Sikh Refugees To India

Spl Flight Brings 55 Afghan Sikh Refugees To India

A special flight carrying 55 Afghan Sikh minorities fleeing from Afghanistan arrived in India at New Delhi airport on Sunday, as a part of efforts to evacuate the distressed minorities in the Taliban-led nation.

International President of World Punjabi Organisation and Punjab Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, Vikramjit Singh Sahney received the Afghan refugees who arrived at the Indira Gandhi Airport Sunday.

A special flight operated by Ariana Afghan with a number 315 was organised by the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandak Committee, Amritsar in coordination with the Indian World Forum and the Government of India to evacuate these Afghan minorities.

“The 55 families which were stranded in Kabul, Jalalabad have arrived safely in Delhi today. I am thankful to the Indian government to facilitate e-visas. We will rehabilitate them in the “My family My responsibility” programme.” Punjab MP Vikramjit Singh Sahney said.

Sahney is running a programme “My family My responsibility” under which 543 Afghan Sikhs and Hindu families are being rehabilitated in West Delhi by providing them with all facilities.

He said, “We are already rehabilitating 543 families by providing them with monthly household expenditures, house rent and medical facilities, and the rehabilitation of these people will be a part of the same programme.”

The Afghan refugees thanked the Indian government and Prime Minister to provide urgent e-visas and safely evacuating them.

An Afghan Sikh, Baljeet Singh, who returned on the same flight, said, “The condition is not very well in Afghanistan. I was imprisoned for four months. Taliban have cheated us, they butchered our hair in prison. I am thankful and happy to return to India and to our religion. There are 11-12 people left behind who will also return soon, I hope.”

“We would like to thank the Indian government to give us urgent visas and help us to reach India. We are 55 families who have arrived here today, but many of us still have families left behind as around 30-35 people are left stranded in Afghanistan. They have been issued visas from the Indian government, but it is their wish now if they want to return or not,” Sukhbeer Singh Khalsa, another Afghan Sikh refugee said.

Mansa Singh, a sevadar at Kabul gurdwara said, I would like to thank the Indian government and PM Modi to facilitate with e-visa and help us return to India. Besides, I would like to thank Vikramjit Singh Sahney and Puneet Chandowk and all other organisations who made this a success; hence, we returned safely.”

“The situation of Afghanistan is not hidden, we have come here for the safety of our kids, and urge the Indian government to evacuate our other 30 brothers who are left behind in Afghanistan,” he added.

The Sikh refugees told that there are still some 30-35 Afghan Sikhs who are stranded in Afghanistan, and said that the government has provided them e-visas but it is their own wish to stay back.

On being asked about the remaining Sikh nationals in Afghanistan, the AAP MP Sahney said that they are the sevadars and others in the service of gurudwaras, the Indian government is trying to evacuate them as well.

“The remaining Afghan Hindus and Sikhs in the country are sevadars and those in the service of gurudwaras, the Taliban has urged to let them stay there saying that those gurudwaras are a part of national heritage. But the government is in talks with the Taliban to evacuate the remaining Sikh and Hindu nationals, and we will hopefully bring them back to their country,” the AAP MP said.

He thanked the government of India and all other organisations who helped to make the mission successful.

“Since the Taliban took over the country situation is not under control, and an evacuation process was underway. The Government of India played a significant role and held talks with the Taliban to evacuate the Sikh nationals. We are working as a family and would like to thank all the teams and organisations who have helped in this,” Sahney said.

Indian World Forum has coordinated and facilitated humanitarian evacuation for more than 300 Afghan Hindus and Sikhs post the regime change in Kabul.

68 Afghan Hindus and Sikhs have arrived till date after the attack at Gurudwara Karte Parwan in Kabul. SGPC is bearing the airfare for the same. On August 3, at least 30 Afghan Sikhs including children and infants, arrived in Delhi by a non-scheduled commercial flight from Kabul, operated by Kam Air.

On July 14, a total of 21 Afghan Sikhs, including an infant, were evacuated from Kabul to New Delhi on Kam Air, the largest private Afghan airline.

There were about 700 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan in 2020, but a large number of them left the country following the Taliban’s takeover on August 15, 2021.

Four Saroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib still remains in Afghanistan. Due to a lack of cooperation from the local administration in Kabul, the same could not be transferred to India as per religious protocol.

Ever Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, there has been a series of attacks on Sikhs.

On June 18 this year, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) attacked Karte Parwan Gurdwara in Kabul which claimed the lives of about 50 people.

In October, last year 15 to 20 terrorists entered a Gurdwara in the Kart-e-Parwan District of Kabul and tied up the guards.

