Monday, September 17, 2007
IT ISN'T EASY BEING A SIKH IN AFGHANISTAN
Angry Sikhs marched in Kabul protesting attempts by local Muslims to disrupt a funeral because they opposed a planned cremation. Muslims regard the cremation of the dead as a sacrilege.
Reuters reports the protesters said Muslims had beaten them as they tried to bury community elder Lachman Singh.
"Aren't we human? Isn't God created for us as well? If God is only for Muslims, go ahead and kill us all or hand us over to the U.N.," Autaar Singh, parliament's Sikh representative, told Reuters.
"We want our rights and freedom," he said. "We weren't even stopped performing our religious ceremonies by the Taliban."
"We have owned this land for more than 120 years to perform our sacraments, but it is the first time we were stopped and beaten by the people," said Autaar Singh.
"Even the Taliban did not oppress us as we are oppressed by the people and government right now."
Sikh Sangat News reports in the Taliban's birthplace, the southern city of Kandahar, Sikh children cannot go to school and locals stone or spit on the men in the streets, who mostly try to hide in the narrow alleys of the mud-brick older quarter of the city.
''We don't want to stay in Afghanistan,'' says 40-year-old Balwant Singh. ''The locals tell us 'You are not from Afghanistan, go back to India'. Sometimes, they throw stones at us, the children. We feel we have to hide.
''I am even afraid to go to parts of the city.''
After living in Afghanistan for more than two centuries, fear and economic hardship is pushing many in the country's dwindling Sikh community to emigrate to India, their spiritual homeland.
There are 20,000 Afghan Sikh migrants in India, and after years of hardship, they and their families are now settling down. Many of them have taken up petty businesses. Despite their struggle to settle in a new country, they have not forgotten their traditions and customs.
The following is from Sify News (India).
Afghan Sikhs protest after Muslims stop cremation
Kabul: More than 100 Afghan Sikhs, the country's smallest religious group, marched through Kabul with a corpse on Monday to protest attempts by Muslim villagers to stop them from cremating the body.
Police later detained six of the Muslim villagers who had tried to prevent the cremation, a police officer said.
One of the Sikh protesters, Diah Singh Anjan, said dozens of villagers had issued threats as the cremation was being prepared at a temple in the south of the city.
"The villagers tried to stop us and threatened us with death," he said.
This prompted about 100 men to march into the city centre, first to the presidential palace and then to the United Nations compound.
Police escorted them back to the temple, which is inside a walled compound. "The police came and detained six of them and we performed our ceremony," Anjan said in front of the burning pyre.
"The villagers who have grabbed the land around us now say we can't perform our ceremonies here. They say we should stop cremating our dead here," Anjan added. Muslims bury their dead.
Afghanistan's Sikh community, said to number several thousand people in major cities, have lived in overwhelmingly Islamic Afghanistan for generations.
During the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, they were forced to wear yellow arm bands to distinguish them from Muslims.