Jump to content

What Are We Doing To Help Our Afghan Sikh Brothers And Sisters?


Recommended Posts

Afghan Hindus and Sikhs grapple with uncertain future

Thu Jul 1, 2010 9:40pm EDT

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) - They thrived long before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century and for a long time dominated the country's economy, but Sikh and Hindu Afghans now find themselves struggling for survival.

"We have no shelter, no land and no authority," says Awtar Singh, a senator and the only non-Muslim voice in Afghanistan's parliament.

"No one in the government listens to us, but we have to be patient, because we have no other options," says Singh, 47.

In a brief idyll in 1992, after the fall of the Moscow backed-government but before civil war erupted, there were around 200,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan compared with around just a few thousand today.

When warring factions fought over Kabul, razing entire neighborhoods in deadly rocket barrages, the two communities became targets partly because of their religion, but also because they didn't have a militia of their own for protection.

Armed men stormed a temple in Kabul and tore a religious book to avenge the destruction of a mosque by fanatic Hindus in India. After complaining of extortion, intimidation, kidnappings, theft and even rape, those with the means fled to India where they live as aliens and require visas, like other foreigners.

Ironically the rise to power of the hard-line Islamist Taliban marked an improvement in the lives of those who remained -- and some emigres even started to return.

"The Taliban did not suppress us -- they respected our religion and if we had any problem they would resolve it immediately, let alone delay it until the next day," says Singh.

Some Afghan Hindus were baffled by Western outrage at one Taliban decree -- ordering them to wear a yellow tag to identify their religion -- saying in practical terms it spared their clean-shaven faces from the wrath of the Taliban religious police, who insisted Muslim Afghan men must grow beards.

The Sikhs escaped scrutiny because they also grow their beards long.

Since the Taliban's fall, Afghanistan's new constitution promises religious minorities greater freedoms than before, but it is harder to ensure in practical terms.

Hindus and Sikhs had scores of properties stolen during the civil war and its aftermath and thousands of claims lie gathering dust in the arcane bureaucracy that makes up the government.

"I have my family still in India because I have lost my house and other properties," says Awtam Singh, who was an important trader in the old days but is now reduced to selling herbal medicines in a tiny Kabul shop.

"We feel ignored by this government," he laments.

While tens of thousands of Muslim Afghans have the same problems, they at least have politicians or leaders fighting their corner.

Some of the returning Hindus and Sikhs have brought their families and live mostly in secure areas such as Kabul and eastern city of Jalalabad, where they have temples and segregated schools.

Even after death, problems continue. Part of the land that Sikhs and Hindus use for the funeral pyres for their dead has been taken over by urban sprawl in Kabul.

"I can not see things getting better for us," said Awtam.

"The Indians say you belong to Afghanistan, and here we are seen as Indians. No government cares for us, he said.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again Internationally Sikh community are failing other Sikhs in need. Haiti earthquake happens and canadian Sikhs raise $2 million to help them, Haitians dont care about Sikhs or Sikhism and have no intention to embrace it. Our Afghan Sikh brothers and sisters living in fear and persecution those who hate all non-muslims and what do we do? nothing!! Our beautiful Gurdwara's in kabul bombed and attacked by the vile evil islamic mujihadeen in 1992, our holybook torn and burnt, our people raped and murdered because they thought our people were hindu's as hindu's had torn down babri masjid in india 1992. And ironically under the taliban's dark oppressive 7th century Shariah rule Sikhs were living in peace, however now what are the nato forces doing if they cant bring safety and security to even kabul?

Several afghan sikh refugee's who came to this country to seek sanction and safe haven from that persecution from the taliban prior to 2001 and after have been forcibly returned by the labour govt and their unjust immigration policy against genuine refugee's. Who knows if those brothers and sisters are alive now or not. We have failed to help them in the past, we cant continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of our persecuted people in certain parts of the islamic ruled world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's 40,000 of them here in Hounslow and Southall in west London. Trust me, if their menfolk gave up visits to the pub, wearing expensive designer baggy jeans despite being middle aged and pot-bellied and and D & G tight fitting t-shirts for just one week........they'd be able to help for good the Sikhs left in Afghanistan without the need for our help.

