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Mehr Chand Kapoor

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.

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.

You can also follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

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.