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Source: Tolo

Sikh community in Nangarhar province have said that their children have not proper place to continue their schooling. They said that their children are instead learning their lessons inside the temples due to lack of proper place.

In this part of Farakhabar, host Fawad Aman discusses the topic with the following guests:

Anarkali Honaryar, senator

Rawol Singh, deputy head of Hindu and Sikh Community of Afghanistan

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Click here to read a research paper by Roger Ballard on Afghan Hindus and Sikhs which was written in 2011

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Click here to read the thesis by Chitra Venkatesh Akkoor who completed this work in 2011 as part of her PhD degree in University of Iowa. Chitra made multiple trips to Germany and spent significant amount of time with Afghan Hindus in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Cologne to complete this work.

 

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Source: Afghanintan Analysts Network

Author:
Date: 16 December 2013

On 14 December 2013, the Wolesi Jirga (WJ), the lower house of the Afghan parliament, rejected the presidential decree adding a reserved seat among its ranks for the Hindu and Sikh minorities. The debate showed a divided house, but the vote rewarded those pitted against this facilitation for the tiny minority. However, the tone and arguments used to justify this choice fell within the themes of legality and respect for the constitution, fortunately avoiding any divisive comments about communalism and sectarianism, AAN’s Fabrizio Foschini reports (with input from Ehsan Qaane).

The issue of how to deal with the presidential decree of 3 September 2013, that guaranteed a reserved joint seat to the Hindu and Sikh minorities (read a previous AAN dispatch here), had been lingering on the WJ agenda for two weeks before the house, distracted by more important items, found the time to discuss it. It was only on Saturday 14 December 2013 that the Legislative Committee of the WJ, who had discussed the issue during the past week, could raise it. In fact, the committee presented it in the general session through two MPs (both from Herat); its head, Qazi Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, who was thoroughly contrary to its acceptance; and another member, Ahmad Behzad, who was in favour of it.

The house started debating the issue, and two opposite camps were clearly delineated. MPs like Behzad, Naqibullah Fayeq (Faryab), Ramazan Bashardost (Kabul), Shukria Barakzai (Kabul), Gulalay Nur Safi (Balkh) and Humaira Ayyubi (Farah) supported the allocation of one seat for Afghanistan’s only religious minority (Afghanistan’s Hindus and Sikhs are often put together in the general perception as Ahl-e Hunud); while Hanafi, Abdul Sattar Khawasi (Parwan), Khalil Ahmad Shahidzada (Herat), Nazifa Zaki (Kabul) and Ghulam Faruq Majruh (Herat) strongly opposed it.

The latter group’s reasons were apparently not occasioned by a disagreement over the status of Afghanistan’s only religious minority. All the arguments were couched in terms of respect for the provisions of the constitution, namely that the addition of a seat specifically dedicated to a certain group among the Afghan population went against Article 22 of the constitution (read also here), which prohibits any kind of discrimination and privilege among the citizens of Afghanistan.

However, some MPs took issue with Hanafi referring to the Hindus and Sikhs as “our hamsaya” (meaning “neighbours” but often implying a dependent position)(1). Some asked if he meant that they were not full Afghan citizens or coming from another country, and the head of the Legislative Committee had to explain that he did so out of affection and without any pejorative meaning. He also argued that the committee had asked the Ministry of Interior how many Hindus and Sikhs currently lived in Afghanistan, but the ministry, because of the refugees who had left the country during the various stages of the war, could not give clear figures, at least not before the new identity cards have been distributed. Hanafi then related how the committee further requested information from the lone Sikh member of the Meshrano Jirga (MJ), Anarkali Honaryar, who, according to Hanafi, put their numbers at 7,000 – an estimated 2,000 of whom are breadwinners who have sent their families abroad out of fear or insecurity.

