BBC News – Why are Indian women wearing cow masks?

Geeta Pandey

New Delhi, 28 June 2017. A photography project which shows women wearing a cow mask and asks the politically explosive question, whether women are less important than cattle in India, has gone viral in the country and earned its 23-year-old photographer the ire of Hindu nationalist trolls.

“I am perturbed by the fact that in my country, cows are considered more important than a woman, that it takes much longer for a woman who is raped or assaulted to get justice than for a cow which many Hindus consider a sacred animal,” Delhi-based photographer Sujatro Ghosh told the BBC.

India is often in the news for crimes against women and, according to government statistics, a rape is reported every 15 minutes.

“These cases go on for years in the courts before the guilty are punished, whereas when a cow is slaughtered, Hindu extremist groups immediately go and kill or beat up whoever they suspect of slaughter.”

The project, he says, is “his way of protesting” against the growing influence of the vigilante cow protection groups that have become emboldened since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power in the summer of 2014.

“I’ve been concerned over the Dadri lynching [when a Muslim man was killed by a Hindu mob over rumours that he consumed and stored beef] and other similar religious attacks on Muslims by cow vigilantes,” Ghosh said.

In recent months, the humble cow has become India’s most polarising animal.

The BJP insists that the animal is holy and should be protected. Cow slaughter is banned in several states, stringent punishment has been introduced for offenders and parliament is considering a bill to bring in the death penalty for the crime.

But beef is a staple for Muslims, Christians and millions of low-caste Dalits (formerly untouchables) who have been at the receiving end of the violence perpetrated by the cow vigilante groups.

Nearly a dozen people have been killed in the past two years in the name of the cow. Targets are often picked based on unsubstantiated rumours and Muslims have been attacked for even transporting cows for milk.

Ghosh, who is from the eastern city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), says he became aware of “this dangerous mix of religion and politics” only after he moved to Delhi a few years ago and that “this project is a silent form of protest that I think can make an impact”.

So earlier this month, during a visit to New York, he bought the cow mask from a party shop and, on his return, began shooting for the series, taking pictures of women in front of tourist hotspots and government buildings, on the streets and in the privacy of their homes, on a boat and in a train, because “women are vulnerable everywhere”.

“I photographed women from every part of society. I started the project from Delhi since the capital city is the hub of everything – politics, religion, even most debates start here.

“I took the first photo in front of the iconic India Gate, one of the most visited tourist places in India. Then I photographed a model in front of the presidential palace, another on a boat in the Hooghly river in Kolkata with the Howrah bridge as the backdrop.”

His models have so far been friends and acquaintances because, he says, “it’s such a sensitive topic, it would have been difficult to approach strangers”.

Two weeks ago when he launched the project on Instagram, the response was “all positive. It went viral within the first week, my well wishers and even people I didn’t know appreciated it.”

But after the Indian press covered it and put out their stories on Facebook and Twitter, the backlash began.

“Some wrote comments threatening me. On Twitter people started trolling me, some said I, along with my models, should be taken to Delhi’s Jama Masjid [mosque] and slaughtered, and that our meat should be fed to a woman journalist and a woman writer the nationalists despise. They said they wanted to see my mother weep over my body.”

Some people also contacted the Delhi police, “accusing me of trying to instigate riots and asking them to arrest me”.

Ghosh is not surprised by the vitriol and admits that his work is an “indirect comment” on the BJP.

“I’m making a political statement because it’s a political topic, but if we go deeper into the things, then we see that Hindu supremacy was always there, it has just come out in the open with this government in the past two years.”

The threats, however, have failed to scare him. “I’m not afraid because I’m working for the greater good,” he says.

A positive fallout of the project going viral has been that he’s got loads of messages from women from across the globe saying they too want to be a part of this campaign.

So the cow, he says, will keep travelling.

To see the pictures : – Sikh Community Protests Outside Indian PM Modi’s Business Event in USA

Don’t invest in Modi
chants and placards as business event takes places in Virginia USA

Sikh24 Editors

Washington DC-USA, 26 June 2017. While the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a select gathering at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner earlier today, hundreds of Sikh rights activists were present displaying placards reading “Don’t Invest in India”, outside the hotel.

The rally focused on the atrocities of the Modi administration, whose practices have killed Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and other minorities living in India.

“Since religious freedom functions at the core of American values, we have asked the members of the Congress to stand against the persecution of Sikhs under Modi regime,” said attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ.

“Sikhs in India are targeted for campaigning to restore their separate religious identity and their inalienable rights to self-determination.”

Further awareness rallies will take place, particularly today, when Modi meets POTUS Trump at a summit at the White House.

