Members of the minority Sikh community in Afghanistan said their numbers have dropped sharply in the country over the years and that in Helmand alone, there are now only four Sikhs left, from the original 85 families.
One Afghan Sikh, from Helmand, told TOLOnews that he was born and raised in the southern parts of Afghanistan – with his family having been mostly farmers in Nawa district in Helmand.
But according to him, due to the ongoing war in the province and the collapse of several districts in recent years, his family has fled the country.
He also said Sunday’s bombing against a group of Sikh members, including their leaders, in Jalalabad city, has them all really concerned.
“We were once 85 families living here and were involved in trade and farming; even during the Taliban regime we did not have any problems; but our numbers gradually declined and families were forced to migrate; they left Helmand and Afghanistan and the incident in Nangarhar happened where our relatives were killed; now we are really concerned,” said Atar Singh.
“After the attack in Nangarhar we, the few Sikhs living here, have decided to leave Afghanistan because here we don’t have any guarantee of staying alive; if our security can be guaranteed we will not leave Afghanistan,” Atar added.
Another Helmand resident and close friend of Atar Singh’s said he has known Atar since they were children. He it was sad to see the Sikh community leaving the country.
“We have really good relations with Helmand’s Sikhs, we are really sad that this minority group is leaving the country due to insecurity,” said Sultan Mohammad, a resident of Lashkargah city.
Statistics shows that from the original 85 Sikh families in Helmand, only four male members of the community are left. Even then, they have sent their families to either Kabul or India following increased insecurity in the province.
This comes after Avtar Singh Khalsa, the parliamentary elections candidate, was killed along with 14 other Afghan Sikh’s in a suicide bombing on Sunday in Jalalabad.
Narinder Singh, the son of Khalsa, said on Friday he wants to contest the October parliamentary elections in Afghanistan from the seat apportioned to the minority community.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) said this week the Hindu and Sikh community could nominate another candidate in the wake of Khalsa's death.
Last week Reuters reported that many among Afghanistan’s dwindling Sikh minority are considering leaving for neighboring India after the suicide bombing killed at least 14 members of their community.
The Sikh community now numbers fewer than 300 families in Afghanistan, which has only two gurdwaras, or places of worship, one each in Jalalabad and Kabul, the capital.
Although almost entirely a Muslim country, Afghanistan was home to as many as 250,000 Sikhs and Hindus before a devastating civil war in the 1990s.
Even a decade ago, the US State Department said in a report, about 3,000 Sikhs and Hindus still lived in the country.
Despite official political representation and freedom of worship, many face prejudice and harassment as well as violence from militant Islamist groups, prompting thousands to move to India, their spiritual homeland.
Reuters also reported that following the Jalalabad attack, some Sikhs have sought shelter at the city’s Indian consulate.
India has issued long-term visas to members of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities.