Sikh men preparing antyesti ceremony of their dears and nears killed in Kabul attack

“We have no choice but to flee this land,” say Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu

Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu community is the most discriminated identity group in a predominately Muslim majority country. They are a soft-target for terror group such as ISKP which claimed responsibility for the recent deadly attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul. The Sikh and Hindu community of Afghanistan has suffered widespread discrimination in a country—which at this point is preparing to share power with extremist militant Taliban.  

A group of armed terrorists entered a Sikh temple in central Kabul at 07:45 on Wednesday, March 25, while a large crowd of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu community were performing their religious ritual. The armed assailants opened fire at the crowd, killing 26 people including women, children and a Muslim man who was temple keeper, and wounding 08 others.

Clashes between the Afghan security forces and the gunmen continued for nearly six hours. The security forces rescued the traumatized Sikh children and women most of whom lost family members and blood relatives in the attack.

Etilaat-e-Roz’s reporter, Aber Shayagan, was at the scene to cover the deadly Kabul temple attack and bring out suffering of a religious minority group who are a persecuted community in the war-stricken Afghanistan.                

A 35-year-old woman, whose head was bandaged, had lost her sister in the attack. An infant along with three young child were left behind the victim.  “We were praying when a gunman entered the place and opened fire at everyone. I threw myself on the ground, thinking that I was dead. My sister was killed. I wish that I was killed too.”

Her niece, who looks 12 years old, pointing at her mother’s dead body, mumbled to tell us that her mother was dead but no one paid attention to her. A young man approached her, kissed her forehead while he could not resist his tears pouring down. He burst crying at suffering of his community.

The plight of being Sikh and Hindu in a Muslim majority country, where Islamic extremism has enormous subscribers and xenophobia is on the rise, is huge and terrifying. Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu community, displaying beauty of a tolerant Kabul in 1970s, has come under violent attacks in the last four decades. In 1990s, during the Mujahedeen and subsequent Taliban rule several properties of the Sikh families were confiscated by the warring groups.                         

“Why these poor people are being killed? What is their sin? None of them were government staffs or rich; they were workers and the breadwinners of 10-12 member families. Who are going to support their families from now on,” lamented a middle-aged Sikh man.    

Helpless Sikh women are mourning a deadly attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul, March 25

Deadly attack such as this one breaks dozens of Sikh and Hindu families whose total number does not outnumber 100 in Afghanistan, said Tejinder Singh, who had come a long way from Ghazni. “Our women got widowed and our children got orphaned. Who will take responsibility for them? This is not the first, nor the second time. We are no longer tolerated here. We have to leave this land,” Mr. Singh said.

We are no longer tolerated here. We have to leave this land.

The March attack on Sikh and Hindu community marks the deadliest attack in the last two decades. In July 2018, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives, claiming lives of 19 Afghan Sikhs in Jalalabad, capital city of the eastern Nangarhar province. Avtar Singh Khalsa, a civil activist and the only candidate from the community who was running for 2018 parliamentary election, was also among the victims of the attack.

Over last years, most Sikh and Hindu families have been forced to sell their properties in major Afghan cities of Ghazni, Herat and Jalalabad, with now a tiny number of them living in central Kabul, known as ancient Kabul.

Surbhi Singh Khalsa, a community representative in Ghazni, says over past five years the community has gone through a bitter experience.

Gurnam Singh, 30, who is a community leader in Kabul, said at least 150 members of his relatives including his cousins, aunts, and uncles have fled the country ever since targeted attacks on the community have increased. Mr. Singh has lost five family members in the Kabul attack.  

Gurnam Singh, 30, is a community leader in Kabul

The second bomb went off close by Sikh temple at around 12 PM on the same day, while Afghan security forces were taking the dead bodies of victims to the funeral point and the Sikh and Hindu community was preparing for antyesti ceremony of their dears and nears.

Sardar Amrik Singh, 28, who runs a tiny herbal medicine shop in Kabul, says the Sikh and Hindu community of Afghanistan have no choice but to flee the country. Mr. Amrik, who looks very disappointed, believes the state of affairs would not change for Sikh and Hindu community even if the Afghan government reaches a peace settlement with the Taliban insurgents.

“Years passed but there is no peace in Afghanistan. We are bullied and robbed even by ordinary people. We were beaten at our shops and places.”

We are bullied and robbed even by ordinary people. We were beaten at our shops and places.

Konig Singh, 22, who has lost his 36-year-old brother, says for years the Sikh families have been living together in Shorbazar neighborhood of Kabul in a state of fear and harassment. Mr. Konig says the Afghan government has taken no action to protect his community against forced extortion and bullying by thieves and robbers.      

Anarkali Honaryar, a Sikh Senator who represents her community in the Afghan Senate, calls on the security agencies to identify the perpetrators who were behind a deadly attack on Sikh temple.  

Sardar Amrik Singh calls on rights group, UN agencies and governments to provide his community with an opportunity to get settlement in a safe place.