Rashmi Talwar

INDO-AFGHAN: SGPC arranges flight, 55 Afghan Sikhs, Hindus welcomed in  India, 43 still stuck

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Amritsar: Fifty-Five Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan, including 38 adults, 14 children, and three infants, were evacuated via a special aircraft organized by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Amritsar, safely to India. The flight was operated by Ariana Afghan- the Afghan carrier.

The Sikh and Hindu afghans stranded in Afghanistan were welcomed heartily by members of SGPC and AAP MP Vikramjit Singh Sahney Rajya Sabha at Delhi Airport. Sahney thanked both the Ministry of External Affairs GoI and the SGPC for their facilitation.

Welcoming families, MP Sahney also president of the ‘World Punjabi Organisation’, said –“Ministry of External Affairs had granted them e-visas and repatriation was facilitated by both the governments. However, four ‘saroops’ of Sri Guru Granth Sahib- the holy books of Sikhs, still remain in Afghanistan. Due to lack of cooperation from the local administration in Kabul, the books could not be transferred to India as per religious protocol,” he added.

The evacuated Afghan Sikh refugees thanked the government of India and PM Narendra Modi for providing fast e-visas and safely evacuating them.

“We would like to thank the Indian government for providing us with urgent visas and helping us to reach India. We are 55 families who were able to reach India, but many of us still have families left behind as around 40 and more people are still stranded in Afghanistan. They have been issued visas from the Indian government, but it is their wish now if they want to return or not,” Sukhbeer Singh Khalsa, Afghan Sikh refugee said.

Talking about the prevailing circumstances after the takeover by the Taliban “The condition of minorities is not very well in Afghanistan. I was imprisoned for four months. Taliban cut our hair in prison. I am thankful and happy to return to India,” said an Afghan Sikh, Baljeet Singh.

Puneet Singh Chandhok, president, Indian World Forum (IWF), said, “SGPC in coordination with IWF, Government of India (GoI) facilitated the evacuation of distressed minorities from the Taliban governed the Islamic nation. Earlier, as many as 68 Afghan Hindus and Sikhs arrived in Delhi following the attack at Gurudwara Karte Parwan in Kabul. The airfare for the same is being borne by SGPC. Significantly, more than 300 fled from Afghanistan and arrived in India since the Taliban took over Kabul.”

Around 43 Hindus and Sikhs remain in Afghanistan and about ten e-visa applications were pending with the government of India.

The AAP MP also promised to rehabilitate the evacuees under their program “MyFamilyMyResponsibilty”, in a tweet.

Raj Gill President of the woman’s wing Punjab AAP, in an emotive message, wrote “None of us can honestly grasp the level of tragedy they have gone through. People escaping violence must be able to cross borders safely. They must not face discrimination or be unfairly denied refugee status or asylum due to their race, or religion. Thank you for accepting them.”

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