The Jalalabad suicide attack has put the spotlight back on Afghanistan’s struggling Hindu and Sikh communities.
The Jalalabad suicide attack has put the spotlight back on Afghanistan’s struggling Hindu and Sikh communities.(Photo: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)
  • 1. Life for Afghanistan's Religious Minorities Under Extremists
  • 2. How Are Sikhs and Hindus Treated in Afghanistan Now?
  • 3. Anger After Jalalabad
Yellow Armbands to Suicide Bomb: The Fate of Afghan Sikhs & Hindus

From 220,000 in the late 1980s to around 1,000 out of a population of a little over 30 million today, Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu community has eroded to almost nothing, according to TOLONews’ data. That’s a drop from 1.91 percent to 0.02 percent of the population in just 2-3 decades.

But in a move that was widely hailed in the country as a welcome step for religious minorities, Sikh leader Avtar Singh Khalsa was slated to run unopposed to a lower house seat in October 2018. The seat was designated for the Hindu and Sikh minorities by Presidential decree in 2016.

Sadly, Khalsa was cut down before he could fulfil that role, in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad on 1 July 2018, in which he along with 19 other members of the Hindu and Sikh community – including prominent civil rights activist Rawail Singh – were killed in a targeted attack, claimed by ISIS, for being polytheists, AP reports. They were on their way to meet Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.

  • 1. Life for Afghanistan's Religious Minorities Under Extremists

    The Mujahideen years of the early 90s were the worst for Afghanistan’s religious minorities, Al Jazeera reports. The Mujahideen persecuted them for the “slightest expression of their faith”, with kidnappings and killings, said the late Rawail Singh to Al Jazeera in 2017.

    From 1996-2001, the Taliban took control of an Afghanistan rent by the proxy war between America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

    Under Taliban rule, religious minorities were made to identify themselves with orange or yellow armbands, reminiscent of how Jews in Nazi Germany had to wear yellow stars on their clothes.

    Bashir Ahmad Gwakh, an Afghan journalist working with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Pashto service Radio Mashaal, tells The Quint:

    The Taliban ordered [Sikhs & Hindus] to wear orange-coloured clothes so they could be easily identified. [...] This particular dress code was strictly followed. The Taliban religious people were regularly checking up on Sikhs and Hindus to see that this rule was being followed.

    Onerous though it may have been, Rawail Singh had told Al Jazeera that unlike the Mujahideen, apart from the dress code, the Taliban had left them alone.

    Under the Taliban, we were often required to identify ourselves in public by wearing a yellow armband, but were largely left alone.
    Rawail Singh to Al Jazeera

Follow our Explainers section for more stories.

Also Watch