Rajat Sharma

How Modi Govt emerged as a saviour of Afghans seeking to leave their country

akbThe situation in Kabul airport continues to be chaotic with the Taliban warning the US and its allies to complete all evacuation by August 31 or face consequences. There are more than 10,000 Afghans waiting for evacuation inside Kabul airport, while roughly 20,000 people have amassed outside the airport despite Taliban fighters putting roadblocks throughout the capital. In the last eight days, 20 Afghans, including two children, have lost their lives outside the airport. Some died during stampedes while others were hit by bullets. The blood of innocent Afghans is flowing even while the US and western countries are trying to ramp up evacuation work.

The good news is that the Indian government, with the help of Indian Air Force and airlines, is carrying out evacuation of Hindus, Sikh and Muslims from Afghanistan. Union Minister Hardip Puri was seen carrying three “swaroops” of Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj at Delhi airport after an Air India plane brought 44 Afghan Sikhs from Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan.

Emotional scenes were witnessed when Afghan Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims touched Indian soil. They shed tears of joy and praised the Indian government for its evacuation efforts. The ancient saying “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (The world is my family) that depicts Indian culture and ethos, was remembered when these Afghans, irrespective of religion, landed on Indian soil and praised India’s evacuation efforts. These were moments of pride for our brave Indian Air Force personnel and other wings of Indian government.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night, we showed visuals of Sikh granthis carrying the Guru Granth Sahib Maharaj on their head and ascending the ladder of Air India aircraft while leaving for Delhi. The holy book was taken from Sikh gurudwaras in Kabul. Many of these Sikhs were born and brought up in Afghanistan, they are Afghan nationals, two of them are members of Afghan parliament. They had sent videos appealing to Indian government for help, and our government intervened timely. India coordinated with US forces for evacuation. Nearly 50 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were evacuated in the first flight, along with Sri Guru Granth Sahib taken from gurudwaras from different Afghan cities. In another aircraft, 75 Afghan Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims were evacuated.

According to Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Manjinder Singh Sirsa, nearly 260 Sikhs had taken shelter in the gurudwara in Kabul. Those left behind will be evacuated soon, he assured. Most of the Afghan Sikhs are presently staying in Gurdwara Rakab Ganj and Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi, before they will leave for other destinations. The “swaroop” of Guru Granth Sahib will be kept at the gurdwara in New Mahavir Nagar, Delhi. After from Afghan Sikhs, 146 others reached India on Monday from Afghanistan via other countries. Afghan Hindus and Sikhs who have reached Delhi narrated how Taliban fighters misbehaved with them, put black colour on the face of a Hindu and set fire to his belongings. They were effusive in their praise of Indian authorities who helped in their evacuation.

One of the Afghan Sikhs, who is a member of Afghan parliament, narrated her ordeals since the day the Taliban occupied Kabul. While the US and other western countries were busy saving their nationals, it was India, she said, which has come to the aid of Afghan nationals. Between 1970 and 1980, there were 2.25 lakh Sikhs in Afghanistan, but from 1990 onwards, when civil war began after the Soviet withdrawal, their numbers dwindled fast. Most of these Sikhs returned to India.

In 1997, when Taliban ruled the country, the number of Sikhs came down to only 5,000. By 2001, this number dwindled to nearly one thousand. Today, there are roughly 700 Sikhs in Afghanistan. Almost all of them left their properties and business in Afghanistan and several of them have taken refuge in the US, UK, Australia and Canada. You will be surprised to know that nearly 18,000 Sikhs from Afghanistan are staying in India as refugees. Let us pray for the peaceful evacuation of the remaining Sikhs from Afghanistan. Many Hindus living in Afghanistan have also returned to India, and many more are awaiting early evacuation. To some of the sceptics who had been raising the bogey of CAA(Citizenship Amendment Act), I want to tell that even Muslims from Afghanistan are also being evacuated to India.

For all of us in India, it does not matter if one is a Sikh, a Hindu or a Muslim. This is the time for providing refuge and succour to those who have fled Afghanistan to save themselves from the atrocities of Taliban. Our Air Force and our Ministry of External Affairs have made tremendous efforts to bring back the Afghans in the name of humanity. The world respects India for its large heartedness in welcoming refugees across several centuries. While superpower United States slinked away taking its citizens from Afghanistan, it left behind thousands of Afghan nationals who had given their sweat and labour in helping the US forces during the last 20 years.

The Taliban leaders may claim that their outfit has changed and has become liberal, but the common Afghans know the true colour of the Taliban. In the name of enforcing shariah, the Taliban whip, maim and murder common Afghans and create a reign of terror. The Taliban does not believe in any modern law. They believe in the law of the gun. That is why, thousands of Afghans have gathered outside Kabul airport, to fly out for freedom. Why would the common Afghan opt to leave his motherland?

At this moment, 33 out of 34 provinces of Afghanistan have been occupied by Taliban, which is enforcing its medieval form of governance, where the punishment for stealing and robbery is cutting off the hands of the guilty, where women are stoned to death for adultery, and where political rivals are hanged from the nearest lamp post.

The Taliban, over the years, has got a new lease of life because of help from Pakistan’s spy agency ISI and its army. They were trained and sent to Afghanistan to take on the Afghan army and US troops. The Taliban also gets help from Pakistani terror outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Haqqani outfit.

There is a danger of Jaish and other Pakistani terrorists using Taliban fighters to infiltrate into Pak Occupied Kashmir, in order to cause mayhem in the Kashmir valley. For India, it will be an uphill task to take help from Russia and Iran, to stop the proliferation of the Taliban-Pakistan-China axis in the Himalayan region. The cost of taking help from Iran and Russia could be heavy.

I personally feel that this is a short-term development and I think, different tribes grouped under the Taliban banner may soon start fighting among themselves over sharing of crumbs of power. Even China and Pakistan cannot remain untouched from the scourge of Taliban terrorists.

The good news is that the Northern Alliance led by Amrullah Saleh and Ahmed Masoud in Panjshir valley is giving Taliban a strong fight. In the last 48 hrs, more than 500 Taliban fighters have been killed in Panjshir valley, though this information is yet to be verified. The Northern Alliance has been a friend of India for decades. India must remain on alert.

We have a strong government at the Centre that does not hesitate in taking firm decisions and our armed forces have the capability to crush terrorism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly said that “destructive forces and people who follow the ideology of creating empires through terror can dominate for some time, but their existence is not permanent, because they cannot suppress humanity forever.”

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