Days after Kabul gurdwara attack, 11 Afghan Sikhs arrive in Delhi: ‘Lost my everything there, can’t afford to lose myself’

Speaking to The Indian Express, SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami said that a group of 11 Afghan Sikhs landed in Delhi and the Sikh gurdwara body paid for their travel expenses. SGPC is paying for their air travel as it is very important to evacuate Afghan Sikhs safely from Afghanistan, he said.

The transfer of Afghan minorities to India is being facilitated by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in coordination with us, said Puneet Chandhok, president, Indian World Forum.

The ashes of Sawinder Singh, who was killed in the attack on June 18, were also transported to Delhi where his family lives. Raqbir Singh, who was injured during the attack, was among the group of 11.

Among the group of 11 that arrived in Delhi was Ajmeet Singh, 28, who lost his father and paternal uncle in the March 2020 attack on Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib, when an Islamic State gunman had stormed the gurdwara in Kabul killing at least 25 Afghan Sikhs. Ajmeet, who had shifted his mother and siblings to Delhi after his father Soorjan Singh and uncle Sardar Singh died, told The Indian Express: “It feels really bad when you are forced to leave your own country, but everything is over for us in Afghanistan. I lost my everything there, my father and uncle both were shot dead in 2020 attack… even then I kept staying there thinking things will be better but now I couldn’t have waited to lose myself because had I died, what would have happened to my mother, brother and sister… how would they survive?”

Ajmeet Singh has arrived in Delhi after abandoning his medicine shop in Kabul. “We don’t know what will happen to our shops and businesses back home in Kabul but right now it was most important to save our lives and come as soon as visa was issued. Seeing the current situation, I have no plans to return to Afghanistan,” said Ajmeet, adding that he has no idea of how he would be surviving in Delhi and start a new life.

The representatives of SGPC and Afghan Hindu and Sikh community leaders were present at the airport to welcome the group.
As of March 2020, there were around 650-700 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan. However, since the attack on Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul on March 25 that year, when 25 Afghan Sikhs were killed, most members of the community have been evacuating to India in batches.

After the Taliban took over Kabul in August last year, three batches of Afghan Sikhs had arrived in Delhi, including former Sikh MPs Narinder Singh Khalsa and Anarkali Kaur Honoryar. Before Thursday’s batch of 11, the last batch had arrived on December 10, 2021 when 103 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus had landed in Delhi.

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Around 140-150 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus still remain in Afghanistan. After the June 18 attack, the government of India has issued 111 visas for their evacuation to Delhi while the rest remain pending.

The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) had claimed responsibility for the recent June 18 attack and said that it was revenge for the insult of Prophet Mohammed by an Indian politician.

Meanwhile, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Vikramjit Singh Sahney in a letter to SGPC president wrote that the SGPC should fulfil its previous promises and release relief amount which it had promised for victim families of 2020 Kabul gurdwara attack and 2018 Jalalabad attack. “SGPC had promised help of Rs 1 lakh each for families of 25 Afghan Sikhs who had died in March 2020 attack but except two families, none has received the money yet. Also, relief promised by SGPC for 2018 attack victim families is pending,” said Sahney.

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