Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 18
India has thanked the Afghan government for the safe return of kidnapped Sikh Nidan Singh Sachdeva and has decided to facilitate the return of Afghan Hindu and Sikh community members facing security threats in Afghanistan to India, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement.
There are about 1,000 Sikh and Hindus left in Afghanistan and the sense of insecurity was heightened after their massacre in Gurdwara Guru Har Rai in Kabul in May this year. At that time too, India had offered all possible assistance to the affected families of the Hindu and Sikh community of Afghanistan.
Nidan Singh, a leader of the Hindu and Sikh Community of Afghanistan, was kidnapped in Chamkani district of Paktia province on June 22. The MEA said in a statement, “We convey our appreciation to the Government of Afghanistan and tribal elders from the area, whose efforts secured the return of Nidan Singh. The targeting and persecution of minority community members by terrorists at the behest of their external supporters remains a matter of grave concern.”
Nidan Singh was an Afghan who had moved to India for some years after the Taliban gained ascendancy in the early 90s. Working at odd jobs in India, it is not clear how and by whom Nidan Singh was asked to return and man Gurdwara Tala Sahib in Afghanistan’s Paktia Province near the border with Pakistan. The wider region called “Loya Paktia” has been a Mujahideen and then TalibanHaqqani Group stronghold since the early 1980s.
Sources said he was the only person responsible for the upkeep of the Gurdwara where Guru Nanak was reported to have visited.
India and other countries are worried over the narrowing of space for Sikh and Hindu minorities ever since US-Taliban talks got into high gear and India excluded itself from establishing contacts with the insurgent group. India has condemned Nidan Singh’s abduction and the government is hoping the Afghan government will be able to secure safe and early release of Nidan Singh.
Soon after the May 15 massacre at the Kabul Gurdwara, former US Vice President Joe Biden had promised to raise the annual global refugee admissions cap to 1.25 lakh if he won the November US Presidential elections. Implicit was the assurance that some of the quota would be for Afghanistan’s embattled Sikh community.