Therefore, Hanafi argued that they could not reserve a seat for this small number of Hindus and Sikhs, considering Article 83 of the constitution, Afghanistan’s overall population and of the presence of other, bigger minority communities who do not have a seat.(2)

Article 83, when fixing the maximum number of WJ seats at 250 (which would have allowed for the debated addition, as the current number is 249), states that this should be proportioned to the population of each constituency (thus a province, except for the Kuchis). The required minimum size for constituencies other than provinces is not specified, although, following the provincial breakdown of seats, each WJ seat appears to be linked to 100,000 inhabitants, according to a very rough and probably outdated estimate of 25 million Afghans at the time of the drafting of the constitution. Actually the same article also states that the electoral law must make provisions to ensure that the electoral system guarantees a general and just representation to all the people of the country, something that can be easily interpreted in favour of the seat for the Hindus and Sikhs. Hanafi’s reasoning, however, seems to have been that – even if endowed with a separate constituency – they are not numerous enough to deserve a seat.

Again, some MPs were not satisfied. They criticised this assessment on the basis of the numbers registered during Daud’s presidency (1973–78) indicating that 17,000 Hindu and Sikh families were living in Afghanistan, and their population could not have decreased since then. Humaira Ayyubi suggested taking into account the overall number of families in Afghanistan during those years to calculate the current number of Hindus and Sikhs according to the national growth rate recorded since then. She added that, no matter how many of the existing Afghan Hindus and Sikhs were currently living in Afghanistan, Afghan refugees abroad must also be counted and represented in the WJ.

Other MPs adopted a more nuanced approach. Shahidzada agreed that all MPs cared for their Hindu and Sikh brethren, but that they could not deal with their problems in ways that went against the law. Instead, he suggested, the president could maybe make up for the lost seat in the WJ by appointing another Hindu or Sikh to the Meshrano Jirga or as one of his advisors. Khawasi more decidedly drew upon the constitution and recalled the presence of other minorities mentioned there apart from the Hindus and Sikhs, saying that if a seat was allocated for the latter, the others should be considered, too.

Ramazan Bashardost was among the fieriest speakers in defence of the Hindu-Sikh seat. He maintained that the MPs should not use strict adherence to the constitution only to withhold help that was meant to assist the weakest groups. He then lashed out at the somewhat hypocritical approach to the issue of identity, arguing that, for example, the constitution contains nothing that states that the president must necessarily be a Pashtun, the first deputy a Tajik and the second deputy a Hazara, but that this is very much the common wisdom about the highest organs of the state. He added that even the WJ selected its speaker because of his being Uzbek (read an AAN dispatch here), while now MPs were denying the Hindus’ and Sikhs’ right to a separate seat on the basis of a “we’re all equal” approach.

Shukria Barakzai defended Karzai’s decree as not anti-constitutional. She said that the president took into consideration specific social problems before opting for this addition and also did not try to add somebody to the WJ arbitrarily, but to have him/her elected through a by-election. She added that some fellow MPs who now reject this opportunity had a very different attitude when the issue arose about the right of other minorities to a reserved quota (in reference to the ten seats allocated for Kuchis – see here – and to the support that, for example, Khawasi gave to that proposal in the first parliament, which was quite apparent to everybody).

Behzad reasoned that giving a seat to the Hindus and Sikhs was indeed tantamount to going against the constitution, but that there were other examples in the Afghan constitution and internationally, showing that to support disadvantaged minorities is correct. He also mentioned other changes brought by the WJ in this sphere – for example, the quota for women in the provincial council, recently diminished from 25 per cent to 20 per cent (read a previous AAN dispatch here).

