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Missing for three days, minor Sikh girl in Afghanistan reunited with family

Her family claimed that she was taken away Friday by a local Muslim youth who “brainwashed and threatened” her to marry him and “convert to Islam”.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: July 21, 2020 2:16:09 pm
Gurdwara from where the girl went missing. (Express photo: Pritpal Singh)

A 15-year old Sikh girl, who had gone missing from Baba Sri Chand gurdwara in Kabul’s Shor Bazar Friday, was ‘reunited’ with her family Monday, local community leaders told The Indian Express. Her family claimed that she was ‘taken away’ Friday by a local Muslim youth who “brainwashed and threatened” her to marry him and “convert to Islam”.

Sikh community members said that with the efforts of government and local Sikh MP Narinder Singh Khalsa, the girl was “convinced to return”. A police complaint has been registered over an attempt to forcefully marry a minor girl, they said.

“The girl was influenced and taken away on the pretext of marriage. She is a minor. We have rescued her and brought her back. She is at my home and safe. People who influenced and took her away are in police custody. Police is helping us,” MP Khalsa told the The Indian Express over phone.

In the wake of the fresh incident, the Sikh community in Afghanistan has reiterated its demand for immediate evacuation to India. After another kidnapped Afghan Sikh, Nidan Singh Sachdeva (55), was released Saturday, the Ministry of External Affairs had hinted that he can use the CAA to get Indian citizenship.

Meanwhile, the girl’s 22-year-old brother who along with his mother and another brother lives in a room at the gurdwara premises, told The Indian Express over the phone, “My sister is just 15. She doesn’t know anything about the world and atrocities that are inflicted on Sikhs here in Afghanistan. A local Muslim youth, who is 18-19 years old and lives in a house opposite gurdwara, brainwashed and threatened my sister and took her away. She was taken to Panjshir from where we brought her back today. They tried to marry her forcibly. She was instigated against her own family.”

He added: “She said that she was threatened, she was forced to embrace Islam and marry that man. We have still not brought her to our own home as it is unsafe. Usey dhamkiyan di gai ki tu apne bhai ke khilaaf bol, usey bola gaya ki tera bhai tujhe maarega pitega, wo bachhi hai abhi, kuch samajh nahi hai usey (She was threatened to speak against her own brother. She was told that her brother will thrash her if she returns. She is a child, she doesn’t know anything).”

About how she was taken away Friday, he said: “A car came and picked her up. The neighbours informed us. Soon we started looking for her. She had stopped going to school. She is an innocent child who was easily misled and brainwashed.”

The girl had lost her father in the Islamic State (IS) terror attack at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul on March 25. At least 25 members of the Sikh community were killed in the attack.

The girl’s brother, who runs a medicine and cosmetics shop in Kabul, said: “Each day here is now a punishment. You don’t know when you will be targeted again the next minute and you will die. Since the gurdwara attack in March, things are getting just worse. We want immediate evacuation to India. We even lost our father in the attack in March,” he said.

Harinder Singh Soni, sewadar and managing committee member of Guru Har Rai Sahib gurdwara who lost his wife, father and three-year old daughter in the March attack, said that the minor girl was ‘influenced, brainwashed and forced’ to embrace Islam. Harinder, who was a part of the team that went to “rescue” her, said, “The local Muslim youth lied to her that he will marry her. We have brought her back safely and she has accepted that she got influenced. They told her ‘saade dharam mein aa jao’ (convert to our religion). A police complaint has been filed against the accused as they tried to forcefully marry a minor girl. She was instigated against her own family because that’s what local goons here want. They want to wipe out Sikh community. All 600 families here now want immediate rescue and evacuation to India. We had submitted applications immediately after March attack but process was stalled due to coronavirus. We request Indian government to restart the process.”

On Monday, a group of Sikh community leaders in Kabul visited the Indian Embassy to enquire about status of their applications seeking immediate visas for India. The Sikh community in Afghanistan at present is less than 700-strong.

Gurnam Singh, president of Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Darbar Karte Parwan, Kabul, said, “We again visited the Embassy of India in Kabul today and we have been given some forms to fill. The plan is that first family members from ‘shaheed parivaar’ who lost one or more members in recent attacks, will be evacuated. Our lists are ready on who will be sent in the first batch. Embassy has assured us that there will be fruitful developments by July 31. We had applied for visas to India immediately after March 25 attack but coronavirus stalled everything and international flights stopped..”

He added: “Here young girls are now not going to school, there is no education, no knowledge… they can be easily brainwashed. It is all ignorance and illiteracy which plays a part. This girl too went on her own will after she was brainwashed.”

The Indian Express had first reported on April 4, that Sikhs from Afghanistan wrote to the Indian Embassy in Kabul and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking “immediate evacuation of Sikh families and refuge in India” citing a threat to their lives from the Islamic State (IS).

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