Abandoned By The World, Living In Fear Of The Taliban: India Is The Only Hope For Hindus And Sikhs Of Afghanistan

by Diksha Yadav - Aug 9, 2021 02:25 PM
Abandoned By The World, Living In Fear Of The Taliban: India Is The Only Hope For Hindus And Sikhs Of AfghanistanHindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan
Snapshot
  • Afghan Hindus and Sikhs are living under constant threat of being attacked by the Taliban.

    The Canadian government did not include the Afghan Hindu and Sikh community in their resettlement plan; India seems to be the only hope.

The situation in Afghanistan has been highly hostile for the past few months. The Taliban, which claims to have already captured 85 per cent of the Afghan territory, continues to kill innocent people. It is enforcing Sharia law in the areas under its control, using children as human shields and kidnapping women to force them into sex slavery.

Religious minorities in Afghanistan have always been at the gunpoint of the Taliban. Minorities in the country, or for that matter, even in Pakistan and Bangladesh, have constantly been discriminated against, and their place of worship have either been destroyed or are under constant threat of destruction.

Recent events in Afghanistan make it clear that like in the past — when Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in March 2001 ordered to blow up the two sixth-century Buddha statues in Bamiyan — Taliban is against idol worship and will not spare anyone who will deny Sharia law and practice any religion other than Islam.

Last week, the Taliban had removed the Sikh religious flag — the Nishan Sahib — from the roof of Gurdwara Thala Sahib, a Gurdwara that Sri Guru Nanak Dev visited in Chamkani in the Paktia province of Afghanistan. Later, when India condemned this act, it was restored on 6 August.

Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, as reports suggested, was "brutally murdered" by the Taliban after they verified his identity.

These incidences from the past month point that the Taliban is aggressive towards other cultures and India.

After taking over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the month of August, India has condemned the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and expressed deep concern about the Taliban's military offensive.

On 6 August, during the UNSC briefing on "Situation in Afghanistan", the UN body condemned the terrorist attacks and atrocities on Afghan nationals by the Taliban and made it clear that the UN body would not accept the restoration of the Islamic Emirate.

The demography of Afghanistan shows that more than 90 per cent of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have either been killed or fled the country. The remaining population, due to the rise of the Taliban, lives in fear.

As per reports, around 220,000 population of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were living in Afghanistan in the 1980s. This dropped to 15,000 in the 1990s, during the mujahideen rule, and by 2016, the Hindu and Sikh population had fallen to an estimated 1,350.

According to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), only 583 Hindus and Sikhs were registered to vote at the October 2018 elections in Afghanistan.

The US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for 2019 states, "Sikh and Hindu leaders estimate, there are 120 Sikh and Hindu families totalling approximately 550 individuals... mostly in Kabul, with a few communities in Nangarhar and Ghazni Provinces."

A note dated 27 January 2021 provided by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK to the Country Policy and Information Team cited a response from Narinder Singh Khalsa, a Sikh Member of Parliament in Afghanistan, in which he said that there were approximately 200 Sikhs (44 families) left in Afghanistan.

In July, reports suggested that Afghan Sikhs and Hindus had appealed to the international community to help and evacuate them from Afghanistan as they fear for their lives even more now since the Taliban has taken control of a large part of the Afghan territory. As many as 150 Sikhs and Hindus are living in Kabul live in fear.

In July, in Afghanistan's Jalalabad, two members from the Sikh community were injured after a powerful blast that ripped through a shop located near Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar.

The president of Gurdwara Kartae Parwan, Kabul, Gurnam Singh, told TOI, "For now, we are living in Kabul and are safe but nobody knows for how long we will remain safe".

He also said that they were hoping for a helping hand from Canada, and the minority community did not want to shift to India, as the living conditions and financial security of other Afghani Sikhs and Hindus were not good. Singh lived in India for a few months, and during the stay, he had lost his 14-year-old daughter to Covid-19, following which he returned to Kabul.

Unfortunately, the Canadian government had turned them (Afghan Sikhs and Hindus) down and did not include Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in their resettlement plan. Last month, Canada had introduced a resettlement plan for Afghan nationals who had helped the Canadian Army in Afghanistan, providing them with services of construction workers, cleaners, drivers, security guards, etc.

Before the resettlement plan was announced, the World Sikh Organisation had appealed to the Canadian government to include 200 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in their resettlement plan who are under the threat of being attacked by the Taliban, but its appeal was ignored.

For Hindus and Sikhs living in Afghanistan in a situation where survival has become difficult, India seems to be the only hope for not just help to leave the country but also for safety and security in these challenging times of pandemic.

Diksha Yadav is a Staff Writer in the Swarajya newsroom
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