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|June 1, 2001||
'Will India watch as Hindus perish in Afghanistan?'
Is history a good teacher in preventing earlier mistakes?
A horse can be led to water, but a thousand men can't make it drink.
Let us examine two countries that were 'born' within a few months of each other, India and Israel.
Israel has learnt enough not to allow mistakes to be repeated. It firmly believes that the world's indifferent inaction led to the Holocaust in the 1940s. Irrespective of international approbation or condemnation, Israel has intervened wherever the lives of Israelis or 'potential' Israelis (read 'Jews') are at stake.
Israel regards all Jews to be potential Israelis and accords them the 'right to return' whereby they are assured of citizenship rights should they immigrate to Israel.
Analogous to the Israeli definition, let us define a 'potential Indian' as one who satisfies the following:
By the above definition, Hindus and Sikhs living in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh would qualify as 'potential' Indians. The present persecution results from their religious beliefs originating in the 'historical' (as opposed to the modern) India.
How much can a 'potential Indian' expect from the Government of India?
'Potential Indians' applying to settle in India may expect anything from bureaucratic claptrap to a slap. When Sindhi Hindus sought refuge in India because of religious persecution (circa 1964), Jawaharlal Nehru was averse to the idea of granting them residency rights. It is rumoured that the refugees would have been returned to Pakistan but for his sudden death and Lal Bahadur Shastri's personal intervention.
While Indira Gandhi reacted sympathetically to the mass exodus from East Pakistan in 1970-1971, India seems to have returned to Nehruvian thinking in the matter of Afghani Hindus.
Consider the case of Afghani Hindus and Sikhs who have been beseeching for India's help after the Taleban came to power. In 1995, the Taleban decided that 'idols' couldn't be worshipped. By 1998, Human Rights Watch (the respected human rights group) had expressed concerns about the presently infamous yellow badge decree being in the works.
Afghani Hindus and Sikhs requested India's protection under the mistaken belief that they would be admitted to India, or get a sympathetic hearing at the very least. With nonchalance bordering on the nonsensical, the GOI refused admission to most. The reasons are best exemplified in Ambassador Ronen Sen's reply of December 2000 to German-Afghani Hindus (in a different context) "Security reasons make it necessary for referrals to New Delhi".
Not surprisingly, the Afghani Hindus/Sikhs found it easier to be accepted in Germany than India.
In a move that has been universally condemned, the Taleban now plans to force all Hindu men to put on a yellow arm-band, just as all Hindu and Sikh women will be required to veil themselves.
The surprising parallels between the Talebani thinking and Hitler's murderous hordes of the 1930s have raised the question of another genocide. While India has condemned the move, it does not contemplate any special move or willingness to rescue the beleaguered Hindu/Sikh community.
The GOI should restrain itself from playing Nero to a burning Rome and prevent the certain massacre of the Afghani Hindu-Sikh community.
There exist, at least three different strategies that can be employed to rescue the beleaguered Afghani Hindus:
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