The Hindustan Times – Ahead of court verdict on dera chief, police in Sirsa ready with riot gear

Alerts have already been issued by Punjab and Haryana as the dera has following concentrated in the inter-state border districts of the two states, which have sought central forces from the Union home ministry.

Bhaskar Mukherjee and Richa Sharma

Hisar/Sirsa, 19 August 2017. A day after a special CBI court in Panchkula reserved its verdict in the rape trial of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, alias MSG, for August 25, the police in Haryana’s Sirsa, where the sect has its headquarters, held a security drill at the Police Lines on Friday to deal with any untoward incident in case of a verdict against the sect head.

Alerts have already been issued by Punjab and Haryana as the dera has following concentrated in the inter-state border districts of the two states, which have sought central forces from the Union home ministry.

Police in Panchkula, Mohali and Chandigarh have cancelled leave of the staff. The case goes back 15 years, and the allegations are that the dera head sexually exploited at least two female followers.

On Friday, deputy superintendent of police (DSP), headquarters, Vijay Kumar asked a Peace Committee formed by the Sirsa district administration to hold talks with the dera authorities. Riot gear was also distributed among police personnel.

The DSP said, “We have called in eight companies of the Haryana police from adjoining districts Fatehabad, Hisar, Jind and Bhiwani. If required, we will call paramilitary forces too”.

“We have also started training our women police force accordingly,” the DSP further said, adding, “Intelligence agencies are keeping a close eye on Dera Sacha Sauda followers and giving minute-to-minute details.

Meanwhile, superintendent of police (SP) Ashwin Shenvi, who was shifted from Sonepat to Sirsa, was to join duty by Friday evening. Ambala deputy commissioner Prabhjot Singh has also been transferred to Sirsa.

After the peace panel meet held by DSP Vijay at the sadar police station, he said, “The committee comprises elders, mediapersons, officials from the administration, and teachers.

The members have assured us that they will talk to the dera authorities and ask them to maintain law and order.” Sources said a meeting of the district administration and police officials, chaired by additional deputy commissioner (ADC) Munish Nagpal, was also conducted at the mini-secretariat.

In Hisar, SP Manisha Chaudhary and DC Nikhil Gajraj also conducted a meeting with officials; and police forces carried out a drill at the police lines.

On Thursday, thousands of dera followers had gathered near the Sirsa court complex, where Gurmeet Ram Rahim was supposed to appear before a CBI court through video-conferencing.

The dera head, however, did not appear before the court citing medical grounds. While talking to HT, a follower, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The sentiments of the followers are hurt. We will not tolerate anything against our pita-ji (father), our guru-ji!

However, we are sure nothing will happen to him, and justice will prevail.” Another said, “We are sure that maharaj-ji will get justice as all the charges of murder and rape levelled against him are baseless.”

When contacted, dera spokesperson Aditya Insan said, “Not even a single person from the dera management has issued any kind of directions to the followers.”

The dera head not only has criminal cases but has also has a festering run-in with Sikh radicals for having allegedly dressed up as the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, in 2007 among other instances considered blasphemous by a section of Sikhs. – Sikhs in Canada host successful leadership event

Balpreet Singh

Ottawa, 18 August 2017. The World Sikh Organization of Canada held its third annual Sikh Youth Leadership Institute (SYLI) in Ottawa this past weekend. After taking part in a rigorous application process, twenty Sikh youth between the ages of 18-25 were selected to take part in the program.

The attendees came from coast to coast, including Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. More than half of this year’s participants were Sikh women.

Participants gathered in Ottawa from August 11-14 to receive leadership training in emotional intelligence, advocacy, community building, and social justice. Attendees also brainstormed social initiatives for their communities, and created plans for their implementation.

On the first day, Puneet Mann, VP of Customer Experience at Scotiabank helped students understand and analyze different leadership styles. Workshops helped students develop their emotional intelligence and grow their self-awareness.

The second day of the program consisted of workshops and panel discussions featuring prominent Sikhs who are leaders in their fields.

