Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Source: The Print

Afghan Sikhs who feel unsafe and targeted for their religion in Afghanistan have been coming to India. However, once here, the reality is a different kind of struggle.

Komaldeep Kaur wanted to become a doctor, but after her father’s death, the family’s financial condition has not allowed her to study. They are among the many Afghan Sikh families who have moved to India in search of a better life | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

New Delhi: Two years ago, after the death of her husband, Hardeep Kaur and her family shifted to Delhi’s Tilak Nagar with the help of the city’s Guru Arjun Dev Ji Gurdwara. The 40-year-old widow stays in Galli No. 5 of Krishna Park with her 12-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son.

Her husband Rawal Singh Partan was among the 19 Afghan Sikhs killed in the Jalalabad suicide attack of 2018. The family then thought they’d have a better life in Delhi, but two years later, surviving in Delhi has been very difficult for the family.

Kaur tells ThePrint that she is happy to be with her children, but it is tough for them to meet daily needs. Her daughter Komaldeep cannot attend school because of financial problems, and during the lockdown, her son lost his job. She depends on the gurdwara or her relatives for help.

Since the attack on the Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul’s Shor Bazaar area on 25 March 2020, many Sikh families living in Afghanistan have been requesting to leave the country as they continue to face security threats. The Indian government has been facilitating the arrival of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in the country.

A new chapter in India

Gorjeet Singh was in the first batch to arrive from Afghanistan with his family on 26 July. He had lost his father in the 25 March attack. His family has been living in Afghanistan for ages, but he said, “My family was not safe there. We wanted to have a simple life, where my children can go to school, my wife can roam freely without any fear and does not have to wear a burqa.”

Surjeet Singh, who reached India on 14 August said, “We cannot go back to that country anymore. We want to see what the future holds for us here in India.”

ThePrint’s Manisha Mondal and Urjita Bhardwaj visited the Gurdwara Shri Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi to meet some of these evacuees who are settling in India. They also met relatives of Afghan Sikhs who died in the Jalalabad attack.

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Source: India Tribune

New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS)
 The beleaguered Hindu and Sikh minorities of Afghanistan have found support in not just India, but also in the US.
A resolution, introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Jackie Speier and co-sponsored by seven others, seeks to resettle persecuted religious communities in Afghanistan to the US.
Introduced last week, the resolution said: “Sikhs and Hindus are indigenous but endangered minorities in Afghanistan, numbering approximately 700 out of a community that recently included over 8,000 members.”

The resolution added: “These acts follow a greater pattern of targeted violence against Sikhs, Hindus, and other minorities in Afghanistan in recent years.”
Members from these two communities will be resettled under the US Refugee Admissions Program.
According to Tolo News, the Afghan news agency, nearly 99 per cent of the two minority communities have migrated from Afghanistan in the last three decades.
Hindus, once ancient rulers of Afghanistan, have depleted to negligible numbers while the Sikhs, who have a 500-year-old history, number just 600, too are likely to go extinct as the last handful leave the war-torn country. Together, the two communities number just 700, from a hefty 700,000 in the 1970s. Upheavals and conflicts in Afghanistan coupled with discrimination and terror attacks have led to a steady decline over the decades.

For the Sikhs who had been holding on to their citizenship in the Afghan cities of Kabul and Jalalabad, two attacks — a suicide attack on July 1, 2018, in Jalalabad which killed 19 Sikhs and Hindus, and this year’s attack on March 25 at Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib, Kabul, that killed 25 — were the last straw. They have decided to leave their homeland.
In June, a bipartisan group of 20 US senators had urged the Trump administration to grant emergency refugee protection to Sikh and Hindu communities from Afghanistan.

“Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities,” they said in the letter.
The attack on Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib not just led to the exodus but also put a spotlight on the condition of the two communities.
As the Indian government expedited visas for the beleaguered community in July, Congressman Jim Costa applauded India’s stand in a tweet: “This marks an important step toward protecting Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities from imminent destruction at the hands of terrorists.”
The Indian government had on July 23 said that besides providing visas to Afghan Hindus and Sikhs to travel to India, the government is also looking at their request for Indian citizenship.
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Shrivastava said that Central government was receiving requests from these communities that “they want to move to India and settle down here.” Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, “we are facilitating the requests.”
Ironically, the Citizenship Amendment Act-2019 (CAA), which was vehemently opposed by certain sections of people and led to wanton rioting in Delhi will enable these minority communities to gain Indian citizenship.
The main aim of the CAA was to fast track citizenship for migrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities belonging to three neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As Afghanistan falls into a bigger chaos, the last remaining Hindu and Sikh minorities will find shelter in India, USA and Europe all liberal and democratic nations.
Their religious institutions, the temples and gurdwaras, which have come down to barely a dozen in number will no longer have the priests to perform the celebrations, cultural and religious festivals which so deeply symbolise these two religions.
As the last remaining Hindus and Sikhs leave their Afghan homeland, once a land that nurtured Hindus and Buddhists too, only a miniscule minority across the world knows it is witness to a few thousand-year-old ancient history being erased completely, and a new one being written afresh.
(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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Source: The Indian Express

Since a terror attack by an IS gunman killed 25 Sikhs at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul on March 25, the small Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan have made multiple appeals to the Indian government for “immediate evacuation”. A look at these communities’ history in Afghanistan:

When did Hinduism reach Afghanistan?

According to historian Inderjeet Singh, author of ‘Afghan Hindus and Sikhs: A History of A Thousand Years’, Hindu rulers once reigned over Eastern Afghanistan, including Kabul.

“Islam entered Afghanistan in the 7th century. The Zunbil dynasty is believed to be the earliest Hindus who ruled over Kandahar to Ghazni regions of Afghanistan, from 600 to 870 AD. Later the Hindu Shahi dynasty ruled. They were replaced only by the end of the 10th century by Ghaznavids, who maintained Hindu forces,” Singh said. “It was only in 1504 that Mughal Emperor Babur captured Kabul… Babur used to refer to Kabul as ‘Hindustan’s own market’ and the province of Kabul remained with Hindustan until 1738.”

When did Sikhism reach Afghanistan?

Sikhism founder Guru Nanak visited Afghanistan in the early 16th century and laid the foundation of Sikhism there. As per the history of his travels recorded in the earliest janamsakhis, it was during his fourth udaasi (travels) during 1519-21 , with his companion Bhai Mardana, that Guru Nanak reached Afghanistan and visited present-day Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Sultanpur. All these places now have gurdwaras. Kabul was then under Babur’s rule. Guru Nanak’s followers from Kabul also started visiting present-day Punjab region. The seventh Sikh Guru, Har Rai, too played a pivotal role in sending Sikh missionaries to Kabul and a dharamsaal (earlier name for gurdwara) was established there.

“Several documents record the thriving trade of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghan society but today, 99 per cent of them have left the country. Afghanistan now refuses to acknowledge them as their natives but they have made contribution to their motherland despite a turbulent journey. Can an Afghan be a Hindu or a Sikh? History says, YES,” Singh writes in his book.

When did their exodus from the country start?

According to Singh, there were at least 2 lakh Sikhs and Hindus (in a 60:40 ratio) in Afghanistan until the 1970s.

In 1988, on the first day of Baisakhi festivities, a man with an AK-47 stormed a gurdwara in Jalalabad and gunned down 13 Sikhs and four Afghan soldiers. In 1989, Gurdwara Guru Teg Bahadur Singh in Jalalabad was hit by rockets fired by the Mujahideen and 17 Sikhs were killed.

The exodus started in 1992 when the Mujahideen took over. “The Soviet intervention, which started in 1979, lasted for a decade and Afghanistan became a battleground for the Cold War. The US and its allies started providing weapons to Mujahideen to fight a proxy war against the Soviet occupation. The Soviets withdrew in 1989… The Mujahideen captured Kabul in 1992 and deposed President Najibullah… A large number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus started the exodus and left the country,” Inderjeet Singh writes.

Under the Mujahideen, there were widespread kidnappings, extortion, property grabbing incidents, religious persecution, targeting Sikhs and Hindus which became the trigger point for exodus. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan, those who remained continued to face persecution.

Where did those who moved out settle?

“During those days, it was extremely difficult for anyone in Afghanistan to get a passport. But still the Afghan government (in the months before the Mujahideen took over entire Kabul) issued speedy passports under a scheme called Aab Gang pilgrimage passport (Aab meaning water, Gang meaning river Ganga). The Indian Embassy set up an on-the-go visa department at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Shor Bazar of Kabul to rapidly issue visas to Hindus and Sikhs. Some 50,000 people left Afghanistan under this scheme and came to India,” said Inderjeet Singh.

