Q&A With Author of ‘Afghan Hindus & Sikhs’ on Afghan Sikh Crisis

The Daily Sikh Updates spoke to Inderjeet Singh, author of the book, Afghan Hindus & Sikhs – History of a Thousand Years on the recent attack on the Sikhs in Kabul

DSU: Why do you think Sikhs were targeted in Kabul?

IS: The ISIS/Daesh has claimed the responsibility for the attack. Their ideology includes the killing for all kafirs/infidels and that includes Sikhs. In India people don’t know this but ISIS include Shia Muslims in their list of infidel community who should either be brought into Islam (strict form of Sunnism, their interpretation of Islam) or be killed. ISIS has declared an unofficial war against Shias in Afghanistan. Their places of worship, weddings, tuition centre and any gatherings have been targeted numerous times in past 5 years. Sikhs are also infidels in their eyes. This is a continuation of their war on infidels. The whole world knows their carnage of Yazidis. 

DSU: ISIS have claimed that this is their ‘revenge for Kashmir’

IS:It is a human tendency to justify their actions. Sikhs were targeted and killed on 1st July 2018 in Jalalabad then there was no Kashmir issue or Delhi riots. Sikhs are a small minority in India and recently it was well recorded that during recent Delhi riots, on number of instances Sikhs saved Muslims from the rioting crowd. Washington Post reported that one of the terrorists who attacked the Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib at Kabul was an Indian Muslim from Kerala. Indians know the difference between Sikhs and Hindus. The first person these terrorists killed was an Afghan Sunni Muslim security guard outside the Gurdwara Sahib. ISIS will kill anybody who so ever comes in their way to creating their so called ‘Islamic Caliphate’. 

DSU: What is the solution to this problem? 

IS: ISIS will not come to a negotiating table. They are the closest thing we have to pure evil on this earth. Their propaganda videos were so powerful that many Muslim youngsters in the West left their homes to join ISIS in Syria. Where is the counter narrative? It must come from Sunni Muslims clergy. Every ISIS terrorist believe that he will get ‘martyrdom’ after killing infidels and get 72 hoors/virgins in next world. The Islamic Hadith clearly states that killing a human is sin and non-Islamic population should be treated as dhimmis. We have lost the propaganda war. Where is the counter narrative? Where are the videos from intelligent Sunni Muslim clergy who can refute ISIS and related organisations interpretation of Islam? Unless you defeat this evil ideology, we can’t win over them. The world must work together to combat this wickedness. They are a threat to world peace and humanity. 

DSU: What is the future of Sikh in Afghanistan? 

IS: Very bleak. There are about 800-850 Sikhs in Afghanistan and they are ethnically Afghan, but most Afghans refute it. There are many are widows with children who have never left their house (which is Gurdwara). Who will provide shelter and food? In India they will be relatively safe, but the state does not provide welfare. The Sikh community need to set up an organisation with proper planning, funding to decide for their food, shelter and schooling for children. This all comes with a cost. Few may be able to migrate to Canada, but the above problem will remain. 

DSU: The Gurdwara which was attacked has a long history. 

IS:Guru Har Rai Sahib (1644-61), the seventh Guru sent Bhai Gonda to Kabul to preach Sikhi. He built a Dharamsaal (earlier name of Gurdwara Sahib) at that time. This Gurdwara Sahib was taken over by Ahmed Shah Masood in early 1990s as it was the strongest structure in the area, and it became his base where he attacked and defended from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Gurdwara Sahib was very badly damaged. The Taliban was removed in October 2001. In the subsequent years, the resilient Afghan Sikhs abroad funded and the Gurdwara Sahib was renovated again by 2014. It is the house of 150 Afghan Sikhs who lost their homes during 1980s and early 90s to the war and illegal occupation by powerful neighbours or warlords.

DSU: Sikhs have lot of history in Afghanistan 

IS: Guru Nanak visited the country in first decade of 16th century and we have historical Gurdwaras and places in Kabul, Jalalabad, Sultanpur, Kandahar and in other cities. His son, Baba Sri Chand, who started the Udasi sect also visited Afghanistan and we have Gurdwaras commemorating his visit in Kabul and Kandahar. Bhai Nand Lal, a close Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh (1675 – 1708), whose Persian verses are sung by Sikhs in Gurdwara Sahibs with great devotion, was born in Ghazni. We have a Gurdwara Sahib there as well. During the 1980s, as per the Afghan authorities the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were close to three lakhs. As a Sikh, I would not like my historical heritage to be abandoned but security is a huge issue and we can leave few caretakers and rest if they wish could migrate to safer countries.  

DSU: Is there a hope for peace, with Taliban – USA deal? What does it means for minorities 

IS: It all depends upon Taliban if they are able to control ISIS? If not, then you will continue to have attacks on minorities. Taliban was particular harsh on women during their rule from 1996-2001 and women parliamentarians are genuinely worried. Sikhs found a way to deal and live under Taliban by giving them a payment (perhaps Jaziya). Everyone is concerned living under their rule. Personally I was really disgusted when over past 18-24 months Taliban attacks have resulted killings of many innocent (Sunni) Muslims civilians, just to have better negotiating power with USA. This is not a trait of organisation which wants to rule the country.  The Afghan media in the country and Europe condemn the killings but not the killer. 

DSU: How do local Afghans treat Sikhs? 

IS: The 40 years of civil war have made Afghans bitter and, in some cases, more fundamentalist. Sikhs boys are bullied in school and at times Sikhs are taunted and asked to convert but others are fine. Their houses have been illegally captured by warlords and powerful neighbours during the Mujahideen era. They are mostly living in Gurdwara Sahib. The regime is sympathetic to Sikhs and allotted 5 million for repair of Gurdwaras and Temple. The government is currently renovating the premises of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Jalalabad but no government has done anything to free the illegal occupation of the houses of Afghan Sikhs in Kabul. 

I personally know Afghan Sikhs who lived during 1960s to 1992 and they all state that Afghans would treat them very tolerably. Dr Joginder Singh Tej Khurana, Former Member of Afghan Grand Assembly (1990-92) has compiled a short biography of forty plus Doctors/Physicians among Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. 90% of the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus left the country in 1992 just before Mujahedeen captured the last bastion, Kabul city. Sadly those days are gone now and may never return. I feel privileged that I am the first person to write their rich history in English.   

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