It will be a feather in their cap if they can chase Sikhs out of Afghanisatan

Their politics is horrendous. Sikhs are but a small pawn in this whole scenario. In fact, Sikhs are not even a player in this whole thing. They are too small, too insignificant - INDERJEET SINGH

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Afghan Sikhs and military service: A 1973 photo capturing the first ever Sikh doctor from Jalalabad. Prof Dr Bhagat Singh Hakimzada (left hand side) and Prof Dr Saran Singh Motizada (slightly on the right hand side) in military uniforms. Both graduated in 1972 and went for military service which was compulsory for every Afghan male from the age of 22. It was a one year service for postgraduates upon their graduation, and two years for the rest. In early 1970s, after military service, every post graduate was granted permission to wear military uniform on some special occasions. Sikhs would wear especially on Nagar Keertan (Sikh religious procession). – Photo & Information courtesy of Dr Joginder Singh Tej Khurana
By Asia Samachar Team | BRITAIN |

As you read this article, the fate of Sikhs and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan stand in the balance.

The 25 March attack on the gurdwara in Kabul may just the defining marker for the end of the long and cherished history of Sikhs in this part of the world. In that attack, 25 men, women and a child, were brutally murdered by gunmen.

The ISIS/Daesh have claimed responsibility. It was an attack with a simple purpose: wiping out the so-deemed ‘infidel’ community out of Afghanistan.

“Their politics is horrendous. Sikhs are but a small pawn in this whole scenario. In fact, Sikhs are not even a player in this whole thing. They are too small, too insignificant,” Inderjeet Singh, author of the Afghan Hindus & Sikhs – History of a Thousand Years, told Asia Samachar.

“It will be a feather in their cap if they can chase Sikhs out of the country. They will consider it a victory,” he said.

Here are excerpt of the interview with the author of the first English book on Afghan Sikhs.

 

What was the first thing that ran through your mind when you heard about the Kabul attack?

The possibility of something like this happening was always at the back of my mind. So, when it came, I felt sad, but not shocked. If you follow the series of previous bombings, you knew that the Kabul Sanggat were sitting in a precarious area.

Many Sikhs may not have ground knowledge of those incidents. Some may think this only happening onto Sikhs. Not at all. Taliban has blasted a lot of bombs to gain an upper hand in the negotiations with the US. People condemn the killing, but no one condemns the killers. We are talking about people in Afghanistan.

Their politics is horrendous. Sikhs are but a small pawn in this whole scenario. In fact, Sikhs are not even a player in this whole thing. They are too small, too insignificant.

It will be a feather in their cap if they can send Sikhs out of the country. They will consider it a victory.

The ISIS/Daesh has claimed the responsibility for the attack. If Sikhs are small and an insignificant minority, why the attacks upon them?

Their ideology includes the killing for kafirs/infidels, including Sikhs. Some may not know that ISIS include Shia Muslims in their list of infidel community who should either be brought into Islam (strict form of Sunnism, their interpretation of Islam) or be killed. ISIS has declared an unofficial war against Shias in Afghanistan. Their places of worship, weddings, tuition centre and any gatherings have been targeted numerous times in past five years. Sikhs are also infidels in their eyes. This is a continuation of their war on infidels. The whole world knows of the carnage they unleashed on the Yazidis.

ISIS have claimed that this is their ‘revenge for Kashmir’. What are your thoughts on that.

It is a human tendency to justify their actions. Sikhs were targeted and killed on 1st July 2018 in Jalalabad when there was no Kashmir issue or the Delhi riots. Sikhs are a small minority in India and recently it was well recorded that during recent Delhi riots, on number of instances, Sikhs had saved Muslims from the rioting crowd.

Washington Post reported that one of the terrorists who attacked the Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib at Kabul was an Indian Muslim from Kerala. Indians know the difference between Sikhs and Hindus. The first person these terrorists killed was an Afghan Sunni Muslim security guard outside the Gurdwara Sahib. ISIS will kill anyone who comes in the way to creating their so called ‘Islamic Caliphate’.

Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib, Kabul, attacked on 25 March 2020, killing 25 people

What is the solution to this problem?

ISIS will not come to a negotiating table. They are the closest thing we have to pure evil on this earth. Their propaganda videos were so powerful that many Muslim youngsters in the West left their homes to join ISIS in Syria. Where is the counter narrative? It must come from Sunni Muslims clergy. Every ISIS terrorist believe that he will get ‘martyrdom’ after killing infidels and get 72 hoors (virgins) in next world. The Islamic Hadith clearly states that killing a human is a sin and non-Islamic population should be treated as dhimmis. We have lost the propaganda war. Where is the counter narrative? Where are the videos from intelligent Sunni Muslim clergy who can refute ISIS and related organisations interpretation of Islam? Unless you defeat this evil ideology, we can’t win over them. The world must work together to combat this wickedness. They are a threat to world peace and humanity.

