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55 Afghan Sikhs, Hindus reach Delhi

55 Afghan Sikhs, Hindus reach Delhi by special flight

NEW DELHI: Sunday marked a poignant moment in the story of the exodus of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus from their country to India as a special flight brought the last big lot of the remaining members of the communities in Afghanistan to Delhi.

As 55 men, women and children landed in Delhi, the number of those from the Sikh community remaining in Afghanistan number just a little over 40 with most of them staying back to protect and care for the “Guru Granth Sahib” amid the ongoing impasse with the Taliban regime which has refused to allow the religious scriptures to be taken out citing them to be the heritage of Afghanistan.

The evacuation of distressed Afghan Sikhs carried out by the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandak Committee in coordination with social organisation Indian World Forum and the Indian government saw the special flight on Sunday bring to Delhi 38 adults, 14 children and three infants.

Kirpal Singh (28), who made a living from his small shop selling daily need items in Kabul, arrived with his wife and three children, the youngest Iknoor Singh just one and half years old. The fear of attacks cast a shadow over families like his own in Kabul, Kirpal said, as he recalled the attack on one of thr most prominent gurdwaras in June. “My father used to serve in the gurdwara. He came to India earlier but I shudder to think what would have happened if he would have been present in the gurdwara when the attack happened. I am happy that I have found safety for my family in India,” he said. Kirpal said he could never think of sending his children to school in Kabul but now he hopes to give them an education for a better life.

Puneet Chandhok from IWF said while this is the last big lot of families to arrive, still 43 Sikhs remain in Afghanistan and nine e- visa applications are pending for issuance with the government of India. Most of them are people who have stayed back to care for the religious scriptures and are likely to leave only if the Taliban regime will allow them to take with them the Guru Granth Sahib to India

Chandhok shared that four copies of the religious scriptures are in Afghanistan. He sought urgent measures from the Indian government to help break the impasse so that the Taliban regime allows the scriptures to be brought to India.

TOI had reported earlier this month that a group of Afghan Sikhs who were to leave for India on September 11 were stopped from taking the Guru Granth Sahib along with them as the religious scriptures were cited to be the heritage of Afghanistan.

The move drew strong condemnation from Amritsar-based Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee president Harjinder Singh Dhami who called the Taliban government’s decision a “direct interference in the religious affairs of Sikhs”.

Previously, Afghan Sikhs were able to bring Guru Granth Sahib in December last year during emergency evacuations conducted by India after the Taliban regime took over. There are an estimated 20,000 Afghan Sikhs in India.

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