First batch of ‘facilitated’ Afghan Sikhs to reach India on Sunday; optimistic about citizenship

11 Afghan Sikhs who were keen to be in India’s promised facilitation mission will reach Delhi on Sunday. Delhi-based Afghan Sikh, Nidan Singh, who was abducted by terrorists, will be part of the batch. 

The rest of the ten are families of the Afghan Sikhs who were killed in the Kabul Gurudwara terror attack earlier this year. More than 25 Afghan Sikhs and One Indian Sikh were killed on the March 25th Gurudwara terror attack in Kabul.

The group includes Salmeet Kaur who was reportedly kidnapped in Kabul but later came back. Hopes are high among the Sikh community that they will get Indian citizenship. Charan Singh, the brother-in-law of Nidan Singh in Delhi, told WION, “I am hopeful on the citizenship front.”

The Indian government had earlier this month said that it will give Afghan Hindus and Sikhs visas and examine the Indian citizenship requests by them. The spokesperson of the Union Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Shrivastava, in response to a WION question at the weekly presser last week said that the Indian government has been receiving requests from these communities that “they want to move to India and settle down here” and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, “we are facilitating the requests”. 

Indian mission in Kabul is “providing them necessary visas” to come to India and once they reach here the request for citizenship will be “examined and acted upon” based on “rules and policies”, he explained.

While no details have been given on the rules, India could give citizenship to these Afghan minorities under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed last year, which gives citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries –Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan with a cut of date of 31st December 2014.

India being lauded for helping Afghan minorities 

India’s announcement on visa facilitation and citizenship is being lauded globally. Karanjee Gaba, a London-based Afghan Sikh, currently working as a model, told WION, “I am glad that India has taken the initiative to step up and help the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, by giving them a place in their nation to help them out, as sudden attacks on the minority is a massive action by the Taliban and they need the support.”

Adding, “With this action, India has raised their concerns and took an action towards peace, and kind help to those in need. Which is appreciated worldwide”

A US congressman, Jim Costa, in response to India’s offer to help Afghan minorities said, “This marks an important step toward protecting Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities from imminent destruction at the hands of terrorists.”

Nidan Abduction Hasten Up India’s Call 

The development got pace after Delhi-based Afghan Sikh, Nidan Singh, was abducted in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika that borders Pakistan. He was later released. Delhi sees the “recent spurt of attacks on Hindus and Sikh community” in Afghanistan by “terrorists at the behest of external supporters”, indicating Pakistan’s involvement. 

The wife of the kidnapped Afghan Sikh had written to the Indian Prime Minister requesting assistance from the Indian government for the release of her husband and also grant citizenship. Mahrwanti wrote to the Prime Minister on 25th June, saying, “I request you to kindly repatriate him back to New Delhi immediately after his release and grant us Indian citizenship at the earliest”. 

Nidan Singh was kidnapped from Gurdwara Tala Sahib, Chamkani, in Afghanistan. He was there to maintain the Gurdwara, where according to history, Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism had visited.  He was the lone person managing and performing community service in the gurudwara.

Singh and his family of six — wife, two sons, and three daughters had moved to India in 1992 due to the civil unrest in Afghanistan and had been staying in New Delhi as refugees. He was a cook by profession in Delhi and used to earn a livelihood by undertaking meal orders for a community kitchen, like langer. 

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