Eleven members of the Sikh and Hindu minorities of Afghanistan, including a community leader who was recently abducted by terrorists, arrived in New Delhi on Sunday after the Indian embassy in Kabul facilitated their travel.
In a statement issued on July 18 after the release of Nidan Singh Sachdeva, the Sikh leader who was kidnapped in Paktia province last month, the external affairs ministry said the government had decided to “facilitate the return of Afghan Hindu and Sikh community members facing security threats in Afghanistan to India”.
Sachdeva was among the Afghan nationals who reached New Delhi on a Kam Air flight at 2 pm on Sunday. The flight also carried Indian citizens who were stranded in Afghanistan because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Adesh Gupta, a leader of the Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and others received the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus at the international airport.
“Travel of some members of the Hindu and Sikh [communities], interested in moving to India, was also facilitated,” the Indian embassy in Kabul said in a tweet.
“We appreciate the efforts of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in extending necessary support for the safe return of these families,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
The Indian government had earlier expressed concern at the “targeting and persecution of minority community members [in Afghanistan] by terrorists at the behest of their external supporters”.
Concerns among Afghanistan’s dwindling Sikh minority have increased after a terror attack on a Sikh place of worship in Kabul in March that left 25 people dead and others injured. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State, though Indian and Afghan security officials believe the assault was planned and executed by Pakistan-based Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Several of the Afghan nationals who arrived in India on Sunday had lost their relatives in the attack on the Sikh place of worship. Also in the group was a teenage girl who was rescued from people who allegedly tried to forcibly convert and marry her off.
According to reports in the Afghan media, there were some 220,000 Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Their numbers dwindled to 15,000 when the Taliban were in power in Kabul. An estimated 1,350 Sikhs and Hindus remain in Afghanistan now, according to the reports.