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The Killid Group
Sikhs, Hindus abandon KhostWritten by Ghani Badsha Hasand
Sunday, 27 March 2011 15:20
All Hindus have left but only one Sikh has remained in Khost Province who is taking care of a religious temple.
Widespread insecurity, social tensions, poverty and other socio-economic problems have forced hundreds of Sikh and Hindu families to quit the southeastern Khost Province and seek relocation elsewhere in Afghanistan and abroad, according to a Killid report.
Afghanistan has small Sikh and Hindu minority groups which reside in Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar and Khost provinces. There has never been a reliable census on the country's Sikh and Hindu minorities but their population was estimated at about 200,000 individuals in 1990s.
Dileep Singh, the only residing Sikh in Khost, says he was born and brought up in the province but now feels alone. "Once upon a time, we had a good community here but now it's only me," he said.
Singh's situation is similar to Zebulon Simentov, Afghanistan's only Jew official citizen who is living and managing a synagogue in Kabul.
Severely and widely affected by over three decades of recurrent war and social unrest, millions of Afghans, from all the ethnic groups, have left their home country for abroad. Afghans make the largest refugee community in the world and over three million refugees are currently living in the neighboring Iran and Pakistan, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
"Some of them left because of the war and others left because of social and economic hurdles," Singh said when asked about the reasons of Sikh-Hindu migration from Khost. He said some of the families had moved to Kabul while others had left Afghanistan for India, Europe and America.
With their departure, one of the Sikh-Hindu's main business activities, herbal and botanic treatment has also dried down in Khost.
Afghans call the Sikhs "Sardars", which indicates their well-revered status and acceptance in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation. It is unclear when the Hindus and Sikhs arrived into Afghanistan but they have maintained an unmatched peaceful coexistence with the country's diverse ethnic groups for decades.
Dileep Singh said he had not been subjected to discrimination or hatred due to his religion and ethnic identity.
Several Khost residents expressed regret when told about the migration of Sikhs and Hindus from their province. "They are very peaceful people and I am sad to know that only one Sikh has remained in Khost," said Mohammad Ghafour, a shopkeeper. "They were good neighbor and good business partners," said another shopkeeper.