Close to 99 percent of former Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan have left the country over the past three decades.
An investigation by TOLOnews reveals that the Sikh and Hindu population number was 220,000 in the 1980’s. That number dropped sharply to 15,000 when the mujahideen was in power during the 1990’s and remained at that level during the Taliban regime. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country.
According to our findings, the main reasons behind their departure include religious discrimination and the government’s neglect of the minority group, during Taliban era in particular.
Awtar Singh, 57, of Paktia and head of Hindus Council in Afghanistan, said he lost 10 members of his family in the Afghan conflict. Two of his brothers, who were army soldiers, were killed during the last three decades of fighting.
“The discrimination against us surfaced in 1992 when people started counting who were Hindu or Muslim and Tajik, Uzbek or Hazara,” he said.
The TOLOnews report indicates that where Hindus and Sikhs were once very active in business within the country, they are now faced with increasing poverty.
“The situation is not good. We don’t have jobs,” said Narender Singh, a medical doctor.
“We work from dawn to dusk and we earn only about 300 Afghanis. We cannot even afford the rent for our home,” said Arat Singh, a shopkeeper in Kabul.
“We expect the government to seriously help and support the Hindus and Sikhs who have chosen to remain here. We also urge the people to treat them well and humanely,” said Sima Samar, chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
The report also shows that Hindus and Sikhs had suffered huge setbacks after the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001. This forced a large number of them to leave the countryside and to migrate to Kabul for a living. As a result there are no Sikh or Hindu citizens living in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
“Hindus are respected and honest citizens of this country. The National Unity Government has provided all facilities and needs for their religious ceremonies. It has also provided them with education and other services in their areas,” said President Ashraf Ghani’s deputy spokesman, Shahussain Murtazawi.
Despite their problems, remaining Hindu and Sikh residents have said they are trying to continue with their lives in Afghanistan as they are optimistic about the country’s future.