Archive for April, 2019

Source: Global Voices

In Afghanistan, Sikh and Hindu minority groups have for decades experienced targeted religious persecution while suffering from low access to civil rights.

Given that these injustices have been compounded by the country’s deep and growing security issues, it is hardly surprising that of the 220,000 Sikh and Hindu citizens living in Afghanistan in the 1980s, less than a thousand remain.

The Manmeet Bhullar Foundation is committed to enabling Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to achieve asylum in Canada.

They have asked the Canadian government to recognise Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan as particularly vulnerable minorities and develop an appropriate plan to evacuate them.

deadly attack on prominent Sikh leaders in July 2018 added urgency to this bid.

The July 1 suicide bombing that killed 19 people and injured 10 as Sikh and Hindu representatives made their way to a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was claimed by the Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate and sent tremors through the community.

Canada-based organisations, including the World Sikh Organization and Gurdwara communities have supported the asylum drive, claiming notable successes. The first Sikh and Hindu Afghan Refugee families arrived in Canada on March 13, 2019.

A final exodus?

As an exit door potentially opens for Afghanistan’s remaining Sikhs and Hindus, the publication in March of the “Survey of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs” conducted by the Porsesh Research and Studies Organization (PRSO), a non-profit based in Kabul feels pertinent.

The survey was conducted “to understand better the situation, and provide a clear picture of their [Afghan Hindus and Sikhs] living conditions” according to its authors.

The survey focused on the security, political participation, economic situation, civil rights, national mood, migration, and integration situation of Hindu and Sikh communities in Afghanistan.

The survey found that “Hindus and Sikhs are considerably less optimistic about the direction of Afghanistan compared to the rest of Afghans.”

Insecurity, unemployment and poverty are the factors driving this pessimism. Children lack access to education. For women, one of the main problems is “not being able to freely go outside.”

Afghan Hindu and Sikh communities have always participated in Afghan society.

While more than 50 percent turned out to vote in the most recent national elections, only a third (34.38%) of respondents say they feel they can influence their local government’s decisions. This is considerably lower than the national average and is spurred partly, the survey’s authors believe, by Sikhs and Hindus “poor representation in government administrations.”

Economically, “a quarter of the respondents reports having difficulty purchasing simple and basic food”, while others can only afford basic needs. Sikhs and Hindus invariably work in the private sector as smalltime traders and shop owners.

Regarding emigration “60.7% of survey respondents expressed desire to migrate if they were given opportunity.” The remainder cited their patriotism as a reason not to emigrate, a reminder of the roots these communities have put down in Afghanistan despite difficulties, and the emotional wrench of leaving.

At the heart of the two groups issues in the country is a systemic bias against non-Islamic religions written into the constitution, which the survey called “excessively dependent upon Islamic interpretations and (containing) many articles discriminatory towards Hindus and Sikhs.” Although both groups are free to worship, the constitution’s recognition of the supremacy of Islamic law makes it difficult for Hindus and Sikhs to live publicly according to their faith.

This has ingrained in many a perception that the state’s institutions exist to harass rather than protect them.

Sikhs and Hindus typically fear encountering the Afghan National Police more than others. More than a quarter of respondents have experienced some type of threats in the past, while a quarter also claimed to have been victims of land-grabbing or property seizure.

The survey concludes with recommendations to boost political and legal rights and access to education and employment for Sikhs and Hindus, while promoting diversity and pluralism in the country as a whole.

Ehsan Shayagan, Founder and CEO of PRSO expressed hope that the survey “will help in inclusion of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs in the peace and development process in Afghanistan.”

Sadly, it may be too late for that.

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Link to the book on Amazon.com and  Amazon.in


Can an Afghan be a Hindu or even a Sikh? History says yes. Islam entered Afghanistan in the 7th century. The Hindu Shahi rulers of kabulistan were replaced only by the end of the 10th century by the Ghaznavides, who maintained Hindu forces. For three-quarters of the 13th century, The pagan Mongol ruled the region. Timur the lame fought with the jats in Central Asia in the 14th century. Babur, who captured Kabul in 1504, refers to Kabul as hindustan’s own market. Further, Guru Nanak visit in the early 16th century laid the foundation of Sikhism in Afghanistan. Several documents record the native Hindus and Sikhs in the Afghan society and their thriving trade. But today, almost 99 percent of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs have left the country. The khurasan of yore accommodated Hindus and Sikhs as its own, yet today’s Afghanistan refuses to see them as natives. Will history claim justice for the original ‘lalas’? Afghan Hindus and Sikhs narrates the history of their rich contribution and turbulent journey in the last millennium.

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Source: MENAFN, ToloNews

(MENAFN – Daily Outlook Afghanistan) KABUL – Afghan Hindus and Sikhs at a ceremony in Kabul on Friday said their community has also been affected by insecurity and violence and that they fully support the ongoing efforts for peace as they are tired of war same as other citizens of Afghanistan.

They said they hope to see a peaceful Afghanistan in the not-so-distant future.
The Hindus and Sikhs remembered the 13 fallen members of their community who lost their lives in a suicide attack in eastern Nangarhar province last year. The ceremony was attended by a number of Kabul residents and government officials.

On July 2018, when a number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus wanted to visit President Ashraf Ghani in Jalalabad city in Nangarhar, a suicide bomber attacked them and killed 13 of them, including Afghan Sikh leader Avtar Singh Khalsa.
‘My father who headed the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus Council and was a teacher lost his life in that incident. Our representatives from Ghazni, our elders and prominent young people were killed in that incident, said Narender Singh Khalsa, son of Avtar Singh Khalsa.
Khalsa was the only candidate for parliamentary elections from the Hindus and Sikhs community. His son ran for parliamentary elections after his father’s death.
Royender Singh Khalsa, daughter of Khalsa, said they are not only faced with insecurity but they are suffering from injustices in society.

She said they want a peaceful life and that they support peace efforts.
‘My two sisters were killed in the past and my uncle was killed when the Kochis attacked our Dharamshala. What has remained for us in this city that we should love it and live for it? Nothing has left for us, our elders have been killed and now only widows and orphans have remained, Royender said.

Yusuf Pashtun, an advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, said at the ceremony that the Hindus and Sikhs have been living in Afghanistan for long time and that they have deep roots here.
‘There is no doubt that we accepted Islam, but we are from one tribe, we are brother and we should continue this brotherhood, said Pashtun.

An investigation by TOLOnews from last June shows that close to 99 percent of former Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan have left the country over the past three decades.
The investigation revealed that the Sikh and Hindu population number was 220,000 in the 1980s. That number dropped sharply to 15,000 when the mujahedeen were in power during the 1990s and remained at that level during the Taliban regime. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country.
According to the findings, the main reasons behind their departure include religious discrimination and government’s neglect of the minority group, during the Taliban era in particular.
The TOLOnews findings indicate that where Hindus and Sikhs were once very active in business within the country, they are now faced with increasing poverty.
The findings also show that Hindus and Sikhs had suffered huge setbacks after the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001. This forced a large number of them to leave the countryside and to migrate to Kabul for a living. As a result, there are no Sikh or Hindu citizens living in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Despite their problems, remaining Hindu and Sikh residents have said they are trying to continue with their lives in Afghanistan as they are optimistic about the country’s future. (Tolo news)

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