Hindu Kush to Thames -a journey into the heart of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities in London

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Multi-tal­ented Harki­ran Kaur Sodhi in­tro­duces this unique doc­u­men­tary on non-Pun­jabi Sikh im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion per­ceived through the eyes of the young doc­u­men­tary film­maker Prit­pal Singh who has done exemplary work of video documenting Afghan Sikhs through his TheDutchSikh YouTube channel. World Sikh News in­vites read­ers to watch the doc­u­men­tary on Sky Chan­nel 836 San­gat TV at 7 PM UK time and 8 PM Eu­ro­pean time on 21 May 2017.

My first year at UC Berkeley, I enrolled in a course offered once every four years: History and Culture of Afghanistan. From then began a safar of desperately seeking every possible grain of knowledge pertaining to the country. However, I remained deprived on one aspect – the Sikh community of Afghanistan. After doing countless presentations based on whatever I could find, I discovered Pritpal Singh’s efforts and depiction from a Sikh perspective. I was elated. Mission Afghanistan finally introduced the Afghan Sikh community to the world. Following up on Mission Afghanistan’s coverage of the plight of Sikhs living in Afghanistan, ‘From Hindu Kush to Thames’ sheds light on those who have emigrated. It is a one-of-a-kind documentary on a non-Punjabi Sikh immigrant population.

Once known for its thriving trade routes and culture, Afghanistan has now become known for its turbulent political history, causing many Afghans to migrate. Thousands of miles away from the homeland however, a small community of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have preserved the culture and traditions of the dwindling community.

Of Mission Afghanistan(for video see below) fame, Pritpal Singh focuses again on the Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities, but this time through the lens of Afghan immigrants to the UK, particularly Southall. By carefully juxtaposing the life left behind, with life in their adopted homes, the sacrifices and struggles are masked with vibrant displays of faith, music, food and dance. With touching depictions of the dilapidated Mandirs and Gurdwaras in Kabul, and impressive retention of their roots throughout generations on foreign soil, ‘Hindu Kush to Thames’ presents the the story of immigrants who are rarely covered in Afghan mainstream media, or Sikh media.  

Sikhs have been a vital part of the Afghan community. With interjections by historian Harbans Singh Handa, the audience learns of the various political positions held by Sikhs over the years in Afghanistan, even visiting the British home of the 3rd Sikh MP of Afghanistan: Gajender Singh. Other prominent personalities such as Inder Geet Singh are also introduced alongside second generation British-Afghans.

Strongly reflecting Afghan pride and ancestry, the documentary is primarily filmed in Farsi with English narration. ‘Hindu Kush to Thames is filmed and directed by Ariadne Bechthold with support of the Gharghasht Gharghakht and Afghan Voice Radio, UK. Strongly reflecting the shared sense of nostalgia amongst all the Afghans, the documentary shows their connectedness with home. Often misunderstood to have immigrated from India, this is the story of Afghanistan’s religious minorities who have immigrated to London and made a name for themselves.

How has this community managed to retain its unique and often misunderstood identity on foreign soil? Be sure to watch the documentary on May 21st at 7PM on TheDutchSikh’s channel to find out!

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