In March 2020, a deadly attack took place at Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib Gurudwara in Kabul’s Short Bazaar area in which 27 Sikhs were killed and several were injured. Islamic State terrorists claimed responsibility for the attack. (ANI)

Read More:https://lokmarg.com/

Sikh Refugees To India

‘Evacuation Of The Stranded Is ‘Sewa’, My Religious Duty’

Padma Shri Vikramjit Singh Sahney, president of World Punjabi Organisation, was instrumental in evacuating hundreds of Sikhs and Hindus from trouble-torn Afghanistan over last one year. He reveals his inspiration to LokMarg

It is the religious duty of every Sikh to help those in distress. Saving a life is considered Sewa, or selfless service, which is a way of life for the Sikh as commended by the Divine. I consider it my fortune to be given a chance to perform Sewa for my brethren in Afghanistan.

Our mission first began on March 25, 2020, when a bomb blast at Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib in Kabul killed over 30 of our Hindu and Sikh brothers. The incident created a frightening environment. A few of our community members discussed the situation and decided that we must evacuate our people from the war-ravaged zone.

The challenges were many. Foremost, there were no flights operational due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic and the shutdown. Second, coordinating with people stranded in Kabul or other parts of Afghanistan was another major hurdle as the administrative network there was stretched due to violent environment.

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and World Punjabi Organisation coordinated with the Indian embassy in Kabul and Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi to establish communication with the stranded and our evacuation plan. We then arranged and sent three Spice Jet chartered flights to bring Afghan Sikh and Hindu families to New Delhi.

The evacuees from Afghanistan reach New Delhi with Vikramjit S Sahney (inset)

We managed to evacuate around 500 families from Afghanistan who were granted long-term visa. Since all the Gurdwaras were closing down in Afghanistan, we also got 12 Pavan Saroops, physical copies of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib, to India.

This experience came handy when on August 15, Kabul was taken over by Taliban forces and largescale exodus from the country began. We again got together for a redux of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs.

We are keeping a close watch on the situation in Afghanistan and have prepared a list of families stranded there in Gurdwaras. Meanwhile, 180 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus returned to their respective homes in Jalalabad, Gahzni and Kabul and a few of them are in Karte Parwan Gurdwara in Kabul. They had a narrow escape from the bomb blast that happened last fortnight at Kabul airport and we subsequently advised them to return to Gurdwara.

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When the Kabul airport reopens, we will try and ensure we get them to India as soon as possible. We are in touch with MEA and remaining Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan and evacuation plan is being chalked out in next 10 days. MEA officials in Delhi and Doha have got assurance from Taliban leader for safe evacuation of these families.

I must add here that our work does not stop at evacuation alone. Rehabilitation of these families begins soon after the evacuation under our “My Family, My Responsibility” programme in West Delhi. The evacuees were provided houses, household expenses, health insurance and enrolled in a skill centre.

Free skilling services have been extended to all Afghan Muslim refugees as well in the wake of recent protest by Afghan refugees seeking jobs and means to livelihoods. The World Punjabi Organisation and Sun Foundation remain committed to save lives for all Afghan refugees irrespective of their caste, creed or religion. I pray to Waheguru that we are successful in evacuating more of such families and subsequently rehabilitating them to earn a dignified life.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

Afghan Sikh

‘We Were Told To Embrace Islam, Even Spat Upon’

Avtar Singh, 32, an Afghan Sikh, narrates his persecution in Afghanistan and why he left Ghazni, where his family lived for five generations. Singh sees the Citizenship Law as a blessing for people like him

My forefathers settled in Afghanistan five generations ago. We lived in Ghazni, about 170 kilometres from Kabul, the Afghan Capital. We owned multiple garment shops and nearly 40 acres of land. Why we had to leave everything behind and took refuge in Delhi is a tragic story, one of religious persecution and plight of minorities in Afghanistan.

Ever since I was born, I remember being discriminated against in Afghanistan. It started with being made fun of for our attires, our pagris. They would call us kafir, be-iman and by other derogatory terms. Every time we went out we would be taunted with: “Aaj pagri me aloo rakha hai ya pyaz?” (What have you hidden in your turban today – potatoes or onions?).They would tell us to get rid of our hair and look like them. We were constantly asked to convert to Islam.

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Things took a more sinister turn with people spitting at us in public for following Sikhism, at times throwing stones at us randomly. I couldn’t send my children out, or my younger brother to school. Afghanistan was the only home we had known and we were heartbroken by the way things were happening. My mother who had seen better times before 1979 (before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) lamented at what we had come to.

