As many as 100 minority Sikhs and Hindus who want to escape Afghanistan by emigrating to India are unable to do so because the Indian government has not yet issued e-visas to family members, according to a prominent Sikh religious leader.
Gurnam Singh Rajwanshi, president of the Gurdwara Management Committee in Kabul, told Press Trust of India news agency August 13 that delays in issuing visas to 28 Sikhs and Hindus, including infants and children, have blocked the travel plans of some 70 other family members who do not want to risk leaving family behind in strife-torn Afghanistan. Rajwanshi, who was evacuated from Kabul along with five of his family members on August 13, said his son is among those who have yet to receive his e-visa.
The need to flee the country is highlighted by a June 18 attack. Gunmen stormed a Sikh temple, Gurdwara Karte Parwan, in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, killing a guard and wounding seven others. A statement posted on the Islamic State website claimed responsibility for the assault in retaliation for what the terrorist group said were insults that a government official in India made against the Prophet Muhammad.
It was not clear if that person had any connection with India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, which faced a severe social media backlash when two of its officials made controversial comments about Prophet Muhammad in May, setting off a diplomatic firestorm between the Indian government and a number of Islamic countries.
The June attack on the Sikh temple was the most serious assault on Afghanistan’s Sikh community since March 2020 when Islamic State terrorists killed 25 people in another Sikh temple in Kabul—Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib.
Less than 700 Sikhs and Hindus remained in Afghanistan when the 2020 attack occurred, according to Associated Press. Dozens of families have fled since then, although many were forced to stay because they lacked the resources to leave.
Since June, 66 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have been evacuated to India in four groups.
Businesses of many were ruined because even their shops were targeted, according to Rajwanshi. And Afghan Sikhs have stopped visiting gurdwaras out of fear for their safety.
“We were born in that country,” the Sikh leader said. “We grew up there, we have our houses there, but we cannot even imagine going back to that place again.”
The Sikhs and Hindus evacuated to India in recent months are struggling to rebuild their lives. Their basic needs will soon be met, according to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), a nationwide Sikh religious organization whose chapter in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar aided in the evacuation of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.
“The evacuees have very basic demands such as shelter and education for their children,” SGPC senior vice president Raghujit Singh said. His organization has been working to provide education to the children of the evacuees in New Delhi, India’s capital.
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