In the second such incident targeting the Afghan Sikh community in the past three months, a Sehajdhari Sikh was allegedly abducted by ‘four unidentified armed men’ from a gurdwara in Chamkani district of Afghanistan’s Paktia province.
The man, identified as Nidan Singh Sachdeva (55), was allegedly abducted from Thala Sri Guru Nanak Sahib gurdwara in Chamkani. His family, including wife and children, are in Delhi. Nidan had gone to Afghanistan three months ago to perform sewa at the gurdwara.
The Indian government condemned the abduction and said it is in touch with the Afghan government to secure his safe and early release.
In response to a media query regarding the abduction, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “We strongly condemn the abduction of Nedan Singh, a leader of the Hindu and Sikh Community of Afghanistan, by terrorists. The targeting and persecution of the minority community members by terrorists at the behest of their external supporters is a matter of grave concern.”
He added, “India is in touch with the Government of Afghanistan for ensuring safety , security and well-being of the minority community in Afghanistan. We hope that the Government of Afghanistan would be able to secure safe and early release of Nedan Singh.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Charan Singh Sachdeva (57), Nidan’s cousin who lives in Delhi, said: “We belong to Khost province in Afghanistan bordering Pakistan. We are Nanakpanthis and follow Guru Nanak’s teachings and Hinduism both. However, our family moved to India in the 1990s as the situation in Afghanistan worsened for Hindus and Sikhs. Since then we keep visiting Afghanistan to attend the annual fair which is held at Thala Sri Guru Nanak Sahib gurdwara in the month of saawan. My brother had gone there in March, nearly three months back to get some repair work done at the gurdwara. Also there were some visa formalities pending as he is still an Afghanistan citizen, not Indian. He would keep travelling from India to Afghanistan and vice versa.”
Charan Singh said the family in India is very scared and want Nidan’s safe release, for which they are in touch with Sikh community leaders in Kabul. “We have not told his wife yet that he has been abducted. He has three daughters and two sons and they are in Delhi. Right now, we cannot say who has done this – Taliban, Islamic State (IS) or some local goons, but we are very scared. We just want his safe release at the earliest…’
Giving details of the incident, Charan Singh said it happened on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday when four men allegedly stormed the gurdwara with weapons and took away his brother. “Since the Sehajdhari Sikh community has left Khost, hardly anyone visits this gurdwara now. It is abandoned and in ruins. We just visit it once a year for this fair and its preparations. We deployed a security guard who lives there. We got a call from the guard, who told us that four men with weapons abducted Nidan Singh.”
He added: “Nidan’s phone is still on. Whenever we call him, someone else leaves a voice note on WhatsApp asking about his family members and other details in Delhi. In one of the messages they said they believe Nedan is an Indian spy. Wo bol rahe hain ki hamara bhai Bharat ka jasoos hai.. (They are saying my brother is an Indian spy).”
He said there has been no demand for ransom so far. “They are not demanding any ransom money. We haven’t received any such demand yet..,” he said.
Nidan worked as a cook and gurdwara sewadar in Delhi, preparing food for langar, marriages, etc.
On March 25, an IS gunman stormed Guru Har Rai Sahib gurdwara in Shor Bazar of Kabul, leaving at least 25 members of Sikh community dead. More than 650 members of Sikh community are left in Afghanistan and since the gurdwara attack, they have written to the Indian Embassy in Kabul to rescue them via special flights and be rehabilitated in India but there has been no response yet.
Chhabol Singh, member, managing committee, Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Singh Sabha Karte Parwan, Kabul, said, “As of now, Taliban has not claimed responsibility of this alleged abduction but according to some relatives of Nedan Singh who live in Afghanistan, they suspect that Taliban is behind it. But Nidan Singh is safe and negotiations are going on for his earliest release. Sikh community elders and MP (Narinder Singh Khalsa) are working to get him released. But initially for three days, MP said he wasn’t even aware of the incident.”
He added, “This abduction is most probably a result of a misunderstanding as Nedan Singh has been misunderstood as an Indian spy, but is still holds an Afghanistan passport and citizenship. Abductors are inquiring all these details..”
He further said, “Sikh community in Afghanistan is living in fear of a terror attack and it is only growing with each passing day. Just three months back, IS attacked our gurdwara and now a man has been abducted from gurdwara. We are in constant touch with Indian Embassy in Kabul for rescue of Sikh community members but with coronavirus cases increasing in India, they say they are helpless to process our request for visas as international fights are closed. But we want to leave from here as soon as possible…”
Contacted twice, Afghanistan’s Member Parliament Narinder Singh Khalsa, representing the Sikh community, did not respond to queries. His personal assistant said, “The MP is busy in a meeting.”
(With inputs from Shubhajit Roy, Delhi)
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