Archive for June, 2019

Source: The Logical Indian

“I want to tear myself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But I am here, my legs blocks of concrete, my lungs empty of air, my throat burning. There will be no floating away.” 

Sikh and Hindu families were once a thriving minority in Afghanistan. Blaming growing intolerance and discrimination, many have fled their motherland.

Chairman of the national council of Hindus and Sikhs, Avtar Singh, says that compared to around 220,000 members of the community that lived in Afghanistan before the collapse of the Kabul government in 1992, there are fewer than 220 families.

The community, which was once spread across the country, is now mainly concentrated in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Ghazni, and the capital Kabul.

Fear, Isolation And Discrimination

Afghanistan is almost entirely Muslim. However, its constitution, which was drawn up after the Taliban government was driven out in 2001 by US-led forces, theoretically guarantees the right of minority religions to be able to worship freely.

Avtar Singh, however, says that under the Taliban, conditions were worse. They imposed strict Islamic laws, staged public executions and deprived women and girls of their basic rights, including education.

“A society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated,” Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini wrote in A Thousand Splendid Suns. 

Under the Taliban rule, Hindus and Sikhs only had wear yellow patches that identified them in public. Otherwise, they were hardly ever bothered.

Neighbourhoods in Kabul have become densely populated over the years. New residents often oppose Sikh and Hindu cremations, which is a practice that Muslims, who bury their dead, are not familiar with. The smell of a body is burned makes the families feel sick, they say.

For their funerals, the community now requires police protection. According to the Sikhs, local Muslim hardliners have become extremely hostile against them.

However, Dahi-ul Haq Abid, deputy minister for Haj and religious affairs, said that the government has done their best for the well-being of the community.

“We agree that conflicts pushed them out of the country, but their condition is not as bad as they claim,” Abid said. “We have allocated them a place to burn their bodies because inside the city people complained about the smell, but they did not agree.”

Children of the community, too, complain of harassment in their schools by other kids.

“Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. A city of harelipped ghosts,” Khaled Hosseini wrote. 

Afghanistan Has Always Been War-Torn

When The Kite Runner’s Amir returns to Afghanistan years after he fled the country with his family, he comes back to a war-torn country with men, women and children, violated and mistreated, weeping at the corners of the streets, the snow-white expanses of which were smeared in blood.

Sikhs and Hindus may be the victims now, but Afghanistan has always been a war-torn country. Bombs and gunshots and weeping children are what paint the picture that Afghanistan is.

Amir’s experience of fleeing the country and coming back to it is exactly what Hosseini had gone through himself.

Talking about his return, Hosseini wrote, “When I went to Afghanistan in 2003, I walked into a war zone. Entire neighbourhoods had been demolished. There were an overwhelming number of widows and orphans and people who had been physically and emotionally damaged; every 10-year-old kid on the street knew how to dismantle a Kalashnikov in under a minute. I would flip through math textbooks intended for third grade, fourth grade, and they would include word problems such as, “If you have 100 grenades and 20 mujahideen, how many grenades per mujahideen do you get?” War has infiltrated every facet of life.”

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Source: Birmingham Live

Controversial plans to convert a former travel agency in Smethwick into a Sikh temple are expected to be approved next week.

Members of Sandwell’s planning committee had deferred the application to carry out their own inspection of the site in South Road, opposite the Grade II listed Holy Trinity Church.

Afghan Sikh Ekta Charitable Foundation is applying for permission to demolish the present office building, which is made up of three converted terraced houses believed to have been built in the late 19th century.

The site sits on the edge of Smethwick Town Centre Conservation Area and objectors have raised concerns about the temple’s impact.

The application proposes to demolish the existing building and replace it with a two-storey place of worship measuring 27 metres wide by 12 metres deep and high.

It also proposes 24 off-road car parking spaces at the side and rear of the property.

In 1999, the council gave permission for the site to be converted into a travel agents with living accommodation for staff.

Objectors say the plans do not provide enough parking spaces and the existing building could be saved from demolition by converting it into a place of worship.

But in recommending approval, planning officers say the temple could accommodate up to 220 people and the proposed on-site parking was sufficient for 150.

They add that at peaks times there is adequate spaces available on nearby roads while pointing out the Holy Trinity Church across the road provides no off-road parking at all.

Dismissing the objections, a report to the planning committee says: “This is not a valid reason for refusal. The proposal would clearly meet a local need.

“The proposed building would be purpose built as a place of worship. It is therefore understandable that the applicant would prefer this option and it would most successfully meet their needs.”

Councillors will make their decision on July 3.


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Source: NDTV

Mr Badal said that a delegation of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) led by its president Manjinder Singh Sirsa would meet Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Tuesday …

Among other demands, the delegation will urge for giving formal permission for the DSGMC’s Nagar Kirtan to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on the occasion of 550th Parkash Parv of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It will also urge for grant of citizenship to thousands of Afghan Sikhs living in India besides urging that Jammu and Kashmir Sikhs be given minority status in Jammu and Kashmir and immediate redevelopment of Punjabi Colony, Mumbai which has been declared as dangerous.

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Inderjeet Singh is the author of first book on Afghan Hindus and Sikhs in English

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Source: Tolo

Youths and new faces are making at least 70 percent of Afghanistan’s parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, which has 249 members. 

According to the secretary of the house, Afghan women managed to secure 27 of the seats in the parliament after October elections.

A number of new lawmakers who have secured said that they will soon start their legislative responsibilities as a routine once the current rift over the election of a new speaker of the house is over.

“We are optimistic that the young lawmakers use their abilities and try for implementation of the law in Afghanistan,” said Narendra Singh Khalsa, an MP representing Afghanistan’s Sikh minority.

“In this round, we see two positive things: first the number of young lawmakers has increased and they have more motivation for work, and second, we have educated youths and we consider it a positive step,” said Rahimullah Ghalib, deputy of parliament’s secretariat chief.

There were 249 seats in the parliament in the previous rounds of the parliament, but the Afghan government later decided to consider one seat reservation for Afghanistan’s Hindu and Sikh community.

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