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Save Afghan Sikhs

http://www.saveafghansikhs.org

On March 25th, 2020, a militant attack on Gurduara Guru Harirai Sahib in the Shorbazar district of Kabul sparked a renewed call to get the remaining Sikhs of Afghanistan to safety. Global concern for this vulnerable community and campaigns for relief and resettlement are at an all-time high, but due to decades of instability and isolation, channels for meaningful distribution are few and far between. The majority of migration out of Afghanistan occured in the 90s and to date, approximately less than 1% of the community remains. The renewed call in 2020 for Sikhs to leave Afghanistan comes in the wake of a call after a 2018 attack in Jalalabad. On July 1st 2018, a suicide bomb killed 19 people in an attack on Sikh and Hindu political representatives awaiting President Ashraf Ghani.

Seeing a gap between advocacy campaigns and channels for implementation, a coalition teamed together to collect and verify data, information, and offer guidance through recommendations. They are a group of concerned Sikhs who come from the Afghan Sikh and Afghan Hindu communities or have worked extensively with these populations. All information displayed goes through rigorous fact-checking with relevant parties.

Please visit saveafghansikhs.org and see their FAQ page for current updates on the situation.

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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. 

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.

Source: International Affairs Review

It is wrong to assume that Hindus and Sikhs are recent migrants to Afghanistan. Diwan Niranjan Das, an Afghan Hindu, negortiatedindependence of Afghanistan with the British government in India in 1920.

Inderjeet Singh is the author of the recently published ‘Afghan Hindus and Sikhs: A History of a Thousand Years’. In the wake of the March 25th 2020 attacks on the 400 years old Guru Har Rai Sahib Gurdwara in Kabul, IAR spoke to him on the history and future of the Hindu and Sikh community of Afghanistan.

Can you tell us how Sikhs came to be in Afghanistan? And what is their ethnicity? Are they originally from the Punjab or are they ethnic Pathans/Tajiks/Hazaras?

An Afghan manuscript Hudud Al Alam compiled in 982-83 CE puts a number of regions in Eastern Afghanistan, like Laghman and Parwan provinces, as part of Hindustan (India). It mentions [the existence] a number of idol temples in various cities of Afghanistan, including [in] Kandahar and Kabul. It was around this time that the Hindu Shahi dynasty lost Kabul to the Turkic ruler Sabuktigin, father of Mahmud Ghaznavi. It is wrong to assume that Hindus totally vanished from Afghanistan at that point and Hindus and Sikhs are recent migrants to the country.

Author Inderjeet Singh

Guru Nanak visited Afghanistan in 1521 and the some of the Hindus who were living there become his followers or Nanakpanthis. Later his son, Sri Chand who started the Udasi sect also visited Afghanistan in 1540. Guru Amardas (1552-74) established number of missionary seats known as Manjis and one of them was in Kabul. Sikh chroniclers record the visit of Sikhs from Kabul and Afghanistan to Punjab during the 17th  and 18thcenturies. Hence, we have historical Gurdwaras in Kabul, Sultanpur, Jalalabad, Kandahar and other cities. In terms of gotras, the Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan are mostly Khatris and Aroras.

Are there more Sikhs than Hindus today in Afghanistan, and if yes, why?

There are about 800-850 Sikhs and about 50-60 Hindus in Afghanistan. More than half are in Kabul and rest are in Jalalabad and Ghazni. Some other cities do have Sikhs and Hindus, but they are likely only a handful of about 4 to 8 persons, with families shifted to India.

The Soviet invasion of the country in 1979 led to a resistance supported by the USA, Pakistan and other countries. The Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989 and in the next 2-3 years the Mujahedeen who fought the Soviets were able to capture the country. About ninety per cent of Afghan Sikhs and almost all Hindus left Afghanistan in 1992 just before the Mujahedeen captured the last bastion, Kabul from Dr Najibullah’s government. At that juncture, Dr Najibullah informed the Indian government that he was unable to protect the Sikhs and Hindus. The Indian embassy in Kabul issued them speedy visas even as Kabul city was being bombed by the Mujahedeen. Both the governments showed urgency and 2-3 people (and in some cases even 4 people) were given visas on one passport.