After arriving in India, many Sikhs and Hindus moved to other countries and are currently spread across the UK, Europe, US etc. “The majority of Afghan Hindus are now settled in Germany and Sikhs in the UK. Others live in Austria, Belgium, Holland, France, Canada and the US,” said Pritpal Singh, an Afghan Sikh settled in London and director of the documentary Mission Afghanistan.

Currently, how many Afghan Sikhs are settled in India?

Khajinder Singh, head of Afghan Hindu Sikh Welfare Society in Delhi, said, “Approximately, there are 18,000 Afghan Sikhs living in India, of whom 50-60% have citizenship and the rest are living as refugees or on long-term visas. Most are living in Delhi followed by Punjab and Haryana.”

How many Sikhs and Hindus are left in Afghanistan?

Not more than 700. Chhabol Singh, member, managing committee, Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Singh Sabha Karte Parwan, Kabul, said, “There are around 650 Sikhs (90-100 families) and nearly 50 Hindus left here… No one wants to live here now after the Kabul gurdwara attack.”

On July 1, 2018, a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad killed at least 19 Sikhs and Hindus. But the tipping point was the attack at Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib on March 25 this year when an IS gunman killed at least 25 persons.

“Even after the 2018 attack, they did not want to leave their businesses and shops. But the 2020 attack was the final nail in the coffin because an attacker stormed inside a gurdwara and killed them. Gurdwaras are also homes for Sikhs in Afghanistan as most of them don’t have their own houses. Also, Sikhs in Afghanistan took heart from the Citizenship Amendment Act in India, knowing that getting Indian citizenship would be easier than before,” said Khajinder Singh.

Will the CAA help them?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which reduces the period of mandatory stay in India from 11 years to five years for minorities from three countries including Afghanistan, will help those Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in getting the Indian citizenship, who moved to India before the cut-off date of December 31, 2014. The Home Ministry, however, is yet to frame the rules for CAA.

How many gurdwaras and temples are left in Afghanistan?

Till the beginning of the 1990s, there used to be at least 63 functional gurdwaras in Afghanistan. Now barely ten of them are functioning, with hardly anyone left to do sewa. The main ones are: Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib (now closed after March 2020 attack), Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Singh Sabha Karte Parwan (central gurdwara), Gurdwara Baba Sri Chand, Gurdwara Khalsa ji, Gurdwara Baba Almast, Gurdwara Baba Mansa Singh Ji — all in Kabul.

Asamai Mandir and Dargah Peer Rattan Nath Mandir in Kabul, Dargah Mathura Dass in Jalalabad, Dargah Peer Rattan in Ghazni and some in Kandahar are among a few temples functional in Afghanistan.

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Source: NDTV


An influential American congressman has praised India for giving refugee status to Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan and urged the Trump administration to do the same for the persecuted religious minorities from the war-torn country.

The Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that there has been a recent spurt of attacks on Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan by terrorists at the behest of their “external supporters” and India has been providing necessary visas to members of these communities who want to come.

“We have been receiving requests from the members of these communities. They want to move to India, they want to settle down here, and despite the ongoing COVID situation, we are facilitating these requests,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

He said once those who want to come and settle in India arrive in the country, their requests will be examined and acted upon based on existing rules and policies.

Responding to India’s move, Congressman Jim Costa said in a tweet, “This marks an important step toward protecting Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities from imminent destruction at the hands of terrorists.”

“While I’m pleased that India has offered them refuge, more needs to be done to ensure their safety in the long term. I will continue to advocate for more permanent solutions that will provide these families with security, economic stability, and a brighter future,” Mr Costa said as he referred to a news story from The New York Times.

In April the lawmaker had written a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking similar refugee status for Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan.

“In April, I wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo urging him to provide help to these families and consideration for potential resettlement in the US,” Mr Costa tweeted.

In its news story, The New York Times reported the statement of Ministry of External Affairs that India has decided to facilitate the return to India of Afghan Hindu and Sikh community members facing security threats in Afghanistan.

According to the daily, the Hindu and Sikh communities in Afghanistan once numbered in the tens, if not the hundreds, of thousands, with well-established businesses and high-ranking positions in the government. But nearly all have fled to India, Europe, or North America over decades of war and persecution.

Last month, a bipartisan group of 20 US senators urged the Trump administration to grant emergency refugee protection to Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan facing persecution as religious minorities.

“Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities,” they said in the letter.

