Sikhism in Afghanistan
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|Regions with significant populations|
|Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kabul, Kandahar|
|Punjabi (native), Pashto, Dari, Hindi|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Part of a series of articles on|
|Religion in Afghanistan|
|Part of a series on|
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. These Sikhs are Afghan nationals who normally speak native Pashto, but also speak Dari, Hindi or Punjabi. Their total population is around 1,200 families or 8,000 members.
There were over 20,000 Sikhs in Kabul in the 1980s, but after the start of the Civil War in 1992, most had fled. 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. They are centered today in Karte Parwan and some parts of the old city.
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. On July 1, 2018, at least 10 Sikhs were killed in a targeted suicide bombing at the PD1 market. The local branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility.
Kandahar has a remarkably small Sikh community, with only about 15 families living there as of 2002.
Some early Khatri Sikhs established and maintained colonies in Afghanistan for trading purposes. 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.
During the 1980s Soviet–Afghan War, many Afghan Sikhs fled to India, where the Sikh community is well-established; a second, much larger wave followed following the 1992 fall of the Najibullah regime. Sikh gurdwaras (temples) throughout the country were destroyed in the Afghan Civil War of the 1990s, leaving only the Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul.
Under the Taliban, the Sikhs were a relatively tolerated religious minority, and allowed to practice their religion. However, the Sikh custom of cremation of the dead was prohibited by the Taliban, and cremation grounds vandalized. In addition, Sikhs were required to wear yellow patches or veils to identify themselves.
By tradition, Sikhs cremate their dead, an act considered sacrilege in Islam. 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. In 2003 Sikhs complained to the Afghan government regarding the loss of cremation grounds, which had forced them to send a woman's body to Pakistan to be cremated, following which the Minister of Religious affairs investigated the issue. Though the grounds were reported as returned to Sikh control in 2006, in 2007 local Muslims allegedly beat Sikhs attempting to cremate a community leader, and the funeral proceeded only with police protection. As of 2010, cremation in Kabul is still reported as being disapproved of by locals.
Sikhs in Afghanistan continue to face problems, with the issue of the Sikh custom of cremation figuring prominently. City development also threatens to destroy the Gurudwara Karte Parwan and adjoining shrine to Guru Nanak.
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. 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.
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", and on another occasion that year called them an "integral part" of Afghanistan's history.
Before the 1990s, the Afghan Sikh population was estimated around 50,000. As of 2013, they are around 800 families of which 300 families live in Kabul. 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, and other places.
Notable Afghan Sikhs
- Awtar Singh, member of the National Assembly of Afghanistan
- Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and 2009 Radio Free Europe Afghanistan "Person of the Year"
Apart from these, Jai Singh Fani was 1st Member of Parliament who was elected as Independent candidate and he died prematurely at a young age of 37 years on 25 April 1977. After him Gajinder Singh Safri became the second Sikh MP of Afghanistan and he happened to be Jai Singh Fani's brother in law & he left for U.K. with his family and took political asylum there because of the political unrest in Afghanistan.
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