India grants Afghan Hindus, Sikhs priority visas to escape barrage of war – NYT

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By Asia Samachar Team | AFGHANISTAN |

Members of the dwindling minority communities, gutted by recent deadly violence, welcomed an emergency exit but expressed worry that what would await them in India is poverty. – NYT

The Indian government said it will expedite visas and the possibility of long-term residency for Afghanistan’s tiny Hindu and Sikh minorities, shrunken by decades of persecution and decimated by attacks in recent years amid the Afghan war, reports the New York Times.

“India has decided to facilitate the return of Afghan Hindu and Sikh community members facing security threats in Afghanistan to India,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Saturday (18 July 2020).

The statement, on the rescue of an Afghan Sikh leader who was abducted in eastern Afghanistan last month, did not provide further details.

An Indian official in Kabul said the decision meant that any of the roughly 600 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, would be given priority visas and the opportunity to apply for long-term residency once they arrived in India, the report added.

On March 25, the small community of Sikhs and Hindus saw yet another assault upon them, the latest being a terror attack on a Sikh gurdwara in central Kabul that killed 25 men, women and children.

The senseless attack upon Gurdwara Guru Har Rai in Shor Bazaar was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back as far as their dreams of continuing to live in Afghanistan. The gunmen stormed the gurdwara, shot discriminately and held 80 hostages.

After the first attack on 25 March, the next day, an explosive went off just outside the crematorium as the Sikhs were cremating their dead. And the next day, yet another attack.

In interviews, NYT reported that many welcomed the emergency option, but said it posed an agonizing dilemma. In Afghanistan, they have livelihoods — shops and businesses passed down through generations — but spend their days dreading the next attack. Making a new start in India would most likely mean living in poverty, they said, particularly during an economic slump exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lala Sher Singh, 63, who lives near a Sikh temple in Kabul that was attacked in March, said the community had shrunk so much that his thoughts were occupied “day and night” by a fear that the next assault might not leave enough people who can perform the final rituals for the dead.

“I may get killed here because of these threats to Hindus and Sikhs, but in India I will die from poverty,” he said. “I have spent my whole life in Afghanistan. In this neighborhood close to the temple, if I run out of money and stand in front of a shop and ask for two eggs and some bread, they will give it to me for free. But who will help me in India?”

 

RELATED STORY:

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

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