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CoHNA urges the U.S. and Indian governments to enhance efforts to protect religious minorities in Afghanistan

August 19, 2021

The Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) stands with the beleaguered people of Afghanistan, especially its religious minorities. Despite being indigenious to the land, they have been forced to choose between extermination or servitude, their history erased and their future put in jeopardy. With Kabul falling to the Taliban forces, minorities find themselves in the crosshairs, vulnerable due to their faith. 

We expect fundamental rights, especially for religious minorities and women will continue to decline under Taliban rule. We urge the US Government to support them by including religious minorities in Bill S1642, to keep America and the world apprised of their status. We also urge the United States government to try and influence future governance of the country to comply with international human rights and humanitarian law, to protect all religious minorities.

India, the only neighboring country with non-sectarian values, had welcomed all religious minorities that include Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Christian faith minorities in Afghanistan through the implementation of the CAA in 2019. Just last year, more than 250 families of Afghanistan’s remaining tiny Hindu and Sikh community were forced to journey to India on special visas. Despite this, some in the US and India, decided to make Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) an issue for political grandstanding on American campuses and public offices. We ask the Indian government to strengthen and start implementing that law.

Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs have a long history in Afghanistan and thus have been targets of severe persecution over the centuries. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in March 2001 is just one piece of evidence of religious cleansing of a land that was once synonymous with syncretism, Buddist/Hindu art, education and culture.

During the Taliban’s reign in the 1990s Hindu and Sikh Afghans were subject to an array of atrocities including kidnapping, property grabbing, extortion, and targeted violence. The Taliban had forced Afghani Hindus and Sikhs to wear saffron and yellow badges. They also imposed Jizya, an egregious tax on Afghani Hindus and Sikhs in order for them to be able to practice their religion. The attacks and violence on Sikhs and Hindus and their places of worship have continued unabated and the final nail in the coffin was the 2020 attack on a Sikh Gurudwara in Kabul triggering another wave of exodus. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in March 2001 is seared in the memory of the world. Small communities of Hindus and Sikhs continue to live in various parts of Afghanistan and deserve the world’s attention.

Pushpita Prasad