Sikhism in Afghanistan

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Afghan Sikhs
ਅਫ਼ਗਾਨਿਸਤਾਨ ਵਿਚ ਸਿੱਖ ਧਰਮ
په افغانستان کې سکهزم
Afghan Sikh.jpg
A sikh shop owner in Kabul, Afghanistan
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kabul, Kandahar
Pashto (native), Punjabi, Dari, Hindi
Related ethnic groups
Sikhs, 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.[1] These Sikhs are Afghan nationals who normally speak native Pashto,[2] but also speak Dari, Hindi or Punjabi.[3] Their total population is around 1200 families[4] or 8000 members.[5]



There were over 20,000 Sikhs in Kabul in the 1980s, but after the start of the Civil War in 1992, most had fled.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] On July 1, 2018, at least 10 Sikhs were killed in a targeted suicide bombing at the PD1 market.[9][10]


Kandahar has a remarkably small Sikh community, with only about 15 families living there as of 2002.[11]


Early history[edit]

Some early Khatri Sikhs established and maintained colonies in Afghanistan for trading purposes.[12] 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.[2] Sikh gurdwaras (temples) throughout the country were destroyed in the Afghan Civil War of the 1990s, leaving only the Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul.[13]

Under the Taliban, the Sikhs were a relatively tolerated religious minority, and allowed to practice their religion.[8] However, the Sikh custom of cremation of the dead was prohibited by the Taliban, and cremation grounds vandalized.[13] In addition, Sikhs were required to wear yellow patches or veils to identify themselves.[14]

Karzai administration[edit]

Interior of Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul

By tradition, Sikhs cremate their dead, an act considered sacrilege in Islam.[15][16][17][18][19] 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.[15] 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.[2] Though the grounds were reported as returned to Sikh control in 2006,[13] in 2007 local Muslims allegedly beat Sikhs attempting to cremate a community leader, and the funeral proceeded only with police protection.[15] As of 2010, cremation in Kabul is still reported as being disapproved of by locals.[20]

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.[21]


Before the 1990s, the Afghan Sikh population was estimated around 50,000.[13][22] As of 2013, they are around 800 families of which 300 families live in Kabul.[4] 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.[23]

Notable Afghan Sikhs[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. State Department. "Afghanistan - International Religious Freedom Report 2007". The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affair. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
  2. ^ a b c Majumder, Sanjoy (25 September 2003). "Sikhs struggle in Afghanistan". BBC News.
  3. ^ Shaista Wahab, Barry Youngerman. A brief history of Afghanistan Infobase Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0-8160-5761-3, ISBN 978-0-8160-5761-0. Pg18
  4. ^ a b "Hindus, Sikhs warn of leaving Afghanistan". Pajhwok Afghan News. 2013-07-31. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  5. ^ a b Sikhs struggle for recognition in the Islamic republic, by Tony Cross. November 14, 2009.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "No Home for Afghanistan Sikhs – The Sikh Foundation International". Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  8. ^ a b Sikhs set example for getting along with the Taliban. By Scott Baldauf, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, 13 April 2001
  9. ^ "Suicide Attack Targets Sikhs in Jalalabad, 19 Killed". TOLO. July 1, 2018.
  10. ^ "Deadly blast hits Afghanistan's Jalalabad". Al Jazeera English. July 1, 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.
  11. ^ "Focus on Hindus and Sikhs in Kandahar". IRIN. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  12. ^ Hew McLeod (1997). Sikhism. New York: Penguin Books. p. 251. ISBN 0-14-025260-6.
  13. ^ a b c d "Sikhs, Hindus reclaim Kabul funeral ground - World - DNA". 2006-01-08. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  14. ^ Magnier, Mark; Baktash, Hashmat (2013-06-10). "Afghanistan Sikhs, already marginalized, are pushed to the brink". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  15. ^ a b c Hemming, Jon. "Sikhs in Afghan funeral demonstration « RAWA News". Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  16. ^ "Afghanistan's Sikhs feel alienated, pressured to leave". The Times of India.
  17. ^ "Why are Afghan Sikhs desperate to flee to the UK?". BBC News.
  18. ^ Margherita Stancati and Ehsanullah Amiri (13 January 2015). "Facing Intolerance, Many Sikhs and Hindus Leave Afghanistan". WSJ.
  19. ^ Ali M Latifi. "Afghanistan's Sikhs face an uncertain future".
  20. ^ "Sikhs, Hindus celebrate in Kabul". Pajhwok Afghan News. 2010-04-14. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  21. ^ "1 Wolesi Jirga seat reserved for Hindus, Sikhs".
  22. ^ Jethra, Aashish (2010-08-27). "2 Sikhs in Afghan poll fray, want to be first elected non-Muslims". SikhNet. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  23. ^ Stancati, Margherita; Amiri, Ehsanullah. "Facing Intolerance, Many Sikhs and Hindus Leave Afghanistan". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  24. ^ Bogos, Elissa (2010-01-13). "Afghanistan: Dwindling Sikh Community Struggles To Endure In Kabul". SikhNet. Retrieved 2012-09-01.

External links[edit]