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In Afghanistan, Sikhs and Hindus seek Indian envoy’s help to set up electric crematoriums

During his meeting with the Indian Ambassador, chief of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Council, Avtar Singh Khalsa had told him that the two communities faced problems while cremating their dead as many Afghan Muslims objected to the practice.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
Updated: June 21, 2018 1:49:14 am
In Afghanistan, Sikhs and Hindus seek Indian envoy’s help to set up electric crematoriums Avtar Singh Khalsa

The Sikh and the Hindu communities in Afghanistan approached the Indian Ambassador earlier this month to seek his urgent intervention to help set up electric crematoriums for them in the country. The issue was flagged by chief of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Council, Avtar Singh Khalsa, during his meeting with the Indian Ambassador to Kabul, Vinay Kumar, on June 12.

Khalsa was asked to submit a “formal request” for electric crematoriums, which he is likely to do soon. Khalsa’s son, Narinder Singh Khalsa, told The Indian Express over phone from Afghanistan on Tuesday that his father will be submitting a request for one electric crematoriums each for Kabul, Ghazni and Jalalabad where the Sikhs and Hindus reside.

During his meeting with the Indian Ambassador, Khalsa had told him that the two communities faced problems while cremating their dead as many Afghan Muslims objected to the practice. Khalsa, who has been leading a movement to seek respectable cremation rites as per traditions of the two communities, added that cremations were opposed citing the health risk posed by smoke that emanated during consigning the dead to flames.

His son, Narinder Singh Khalsa, however, said that there had been incidents of locals pelting stones at members of the two communities while they performed last rites of their loved ones.

“For every cremation, we have to request for security cover. And only after pleading hard, we manage to get the security cover,” said Narinder, who is a Unani physician in Afghanistan. He said Sikhs and Hindus in Kabul had been cremating their dead at Qalacha, which has a walled cremation area on the outskirts of Kabul. Narinder revealed that the area around Qalacha was not inhabited for almost ten years and objections to cremations started only after a settlement came up there.

“During meeting with the Ambassador, my father also sought ambulances for each of the three areas (Kabul, Ghazni and Jalalabad) for the Sikh and Hindu communities,” added Narinder.

An official at the Indian Embassy at Kabul said during his meeting with the Ambassador, Khalsa did raise the issue of cremations. “He was asked to make a formal representation in that regard, so that we may decide whether to solve it at the local level or take it up with the Indian government,” added the official.

Khalsa, meanwhile, is likely to be elected unopposed from a seat allocated for minority Hindu-Sikh community in the lower house of Afghan Parliament. The polls to the Wolesi Jirga are scheduled for October.

Narinder said that his father had served in various ranks with Afghanistan army for ten years, adding that there were nearly 1200 Sikhs and Hindus currently living in parts of Afghanistan.

“At one point of time, Sikhs and Hindus were into farming. But, due to the unrest, many sold their farms and left for other countries. The farms of many others were forcibly taken away by powerful locals,” said Narinder.

He added that after getting elected, his father will raise issues in Afghan Parliament to address the problems faced by Sikhs and Hindus.

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