“THIS FEELS like home,” said Gurjeet Singh after he reached Delhi on Sunday from Kabul. The 30-year-old was among the 11 persons who were granted short-term visas after repeated appeals following an Islamic State-backed attack at the Guru Har Rai Sahib gurdwara in Kabul’s Shor Bazar on March 25.
Singh had arrived with his eight-year-old daughter who was injured during the attack in which 25 people were killed. “I lost two cousins. For the past three months, my daughter has been undergoing treatment after shrapnel hit her eye. I hope I can get her treated here,” he said.
The others who were granted visas include Nidan Singh Sachdeva, 55, who was released last week after being abducted from another gurdwara in Paktia province, and a 15-year old girl who is the daughter of a victim of the Kabul attack and was recently “rescued” from an alleged attempt at forced conversion and marriage.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said those who were granted visas include members of the “Sikh and Hindu minority community of Afghanistan”. “India has granted appropriate visa and facilitated their travel to India. We appreciate the efforts of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in extending necessary support for the safe return of these families,” it said.
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee had arranged tickets and accommodation for the Afghan Sikhs. On Sunday, they were taken to Gurdwara Rakab Ganj to complete the mandatory 14-day Covid quarantine. Many will continue to stay there, said officials.
“The returnees had an emotional reunion with their family members at the airport following which they were taken to the gurdwara. They were given langar and their needs will be taken care of,” said a member of the gurdwara committee.
Among those who reached the gurdwara was 70-year-old Balwant Kaur, who lost her two sons and six other family members in the attack. Last week, the daughter of one of her slain sons was “rescued” by other family members following the alleged attempt at forced conversion and marriage.
The mental toll has made her apprehensive of public interaction but she expressed her relief with a small smile. “Her sons were offering ardas on the second floor of the gurdwara when the terrorists entered. She lost sons, cousins in the attack. Then, the girl was kidnapped. We are glad we can take care of her,” said a Delhi-based relative who had come to meet her.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said they have been assured by Home Minister Amit Shah that most of the Sikhs in Kabul “will be brought back in the coming days and the process for giving them citizenship will begin soon”.