Afghanistan government to rebuild Temples and Gurudwaras

WION Web Team New Delhi Feb 12, 2020, 10.54 PM(IST)

Representative Image Photograph:( DNA )

Story highlights

The provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia and Ghazni also have temples which are centuries old. Minorities have left this country because of religious persecution.

India's most cherished neighbour — Afghanistan is embracing some inclusive changes. It's a country that has been marred by religious extremism for two decades.

But now — Afghanistan plans to renovate Hindu Temples and Sikh Gurudwaras. A gesture that should serve as a moral beacon for a mutual neighbour Pakistan.

The Afghan government is finally addressing the woes of its religious minorities. Hindus and Sikhs — who have called this graveyard of empires their home for centuries.

The Afghan ministry of finance has unveiled a 650,000 dollar-budget plan — to revamp Hindu and Sikh religious sites.

650,000 US dollars — a decent figure compared to Afghanistan's annual budget this year which stands at 5.5 billion dollars.

This money will be used to rebuild temples and gurudwaras in consultation with local chieftains — or what you call clan leaders.

But not many religious sites remain in this country. There are close to 10 gurudwaras and temples left in Afghanistan today. Most of them are located in the capital Kabul.

The provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia and Ghazni also have temples which are centuries old. Minorities have left this country because of religious persecution. According to Afghanistan's state media — the Sikh and Hindu population stood at 220,000 in the 1980s.

Then the mujahideen came to power — and this number dropped to 15,000 in the 1990s. In just a decade — close to 200,000 minorities fled Afghanistan and this was followed by years of neglect by successive governments.

The result — there is no census data available today. Estimating the exact numbers is impossible. One headline is on your screens — it says 99% of Sikhs and Hindus have left Afghanistan.

And it's not a far-fetched claim. Community members themselves will tell you that there are no more than a few Hindus and Sikhs left in Afghanistan today.

Some reports say not more than 1500. The Afghan government wishes to undo this injustice meted out to its minorities for decades.

Let's also look at it diplomatically. Afghanistan is a neighbour that surely knows how to keep a friendship afloat. The Indian government has helped rebuild Afghanistan after endless wars. Yes, there is a desire to limit Islamabad — but India's Afghanistan policy has by and large been driven by humanitarian concerns.

A library as the US President once infamously claimed — was downplaying India's valuable assistance. India has done much more. In 2015 — Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the Afghan parliament building constructed by India for 90 million dollars.

This was the complex that contained a library. In 2016 — India helped in the reconstruction of the Salma dam in Herat — it is now known as the afghan-India friendship dam.

The restoration of the store palace in Kabul. The setting up of an electricity transmission line from Pul-e Khumri to Kabul.

Building the Afghan national agricultural science university in Kandahar. India also built a cricket stadium in the same city. And we've all seen how the Afghan cricket team has evolved.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg — India has realized and is realizing hundreds of lesser-visible projects. And no this is not charity.

This is pragmatism — these projects challenge Pakistan's influence in the country which has so far only bred terror. They're also proof of India's commitment to helping an old friend.

And at a time when the Indian govt is making moves — albeit controversial — to help minorities in countries like Afghanistan.