Before 1992, relations between the Afghan and the Sikh and Hindu communities were good. Diwan Niranjan Das, an Afghan Hindu, was the Minister of Finance and Commerce under Amir Amanullah Khan (1919-29). He is particularly remembered for negotiating the independence of Afghanistan with the British government in India in 1920. Subsequently there has been a Sikh MP in Afghanistan till date including Jai Singh Faani who was directly elected as an independent candidate in 1969.

The Afghan Hindu-Sikh community in 1960s. Most are wearing the traditional Afghan turban or karakul

The Afghan government recognised economic contribution that the Sikhs and Hindus had made in Afghanistan local [Afghans] treated them very well. People trusted them with their money more than they did the banks. Most of them were into money lending, local banking, or owned businesses.

Let me share an incident. In 1954, the local government decided to widen the road and Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar at Jalalabad came under that modernisation plan. This meant that the gurdwara had to be demolished and the local government would give land [for the gurdwara] elsewhere. When the Sikhs failed to convince the local authorities not to demolish the gurdwara, a petition was made to the Emperor Zahir Shah in Kabul who issued a royal edict and the gurdwara was handed back to the Sikhs. The road widening plan was changed. After 1960s Afghan Hindus and Sikhs took more interest in modern education. I personally know doctors from amongst the Afghan Hindu and Sikh community. Dr Joginder Singh Tej Khurana who is former member of the Afghan Grand Assembly (1990-92) is writing biographies of about 40 doctors/physicians among the community.

However, 40 years of civil war has made the community bitter. Some Afghans have also become [religiously] more fundamentalist but even today an Indian gets a nice welcome in Afghanistan.

What is the current economical and political status of the Sikhs in Afghanistan today? Are they economically strong? Politically powerful? 

The 40 years of civil war have made Afghans bitter and, in some cases, more fundamentalist. Sikhs boys are bullied in school and at times Sikhs are taunted and asked to convert but others are fine. Many of the houses of Sikhs had been illegally captured by warlords and powerful neighbours during the Mujahideen era.

The current regime of President Ashraf Ghani is sympathetic to Sikhs and has allotted 5 million Afghanis for repair of gurdwaras and temples. The government is currently renovating the premises of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Jalalabad, but no government has done anything to free the illegal occupation of the houses of Afghan Sikhs in Kabul.

Narinder Pal Singh Khalsa is the nominated member of the Afghan Parliament and his brother is the Adviser to the President. They are doing their best under difficult circumstances. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed each year in the past five years. In 2019, half of the civilian casualties were due to attacks by the Taliban and they were fellow Sunni Muslims, killed to gain negotiating power with the Americans.Afghanistan is a dangerous place to live in but minorities are more vulnerable.

Why do you think this specific attack by IS-K took place? Do you think Pakistan is behind it? What could be the motivation?

In some quarters India has also been blamed but we must look at the wider picture to understand the situation. ISKP (Islamic State – Khorasan Province)/Daesh has claimed the responsibility for the attack.  ISIS has declared an unofficial war against Shias in Afghanistan. Their places of worship, weddings, tuition centre, and gatherings have been targeted numerous times over the past five years. Sikhs are also infidels in their eyes. This is a continuation of their war on infidels. The whole world knows their carnage of Yezidis in Iraq.

Do all or most Sikhs from Afghanistan want to migrate from Afghanistan?

I cannot speak for all 850 people, but the Indian Express [recently] reported that they have made a petition to the Indian Embassy in Kabul and to the Indian Government through Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee. Some prefer to migrate to a western country like Canada as it is easier to build a future there, even from scratch. However, as it seems less likely now, many them want to come to India purely from a security angle. There are anumber of widows who have never stepped outside their houses which is on the gurdwara premises in most cases. It will be very difficult for them to work and earn enough to live on.

What should India do?

Afghan Sikhs and Hindus who want to come to India should be evacuated and the same kind of urgency which was 

demonstrated in 1992 [by both governments] is required. And then they should be given citizenship quickly.

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