India's Top Hindu Group Concerned About Possible Infiltration of Jihadists From Afghanistan
10:03 GMT 17.08.2021 (Updated: 10:38 GMT 19.07.2022)
India on Tuesday all but ended its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after it evacuated its Ambassador to Kabul Rudrendra Tandon and 120 other officials, as per the Foreign Ministry. India last week also brought back its staff from the Mazar-i-Sharif consulate, almost a month after it evacuated officials from the consulate in Kandahar.
A leading Hindu organisation, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), has expressed concerns about the possibility of jihadists infiltrating India from Afghanistan.
The reaction from the organisation came after a report of Indian-origin Daesh* operatives being set free by the Taliban after the militant organisation overran Kabul.
"The government must evaluate the visa applications from Afghanistan very carefully. Some of these radicalised people have clear designs to harm the unity and integrity of India", VHP national spokesperson Vinod Bansal told Sputnik on Tuesday.
The VHP is an ally of India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and linked to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP.
VHP's remarks come against the backdrop of Delhi introducing a new visa category to "fast-track" applications from Afghanistan, as announced by the federal Home Ministry.
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) August 17, 2021
In its first official reaction after Kabul was captured by the Taliban, the Indian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it would "facilitate [the] repatriation to India" of Hindus and Sikhs seeking to leave Afghanistan.
"There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people-to-people endeavours. We will stand by them", it also said.
Amid Delhi speeding up its evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, there have also been escalating concerns over the intake of people who might be deemed a "security threat" to the country.
Footage allegedly showing former inmates of Kabul's Pul-e-Charkhi prison fleeing the premises after Taliban fighters opened the gates was released by the Mashal News Agency.
The Taliban's fighters have also released prisoners from the Badam Bagh prison, located around 25 kilometres from Kabul.
A report in the Indian English-language daily the Hindustan Times said on Tuesday that nearly eight Indians, including women, fled the country to Afghanistan to join the ranks of Daesh in 2016. The report quotes Indian intelligence officials as saying that all of them were lodged at the two prisons and are wanted by India's counter-terror task force, the National Investigative Agency (NIA).
The VHP has argued that the government's priority must be to evacuate Hindus and Sikhs.
"There are many Islamic countries which might take in Muslims (from Afghanistan). We appeal to the Indian government to evacuate the Hindus and Sikhs there on [a] priority basis", Bansal said.
The Hindu community leader takes the Taliban's assurances of protecting the interests of minorities in Afghanistan with a grain of salt, pointing to the dwindling population of non-Muslim communities in the country over the last few decades.
Once a thriving business community, Afghan Sikhs and Hindus now number less than 500 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.
Slightly more than 300 Indian Hindus and Sikhs are believed to be in Afghanistan now, as per Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), a Sikh welfare group.
— Dhairya Maheshwari (@dhairyam14) August 17, 2021
Afghan airspace is currently closed to civilian aircraft, amid a massive ongoing evacuation exercise to fly out US officials, citizens, and affiliated Afghans from the country.
* Daesh (aka ISIL/ISIL/Islamic state) is a terror organisation banned in Russia and many other nations.