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Monday, September 27, 2021

Taliban has assured minorities ‘safe passage’ to India for Gurpurab: organisers

The Sikhs and Hindus had some days ago made an unsuccessful attempt to reach Kabul airport from where they were to be airlifted out of the country.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: September 2, 2021 11:01:38 am
Life of Afghan Sikhs back home in Afghanistan. (Photo: Pritpal Singh)

Organisations working to evacuate a group of ‘stranded’ Afghan Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan have claimed that the Taliban has promised ‘safe passage’ for the minorities who want to visit India for the 400th birth anniversary (Gurpurab) celebrations of Guru Teg Bahadur this year.

The Sikhs and Hindus had some days ago made an unsuccessful attempt to reach Kabul airport from where they were to be airlifted out of the country. However, a blast outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport, as well as sporadic firing by Taliban fighters on the buses carrying the Sikhs and Hindus, had meant that the group had to abandon their attempt and return to a local gurdwara where they had been staying.

As of now, with the US having officially exited from Afghanistan, there was no clarity over when the next evacuation flight to India might take off from Kabul airport, that under the control of the Taliban. The stranded group, nearly 180 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus — who were till now living together at the Central Karte Parwan Gurdwara of Kabul since the Taliban take over of the country—have now moved back to homes in Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kabul and have started opening their shops, hoping to resume their normal routines.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, at least 70 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, including two Sikh MPs, Narinder Singh Khalsa and Anarkali Kaur Honoryar, have been evacuated to Delhi in two batches of 24 and 46.

At least 210 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus remain in Afghanistan, of which at least 170 want to be evacuated. But not all of them want to come to India; some want to move to Canada, or the US.

Puneet Singh Chandhok, president of the Indian World Forum, said, “We are trying our best to evacuate the remaining Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to India by next week. The Taliban has allowed them to travel to India with valid documents. In an interview, Zabihullah Mujahid, official spokesperson for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, has conveyed the group’s nod for the departure of Afghan Sikh and Hindu pilgrims to India and assured their support. They have also said that Sikhs and Hindus are a part of Afghanistan and their rights will be protected.”

Meanwhile, Vikramjeet Singh Sahney, president of World Punjabi Organization (WPO), in a statement, confirmed that for the time being, at least 180 Afghan Sikhs have moved back to their places in Jalalabad, Kabul, and Ghazni, from the central gurdwara in Kabul.

“Consequent to the meeting between India’s Ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, chief of Taliban’s political office in Doha, the Taliban representatives in Kabul have assured Afghan Sikhs that they would be provided safe passage to India. We are in touch with the MEA and the next evacuation plan is being chalked out and should be ready in 10 days or so, enabling these Afghan Sikhs to visit India for pilgrimage on the occasion of the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Teg Bahadur ji,” said Sahney.

“The same has been conveyed to Taliban representatives who have assured that they will provide full security to these Afghan Sikhs to travel to Kabul airport and then to India,” added Sahney.

Both Sahney and Chandhok have been claiming that their organizations have been coordinating with the MEA for the evacuation of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.

Afghan Sikhs, on the other hand, said that they hoped that they could resume routine life under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan itself, so that they don’t have to leave their country at all.

One of them said, “We have started opening our shops here but there is hardly any business. We hope everything remains fine here only so that we don’t have to leave our country at all. Even if we go for the pilgrimage to India for the 400th Gurpurab of Guru Teg Bahadur, we have to return to Afghanistan again, because we can’t leave our businesses here in one go. What we have here, we can’t get in India. We will be refugees there. Who likes leaving their own country?”

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