With Sikhs practically extinct in Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, India’s case as a natural homeland deserves a revisit

If they can’t come back to India which was once the land of their ancestors, then where do they go?

Monica Verma September 27, 2022 11:05:44 IST
With Sikhs practically extinct in Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, India’s case as a natural homeland deserves a revisit

Fifty-five Sikhs, including 17 children landed at Delhi airport on Sunday from Afghanistan. Image Courtesy: @vikramsahney/Twitter

As 55 Hindus and Sikhs landed in New Delhi on a special flight from Afghanistan this week, the plight of persecuted minorities in India’s neighbourhood once again came to the fore. These Hindus and Sikhs are one of the very last lot of persecuted minorities who have been provided with visa assistance from the Indian government to help them escape from the torture in Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan. Some of them were under imprisonment before they returned to New Delhi with their hair butchered and pressure to convert to Islam. This has been a common form of torture for Afghanistan’s micro minority, the Sikh community which is all set to become extinct with just 22 Sikhs remaining in the country today. In 2021, an attack on a gurdwara in Kabul by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) had also claimed 50 lives.

The persecution of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan is a long story. While Guru Nanak Dev himself travelled to the country to preach, leading many Afghans to choose Sikhism, a large presence was also maintained by migration of Sikhs to Afghanistan for trading purposes. During the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, many Sikhs fled from Pakistan and found a safe refuge in Afghanistan instead. There are various estimates that peg Hindu and Sikh populations between 5 lakh and 7 lakh in the 1970s. Some peg this population at around 2,20,000. However, it sharply fell to 15,000 in the 1990s when Mujahideen came to power.

By 2016, only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remained in Afghanistan. Active discrimination against them has ranged from literal head counts of Hindus and Sikhs for elimination and a diktat to wear yellow armbands for identification. Religious persecution became a common feature of the Taliban rule as did the torture done to the ethnic minorities of Hazara, Uzbek and Tajiks. About 99 per cent of their population left the country in the last three decades with only a handful left behind waiting to be evacuated by the Indian government.

Despite religious persecution being a hard fact of life for many in Afghanistan, Western powers who pontificate on human rights and religious intolerance to other countries, never bothered to recognise it as a legitimate facet of Taliban Rule. Neither were the persecuted Hindus and Sikhs recognised even once as refugees nor was any leniency given in deporting them back to Afghanistan. This has left them with India as their only hope.

***

Also Read

Escape from the Taliban: How India evacuated 55 Sikhs from Afghanistan

***

Meanwhile in India, the subject of persecuted minorities from the Indian subcontinent getting citizenship has always sparked a huge debate. In late 2019 and early 2020, a series of protests rocked the country when the Narendra Modi government tabled the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA) that sought to give priority to these persecuted minorities in getting citizenship. Unlike the massive misinformation campaign that spread rumours that Muslims will be disenfranchised, CAA simply sought to reduce years of naturalisation required under the existing act by half. Even the cut-off was 2014, thereby not addressing the plight of persecuted minorities in more recent years. Although the CAA bill finally became a law, the rules under the act are still waiting to be notified with the government seeking extension from the past two years. There is a growing demand for increasing the cut-off to 2022 under CAA.

While India has always been a home to persecuted people worldwide with Parsis, Jews and even Tibetans finding a safe refuge in India, the case of religious minorities is a different one. While all the other persecuted people come from a different background to India, the persecuted people in the subcontinent have a historical and civilisational link with India. It was the unfortunate event of India’s partition on religious lines that made these persecuted people a minority in what was once their own homeland. The need to address their plight has been highlighted across the political spectrum with former prime minister Manmohan Singh speaking on the matter in the Rajya Sabha in 2003.

The fact that the Sikhs weren’t allowed to carry their scriptures by the current Taliban government to India and the fact that Sikhs will soon be an extinct minority in Afghanistan should revive the case for India as a natural homeland for them. Currently they are dependent on Long-Term Visas (LTVs) to stay in India and face multiple problems in settling here peacefully. Even the persecuted Hindus who arrived from Pakistan are living in miserable conditions in India.

History has been very unkind to the Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Christians and other minorities in the subcontinent. Whether it was the partition in 1947 or liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 and the recent return of Taliban to Afghanistan, Islamic regimes have adopted a governance and justice system that outlaws any scope for survival or dignity for these non-Muslims. If they can’t come back to India which was once the land of their ancestors, then where do they go?

The author is a PhD in International Relations from the Department of International Relations, South Asian University. Her research focuses on the political economy of South Asia and regional integration. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

Read all the Latest News, Trending NewsCricket News, Bollywood News,
India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Updated Date:

also read

WATCH: PM Modi's convoy stops to make way for ambulance during Ahmedabad roadshow
India

WATCH: PM Modi's convoy stops to make way for ambulance during Ahmedabad roadshow

Last month, during his visit to Himachal Pradesh for campaigning for assembly polls, PM Modi stopped his convoy to give way to an ambulance in Chambi. He was returning from the venue of a rally in Kangra district of the state

Economy climbed up one position under an economist PM in 10 yrs but became fifth largest under a chaiwala: PM Modi
India

Economy climbed up one position under an economist PM in 10 yrs but became fifth largest under a chaiwala: PM Modi

Addressing a rally in Rajkot in poll-bound Gujarat in support of BJP candidates, the prime minister compared his performance with former PM Manmohan Singh's tenure of ten years

Narendra Modi Stadium in Gujarat sets Guinness World Record for highest T20 attendance
First Cricket News

Narendra Modi Stadium in Gujarat sets Guinness World Record for highest T20 attendance

''Extremely delighted & proud to receive the Guinness World Record for the largest attendance at a T20 match when 101,566 people witnessed the epic IPL final at @GCAMotera's magnificent Narendra Modi Stadium on 29 May 2022. A big thanks to our fans for making this possible,'' Shah tweeted.