From both sides, some MPs wanted to refer the matter to the Supreme Court, while others opted for the Commission for Oversight and Implementation of the Constitution. The house started to argue over who had the prerogative to interpret the constitution and if the WJ had the authority to refer a matter to the Supreme Court (apparently not, the constitution implies that only the government or the judiciary can do that). On the other hand, Hanafi said that the letter the Legislative Committee sent to the Constitutional Commission had not received any answer yet. He proceeded to read bits of a previous letter from the Constitutional Commission (sent earlier this year, during the debate on the electoral law), which sounded as if it had been opposed to the idea of reserved quotas altogether (arguably, women and Kuchis included). Behzad objected to this, saying that the whole letter originally had a different tone, but that now some parts were missing. Humaira Ayyubi also objected and quite openly accused Hanafi of having manipulated the document, as pages do not usually disappear by themselves.

In the end, the 132 MPs present abandoned the idea of referring the matter to other bodies and went instead for a vote. This sealed the fate of the Hindu-Sikh quota, with 73 votes against the seat allocation, 51 in favour and 7 blank. MJ member Anarkali Honaryar, when interviewed by AAN, stated her belief that many MPs might have voted against the allocation of a new seat because of the fear/misconception that it would become a prerogative of the president to appoint one person of his choice to the seat or because of their opposition to a presidential decree based on political reasons, rather than out of hostility to the Hindus and Sikhs.

Altogether, this looks like a lost occasion for the Afghan parliament to uphold values of tolerance and attention to the country’s minorities that were once a very appealing face of the new Afghan institutions. Still, the fact that the debate was couched in terms of legality rather than in those of communalism or sectarianism makes its outcome much more acceptable. In particular, given the tense situation of these days with the debate about whether or not to include “nationality” (ie, the ethnic background) on the new ID cards to be issued, things could have taken a much worse course even inside the WJ. On the very day of the WJ vote, a street manifestation on the ID card issue took place, with protesters gathering on Kabul’s Jalalabad Road and then moving in front of the Supreme Court, where a peaceful sit-in continued until early afternoon.

What now? In 20 days the senate must also discuss the matter. They can approve the WJ decision or reject it, in which case a joint commission of the two houses will be arranged to discuss it, or they could just refer the issue to the Commission for Oversight and Implementation of the Constitution and hope for a decisive answer. The representative of the Hindus and Sikhs in the upper house, Anarkali Honaryar, has expressed to AAN her determination to reverse the decision of the WJ and is confident that a majority of her colleagues in the senate support her views.

It is also time for the Afghan Hindus and Sikhs to assess their position, to try to play their cards (they already had appealed to the president, resulting in his now rejected decree), if any cards are left, and hopefully not pack up and leave the country as they have threatened. The Afghan parliament can maybe afford to temporarily lose a battle waged in defence of the country’s multiculturalism – provided it is fought according to the law and without resort to divisive communalism – but Afghanistan can hardly spare any productive and peaceful members of its society at this stage.

 

(1) Historically, the term hamsaya, “sharer of the shadow,” was used for smaller groups, sometimes of different tribal or even ethnic backgrounds, seeking the protection of a larger tribal group.

(2) It is actually not very common to find a community bigger than the Hindu-Sikh one without representation in the WJ. The issue is difficult to ascertain for groups who, although mentioned in the constitution, often lack a clear-cut identity with respect to their neighbours or are able to blend in up to some point, like the Brahui/Baluch, the Arabs or the Gujars. Only the inhabitants of the Pamir in Eastern Badakhshan province – both the Pamiri Ismailis and the Kirghiz – totally lack representatives. The Pamiri Ismailis, speaking various Eastern Iranian languages (Shughni, Zebaki, Ishkashimi, Wakhi and Munji) but largely sharing cultural and religious similarities, are indeed a big group amounting possibly to 100,000; they had managed to get an MP elected in 2005, but like the Hindu-Sikh group, failed to repeat the exploit in 2010. The Kirghiz, on the other hand, are a much smaller community than the Hindu-Sikhs, probably not numbering more than 2,000 (see an AAN dispatch here).

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Source:  Kabul Press

By M. Amin Wahidi

In a racist action, the parliamentarians of Afghanistan refused the allocation of a single seat in the parliament for the Sikhs and Hindus minority group. Although the Sikh and Hindu people of Afghanistan have passed a long way of suffering for their religion but they are still discriminated against.

 

Recently the Afghanistan Parliament has passed the election bill, which was under discussion for a long time because of its controversial articles regarding allocation of seats in the parliament for the vulnerable categories such as women and religious and ethnic minorities. The bill is passed by both houses of the parliament and is awaiting Karzai’s signature to be put in act.

 

The vulnerable categories were listed in the proposed bill as the women, the Kochis (nomads) and the Hindus and Sikhs.

 

The allocation of certain number of seats for Kochis and for women was approved but the Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan remained with no seats, which is a sign of religious discrimination against a group of the citizens while in the constitution of Afghanistan, the citizens are guaranteed equal rights and opportunities regardless of their ethnicity, race and religion so, if they women are considered vulnerable, they Sikhs and Hindus are also vulnerable and there numerous of proof cases for this fact.

 

In the constitution of Afghanistan there are articles such as 2nd, 6th, 22nd and 24th that emphasize on freedom of religions for non-Muslims and then equal opportunities for all citizens of the country that should be guaranteed by the government.

 

Afghanistan is a country with an absolute majority of Muslims but we have Sikhs, Hindus and Christians who are considered as very vulnerable religious minority groups and need to be protected, given equal opportunities and fair treatment as every other citizen in the country, and in some cases they have to be given compensatory opportunities for their long sufferings because of discrimination against them.

 

Afghanistan is a home for different ethnicity and different cultures and our Sikh and Hindu fellows, not only have the same rights as every one else, but they should also be given more opportunities and be compensated for all injustice and misbehavior conducted against them through the years, that forced them limit their religious practicing, lose their wealth and properties. They were also very badly tortured by the Taliban during 1990s.

 

Most citizens of Afghanistan know that millions of Afghanistani people are around the world as asylum seekers and refugees and tens of thousands of them have already obtained citizenship from European countries, from the USA or Australia and are enjoying the justice, fair treatments and equal opportunities in their new countries, but the way our politicians still think within the country is very stinky and disturbing; they discriminate against a religious minority of their own country in a very bad manner.

 

Our Hindu and Sikh brothers and sister are peaceful, positive and very potential citizens of the country who are mostly involved in small and large scale businesses in the country and have paid taxes for years in this country and their attitude has been always friendly with Muslim citizens of the country.

 

They have served in the military when it was an obligatory service and have paid all their dues to the country as everyone else; it is not fair to discriminate them for their religion and culture.

 

In this regard Kawa Gharji an Afghanistani journalist in exile and a writer for Kabul Press has posted an ironic post on his Facebook Timeline as below;

 

“No Pain No Gain!

 

As the Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan did not participate in the glorious civil war and did not destroy schools, did not blast themselves, did not conduct suicide attacks, did not cultivate opium and other dangerous narcotic substances, so their quota of parliament seats will be given to the hardworking Kochi brothers.

 

This quota is given to the Kochis to thank them for their day and night efforts in destruction, annually attacks on Behsud, burning the farms, destroying schools, threatening school girls and women, putting remote-controlled bombs on the roads, prohibiting and divesting more than 70,000 students from education and killing the innocents and dragging their bodies on the ground by horses.

 

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has given a chance to the Sikh and Hindu citizens of the country, to prove themselves with the above-mentioned standards but they have failed the criteria. So they did not deserve a seat in the parliament.”

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“Sarbat Sangat Kabul Guru rakhega….

Sarbat Sangat uppar Meri khushi hai…” 

                     – Paatshahi 10 Samat 1756.