The Sikhs and Hindus once numbered around 250,000, but now fewer than 1,000 people live in Afghanistan due to decades of persecution, they added, the senators wrote.

A heavily armed ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) suicide bomber attacked a gurdwara in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital on March 25, killing 25 Sikhs and injuring eight others.

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Source: India Post

WASHINGTON DC: Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined by 19 of his Senate colleagues in urging the Trump Administration to grant emergency refugee protections to Hindu and Sikh communities in Afghanistan facing life-threatening persecution as religious minorities.

In a bipartisan letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the senators called on the State Department to prioritize resettlement opportunities under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program allocation ceilings for Afghan Hindu and Sikh communities, whose populations have plummeted markedly due to years of persecution by the Taliban and recent terrorist attacks on their communities in 2018 and 2020.

“This Administration has repeatedly highlighted protecting religious freedom as a top foreign policy priority,” the senators wrote. “Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities.”

The Senate letter to Pompeo comes in the wake of the Hindu American Foundation’s campaign to “Save Afghan Hindus and Sikhs”, which calls on the Senate to amend the Lautenberg-Specter Amendment by extending Priority 2 protections to persecuted religious minorities in Afghanistan. The HAF campaign was launched on April 23, 2020 and has generated nearly 1,700 emails to Congress to date.

It is especially noteworthy that the Senate has adopted the HAF position on extending Priority 2 protections, as opposed to Priority 1 which is only a short-term fix, stating in their letter that “A P2 designation would maximize opportunities for resettlement of Afghanistan’s Sikhs and Hindus under the FY20 allocations ceilings for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, including the allocation for refugees who ‘have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of religion.’”

“We greatly appreciate Senator Menendez’s leadership on this issue and likewise urge the Senate to do their part and amend U.S. law to save Afghan Hindus and Sikhs,” stated HAF Managing Director Samir Kalra, “Congress has a role to play here and Hindu Americans look forward to working with our friends in the US Senate to achieve our common goals,” Kalra said.

Joining Senator Menendez in signing the letter to Secretary Pompeo were Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and James Lankford (R-OK).

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Source: VOA News

Afghan Hindu and Sikh families wait for lunch inside a Gurudwara, or a Sikh temple, during a religious ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

SLAMABAD – Following a militant attack in late March that killed 25 Sikhs in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, a dwindling community of Sikhs and Hindus is now weighing whether or not it is safe to stay in the war-torn country where the minority group is subject to constant threats by militants and discrimination by others. 

The March 25th gunman attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul’s Shor Bazar Gurdwara area was claimed by the Islamic State terror group. Many Sikh and Hindu activists have since appealed for international assistance to help relocate them to outside of Afghanistan. 

“If you stop a Sikh child and ask him what he wishes, he will say that he wants to leave Afghanistan,” said Singh, a 22-year-old Sikh who was among nearly 150 people trapped in the religious complex assailed by a group of IS militants. “Who is not happy to live in peace?”   

Singh requested anonymity over concerns for his safety for speaking openly.

Recalling the horrific incident that ended after about six hours of fire exchange between IS militants and Afghan security forces, he told VOA that he considers his survival a miracle.    

“We went to a room and locked the door from inside. I saw the shadow of him [an IS fighter].” 

Singh’s father, nephew, and sister-in-law were among the 25 people killed in the IS attack. Heartbroken by the loss, he says he is now committed to leave Afghanistan with his family “to have a better future, where there is no fear.”Activists Concerned About Safety of Hindus, Sikhs in Afghanistan Concerned About Safety of Hindus, Sikhs in Afghanistan

Activists Concerned About Safety of Hindus, Sikhs in Afghanistan | Voice of America – English

The two minority groups were once thriving with a substantial involvement in Afghanistan’s trade and business. But, since the 1978 conflict, Sikhs and Hindus have found themselves increasingly targeted.  The population of both minorities has shrunk from about 250,000 to less than a thousand. 

Deepak Ahluwalia, a California-based immigration attorney and Sikh rights activists, said that he believed Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan were facing religious persecution and “are being threatened with genocide.”

Broad Discrimination  

The Taliban in the past have ordered the Sikhs to wear yellow armbands so they could be easily distinguished from the Muslim majority. A more extremist Sunni group, IS, considers both Hindus and Sikhs to be pagans.   

According to Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the two minorities also face institutional and cultural discrimination.

