Afghan Sikhs, Hindus urge PM to expedite citizenship requests, absorb youth in armed forces

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New Delhi, (UNI): Afghan Sikhs and Hindus living in India for years are keen that the Indian government process their citizenship requests early, set up an ‘Afghan Nagar’ to resettle them and absorb the youth in the armed forces and police, according to an application sent on their behalf to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by an activist today.

Puneet Singh Chandhok, President Indian World Forum, who has been working for and highlighting the plight of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, said in the letter to the PM that he continues  to receive distressed communications from Afghans seeking his help, and he has also received a representation from the community leaders.

The letter comes as PM Narendra Modi is expected to meet representatives of the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus tomorrow, according to sources.

On the Indian Citizenship and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status for the Afghan Sikhs-Hindus, the letter said that thousands of applications are pending for approval despite the persons completing the mandatory residency period of 12 years for grant of citizenship through naturalization and stay period of seven years through registration.

It pointed out that there is significant delay in processing of these due to lack of internal coordination of government agencies, and suggested the setting up of a single window facility for processing the fresh and pending applications. It also suggested considering amnesty, including penalty waiver for cases in which the applicants on being misled by touts and travel agents had got passports issued without valid citizenship.

On Visas, residential and exit permits, the letter urges the government  to set up a dedicated cell for issuance and processing of fresh visas, converting into long-term visas, granting residential permits and exit permits for Afghan minorities in a time bound manner along with easing of restrictions including the requirement of a local guarantor.

It said that while the government has been granting visas to Afghan Hindus and Sikhs including issuance of Long Term Visas valid for three years and five years, but after the change in regime in Afghanistan last year, all the earlier visas have been invalidated for those out of country and they have to seek fresh e-visas. It said the processing of the e-visas has been pending since months.

It urged that a huge number of Afghan citizens belonging to Hindu and Sikh community are residing in Germany, Russia, UAE, UK and USA and visit India each year for pilgrimage and family visits but since the past one year due to non-issuance of visas their visit has been affected.

In the case of maintenance and protection of ancient Gurdwaras and Mandirs in Afghanistan and also the estates belonging to the minorities, the letter urged the PM to help in maintenance of the shrines in coordination with International agencies and also facilitate protection of the title of estates of those who have left the country,

It suggested the setting up of a committee comprising of Afghan leaders in India who would be facilitated to visit Afghanistan and monitor the properties and the shrines.

It pointed out that due to ?severe decrease in demographics of Hindus and Sikhs? in Afghanistan and also post the change in regime, there is no representation of minorities in the incumbent Government and it voiced fears that ?disgruntled elements? may grab the personal estate of minorities.

The letter also suggested that the Government  set  up  an ‘Afghan Nagar’ at any suitable location in the NCT by providing land free, and that a detailed mechanism could be adopted for the allotment, construction and development cost to be jointly borne by the community. It said that a large number of displaced Afghan Hindus and Sikhs are residing across NCT of Delhi either in sharing accommodation or rented accommodation provided by NGOs, and most of these don’t have enough resources for their livelihood etc..

It also urged the PM to consider absorbing the Afghan Hindu and Sikh youth in the armed forces and the central police organisations as they are of strong built and are known for their fearless combat and bravery.

Chandhok also thanked the PM for  the evacuation efforts of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan post the Taliban takeover as well as bringing back the holy scriptures kept in the Gurdwaras and Temples there.

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