Afghan Sikhs, Hindus among 392 airlifted from Kabul

Evacuation to continue amid reports of Pak presence among Taliban.

August 22, 2021 12:04 pm | Updated November 22, 2021 09:43 pm IST - New Delhi

Indian and Afghan nationals arriving from Kabul at the Hindon Airbase in Ghaziabad on August 22, 2021.

Indian and Afghan nationals arriving from Kabul at the Hindon Airbase in Ghaziabad on August 22, 2021.

India on Sunday airlifted 392 persons from Kabul in an operation that covered Indian citizens as well as Afghan nationals, including Sikhs and Hindus. Those airlifted were flown-in on three aircraft, including a heavy lift C-17. Air India and Indigo operated two flights via Tajikistan and Qatar. The evacuation operation is expected to continue over the coming days.

Apart from workers and engineers employed at various India-backed projects, the evacuees included an infant, Iknoor Singh, the youngest to be airlifted from Kabul so far.

 

A number of workers from Darjeeling who were stuck in Afghanistan were also among those evacuated. West Bengal Chief Mamata Banerjee had earlier urged the Central government to help in bringing them back.

The Hindu has learnt that the largescale evacuation was facilitated by a small multi-agency Indian team, now based in Kabul airport. The cell has taken charge days after Government of India evacuated its India-based staff from the Embassy in Kabul. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has not yet commented on this development. Initial reports suggested that the team consists of seven officials from different sections of the government and is led by Indian diplomats in the U.S.-controlled airport.

Among those evacuated was Narender Pal Singh Khalsa, a member of Afghanistan's Parliament who said the Taliban have been undependable since they took over Kabul.

 

“They came to my office on Saturday and took away my computers, official vehicles and other personal vehicles. They claimed that they were there to take away my official car that was given to me as an MP but ultimately took away many personal items including three watches,” said Mr. Khalsa, adding that there are a large number of Pakistanis among the fighters.

“I found that those who came to my house could not speak Farsi and spoke in Urdu. There were some who spoke a language that I could not even understand. It’s quite clear that they were either from Pakistan or some other country,” said Mr. Khalsa.

Stating that he had not seen the Afghan Taliban among those who were present in Kabul, Mr. Khalsa said, “In my 36 years, I have never seen such Taliban fighters.”

 

Mr Khalsa is the son of Avtar Singh Khalsa, a dynamic Sikh politician of Afghanistan who was assassinated in Jalalabad in a suicide bomb attack in 2018.

Apart from Mr Khalsa, Dr. Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, the only female Sikh MP of Afghanistan was also among those who were airlifted to the Hindon air base. Dr Honaryar thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Government of India for evacuating her family.

Hundreds of others, however, were left behind even as the security situation of Afghanistan is expected to deteriorate due to the growing tension between Taliban leaders and the Tajiks of Panjshir Valley who are led by the faction of Ahmad Massoud and former Afghan vice-president Amrullah Saleh.

 

A spokesperson for the Resistance told The Hindu that they require support of “allies” to take on the Taliban.

“Taliban are trying to send delegations and as well use Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai to mediate between Resistance Leaders in Panjshir. The stance of the Resistance is clear. We have legitimate Caretaker President Amrullah Saleh who enjoys people’s support from Republic’s side,” said Homayon Ahmadi, the spokesperson.

“If they opt for any military offensive, people are ready to defend their rights at any cost. We will be needing support from our allies, of course,” said Mr Ahmadi who argued that the Resistance believes in ballots unlike Taliban that believes in bullets.

Afghanistan's Ambassador to India, who was appointed by the government of President Ashraf Ghani, also called for international support and said the suffering of Afghanistan is “man-made”.

In a message posted on social media on Sunday, Ambassador Farid Mamundzay said, “The avoidable suffering of Afghanistan is man-made and at a scale beyond all civilised contemplation. Afghanistan is going through a difficult time, and only good leadership, compassionate attitude and international support to the Afghan people would somewhat bring an end to these miseries.”

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