The business panel composed of Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind Inc; Karan Walia, the co-founder and CEO of Cluep and Parveen Kaur, consultant for the Public and Professional Affairs Department at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, spoke to students about their experiences as successful Sikhs in the corporate world.

Bhupinder Singh Hundal, media consultant and commentator on Hockey Night in Canada-Punjabi Edition lead a workshop on media engagement.

The Sikh Youth Leadership Institute also hosted a multi-partisan political panel which included MP Ruby Sahota, Brampton City Councilor Gurpreet Dhillon and former Minister of State-Multiculturalism, Honarable Tim Uppal.

The event was concluded by a Sikhi and leadership workshop lead by WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh.

An attendee from Calgary, Simona Kaur said, “I honestly don’t know where to begin. This past week has been nothing short of life changing for me. Huge thank you to the organizers for putting together a seamless agenda for us…

The workshops turned out to be full of insights and wisdom drops and with a wonderful blend of Sikhi in them. Also, thank you for pushing the importance of powerful women in the community.”

WSO President, Mukhbir Singh said, “the Sikh Youth Leadership Institute has been one of our most successful initiatives and has resulted in the empowerment of young Sikhs from across Canada and has helped bring together a network of young activists who are making a difference in their communities.

We are proud of the work of our past years’ graduates and are look forward to the contributions of this years’ cohort.”

The WSO is a charity organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

The donations page for the WSO provides a wonderful way of supporting this high profile Sikh organization that requires much input from the Sikh community.

From Den Haag Centraal to Haarlem and back

Den Haag Centraal
Going to Haarlem
15 July 2017

RandstadRail TramTrain 

NS Doubledecker and RandstadRail TramTrain

Haarlem and Haarlem NS Station
15 July 2017

Meester Cornelisstraat, near Santpoortplein
My friends from my student days celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary

NS Station Haarlem – Kruisweg

NS Station Haarlem

NS Station Haarlem
Bay platforms

To see all my pictures:

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Times of India – Doklam standoff fails to affect services at Shanghai gurdwara

Yudhvir Rana

19 August 2017. Amritsar: The Doklam standoff between India and China has failed to affect the only gurdwara in Shanghai, which continues to hold weekly darbar and perform other religious services as usual.

“There is no war mongering or even any such hype here among the locals. Whatever we hear is largely from the Indian media,” said Satbir Singh while speaking to TOI over phone from Shanghai on Friday.

Satbir has converted a portion of his house in Shanghai into a gurdwara, where saroop of Guru Granth Sahib is installed and a weekly darbar held. Devotees comprising Sikhs and Hindu, including Sindhis, come to the gurdwara frequently. According to Satbir, there are only eight Sikh families, besides Hindu and Sindhi, in Shanghai.

The other two gurdwaras in China are at Keqiao and Yiwu in Zhejiang province.

While denying that Indo-China standoff was a topic of discussion among locals, he said the Chinese locals had very cordial relations with the Indians in Shanghai. “Many a times, some of them even accompany their Hindu, Sikh or Sindhi friends to the gurdwara and feel blessed,” he said.

Satbir’s father had worked for about 30 years in China and shifted to Shanghai from Hong Kong about 12 years ago. On an average, the weekly gurdwara darbar has a gathering of around 60 people. “There are other people who visit the gurdwara daily,” he said.

Sushil Balani, who has business ties with China, said there was more of media hype than anything on ground. “Till now, business is as usual with China. All the transactions are normal, many businessmen are still in China and none of them have returned,” he said.

Dawn – This is very much Zia’s Pakistan, the most influential man after Jinnah

Sibtain Naqvi

Op/Ed, 18 August 2017. Nisid Hajari, in his Midnight’s Furies, writes that Mohammad Ali Jinnah was deeply resentful of the way Gandhi interspersed religion and politics, and is recorded by one colonial governor to have said that “it was a crime to mix up politics and religion the way he had done.”

Jinnah believed that this practice paves the way for religious chauvinism on all sides.

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan.

You may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” he had guaranteed the people who were about to inherit a new homeland, in his presidential address to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi on 11 August, 1947.

