A Hindu man in Afghanistan cries at the funeral pyre of a loved one killed by Islamic terrorists

Congressman Jim Costa said in a tweet, "This marks an important step toward protecting Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities from imminent destruction at the hands of terrorists"

A US congressman has lauded India for giving refuge to Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan, saying that it's an important step towards protecting the communities from imminent destruction at the hands of terrorists.

Responding to India's move, Congressman Jim Costa said in a tweet, "This marks an important step toward protecting Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities from imminent destruction at the hands of terrorists."

India on July 23 had said that the Indian mission in Kabul is providing the Afghan Hindus and Sikhs visas to come to India, adding that their request for Indian citizenship is also being "examined and acted upon" based on "rules and policies". The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Shrivastava said that the Centre has been receiving requests from these communities that "they want to move to India and settle down here" and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, "we are facilitating the requests".

While no details have been given on the rules, India could give citizenship to these Afghan minorities under the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 that gives citizenship, from December 31, 2014, to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries--Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, Costa also said that in April he had written a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking similar refugee status for Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan. "In April, I wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo urging him to provide help to these families and consideration for potential resettlement in the US. While I'm pleased that India has offered them refuge, more needs to be done to ensure their safety in the long term. I will continue to advocate for more permanent solutions that will provide these families with security, economic stability, and a brighter future," he further tweeted.

India's move came days after Delhi-based Afghan Sikh Nidan Singh was abducted in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika that borders Pakistan. He was later released. India views the "recent spurt of attacks on Hindus and Sikh community" in Afghanistan by "terrorists at the behest of external supporters", indicating Pakistan's involvement.

The wife of kidnapped Afghan Sikh had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting for assistance for the release of her husband and also grant citizenship. Mahrwanti wrote to PM Modi on June 25 saying, "I request you to kindly repatriate him to New Delhi immediately after his release and grant us Indian citizenship at the earliest."

Singh was kidnapped from Gurdwara Tala Sahib, Chamkani in Afghanistan. He was there to maintain the Gurdwara where according to history Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism had visited. He was the lone person managing and performing community service in the Gurdwara.

Singh and his family of six--wife, two sons and three daughters had moved to India in 1992 due to civil unrest in Afghanistan and have been staying in New Delhi as refugees. He was a cook by profession in Delhi and used to earn a livelihood by undertaking meal orders for community kitchen like langar.

In June, a bipartisan group of 20 US senators urged the Trump administration to grant emergency refugee protection to Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan facing persecution as religious minorities, according to news agency PTI. "Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities," they said in the letter.

The Sikhs and Hindus once numbered around 250,000, but now fewer than 1,000 people live in Afghanistan due to decades of persecution, they added, the senators wrote. A heavily armed Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K) suicide bomber stormed a gurdwara in the heart of Afghanistan's capital on March 25, killing 25 Sikhs and injuring eight others.