India welcomed 11 members of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu minority communities Sunday, including one Sikh “recently released from captivity after a month of torture,” the Times of India (TOI) reported Monday.
The religious minorities have fled hostility in Muslim-majority Afghanistan for India, seeking citizenship under India’s religious persecution law.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava released a statement via Twitter on Sunday saying the Indian government was “facilitating the return of Hindu and Sikh community members [from Afghanistan] seeking permanent residency and citizenship in India.”
Nidan Singh Sachdeva, 60, was abducted in Kabul in June by Islamic terrorists and “released from captivity on July 18 after a month of torture,” TOI reported. He and ten other members of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu community arrived in Delhi on Sunday.
“Sachdeva, like many Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan, came to India with his wife and children in the early 1990s to escape persecution and targeted attacks. Sachdeva goes back to Paktia [a province in Afhganistan] every year to visit a gurdwara [Sikh place of worship] in his native place as he is the primary caretaker. This year too, despite the [coronavirus] lockdown, he took a flight [to Afghanistan] on April 13 and was soon abducted. His family wrote to [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi seeking … intervention,” TOI detailed.
Prime Minister Modi’s administration did intervene on behalf of Sachdeva, orchestrating his release from captivity and facilitating his and other Sikh and Hindu community members’ travel from Afghanistan to Delhi on Sunday.
“The Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, if they choose to exercise it, will have the right to seek Indian citizenship under the CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act, a law granting Indian citizenship to some religious communities fleeing persecution in neighboring Islamic countries],” TOI wrote.
“This is the first time the Indian government has openly pointed to the CAA as a route to citizenship for minorities in neighboring countries,” the newspaper added.
Sachdeva spoke to Asian News International upon his return to India and said, “I was abducted from the gurdwara and 20 hours later, I was covered with blood. I was tied to a tree as well. They [Islamic terrorists] used to beat me and ask me to convert into a Muslim. I repeatedly told them I have my own religion and I would not convert.”
After securing Sachdeva’s release on July 18, India’s government promised to help 700 of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu minority members resettle in India. There are an estimated 1,000 total Hindu and Sikh minority members residing in Afghanistan.
“India has decided to welcome 700 Afghans given the increase in attacks on the Sikh community by ‘Pakistan-based’ terror organizations. The decision was made by the Indian government after Afghan Sikh Nidan Singh was rescued in Afghanistan on July 18,” India Today reported.
“The targeting and persecution of minority community members by terrorists at the behest of their external supporters remain a matter of grave concern,” the MEA said at the time.
Religious minorities such as Sikhs and Hindus have long suffered from discrimination in Muslim-majority Afghanistan. In recent months, Sikhs and Hindus have been increasingly targeted by Islamic terrorists active in the country. In late March, Islamic State terrorists stormed a Sikh-Hindu temple in Kabul, Afganistan’s capital, killing 25 people and injuring eight.