India’s pledge to evacuate Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan sparks backlash

Hindus and Sikhs form a small amount of minority in Afghanistan with cultural ties of centuries

Stuti Mishra
Tuesday 17 August 2021 14:30
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<p>Taliban forces patrol a street in Herat, Afghanistan </p>

Taliban forces patrol a street in Herat, Afghanistan

The Indian government is facing a backlash over comments made by a foreign ministry spokesperson on Monday which appeared to prioritise Hindus and Sikhs as a key focus of the repatriation efforts from Afghanistan.

“We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan,” India’s foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in a statement on Monday.

Soon after the statement, several people questioned the religious bias in providing relief since the majority of the Afghan population is Muslim.

As the Taliban’s rule begins and many are desperately trying to flee the country, minorities in Afghanistan have been fearing for their safety and future under the new extremist regime. Reportedly, a few members of the Hindu and Sikh community met with Taliban representatives in Kabul and they have been assured of “peace and safety”.

Afghanistan was a multicultural country a few decades ago but today, out of Afghanistan’s 38 million population, just 650 Sikhs and 50 Hindus remain.

Later on Tuesday, Indian authorities launched a new fast-track visa system for Afghans which will enable any citizen of the country - irrespective of their religious affiliation - to apply online for a six-month visa for entry to India.

“MHA reviews visa provisions in view of the current situation in Afghanistan. A new category of electronic visa called “e-Emergency X-Misc Visa” introduced to fast-track visa applications for entry into India,” a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

India is among the countries to invest millions of dollars in development projects in Afghanistan. However, after the Taliban’s takeover of the country, it has been forced to evacuate its embassy. The flight carrying India’s ambassador to Afghanistan and other officials landed in Gujarat on Tuesday.

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