KABUL — When I saw the news of the brutal suicide attack on Afghanistan’s Sikhs and Hindus on Sunday, my first instinct was to call my friend and regular source Rawail Singh for more details. I didn’t realize until his phone went unanswered that the Kabul-based peace activist had been among the 19 people killed, 17 of them Sikhs or Hindus, while waiting to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Jalalabad.
Singh was one of the kindest and most recognizable faces in Kabul’s nascent civil society and one of the most active members of his community. He’d had many offers to help him and his family leave Afghanistan, but he insisted that he was a son of the Afghan soil and refused to depart a country where he still saw tremendous potential.
“Why would I leave? This is my land, my country, my culture. Historically, we belong to Afghanistan. One of the founding leaders of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, visited Afghanistan in 1520. We’ve been his followers since then,” he told me last year.
The loss of Singh, who was in his late 40s, isn’t just a tragedy for those who knew him; it may be the final deathblow to a community that was once a symbol of a very different Afghanistan.
“Within a few minutes, a significant part of our fraternity was wiped out: our leaders, elders, and mentors,” said Sachdeva Omprakash, an Afghan Hindu attending the mass funeral on Monday at the Bagh Bala Gurdwara in Kabul, one of a handful of temples left in the city. Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan closely identify with each other’s communities, both politically and socially, as non-Muslim minorities.
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