Hindu and Sikh Minorities Betrayed
In an unexpected move, the Afghan parliament rejected the proposal of the government for reserving a seat for Hindu and Sikh minorities in the lower house of the parliament. This is the second time that the lawmakers in the parliament oppose a reserved seat for these minorities. Months, before, it had rejected an article of the draft of the election law that had allocated a reserved seat for Hindus and Sikhs. Later, the government took a remarkable step forward in guaranteeing the rights of these minority groups that are considered as the most unprivileged minority community in Afghanistan. The government had acted in response to calls from civil organizations and Afghan Hindu activists in amending the election law.
The decision of the parliament in rejecting the government’s proposal for a set-aside set for Hindus and Sikhs is coming as a gross failure of the so-called ‘house of the nation’ which is supposed to protect rights of all Afghan citizens. The lawmakers proved incapable of showing commitment and resolve for protecting most vulnerable segments of the society. The parliament should have listened to the calls from the civil society and rights advocacy groups who were demanding a seat for the two minority groups as means of their political participation and protection. However, the lawmakers failed to listen to the call of their own conscious and decide based on the very common sense of all forces of democratic movements.
The Hindus and other minority communities in Afghanistan have long suffered from insecurity and widespread formal and informal prejudices against them. Even in the one recent decade after the Taliban regime toppled in 2001, the Hindus and Sikhs have been treated with prejudice wherever they live, work and communicate with others in the society. They have been threatened and sometimes attacked when they wanted to do their rituals. According to estimates, a large portion of Hindu populations have migrated in recent years to the neighboring countries as they have remained a main target of deep-rooted prejudices in the Afghan society.
The decision is not only depriving the Hindus and Sikhs from a parliamentary seat but it means that Afghan lawmakers and political elites behave with their own citizens as aliens. This is meaning that there would be no national determination for protection the most vulnerable parts of the society. Depriving Hindus and Sikhs from parliamentary representation is suggesting that there would no national will for fighting deprivation, discrimination and biases against minority groups. The move by the parliament raises the question whether is there a commitment among the political elite of Afghanistan to overcome the centuries-long experience of deprivation, prejudice and alienation.
The deprivation of the minority groups, in turn, means that Afghanistan continues to fail in nation-building and institutionalization of democratic values such as political participation of all citizens and protection for unprivileged groups such as minorities and women. An all-inclusive democracy in Afghanistan is only achieved through political participation and empowerment of the segments of the society that have not been well treated for centuries. Depriving Hindus and Sikhs from political participation is not only their deprivation but also a failure for Afghanistan which is struggling to find a way ahead for a better and prosperous future where all have equal opportunities and rights protected by law.