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Afghan Sikhs
ਅਫ਼ਗਾਨਿਸਤਾਨ ਵਿਚ ਸਿੱਖ ਧਰਮ
په افغانستان کې سکهزم
A sikh shop owner in Kabul, Afghanistan
Total population
200 - 700 (2020)[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kabul, Kandahar
Languages
Hindko, Pashto, Dari, Hindustani (Urdu-Hindi), Punjabi
Religion
Sikhism
Related ethnic groups
Sikhs, Pashtuns, Hindkowans, Punjabis

Sikhism in Afghanistan is limited to small populations, primarily in major cities, with the largest numbers of Afghan Sikhs living in Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kabul, and to a lesser extent Kandahar.[3] Afghan Sikhs are ethnically Pashtun,[4] Hindkowan or Punjabi and speak Hindko, Pashto, Punjabi, Dari, Hindustani (Urdu-Hindi).[5]

Once numbering between 200,000 and 500,000 (1.8% - 4.6% of the national population) in the 1970s,[6][7][8][9][10] their population in Afghanistan has dwindled since the Afghan wars began.[11]

Estimates of their total population (there has been no census in Afghanistan since 1979) have been given as around 1,200 families or 8,000 members in 2013;[12] 1,000 in 2019 (as reported by Afghan Sikh Wolesi Jirga member Narinder Singh Khalsa); and around 70 to 80 families or 700 in 2020 (as reported by Raj Sutaka, a Sikh businessman from Kabul).[1]

Presence

Entrance sign of Sri Guru Nanak Darbar gurdwara in Jalalabad
Entrance sign of Sri Guru Nanak Darbar gurdwara in Jalalabad

Kabul

There were over 200,000 Sikhs in Kabul in the 1980s, but after the start of the Civil War in 1992, most had fled.[8] Seven of Kabul's eight gurdwaras were destroyed during the civil war. Only Gurdwara Karte Parwan, located in the Karte Parwan section of Kabul, remains.[13] They are centred today in Karte Parwan and some parts of the old city. There is no exact number of Sikhs in Kabul province.

Jalalabad

As of 2001, Jalalabad had 100 Sikh families, totaling around 700 people, who worship at two large Gurdwaras. Legend states that the older of the Gurudwaras was built to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak Dev.[14] On 1 July 2018, at least 10 Sikhs were killed in a targeted suicide bombing at the PD1 market.[15][16] The local branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility.[17]

Kandahar

Kandahar has a remarkably small Sikh community, with only about 15 families living there as of 2002.[18] Only 2 families remain as of 2020.

History

Early history

Guru Nanak visited Kabul in the 15th century. Some early Khatri Sikhs established and maintained colonies in Afghanistan for trading purposes.[19] Later, conflicts between the Sikh misls and empire against the Afghan-based Durrani Empire led to tension. Sikhs also served in the British Empire's military during several operations in Afghanistan in the 19th century.

20th century

Following the partition of India in 1947, the Sikh population increased as Sikh migrants fled persecution in the Punjab of newly independent Pakistan and India. The Sikhs prospered during the kingship of Mohammed Zahir Shah (1933-1973) and the 1980s.[11]

Wars

During the 1980s Soviet–Afghan War, many Afghan Sikhs fled to India, where 90% of global Sikh population lives; a second, much larger wave followed following the 1992 fall of the Najibullah regime.[20] Sikh gurdwaras (temples) throughout the country were destroyed in the Battle of Jalalabad (1989)[21] and the Afghan Civil War of the 1990s, leaving only the Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul.[22]

Under the Taliban, the Sikhs were a persecuted minority and forced to pay the jizya tax.[23] The Sikh custom of cremation of the dead was prohibited by the Taliban, and cremation grounds vandalized.[24] In addition, Sikhs were required to wear yellow patches or veils to identify themselves.[25]

21st century

Interior of Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul
Interior of Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul

By tradition, Sikhs cremate their dead, an act considered sacrilege in Islam.[26][27][28][29][30] Cremation has become a major issue among Sikh Afghans, as traditional cremation grounds have been appropriated by Muslims, particularly in the Qalacha area of Kabul, which Sikhs and Hindus had used for over a century.[26] In 2003 Sikhs complained to the Afghan government regarding the loss of cremation grounds, which had forced them to send a dead body to Pakistan to be cremated, following which the Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs investigated the issue.[20] Though the grounds were reported as returned to Sikh control in 2006,[22] in 2007 local Muslims allegedly beat Sikhs attempting to cremate a community leader, and the funeral proceeded only with police protection.[26] As of 2010, cremation in Kabul is still reported as being disapproved of by locals.[31]

Sikhs in Afghanistan continue to face problems, with the issue of the Sikh custom of cremation figuring prominently.

