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Sikh Leader Avtar Singh Khalsa, Champion of Afghan Rights, Among Those Killed in Jalalabad Blast

Avtar Singh Khalsa was to fight the elections in October and was touted to win a seat in the parliament.

Updated:July 2, 2018, 3:12 PM IST
New Delhi: In a recent interview to a news agency, Sikh Afghan leader Avtar Singh Khalsa had said that he didn’t want to just serve Hindus and Sikhs and that he had to serve the Afghan people, irrespective of which ethnicity or group they belong to.

The chief of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Council was quoted as saying that he didn’t care if he died as long as he died fighting for the rights of Afghans.

On Sunday, in what seems to be a targeted attack, Khalsa was among 20 killed in a suicide blast in Jalalabad. Khalsa and the others were travelling to meet Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who had just inaugurated a hospital in Jalalabad. One of his sons, Narinder Singh Khalsa, was injured in the attack. Khalsa was to fight the elections in October and was touted to win a seat in the parliament.

Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict. The community numbered more than 80,000 in the 1970s, but today only around 1,000 remain.

A father of four, he lived his life mostly in Kabul, and served as a senator representing the minority. Khalsa also led a delegation of Sikhs and Hindus to meet Indian ambassador to Kabul Vinay Kumar last month. Khalsa also reportedly served at various ranks in the Afghan army. Sikhs and Hindus have been driven out of many areas by heavy fighting. They have suffered widespread discrimination in the conservative Muslim country and have also been targeted by Islamic extremists.

Under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, they were asked to identify themselves by wearing yellow armbands, but the rule was not enforced. In recent years, large numbers of Sikhs and Hindus have sought asylum in India, which has a Hindu majority and a large Sikh population.

“We must try to save our people from this chaos,” Khalsa said. “By any means and at any cost we must ask for our rights from the government. Your rights will not be given to you, you must earn them,” Khalsa had said in an interview.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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