The move drew strong condemnation from Amritsar-based Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee President Harjinder Singh Dhami on Wednesday as he called the Taliban government’s decision a “direct interference in the religious affairs of Sikhs”.
Previously, Afghan Sikhs were able to bring the Guru Granth Sahib in December last year during emergency evacuations conducted by India after the Taliban regime took over. There was no such restrictive protocol in place at that time as the new regime was still stabilising.
The development has caused much concern to the Afghan Sikh community members here. Many of those stranded in Afghanistan have families that came in earlier to India while they stayed back to care for the gurudwaras. There are an estimated 20,000 Afghan Sikhs in India, most of them in Delhi.
In this backdrop, a concerned SGPC chief took to twitter to express his concern over the emerging situation. “If the Afghan government actually cares for Sikhs it should ensure security of their life, property and religious shrines, in place of causing harassment to them when they are distressed due to attacks on places of worship gurudwaras,” Dhami stated adding that it is due to atrocities on minority Afghan Sikhs that they are forced to leave their country.
“It is a matter of concern that if Sikhs do not stay in Afghanistan, who will take care of Gurudwara Sahibs?,” Dhami asked. He urged the government of India, prime minister’s office and the ministry of external affairs to intervene and ensure protection of rights of Sikhs in Afghanistan. SGPC has been facilitating and supporting the evacuation of the Afghan Sikhs to India in coordination with the Indian government and social organisation Indian World Forum (IWF).
Puneet Singh Chandhok, president, IWF said that members of the “General Council of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan” have said that when they reached out to authorities they were told that while there is no restriction on their travel they cannot take the Guru Granth Sahib as the ministry of culture in Afghanistan considers these to be part of their country’s heritage.
“We urge Afghan regime Afghan leadership to allow the Afghan Sikhs to bring the religious scriptures to India and facilitate religious freedom and tolerance in line to UN Charter,” Chandhok said.