Killing of Sikhs, Hindus in Daesh attack angers Afghans

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Avtar Singh Khalsa, second right, with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Khalsa was the only non-Muslim candidate running for parliamentary elections in October this year. (Via Social Media)
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Rawali Singh with his daughter. Singh was killed in the terrorist attack by Daesh on Sunday. (Via Social Media)
Updated 02 July 2018

Killing of Sikhs, Hindus in Daesh attack angers Afghans

  • There is an outpouring of sympathy and mourning from people across the country
  • Avtar Singh Khalsa’s death is ‘a big loss for Afghanistan,’ says Aryan Youn

KABUL: The people of Afghanistan have expressed much anger and angst over the killing of 19 minority Hindus and Sikhs in a Daesh terror attack in Jalalabad on Sunday.

There has been an outpouring of sympathy and mourning from people across the country, including former President Hamid Karzai and other government officials, over the attack which took place in the eastern city of Jalalabad when a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus was heading to a compound to meet President Ashraf Ghani.

Among those killed was Avtar Singh Khalsa — the longtime leader of the Sikh community and the only non-Muslim candidate running for the country’s parliamentary elections set for October this year.

Karzai, who led Afghanistan for more than 13 years after the fall of the Taliban regime, said: “I learned with great sadness about the death of Avtar Singh Khalsa, our dear compatriot and dynamic leader.

“He was a patriot Afghan who desired to represent our Sikh community in the next Parliament. I mourn his loss.”

Afghanistan has lost a large number of its Muslim population, both from the public and its senior leadership, in a spike of violence in recent years but Sunday’s killing of a group of its minority Sikh and Hindu communities has drawn far more condemnation and anger from the local Afghan populace.

The amount of sympathy shown by Afghans indicates that despite decades of bloody conflict, the country wants diversity, respects non-Muslims, and can live in harmony if allowed to by those who sponsor chaos and war in Afghanistan for their vested interest.

The recent attack is the deadliest for the two communities in a single incident since the current war began with the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack but it did not say what its target was.

Rawali Singh, a civil society activist, was another Sikh leader killed in the attack.

Both Khalsa and Singh served for a long time as top leaders for the Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan. Their loss is seen as a blow not only for the Sikh and Hindu communities who existed in Afghanistan long before the arrival of Islam, but for the country as a whole.

Acquaintances and common Afghans have taken social media by storm, expressing deep shock and sympathy over the horrific attack.

Several people wrote on their Facebook pages: “I am Singh. We love you! RIP,” while a good number replaced their profile pictures with Khalsa’s image.

“Your pain and mourning is mine. Our Sikh and Hindu countrymen need sympathy!” Waheed Paikan, an Afghan journalist, wrote on his Facebook page.

Khalsa, in an interview with Arab News, said he would struggle for “justice for all” if he were to make it to Parliament. He was pushing to encourage the return of Hindus and Sikhs from abroad where they have lived like millions of other Afghan diaspora, and to work for the unity of all Afghans should he have won a seat.

Aryan Youn, a female lawmaker from the east, termed Khalsa’s death as “a big loss for Afghanistan,” and urged the government to allocate his seat in the Parliament to another Sikh.

“He had Afghanistan’s nationality, was brave and a patriotic person,” she told Arab News.

Ashraf Haidari, a government official, described Singh as a dedicated leader. “Rawali Singh … was one of those silent leaders, a true son of Afghanistan from a minority community most fail to notice, let alone recognize,” he said.

“Our Sikh, Hindu and Jewish compatriots in Afghanistan constitute an integral part of the multi-ethnic diversity that underpins the Afghan identity. Sad to see them leaving Afghanistan and thriving elsewhere, away from their homeland they love.”

Massoud Hossaini, another journalist, wrote: “We lost our great and lovely friend Rawail Singh … He tried a lot for peace and was a great social activist. I hope other Sikh activists follow his path. You will never be forgotten, my friend.”

Amrullah Saleh, a former Afghan spymaster, said in a tweet: “Targeting Sikhs and Hindus is like massacring pigeons and doves in our backyard….”

At least nine killed in explosion amid protest in Colombia

Updated 8 min 53 sec ago

At least nine killed in explosion amid protest in Colombia

  • Hundreds of members of indigenous groups have halted traffic on major highway, demanding land titles and funding for social programs
  • About a million Colombians are members of indigenous groups

BOGOTA, Colombia: At least nine people were killed and four injured in an unexplained explosion on Thursday in an indigenous area in Colombia’s mountainous southwest, local authorities said.
The incident came on the 10th day of a blockade of the area’s major highway. Hundreds of members of indigenous groups have halted traffic on the roadway, demanding land titles and funding for social programs.
One policeman has been killed during the protest, which has caused shortages of gasoline and foodstuffs in some cities. Several vehicles have also been burned.
The explosion on Thursday took place in a house in Dagua municipality, an area largely inhabited by indigenous groups, the provincial government and disaster agency of Valle del Cauca province said.
Colombia, which has more than 45 million inhabitants, has more than 85 ethnic groups. About a million Colombians are members of indigenous groups.