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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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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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Source: Gov.UK

A detailed report by UK government about Afghan Hindus and Sikhs

In case the above URL doesn’t work, here’s a link to local copy.

Local copy is saved for archival purposes as websites change and information is archived.

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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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Source: MENAFN, ToloNews

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(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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