Attack on Afghan Sikhs

Kabul must end religious persecution of minorities

Attack on Afghan Sikhs

The attack by suicide bombers on a large gathering of Sikhs worshipping in a gurdwara in Kabul, which left at least 25 dead and many injured, highlights once again the precarious condition of the minority communities in Afghanistan. The violence comes close on the heels of the March 6 attack by Islamic State terrorists on a gathering of minority Shiite Muslims in the Capital city, claiming 32 lives. The targeted attacks bring into sharp focus the US-Taliban deal that was signed in February to pave the way for peace in the war-ravaged country. Peace remains elusive in the current political impasse.

With over 20 terrorist organisations active in the country, this attack on the Sikh devotees — all sitting ducks — must goad the world community, including India, to shore up efforts to counter the threat of terrorism that still looms large in Afghanistan. It is a grim reminder of the July 2018 gory incident when a group of Sikhs and Hindus, on its way to meet President Ashraf Ghani in Jalalabad, was struck by an Islamist State bomber, resulting in the death of 19 people, including Avtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate who was contesting in the parliamentary elections later that year.

The dwindling number of Sikhs who are stoically living in their motherland despite wide-scale persecution and atrocities need to be protected. The once thriving trading community has been reduced to being one selling medicinal herbs or running small cloth shops. The Sikhs are provided security for their funerals as the society opposes their practice of cremation. With their Muslim hardliner brothers increasing the hostilities against them and the government having little interest in protecting such a small section, it will not be surprising if the remaining few — around 300 families — are also forced to migrate to India or the West, like the over two lakh Sikhs who have fled Afghanistan in the past four decades. The violence stands to cost the country its religious ethnic group, one that has called it home ever since Guru Nanak visited the place over 500 years ago. Already, most of their gurdwaras have been destroyed. Just like the Bamiyan Buddhists.

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