Slowly But Surely, India Has Become The Biggest Home For Afghan Sikhs

S Rajesh

Sep 30, 2022, 10:32 PM | Updated 10:32 PM IST

The Indian tricolour flag
The Indian tricolour flag

India is home to 20,000 Afghan Sikhs, while only 43 remain in their native country, Afghanistan.

Context: A fresh batch of Afghan Sikhs returned to India on 25 September by a special flight arranged by the Indian government.

  • It was 55 people in all — 38 adults, 14 children, and three infants.

  • The latest evacuation was arranged by the Indian government in coordination with the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and the social organisation Indian World Forum. 

Those who stayed back. Sikhs consider the religious text as a living guru and worship it like a deity.

  • The 43 Afghan Sikhs who remain in Afghanistan are reportedly protecting copies of the Sikh holy text Guru Granth Sahib.

  • The Taliban has refused to allow religious texts or sculptures to be taken away from the country, calling them national heritage.

  • In December 2021, Sikhs were allowed to carry their religious texts during evacuation.

  • They were stopped from doing so by the Taliban in September this year. SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami had called it a “direct interference in the religious affairs of Sikhs."

But wait a second... national heritage!? Yes, we are surprised as well, since the Taliban had no qualms in destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas. It did not care two hoots for "heritage" back then.

Afghan Sikhs needed a refuge. The Islamic State attack on gurudwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul on 25 March 2020 was considered to be the deadliest attack on Afghan Sikhs in recent times.

  • Sadly, more misery was in store as the Taliban came to power.

  • The Sikh holy flag, called Nishan Sahib, was removed by the Taliban from the roof of a gurudwara in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province.

  • This gurudwara is said to have been visited by Guru Nanak and holds a special significance for Sikhs.

  • Armed men entered the gurudwara Karte Parwan and damaged most of the CCTVs and locks.

  • Pilgrims who were scheduled to arrive in Delhi for celebrations marking the 400th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur were stopped by the Taliban from boarding a flight from Kabul after having waited 15 hours.

What's been others' approach? A quick look at the attitudes of Khalistanis and Canada.

  • Khalistanis have chosen to blame Hindus for the violence against Sikhs in Afghanistan. 

  • The irony is not lost when we see that it is India that is rescuing Afghan Sikhs while Khalistanis are attacking Hindu temples in Canada. 

  • Canada, which has a large Sikh and Punjabi population, did not include Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in its 2021 resettlement plan for Afghan nationals who had helped the Canadians in Afghanistan.

Conditions of stay: At present, Afghan Sikhs in India are issued long-term visas, which allow them to stay in India for five years. These visas are renewable.

S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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