The Hindu American Foundation, an advocacy organization in the U.S., says prominent leaders of Sikhs and Hindus were killed in the June 1, suicide bombing in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
The HAF, in a press release June 2, expressed “profound sadness” about the attack “on a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus” in Afghanistan that killed 19 and wounded at least 20 others. The convoy was en route to Jalalabad, to meet the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani. Though no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, both Taliban and Islamic State-affiliated groups are active in the area.
Killed in the attack were two of the most prominent members of the dwindling Afghan Sikh community: Avtar Singh Khalsa, who was expected to run in upcoming elections for Parliament; and Rawail Singh, who was involved in sending local community teachers to India for further education and training, the HAF press release said.
“Rawail Singh was a selfless person who embodied the Sikh tradition of sewa [selfless social service]. He promoted peace in his country by encouraging Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims to coexist in harmony. With the loss Rawail Singh, Avtar Singh Khalsa, and other prominent members of the Afghan Hindu-Sikh community, we have lost the voice and hope for peace in Afghanistan,” a leader of the Washington, D.C.-based Afghan Hindu Community, Sunil Ishaizsay, told HAF.
Samir Kalra, HAF managing director and author of ‘Hindus in South Asia & The Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights,’ said, “While we’re certainly saddened by the news of this devastating attack, it’s unfortunately not shocking. It continues the now decades-old pattern of persecution and violence faced by both Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan. As there’s only an estimated 200 Sikh and Hindu families remaining in Afghanistan, this attack is particularly tragic.”
HAF calls on the government of Afghanistan to provide all care and protection for the wounded, moving them, if required, to India for their safety and where medical facilities are more extensive; Provide aid and further assistance in moving the families of the victims to family located in India, UK, or Germany; and to enhance security around and protection of Hindu and Sikh sites in Afghanistan, mandirs, gurdwaras, and historic sites.
Furthermore, it urged the U.S. State Department to designate Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan as a separate category of people for purposes of asylum in the United States, “recognizing the particularly precarious state of both communities in Afghanistan and the existential threats they face there.”
“Sikhs and Hindus have long suffered widespread discrimination in the conservative Muslim country and been targeted by Islamic extremists. The community numbered more than 80,000 in the 1970s, but today only around 1,000 remain. In recent years, large numbers of Sikhs and Hindus have sought asylum in India, which has a Hindu majority and a large Sikh population,” the HAF said in the press release.