 Zabihullah Farhang, a spokesperson for AIHRC, told VOA that Hindus and Sikhs “face a lot of discrimination in the public places, with their children in schools, with employment and work opportunities.”

Farhang said that Hindus and Sikhs were not given the same rights as Afghan Muslims, and the minority groups felt increasingly targeted. 

“One of the main reasons that they are leaving their country, without doubt, is cultural issues,” he added. 

Illegal property seizure

The country’s constitution and government have further deepened the isolation, charged Rajdeep Jolly, a Sikh rights attorney in Washington, DC. He said Article 62 of the Afghan constitution that states only a Muslim can run for president shows religious minorities are looked down upon.

“Even in the absence of genocidal violence, the Afghan legal system has relegated Sikhs and Hindus to second-class citizenship,” said Jolly, adding that the two communities face obstacles from basic religious rituals such as cremation to judicial bias and illegal property seizures.  

Afghan government says they are doing their best to protect them from militant attacks.

“The Afghan Security Council has started some measures and they will take serious actions for their security,” Dawa Khan Menapal, a spokesman for the Afghan president, told VOA.

Menapal said the country in the past few years under President Ashraf Ghani has made significant progress to address the issues these communities face. He said Hindus and Sikhs have two members in the Afghan parliament “who raise the voices and concerns of their constituencies.”

Some Stay

Some members of the minority groups say they are not willing to give in despite continued terror attacks and discrimination. 

Commenting on whether Hindus and Sikhs in recent weeks have begun to flee to the West, Narinder Singh Khalsa, a lawmaker representing Hindus and Sikhs in Wolesi Jirga or the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament, told VOA that the two communities “have not made such a decision yet.” 

“Reports published by media outlets outside Afghanistan saying that Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan are trying to seek asylum are all baseless,” he said.

‘It is our country’

Gornam Singh,24, is determined to stay in Afghanistan. He told VOA that Afghanistan has issues at all levels, but this is his country. 

 “The whole Afghanistan has concerns. All are worried, from the president to a vender but this is Afghanistan. It is our country,” Singh said.  

Balbeer Singh Pahwa, the vice president of an Afghan-Sikh Gurdwara in New York, who was born and raised in Kabul said he does not remember an intolerant Afghanistan when he lived in it and regretted the path Afghanistan has since taken.    

 “Afghanistan was very different then. Kabul was like living in a European country, we had no problem of religion at that time,” he said. 

Pahwa left Afghanistan in 1983 due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of the country.He said that they were able to freely perform their religious rituals when he lived in Kabul.   

 “Every year for Basakhi, Sikhs families would all travel to Sultanpur and Jalalabad. There were maybe 2000 people, about 500-600 families at the time. We would set up tents and stay there for a week. Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak was there,” he added.

Major loss of culture

Some minority activists see the end of Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan as a major loss for the country’s rich culture. A more diverse and tolerant Afghan society, they argue, could play a major role in developing the country.    

Manmeet Singh, a U.S.-based activist and filmmaker, said the remaining Hindus and Sikhs in the county were “the last descendants of a pre-Islamic civilization dating back thousands of years.”  

He warned “their exodus from Afghanistan will be a triumph for fanatics and a tragedy for the world.”

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Source: Catch News

The Afghan Sikh community living in the United States has urged the Indian Government to help in the resettlement of the Sikhs living in Afghanistan, terming it to be the only ‘viable’ option for less than 650 families that are hard hit by the violence in the country.

Worried for the lives of the Sikh minorities living in Kabul, Jalalabad and Ghazi in Afghanistan, this minuscule Sikh community is seeking refuge in India.

Encouraged by the steps taken in the past by the Indian government, the Afghan Sikh community leaders have made an appeal to India to accommodate the Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan and grant them legal entry and political asylum with long term residency multiple entry visas.

The community leaders living in the United States said it is imperative to alleviate the dire situation of religious minorities in Afghanistan who look to India as the only safe haven in the region.

Speaking to ANI, Afghan American Paramjit Singh Bedi, Chairman of Afghanistan Committee for Global Sikh Council, said, “At a time when the attention is focused on the coronavirus pandemic and India is under lockdown, we understand India’s worry but I still urge GoI to take quick action as we fear the safety of the Sikhs living in Afghanistan.”

“We further request the Modi government to arrange a special flight from Kabul and request India to intervene as soon as possible on their (Sikhs in Afghanistan) behalf before it’s too late,” Bedi said.

