Afghan Sikhs and Hindus attempting to flee Kabul following the Taliban’s recent takeover of the city are turning down offers to evacuate to India in favor of waiting for unguaranteed opportunities to fly to the U.S. and Canada, the Times of India reported Wednesday.
“About 70 to 80 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Gurdwara Karte Parwan [a section of Kabul] did not want to migrate to India as they are keen on moving to Canada or the U.S.,” Indian World Forum president Puneet Singh Chandhok told the newspaper on August 24.
“These Afghan nationals were not only creating obstacles in the evacuation process but also delaying the evacuation of others,” according to Chandhok.
He added that Indian government officials “mediating” with the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus trying to leave Kabul “have alerted them to quickly decide before the Indian government concludes its rescue operation.”
“India is facilitating these people at the highest level, yet they have missed flights twice in order to travel to the US or Canada,” Chandhok revealed.
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and the World Punjabi Organization have coordinated with the Indian government to arrange for the evacuation of Indian-origin Afghan Sikhs and Hindus from Kabul in recent days. New Delhi successfully evacuated 46 Afghan Sikhs to India on August 23.
Several countries, including India and the U.S., are attempting to evacuate their citizens from Kabul after the Taliban terror group overtook the city, Afghanistan’s national capital and seat of government, on August 15. The jihadist group deposed Kabul’s U.S.-backed government and declared full control over Afghanistan.
An estimated 700 Sikhs and Hindus resided in Afghanistan as of late June. Adherents of the minority religious groups face grave danger in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The hardline Sunni group has vowed to impose sharia, or Islamic law, in Afghanistan as it did when it previously ruled the country from 1996-2001. Non-Muslims faced intense persecution during the Taliban’s first term in power.
Religious minorities already faced severe obstacles living in majority-Muslim Afghanistan prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul this month. Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government routinely denied Sikhs cremation rights for their dead, according to a November 2019 report by India’s The Week magazine.
“[A] death in the community was a nightmare because the locals did not allow them cremation rights. One needed huge security arrangements to conduct a funeral,” the magazine revealed, citing an account by Kabul resident and Sikh adherent Harender Singh.
“While the Muslim population says it finds cremations alien, the fight is also as much about grabbing prime real estate in the cremation ground,” The Week noted.
Sikhs have maintained a presence in Afghanistan since Sikhism’s founding in the 15th century as a monotheistic religion. The faith’s adherents believe in a cycle of reincarnation, which is a quality shared by other religions such as, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.