Such ideals were the foundation laid down by the Father of the Nation. 70 years later, we find religion and politics inseparable. Today, as we scramble to find some semblance of evidence that we have progressed as a nation, we only pull the wool over our eyes.

The Pakistan of today is a country steeped in bigotry. We have a come a long way, but unfortunately not so much our pluralistic ideals. They have somehow been lost to time.

In today’s Pakistan, an octogenarian man not of the faith decreed to be the national religion, will be tortured if he does not accord our rituals the ‘proper respect’. A chipboard factory belonging to a community our nation has outcast will be torched and the places of worship of minorities attacked and looted.

Recently, a survey was conducted to commemorate 70 years of Pakistan and people from all parts of the country, from all walks of life were asked to name the person whom they considered to be the most influential Pakistani after Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

The nominees included politicians, past prime ministers, military dictators and others who have played a role in shaping this country. The results revealed that the majority of people voted for Edhi.

There is no doubt about Edhi’s contributions to Pakistan. For decades, he had been the succor for the destitute and marginalised. If the ranking was based on good deeds, Edhi should certainly rank at the top. His stature as one of the world’s greatest humanitarians stands uncontested.

However, and it pains me to say, influence is measured by lasting impact across society. This influence can be positive or negative.

An influential person does not necessarily have to be a saint, but one who has caused a seismic shift in the nation’s history and the lives of its people. He/she changes the way we think, act and behave.

In truth, how many people have been impacted by Edhi other than the ones who have received help through his foundation?

The latter owe their very lives to him but if you consider the 200 million who constitute this country, how many of them espouse Edhi’s values in their daily lives? In fact, his son Faisal Edhi publicly said that donations to the Edhi Foundation have decreased after his father’s death.

The poll results are an exercise in self-pleasure for those who voted, who hold the erroneous belief that Edhi is an active influence in the lives of Pakistanis and the institutions of this county. The truth is far starker.

This may surprise, amaze or dismay many, but the most influential Pakistani of the past 70 years is General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq.

Political leaders exert overwhelming influence on society due to the nature of their positions. In his 11 years of rule, Zia not only wielded absolute power but also altered the political and societal fabric of the country. Consider the repercussions of his stay in office nearly 30 years after his death.

Let us start from the Constitutional amendments he introduced that toppled many governments. Article 58 2(b) of the 8th Amendment, introduced in 1985, was instrumental in removing Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo in 1988.

Later, Presidents Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari resorted to the Article to dismiss the governments of Benazir Bhutto (twice, in 1990 and 1996) and Nawaz Sharif in 1993. The Article was finally removed via the Thirteenth Amendment in 1997 by the second Nawaz Sharif government.

Then consider Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution that have been in the news for the past few weeks. Although part of the 1973 Constitution, Articles 62 and 63, in their original form, had not made it mandatory for a legislator to be Sadiq and Ameen.

Later, during Zia’s tenure, the two clauses were made part of the Articles and amended in 1985 by Item 16 of the Schedule, which gave the dictator further power to remove elected prime ministers. Zia could not put them to use, but for 32 years they have loomed dangerously over the political landscape.

Perhaps even more than the political arena, Zia’s influence permeates Pakistani society. He passed broad-ranging legislation as part of Pakistan’s ‘Islamisation’, effectively promoting a holier than thou culture that has eventually crystallised into religious intolerance, taking the country down the path of extremism.

Ian Talbot, in his book Pakistan, a Modern History writes, “Pakistan during the period 1977–1988… aspired to be an ideological state… the goal of an Islamic state was deemed to be its main basis”.

Zia’s policies led to Sharia benches and the Federal Sharia Court, and replacement of parts of the Pakistan Penal Code with the 1979 Hudood Ordinance, which particularly hampered women’s rights.

Under him, madrassas received state funding, most of them from the Deobandi and Wahabi school of thought. The 1979 Zakat Ordinance worsened sectarian relations.

From the way we dress, speak, and think, the Pakistani society of today bears little resemblance to the one in 1977 and Zia is the principle architect of this change.

It is a sign of Zia’s continuing legacy that an extremist party such as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat holds a provincial seat and groups like the Jamat ud Dawah see a chance at entering mainstream politics.