Bedi laid out his concerns, highlighting the terror attack by ISIS March 25 that killed 25 Sikhs at their gurdwara in Kabul. “The victims included women, the elderly, and a four-year-old girl. They had gathered to pray that morning for the health and recovery of people afflicted with COVID-19, but their lives were cut short by religious bigotry,” Bedi recounted the tragic terror attack.

Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu has expressed solidarity with Sikh community of Afghanistan. “India has always stood in solidarity with the Sikh and Hindu community in Afghanistan and extended help and refuge in difficult circumstances,” he tweeted on Friday.

Meanwhile, ANI reached out to the US Department of State to understand US’ commitment of bringing the persecuted Afghan Sikh and Hindu group to safety. A Department spokesperson told ANI that its leadership, including ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback, are aware of the gravity of the Sikh community’s situation in Afghanistan.

“I met last week with a number of members of the Sikh community in the United States about trying to help out with the resolution of the crisis for the Sikhs in Afghanistan. Those discussions are ongoing. I think they’re ongoing with a number of branches within the U.S. Government,” Ambassador Brownback told ANI

“I don’t know of any decisions that have been reached at this time, but it is a dire situation for the Sikhs in Afghanistan, and many of them, if not the entire community, seeks to leave Afghanistan to get to a safer place for their community after these attacks have taken place. We will continue to work with them, but I don’t have any announcements at this time,” he added.

The Department of State’s spokesperson also told ANI that it is deeply concerned about the violence perpetrated and threatened against Sikhs and other religious minorities in Afghanistan.

The spokesperson also added that Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has condemned the recent attacks against the Sikh community in Kabul and has urged all Afghans to come together to negotiate a political settlement to help confront the militant group that is threatening the safety of that community and others.

The spokesperson also informed ANI that the US Embassy in Kabul is in regular contact with the Sikh community and Afghan government regarding the Sikh community’s concerns in Afghanistan.

“Sikhs constitute an important part of the fabric of Afghan society. We encourage and welcome outreach by the Government of Afghanistan to reassure the Sikh community of the importance attached to their safety and continued contribution to Afghanistan,” the spokesperson further told ANI.

In the wake of the terror attack on a 400-year-old Gurdwara in Shor Bazar in Kabul on March 25, the United States had expressed concerns about the safety of the Sikh community in Afghanistan.

“I remain deeply concerned about the safety of the Sikh community in Afghanistan. Afghan Sikhs have long been an integral part of the multicultural tapestry of Afghanistan and Afghans must come together now to ensure the security of religious minorities,” senior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells tweeted.

US’ House Foreign Affairs Committee has also urged Trump Administration to consider Afghan Sikhs and Hindus for emergency refugee protection under the Fiscal Year 2020 US Refugee Admissions Program.

“Concerned for the safety of the Sikh community in Afghanistan, recently targeted by ISIS, and urge the administration to consider Afghan Sikhs and Hindus for emergency refugee protection under the Fiscal Year 2020 U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” House Foreign Affairs Committee tweeted.

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Source: The Economic Times

Pakistan had requested his custody for further investigation as the leader of leader of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the Islamic State. The Afghan foreign ministry said as Farooqi was involved in the killing of hundreds of Afghans, he should be tried under the law of the country.

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury 

NEW DELHI: Afghanistan in a key decision turned down Pakistan’s request to hand over Aslam Farooqi, the Islamic State regional head who according to Afghan government was captured in connection with a recent bombing at a Sikh gurdwara and several other terrorist attacks. 

Pakistan had requested his custody for further investigation as the leader of leader of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the Islamic State. 

The Afghan foreign ministry said as Farooqi was involved in the killing of hundreds of Afghans, he should be tried under the law of the country. 

Afghanistan and Pakistan had no extradition treaty. 

On April 4, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), announced that they had arrested Farooqi, whose real name is Abdullah Orakzai, in Kandahar province. 

Pakistan had formally asked the neighbouring country to hand over terrorist. 

Atif Mashal, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, was summoned to the Pakistani foreign ministry to convey the request. 

“The ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and conveyed Pakistan’s views about the arrest of IS-Khorasan leader, Aslam Farooqi, by the Afghan authorities,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Office. 

The group took the responsibility of a recent attack targeting a Sikh gurdwara in Kabul, leaving scores dead. 