The above quotation is from a Hukamnaama of Guru Gobind Singh of 1699 CE, blessing the Sangat of Kabul.  The opening and concluding lines of the Hukamnaana (edict) read: “Sangat of Kabul, the Guru will save you…. I am pleased with the Sangat of Kabul.”  (Reproduced by Giani Kartar Singh Sarhadi, “Kes Philosophy”, 1960 p.189)

Today, there is fear and desperation in their empty eyes. They have no livelihood and no work; and their growing children receive no education. Their daughters do not have much hope of finding suitable matches; and they are not certain where the next meal would come from. Many women and children live in Gurdwaré, Sikh place of worship relying on Free Kitchen

And so, a young adventurous Afghan Sikh, Pritpal Singh, who had left Afghanistan 2 decades ago, set out from the UK to document the suffering of fellow Afghan Sikhs and Hindus communities in Afghanistan. The film “MISSION AFGHANISTAN by an Afghan” portrays “the life and hardships of minorities in War-torn Afghanistan.”

Those who could afford it, left the country. Those left behind have hardly any means of support. They have no present and no future.

These are Sikh women with children, widows and families left behind in a war-riven Afghanistan. Together with the Hindu community, their numbers are dwindling, as they live from day to day in many towns in Afghanistan. The situation of women is made worse because this is an conservative country where women are confined to walled enclosures and cannot go out to work.

They cannot even dispose off their dead with dignity. Cremations are done with stealth in fading light and away from the sight of local communities.

Even Gurdwaré of great historical significance are in a state neglect and disrepair.

The country has been torn apart by war for decades and peace is not in sight when the Americans, British and other foreign troops leave. For minorities like the Sikhs and Hindus, the situation is quite hopeless. As a Sikh lady points out in the documentary, they cannot just depend on short term handouts by generous Sikhs from abroad.

The need is for sustained support projects which set up schools and also provide work for the poorer Sikhs in Afghanistan. Much can be done by the more prosperous business Afghan Sikhs who are doing well in Sikh diaspora countries like the UK, Germany, India, UAE & US.

Funded by Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Southall (UK), Pritpal had only a very limited budget. The main advantage of this low budget but professionally produced documentary was that, with one local cameraman, and dressed as an Afghan fluent in Farsi & Hindko, Pritpal was able to merge and mix with communities, and keep a low profile in a highly dangerous environment. Travelling on mined countryside roads, strewn with destroyed army vehicles, he was able to film remote places and intermingle with communities in a war zone. This is a country where tourists make attractive targets for hostage-taking by terrorists, and filming crews have to travel with convoys.

Pritpal returned from this dangerous mission with, in his words, “The treasure of well over 1500 photographs and films of key historical Gurdwaré, Mandir & Mosques of Afghanistan – something which has never been done in past!”

He travelled to Kabul, Jalalabad, Sorkhrod, Agh Sarai, Charikar, Salang and Ghazni.

Truly, his mission to bring out the truth about the desperate condition of his fellow Sikhs in a country where their forefathers lived for thousands of years, is a remarkable achievement. He loves his country of origin and is concerned that “if they migrate to other countries, our history and our historical sites will vanish”.

It is a highly informative journalistic documentary. In Hindko, English, Farsi, Panjabi & Pashto with English subtitiles.

Written by Gurmukh Singh
UK Civil Service

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Listen  to BBC’s interview with Dr. Fakirchand Chandihok

د افغان هندوانو او سکانو د حقونو فعالان وايي په دغه هېواد کې د دوی بنسټيز بشري حقونو ته پام نه کيږي.

د افغان هندوانو او سکانو د حقونو فعال او د بشري حقونو د دفاع نړېوالې ټولنې (Global Human Rights Defence) غړی فقیر چند چندیهوک وايي افغان هندوان او سکان ځينې وختونه اړ کيږي چې د خپل مړي د سوځولو لپاره د افغانستان نورو ولایتونو او ان پېښور ته ولېږدوي.

دی زیاتوي د دوی ماشومان اوس هم له زده کړې بې برخې دي. ښاغلی چندیهوک د بي بي سي پښتو وېبپاڼې سره په مرکه کې د افغان هندوانو پر ستونزو غږيږي.

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