In September 2013, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a legislative decree, reserving a seat in the National Assembly of Afghanistan for the Hindu and Sikh minority.[32] However this decree was blocked by the parliament. The decree eventually came into force in September 2016 when it was approved by the cabinet of Karzai's successor, Ashraf Ghani.[33]

Following the deadly Jalalabad attack on June 2018, both Karzai and Ghani visited the Karte Parwan gurdwara to offer condolences. Ghani called the country's Sikh and Hindu minorities the "pride of the nation",[34] and on another occasion that year called them an "integral part" of Afghanistan's history.[35]

Diaspora

Afghan Sikh Diaspora
Total population
200,000 - 500,000[6][7][8][9][10] (c. 1980)
Regions with significant populations
United Kingdom, India, Russia, Germany, Canada, Austria, Pakistan
 India9,194-75,000[36]
 United Kingdom>10,000[37]
 Russia2,000[38]
Languages
Hindko (native), English, Hindi , Punjabi, Pashto (older generation), Dari (older generation)

The population ratio between Afghan Sikhs and Hindus is estimated to be 60:40, as both populations are frequently merged in historic and contemporary estimations.[6][a] Combined with a wide range of population approximations in the absence of official census data, the Afghan Sikh population was estimated to be between 200,000 and 500,000 in the 1970s.[6][7][b][9][c][10][d][8]

In the ensuring decades, widespread emigration was common amongst religious minorities due to increased persecution by Taliban forces; by the 1990s, the Afghan Sikh population declined below 50,000.[22][39] As of 2013, they are around 800 families of which 300 families live in Kabul.[12] Sikh leaders in Afghanistan claim that the total number of Sikhs is 3,000. Many Sikh families have chosen to emigrate to other countries including, India, North America, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Russia and other places.[40]

Notable people

See also

Notes

  1. ^ According to Singh, there were at least 2 lakh Sikhs and Hindus (in a 60:40 ratio) in Afghanistan until the 1970s.[6]
  2. ^ “In the 70s, there were around 700,000 Hindus and Sikhs, and now they are estimated to be less than 7,000,” Shayegan says.[7]
  3. ^ An investigation by TOLOnews reveals that the Sikh and Hindu population number was 220,000 in the 1980's[9]
  4. ^ In the late 1980s, there were about 500,000 Sikhs scattered across Afghanistan, many here for generations[10]

