Afghan Hindus and Sikhs at a ceremony in Kabul on Friday said their community has also been affected by insecurity and violence and that they fully support the ongoing efforts for peace as they are tired of war same as other citizens of Afghanistan.
They said they hope to see a peaceful Afghanistan in the not-so-distant future.
The Hindus and Sikhs remembered the 13 fallen members of their community who lost their lives in a suicide attack in eastern Nangarhar province last year. The ceremony was attended by a number of Kabul residents and government officials.
On July 2018, when a number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus wanted to visit President Ashraf Ghani in Jalalabad city in Nangarhar, a suicide bomber attacked them and killed 13 of them, including Afghan Sikh leader Avtar Singh Khalsa.
“My father who headed the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus Council and was a teacher lost his life in that incident. Our representatives from Ghazni, our elders and prominent young people were killed in that incident,” said Narender Singh Khalsa, son of Avtar Singh Khalsa.
Khalsa was the only candidate for parliamentary elections from the Hindus and Sikhs community. His son ran for parliamentary elections after his father’s death.
Royender Singh Khalsa, daughter of Khalsa, said they are not only faced with insecurity but they are suffering from injustices in society.
She said they want a peaceful life and that they support peace efforts.
“My two sisters were killed in the past and my uncle was killed when the Kochis attacked our Dharamshala. What has remained for us in this city that we should love it and live for it? Nothing has left for us, our elders have been killed and now only widows and orphans have remained,” Royender said.
Yusuf Pashtun, an advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, said at the ceremony that the Hindus and Sikhs have been living in Afghanistan for long time and that they have deep roots here.
“There is no doubt that we accepted Islam, but we are from one tribe, we are brother and we should continue this brotherhood,” said Pashtun.
An investigation by TOLOnews from last June shows that close to 99 percent of former Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan have left the country over the past three decades.
The investigation revealed that the Sikh and Hindu population number was 220,000 in the 1980s. That number dropped sharply to 15,000 when the mujahedeen were in power during the 1990s and remained at that level during the Taliban regime. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country.
According to the findings, the main reasons behind their departure include religious discrimination and government's neglect of the minority group, during the Taliban era in particular.
The TOLOnews findings indicate that where Hindus and Sikhs were once very active in business within the country, they are now faced with increasing poverty.
The findings also show that Hindus and Sikhs had suffered huge setbacks after the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001. This forced a large number of them to leave the countryside and to migrate to Kabul for a living. As a result, there are no Sikh or Hindu citizens living in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
Despite their problems, remaining Hindu and Sikh residents have said they are trying to continue with their lives in Afghanistan as they are optimistic about the country's future.