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After deadly attack, Afghan Sikhs feel insecure about living there

Kabul, July 2 : Many among Afghanistan’s dwindling Sikh minority are considering leaving for India, after a suicide bombing in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday that killed at least 13 members of the community.The victims of the attack claimed by militant group Islamic State included Avtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate in parliamentary elections this October, and Rawail Singh, a prominent community activist. “I am clear that we cannot live here anymore,” said Tejvir Singh, 35, whose uncle was killed in the blast.”Our religious practices will not be tolerated by the Islamic terrorists. We are Afghans. The government recognises us, but terrorists target us because we are not Muslims,” added Singh, the secretary of a national panel of Hindus and Sikhs. The Sikh community now numbers fewer than 300 families in Afghanistan, which has only two gurdwaras, or places of worship, one each in Jalalabad and Kabul, the capital, Singh added.Although almost entirely a Muslim country, Afghanistan was home to as many as 250,000 Sikhs and Hindus before a devastating civil war in the 1990s.Even a decade ago, the US State Department said in a report, about 3,000 Sikhs and Hindus still lived there.Despite official political representation and freedom of worship, many face prejudice and harassment as well as violence from militant Islamist groups, prompting thousands to move to India, their spiritual homeland. Following the Jalalabad attack, some Sikhs have sought shelter at the city’s Indian consulate.

About Jatin Kamboj