Demand for bringing all Sikhs, Hindus from Afghanistan
Chandigarh Religious bodies are demanding that all Sikhs and Hindu families living in Afghanistan be brought to India at the earliest.
The reaction came a day after 11 members of the Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan, including a community leader who was recently abducted by terrorists, arrived in New Delhi on Sunday after the Indian embassy in Kabul facilitated their travel.
“Why in small groups, bring all of them in one go,” said Gurpreet Singh, who heads Chandigarh-based Global Sikh Council.
Nidan Singh Sachdeva, who was kidnapped from Paktia province last month and was released on July 18, was among part the 11 Afghan nationals who arrived in New Delhi on Sunday.
As per data with the Indian authorities, there are at least 575 Sikhs and Hindus living in Afghanistan of which 350 have valid Afghan passports and majority of them have the Indian visa.
Concerns among Afghanistan’s dwindling Sikh minority have increased after a terror attack on a Sikh place of worship in Kabul in March that left 25 people dead and many others injured.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State, though Indian and Afghan security officials believe the assault was planned and executed by Pakistan-based Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
“Today I met the officers in the ministry of external affairs and have requested them to bring all of them (Sikhs and Hindus) to India. Those who don’t have passports, Indian consulate in Kabul should help them in procuring valid travel documents,” said Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjinder Singh Sirsa. In the next batch, 70 Sikhs and Hindus are expected to reach Delhi in the first week of August.
Sirsa said he had offered the Indian government that DSGMC would pay for the travel expenses of all those coming from Afghanistan. “We will also provide them lodging and food during their initial days and gradually help them find work to earn a livelihood.”
According to reports in the Afghan media, there were some 2.2 lakh Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Their numbers dwindled to 15,000 when the Taliban took control. Now, as per an estimate, the number of Sikh and Hindu population is less than 600.