Veteran Afghan Sikh leader Khajinder Singh passes away in Delhi


For the last thirty years, Khajinder Singh had made his vocation to support the Afghan Sikh repatriates coming from Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan fleeing the perilous situation in the war-torn country.  He passed away last evening following a massive heart attack. He came to Delhi in 1990 itself when the troubles started in Afghanistan and has since then has been the ‘Man Friday’ to many an Afghan Sikh individual and family. He not only provided support in India but enabled not hundreds but thousands to go to the West, despite all odds. It is a tribute to his hard work that all Afghan Sikhs who are now visible in the UK, USA, Europe, Canada and other parts of the world, have had some association with him and his Afghan Sikh and Hindu Welfare Association through which he maintained live links with the Indian government and the UNHCR offices in Delhi.

WHEN I SPOKE TO HIM JUST A FEW DAYS BACK, PRIOR TO THE ARRIVAL OF THE SECOND BATCH OF AFGHAN SIKHS TO NEW DELHI,  KHAJINDER SINGH KHURANA told me that in view of the strenuous circumstances in which the Sikhs are coming from Afghanistan, he had postponed his trip to London to meet his family there.  He spoke to me for more than an hour and spelt out all the minute details of the arrangements that he and his team were making for the arrival of the Kabul Sangat.

He was worried about the fact that Sikh organisations engaged in the welfare of the Afghan Sikhs should not work at loggerheads with each other and to that end, he was receptive to suggestions. He had drafted an open letter for Sikh organisations calling a spade a spade and was nice enough to disclose the contents of the same, even though it was my second telephonic interaction with me.

In view of the volatile situation and with the last hundreds of Afghan Sikhs waiting in the wings for departure to India, I requested him to either reword the letter or drop it altogether. He agreed and as much as I know he did not make an issue of anything.

Working for three decades with people who have undergone a trauma of one kind or another can be a traumatic experience itself.  It is not possible to appease everyone, yet Khajinder Singh took everything in his stride.

Khajinder Singh presenting History of Afghan Sikhs book to Afghan King Zakir Shah
Khajinder Singh presenting his Punjabi book on History of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to Afghan King Zakir Shah

Last year in December 2019, he presided over a meeting of well-wishers of Afghan Sikhs in Delhi, where there were invitees from Afghanistan, the USA and many from India and Delhi. Harsaran Singh of the Global Sikh Council, who attended the meet told WSN on the phone about his fond memories of Khajinder Singh’s personality. He said, “He was a very gentle and sober-minded person, full of humility. Rising from a humble background he became a well-known business person in the Delhi Sikh community.”

“While he is mostly known for his concern about the well-being and safety of Sikhs left behind in his homeland Afghanistan, few people know that he was also concerned about future of Sikhs in other conflict zones like Kashmir and the future of Sikh youth there, which he discussed during the meeting.”

“He was a very gentle and sober-minded person, full of humility. Rising from a humble background he became a well-known business person in the Delhi Sikh community.”

Kabul di Sangat ate Afghanistan da Sankhep Itihas by Khajinder SinghThe Bhai Ghanaiya Seva Dal from Kashmir has expressed deep condolences at the demise of Khajinder Singh.

Documentary Filmmaker Afghan Sikh, now in the UK -Pritpal Singh in a Facebook post has shared the picture of Khajinder Singh presenting his book on the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjabi language to the last King of Afghanistan -Zahir Shah. Pritpal Singh also tells us that, “Khajinder Singh was closely related to former Afghan Sikh MPs -Jai Singh Fani and Gajinder Singh.”

“Khajinder Singh was closely related to former Afghan Sikh MPs -Jai Singh Fani and Gajinder Singh.”

US-based film-maker Manmeet Singh, who has been part of the SaveAghanSikhs campaign, in his reaction on social media said, “Very sad news. It is heartbreaking.”

“Soon after the March 25 attack on Sikhs in Kabul, I met Khajinder Singh at a social function in Delhi. We shared concerns and took up the matter with various Sikh bodies. When I spoke to him last, he seemed overwhelmed with the problems of rehabilitation of the Afghan Sikhs who had recently arrived,” said Chandigarh-based Gurpreet Singh, President of The Institute of Sikh Studies.

Due to the COVID19 restrictions, I did not get an opportunity to meet the persona of a giant who is no more, but I hope and pray that his legacy lives on. Our deepest empathy to his family, friends and associates.

“Very sad news. It is heartbreaking.”

The World Sikh News Team hopes and prays that somebody from amongst those who have come from Afghanistan will carry on the good work that still remains unfinished as many Afghan Sikh families in Delhi are still starring at an uncertain future.

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