India condemns removal of Sikh flag from gurdwara in Afghanistan



Taliban fighters forced shrine keeper to remove Nishan Sahib from structure
India on Friday condemned the act of desecration of a historic Sikh place of worship in Paktia province in Afghanistan by Taliban fighters. The condemnation came after the Taliban fighters dislodged the Sikh religious flag of Thala Shri Guru Nanak Sahib Gurudwara of Chamkani in Paktia. The Taliban elements forced the gatekeeper to remove the Nishan Sahib flag from its rightful place and tied it to a tree.

“We condemn this act and reiterate India’s firm belief that Afghanistan’s future must be one where interest of all sections of Afghan society including minorities and women are protected,” said an official source.

The Gurudwara of Chamkani is a historic place of worship and is looked after by local Sikhs and Hindus of Chamkani. The shrine was in news earlier when a Sikh named Nidan Singh Sachdeva was abducted by Taliban in July last year from its vicinity. The Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag is usually flown high near Gurudwaras and signifies Sikh religious identity and pride.

Charan Singh, a local resident has confirmed the incident and said the Taliban commanders initially threatened the caretaker and later forced him to take down the flag from its assigned place. The Nishan Sahib flag is usually visible from far as it is placed with the intention of being visible to the Sikhs.

Taliban’s Official Spokesperson for International Media (English), Suhail Shaheen has however denied the report and termed it “baseless”. “Sikhs and Hindu community have been living in Paktia for centuries. We are committed to their rights and they can lead their normal life like any Afghan,” said Mr Shaheen. The Hindu has however confirmed that the religious flag has been removed from its place and tied to a tree so that it can not be viewed as a distinct symbol.

India has been calling upon the various sides in Afghanistan to respect religious minorities of the country as a military battle continues between the Government of President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban fighters. The incident has come to light on a day when the UN Security Council held a round of consultation on the developing scenario in Afghanistan.

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