AS HARI SINGH NALWA’S MEN ARE IN FEAR, IT’S END OF STORY FOR SIKHS IN AFGHANISTAN
The March 25 killing of pilgrims inside a Kabul Gurdwara has led to the demand of bringing back the Sikhs to India from Afghanistan. Once strong business community, flush with money and resources Sikh community has been reduced to a countable and hapless who are dependent on Gurdwaras for safety and security as Afghanistan government has virtually given in to the pressure from terror groups.
In forty years from 1979 when Russian forces moved into Afghanistan, then a peaceful, fun loving and business oriented nation, number of Sikhs and Hindus were 100,000 plus, the number now have shrunk to 700, in about 150 families. They are living in Kabul and other parts of the terror torn country. Despite historical links with India, all of them are Afghan nationals. Indian government is in quandary as to how it should single out the Sikh community and bring them to safety in India, while attacks on other innocent people and religious minorities in continues, for many years.
In 1980s Sikhs were known to be astute businessmen dealing in foreign currency, construction, dry fruits, opium, textile and import-export. Most of the Kabuli-Sikhs, as they are commonly referred, have shifted base to India, Europe, England, US and Canada. Those who are left behind to fend for themselves are poor, doing odd jobs and run small businesses. They have abandoned their houses, properties, shops and businesses.
Situation became tense in the wake of India’s decision to shut its consulates in Herat and Jalalabad and bring back many of its personnel back home, done mainly to deal with the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic, from the bordering areas of Iran and Pakistan. The special flight that brought them also carried the bodies of three slain Indian pilgrims who were among the 25 people killed by terrorists in the Gurdwara. There were 65 Gurdwaras and 15 Mandirs symbols of religious and social well beings but all are abandoned, now.
A report by US government also confirmed that only a few places of worship remained open for Sikhs and Hindus. They even face discrimination in getting employment, face interference in performing day to day life chores and are not allowed to cremate their dead. It added that they minority also face state sanctioned discrimination as the properties of Sikhs are illegally appropriated.
Khajinder Singh Khurana a native of Kabul who now lives in New Delhi, told Dissectit, “Afghan Sikhs are an end story soon. Their number is negligible just 700 and all are desperate to move out. People of all age groups are vulnerable but women and girls are worst affected under threat as they can’t go out and are for prevailing scenario most of them are illiterate”.
Going back to the times when Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh ruled Punjab, his General Hari Singh Nalwa was the most dreadful persons for the Afghan population, as commander-in-chief of Sikh Khalsa army along the Afghanistan from 1825-37. He conquered frontiers of Jamrud, Peshawar, Multan, Kashmir, Attock, Sialkot and Kasur, extending Sikh territory to Khyber Pass. A trusted general of the Maharaja he had earned the sobriquet Bagh-maar (Tiger Killer) at the age of thirteen as he tore apart a wild cat with bare hands. “There is no life here for Sikhs, and also Hindus” Manmohan Singh who currently lives in Kabul, could barely say this, answering a whatsapp call. Manmohan’s hesitation while taking to Dissectit speaks of fear and an endgame scenario.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and cabinet minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, had both demanded that the Sikhs be brought to India for safety in the wake of the Kabul Gurdwara attack. But experts on Afghanistan who remained India’s ambassadors in the terror torn country are skeptical in agreeing to bring the Sikhs from the war-torn country.
It is being said that Afghanistan government doesn’t want miniscule minority to pack up, as it would weaken Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul as a vote of “no confidence” from its friends in Delhi at a time when they are putting up a valiant but desperate fight against the Taliban and other terrorist outfits attempting to further destabilize his administration.
Many see a Pakistani hand in the attack against the Sikhs in Kabul. There is a growing view that with the ongoing engagement of the Taliban with the US on peace negotiations, the Pakistan would like to opt for the Islamic State as its preferred tool for conducting most of the future attacks against Indians and its assets in Afghanistan.
All the left out Sikhs families in Afghanistan are looking for an opportunity to sneak out. Left with no option, they are ready to abandon the land, once the area of operation for Hari Singh Nalwa.