Anyway....our own ignorance of actual world events is in part to blame for their predicament. We criticise 'islam' at every opportunity but the fact remains that it was only when radical 'islamists' were in power in Afghanistan that our fellow Sikhs there enjoyed anything resembling a trouble free life. We called for the islamists to be toppled and the result is that the power vacuum has been filled by the criminals...and its our taxes that are paying for the lifestyle of those criminals. Criminals who always look for the easy target.....i.e the Non-muslim...and in Afghanistan that translates as the Sikhs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

we need to help our own people first where ever they are in the world, not other communties . Why, because Sikhs charity resources are thin on the ground I think, the resources should go to Sikhs. There are numerous agencies out there that cater to ther communties but not the SIkhs ? We should cater to our own first, identify our problems then combact them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Afghan Sikhs: forgotten victims

They suffered under the mujahideen and the Taliban – but Afghan Sikhs still feel a strong bond with the country

by Nushin Arbabzadah

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 July 2010 10.00 BST

Few people outside Afghanistan are aware of the Afghan Sikh community: a little-known, inconspicuous religious minority whose mass exodus from Afghanistan began with the coming to power of the mujahideen in 1992. The decision to leave Afghanistan at that particular juncture made sense. After all, the new rulers had an established reputation for religious intolerance.

The collapse of the Soviet-backed regime had left Afghan Sikhs in a vulnerable position. With their black dastar headgear and their neat but untrimmed beards, they stood out from the Muslim crowd, and became an easily identifiable target for crime and harassment. A community of traders with business contacts stretching from Afghan cities to India, Japan and Korea, the Sikhs were perceived as wealthy and this perception, in turn, made them a key target for kidnapping gangs. Even during the famously rigid rule of the Taliban, members of the Sikh community were kidnapped for ransom, and according to one trusted source, the kidnappers included Taliban. One Sikh family, for example, lost six members during the Taliban rule, having failed to collect the required ransom to secure the release of relatives.

In many ways, the Sikh community's experience of loss and forced migration had much in common with that of their Muslim counterparts. Families were torn apart and ended up stranded in refugee camps before eventually settling in whichever country was ready to let them in. But the Sikhs' distinct religious identity came with additional hardships that affected both those who had been left behind in Afghanistan and those struggling to survive abroad.

In Afghanistan, the mujahideen, and later the Taliban, elevated ordinary Afghans' intolerance of non-Muslims to the level of official state policy – depriving the Sikhs of state protection, the only protection that the community have ever had in recent Afghan history. Subsequently, the Sikhs were denied their basic rights, including the right to bury their dead in line with the requirements of their faith.

Religious intolerance, especially towards Sikhism and Hinduism, is a deeply ingrained part of Afghan national identity which was formulated in opposition to the Hindus and Sikhs of India. Often, it takes exile and exposure to racism to make mainstream Muslim Afghans realise just how unfair society has been towards the Sikh community. "It was only when I came to England that I realised that our attitude towards our Sikhs had been wrong," said a young Muslim Afghan whom I met in London's Southall market recently. With the exception of a restaurant and a music shop, the market is run almost entirely by Afghan Sikhs.

Like most Afghans, the young Muslim was suspicious of my motives for asking questions and refused to let me interview him. Instead he introduced me to an Afghan Sikh friend who was the owner of a small shop, jam-packed with colourful shiny fabrics, South Asian-style garments and bejewelled sandals.

"Talk to Harpal Singh, our community leader. He knows everything," the shopkeeper advised. Such delegation of authority to a community leader, which often results in block voting during elections, is widespread in South Asia, and the Afghan Sikh community has replicated this pattern in British exile. But aside from the issue of delegation of authority, the Sikhs' fear of speaking out was striking.

Decades if not centuries of oppression have obviously left their mark on this community, and their fear manifests itself in other ways, too. Unlike most Afghans, who tend to be unreserved and gregarious, the Afghan Sikhs speak in a quiet voice. Their manner of conversation to non-Sikhs is structured to avoid confrontation and often begins with formulations of reassurance.

"We never had problems with the people in Afghanistan," said Harpal Singh. That he was not telling the full truth was clear. After all, in my own school in Kabul, our Sikh classmate was regularly pressured to convert to Islam and even in present-day Afghanistan, Sikh children stay at home and are deprived of education because of widespread harassment at schools.

Harpal Singh offered me what sounded like a standard community leader's speech. The community was peaceful, had no problems with other Afghans or the British people. He then told me about the Sikhs' specific problem of having to authenticate their Afghan identity when arriving in England or other western countries. The authentication process involves speaking Dari and knowledge of the city they lived in before exile.

