future.

The main problem started during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan, when many Afghan Sikhs & Hindus fled to India; a second wave followed following the 1992 fall of the Najibullah regime. Gurdwaras throughout the country were destroyed in the Afghan Civil War of the 1990s, leaving only the Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul.

Under the Taliban, the Sikhs were a relatively tolerated religious minority, and allowed to practice their religion. However, the Sikh custom of cremation of the dead was prohibited by the Taliban, and cremation grounds vandalised. In addition, Sikhs were required to wear yellow patches or veils to identify themselves.

 

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Source: Sikh Siyaasat

August 20, 2014 | By

Tilbury, UK (August 20, 2014): According to information the Sikh Relief team extended helping hand for Afghan Sikhs who recently arrived in UK in a shipping container. Sikh Relief team members traveled to Tilbury Port, taking food, clothing and immediate necessities such as, to the Sikhs found trapped inside a shipping container.

“The team were saddened at the way in which young and elderly were stuck in an airtight metal container for such a long amount of time” reads a Facebook post by Sikh Organisation for Prisoner Welfare (SOPW).

According to Sikh24, an online Sikh news portal, [d]onations and langar are being co-ordinated by the Grays Gurdwara, where our team also made their contribution. The local sangat are pulling together to help these traumatised individuals in whatever way they can.

Sikh Relief has offered their heartfelt condolences to the family of Meet Singh who lost his life whilst trapped in the container.

In a statement sent to the Sikh Siyasat News (SSN), Glasgow based Global Minority Alliance (GMA) demanded absolute support for the Sikhs who were found in a container at Tilbury port, Essex on Saturday (August 16).

 

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Source: Sikh24.com

TILBURY, UK (August 19, 2014)—Tests on the body of an immigrant found dead inside a cargo container have failed to establish how he died.

Thirteen children aged as young as one were among the Afghan Sikhs rescued from the shipping container on Saturday.

Members of the 35-strong group found screaming and banging after arriving at the Port of Tilbury, Essex, from Belgium, have finished speaking to police and are now being cared for by Home Office officials, Essex Police said,

The force added inquiries would continue after a post-mortem carried out yesterday on a man, believed to be in his 40′s, found dead inside proved inconclusive.

Two adults and two children remain in Southend Hospital but are expected to leave later today.

“Tragically, one man died on the voyage and the investigation into his death is now being led by us. These people were found in an awful situation and our main priority is to look after them and ensure they are now safe following what would have been a horrendous ordeal.”

Kamaljit Singh Mataharu, a translator used by police, told ITV News that the group believed that they would have died if they remained trapped for another 30 minutes.

He added that they told him: “It was pitch black, without any air. It soon became extremely uncomfortable.”

Mr. Mataharu said there were 15 families, all from Kabul packed into the container after they had traveled to Europe in a lorry.

They told him they had been inside the container for 18 hours.

Essex Police said the group includes nine men and eight women aged between 18 and 72, as well as 13 children aged between one and 12.

Mr. Roe said: “The welfare and health of the people is our priority at this stage.

“We now understand that they are from Afghanistan and are of the Sikh faith.

“We have had a good deal of help from partners within the local Sikh community in the Tilbury area to ensure that these poor people, who would have been through a horrific ordeal are supported in terms of their religious and clothing needs.”

Belgian police earlier indicated that they believe the immigrants were probably already inside when the container was delivered to a European port before setting sail for Britain.

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), said: “It is a disgrace the persecution of the tiny minority of Sikhs from Afghanistan has largely been ignored and it takes an incident like this to remind us all that they are also being exploited by human traffickers.”

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “The death of the man in a container found at Tilbury on Saturday was a shocking incident. One person died and many others might very easily have done so.”

He said the developments should “highlight for us the evil of the abuse and exploitation of the vulnerable”, adding: “The police and partner agencies are continuing to investigate the circumstances of those found in that container.

“But we can be sure that almost all cases of human trafficking involve exploitation by callous organised criminal gangs.”

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A man has been held by police in Northern Ireland over the suspicion of manslaughter of a man found dead in a shipping container at Tilbury Docks on Saturday.

The 34-year-old man, from Limavady, was arrested on Tuesday in Banbridge over death of a man and facilitating illegal entry.

Currently, the suspect is in police custody in Northern Ireland, however he is set to be probed by Essex Police after his return to England.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore, of Essex Police has said: “This is a fast-moving investigation which has already involved a number of police forces and law enforcement agencies from across the United Kingdom and Europe.

“I am very grateful to officers from the PSNI for their assistance this morning. We will continue to work closely with all of our policing colleagues as we pursue our investigation to bring those responsible for this crime to justice.”The victim, Meet Singh Kapoor, 40, from Kabul was found dead after failing to survive in an air-tight container on a UK-bound ferry in Essex which carried 35 Afghan Sikhs as illegal migrants.

A post mortem examination that took place on Sunday was unable to establish the cause of death.

Being viewed as one of the shocking case of people trafficking in recent British history, the 35 people were discovered after dock workers heard banging and screaming coming from one of the containers. The 34 survivors include 10 men, nine women and 15 children, with their ages ranging from one to 72.

All the survivors were suffering from dehydration and hypothermia.

Essex Police Superintendent Trevor Roe has told the group, believed to be from Afghanistan and predominantly of the Sikh faith, have finished speaking to police and are now being cared for by Home Office officials.

Police officials are now trying to discover the route they took to Britain.

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