The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) granted emergency visas to 111 Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan, hours after Saturday’s terror attack at a gurdwara in Kabul. All had applied for the visa in September 2021, but the applications were cleared only after the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), a terrorist group, attacked the gurdwara on Saturday killing two people including a Sikh granthi, a member representing the community said.
Only 159 minorities remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control in August 2021, including three members who do not have any passport.
The community had been petitioning the government to clear the visas after the ISKP issued threats two-weeks ago as a retaliation against the controversial statement made against the Prophet by suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
According to Puneet Singh Chandhoke, president of the India World Forum who has been coordinating with the Indian government to evacuate Sikhs from Afghanistan, the applicants had applied for a visa as early as September 12, 2021 but it was being blocked due to pending security clearance.
“Though the visas had been pending for months it was cleared within hours of the attack at the gurdwara on Saturday. The person who died [Satwinder Singh] was also among those who intended to travel to India,” Mr. Chandhoke said.
Last year, 163 members of the minority community came to India after they were granted “e-Emergency X-Miscellaneous visa.” India had suspended all kinds of visa after the Taliban took over the governance in Afghanistan in August 2021. On August 17, the special emergency visa was announced for the stranded citizens but most visas were only granted to people from the Hindu and Sikh communities. More than 80 members of the communities who fled to Dubai and Russia after Taliban take over have also been waiting for visas to be cleared. At least 11 persons who came to India last year but returned to Afghanistan citing personal reasons are also among the list of people awaiting evacuation from Afghanistan.
A delegation of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs when they met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 19 had raised the issue of the pending visas.
Mr. Chandhoke had written to Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra on May 27 requesting them to expedite the visas.