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India grants e-visas to Afghan Sikhs, Hindus on priority after Kabul attack

A day after the deadly terror attack at Gurudwara Karte Parwan in Kabul’s Bagh-e-Bala neighbourhood, in which two persons including a Sikh were killed, the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) decided to grant e-emergency visas to over 100 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus on ‘priority, said people familiar with the matter.

The e-visas will facilitate the evacuation of Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan, who are facing grave danger in wake of the terror threats there. Officials said considering the security situation, the emergency visas have already been granted in discussion with the intelligence agencies.

Several blasts were reported at the gurudwara in Kabul on Saturday morning followed by a gun-battle between the attackers and Taliban fighters. Three attackers were killed by the Taliban fighters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack saying “Shocked by the cowardly terrorist attack against the Karte Parwan Gurudwara in Kabul. I condemn this barbaric attack and pray for the safety and well being of the devotees”.

Global terror outfit, Islamic State, also known as Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), is suspected to be behind the attack.

While there were around 700 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan in 2020, a large number of families left the country last year in the wake of unrest and following Taliban’s takeover of the country when the US troops left on August 15.

Indian officials said around 150 Hindus and Sikhs are living in Afghanistan currently. “But this miniscule minority is under severe threat right now,” said an official.

Following change of regime in Kabul last year, Indian government extended help to Afghan citizens, who were looking to flee the country and seek refuge in other countries including India, by starting a new visa category – “e-Emergency X-Misc”.

Around 200 Afghan nationals were given this visa till December 2021.

Prior to this, Afghanistan nationals were not eligible for e-visas for India because the country came under the Prior Reference Category (PRC). Under PRC, people travelling to India have to be cleared by the ministry of home affairs. Citizens of Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan, foreigners of Pakistani origin, and stateless persons come under this category. China is in the PRC category only for employment visas.

Desk Team