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Source: Youth Ki Awaaz

Al Jazeera: Gunmen storm Sikh religious complex in Kabul

The distressing news of the fidayeen attack on a Sikh Gurudwara in Afghanistan’s Kabul raised severe questions over the vulnerability of minorities in the Islamic Republic of Afganistan and the region’s impending de-stability post the exit of the U.S troops. The attack took place at a critical juncture when the entire global community is confronting a deadly pandemic. 25 Sikhs including women and children lost their lives in the attack leaving 8 injured.

Global leaders were quick to express their condolences but spoke little more than their habitual jabberwocky. In the background of this terrorist strike, the article is an attempt to analyze the necessity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the possible repercussions of the U.S-Taliban peace deal.

The attack took place on the morning of 25th March inside Gurudwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul, where 150 members of the Sikh community had gathered for prayers. Investigation agencies claim that a group of four terrorists opened fire at the devotees and all the fidayeen were gunned down in a six-hour-long tussle with the security forces. Islamic State (IS) was quick to claim responsibility for the carnage through their propaganda magazine Al Naba on 26th March.

One among the four was an Indian national called Abu Khalid Al-Hindi and is identified as a Keralite named Muhammad Muhsin. But to make things worse, another bomb blast took place at the funeral venue. Even though no one was injured in the blast, deep hate towards the religious minorities in Afghanistan has been continuously shown by the radical factions. In July 2018, IS had similarly targeted a gathering of Hindus and Sikhs killing 19 people and injuring 20.

It is a genuine concern of the Indian security agencies that with the Taliban in power, Pakistan can further mobilize their resources to create further troubles in Jammu and Kashmir. During the short period of their regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban was brutal to religious minorities and women and imposed strict laws for blasphemy and adultery. People were publically executed and in most cases brutally stoned to death. Hence, a shift in Afghan polity will be against India’s strategic interests and power politics in the region.

As an answer to the central question, minorities account for just 0.2% in the total population of Afghanistan which is around 35 million. Even if the Taliban assures security to the Hindu and Sikh minorities under the peace deal, Islamic State which fights the Taliban for supremacy in the region won’t spare the ‘infidels’. Quitting Afghanistan was a poll promise of Trump and it seems that he is desperate to pull off from ground zero in the election year itself.

The idea of India’s military intervention in Afghanistan Post-U.S troop withdrawal has received mixed feedback from military experts. Feasibility and its sustenance have been debating points. Both the ways, the Afghan problem is all set to open a Pandora’s Box before the Indian government. The government, in due course of time, has to work with the government of Afghanistan and ensure its civilizational responsibility of assuring protection to the minorities of Afghanistan.

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Source: Outlook India

By Lalit K Jha

Washington, Apr 11 (PTI) A Hindu American group has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to grant asylum to the persecuted Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan.

In a letter dated April 9 to Modi, Hindu American Foundation said it is imperative to alleviate the dire situation of religious minorities in Afghanistan who look to the secular Republic of India as the only safe haven in the region.

“On March 25, 2020, a terrorist attack on the prominent Dharamshala Temple in the Shor Bazar area of Kabul, Afghanistan tragically killed 25 people and injured at least 8 others. About 150 worshipers were inside the temple at the time of the attack including women and children,” said the HAF.

Noting that this is just the latest example of religious minorities being persecuted in Afghanistan, HAF said in July 2018, a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus en route to meet Afghan President Ashraf Gani, resulting in the deaths of 19 people and injuring 20 others.

“Today, there are only an estimated 200 Sikh and Hindu families left in Afghanistan,” it said.

Encouraged by the recent steps taken by the Indian government, HAF urged Modi to take further action to alleviate the dire situation of religious minorities in Afghanistan “who look to the secular Republic of India as the only safe haven in the region”.

HAF urged the prime minister to grant legal entry and political asylum to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and other persecuted religious minorities currently fleeing Afghanistan with residency visas that last no less than five years and with the option of applying for expedited citizenship.

Seeking temporary housing to refugees, HAF urged Prime Minister Modi to ensure that these religious minorities are eligible for government benefits such as physical and mental healthcare, education, economic or business loans, grants and other employment opportunities.

“Hindu Americans are right in believing that the Indian government, granting citizenship to the most vulnerable communities in the region seeking safe haven in India, is a genuine humanitarian gesture that makes right at least some of the wrongs that exist in that part of the world,” stated HAF executive director Suhag Shukla. PTI LKJ

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