Sikhs in Peshawar weigh exit amid rise in targeted killings

    The recent targeted killing of Sikh shopkeeper Diyal Singh in Peshawar has sent shockwaves throughout the community, causing widespread panic and fear.

    Herjeet Singh, a young imitation jewellery dealer in Peshawar’s Karkhano market, says that his entire community was ‘heartbroken’ and terrorised by the killing of Diyal Singh whom he described as a ‘harmless soul’.

    According to a media report, Herjeet said that the minority communities, especially Sikhs, were feeling very insecure in Peshawar and surrounding localities as a minority person was killed after every seven or eight months but the security agencies had failed to curb these attacks.

    Harjeet Singh’s family migrated to Peshawar from Bara in Khyber tribal district 17 years ago when Bara was under the control of the proscribed Lashkar-i-Islam led by Mangal Bagh.

    He said that Diyal Singh had four children, including three sons and a daughter, and was the only breadwinner for his family.

    “Owing to his poor financial status, our community would hire him as watchman during festive occasions so that he could earn some extra money apart from his small herbal shop,” Singh said.

    Malak Balendar Singh, a spokesman for the Sikh community in Bara, said that the grandfather of the deceased migrated from Tirah valley three decades ago and settled down in Kalanga, Akkakhel area of Bara.

    He said that Diyal Singh was running his herbal shop in Bhatta Thal locality, adjacent to Bara Bazaar but had to shift to Muhallah Jogan Shah in Peshawar in May last year when two of his close relatives, Ranjeet Singh and Kuljeet Singh, were killed by unidentified gunmen.

    He said the deceased was very concerned about the safety of his family and had shifted to Peshawar with the hope that he would be safe while living close to other Sikh families in Mohallah Jogan Shah.

    Jaspal Singh, another Sikh trader in Karkhano market, said that while a majority of the Sikh families had long shifted to either Peshawar or other cities of the country, 29 Sikh shopkeepers were still running their small businesses in Bara while another 19 had shops in Bhatta Thal market.

    He said none of these Sikh shopkeepers had residences in Bara or any other locality of Khyber as they come back to Peshawar in the evening.

    “Our relationship with the local community is very cordial and friendly but still we feel insecure as a number of the minority community members had fallen prey to targeted killings in the recent past,” he said.

    He said hundreds of Sikh families previously residing in the Tirah valley for over a century had now deserted their homes and had migrated to other comparatively safer places.

    He, however, added that Peshawar too had of late become a ‘very threatening’ place for his community and they were now seriously thinking of a ‘mass migration’ to Punjab.

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