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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A year after Kabul attack, Afghan Sikhs long for a settled life 

The attack had taken place inside the Guru Har Rai Sahib Gurudwara.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 25, 2021 10:13:19 am
Afghan Sikhs, Kabul attack, Sikhs in Afghanistan, Afghanistan news, indian sikhs, afghan sikhs in india, india news, indian expressUnited Sikhs paid tribute to the deceased, and honoured the surviving families in New Delhi on Wednesday.

A year after 25 Afghan Sikhs were killed in the Kabul gurdwara attack in March last year, United Sikhs, an NGO affiliated to the United Nations, paid tribute to the deceased, and honoured the surviving families in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The attack had taken place inside the Guru Har Rai Sahib Gurudwara.

Chaibul Singh, 25, was in Ghazni in Afghanistan on March 25 last year when he got a call from a family member informing him about the gurdwara attack. Chaibul’s childhood friend and his uncle were among those killed.

In September 2020, Chaibul came to India on an emergency flight with eight other family members. They are yet to be officially classified as refugees or citizens of India. They have no Aadhaar card, which makes it difficult for them to find jobs. “That one incident changed our lives. While we had shops and homes there, we had to leave everything behind. Now, I work here for Rs 8,000 and my younger brother does a menial job earning Rs 7,000 a month. Lack of documentation and difficulty in speaking Hindi also works against us. We used to speak Pashto or Punjabi in Afghanistan. People find it difficult to understand my Punjabi dialect here,” added Chaibul.

Parvinder Singh Nanda, director, United Sikhs, said they had been working hard to support these families, as it was difficult for them to sustain by themselves.

“To even get medical treatment, they require money and some ID proof. We have helped them get passports, assisted with educational assistance and also provided them free medical assistance through the Delhi government. The next step is to seek assistance from the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, the process for which is under way,” he added.

Surbeer Singh, 39, of Ghazni, Afghanistan, a widely-respected religious leader of Sikh Afghan families in Delhi, says, “The Indian government has helped us by bringing us to the country through emergency flights. I know of at least 87 families who came to India, along with mine. We don’t need Aadhaar cards. We need to get resettled.”

Surbeer Singh’s concluding statement is illustrative and will stay with you. “I cannot get out of my mind the image of the three-year-old girl who was killed in the massacre. There were children, elderly people and women in the Gurdwara that day. The attack left people in shock. While we never feared anything earlier, this incident changed that and we were forced to start looking at other options.”

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