Zia was a political genius who did something none of his fellow military dictators could do: create a constituency. General Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf had similarly long tenures and for a while enjoyed popular support but could not sustain it.

Zia, through the societal changes and clever use of patronage, created the constituency that also served the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad and later inherited by the PML-N. The broad swathes of conservative Punjab that forms the bedrock of the PML-N and has voted for the party since the 1990s would have wholeheartedly voted for Zia as well.

Therefore, it stands to reason that had he not perished in an air crash, Zia could have relinquished his uniform if he wanted and still carried on successfully as a civilian politician.

Make no mistake, this is very much Zia’s Pakistan, not Edhi’s and not even Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s. The Quaid-e-Azam may have played a key role in creating the country but it is unrecognisable from the one he had envisioned. His policies of religious tolerance, welfare, and role of state institutions have been overturned.

A simple read through his speeches makes that clear.

Regarding the armed forces, he said, “Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people. You do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted.” Military coups make a mockery of that statement.

Espousing religious harmony, rule of law and other virtues, Jinnah would have been sidelined by the state, much like how his sister was.

Let us not delude ourselves. Welcome to Zia-land.

The Indian Express – Rahul Gandhi alleges RSS is getting into judiciary, media, army; BJP says unworthy of reply

Gandhi said, “The RSS knows that its ideology cannot win elections in India. Hence, people of the RSS are installing their people one by one in every institution. Be it the Press, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, people of RSS ideology are being put in every institution.”

Anand Mishra

New Delhi, 18 August 2017. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi sparked a political storm Thursday by alleging at a gathering of Opposition leaders that the RSS was installing people of its ideology in institutions like the Army, the judiciary and the media.

Reacting sharply to the charge, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described Gandhi’s remarks as “ochchi baat (cheap talk)” and said that they were “demeaning” and “do not even deserve a reply”.

Prasad also said that it was Gandhi’s grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi who had spoken about a “committed judiciary” during the Emergency.

Addressing Opposition leaders from over a dozen parties, invited by JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav to gather under the theme of “Saajha Virasat Bachao (Save Composite Culture)”, Gandhi said, “The RSS knows that its ideology cannot win elections in India. Hence, people of the RSS are installing their people one by one in every institution.

Be it the Press, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, people of RSS ideology are being put in every institution.”

The Congress leader alleged that the ultimate aim of RSS was to eliminate the right to vote “because they know that as long as the one-person-one-vote system remains in the country, they will not be able to do this”.

“The day when they will be able to install people from RSS in the Army, in the bureaucracy, in the media, the county will be theirs. Then they will tell you, tell us that the country does not belong to you, it belongs to us,” he said.

Praising Yadav’s efforts to bring together all Opposition leaders on one platform, Gandhi said, “On the one hand are those people who say the country belongs to them. On the other hand are those who say that they belong to the country. On the one hand are those persons who want to loot this country. On the other hand are those people who want to give something to the nation.”

Taking aim at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi claimed that the Government’s flagship Make in India programme had “totally failed” and that the country was swamped by Chinese products.

“Modiji says we need Swachh Bharat (Clean India), we say we need Sach Bharat (Truthful India),” said Gandhi, while also referring to unemployment and farmers’ suicides.

Reacting to Gandhi’s comments, BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said, ”The most objectionable thing he said was that BJP is packing the judiciary and the media with its own people and will change the Constitution. But then, it is not unexpected from Rahul Gandhi.

His grandmother had talked about a committed judiciary during the Emergency. Many a place, judges were superseded. The political training of Rahul Gandhi and the political heritage of Rajiv Gandhi has been very unclear as far the independence of the judiciary is concerned. I condemn this utterly irresponsible statement of Rahul Gandhi.”

Rahul Gandhi alleges RSS is getting into judiciary, media, Army; BJP says unworthy of reply

The Tribune – Muktsar man brutally attacked in Auckland (New Zealand)

Architt Wats, Tribune News Service

Muktsar, 17 August 2017. A 26-year-old man from Punjab has been identified as victim of a brutal assault in Auckland.

