Welcome home: 357 Afghan Sikhs return to ‘motherland’ India
In its mission to repatriate minorities from Afghanistan, the Indian government has plans to bring at least 700 Afghan Sikhs back to the country
When 55-year-old Afghan Sikh Nidan Singh Sachdeva returned to his “motherland” months after his abduction, along with 10 other companions in July, the entire country rejoiced as the return of minorities to the country was a much-awaited step expected from the government.
Months after, in a weekly virtual briefing on Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava announced that the number of Afghan Sikhs returning to India has gone up to 357 and said that the Indian Sikh community here is assisting their comfortable stay here.
“We see targeted persecution of minority community members by terrorists and their sponsors and this is a matter of serious concern. Now to ensure the safety and well-being, our mission in Kabul has been in contact with them and facilitated smooth arrival from Afghanistan despite COVID-related restrictions. So far 357 members of the minority community have arrived from Afghanistan to India in the lockdown and the Indian Sikh community here is assisting their stay comfortable in India,” Srivastava said in the media briefing.
Srivastava further noted that the requests from the minorities in the Islamic State of Afghanistan have gone up after the attack in the Gurdwara in Kabul in March of this year.
"We have been receiving requests from Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan to grant permission to settle down in India. And the request has gone up after the attack in the Gurdwara in March 2020," he said.
On March 25, Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul, Afghanistan was attacked by suicide bombers and assailants armed with guns, and nearly 30 people, most of them Sikhs, were killed. This was one of the worst attacks on the Afghan Sikh community since the 2018 Jalalabad attack in which 19 people, mostly Sikh, died.
Earlier this year, the government facilitated the return of 11 Sikhs, most of whom were the victims of the Kabul Gurdwara attack.
Nidan Singh Sachdeva, a helper at a local gurdwara, who was kidnapped in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan, also returned with the first batch of Afghan Sikhs.
After returning to India, Nidan Singh had revealed that he was “tortured” in Afghanistan and had thanked the government of India for bringing him here.
“I am more than thankful to the Indian government for bringing us here to our motherland. I have no words to describe my feelings here. I arrived here after much struggle. The atmosphere of fear prevails there. Gurudwara is where we can be safe but a step outside the Gurdwara is fearful,” he had said.
The government had earlier said that India was preparing to bring 700 more Sikhs from Afghanistan.