Given that the community's children often grew up in refugee camps outside Afghanistan, young Afghan Sikhs sometimes no longer speak Dari, being fluent only in their mother tongue, Punjabi. This, in turn, adds to the complication of corroborating their identity outside Afghanistan.

"But these days, the British no longer believe that we are oppressed, that we are still not allowed to bury our dead in line with our religious regulations," said another Sikh shopkeeper on condition of anonymity. "The British say they are running the country, and know what's happening there."

I asked him whether there was anything he could do about this. He shrugged and said: "I have letters of my family from Kabul but the British say they know what's happening there."

Despite daily harassment in Afghanistan and the additional complications that stem from being Afghan Sikhs abroad, the community still feels a powerful sense of belonging to Afghanistan and its members are known to have helped non-Sikh Afghans make a living by setting up businesses in the UK. It is this solid loyalty to Afghanistan and touching solidarity with non-Sikh Afghans that dismantles the popular myth that only Islam can create unity among Afghans.

Being Afghan is about more than religion, and as possibly the country's oldest inhabitants, the Afghan Sikhs have always known this much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

  • Topics

  • Posts

    • there's too many Kenya Singhs in those kinda gurdwaras, really chummy chummy with the goras and politicians, fixo the beards to the max and younger generations just trimming it instead of getting into the fixo malarkey, lack of open beards and turbans you can take off like hats, don't make for intimidating or annakhi singhs. I heard that pakistanis try to pickup girls from the Slough Ramgharia gurdwara.  They need to join with the other 2 gurdwaras in Slough to help them out, they can't act like the elders did where they split from the Singh Sabha gurdwara because they were too aggressive, now is the time to use that aggression.  And the Guru Maneyo Granth gets nationwide sangat on Sundays, so just use those numbers in Slough! in these gurdwaras, gyanis and sewadaars are known by the regular sangat, and regular sangat is close knit. Activities and panjabi schools are also good as most of the same children come.  In both areas, I don't like the lack of cooperation between Ramgharia and Singh Sabha gurdwaras. Overall it's a benefit to have gurdwaras in at least 2 different locations in big towns and cities. But it's bad if they don't cooperate, especially in major issues that Khalsa is known for. Ramgharia gurdwaras like to rep up Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgharia, with the Slough gurdwara even having a statue. But the lack of keeping Khalsa rehit, looking too scared and cowardly to keep full beards or open beards, not acknowledging the Khalsa Nihang Singh mentality of Jassa Singh and being stuck in the kenya Singh mentality, not even willing to read Chaupai Sahib properly during Rehras, and many of these Ramgharia gurdwaras are not even willing to keep basic rehit of allowing sitting on the floor for langar and allowing shoes inside as well, all these behaviours aren't working for chardi kala of the panth! It's like they are trying to keep their own type of sikhi, it's not even a tradition, just being stuck in their own box, they are not in the colonial British army, or serving in the world wars, or making train tracks or some other jobs for the gora, why do they behave this way, this archaic stuff in gurdwara? And doesn't do justice to Jassa Singh Ramgharia, who would have been a rehitee Nihang Singh, annakhi Singhs who defeated the enemies and kept in the brotherhood of the Khalsa with the other misls, even after their whole misl was excommunicated expelled from the panth, they still rejoined the Khalsa and helped defeat the enemies! I don't see them trying to integrate with the rest of the panth in the ramgharia gurdwaras, not like Jassa Singh, obviously it's the elders who instil these mentalities, with some of the youngsters trying to connect back into sikhi!
    • Try get CBT - Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy. It is a common treatment for a range of mental health problems. CBT teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems. It focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and actions. It can help overcome anxiety. In the UK you can self-refer to a professional service offering CBT therapy. I know a few people who have had this and it helped with their social anxiety. 
    • Apne were getting married at stupidly young ages in the past.  My great grandmother had my grandfather when she was just 13.  There was a time when the life expectancy in India was just 40. Thankfully this is no longer that common but I've read in very backwards parts of Punjab it still occurs.  No excuses for it in today's age. And even when it did happen in the past it was between two similar aged people, not a 65 year old an a 9 year old. 
    • That does seem to be a thing in more isolated areas. But I like those kind of gurdwareh. 
    • Paint over the graffiti and move the sign in the right direction for starters.  The community is gradually moving out of these areas, it's a slum now. Once the elders have passed, the exodus will probably expedite.
  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use