Sikh Federation – Sikhs to play significant role in determining overall outcome of the General Election as formal campaigning starts

London, 30 March 2015. The Sikh Manifesto was launched on 31 January at Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall and followed by launch events on 14 February at Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick and 26 February in the UK Parliament. Sikhs up and down the country have in the last eight weeks been pro-actively using the Sikh Manifesto when contacting and meeting sitting MPs and candidates.

The UK Parliament has been dissolved today and an intense campaign lasting just over 5 weeks has formally started.

Actions that Sikhs will take at the local and national level in this period will be critical, but Sikhs are well placed locally and nationally with the Sikh Manifesto to make a huge impact.

In the next 48-hours the Sikh Federation (UK) will be releasing dramatic information from two pulse surveys conducted in early January and late March of the voting intentions of the Sikh community in 60 key constituencies currently held by Conservatives or Liberal Democrats that Labour hope to gain to become the largest party and form the next government.

Labour and the Conservatives will want to take note of what the results of the two pulse surveys of 1,500 Sikh voters show and reflect on next steps to influence the Sikh vote.

The Times reported on 12 March 2015 that ‘British Sikhs could hold the balance of power in the general election. There are 500,000 Sikhs who can vote in Britain and . . . Sikh votes could make or break a party.’

Bhai Amrik Singh the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: ‘The pulse survey will demonstrate both parties have it all to play for as far as the vote of the Sikh community is concerned.’

The Sikh Manifesto has already achieved so much, not least increased awareness by Sikhs, non-Sikhs and politicians across the political spectrum of Sikh demands. The Conservative-led government and opposition politicians have already taken certain positive actions and made specific pledges with the Sikh vote in mind.

These range from an announcement about the possibility of a Sikh regiment in the British army, the Foreign Secretary’s visit to Punjab and opening new offices in Chandigarh, the promise of more Sikh ethos schools, tackling grooming and forced conversions working with the Sikh community and general support from politicians of all parties for a site in central London for a permanent monument for Sikh sacrifices in the First World War.

At the weekend the Sikh Federation (UK) held a meeting of Gurdwara representatives in the North East. There was an excellent response to the Sikh Manifesto from Gurdwara representatives from Newcastle, Sunderland, Darlington, Middleborough, South Shields and Stockton on Tees.

Events are being held in Wales (Cardiff) and the South West (Bristol) next week and the North West (Manchester) the week after. An event in Scotland (Glasgow) to coincide with a meeting with the Scottish National Party leadership will also follow.

Extensive behind the scenes work over the last 18 months and increased local lobbying with the Sikh Manifesto in the last eight weeks suggests the Labour leadership will be making specific pledges to counter the early running by the Conservatives, recovering from revelations in January 2014 relating to military assistance provided by the Thatcher led government to attack the Sikhs’ holiest shrine in Amritsar in June 1984.

The Conservative leadership is also believed to be considering specific pledges raised with them last summer as they realise the importance of the Sikh vote.

There is intense speculation the Labour leadership will back the call for an independent public inquiry into UK involvement in the June 1984 Sikh Genocide.

Other issues in the Sikh Manifesto where there is expected to be movement from the two main parties before 7 May is separate ethnic monitoring of Sikhs, a statutory Code of Practice relating to the 5Ks and Sikh turban and a permanent monument on central London to highlight Sikh sacrifices in the First World War.

The only question for the two parties is when and how these announcements will be made to extract the maximum benefit.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

Sikh24.com – UK Law Now Allows Turbans in All Workplaces

Sikh Council UK

London, UK, 30 March 2015. It comes after a tireless campaign by the Sikh Council UK to address an anomaly which meant Sikhs were exempt from wearing safety helmets in the high risk construction industry, but were required to wear safety helmets in lower risk workplaces, such as factories, warehouses and transport.

The loophole in the legislation has led to Sikhs facing discrimination and being dismissed from their employment for wearing their turban.

Secretary General of Sikh Council UK, Gurmel Singh said, “We are delighted that our long campaign has enabled a vital change in the law. It will make a real difference to Sikhs in the UK by increasing the number of workplaces that Sikhs can work in whilst maintaining their religiously mandated identity.”

He added, “I am grateful to members of the Sikh Council UK who have worked hard to achieve this milestone. I am also grateful to parliamentarians of all parties who have engaged with us on this and helped bring this about.”

