The Only Sikh Candidate For Afghanistan Parliamentary Elections, Killed In Suicide Bomb Blast That Took 19 Lives
Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh politician in Afghanistan, was killed along with at least 18 other people, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, on July 01, 2018 in a blast by a suicide bomber in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Parliamentary elections in Afghanistan are slated to happen in October this year. The 52-year-old was the only Sikh candidate contesting the upcoming elections. He was on his way to meet President Ashraf Ghani when the blast happened.
ISIS took responsibility for the attack, as reported by NDTV.
The sole candidate
He was the head of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Council. An election symbol was allotted to him the day before he died. He was the only candidate from the seat reserved for a Sikh or Hindu in the Afghan legislature. His candidacy had become the centre of attention across Afghanistan. His efforts were celebrated as a sign of the minority group’s resilience and dedication to the country despite the harsh times. He could have been the first Sikh in the Afghan parliament.
“Avtar Singh Khalsa would have been the first Sikh in Afghan parliament this Oct. Deeply saddened. He was martyred in a cowardly terrorist attack. An ecosystem which utilizes terror as an instrument to achieve different objectives is in & of itself doomed to fail,” a tweet by Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri.
Avtar Singh Khalsa would have been the first Sikh in Afghan parliament this Oct. Deeply saddened. He was martyred in a cowardly terror attack. An ecosystem which utilizes terror as an instrument to achieve different objectives is in & of itself doomed to fail. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/zTO9rY0LRC
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) July 2, 2018
Selfless service to the community
In an interview published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on June 11, 2018, on Youtube, he had said: “ Anytime I receive a message, or I hear that one of our people has a problem. I run to help. It doesn’t matter if it’s night or day.” He said that he sacrificed a lot to serve others. He knew that people were loyal to him and that had made him run for a seat in the parliamentary elections. This only seat reserved for a Sikh or Hindu candidate is meant to ensure minority representation in the Afghan legislature.
As per The Indian Express, Khalsa had a meeting with the Indian Ambassador to Kabul, Vinay Kumar, regarding setting up of electric crematoriums for Hindus and Sikhs in the country.
In a recent interview given to local media, he had said:“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… I (will) 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.”
Brief about family and life
Khalsa is survived by his wife and four children. He spent maximum part of his life in Kabul, serving as a senator representing the minority. Khalsa also rendered ten years of service in the Afghan army. After the October election, he could have been a solitary voice among 259 legislators. He was going to join the parliament at a time when Afghanistan is struggling against a resurgent Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate.
The dwindling minority
The Sikh and Hindu minority have faced discrimination in the conservative Muslim country and have also been targeted by Islamic extremists. Reportedly, in the 1970s the community numbered more than 80,000, but today the numbers have plummeted to about 1000. “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,” Khalsa had said in an interview, as reported by News18.
Prime Minister Modi condemned the killing
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the incident and termed it as an attack on the “multicultural fabric” of Afghanistan. “We strongly condemned the terror attacks in Afghanistan yesterday. They are an attack on Afghanistan’s multicultural fabric. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. I pray that the injured recover soon. India stands ready to assist the Afghanistan government in this sad hour,” said PM Modi in a tweet on July 01, 2018.
We strongly condemn the terror attacks in Afghanistan yesterday. They are an attack on Afghanistan's multicultural fabric. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. I pray that the injured recover soon. India stands ready to assist the Afghanistan government in this sad hour.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 2, 2018