India condemned the reported removal of a Sikh religious flag atop the roof of Gurdwara Thala Sahib in Chamkani area of Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province. The province has witnessed fighting between militants and Afghan security forces in recent weeks.

According to reports, ‘nishan sahib’, Sikh religious flag, was removed from Thala Sahib Gurdwara, a sacred place which has emotional attachment for Sikhs and followers of Guru Nanak Dev across the globe. It is believed that Guru Nanak Dev had visited the said place.

Government sources told India Today TV, “We condemn this act and reiterate India’s firm belief that Afghanistan’s future must be one where interest of all sections of Afghan society including minorities and women are protected.”

There have been fears over the fate of minorities in Afghanistan in the event of the return of the Taliban.

The Taliban, however, rejected the reports as baseless. Taliban spokesperson for international media, Suhail Shaheen, told India Today TV, “Sikhs and Hindu community has been living in Paktia for centuries. We are committed to their rights and they can lead their normal life like any Afghan.”

Incidentally, Charan Singh, an Afghan Sikh looking after community affairs, has confirmed the development through his contacts in Babukhail village in Manzikeen Ziarat, a place in Chamkani.

He said, “The local caretaker was initially warned by the militant forces to remove the nishan sahib. However, later the militants accompanied him and forcefully got the holy flag removed.”

Nidan Singh Sachdeva, an Afghan national from the Sikh community was abducted by the Taliban last year from the same Gurdwara, and was subsequently released.

“We strongly condemn this malicious move by the militants as Sri Guru Nanak Dev is known as messenger for universal brotherhood and peace. I appeal upon both the governments of Afghanistan and India and also the International community to ensure that the identity and sanctity of Hindu and Sikh religious places in the Afghanistan be maintained at the highest level.” said Puneet Singh, President of Indian World Forum.

Gurdwara Members, Locals Disagree

India Today TV later learnt from a few people that the flag was removed by the gurdwara members fearing persecution by the Taliban but after representatives of the Taliban visited the gurdwara and assured them protection and safety, the flag was put up again.

However, locals say that it was removed forcefully by militants and not out of their own volition.