The issue of wearing safety helmets in place of turbans has been an ongoing one for Sikhs since the passing of the Employment Act 1989. Under this legislation, turban wearing Sikhs have been exempt from wearing safety helmets on construction sites.

However, over the years safety helmets have been required to be worn in further workplaces but the exemption for turban wearing Sikhs was not similarly extended to these other lower risk work environments.

The loophole in the law has led to the Sikh Council UK dealing with a number of cases where Sikhs have faced disciplinary hearings and even dismissed from longstanding employment solely due to their refusal to remove their turban and wear a safety helmet.

It has also meant members of the Sikh community were unable to follow their chosen professions because of the insistence on the need to wear safety helmets.

An amendment was introduced to the Deregulation Bill by the Government with cross-party support in March 2014 following lobbying by Sikh Council UK. The Deregulation Bill was finally granted Royal Assent on 26th March 2015 enshrining the exemption in law.

Whilst the exemption for turban wearing Sikhs will extend to all workplaces, there will still be very limited exceptions, such as for specific roles in the armed forces and emergency response situations.

The change further provides protection for employers by extending the limitation on liability for employers in the construction industry to any work situation where a turban-wearing Sikh chooses not to wear a safety helmet.

Spokesperson for Sikh Council UK, Gurinder Singh Josan said, “This issue is very important for British Sikhs. In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s when Sikhs first arrived in the UK they could only obtain employment by firstly removing their religiously mandated turbans.

We welcome the recognition by UK parliament of the importance of the turban to observant Sikhs and that they should be allowed to be full citizens of the UK whilst being able to freely practice their faith.”

He added, “The Sikh Council UK will be publicising this new law within the Sikh community and will continue to work with Government and other agencies in producing guidance and information for employers and individuals.”

http://www.sikh24.com/2015/03/30/uk-law-now-allows-turbans-in-all-workplaces/#.VRuL7-GD4sA

Westminster – Portcullis House – Attlee Suite – Launch of Sikh Manifesto

26 February 2015

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Parliamentary Launch of Sikh Manifesto

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Parliamentary Launch of Sikh Manifesto

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Parliamentary Launch of Sikh Manifesto
John Spellar MP Labour

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Parliamentary Launch of Sikh Manifesto
Conservative PPS
Mark Reckless MP UKIP

To see all my pictures :

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More UK pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Hindu – 270 on death row in India, 64 sentenced last year: Amnesty

But no executions took place in 2014; globally, executions fell by a fifth, and two-thirds of the world has abolished the death penalty

Rukmini S.

New Delhi, 1 April 2015. Indian courts handed down at least 64 death sentences last year, but no executions took place, largely as a result of court rulings, new data from Amnesty International shows. Globally, executions fell by a fifth, and two-thirds of the world has abolished the death penalty.

China continues to execute the most people globally, thousands every year, the human rights group said in a new report published early on Wednesday, but does not publish any data. Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia accounted for nearly three-quarters of the rest of the world’s executions in 2014.

The United States of America executed 35 people, its fewest in 20 years.

In India, which saw the execution of Ajmal Kasab in late 2012 and Afzal Guru in early 2013 after a gap of eight years, several executions scheduled for 2014 were put on hold.

In January, a landmark Supreme Court ruling laid down guidelines for death sentences, including classifying delay in the disposal of mercy petitions as grounds for commutation, as also mental disability.

Information reported by the Death Penalty Research Project of the National Law University in Delhi indicated that 270 people were on death row in various Indian prisons, and eight mercy petitions were rejected in 2014.

Pakistan lifted a six-year moratorium on executions after the Peshawar school massacre. Seven people were executed in 2014. As of Tuesday, 66 people have been hanged since the lifting of the moratorium, and Amnesty estimated that 8,000 more persons were on death row.

“Governments using the death penalty to tackle crime are deluding themselves. There is no evidence that shows the threat of execution is more of a deterrent than any other punishment,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said in a statement.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/270-on-death-row-in-india-64-sentenced-last-year-amnesty/article7055183.ece

Published in: on April 1, 2015 at 6:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Statesman – Supreme Court to hold final hearing in Babri demolition conspiracy case

New Delhi, 31 March 2015. The Supreme Court on April 1 will take up for final hearing the CBI’s appeal challenging 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict discharging L K Advani and 19 other senior leaders of BJP and Hindu outfits of the charges of criminal conspiracy in the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.

