Afghan Sikhs and relevance of CAA

The CAA explicitly bound the government to fast-track the grant of visas/citizenship etc, to the victims of persecution in foreign countries.

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Sunday, June 26, 2022, 11:24 PM IST
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A Taliban fighter stands guard in front of a Sikh temple following an attack by gunmen in Kabul on June 18, 2022. - Gunmen stormed a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital on June 18 morning, killing at least one member of the community and wounding seven more, the interior ministry said. | (Photo by Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN / AFP)

All those opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, ought to once again realise the urgent justification for enacting this vital law. Since the Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and other religious minorities when facing persecution in foreign lands have only India to turn to for help, it was natural for the government to codify the provision concerning emergency assistance. Not that the Indian origin minorities in foreign countries whenever under attack from the native majorities were not being provided assistance earlier, but the CAA explicitly bound the government to fast-track the grant of visas/citizenship etc, to the victims of persecution in foreign countries. In short, what was de facto was made de jure insofar as rendering citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, etc, was concerned. The alleged injection of religion in a secular Constitution as a criterion for the limited purpose of granting citizenship to the persecuted minorities was aimed not to slight any religious group. No. Not at all. It was a mere acknowledgement of the cold reality that in certain countries in our neighbourhood, religious minorities were at the receiving end of Islamist zeal.

The latest case in point is the attack on the last surviving gurdwara in Kabul on June 20, in which the Sikh granthi and an Afghan were killed. The holy Granth Sahib too was not spared while the attackers ransacked the gurdwara. The Taliban who are now in power in Afghanistan claimed that it was the handiwork of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIL-K). It claimed that the attack was a revenge for the alleged insult of the Prophet in India by a former BJP spokesperson. It is extremely hard to vet that claim given the numerous terrorist groups operating in the region, all claiming to usher in an idyllic Islamic State as per the commands of the founder of Islam. Not only do these groups kill and maim non-Muslims, they also target fellow Islamists allegedly working for the very same ideal Islamic state. The Taliban may now be in power after the US left Afghanistan with its tail between its legs, but admittedly its writ does not run all over the benighted country. However it is inconceivable that the Afghanistan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, a UN- designated terrorist, has overnight shed his intense hatred against India. Also, it is hard to believe that he no longer harbours close contacts with his own Haqqani terror group whose close ties with Pakistan’s spy agency ISI are a public secret. Indeed, several other anti-India groups, namely, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, still have a considerable presence in Afghanistan. In short, it would be a mistake to believe that the return of the Taliban to the ministerial chairs in Kabul has made them abjure the use of terror. Internal power struggles and the felt need of the ruling factions to burnish their Islamist credentials by attacking perceived symbols of resistance to the Islamic State has made Afghanistan particularly unsafe for religious minorities. Last week’s attack in the supposedly highly-protected Kabul enclave on the gurdwara was not an isolated event. Sikh religious shrines in Afghanistan have come under attack by terror groups at regular intervals, sending out a stern warning to the Sikhs to either leave the country or convert to Islam. The Indian government has readily made relief and rehabilitation to the persecuted Afghan Sikhs available on a generous scale. Admittedly, the local Sikh community too has extended a helping hand to settle their uprooted fellow Sikhs.

At one time, Afghanistan had over 20,000 Sikhs. Now the number has shrunk to low three figures. After the latest attack, which Prime Minister Modi condemned as “a ghastly act against humanity”, the government lost no time in granting emergency visas to about 160-odd Sikhs. Fear stalks the otherwise brave community in Kabul since they cannot even count on the government there to provide them fool-proof security, especially given the linkages of various terror groups with disgruntled elements in the now-ruling Taliban. It is notable that New Delhi has gone out of the way to provide large quantities of wheat and medicines to Afghanistan since it stared at hunger and disease due to its pariah status in the western capitals. Now there has been talk of reviving consular services as well. It is another matter that the Taliban do not help their own cause by reverting to religious extremism, especially concerning women. Meanwhile, the attack on the Kabul gurdwara underlines the double standards of the secular-liberal elements. Quick to take offence in case of a real or imaginary attack on Muslims, they remain tongue-tied when members of the majority community are at the receiving end of jihadi mayhem whether in Kashmir or in Afghanistan.

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