A police spokesperson said earlier in the day to New Zealand’s 1 NEWS that the man had been attacked by someone wielding a baseball bat in Takanini on Tuesday night, and investigations were ongoing.

An assistant sub-inspector from Muktsar identified the victim as his son Satpal Singh.

Ajmer Singh, posted at Sadar Malout police station, said his son had been in New Zealand since November 2013, having first gone there to study, and had just got his work visa.

Singh said in a statement that his son was attacked at about 4.20 pm Indian Time on Tuesday and he was unaware of why the attack took place, but the attacker made away with his son’s cell phone.

“Satpal’s roommate Sukhpal called to tell me that he had been attacked when he was on a phone call. He had a severe head injury and been hospitalised, but is reportedly out of danger.”

Den Haag: Den Haag Centraal

Den Haag Centraal
High level tram stops
15 July 2017

Tram 6 to Leidschendam Noord

RandstadRail TramTrain

TramTrain to Leideschendam / Leidsenhage

Den Haag Centraal
Going to Haarlem
15 July 2017

NS Doubledecker – Not my train

NS Sprinter – Also not my train

RandstadRail TramTrain

To see all my pictures:

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

ANI – Barcelona terror attack: Sikh Gurdwaras in Barcelona lend helping hand

Barcelona-Catalunya-Spain, 18 August 2017. Sikh Gurdwaras in Barcelona are lending helping hand at the time of crisis after at least 13 persons have been killed and more than 50 injured in a terrorist attack in Las Ramblas district.

A Sikh man, Harjinder Singh Kukreja from Punjab took to Twitter to inform people that Gurdwaras in Barcelona are offering help to those who are in need.

“If anyone needs shelter, food, Sikh houses of worship in the Spanish city are open for all,” Kukreja tweeted.

In his tweet, Kukreja has posted information of two Gurdwaras in Barcelona: Gurdwara Nanaksar Sahib located at 08903, Carrer Rafael Campalans, 23, 08903 L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and can be contacted at +34 666 11 25 45, while Sikh Gurudwara Gurdarshan Sahib Ji located at Carrer de l’Hospital and can be reached at +34 934 43 88 82.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that there is no report of any Indian casualty in the attack. Indians, who are in an emergency, can contact the Indian embassy in Spain at +34-608769335.

“I am in constant touch with Indian Embassy in Spain. As of now, there is no report of an Indian casualty,” Swaraj tweeted.

Police in Barcelona have asked people around that region to stay indoors. They have urged those concerned about friends and family to use social media, rather than cellphone calls to avoid overloading phone networks.

Facebook also activated its safety check mechanism, allowing users near #Barcelona attack to mark themselves as safe.

The Hindu – President Ram Nath Kovind to visit Leh on Monday

The President’s visit will come amid the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam

Sandeep Phukan

New Delhi, 17 August 2017. President Ram Nath Kovind will make a day-long trip to Leh next Monday to honour the 14 Corps of the Army headquartered in Ladakh, amid the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam and just days after they clashed in the Ladakh region.

Mr Kovind will present the Presidential Colours, a rare military honour, to the infantry unit of the 14 Corps in recognition of its exceptional service. But the importance of the Supreme Commander addressing the troops in the border region will not be lost. However, sources in the Rashtrapati Bhavan said the visit was a pre-scheduled one.

Ladakh shares an open border with both Pakistan and China. In recent times, the relations between Indian and Chinese troops have hit a rough patch here too, because of the stand-off at Doklam in the Sikkim sector.

Senior officers of the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army met at Chushul (Leh) met on Wednesday to ease the tensions after the troops were engaged in a scuffle and stone-throwing.

On August 15, Indian troops claimed that the Chinese troops along the Pangong Lake tried to cross over twice. They were stopped by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police before a skirmish started. One-third of the 135-km-long Pangong Lake is on the Indian side and the rest on the Chinese side.

Against this backdrop, a presidential visit assumes significance, though the Rashtrapati Bhavan sources told The Hindu that “too much” should not be read into it.

The last time a President visited Ladakh was in September 2010, when Pratibha Patil travelled to the strategic region after a cloudburst caused large-scale devastation.