A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra will hear the Central Bureau of Investigation’s appeal which was last listed before the apex court on February 5 when it was directed to be listed for final hearing on “1st April, 2014 before an appropriate bench”.

Though the matter is pending before the apex court since March 3, 2011, it for the first time that it is coming up for hearing after formation of the Narendra Modi government triggering speculation whether there would be any shift in the stand of the government from the one taken by the UPA government.

The notice on the CBI plea was issued on March 3, 2011 and the matter has been listed before the court 23 times.

The CBI which had moved the apex court on February 18, 2011, nearly nine months after the Allahabad High Court verdict of May 20, 2010, has yet to persuade the court on the justification for delay in challenging the high court order.

The CBI in its appeal before the apex court has said that the verdict discharging Advani and others of the offence of criminal conspiracy “is inconsistent with the previous judgment rendered by the Allahabad High Court on February 12, 2001″.

The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High court by its February 12, 2001 order had held that the trial court committed no illegality in taking “cognizance of joint consolidated charge sheet and all the offences were committed in the course of the same transaction to accomplish the conspiracy”.

The high court by its said order had noted that the “evidence for all the offences was almost the same”.

Besides Advani, other accused include senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders MM Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Hari Dalmiya, Sadhvi Ritambrara, and Mahant Avaidyanath.

http://www.thestatesman.com/news/india/sc-to-hold-final-hearing-in-babri-demolition-conspiracy-case/55000.html

The Tribune – Dhuri By-election; Five reasons why win crucial for Akalis

Sarbjit Dhaliwal, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 30 March 2015. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has entered the Dhuri by-election arena with all guns blazing as a victory at this juncture would mean a lot for the party.

The SAD has 58 MLAs in the 117-member Assembly while its alliance partner BJP has 12. The Dhuri victory would mean the SAD would have a majority on its own in the House and it would no longer be dependent for support on the saffron party.

Also, it would be the first time in the last eight years that the SAD would enjoy a clear majority in the Assembly. The win, if it is achieved, would enhance the political clout of the SAD vis-à-vis the BJP.

When the SAD and the BJP had come to power for the second consecutive term in March 2012, the SAD was three short of a majority on its own. The party first poached Congress MLA from Moga Joginder Pal Jain and got him re-elected on the SAD ticket.

The next it was Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, who resigned from the Congress as well as the Assembly and got re-elected on the SAD ticket.

The bypoll in Dhuri was necessitated following the resignation of Congress MLA Arvind Khanna.

The SAD has fielded Gobind Singh Longowal while the Congress has shown faith in Simar Partap Singh Barnala, grandson of former Akali Chief Minister Surjit Singh Barnala and son of former MLA Gaganjeet Singh Barnala.

Surjit Barnala along with Akali veterans Parkash Singh Badal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra at one point of time used to be known as the “powerful troika” of the SAD. After an association spanning several decades, the Barnalas parted ways with the SAD.

Akali Dal president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal himself has been monitoring the campaign in the constituency, divided by the party into 15 zones.

Sources said Sukhbir had made it clear to all Akali leaders that their performance in villages assigned to them would be taken into account while making appointments in the party in the future as well as deciding candidates for the next Assembly elections.

As the SAD could not perform that well in the Lok Sabha elections, the Dhuri win could help the party send a message to its rivals that it still held sway among the voters.

On the other hand, the Congress appears to be a divided house yet again. Its leadership seems to be engaged in settling personal scores and, thus, showing the party in poor light.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/5-reasons-why-win-crucial-for-akalis/60807.html

Westminster – Portcullis House – Attlee Suite – Launch of Sikh Manifesto

26 February 2015

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Parliamentary Launch of Sikh Manifesto
I do not remember who this is …

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Parliamentary Launch of Sikh Manifesto

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Parliamentary Launch of Sikh Manifesto

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Parliamentary Launch of Sikh Manifesto
Conservative PPC willing to support the Sikh monument
Marc Reckless MP, ex Conservative, now UKIP

To see all my pictures :

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More UK pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Dawn – Footprints: A living graveyard

Xari Jalil

Lahore, 31 March 2015. Easter is only a few days away, but far from any preparations, Youhanabad has become a vacant shell of a place, where a deathly calm hangs heavily in the air.

Shoe seller Sheikh Ghulam Mohiyuddin sits cautiously on his wooden bench, swatting flies. No one has come to buy his sandals. “I hope things become better.” He smiles bitterly and then adds, “On ordinary days at least a thousand people walked down this main bazaar.

