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“Taliban came to Gurdwara, assured Sikhs, Hindus of safety”: Akali leader in a video

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Sikhs and Hindus stranded in war-torn Afghanistan have been assured of their safety and “do not feel fear or anxiety”, as per a video statement by the head of a Kabul gurudwara that was released late Wednesday night by a spokesperson of the Taliban.

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The video was tweeted by M Naeem, a spokesperson for the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It was also shared on Twitter by the Akali Dal’s Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the President of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, who said he was in “constant touch” with the Kabul gurudwara and that Taliban leaders “met Hindus and Sikhs… assured them of their safety”.

The 76-second video shows several men – some believed to be Taliban members – visiting a Gurdwara and speaking to Sikhs who have taken shelter inside. The video also contains a statement (in the local dialect) from the President of the Gurdwara Committee.

“I am in constant touch with the President (of the) Gurdwara Committee (in) Kabul… Gurnam Singh and Sangat… taking refuge in Gurdwara Karte Parwan Sahib… Even today, Taliban leaders came… met Hindus and Sikhs, and assured them of their safety,” Mr Sirsa tweeted.

A rough translation of that tweet in Arabic reads: “The life of Sikhs and Indians in Kabul: The head of their temples (says) We are safe and secure… do not feel any fear or anxiety. Before that, people were afraid and worried about their lives and money, and now there are no problems. We are assured.”

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The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan after 20 years has triggered and escalated a humanitarian crisis that started when the United States began pulling out its troops in May.

As scenes of turmoil made headlines worldwide, the fate of around 200 Sikhs in a Kabul gurdwara has led to appeals from several quarters, including one by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday. It is unclear if the Sikhs in the video are from that gurdwara.

Amarinder Singh had called for the “immediate evacuation of all Indians, including around 200 Sikhs, stuck in a gurdwara in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover”.

“My government is willing to extend any help needed to ensure their safe evacuation,” he said.

On Tuesday Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri also referred to a group of Sikhs who have taken refuge inside a gurdwara, and said they would be brought home as soon as possible.

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Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has said the government is closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan, and is in touch with Sikh and Hindu community leaders in Kabul.

“Monitoring the situation in Kabul continuously. Understand the anxiety of those seeking to return to India. Airport operations are the main challenge… We are in constant touch with the Sikh and Hindu community leaders in Kabul. Their welfare will get our priority attention,” he said.

Earlier this week the government said Sikhs and Hindus in the war-torn country would be given priority as it looks to “facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan”.

The Taliban took effective control of Afghanistan Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled and the terror group walked into Kabul with no opposition.

It capped a staggeringly fast route of Afghanistan’s major cities in just 10 days, achieved with relatively little bloodshed, following two decades of war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

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