Last week, SFJ representatives met with dozens of U.S. Congressmen, Senators and their staffs in an effort to urge the establishment of a Congressional delegation visit to Punjab to assess, report and apprise the U.S. Congress of the recent spate of human rights violations against the Sikh community.

In support of efforts to establish such a delegation, SFJ issued a full memorandum to every member of Congress.

Sint-Truiden – Halmaal Gurdwara

Sint-Truiden Halmaalweg
31 May 2017

Sint-Truiden – Halmaalweg

Sint-Truiden – Halmaalweg

Sint-Truiden – Halmaalweg


Gurdwara Sangat Sahib

OKAN students visiting the Gurdwara

Gurdwara Sangat Sahib
Halmaal Dorp 20
B-3800 Sint-Truiden – High school denounces student’s offensive tweets about Sikh man on flight

Benjamin Fearnow

Posted with permission from International Business Times

USA, 27 June 2017. A public school in the Indianapolis area has denounced the “offensive, racially insensitive” Snapchat posts a student sent about a Sikh passenger aboard a flight to Indianapolis.

The student at Eastern Hancock High School posted a Snapchat that circled the Sikh man wearing a turban and read, “Never mind I might not make it to Indy.” The post began gaining traction online after Simran Jeet Singh, a religion professor at San Antonio’s Trinity University, began sharing the post on Twitter and ridiculing the student.

An additional post from the student read, “Please god just let the man sleep,” as it showed the Sikh man resting his head. Another read, “Update I’m still alive J” and yet another post showing the man in a turban read, “Ok he just walk to the back of the Plane then to front then to his seat” before showing several shocked emojis.

The tweets received thousands of replies – the majority of which criticized the captions.

“As a Sikh who flies frequently, I’m no stranger to the uncomfortable stares and misguided fears people have of me,” read Singh’s first reply. “I try to live my life by the Sikh maxim, ‘Fear none, frighten none.’ I think about this teaching often when I travel,” he later tweeted.

According to the Sikh Coalition, there were more than 300 cases of violence and discrimination against Sikhs in the United States in the first month after the 11 September 2011 terrorist attacks.

The group says cases of profiling, bigotry and backlash are still commonplace in everyday American life. In 2012, an Army veteran shot and killed six people in a Wisconsin Sikh temple.

And in May, a 32-year-old Sikh man, Jagjeet Singh, was killed outside a California grocery store, allegedly his refusal to sell cigarettes to men without identification.

The school posted the following message on its Facebook page on Saturday:

“Eastern Hancock School officials have become aware of offensive, racially insensitive posts on social media recently made by one of our students.

Eastern Hancock administrators and staff do not condone, nor can we justify this type of behavior for any reason,” Eastern Hancock County Community School Corp. posted Thursday on Facebook. “As an educational institution, our priority is to prepare students to become successful members of a diverse world community.”

The school, which is about 35 miles east of Indianapolis, added that it is “seeking legal advice for avenues to address the student’s unacceptable behavior in accordance with national and state law, and local policy.”

Although posts on Twitter and Facebook must be deleted manually, Snapchat posts automatically disappear unless they are screen-grabbed and shared by recipients, as was the case in this incident, school officials said.

The screenshots had thousands of retweets on Twitter within just hours of the Thursday incident. It prompted the #FlyingWhileBrown hashtag, which pointed out Americans’ difficulty in understanding the difference between Muslims and Sikhs while also criticizing the overtly racist commentary.

“Once information is out in cyberspace it cannot be called back, nor contained,” Eastern Hancock Schools said. “Unfortunately, this incident, which may have been intended to be amusing, is not only deeply offensive, it has done considerable damage to many individuals.”

Dawn – ‘Trump-Modi nexus’ could spell disaster for regional peace: AJK president

Tariq Naqash

Muzaffarabad, 27 June 2017. Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan in a statement on Tuesday warned that a “Trump-Modi nexus” could spell disaster to regional peace.

The statement follows a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the run-up to which the US State Department had designated Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist and slapped sanctions on him, a move slammed by the Foreign Office today as ‘completely unjustified’.

Both leaders had called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, a statement from the White House said.

Sardar Khan, who retired from the foreign service of Pakistan as a career diplomat, claimed that the US had always deceived Pakistan and its latest decision was yet another example of it.

“The US has never acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices despite the latter’s being a frontline state in the war against terrorism,” he said.

Khan questioned the justification of the US decision, claiming that the Hizbul Mujahideen had been struggling solely for freedom of India-held Kashmir (IHK), and was neither linked to any terrorist group nor had resorted to any action outside IHK.

