The Afghan Sikh and Hindu community lost their leader, Ottar Singh Khalsa, on Sunday in the deadly suicide bombing in Jalalabad that killed 19 people.
Khalsa, who not only led this minority group in the country, was also the only parliamentary candidate from this community for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Sunday’s suicide bomber targeted a group of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus who were on their way to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani while he was on a tour of the province.
Nineteen people were killed in the explosion – including 14 Afghan Sikhs and one Afghan Hindu. Twenty other people were wounded.
On Monday afternoon, Khalsa’s family and friends came together for a memorial service in Kabul’s PD4, in Kart-e-Parwan - as the victim’s body had not yet been transferred to Kabul for burial.
Relatives said Khalsa was the ninth member of their family to die in the Afghan war – since the start of the civil war in the early 1990s.
One of Khalsa’s sons, Soryal Singh, said his father’s death had also erased their community’s chance of having a voice in parliament.
“We had a chance to have a candidate to defend our rights, but unfortunately the enemies of the country did not let us have an MP and defend our rights,” said the son.
Khalsa had a long history of serving his country and was an army officer during former president Najibullah Ahmadzai’s time. During former president Hamid Karzai’s tenure he was a member of the Meshrano Jirga (the Upper House of Parliament).
This time around, Khalsa nominated himself for parliamentary elections and was the only candidate from this minority group.
Khalsa’s son said Ghani had known about a plan to carry out an attack but that he failed to maintain security.
“President Ghani had said that an incident will happen. (He knew) the incident will happen, then why did he not inform them (the group of Sikhs)?”
The victim’s family meanwhile said they were hoping Khalsa’s body would arrive in Kabul by 4pm local time. They said they would then hold a cremation ceremony.
Meanwhile, other Sikh families in Kabul were also waiting for the return of the remains of their loved ones from Nangarhar.
Gulpary Singh was another relative who was waiting for the body of his father, Raju Singh.
Gulpary is nine years old and is the eldest male member of his family. Now it is up to him to feed his five-member family.
“I do not want to see war anymore in Afghanistan. I want to go to school and have a good life,” Gulpary said.
Currently around 30 Sikhs and Hindu families live in Kart-e-Parwan – which is a huge drop in numbers compared to the past.
Sikhs and Hindus living in the area said they face numerous challenges including political and social limitations and problems around traditions and religion.
“We cooperate with them (locals) at Ramadan, Eid and other events, but they unfortunately do not cooperate with us,” Soni Singh said.
“We have been living here for 10 years alongside our Sikhs brothers, they are very good people,” one Kabul resident Khalilullah said.
“They have been very good to us,” another Kabul resident Fakhruddin said.
According to reports, in the past Afghan Sikhs and Hindus played an important role in society and particularly in the economy.
However, statistics show that around 99 percent of all Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have slowly left the country since the start of the civil war.