Since the police have started picking up youngsters from here, there are hardly 50 people passing by.” As if to prove this he points at a woman who is walking quickly and nudging her little girl to speed up too. She even looks behind her suspiciously. Everyone, it seems, wants to get off the streets as soon as they can.

The silence is almost haunting. Half of the locality, it appears, has cleared out. Many families have left the city, fleeing to Kasur or even further. Others have moved within Lahore to live with relatives.

And there is a reason why only women or older men can be seen: over 100 young men have been ‘picked up’ by the police, as the law enforcers investigate the lynching of two Muslim men by a Christian mob in the aftermath of church bombings in the locality in mid-March.

A handful of Muslims do live in Youhanabad and Muslim shopkeepers also work there. But communal relations are hardly intimate. There is always a polite distance. Now, a greater rift has emerged between the two communities.

The Christians feel even more victimised after the focus of the news and investigation has shifted to the lynching rather

than the bomb blasts. Meanwhile, the Muslim communities living on either side (Nishtar Colony and Dullu Khurd), are full of antipathy regarding the lynching.

If it is a tragedy to be a target for terror groups or mobs, then it is an even worse torment to be sidelined afterwards.

Along with despair, anger is also evident, especially in private gatherings.

“If we remember the mob that killed two Muslims here, we must not forget the mob that killed Shama and Shahzad at a brick kiln,” says Martin Javed angrily.

Javed is an activist based in nearby Hamza Town, also a Christian locality. “And the numerous other crimes against Christians, which [were committed] by groups of angry and emotional [people], not militants. Murder does not have a religion.”

Almost all the residents say that the Christian youths who were wielding rods and canes and were involved in the lynching did not belong to Youhanabad. They were outsiders, perhaps from Kasur, and were a little too organised.

“If my family is trapped in fire, I will try to save them,” says Bahadur Masih. “However, never will I be killing everyone else. This was a big set-up. Those boys were organised, and some were even drunk.”

He smiles enigmatically. “Sometimes people are placed on location to sidetrack the issue at hand, or to [compromise] any kind of evidence.” He seals his lips, looks away and refuses to explain any further.

The lynching case has acquired a high profile and under new laws such as The Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014, suspects can be picked up without a warrant.

Waqas, who was injured in the blast and has shrapnel wounds in his arms, legs and stomach, recently came back from hospital. But despite the fact that he was not present when the lynching took place, he is still scared of becoming a ‘missing person’.

“They are suspecting those who were not even in the video. Is this any way to investigate? Maybe,” he answers himself.

“This is after all a police state.”

“There was a time when we were scared of more terrorists coming,” says Alishba, his mother. “Now the fear of the blast has been forgotten, and we have something new to fear: the police.” Her eyes reflect stifled panic.

It is not just the police that residents are furious at. It is also the political representatives. This was the very first time that Shahbaz Sharif won from this constituency.

“When he came for his speeches he painted a rosy picture,” says Matthew Clement, a resident. “He promised to turn Youhanabad into Paris. Forget Paris; he has turned it into a graveyard, where the dead walk the streets.”

He says that since the blasts took place the chief minister has not come to visit the people of the area. Even the cheques were distributed by the Lahore DCO.

To add to the worry, students have also missed their exams. Some have been picked up by the police, while others have not dared to step outside due to fear.

“There are no government-run schools in our locality and our Christian schools have all been closed, even for the board exams,” says student Anil Masih. “My brother was taken by the police and when my mother showed the cop his roll number, he snatched even that away.”

No flexibility has been shown by the examination board for the survivors of the church blasts, he says. Exams came and went and those who have missed them will suffer inevitably.

In this graveyard of people, everyone’s pain is their own.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1172911/footprints-a-living-graveyard

Published in: on March 31, 2015 at 6:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Times of India – Haryana not far behind Punjab in drug addiction: Experts

Chandigarh, 30 March 2015. Haryana is not far behind Punjab when it comes to addiction, this was one of the observations at a round table conference over drug menace at PHD Chamber of Commerce, Sector 31, on Sunday.

Ranbir Singh Battan, a psychologist – who is working on addiction in Punjab and Haryana – said: “Drugs have started setting its roots deep among youths in Haryana as well. The easy availability of medicinal drugs, changing lifestyle and stress are the reasons behind the addiction.

