The article by Dr Sudha Ramachandran ‘Innocents abroad’ (Asian Affairs, May issue), which reported on attacks on Sikhs in Afghanistan, left me both saddened and angry.
Like its ISIS affiliate, and in common with prejudice generally, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) bases its cruelty and violence on a position of utter ignorance. It is incapable of distinguishing between Sikh and Hindu practices, and is blind to the inclusive, humanitarian aspects of the Sikh faith, as demonstrated by members of New Delhi’s community serving langar to Muslims sitting on anti-CAA protests in the city.
Given Afghanistan’s multiple domestic and international power centres, it is all too easy to target Sikhs or other minorities such as Shia Hazaras, in order to create instability in the country. Also, groups like ISKP undoubtedly believe that killing visible minorities like Sikhs and Hazaras is a means to expand their power.
As a third generation Sikh living in Britain, I look at the tragedy of the gurdwara attacks in Kabul and value all the more the relative tolerance of my home nation. I feel such pity for those Sikhs living in Afghanistan, who cannot feel safe in a country where Islamist militant groups have effectively pinned a target to their backs, with little of any real practical value being done to stop it.
STRIKING BACK WITH COMPASSION
Ashis Ray raises alarming questions surrounding the reduced sentences of those accused of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002 (‘No closure on Daniel Pearl’, May Asian Affairs), and the possible role of the Pakistan state in the sordid matter.
How appalling for Pearl’s parents that the Sindh High Court commuted the death sentence of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, even if, as Ray’s article suggests, his was not the actual hand that wielded the knife. His alleged links with one of the 9/11 World Trade Center ‘pilots’ reinforces belief in his guilt to some degree.
Hints of complicity in Sheikh’s acquittal by Pakistan’s intelligence services must only have worsened the blow for Pearl’s parents. Yet they have maintained great dignity throughout their ordeal. Daniel’s father Judea says that, in filing an appeal with Pakistan’s Supreme Court to reverse the ruling, they are ‘standing up for justice not only for our son, but for all our dear friends in Pakistan so they can live in a society free of violence and terror and raise their children in peace and harmony’.
This is the way to fight against terrorism.
FAINT RAY OF HOPE?
So much gloomy news is written today about global economic impact of the coronavirus so it was good to see some tiny ray of optimism in a couple of your articles – G Parthasarathy’s very cautious hope that Britain and EU can assist in promoting cooperation between China and US (though this seems unlikely as long as Mr Trump is in the White House), and Jayanta Roy Chowdhury’s hope that India could come out of economic slump if it is prepared to ‘spend big without worrying too much about deficits’.
Pain is inevitable but we must all strain to see light at the end of the tunnel.