Gurpreet Singh: Report on Kabul gurdwara attack raises questions about possible role of Indian agents

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      Almost three months after the killing of 25 Sikhs in a terrorist incident in Afghanistan, U.S.-based independent researchers have come out with a theory that counters official narrative. 

      Published by Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian affairs, and Bhajan Singh, a well-respected Sikh scholar and activist, Kite Fights: The Proxy Wars Behind the Kabul Gurdwara Massacre is based on close scrutiny of media reports.

      The attack on March 25, 2020, on a historic gurdwara was blamed on the Islamic State. A statement reportedly made by the group claimed that it was to avenge the repression of Muslims in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

      Kite Fights is likely to raise many eyebrows in New Delhi. The report points out that the incident came as the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India was facing international criticism for mistreating religious minorities, particularly Muslims.

      In all probabilities, the attack was like a god-sent opportunity for the Indian establishment for reasons well explained by Friedrich and Singh.

      Not only have attacks on Muslims spiked in India ever since the BJP came to power with a solid majority in 2014, the BJP government has arbitrarily abrogated special rights given to Kashmir and Jammu, the only Muslim-majority state. This occurred in August 2019, shortly after the party won a second term.

      Civil rights remain suspended in the disputed territory, which has been turned into heavily militarized zone to suppress any voices of dissent.

      Notably, when 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers had died during a suicide attack blamed on Kashmiri insurgents seeking freedom from India in February 2019, BJP goons started targeting innocent Kashmiri Muslims all over India. This polarization helped the BJP government win its second term, riding on a Hindu nationalist campaign.

      As if this were not enough, the BJP government passed a highly discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that only allows non-Muslim refugees to enter the country from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.  

      Sikhs have stood up for Muslims both in the wake of February 2019 suicide attack and against the CAA. They helped Kashmiri Muslims stranded in other parts of India to safely reach their homes and were in the forefront of the protests against CAA.

      The Sikh diaspora also came out to show its solidarity with Kashmiri Muslims during demonstrations held in the U.S. and Canada. This has not gone down well with the BJP, which has an agenda to assimilate Sikhs into the Hindu fold. 

      It is therefore logical to ask that why would Islamic extremists be targeting Sikhs in Afghanistan? Considering the timing of the Kabul attack, it sounds less convincing, as such an act would benefit the BJP government more than the jihadists.

      It is not surprising that BJP supporters tried to defend CAA in the aftermath of Kabul episode. They justified its implementation by citing the persecution of Sikhs in Afghanistan.

      It was like trying to kill two birds with one stone, by pitting Sikhs against Muslims and turning international attention toward what is happening to minorities in Afghanistan. 

      Even otherwise, the founding fathers of  Radhtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu supremacist organization of which BJP is a part, harboured expansionist designs in South Asia. They’ve always seen Afghanistan as part of Greater Hindu India, which they want to establish.

      Kite Fights explains this in detail and tells us how India has invested heavily in Afghanistan not only to maintain its supremacy in the region, but to neutralize Pakistan by sponsoring an insurgency in its southwestern region of Balochistan.

      India often accuses Pakistan of aiding and abetting an Islamic militancy in Kashmir, whereas its own involvement in Pakistan’s Balochistan province is no different.

      Pakistan’s decision in November 2019 to open the Kartarpur Corridor has further frustrated the BJP. Kartarpur is close to the Indo-Pak border and where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, spent the final years of his life. It was separated from most Sikhs due to the partition of Muslim-dominated Pakistan and Hindu-dominated India in 1947. Relations between the two countries have never been stable.

      Regardless, Sikhs in India have been seeking direct access to Pakistan’s important shrines, including the one at Kartarpur, for years. By allowing visa-free entry to Kartarpur through a corridor, Pakistan has won the hearts of the Sikh community, much to the dismay of BJP. It continues to maintain hawkish posture toward its neighbours.

      This is despite the fact that Pakistan itself has become a victim of the Islamic terrorism that it once supported during the Cold War era. According to the report, the group being blamed for the Kabul massacre is also targeting Pakistanis.

      With the BJP government in power, the Indian establishment has turned more aggressively toward setting up a permanent base in Afghanistan. Both countries see Pakistan as a common enemy and hold it responsible for creating the Frankenstein monster of Jihadi extremism to help the U.S. against the Soviets in the 1980s. Eventually, that extremism spilled over to India.

      It is for this reason that India has been supporting Afghanistan both militarily and politically.  

      That the Research and Analysis Wing, an Indian spy agency, is active in Afghanistan is not a secret. It’s unlikely to be a plain coincidence that India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) had been looking for one of the suspects involved in the Kabul attack since 2017.

      Abdul Khayum was from Kerala, India, and was on the NIA radar for being involved in multiple terror plots.

      Therefore, the possibility of its agents being complicit in the Gurdwara attack cannot be ruled out.

      The Indian news channel Times Now linked the Kabul gurdwara attack to a Muslim extremist from Kerala. A new report questions that assumption.

      The report drew a few parallels between the events in Kabul and those in India and Sri Lanka in the past to conclude how such killings have helped governments that patronize rogue elements to their advantage.

      Those who are really concerned with what is happening in South Asia need to take out time to read Kite Fights thoroughly and with an open mind. One may agree or disagree with interpretation of certain facts, but their authenticity cannot be challenged.

      As the report rightfully says: “Official narratives, ideologies, and authorities must all pass interrogation to be deemed trustworthy and true”. 

      Gurpreet Singh is a cofounder of Radical Desi and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.