Tuesday, December 1, 2020

‘For people like me, India was home and always will be’: Afghan Sikh who migrated to India in 1994 at the start of the Afghan Civil War

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Afghan Sikh who came to India in 1994 recounts his experience

— Consider reading the article ‘For people like me, India was home and always will be’: Afghan Sikh who migrated to India in 1994 at the start of the Afghan Civil War on OpIndia website —

700 persecuted Sikhs of Afghanistan will soon arrive in India after the Indian government decided to permit them to come and live in India. It has been reported that the government is completing all necessary formalities in order to ensure that they are here before Independence Day. Furthermore, 11 Afghan nationals were granted 6-month Visas and are expected to reach here on Sunday.

Under such circumstances, an Afghan Sikh was interviewed by Amaan, who tweets under the username @Amaanbali, for his blog. Sardar Iqbal Singh migrated to India from Afghanistan during the initial stages of the civil war. His daughter was around a year old when they came to India. He moved to India with 17 other families.

Iqbal Singh told Amaan, “I moved to India in 1994 after the start of the civil war in Afghanistan. The circumstances then were different and I think it was a wise decision. I got married in 1988 and by the time I moved, Jaspreet (daughter) was a year old. I did not want (her) to suffer in any way. I still remember withdrawing all the cash I had and closing my bank accounts in Jallalabad. It was an emotional day.”

Iqbal Singh said that life was initially difficult in India when first arrived her with his family. They stayed at Gurudwara Singh Saheba at West Delhi. Over the next couple of years, all his savings dried up. However, after the initial eight years, his hardships were comparable to that of any ordinary Indian.

He said, “I live an average life of an Indian in a metro city who goes to work and comes back in the evening to his family, so my hardships except for the first 8 years are more or less same as any other person. Say Aggarwal Sahib who sells bags in Karol Bagh faces same problems that I do. We aren’t racially discriminated, nor are we looked down upon by anyone. Indian Sikh community has deepest respect for Afghan Sikhs and they always meet us to ask about Sikhism in Afghanistan.”

Iqbal Singh said that illegal property captures, kidnappings, murders, rapes and threats were some of the numerous issues that Afghan Siklhs face. He also said he could resettle in Afghanistan if the Taliban were wiped off the face of the Earth but he does not dwell in fantasies. He said that there was a time when he as a Afghani blamed the United States for the chaos but now, he realises that both sides are to be blamed.

When he was questioned why he chose India as the country to migrate to, Iqbal Singh said the financially well-off migrated to western countries but “for middle class people like me, India was home and will always be.” He also revealed that he steers clear of answering questions around the Citizenship Amendment Act because there have been occasions during the recent protests against the Act when his statements were mosreported.

“I steer clear of answering this one because during recent Delhi Anti CAA protests, our market in Karol Bagh was flooded with young boys and girls seeking our opinion on CAA and modifying statements for their reporting. We have also given a video statement thanking Govt of India for enabling us to get the documents and passport. We can call ourselves Indian now and some people seem to have problem with that too. Turns out there is no home for poor,” he stated.

Iqbal Singh revealed that when he came to India, he had to sell his property at a much lower price than the market value due to compulsion. Now, he owns a mobile accessory shop in Delhi after renting a space from a Hindu landlord. He spoke very highly of the landlord and said that he is not forced to pay him on the occasions when he is late on the payment.

The Afghan Sikh, who is now an Indian, said that the financial welfare of the incoming Sikhs from Afghanistan is the only thing that needs to be taken care of by the Government. He said it was a very good thing that the persecuted Sikhs from Afghanistan will be coming to India.

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