My father, Shaheed Harbans Singh Khalsa, a Member of Parliament in Afghanistan, was killed in an accident in 2003. We later got to know it was all pre-planned. Mysterious papers would be thrown at our house with threats to life and ransom money. Over the years, I paid nearly ₹80-90 lakh to keep my family safe.

After a decade of living in uncertainty, constant suffering and blackmailing, we reached the breaking point and decided to flee to India. We were helped by a few people to buy tickets amounting to ₹90, 000 for seven people for the Kabul-Delhi flight.

Singh now works as a Granthi at a Gurdwara in New Delhi

That was in 2014. I lived a lifetime on that flight. I had only ₹20,000 to start a new life in India and a family of seven to feed. However, we were happy that at least we came out of Afghanistan alive.

We live on meagre resources in India. I work as a Granthi at a Gurdwara in Delhi. My brother who is in his teens also has to work to support the family. I am greatly surprised how well-behaved Indian Muslims are. They always address us as Bhaijaan and Sardar Ji and make us feel welcome in every aspect of life.

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We have to extend our visas every two to three years. I have heard of the new Citizenship Law that would give refugees like us permanent citizenship of India, and we are glad about the same. Even though I understand the sentiments of several people who have been protesting against CAA, I feel they should know why citizenship in India is so important, no less than a blessing for people like us. We can finally call India our home.

After being on the receiving end of persecution, I have become a better person, not bitter and feel no one should be persecuted on the basis of religion. Our Guru Granth Sahib teaches us: Koi Bole Ram Ram, Koi Khudaye, Koi Sewe Gosaiya, Koi Alahe (God is one, people know it by different names).

Hindu Sikh Refugee

‘In The 1990s’ Afghanistan, They Called Us Hindustani Kafir’

Sardar Heera Singh, who fled Kabul in 1993, narrates the pain of a displaced person who has lived in Delhi for 26 years on stay visa. Singh hails the new Citizenship law by Modi government that will give him an identity

We call ourselves ‘Hindu Sikhs’. I was 26 when we fled from Kabul in Afghanistan to save our lives in 1993. India gave us shelter but not citizenship – not till date. It has been almost 26 years that we have been living in India on stay visa which is extended every few years. We are people without a country of our own.

Therefore, we are happy that the Modi government has thought about people like us whose condition till now was like the proverbial ‘dhobi ka kutta’, who belonged neither here nor there. In Afghanistan, we were called Hindu, Kafir, Hindustani, and in India we are called Afghanis, refugees. Finally, with the new citizenship law coming into force, we will have an identity.

I understand that many people are against the implementation of CAA and protesting. But they have not gone through what we have gone through. We were openly disrespected and threatened to change our religion in Afghanistan. Nobody likes to leave their home and hearth and move to an unknown place if they are safe and free where they belong. Those opposing the CAA know not the pain of the displaced. As they say Ja tan laagi, wa tan jane (Only wearer knows where the shoe pinches).

The whole world is going through a refugee crisis today. Muslims are mostly at the receiving end of it. But there are 52 countries that follow Islam and a displaced Muslim may find shelter there. But Hindus and Sikhs have no other place than India to turn to. In India, they can be sure that they won’t be asked to give up their religion.

In our case, seven generations prior to my family had lived in Afghanistan. Yet, when infighting in Kabul began to raise an ugly head, we were identified by our religion. We had always considered Afghanistan our own country, but the circumstances in 1993 forced us to change that opinion.

Those were difficult times. We made perilous journeys on trucks, first from Kabul to Jalalabad, and then to Peshawar, Lahore and finally to Amritsar. I was a rich businessman in Kabul but when we came to India as refugees, I had to start from selling tomatoes to earn a living.

We were around 9,000 people who fled together somehow on a dreadful night. However, through all this we never lost faith in God and it is our faith. With time, the tide has turned and my family now has a shop in Ganesh Nagar in West Delhi. And soon citizenship will be granted to us in India. Now our children can finally have decent jobs and access to many more facilities that we had.

Even before CAA, the BJP government had made our lives easier. Where earlier we had to get our visas renewed every two years, the current government extended the duration to 4-5 years.

As the current general secretary of the Khalsa Diwan Welfare Society (a 100-year old organization that was started in Afghanistan), we make sure that we give back to India as gratitude. We have undertaken the responsibility of education of around 600-700 underprivileged kids.

Many Afghanistan Muslims also have come to India as refugees to save their lives. Lajpat Nagar in Delhi is home to many Afghanistan Muslims and whenever we meet, we talk fondly of the country we left behind. We hope and pray that everyone around the world is safe and there are no refugees anymore.