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Afghan-Sikhs count their days in Afghanistan

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    Kabul, June 12: Out of the 1,00,000 strong Sikh community, just 2,500 are left in the Muslim-majority country of Afghanistan. The numbers are dwindling too. The growing intolerance against the non-Muslim communities including the Hindus has led most of them to flee their place of birth.

    Furthermore, when these people come back, they find their properties possessed illegally. In fact, even fake papers are created to take possession of their homes.

    Sikh

    For those who stay back, no one gets involved in business with them. A pharmacist said,"I'm worried that if things don't change and we are no longer able to stay, then the only people left will be those who cannot afford to leave."

    Under the Talibans, the Muslims and the Hindus were forced to convert to Islam and pay special taxes. They were also forced to publicly identify themselves with a yellow badge.

    The 2001-led invasion by the US that toppled the Taliban government did not help. The non-Muslims continued to be second class citizens. Although the land-seizures were curbed, reclaiming of land legally was a big issue.

    Karzai tried to give seats in the assembly to the Sikhs and the Hindus, but was opposed considering that other minority classes may also make the same demand. Neither are they alowed to do government jobs, nor can they display their community rituals openly.

    Sikhs still do not want to leave the country. They say,"Our Muslim brothers know our history, they can see our Afghan passports and national ID cards and our records in governmental offices. But when we go to them, they still tell us, 'You are not Afghan, you are an Indian, go back to your country.'"

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