55 Hindus, Sikhs evacuated to India from Afghanistan

Photo: Vikramjit Singh

A special flight from Kabul on Sunday took 55 Hindus and Sikhs to New Delhi as the last batch of an evacuation program supported by the government of India to help the communities left behind in Afghanistan, now controlled by the Taliban.

The evacuees included 38 adults and 17 children, who landed at the Indira Gandhi Airport in New Delhi on Sunday.

The evacuation was facilitated by a special aircraft operated by Ariana Afghan Airlines through the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandak Committee (SGPC) Amritsar in collaboration with the Indian World Forum and the Indian government.

Earlier, they were granted e-visas by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

On August 3, at least 30 Afghan Sikhs including children, left for Delhi by a non-scheduled commercial flight from Kabul.

On July 14, 21 Afghan Sikhs were evacuated from Kabul to New Delhi.

The evacuated Hindu and Sikh Afghans will resettle in West Delhi under the initiative “My family, My Responsibility” run by Aam Aadmi Party MP Vikramjit Singh Sahney.

Quoted by Indian media, Puneet Chandok, head of the Indian World Forum (IWF), said that while this was the last batch of the members of the two communities evacuated from Afghanistan, there were still 43 Sikhs still in the country.

He added that those who remain in Afghanistan are there to protect and care for the Guru Granth Sahib.

Under the initiative, at least 543 Afghan Sikh and Hindu families have been relocated to West Delhi in India.

The relocation of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs was expedited after the attack at Gurdwara Karte Parwan, Kabul, in July this year. At least 300 Afghan Hindus and Sikhs have been relocated to India after the Taliban takeover.

According to Indian media reports, the Taliban has restricted the departure of saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib from Afghanistan.

‘Tortured by Taliban’

The returning members on their arrival in New Delhi recounted the horrors of living under the Taliban regime.

“The condition is not very well in Afghanistan. I was imprisoned for four months. Taliban have cheated us, they butchered our hair in prison,” Baljeet Singh, one of those evacuated, said as quoted by ANI news agency.

“I could never think of sending my children to school in Kabul, but now in India, I can hope for a better future,” Kirpal Singh, who lived in Kabul and ran a small store there, said as quoted by the Times of India.

“We have come here for the safety of our kids and urge the Indian government to evacuate our other 30 brothers who are left behind in Afghanistan,” said Mansa Singh, a sewadar at Kabul Gurdwara, as quoted by ANI.

At least 700 Sikhs and Hindus were living in Afghanistan ahead of the fall of the previous government, but almost all of them have fled the country, fearing prosecution and attacks from the Taliban.