Afghanistan Sikhs Departs for India after Suicide BombingTop Stories

July 02, 2018 17:45
Afghanistan Sikhs Departs for India after Suicide Bombing

(Image source from: Reuters)

Several among Afghanistan's dwindling Sikh minority are considering departing for neighboring India after a suicide bombing in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday killed nearly 13 members of the community.

The victims of the attack claimed by militant group Islamic State included Avtar Singh Khalsa, the sole Sikh candidate in parliamentary elections this October, and Rawail Singh, a prominent community activist.

"I am clear that we cannot live here anymore," said Tejvir Singh, 35, whose uncle was killed in the blast.

"Our religious practices will not be tolerated by the Islamic terrorists. We are Afghans. The government recognizes us, but terrorists target us because we are not Muslims," added Singh, the secretary of a national panel of Hindus and Sikhs.

The Sikh community at present numbers fewer than 300 families in Afghanistan, which has only two gurdwaras, or places of worship, one each in Jalalabad and Kabul, the capital, Singh added.

Although about wholly a Muslim country, Afghanistan was abode to as many as 250,000 Sikhs and Hindus before a devastating civil war in the 1990s.

Even a decade ago, the United States State Department said in a report, about 3,000 Sikhs and Hindus still lived there.

Disregard of freedom of worship and official political presentation, many face hostility from Islamist militant groups, prompting thousand to depart to India, their sacred country of origin.

Some Sikhs have sought shelter at the city’s Indian consulate, following the Jalalabad attack. The long-term visas to members of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities were issued by India, but else Sikhs who have land or businesses and no ties to India say they do not plan to leave Afghanistan.

Though India has offered to take the dead bodies, but at least nine were cremated according to Sikh rites in Jalalabad.

By Sowmya Sangam

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Afghanistan  Suicide Bombing  India  Sikhs  Jalalabad