References

  1. ^ a b "Solidarity for Sikhs after Afghanistan massacre". www.aljazeera.com. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Country Policy and Information Note Afghanistan: Sikhs and Hindus/" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 December 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  3. ^ U.S. State Department (14 September 2007). "Afghanistan - International Religious Freedom Report 2007". The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affair. Archived from the original on 20 July 2019. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  4. ^ Eusufzye, Khan Shehram (2018). "Two identities, twice the pride: The Pashtun Sikhs of Nankana Saheb". Pakistan Today. Archived from the original on 26 June 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2020. One can sense a diminutive yet charming cultural amalgamation in certain localities within the town with the settling of around 250 Pashtun Sikh families in the city.
    Ruchi Kumar, The decline of Afghanistan's Hindu and Sikh communities Archived 21 September 2020 at the Wayback Machine, Al Jazeera, 2017-01-01, "the culture among Afghan Hindus is predominantly Pashtun"
    Beena Sarwar, Finding lost heritage Archived 6 March 2021 at the Wayback Machine, Himal, 2016-08-03, "Singh also came across many non turban-wearing followers of Guru Nanak in Pakistan, all of Pashtun origin and from the Khyber area."
    Sonia Dhami, Sikh Religious Heritage – My visit to Lehenda Punjab Archived 28 January 2021 at the Wayback Machine, Indica News, 2020-01-05, "Nankana Sahib is also home to the largest Sikh Pashtun community, many of whom have migrated from the North West Frontier Provinces, renamed Khyber-Pakhtunwa."
    Neha, Pak misusing Durand Line to facilitate terrorists, says Pashtun Archived 25 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine, Siasat Daily, 2019-09-20, "The members of the Pashtun and Afghan Sikh community living in Europe and UK have gathered in Geneva"
    Sabrina Toppa, Despite border tensions, Indian Sikhs celebrate festival in Pakistan Archived 25 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine, TRT World, 2019-04-16, "Hasanabdal is home to around 200 Sikh families that have primarily moved from Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, including Pakistan’s former tribal areas. The majority are Pashtun Sikhs who abandoned their homes and took refuge near Sikhism’s historical sites."
  5. ^ Shaista Wahab, Barry Youngerman. A Brief History of Afghanistan Archived 14 December 2019 at the Wayback Machine Infobase Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0-8160-5761-3, ISBN 978-0-8160-5761-0. Pg18
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  8. ^ a b c d Ruchi Kumar (19 October 2017). "Afghan Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Diwali without 'pomp and splendour' amid fear". Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d "Nearly 99% Of Hindus, Sikhs Left Afghanistan in Last Three decades". 21 June 2016. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d Friel, Terry (20 January 2007). "Afghanistan's hated Sikhs yearn for India". Reuters. Archived from the original on 19 June 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Explainer: who are the Afghan Sikhs?". The Conversation. 20 August 2014. Archived from the original on 31 March 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Hindus, Sikhs warn of leaving Afghanistan". Pajhwok Afghan News. 31 July 2013. Archived from the original on 30 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  13. ^ "No Home for Afghanistan Sikhs". The Sikh Foundation International. Archived from the original on 6 January 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  14. ^ Sikhs set example for getting along with the Taliban Archived 10 January 2003 at the Wayback Machine. By Scott Baldauf, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, 13 April 2001
  15. ^ "Suicide Attack Targets Sikhs in Jalalabad, 19 Killed". TOLO. 1 July 2018. Archived from the original on 3 August 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  16. ^ "Deadly blast hits Afghanistan's Jalalabad". Al Jazeera English. 1 July 2018. Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2018. Ghulam Sanayi Stanekzai, Nangarhar's police chief, said the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber who targeted a vehicle carrying members of the Sikh minority who were travelling to meet the president.
  17. ^ "Suicide bomber kills 19 in attack on Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan". 2 July 2018. Archived from the original on 2 July 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  18. ^ "Focus on Hindus and Sikhs in Kandahar". IRIN. 17 June 2002. Archived from the original on 11 November 2018. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  19. ^ Hew McLeod (1997). Sikhism. New York: Penguin Books. p. 251. ISBN 0-14-025260-6.
  20. ^ a b Majumder, Sanjoy (25 September 2003). "Sikhs struggle in Afghanistan". BBC News. Archived from the original on 9 June 2004. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
  21. ^ Burns, John F. (2 April 1989). "Rocket Kills 22 in Afghan Temple". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 7 June 2020. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  22. ^ a b c "Sikhs, Hindus reclaim Kabul funeral ground - World - DNA". Dnaindia.com. 8 January 2006. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  23. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 April 2021. Retrieved 16 April 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Afghan Sikhs are targeted by the Taliban and unable to even bury their dead - The Week". www.theweek.in. Archived from the original on 16 April 2021. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  25. ^ Magnier, Mark; Baktash, Hashmat (10 June 2013). "Afghanistan Sikhs, already marginalized, are pushed to the brink". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  26. ^ a b c Hemming, Jon. "Sikhs in Afghan funeral demonstration « RAWA News". Rawa.org. Archived from the original on 29 March 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  27. ^ "Afghanistan's Sikhs feel alienated, pressured to leave". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 20 June 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  28. ^ "Why are Afghan Sikhs desperate to flee to the UK?". BBC News. 4 September 2014. Archived from the original on 4 September 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  29. ^ Margherita Stancati and Ehsanullah Amiri (13 January 2015). "Facing Intolerance, Many Sikhs and Hindus Leave Afghanistan". WSJ. Archived from the original on 17 January 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  30. ^ Ali M Latifi. "Afghanistan's Sikhs face an uncertain future". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 15 April 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  31. ^ "Sikhs, Hindus celebrate in Kabul". Pajhwok Afghan News. 14 April 2010. Archived from the original on 9 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  32. ^ "1 Wolesi Jirga seat reserved for Hindus, Sikhs". pajhwok.com. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  33. ^ "Afghan Government Approves Reservation for Sikhs/Hindus in Parliament". The Wire. Archived from the original on 25 April 2019. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  34. ^ "Jalalabad blast: Afghan President visits gurudwara, promises action against culprits". Hindustan Times. 5 July 2018. Archived from the original on 5 July 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  35. ^ "Afghan Hindus and Sikhs meet with President Ghani, raise issue of land grabbing". 11 December 2018. Archived from the original on 18 December 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  36. ^ IP Singh (23 December 2019). "Punjab: No clarity on exact number of Afghan Sikhs in India". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 7 July 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  37. ^ Pritpal Singh (21 May 2017). "HINDU KUSH TO THAMES". Youtube. Archived from the original on 7 July 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  38. ^ Valva Bezhan (25 December 2017). "Moscow's 'Little Kabul'". Radio Free Europe. Archived from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  39. ^ Jethra, Aashish (27 August 2010). "2 Sikhs in Afghan poll fray, want to be first elected non-Muslims". SikhNet. Archived from the original on 4 December 2018. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  40. ^ Stancati, Margherita; Amiri, Ehsanullah. "Facing Intolerance, Many Sikhs and Hindus Leave Afghanistan". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Archived from the original on 17 January 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  41. ^ Sikhs struggle for recognition in the Islamic republic Archived 30 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, by Tony Cross. 14 November 2009.
  42. ^ Bogos, Elissa (13 January 2010). "Afghanistan: Dwindling Sikh Community Struggles To Endure in Kabul". SikhNet. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  43. ^ editor. "Sikh woman, man fight against former mujahideen in Aghanistan polls". Archived from the original on 2 December 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

Further reading