Sikh traders of Khyber district are migrating from the area due to insecurity.

Khadim Khan Afridi

Khyber district Sikh community, which is living in the district for about a century, are now leaving the area for other places of the country and  their departure is dimming the business activities in the markets of Bara and Tirah.

Papindar Singh, a resident of Kamarkhel Bara, is engaged in property business for past three decades in Bara Bazaar, told TNN that in the past there were more than 400 shops owned by Sikhs in Bara bazaar. However, he said that after 2005, when the situation started to deteriorate for them, many of the Sikhs left for other areas of the country.

He said that those remaining also shifted to Peshawar and Punjab.”They started to return to the Bara Bazaar after the return of internally displaced persons,” he said.

Papindar said that last year killing of two Sikh traders in Batatal area has also intensified the migration of Sikhs. “Sikhs business in the area drawing to a close,” he said.

He said that one of the slain traders, Ranjeet Singh family owned 10 shops in Bara Bazaar; however, now only one left. Rest of them shifted to Nankana and Punjab.

He said that currently there were 18 shops owned by Sikhs; however, a few of them were about to leave. Besides, he said that increasing rents were also dealing death blow to their businesses.

Besides, he said that after last year killing, FC started protecting Sikh traders in the day; however, the security has been abolished now.

Besides, he said that many of the families from the area have shifted to India including famous hakeem from Bara Maan Singh. Maan Singh is currently living in New Delhi.

Sikh traders of Tirah

Papinder said that there were 12 shops of Sikh traders in Tirah Maidan. However, he said that currently situation was not good for them and they were also trying to relocate from there.

He said that under the Lashkar-e-Islam, Sikh traders were forced to pay jizya tax in return for protection. However, he said that now Sikh traders are threatened to pay extortion money. Besides, he said that many of the Sikh owned lands and properties in Tirah and Khyber. However, he added that many of them have left now after selling their properties. “Presently only two Sikh families were living in Tirah area of Khyber,” he said.

Papinder said that authorities did not extend any help to them when they became internally displaced. In addition to this, they were also denied the Sameda grants grants, which were given to other traders of Bara Bazaar. Besides, he said that grants for minorities were spent in Jamrud and Landikotal.

He demanded the authorities to provide protection to them as well as grants from Sameda to revive their businesses.

Sikhs community in Khyber

Khyber district Sikh community has been living in the district since the times of Ranjeet Singh. Traditionally, they have enjoyed good relationships with Afridis and other tribesmen.

After the partition, majority of Sikhs left for India; however, local tribesmen sheltered the Sikhs in Orakzai and Khyber. The community later dabbled in business and some of them even shifted to other areas of the country.

One of the Bara’s bazaars was also known as Sikh Ghari.

Amir Singh, a resident of Malakdin Khel area told TNN that he run a business in Bara for three decades. He said that he along with 15 other Sikh traders shifted his business back to Bara in 2017 after the bazaar reopened.

However, lawlessness and inflation forced some of them to relocate again.

He said in past Bara Bazaar was safe place of Sikh traders; however, it was not the case anymore.

“Business was done by 70pc and declining day by day,” he said.

Amir said that in the past there were more than 300 shops in Bara bazaar were owned by Khyber district Sikh community. However, he added that now only 15 have been left. Besides, he said that Sikh IDPs did not return to Bara when displaced people were allowed to return to their homes.

What local traders say?

Anjuman Tajiran Bara, President Ali Muhammad Afridi, told TNN due to current inflation, trade activities in Bazaar were on decline. He said that the bazaar was badly affected due to over a decade long militancy and military operations.

“After the bazaar was reopened in 2016, we made intensive efforts to rehabilitate it,” he said.  Besides, he said that they also built their severed links with traders of rest of the country and asked them to return and start their business, thus boosting trading activities.

However, he said that ongoing inflation was badly affecting their businesses.

Besides, he said that after last year killing of Sikh traders in Batatal, many Sikh traders migrated to other areas after selling their businesses.

However, he added that security arrangements for the bazaar were very weak which led to incidents of robberies. He asked the DPO Khyber to deploy police personnel for bazaar security and install CCTV cameras.

Haji Gul Meen Afridi, another trader, said that raging inflation has badly hit the Bara bazaar. He said that peace was the foremost condition for the businesses to prosper. Besides, he demanded authorities to provide them with interest free loans.