The only Sikh politician in the fray in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Afghanistan was among 19 people killed in a suicide bomb blast in Jalalabad city of Nangarhar province on Sunday. Avtar Singh Khalsa was to contest the only seat reserved for Sikh and Hindu candidates in Afghanistan’s Parliament.
Khalsa was on his way to meet President Ashraf Ghani when he was killed. One of his sons, Narinder Singh Khalsa, was injured.
“I don’t only want to serve my Sikh and Hindu brothers,” Khalsa had told the local media in June, AP reported. “I have to be able to serve all the Afghan people, no matter which ethnicity or group they belong to. We must try to save our people [Sikhs and Hindus] 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.”
An Indian embassy official in Kabul told The Indian Express that Khalsa had been provided an election symbol on Saturday. “He was a very popular leader who was set to make it to the Afghan Parliament,” the unidentified official said. “The president had asked Khalsa and others to come [meet him in Jalalabad]. Khalsa had formally kickstarted his poll campaign today after he was alloted the election symbol.”
Khalsa – who was the head of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Council – met Vinay Kumar, the Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, on June 21. At the meeting, he had sought Kumar’s help to set up electric crematoriums for Hindus and Sikhs in the country. “For every cremation, we have to request for security cover,” Khalsa’s son Narinder had said, alleging that the local people sometimes pelted stones at Hindus and Sikhs while they performed last rites. “And only after pleading hard, we manage to get the security cover.”
On Monday, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing. In a statement, the group said it targeted a group of “polytheists”.