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Minority Afghan Hindus, Sikhs Demand Protection After Brutal Murder

FILE: A Sikh funeral in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad in July 2018.

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The disappearance and brutal murder of a young Sikh shopkeeper in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have shocked the country’s tiny Hindu and Sikh minority.

Bajan Singh Gharibnawaz says his nephew Arjit Singh disappeared from Kabul in early March, and his mutilated corpse was found this week after it remained buried in a Muslim graveyard for nearly two months.

The police had buried Singh after failing to identify his body following its discovery in Kabul’s seventh district in mid-March. The Afghan police say they have arrested the alleged murders.

Gharibnanwaz says their community is in shock over the murder, and many are asking why they don’t deserve protection as Afghan citizens while forming a small religious minority amid an overwhelming Muslim majority.

“We kept looking for my nephew for two and a half months and ultimately found his mutilated corpse,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul’s Shor Bazaar neighborhood, where Sikhs and Hindus run small herbal medicine shops.

“We still can’t figure out whether he was slaughtered or burned with acid or was killed by another method,” he said through tears.

Singh didn’t return home from his herbal medicine shop on March 6. Gharibnanwaz says they reported his disappearance to the police the same day.

He says he not optimistic about the safety and security of his family and community.

Anarkali Hunaryar represents Afghanistan’s Hindu and Sikh community in the Senate or upper house of the Afghan Parliament. She told Radio Free Afghanistan that the murder has shocked their community.

“Arjit Singh’s murder is not the first one, but I hope that it proves to be the last one,” she told Radio Free Afghanistan. “As a minority, we need more protection because we are particularly vulnerable.”

Afghan officials, however, say they are committed to protecting Afghan Hindus and Sikhs.

Nusrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, says they have already arrested a couple in connection with the murder. He didn’t disclose their identities.

“The alleged murderers are husband and wife. We arrested one in Kabul and the other [in the northern province] of Baghlan,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “We have completed the case file and have sent it on to the office of the attorney general.”

Today, fewer than 1,000 Hindus and Sikhs live in Afghanistan. Most of the country’s estimated 80,000 Hindus and Sikhs have left the country since the late 1970s. Some leaders of the minority have even contemplated abandoning the country after 17 people died in a suicide attack on a gathering in the eastern city of Jalalabad last July.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on reporting by Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents Noorullah Shayan and Khan Mohammad Seend.

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, the editor of RFE/RL's Gandhara website, is a journalist specializing in coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan.