Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in UAE apply for Indian visas and OCI status

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The rise of the Taliban to power in Kabul has left minorities in a state of disarray not only in Afghanistan but also in neighboring countries.

A group of Sikhs and Hindus stranded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are applying for electronic visas to come to India for work and family purposes. They are also applying for Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status and Indian citizenship.

Story from India spoke with Guljeet Singh, President of the Bala Pritam Sewa Society in Tilak Nagar, Delhi, which helps Afghan Sikhs settle in India. Speaking about the small community stranded in the UAE, Singh said these traders got stranded in the UAE initially because of Covid-19 and later because their visas were canceled by India after the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021.

The stranded group of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus consists of 60 people who are mainly textile merchants. They import raw cotton fabrics from India and export them all over the world, including Iran, London, Moscow and Tashkent. Singh said, “Some of these traders went to Dubai from Afghanistan, while others left from India. Their homes and families are in India.”

The request came after all valid visas issued by the Indian Consulate in Dubai became invalid when the Taliban overthrew the Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021. India took the precautionary measure as nearly 1,000 visas issued by the Indian Embassy in Kabul were stolen. during the chaotic exodus seen in the wake of the United States’ departure from the conflict-torn country.

Since then, India has regularly granted e-visas to beleaguered Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan and assisted them to evacuate to Delhi through special flights with the active role of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC).

Afghan Sikhs and Hindus working and residing in the UAE cannot travel to India as their visas were not reinstated under the new rules after India demanded that they apply for a separate subcategory – the e-Emergency X-Misc visa. These Afghan nationals must also register with the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) within seven days of arrival.

Singh said many Afghan Sikhs and Hindus arrived in India safely and then departed regularly to other countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. He added that Hindus and Sikhs play an important role in running the Afghan economy. “Afghanistan has not placed much emphasis on education, therefore our people have done well as businessmen, traders and merchants.”

The Afghan Association of Hindus and Sikhs in the United Arab Emirates has written to the Indian government to request electronic visas for their small group of people. He also asked the government to grant them OIC status and Indian citizenship as well.

In their letter to the government, Kartar Singh and Goshi Chand, who are fighting for the issuance of electronic visas on behalf of Afghan Hindu and Sikh citizens in the UAE, said: “India is our backbone and main home like no other country. has never facilitated Afghan minorities in distress at the highest level like your leadership”.

The letter adds that the UAE-based community was unable to perform the last rites of his family members who died in India. “We have businesses and investments including real estate in India and their maintenance has been affected because of this,” the letter said.

India has evacuated almost all Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan in small batches of 30 to 60 over the past few months. The last flight landed in Delhi on Sunday evening with 55 Afghan Sikhs. Now the last 50 remaining members of the community remain in Afghanistan, waiting to be evacuated any day.

With a series of bombings in major Gurdwaras in Afghanistan like Karte Parwan in Kabul this year and Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib in 2020, the Sikh minority has decided to move to India. Many have also moved to the United States and Canada. Besides the bombings, minorities have been pressured to convert to Islam. India was the only country to facilitate the granting of visas as well as to organize flights to bring them back to Delhi.

Read also : After the Peshawar killings, will Pakistan follow Afghanistan’s example in persecuting Sikhs?

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