Economic Hardships Push Afghan Sikhs to Consider India

June 14, 2006

Source: Al-Jazeera

On June 14, 2006 Al-Jazeera reported, "After living in Afghanistan for more than two centuries, economic hardship is pushing many in the country's dwindling Sikh community to emigrate to India, their spiritual homeland. Gurdyal Singh appears no different from any other Afghan man, complete with his black-as-coal beard and an immaculately tied scarlet turban. But the 40-year-old father-of-four chuckles as he clears up the mistaken belief that he is a Muslim. 'I am Sikh but I think of myself as being Afghan,' he says as he tends to a Sikh temple in the Karta Pawan district of the capital. The Guru Nanak Durbar Gurdwara, tucked away in a quiet corner of central Kabul for the last 25 years, is one of around 43 Sikh and Hindu temples in Afghanistan. 'We speak [the north Indian language] Punjabi at home but we can speak [the Afghan languages of] Dari and Pashtun.' A caretaker at the gurdwara, or temple, Gurdyal is one of a handful of Sikhs who has remained after the fall of the Taliban in 2001... Sikhs who left Afghanistan since the Taliban was deposed by a US invasion in 2001 cite economic instability and lawlessness - not the threat of communal violence - as reasons for their departure."