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UN agencies flay attack on Afghan Sikhs

UN agencies flay attack on Afghan Sikhs

The terror attack on a Gurdwara in Kabul by Islamic State (IS) militants that left 25 people dead has been widely condemned by UN agencies. The UN Secretary-General said that attacks against civilians are unacceptable and those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable. The UN has also said that asylum rights must be respected for Sikhs and Hindus who may be fleeing religious persecution in Afghanistan.

At least 25 worshippers, including a child, were killed and eight injured on Wednesday when a suicide bomber stormed into the Gurdwara during prayers and held dozens of people hostage. The attackers went from room to room, killing people till the Afghan security forces rescued them. The grieving Sikh families were attacked once again a day later when they were cremating their dead, disrupting the funeral services.

This was one of the deadliest attacks on the Sikh minority in war-torn Afghanistan. The Gurdwara lies just three km from the Indian mission.

In a separate statement on Thursday, the 15-member UN Security Council said it “condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack” that took place in the heart of the Afghan capital. “The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice,” the UNSC statement said. The UNSC also urged its members to cooperate with the Government of Afghanistan.

The High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Miguel Ángel Moratinos, issued a statement saying the attack came “at a time when the world is facing a pandemic” that adversely impacts everyone and requires all “to stand together as ‘One Humanity’”.

This was the second attack on Sikhs in less than two years. In July 2018, a suicide bombing in Jalalabad had killed 19 people, including Awtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate who was planning to contest the parliamentary elections later that year.

The Sikhs and other minorities have suffered widespread discrimination and have often been targeted by terror groups. Under Taliban rule, the Sikhs had been asked to wear yellow armbands but the rule was not enforced. Both Hindus and Sikhs have been seeking asylum in India over the last many decades.

The situation in neighboring Pakistan is no good for the minorities. Earlier this year, hundreds of Pakistani Muslims had surrounded Nankana Sahib Gurudwara and pelted it with stones. The mob shouted that it wanted to destroy the place of worship and give it an Islamic name. The violence began after a young Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur who had been kidnapped and converted to Islam returned home after the intervention of authorities. However, the family members of the kidnapper and their relatives wanted the girl to come back to them and, therefore, organised the attack on the Gurdwara.

The minorities in both Afghanistan and Pakistan have been seeking asylum out of the country owing to persistent attacks, lack of freedom, widespread discrimination as well as regular kidnappings and conversions of young girls and women. For the Sikhs and Hindus, India remains a natural choice of migration..