March 25, terrorists entered a Gurdwara in Shor Bazaar, Karte Parwan, Kabul, Afghanistan and attacked the Sikh families offering morning prayers with Grenades and indiscriminate fire. The barbaric terrorist attack left 27 Sikhs, including women and small children, dead. Many families were wiped out altogether, while others suffered great losses. The security forces laid a siege on the complex to neutralise the terrorists, but by then the devastation had been committed.
The 400-year-old Gurdwara is one among only three left in Kabul. The Sikhs had collected there to offer prayers for the whole of humanity in view of the current COVID 19 pandemic, in consonance with their concept of Sarbat Da Bhala (Well-being of all Mankind).
The responsibility for the attack was taken by Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghanistan chapter of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) also known as Daesh. Amaq News Agency, which is affiliated to the IS-K, released the message claiming responsibility along with a photo of one of the gunmen.
Reports, however, suggest the hand of Pakistan based Haqqani Network and Pakistan based terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), in the attack. There is a motive here since the Afghan Peace process is not in Pakistan's interest and the country has a reason to derail the same by perpetuating violence.
The leader of the IS-K in Afghanistan is 43-year-old Mawlawi Aslam Farooqi, a Pakistani Pashtun who was initially recruited into the LeT in 2004. He was sent to Afghanistan in 2007 to work with the ISIS. Hundreds of others from Pakistan terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been similarly delegated to the ISIS. Farooqi became head of IS-K due to his roots in LeT and the influence of Pakistan's ISI on ISIS. Pakistan maintains links with all terrorist organisations operating in the Muslim world and provides to them infrastructure, trained workforce, shelter and strategic advice.
The Government of Afghanistan is attempting to provide relief and assistance to the victims and the community. What is more significant is the solidarity that the people of Afghanistan are showing to the community. "They are more Afghan than a lot of other Afghans," said Sahira Sharif, a member of Parliament from Khost Province.
Notwithstanding the grief, condolences and solidarity, the minorities, especially Sikhs and Hindus, are overwhelmed with a huge sense of insecurity. In the 1970's, Afghan Sikhs and the Hindu population stood at 700,000. There are, perhaps, no more than a few thousand left in the country. Now there is a concerted effort to drive them away too. The government has also failed to provide security to the communities.
The situation is so bad that minority communities cannot even hold funerals in peace. In the past decade, the government has provided many different locations for minority communities to conduct cremations, but the difficulty persists. Recently, the Afghan Parliament has rejected a decree for reservation of seats in the lower house of the legislature for the Hindu and the Sikh communities. Hence, there is no prospect of political empowerment of the two communities in the nation.
The world needs to take note of this enormous tragedy, wherein people are being deprived of their lives and honourable existence. Either they should be protected or moved out so that they can start a new life, however painful that may be.
India and especially Punjab, form the natural choice of rehabilitation for these hapless people. However, if they do get to India and then have to run from pillar to post to get citizenship, it would become a case of "out of the frying pan, into the fire" for them. The location would change but the circumstances of deprivation and lack of political empowerment would stay the same.
The incumbent Government of India, in a sensitive response to the plight of these minorities in neighbouring Islamic countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, enacted the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA). The act provided for a speedy grant of citizenship of refugees coming to India from these neighbouring Islamic countries. Unfortunately, as a consequence of misinformation spread by opposition political
parties, there was an adverse public reaction that led to widespread protests and even rioting to stall implementation of CAA.
Punjab has a religious and ethnic affinity with the persecuted communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As such, the State should have been in the forefront of the initiative to get these hapless people into India and ensure their speedy settlement. Sadly, Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, chose to pursue his party line and passed a resolution in the State Assembly against the CAA. While terming the amendment as a “great tragedy, the Chief Minister said, “The Congress party is determined to oppose it tooth and nail.” He also said that his government would join Kerala in opposing the issue in the Supreme Court.
In the wake of the terrible terrorist attack on Sikhs in Afghanistan, Captain Amarinder Singh has come up with a request to get the Sikh families of Afghanistan into India. “Dear @DrSJaishankar, there are a large number of Sikh families who want to be flown out of Afghanistan. Request you to get them airlifted at the earliest. In this moment of crisis, it’s our bounden duty to help them,” he has stated in a tweet to Foreign Minister, Dr S Jaishankar.
The question that arises here is - If the Sikh families are brought to India, as Punjab Chief Minister has requested, where will they be accommodated? Not in Punjab since the Chief Minister wishes to stay aloof from the citizenship law that will facilitate their easy amalgamation into the Indian Nation. It seems that Captain Amarinder Singh wants to “have his cake and eat it too.”
A huge tragedy has been unfolding upon the Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and Jain communities in neighbouring Islamic countries for quite some time now. If India does not help welcome these people with open arms then who will? It is the bounden duty of India to come to their aid in a unified manner without any political considerations and motive. There as something that transcends politics, this is one of them.
(The writer is a Geo-political expert, columnist and author)