At this juncture, what is is the future of Sikhs in Afghanistan?

Very bleak. There are about 800-850 Sikhs in Afghanistan and they are ethnically Afghan, but most Afghans refute it. There are many are widows with children who have never left their houses (which is Gurdwara). Who will provide shelter and food? In India they will be relatively safe, but the state does not provide welfare. The Sikh community need to set up an organisation with proper planning, funding to decide for their food, shelter and schooling for children. There is a cost to this. Some may be able to migrate to Canada. At this juncture, they have officially made a request to the Indian authorities to allow them to seek refuge in India.

Tell us more about the gurdwara that was attacked?

Guru Har Rai Sahib (1644-61), the seventh Sikh Guru, had sent Bhai Gonda to Kabul to preach Sikhi. He built a Dharamsaal (earlier name for gurdwaras) at that time. This Gurdwara Sahib was taken over by Ahmed Shah Masood in the early 1990s as it was the strongest structure in the area, and it became his base where he attacked and defended from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Gurdwara Sahib was very badly damaged. The Taliban was removed in October 2001. In the subsequent years, resilient Afghan Sikhs abroad provided funds and the Gurdwara Sahib was renovated again by 2014. It houses 150 Afghan Sikhs who have lost their homes during the 1980s and the early 90s to the war and illegal occupation by powerful neighbours or warlords.

AFGHAN SIKHS DOCTORS FROM NANGARHAR PROVINCE: (L-R) Dr Nirmal Singh Nagpal, Dr Tara Singh Wadhwa, Late Dr Raghbir Singh Bir, Dr Kulbir Singh Darwesh, Dr Saran Singh Hakimzada and Dr Joginder Singh Tej Khurana Ji. They graduated with Mds from Medical College of Nangarhar University, Jalalabad, in the 1970s. This photo was taken in London in 2015. Dr Khurana is writing biographies of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus doctors which should be published in a few months.

Tell us about the history of Sikhs in Afghanistan.

Guru Nanak visited this part of the world in the first decade of the 16th century. We have historical Gurdwaras and places in Kabul, Jalalabad, Sultanpur, Kandahar and in other cities. His son, Baba Sri Chand, who started the Udasi sect has also visited Afghanistan and we have Gurdwaras commemorating his visit in Kabul and Kandahar. Bhai Nand Lal, a close Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh (1675 – 1708), whose Persian verses are sung by Sikhs in Gurdwara Sahibs with great devotion, was born in Ghazni. We have a Gurdwara Sahib there as well. During the 1980s, as per the Afghan authorities, the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were close to three lakhs (300,000). As a Sikh, I would not like my historical heritage to be abandoned but security is a huge issue. We can leave few caretakers and rest if, they wish, could migrate to safer countries.

Is there a hope for peace, with Taliban – USA deal? What does it means for minorities?

It all depends if the Taliban is able to control ISIS? If not, then you will continue to have attacks on minorities. Taliban was particularly harsh on women during their rule from 1996-2001 and women parliamentarians are genuinely worried. Sikhs found a way to deal and live under Taliban by giving them a payment (perhaps Jaziya). Everyone is concerned living under their rule. Personally, I was really disgusted when over the past 18-24 months Taliban attacks have resulted in the killings of many innocent (Sunni) Muslims civilians, just to have better negotiating power with USA. This is not a trait of an organisation that wants to rule the country. The Afghan media in the country and Europe condemn the killings but not the killer.

How do local Afghans treat Sikhs?

The 40 years of civil war have made Afghans bitter and in some cases, more fundamentalist. Sikh boys are bullied in school. At times, they are taunted and asked to convert. Their houses have been illegally captured by warlords and powerful neighbours during the Mujahideen era. They are mostly living in Gurdwara Sahib. The regime is sympathetic to Sikhs and has allotted 5 million for repair of Gurdwaras and Temple. The government is currently renovating the premises of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Jalalabad but no government has done anything to free the illegal occupation of the houses of Afghan Sikhs in Kabul.

I personally know Afghan Sikhs who lived during 1960s to 1992 and they all state that Afghans would treat them very tolerably. Dr Joginder Singh Tej Khurana, a former Member of Afghan Grand Assembly (1990-92), has compiled a short biography of some 40 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus doctors and physicians. Some 90% of the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus left the country in 1992 just before Mujahedeen captured the last bastion, Kabul city. Sadly those days are gone now and may never return. I feel privileged that I am the first person to write their rich history in English.

 

RELATED STORY:

Gunmen, suicide bombers attack Sikh gurdwara in Kabul (Asia Samachar, 25 March 2020)

Sikhs are finished in Afghanistan (Asia Samachar, 29 March 2020)

I feel sad and helpless for Sikhs still living in Afghanistan (Asia Samachar, 25 March 2020)

 

ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: editor@asiasamachar.com | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |

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