Saturday 10 April 2010

Afghanistan's forgotten Hindus and Sikhs

Afghanistan is home to many ethnicities and religions, including small communities of Hindus and Sikhs. Anyone interested in finding out more about these groups should check out the Afghan Hindus and Sikhs website.
Written by exiles based in America, the site is full of interesting material about the history and culture of these groups. Many arrived when Kabul was part of the Mughal empire. Babar, the first Mughal Emperor, was based in Kabul and is buried there. And evidence of the ancient Buddhist Gandharan culture that originated in India is everywhere in the country.
There were around 50,000 Sikhs and Hindus in the country until the mid-1990s, but now there are around 1,500, most of whom are adult male Sikhs. The recent beheading of two Sikhs in Pakistan's tribal territory shows the danger they face from Islamist extremists. Last year the houses of around 35 Sikh families in Pakistan's Orakzai agency were burnt down and their property auctioned because they had not paid a $2,000 Jaziya tax - a sectarian abuse imposed on non-Muslims by fanatics.
Today, the plight of the Hindus and Sikhs is made worse by the rivalry between India and Pakistan over influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan accuses India of supporting and arming Baluchi nationalists, while Indians at their Embassy and working for the UN have been the target of suicide bombers who seem to be working in the interests of Pakistan's intelligence services.

No comments: