With Taliban Seizing Afghan Cities, Congress Leader Urges Modi Gov't to Evacuate 700 Sikhs, Hindus
© AP Photo / Altaf QadriIndian Sikhs hold placards as they march toward Afghanistan embassy during a protest in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, July 3, 2018
© AP Photo / Altaf Qadri
Most of the remaining Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan are largely confined to major cities. Their well-being is causing increasing anxiety in India, as the Taliban* sets its eyes on these areas. The Islamist insurgent group has already taken several major cities in recent days and threatens a dozen more.
A Congress Party politician has urged India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to grant "special visas" to evacuate 700 Hindus and Sikhs stuck in Afghanistan, in the face of increased violence in the war-ravaged nation as the Taliban sets its eyes on the country's major cities.
The request was made by Congress member Jaiveer Shergill in his private capacity.
My letter to Minister for External Affairs in personal capacity as citizen of India belonging to Sikh Community requesting Govt of India to evacuate Hindus/Sikhs from Afghan on special visa considering escalating & disturbing violence by Taliban pic.twitter.com/n4A6xOOWsg
"You may be aware that these people, fearing for their lives have appealed to the government of India for their immediate evacuation", the Congress politician said in his letter to the foreign minister.
The safety and security of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan has been a cause of concern for the Indian government.
In 2020, Delhi evacuated more than 190 Hindus and Sikhs from the country in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack on a Sikh temple by Daesh* terrorists, which left 25 Sikhs dead.
Once a thriving business community, Afghan Sikhs and Hindus now number only 700 in the country. According to historians, there were more than 200,000 of them in the 1980s. Most of the remaining Indian-origin communities live in Jalalabad, Kandahar, and Kabul.
Renewed fears about the state of Sikhs and Hindus were sparked last week, when Taliban militants reportedly forced a Sikh religious flag atop the historic shrine Thala Shri Guru Nanak Sahib in Afghanistan's Paktia Province to be taken down.
According to The Hindu, the Taliban asked the Sikh temple's gatekeeper to remove the flag and tie it to a tree.
In his letter to Jaishankar, Shergill expressed fear that the 700-odd Indian-origin people left behind in Afghanistan have become "sitting ducks" for the Taliban.
On 11 July, Delhi said that it had "temporarily" evacuated its officials from the Kandahar Consulate due to the intense fighting between the Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) near the city.
While the Taliban has repeatedly assured that it will protect the rights of Sikhs and other minorities living in Afghanistan, foreign governments such as India cast doubt on these "guarantees".
"We have been supporting the government and people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future, where the interests of all sections of Afghan society, including women and minorities [are respected]. We are closely monitoring the evolving security situation, and we continue to call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire", Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a weekly briefing last week, while commenting on the evolving security situation.
*The Taliban and Daesh, also known as ISIS/IS/Islamic State, are terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other countries.