IWPR Report on Hindus' Plight Reaches Afghan President
After reading an IWPR article about the position of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan, President Hamed Karzai met community representatives and instructed officials to address the problems they face.
Tough Times for Afghan Hindus and Sikhs looked at discrimination against this tiny community, ranging from casual abuse to a campaign against a crematorium at Qalacha, southeast of the capital Kabul.
“Our women can’t go out,” said one interviewee, Kabul shopkeeper Bajan Singh. “When our children go to school, they are insulted by their classmates for being Hindu. A number of our Hindu brothers have been beaten and their money stolen.”
One concern raised by Sikhs and Hindus interviewed in the story was that the Afghan authorities appeared to ignore their rights and problems. They have held a number of demonstrations and other gatherings since last year to voice their concerns.
Government spokesman Rafi Ferdous told IWPR that President Karzai read the article himself, and as a result ordered swift action to help the community.
“Having studied the story, the president instructed that all the problems of Hindus and Sikhs outlined in it should be addressed,” Ferdous said, adding that a plan of action was shortly to be submitted to government as a basis for new measures.
Rawinder Singh, representative of the Hindu and Sikh community in Kabul, said that after the article appeared, the president met community figures to discuss issues of concern to them.
“When the reporter interviewed us, we didn’t think it would attract much attention, since we’d already had experience of other media that had no tangible effect,” he said. “However, the impact of the IWPR story exceeded all our expectations.”
One immediate outcome of Karzai’s focus on Hindu and Sikh concerns was a presidential decree issued on September 4 earmarking a seat for the community in the lower house of parliament. Sikhs and Hindus had long been pressing for this to happen. Legislators have a month to pass legislation establishing the position. At the moment, only the upper house has a Sikh member, Anarkali Kaur Honaryar.
Kabul’s deputy police chief, Daud Amin, said the force had recently received new orders to make greater efforts to ensure that Hindus and Sikhs were safe.
“We have instructed all our personnel across the country to assume further responsibility in providing security for these minorities,” he added.
Saber Qader, who reports for the German news agency DPA, said he was impressed at the impact this one article had achieved.
“The story… led to the president meeting Hindus and Sikhs in order to demonstrate his commitment to resolving their problems,” he said, adding, “I always read IWPR’s Afghan output as the stories are accurate and well-rounded, and hence have a good impact, too.”
Wakil Naibi, a reporter for Ariana TV, said the lesson was to make one’s stories interesting enough to grab people’s attention.
“Every reporter should make an effort to write accurate, well-documented, and properly rounded stories like the IWPR ones, as these will have an impact both on people and on officials,” Naibi said.