New Delhi: India on Tuesday brought back 78 people, including 25 of its nationals and a number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus from Dushanbe, a day after they were evacuated from Taliban-besieged Kabul to the Tajik city.
The group along with three copies of the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, was airlifted from Kabul to Dushanbe by a military transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force on Monday.
Union ministers Hardeep Singh Puri and V Muraleedharan received three copies of Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib and 44 Afghan Sikhs who reached India from Kabul via Dushanbe in Tajikistan on a special Air India flight.
The three copies of Guru Granth Sahib will be taken to Guru Arjan Dev Ji Gurdwara in New Mahavir Nagar here, according to people coordinating the evacuation efforts with the Indian government.
“The Afghan Sikhs will stay at a hotel in Karol Bagh till further arrangements are made,” said Kanv Bhalla, an entrepreneur coordinating rehabilitation efforts on behalf of New York-based philanthropist Mandeep Singh Sobti.
Sobti and Paramjeet Singh Anand through their Sobti Foundation have undertaken the rehabilitation of these distressed Afghans in coordination with and under the guidance of the government of India, he said.
“Today, I got the privilege to serve three ‘swaroop’ of Guru Granth Sahib ji that arrived in Delhi from Kabul,” Puri, the minister for housing and urban affairs, tweeted in Hindi.
He also shared a video that showed him carrying a copy of the scripture.
ਵਾਹੁ ਵਾਹੁ ਬਾਣੀ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰ ਹੈ
ਤਿਸੁ ਜੇਵਡੁ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਕੋਇ ।।
Deeply privileged & fortunate to welcome the three holy Swaroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji from Kabul at @DelhiAirport along with Sh @VMBJP Ji, Sh @dushyanttgautam Ji & members of Sikh Sangat. pic.twitter.com/mWhTwpnoOs
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) August 24, 2021
On Monday, 78 people, including the 44 Afghan Sikhs, were flown to Dushanbe from Kabul on an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft. They arrived in Delhi on an Air India flight around 9.50 am (Tuesday), said Puneet Singh Chandhok, president of the Indian World Forum, an organisation coordinating the evacuation efforts with the Ministry of External Affairs and the IAF.
Nearly 200 more Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are still stranded in Afghanistan. These people have taken shelter at the Karte Parwan Gurdwara in Kabul, which is close to the airport, he added.
According to people sheltered in the gurdwara, the 10-km drive to the international airport through various checkpoints is one of the biggest challenges in the rescue efforts.
Around 75 more Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are likely to be evacuated soon, Chandhok said.
“Blessed to receive & pay obeisance to three holy Swaroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji from Kabul to Delhi a short while ago,” Puri tweeted.
An Air India flight brought back the people from Dushanbe.
“Joined Minister Shri @HardeepSPuri ji at Delhi Airport in receiving Swaroop of Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji arrived from Afghanistan along with evacuees,” Muraleedharan tweeted.
— V. Muraleedharan (@MOS_MEA) August 24, 2021
Earlier, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said 78 people are being brought to Delhi on an Air India flight.
“Helping in the safe return from Afghanistan. AI 1956 en route to Delhi from Dushanbe carrying 78 passengers, including 25 Indian nationals. Evacuees were flown in from Kabul on an @IAF_MCC aircraft,” he said on Twitter.
Helping in the safe return from Afghanistan.
AI 1956 enroute to Delhi from Dushanbe carrying 78 passengers, including 25 Indian nationals. Evacuees were flown in from Kabul on an @IAF_MCC aircraft.@IndEmbDushanbe pic.twitter.com/BcIWLzSLrL
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) August 24, 2021
With Tuesday’s evacuation, the number of people brought back to Delhi reached over 800 since August 16 when the first group was airlifted from Kabul, a day after the Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital city.
On Monday, India brought back 146 of its nationals to Delhi in four different flights from the Qatari capital Doha, days after they were evacuated from Kabul by NATO and American aircraft.
India has stepped up efforts to evacuate its citizens as well as its Afghan partners from Kabul in view of the deteriorating security situation in the Afghan capital and other parts of the country after the Taliban swept to power last week.
On Sunday, India evacuated 392 people including two Afghan lawmakers in three different flights under the evacuation mission.
The Taliban seized control of Kabul on August 15. Within two days of the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, India evacuated 200 people, including the Indian envoy and other staffers of its embassy in the Afghan capital.
The first evacuation flight brought back over 40 people, mostly staffers at the Indian embassy on August 16.
The second aircraft evacuated around 150 people including Indian diplomats, officials, security personnel and some stranded Indians from Kabul on August 17.
India carried out the evacuation missions in coordination with the US and several other friendly countries.
The Taliban swept across Afghanistan this month, seizing control of almost all key towns and cities, including Kabul, in the backdrop of the withdrawal of the US forces.