The head of the Sikh community in Afghanistan’s restive Kunduz city was shot dead by unknown gunmen today, the second such incident within three months, triggering fear among the minority group members. Lala Del Souz was gunned down at about 9am in the Haji Gulistan Kochi Haman area of the city, Tolo News reported. He was reportedly on his way to his shop when the shooting occurred. He died from his injuries while being taken to hospital, the report said. According to relatives of the deceased, he had been shot five years ago but survived the attack. Kunduz security chief Masoum Stanikzai confirmed the incident and said police have arrested three suspects. “Investigations will however continue,” he said. Del Souz’s uncle, Prem, said the deceased had been well- liked and had no enemies.
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The shooting, meanwhile, sparked an outcry on social media with hundreds of people condemning the incident and sending condolences to his family. Prem, however, called on government to thoroughly investigate the incident and make sure those responsible are brought to justice. He said if this does not happen, the few remaining Sikhs will sell up and leave the province.
Following the collapse of Kunduz to Taliban, many Sikhs left the province. Currently only three families are still there, the report said. Sikhs have lived in Kunduz for over thirty years and at one time there were as many as 40 families in the area. After the collapse of Kunduz city last year, Del Souz apparently moved his family to India. He stayed on in Kunduz and lived with his uncle.
Close to 99 per cent of Hindu and Sikh in Afghanistan have left the country over the past three decades. Sikh and Hindu population numbered 220,000 in the 1980’s. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country, the report said. Hindus and Sikhs suffered huge setbacks after the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001. This forced many of them to leave rural areas and move to Kabul in order to make a living.
In October, a Sikh man was abducted from his home and gunned down by suspected militants in Afghanistan’s restive Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan. Sardar Rawail Singh, who lived in Jalalabad, was abducted from his house by militants wearing military fatigues and killed in Khalis Famil area.