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‘Leave for India or convert to Islam’: Afghanistan’s Sikhs weigh future after IS?terror attack
From the Hindustan Times the Independent and the BBC
A suicide bombing that killed at least 19 people in Afghanistan has been claimed as an Isis attack. Nangarhar health director Najibullah Kamawal told AFP news agency that 17 of the dead were Sikhs and Hindus. Another 20 people were wounded, he added. A further 20 people are believed to have been injured.
Police said they had been travelling in a vehicle to meet President Ashraf Ghani, who is visiting Nangarhar province, when the bomber struck. The bomber targeted the vehicle as it passed through Mukhaberat square in the city, governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said. The explosion badly damaged shops and buildings.
The Sikh community, which now numbers fewer than 300 families in Afghanistan, are split about their future in the country. Some believe they cannot live there anymore while others say they will not be cowed down by the militant Islamic State.
Many among Afghanistan’s dwindling Sikh minority are considering leaving for neighbouring India, after a suicide bombing in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday killed at least 13 members of the community.
The victims of the attack claimed by militant group Islamic State included Avtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate in parliamentary elections this October, and Rawail Singh, a prominent community activist.
“I am clear that we cannot live here anymore,” said Tejvir Singh, 35, whose uncle was killed in the blast. “Our religious practices will not be tolerated by the Islamic terrorists. We are Afghans. The government recognises us, but terrorists target us because we are not Muslims,” added Singh, the secretary of a national panel of Hindus and Sikhs.
The Sikh community now numbers fewer than 300 families in Afghanistan, which has only two gurdwaras, or places of worship, one each in Jalalabad and Kabul, the capital . . . Afghanistan was home to as many as 250,000 Sikhs and Hindus
Following the Jalalabad attack, some Sikhs have sought shelter at the city’s Indian consulate. “We are left with two choices: to leave for India or to convert to Islam,” said Baldev Singh, who owns a book- and textile shop in Jalalabad.
India has issued long-term visas to members of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities. “They can all live in India without any limitation,” said Vinay Kumar, India’s ambassador to Afghanistan. “The final call has to be taken by them. . . "
But other Sikhs, with land or businesses and no ties to India, say they do not plan to leave, as Afghanistan remains their country. India has offered to take the dead bodies, but at least nine were cremated according to Sikh rites in Jalalabad.
“We are not cowards,” said Sandeep Singh, a Sikh shopkeeper in Kabul. “Afghanistan is our country and we are not leaving anywhere.”
The terror group released a statement taking responsibility for the attack. In a statement, the group said: "[The attacker] detonated his vest at a gathering of Afghan troops, and crowds of Hindus and Sikhs, who were on their way to meet the Afghan president". The statement also said the group was targeted as they were deemed "polytheists".