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Stranded Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan fly back to Delhi with holy books on special flight

Holy scriptures from Afghanistan being received in New Delhi (Photo: @HardeepSPuri/Twitter)

A special flight brought back stranded Indian and Afghan citizens belonging to the Sikh and Hindu faiths on Friday. The communities also brought back their holy scriptures and rare manuscripts from war-torn Afghanistan.

With their lives in possible danger and the prospect of a second rate citizenship looming after the takeover of Taliban in August, over a hundred people were airlifted from Afghanistan and transited to their roots in India through the special flight. India also rescued the family of Mahram Ali, a security guard who was killed during an attack on a Kabul gurudwara.

Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, received the stranded people and the holy books at the airport. He tweeted: "Deeply blessed to join Adhyaksh JP Nadda Ji, Aadesh Gupta ji & others in paying obeisance to the two holy Saroops of Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji on their arrival from Kabul with members of the Sikh Sangat & Hindu community".

Spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi said: "Under Operation Devi Shakti, a special Kam Air flight arranged by India has arrived in New Delhi from Kabul. It has brought 10 Indians and 94 Afghans including members of the Afghan Hindu-Sikh minority community. Among the evacuees are 9 children, including 3 infants".

Earlier, India had operated special flights to bring back its embassy personnel, other Indians as well as Afghan Hindus and Sikhs during the chaos that broke out after the US evacuation and the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban.

There has been an exodus of Sikhs and Hindus over the last many years. Two attacks—a suicide attack on July 1, 2018 in Jalalabad which killed 19 Sikhs and Hindus, and the March 25 attack on Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib, Kabul, that killed 25 Sikhs—made many leave their homeland.

Afghan news agency, Tolo News says that nearly 99% Of Hindus and Sikhs left Afghanistan in the last three decades.

Upheavals and conflicts, coupled with discrimination and terror attacks, have led to a steady decline of people of Indian origin from Afghanistan over the decades. According to Al Jazeera, the two communities have declined to a few hundred from a hefty 700,000 in the 1970s.

As the Taliban takes over the country, and with the departure of the last few hundred Hindus and Sikhs, Afghanistan may see the end of an ancient civilisation that flourished on Afghan soil for thousands of years.