The exodus of Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan started in 1992 when the Mujahideen captured Kabul in 1992 and deposed President Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai.
As many as 11 persons, all members of Hindu and Sikh communities hailing from war-torn Afghanistan, have been granted short-term visas after repeated appeals to the Government of Indian for an immediate evacuation following a terror attack at a gurdwara in Kabul in March.
Gurjeet Singh, 30, who reached Delhi on Sunday from Kabul said that it feels like home to be India. Singh arrived here with his eight-year-old daughter who was injured during the attack. Singh said he lost two cousins and for the past three months, his daughter was undergoing treatment after shrapnel hit her eye.
“I hope I can get her treated here,” he told The Indian Express.
The March 25 terror attacked was backed by terror group Islamic State. The attack had claimed 25 lives that targeted the Guru Har Rai Sahib in Kabul’s Shor Bazar.
The others who have been granted visas include Nidan Singh Sachdeva (55), minor daughter of terror attack’s victim and Balwant Kaur (70),
While Sachdeva was released last week after being abducted from another gurdwara in Paktia province, the minor girl (15) is the daughter of a victim of the Kabul attack. She was recently rescued from an attempt at forced conversion and marriage. Balwant Kaur had lost her two sons and six other family members in the terror attack.
The Ministry of External Affairs said those who were granted visas include members of the Sikh and Hindu minority community of Afghanistan.
“India has granted appropriate visa and facilitated their travel to India. We appreciate the efforts of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in extending necessary support for the safe return of these families,” it said.
The tickets and accommodation for Afghan Sikhs were arranged by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. All the returnees were taken to Gurdwara Rakab Ganj on Sunday for a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
A member of the gurdwara committee said that those returned from Afghanistan had an emotional reunion with their family members at the airport. “They were taken to the gurdwara. They were given langar and their needs will be taken care of,” he told the IE.
Hinduism and Sikhism in Afghanistan
According to historian Inderjeet Singh, Hinduism once flourished in Afghanistan and Hindu rulers once reigned over Eastern Afghanistan, including Kabul. The author of ‘Afghan Hindus and Sikhs: A History of A Thousand Years’ said Islam entered Afghanistan in the 7th century. The Zunbil dynasty is believed to be the earliest Hindus who ruled over Kandahar to Ghazni regions of Afghanistan, from 600 to 780 AD. Later the Hindu Shahi dynasty ruled.
Singh said that they were replaced by the end of the 10th century by Ghaznavids, who maintained Hindu forces.
It was only in 1504 that Mughal Emperor Babur captured Kabul. Babur used to refer to Kabul as ‘Hindustan’s own market’ and the province of Kabul remained with Hindustan until 1738.
According to Singh, the Sikh religion founder Guru Nanak too had visited Afghanistan. He had visited Afghanistan in the early 16th century and laid the foundation of Sikhism there. Guru Nanak visited present-day Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Sultanpur. All these places now have gurdwaras. Kabul was then under Babur’s rule.
Guru Nanak’s followers from Kabul then started visiting the Punjab region. Har Rai, the seventh Sikh Guru, also played a pivotal role in sending Sikh missionaries to Kabul and a dharamsaal was established there.
Singh said several documents show the thriving trade of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan but 99% of them have left the country now.
He said there were at least 3 lakh Sikhs and Hindus (in a 60:40 ratio) in Afghanistan until the 1970s. But the terror attacks forced them to leave the country.
He said on the first day of Baisakhi festivities in 1988, a man with an AK-47 stormed a gurdwara in Jalalabad and gunned down 13 Sikhs. Gurdwara Guru Teg Bahadur Singh in Jalalabad attacked in 1989 and 17 Sikhs were killed.
The exodus started in 1992 when the Mujahideen captured Kabul in 1992 and deposed President Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai.