Afghani Sikhs, Hindus leave for India amid growing threats from Islamic State
The Indian government is assisting in the repatriation of members of the Hindu and Sikh communities from Afghanistan
Amid growing threats from the local Islamic State affiliate, the number of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu community is shrinking to its lowest levels as many are leaving for India their birthplace. Once a thriving community of as many as 250,000 members now counts fewer than 700.
“We are no longer able to stay here," a member of the tiny community Hamdard was quoted as saying in a PTI report carried by LiveMint.
He revealed that seven relatives of his, including his sister, nephews, and son-in-law were killed by Islamic State gunmen in the Kabul Gurdwara attack in March, which killed 25 Sikhs.
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.
Hamdard said that he joined a group of Sikhs and Hindus who left Afghanistan last month for India, from where they will eventually move on to a third country.
Hamdard further revealed that the community has suffered widespread discrimination in the conservative Muslim country, with each government “threatening us their own way," and he was forced to live in one of two Sikh temples in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Aside from the March attack by IS gunmen, a 2018 Islamic State suicide attack in the city of Jalalabad killed 19 people, most of them Sikhs, including a longtime leader who had nominated himself for the Afghan parliament.
Had here been a strict action from the government to safeguard the Hindus and Sikh community in Afghanistan, the situation would have been different.
Last month, Afghan officials pledged to assist the community in terms of providing security.
“We will use all our facilities to provide security to the people," Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian had said.
It is, however, not clear what kind of security measures are being discussed, nor when they might be seen on the ground.
The government of India has been making constant efforts to repatriate Afghani Hindus and Sikhs to their motherland.
In August, a group of 176 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus went to India on special visas. They were the second batch since March, with the first 11 members arriving in India in July.
In a weekly virtual briefing on Thursday, 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.