This continued oppression of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan underscores the urgency of implementing CAA.
The despicable attack on the last functioning Sikh gurudwara in the Karte Parwan neighborhood of the Afghan capital Kabul on June 18, in which two people were killed and seven others injured, was an act of sacrilege, murder and terror, all in one; a barbaric onslaught that underscored the vulnerability of the Hindu-Sikh community in Afghanistan to the rabid fundamentalist xenophobia plaguing that country.
Sikhism and Hinduism have ancient roots in Afghanistan. In prehistoric times, the ancient Hindu kingdom of Gandhara encompassed territories that are now part of northeastern Afghanistan. Until the 10th century AD, Hindu Shahi kings ruled the Kabul Valley. Sikhs have their origins in the visit to Kabul in the 15th century by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. Nevertheless, Hindus and Sikhs have been treated as foreigners in recent times.
Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan are considered one community as there is significant overlap in their customs. Like the Sindhi Hindus, the Afghan Hindus observe the principles of Sikhism: their prayers are derived from the Guru Granth Sahib and their ceremonies take place in gurudwaras.
Hindus and Sikhs were once a thriving community with a population of almost a quarter of a million in the 1940s. They were particularly prominent in government and as traders. The community continued to flourish during the reign of Zakir Shah (1933-1973) and during the period of Soviet rule. It was when the mujahideen took over in the 1990s and later the Taliban that the community fell on bad days and became the target of religious persecution.
During the rule of the mujahideen and the Taliban, gurudwaras and temples were destroyed, Hindu and Sikh schools were closed, property was confiscated, and Hindus and Sikhs had to wear identifying clothing. Moreover, they were constantly pressured to convert to Islam.
Moreover, they have been subjected to a series of brutal murderous attacks. In 2018, the entire top leadership of the community, made up of 19 Sikhs and Hindus, was wiped out when a suicide bomber targeted a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus en route to meet President Ashraf Ghani. Another appalling attack took place in 2020: a terrorist stormed a gurudwara in Kabul and killed 25 Sikhs. And now this attack.
As a result, the overwhelming majority of Hindus and Sikhs fled the country. Today, only a few hundred remain.
The anguish in the voices of those left behind as they cry out for help is palpable and real.
After the June 18 attack, Charan Singh Khalsa, an Afghan Sikh leader now living in exile, pleaded: “We were repeatedly targeted by different groups, killed for our faith and loyalty to Afghanistan. . Why then, after so many attacks, does the world remain silent in the face of our fate? I plead with nations, especially those that have Sikhs and Hindus in their governments, such as Canada, the UK and India, not to ignore the misery of our brothers and sisters.
Anita, another member of the Sikh community, said in tears: “I stayed to take care of our house, but things are getting worse… I was supposed to go to join my family in India, but I couldn’t get visa… We have to leave if we are to survive.
This continued oppression of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan and the attack on a gurudwara in Kabul reinforce the urgency to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the Narendra Modi government in 2019: a decree that was precisely aimed at save these unfortunate minorities in neighboring countries.
Ironically, Punjab, home to the Sikh community, was at the forefront of protests against the CAA. Then-Congress Chief Secretary Amarinder Singh called the CAA unconstitutional and discriminatory. The Punjab Assembly even passed a resolution denouncing the CAA. The main opposition party at the time, the AAP, also supported the motion. But his words came back to Amarinder Singh after the March 25, 2020 IS attack on the Kabul gurudwara that killed nearly 25 Sikhs.
In an about-face, he urged the Modi government to help Sikhs. He tweeted: “Dear Dr S. Jaishankar (Indian Union External Affairs Minister), A large number of Sikh families wish to be expelled from Afghanistan. Ask you to have them airlifted as soon as possible. In this moment of crisis, it is our imperative duty to help them.
In response to the current attack in Kabul on June 18, a host of Sikh leaders in India, including current Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, SAD leader Sukhbir Singh Badal and others, urged the Center to help evacuate the Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan. Interestingly, many of these leaders had fiercely opposed the CAA. Two days after the attack, the Modi government issued 100 electronic visas to Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan. But this is a temporary solution; a longer term solution lies in AAC. Instead of indulging in petty politics, leaders of various communities in India should express their solidarity with the oppressed Afghan Sikhs and Hindus by withdrawing the resolution that the Punjab Assembly passed against the CAA in 2020.