Sikhs in Terrible Condition in Afghanistan

June 19, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Sikh Sangat News

Kabul: Forced to wear yellow patches in the days of the Taliban, the homesick Sikhs of Afghanistan still hide in back alleys and yearn for India. In the Taliban's birthplace, the southern city of Kandahar, their children cannot go to school and locals stone or spit on the men in the streets, who mostly try to hide in the narrow alleys of the mud-brick older quarter of the city.

''We don't want to stay in Afghanistan,'' says 40-year-old Balwant Singh. ''The locals tell us 'You are not from Afghanistan, go back to India'. Sometimes, they throw stones at us, the children. We feel we have to hide.

''I am even afraid to go to parts of the city.''

Their temple, or Gurdwara, in Kandahar is a simple traditional yellow pole capped by the orange Nishan Sahib flag.

It sits outside a stark prayer room in an obscure courtyard reachable only after knocking on two sets of unmarked heavy timber doors down a cramped mud-brick tunnel-way.

The pole does not rise above roof level, unlike the splendid Gurdwaras across India where they tower above the temples and the countryside, visible for kilometres.

There are about 10 Sikh families in Kandahar -- fewer than 50 people. Another 22 lonely men, all their families back in India, live as traders in the neighbouring province of Uruzgan, another Taliban stronghold.

Similar numbers are scattered across Afghanistan, a strictly Islamic nation where most people do not recognise Sikhism's close links with Islam. Founded about 600 years ago in the western plains of India, Sikhism combines elements of Hinduism and Islam.

In the late 1980s, there were about 500,000 Sikhs scattered across Afghanistan, many here for generations. The country's Islam was moderate, based on the Sunni Hanafi sect.