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Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Sikh families escape Afghanistan
Sikh gurudwara
Many Sikh families are unable to leave
By Asit Jolly in Chandigarh

At least three Afghan Sikh families have managed to cross into India after leaving Afghanistan because of the US-led military strikes.

Sikh carrying holy books
The holy books were taken to Pakistan for safekeeping
And some Sikhs have taken their holy books to Pakistan for safekeeping, fearing they might be destroyed in the air attacks.

Forced to flee their homes in Kabul and Jalalabad, the three Sikh families consider themselves fortunate because they were able to make the precarious journey across Pakistan to get to enter India.

But they are among the few who have valid travel documents for India.

On Monday, they bought tickets to board the Samjhauta Express that runs twice a week between Lahore in Pakistan and India's capital Delhi to make the final leg of their journey.

Families stuck

One of them, Chajjan Singh, told journalists at the Indian border railway station in Attari that more than 150 other Sikh families who wanted to return to India were currently stuck in Pakistan.

He said most of them do not have valid travel documents and are finding it impossible to get visas or permits to enter India.

Chajjan Singh said most of the Afghan Sikh families were either in refugee camps near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, or had sought refuge in Sikh gurudwaras (temples) in Pakistan.

He said these people were desperate to cross over into India.

Most of the Sikh men and women who arrived at the Attari railway station were critical of the US decision to launch air strikes on Afghan cities.

They acknowledged that they were strongly discriminated against by the Taleban rulers of Afghanistan, but they said that the American attacks had forced them to abandon their ancestral homes.

See also:

26 Sep 01 | South Asia
Sikhs 'trapped' in Afghanistan
26 Sep 01 | South Asia
UN plea for open Afghan borders
23 May 01 | South Asia
Taleban justify tagging Hindus
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
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