Worried over safety, 120 Sikh, Hindu families huddle up in Kabul gurdwara

Concerned over their safety in Afghanistan, particularly after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, nearly 120 Sikh and Hindu families have taken refuge at Gurdwara Karte Parwan in the national capital, making desperate efforts to be evacuated from the war-torn country
Taliban leaders with representatives of Sikh community at a gurdwara in Kabul on Monday.
Taliban leaders with representatives of Sikh community at a gurdwara in Kabul on Monday.
Updated on Aug 17, 2021 04:56 AM IST
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BySurjit Singh, Hindustan Times, Amritsar

Concerned over their safety in Afghanistan, particularly after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, nearly 120 Sikh and Hindu families have taken refuge at Gurdwara Karte Parwan in the national capital, making desperate efforts to be evacuated from the war-torn country.

Once a sizeable minority community having historic shrines in the country, the number of Sikhs has been reduced to a few hundred due to back-to-back attacks by the extremists. The fresh situation has triggered fears of their complete exit from the country.

Narinder Pal Singh, a member of parliament in Afghanistan, said over phone, “Approximately 100 Sikh families are staying at the gurdwara. Though we are feeling safer here, we cannot say anything as the situation is uncertain. There are no flights for us to be evacuated out of the country but we are trying to make arrangements.”

Singh is son of Avtar Singh Khalsa, a member of parliament, who along with other Afghan Sikh leaders and activists was killed in a suicide bomb attack in 2018 at Jalalabad.

In a video, the Sikhs staying in the Kabul gurdwara on Monday said, “The situation in Afghanistan is quite critical. We don’t know what will happen next. We urge the Sikhs in the US and Canada to evacuate us and take us to their countries.”

Hira Singh, a leader of Afghan Sikhs who migrated to India and now lives in Delhi, said, “I am in touch with our fellow community members in Afghanistan but they are not speaking to us for last two days. I tried calling them twice since today morning, but they are declining my calls. We are also worried.”

“As per my information, the Sikhs are safe at the Afghan gurdwara. Fortunately, no untoward incident has happened with them yet,” he said.

He said, “The Sikhs left Jalalabad and travelled 150 km to the Kabul gurdwara. They are also carrying saroops of Guru Granth Sahib and sacred gutkas (handy books of gurbani) and pothis (gurbani scriptures) from historic Guru Nanak Darbar gurdwara and another Sikh shrine at Jalalabad.”

The sangat staying at the Kabul gurdwara includes about 50 Hindus. The men are guarding the foundry wall of the gurdwara, it is learnt. On the intervening night of Sunday and Monday, some mischievous elements tried to open the gurdwara gate, but those guarding the shrine are learnt to have foiled the attempt.

Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjinder Singh Sirsa said, “I am in constant touch with the head of the Kabul gurdwara committee. We have been informed that more than 320 members of minority communities (nearly 50 Hindus and 270 Sikhs) are living in Ghazni and Jalalabad have taken refuge in Karte Parwan Gurdwara Sahib in Kabul in wake of recent developments”, said

He said, “The Taliban leaders have met them and assured them of their safety. We are hopeful that Hindus and Sikhs would be able to live a safe life despite political churning in Afghanistan.”

“I assured them to take measures to ensure their safety and evacuation”, added Sirsa.

Former DSGMC chief Manjit Singh GK also met Delhi-based Afghan Sikh leaders. “We shall do our best to help our brethren there,” he said.

“Though the Taliban have assured them of their safety, their evacuation is paramount in such a situation. We are establishing contact with the Centre as well as representatives of the Canada and UK governments to carry them to safety,” said Ravi Singh, founder head of the Khalsa Aid, a humanitarian organisation.

Puneet Singh Chandok, president, Indian World Forum, said, “We are in constant touch with ministry of external affairs (MEA), Air India and some international agencies for early evacuation of Indians and Indian-origin people from Afghanistan.”

Hira Singh said, “There are a little more than 60 gurdwaras in Afghanistan. Sikh families were earlier staying at seven gurdwaras of Kabul, two in Jalalabad, two in Ghazni among others. But now, most of them are camping at Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul.”

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021