A Taliban statement claims it “considers protecting the rights of (Afghan Hindus and Sikhs) a religious obligation and fundamental responsibility. In a statement hitting out at Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement to add a national cultural day of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs to the official calendar, the Taliban says the communities “have suffered the worst blow in the history of Afghanistan during his(Ghani’s) own tenure.” The statement adds, “religious minorities that have complete rights in an Islamic system under the ‘Ahl ad-Dhimma’ category with guaranteed safety of life and property, spent a peaceful and confident life prior to the invasion. But, not only were their lands, businesses and homes usurped during the recent two-decade occupation, but they were also systematically forced to leave the country.” The statement says, “according to a survey, Afghanistan hosted fifteen thousand Sikhs and Hindus during the reign of the Islamic Emirate(Taliban), but following the American invasion and during the 13-year term of Hamid Karzai, most Sikhs and Hindus were forced to leave the country as the numbers dwindled to two thousand until the term of Ashraf Ghani. The remaining two thousand, in the time of Ashraf Ghani, also faced systematic genocide and were forced to leave the country with only a few dozen Hindus and Sikhs currently remaining in Afghanistan.” When Ghani met a delegation of ‘returning’ Hindu and Sikh community members on May 25, the President described them as the “pride of the nation” and an integral part of Afghan society. First Vice President Amrullah Saleh has promised the community a quick return of homes and businesses they lost during four decades of conflict. In the past, the Taliban have distanced themselves from attacks on Sikhs and Hindus. The Haqqani network is accused of being behind an attack on a Kabul gurudwara in March 2020 that killed at least 30 people. The ‘Islamic State’ claimed responsibility. In September 2020, India said 357 members of Afghanistan’s Sikh minority had come to India during the year to escape persecution and targeted attacks. In the Rajya Sabha, the government acknowledged “391 Afghan and 1,595 Pakistani migrants had been granted Indian citizenship between 2016-2018.” Figures post the passing of the CAA(Citizenship Amendment Act) in 2019 are not available.
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