“I sacrifice myself for those of my brothers who have been through all kinds of pain and suffering.”
Avtar Singh Khalsa will represent the small Sikh and Hindu Afghanistan population in the lower house of the Afghan Parliament. The community now numbers under 1,000 people, a far cry from the 80,000 in the 1970s. Both Hindus and Sikhs have decreased in numbers is due to decades of continuous conflict. Khalsa has served in the Afghan army.
Khalsa is a Sikh and a longtime community leader. His election to Afghan Parliament will be unopposed as the position was kept aside by a 2016 presidential decree. He will be one voice among the 259 legislators. He hopes his military stint will assist him to secure the position in the defense and security committee.
For Khalsa, the work is arduous. Heavy fighting has displaced Hindus and Sikhs from their homes. Other than victims of war, they have suffered discrimination in the Muslim majority nation. Islamic extremists have repeatedly targeted them. Under Taliban rule, minorities were ordered to wear yellow armbands. The last couple of years saw minorities fleeing to India and seeking asylum there.
Khalsa was clear about his job responsibilities, “I don’t only want to serve my Sikh and Hindu brothers. I have to be able to serve all the Afghan people, no matter which ethnicity or group they belong to. Our services must reach everyone.”
Khalsa himself is from Paktia province located in the eastern part of Afghanistan. He has lived most of his life within Kabul city. His previous political experience included a stint as Senator representing minority in the upper house of the Afghan Parliament.
“We must try to save our people from this chaos. 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.”
For minorities, the immediate future appears grim as the official Afghan Government is fighting a renewed Taliban and an IS affiliate. The Taliban have seized several districts throughout the country. Terrorist attacks have also been carried out against the Shiite Muslims, another bleeding minority in Afghanistan.
If Kabul falls, Hindus and Sikhs will face more persecution. Khalsa said, “I sacrifice myself for those of my brothers who have been through all kinds of pain and suffering. I don’t care if I lose my whole family and I get killed for this cause. I will struggle until I get their rights.”