FOUR MONTHS after an Islamic State-backed attack at a gurdwara in Kabul’s Shor Bazaar killed at least 25 members of the community, and amid allegations of abductions and forced marriage, 11 Sikhs from Afghanistan have been granted short-term visas by the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
They are expected to reach Delhi Sunday.
Chhabol Singh, a community leader in Kabul, told The Sunday Express that among those who received the visas Saturday include Nidan Singh Sachdeva, who was abducted from a gurdwara in Paktia province last month, and a 15-year old girl who was recently “rescued” from an alleged attempt at forced conversion and marriage.
“We have received six-month visas for 11 persons, including Nidan Singh who is still unwell after being tortured in captivity. He will be accompanied by a relative. The families of the two brothers, who were killed in the Kabul attack, will also leave. The daughter of one of them was recently rescued after an attempt to marry her forcefully,” said Chhabol Singh, who is a member of the managing committee of the Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Darbar Karte Parwan in Kabul.
Taliban back, govt watches
With the Taliban jockeying for power, Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan have been feeling threatened. While making a case for the vulnerable position of the minorities under a Taliban regime, the hint of offering them shelter through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) helps the government make a political case at home.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said they had arranged tickets and accommodation for the 11 who will reach the National Capital Sunday on a Kam Air flight under the Vande Bharat mission.
The move comes after the Afghan Sikh community, which numbers less than 700, made multiple appeals to the Embassy and wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah seeking immediate evacuation and rescue after the attack on March 25 at the Guru Har Rai Sahib gurdwara. The process got stalled due to the coronavirus outbreak and grounding of international flights.
An Afghan national living in Delhi on a long-term visa, Sachdeva (55) had gone to Paktia to perform sewa when he was abducted on June 17. He was released last Saturday, with the Ministry of External Affairs hinting that he could utilise the Citizenship (Amendment) Act to get Indian citizenship.
On July 17, the minor girl was allegedly “taken away” from Gurdwara Baba Sri Chand in Kabul and rescued three days later. Her family claimed that a local youth had “brainwashed” her and that she was rescued from a “forced marriage”.
Gurnam Singh, president, Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Darbar Karte Parwan, confirmed that those who received the visas include the family of the brothers who died in the gurdwara attack.
Apart from their mother, they include the son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren of one brother, and the minor daughter, son and wife of the other, Singh said.
“Our plan is to first evacuate the families of those who lost one or more family members in the terror attack. Our first list has nearly 150 people. More will follow. No one from the Sikh community wants to live here,” Singh said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, a family member of the slain brothers said: “It is very sad and painful. Who wants to leave one’s own country this way but there is nothing left for us. We are hoping for a new beginning in India.”
Taliban & the CAA
With the Taliban jockeying for power, the future of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan has come under a cloud. India has highlighted the situation to warn the world of the threat that minorities would face under Taliban rule. The situation has also helped the government make a political case within the country on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
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