Gulcharan Singh: The only Sikh left in Nangarhar

Once there were thousands of families, but today, Gulcharan Singh is the only Sikh left in Nangarhar following a mass exodus of his fellow community members over the years.

The owner of a herbal medicine shop in Jalalabad, Singh said there were once at least 10,000 Sikh families in the province but that now his family is the only one left.

An emotional Singh said that insecurity forced the rest of his community to leave the country.

“I cry because why were others pushed to leave their country? We all are from Afghanistan. Either Muslim, or Sikh or Hindu; we had 10,000 families here, but now only I am left here,” he said.

Singh remembers with fondness the days that his relatives and friends lived close by in Jalalabad – remembers all the memories they shared.

“My relatives left Afghanistan over insecurity and I cry when I remember the moment they left.”

He said Afghanistan is his country and living in the country brings him happiness. According to him, many of the families who left face enormous challenges in their new countries but says he will not leave.

“We all are Afghanistan’s citizens but the situation has worsened. Don’t kill us with bombs; we will not go anywhere,” said Singh of his immediate family.

Hindus and Sikhs that once lived in the country own a lot of land in Nangarhar but most simply packed and left the country – without selling off their properties.

Over the years, thousands have departed, the last group having left for India in late September.

On August 15 last year, the day the former government collapsed, it was estimated that about 300 Sikhs and Hindus were still living in Afghanistan. Mostly all have fled the country, fearing persecution and attacks from the Taliban.

Over the past few years, Hindus and Sikhs had come under repeated attack – mostly by Daesh, who claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on the community.

Following yet another attack, at the Gurdwara in Kart-e Parwan in June this year, the relocation of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs was expedited. At the time, community leaders estimated that just 140 Sikhs remained in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in the 1970s.

The Indian government facilitated the repatriation of Sikhs and Hindus leaving Afghanistan by offering visas, residency permits and organizing evacuation flights.

The birthplace of Sikhism, India is home to most of the world’s Sikh population.