Taliban dress-code for Hindus

NEW DELHI, MAY 20. The tiny Hindu population in Afghanistan has been asked by the Taliban regime to wear yellow cloth to identify themselves and follow the Shariat or face prosecution. In a recent decree, a separate dress-code has been fixed for the Muslims and non-Muslims and a Hindu household is required to put a two-metre yellow cloth on his house so that his identity is known. According to the decree, a copy of which was made available to UNI, Hindus and Muslims cannot live in the same house. Those living together have been asked to leave within three days. Any violation would invite prosecution, it said.

The heads of Hindu places of worship have been asked to prepare a list of places where the Hindus and Muslims are living together. Hindus cannot build new prayer houses. They have been asked to conduct prayers in the existing ones. Places of worship once destroyed cannot be rebuilt. Hindu men cannot wear turbans and the women should wrap their body with a big yellow `chadder' with two small holes over their eyes. Hindu women can go to markets, but they should wear an iron necklace. No Hindu can keep arms.

A victimised lot

Over the past few years, the Hindu and Sikh Afghans have watched helplessly as their homes, businesses and places of worship have been destroyed. As minorities in a fundamentalist Islamic country, Hindus are in deep trouble. When anything happens in India against the Muslims, temples and Hindu property are looted and burnt in Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad. The once-thriving Hindu community in Afghanistan, which numbered about 50,000, has now dwindled to about 50 in some parts. Many Hindus have escaped to India, the U.S. and Germany. Indians have lived in Afghanistan for thousands of years. In Kandahar, 5,000 Hindus lived at one time.

Afghanistan was, originally, a Hindu country and 99 per cent of the Hindu Afghans were born there. A statue of the Buddha stood in Kabul for more than 2,000 years and a mountain is named `Asha Mai', after a Hindu goddess. The Hindus were mostly prosperous merchants dealing in clothes, dry fruits, pharmaceuticals, currency exchange, and Indian tea and spices. Some Hindus were so powerful that they had even controlled the exchange market. However, now thousands of them live in slums. Hindus have become easy targets mainly because they had done economically well. After the Taliban regime took over, many Hindus fled to India, some even via Pakistan. Those who did not leave early, got stuck.