Major areas of Punjab touching boundaries of Punjab and Haryana are vulnerable in the view of addiction.”

Psychiatrists attached with de-addiction centers throughout Punjab explained how addiction is not only spoiling individual lives, but also families.

Dr Rana Ranbir Singh from Tarn Taran said: “We cannot ignore the theory of genetic in the case of addiction. If a father is alcoholic and an addict, there are very high chances that his child can also be an addict in the future. Apart from medical treatment, a serious and in-depth counseling is also required for curbing the addiction.”

Dr Pushkar Singh, who has experience of working in the field of de-addiction on international level, stressed on the adoption of methadone and advised that the medicine is more effective than the buprenorphine, which is being currently adopted by the state government for giving to addicts at the de-addiction centers.

A leading psychiatrist Dr Satish Thapar from Bathinda stressed that the society should look at addiction as a social evil and not as stigma. He claimed parents of addicts should openly come forward seeking assistance for their wards. Meanwhile, operators of several NGOs working in the field of de addiction were also participated in the round table conference.

Union Minister of State (Social Justice and Empowerment), Vijay Sampla, stressed on joint efforts of each section of society to curb the drug menace as only government cannot achieve the target of drug free society. He also motivated NGOs and de-addiction centers for increasing their reach to the addicts and affected people from this menace in Punjab.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Haryana-not-far-behind-Punjab-in-drug-addiction-Experts/articleshow/46740424.cms

Sikh24.com – Updated FBI Hate Crime Training Manual Includes Categories For The Sikh Community

SALDEF

FBI Takes Step to Address Needs of Sikh Americans and Other Communities

Washington DC, USA, 26 March 2015. The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) commented today on the release of the updated FBI Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual, considered the single most impor­tant and inclusive hate crime train­ing resource avail­able for law enforce­ment officials.

This version now includes a spe­cial considerations section to help local police offi­cials effectively identify and report the new categories of crime mandated for collection in 2015, including hate crimes directed at Sikhs, Arabs, and Hindus.

SALDEF, alongside Sikh advocates and other civil rights groups, worked closely to counsel FBI officials on the Sikh community’s needs throughout this process. We encourage the FBI to continue to improve the manual and law enforcement training to ensure appropriate classification of crimes where a Sikh is targeted for his or her articles of faith.

In 2010, Jasjit Singh, SALDEF’s executive director, first presented to the FBI’s Advisory Policy Board in Boston, making a case for the need for a Sikh category.

In February 2012, he subsequently met with then FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III on behalf of the Sikh community, alongside leaders of other civil rights groups including the Interfaith Alliance, Muslim Public Affairs Council and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Jasjit Singh commented, “The release of the updated Hate Crimes Tracking form and manual, a reform Sikh Americans and SALDEF have advocated towards for half a decade, marks a step towards ensuring accurate reporting of hate crimes committed against Sikhs, an important step that will ultimately aid the Sikh community as we continue to address the roots of anti-Sikh bias.

Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, South Asian, and Arab Americans have disproportionately faced senseless violence motivated by hate in recent years. We look forward to continuing our work with the FBI to ensure law enforcement is addressing the Sikh community’s needs.

Today reminds us why working together as partners is so important. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and only together will we address the root of this hate.”

Following the August 2012 attacks on the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, over 140 Members of Congress joined the years of calls by members of the Sikh American community with their partners Rep.

Joe Crowley, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. David Valadao, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein urging the FBI to track hate crimes against the Sikh American community. In 2013, the Department of Justice and the FBI announced they would begin to track hate crimes against Sikh Americans and other communities, beginning this year with the release of the new hate crimes tracking form.

The FBI’s manual also includes updated definitions and training scenarios to help officers better serve their diverse communities. SALDEF, using the findings of Turban Myths, the first-ever study on the public perception of Sikh Americans, shared the impacts of unconscious and implicit bias towards Sikhs in order to inform these future FBI trainings.

Turban Myths resulted from a collaboration between SALDEF and Stanford University researchers and continues to be covered by major media for its ability to pinpoint the roots of anti-Sikh bias in the United States. In 2015 and beyond, trainings will be conducted nationwide by certified Sikh American trainers as part our Law Enforcement Partnership Program.

http://www.sikh24.com/2015/03/26/news-alert-updated-fbi-hate-crime-training-manual-includes-categories-for-the-sikh-community/#.VRjoBuGD4sA

Published in: on March 30, 2015 at 6:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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