Afghan Sikh refugees aspire to stay back in India
A large number of Sikh and Hindu refugees from Afghanistan want to stay back in India, as the security situation in their country is not stable. Many of them, the young especially, have learnt stitching and operating computers to be self-reliant.
New Delhi is home to many Sikhs and Hindus who migrated from Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in the early 1980s. Many of them have lives as refugees for more than two decades, waiting for peace to return to Afghanistan.
It is estimated that 50,000 of them migrated to India in 1992. Among those living in the national capital, 5,000 still have refugee status but another nearly 3,000 have secured Indian citizenship.
The children of the refugees are getting education and vocational training at Khalsa Diwan Welfare Society that came up in 1992 and is funded by the Afghan community living in India. Its mission is to ensure that the Afghan refugees are able to earn their livelihood. It has nearly 750 refugee children studying at its education centre here.
“We don’t want to go back to Afghanistan, as the situation there is problematic and there is no hope of improvement. If we get Indian citizenship and visa-free status, our grievances will be redressed. We might go abroad for work but would like to come back to Delhi,” said Khalsa Diwan Welfare Society president Harbit Singh Nagpal.
The second generation of the Afghan Sikh refugees feels safe in India and doesn’t wish to return to its country.
“We left Afghanistan because there was fighting and insecurity there. I am not aware but my parents told us about it; and we came to India,” said Afghan refugee Saroop Kaur.
The family of Jasmeet Kaur has lived in India for the past 22 years. “In India, we get everything and can lead our life independently. I have completed my education, learnt computers, and am getting training in tailoring,” she said.
India has agreed to grant five-year visa instead of the current one-year option to the refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.