“In fact, it’s the Indian army committing terrorism in occupied Kashmir. Ignoring the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian army and declaring freedom fighters as terrorists is a criminal departure from international humanitarian and democratic norms by the US,” he claimed.

Kashmiris protest US move

Hundreds of people from different walks of life staged a rally in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to condemn the US administration’s decision of designating Salahuddin a terrorist.

Demonstrators started the rally from Muzaffarabad’s famous Burhan Wani Chowk, named after a Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian forces in IHK last year.

Just in front of them, a large Indian tricolour flag was also placed on the ground with two young children standing on it.

Amid loud anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, it was later torched by the demonstrators.

Representatives of separatist groups and political parties took strong exception to the decision which they termed a reprehensible attempt by the Trump administration to please India.

Speaking at the rally, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a former AJK minister, claimed it was the weak foreign policy of the PML-N led government in Islamabad that had encouraged the Trump administration to take this step during Modi’s visit.

“If you are serious in your avowals of extending diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, then you should show some strength and as a first step summon the US and Indian envoys in the Foreign Office to lodge a protest over this unfair decision,” he said, addressing the federal government.

Ahmed also asked the AJK government to give a strike call on both sides of disputed Kashmir, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given for February 28, 1974, to express rejection of the US decision.

“All political parties and mujahideen groups should be taken on board to make this strike a historic one,” he said.

PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and several others also spoke on the occasion.

The Times of India – Dalai Lama angle to China stopping movement of Kailash yatris

Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

New Delhi, 27 June 2017. China has hardened its stand on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by stopping movement of Indian pilgrims for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Nathu La Pass.

Beijing hasn’t given any reasons for its action, but Delhi suspects that it could be a reaction to Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in April, sources here said.

The Chinese move came ahead of a meeting between PM Modi and Trump in Washington. The two leaders are expected to put in place an arrangement for strengthening economic partnership in the Asia-Pacific or Indo-Pacific region, sources said ahead of the meeting scheduled for early Tuesday India time.

China is emerging as a leading power in the region through an aggressive policy involving territorial claims and arm twisting.

The action in the Nathu La Pass area in Sikkim comes within weeks of an airspace violation by Chinese choppers in Uttarakhand. The situation has been further complicated with Chinese troops entering the Sikkim sector and jostling with the Indian Army personnel guarding the LAC besides destroying two bunkers.

The face-off has been going on in the Doka La general area in Sikkim for the past 10 days. A flag meeting was held between senior Army officers from both sides on June 20, but tension still persists.

It is not the first time that such a transgression has happened at the Doka La, located at the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. Beijing had earlier warned India about the consequences of Dalai Lama’s trip to Arunachal Pradesh, whose entire territory, in particular the Tawang area visited by the Tibetan leader, is claimed by China.

On Monday, Beijing said the foreign ministry authorities of both countries were in “communication” on the suspension of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra (KMY) through the Nathu La Pass, but didn’t give any specific reasons. This raised suspicion that there is more to meet the eye than mere landslides which Beijing initially claimed as the reason for suspending KMY through Nathu La.

The annual Yatra was suspended over the weekend and pilgrims have returned to Gangtok after the denial of permission. “There are some difficulties being experienced in movement of Kailash Mansarovar Yatris via Nathu La. The matter is being discussed with the Chinese side,” a foreign ministry official said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said “the two foreign ministries are communicating on this issue”. There are unconfirmed reports of certain internal troubles in the region through which KMY occurs. At least seven batches of 50 pilgrims each were expected to cross over to Tibet through the Nathu La Pass.

The Tribune – Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] kitchen to soon go solar

G S Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 26 June 2017. The SGPC plans to switch over to solar energy soon to cook langar in the world’s largest kitchen at the Golden Temple. At present, at Sri Guru Ramdas Langar Hall, free food is prepared through LPG and some amount of wood is also used as fuel to prepare food for about 60,000 devotees daily. The number increases during weekends and special occasions.

The langar preparation sourced through solar energy would not only reduce the use of wood, which is the main source of pollution, but would also help in reducing the expenses on LPG cylinders. Around 5,000 LPG cylinders are used in the kitchen every month.

A team of Punjab Energy Development Authority led by its director Balor Singh today explored the area where the solar energy plant was to be installed.

PEDA has been working on a plan to prepare langar at the shrine with a solar steam cooking system for long. A solar plant has been proposed. Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] manager Sulakhan Singh said, “This plant will not only be eco-friendly but will also be efficient in cooking vegetables, daal, chapattis etc.

Other sources of fuel like the LPG system will also be kept as backup in case of cloudy weather or a snag,” he said.

Meanwhile, the work on modernising the new langar hall is in full swing. The new building would have four floors, including the basement.

The new facility will boast of an ultramodern cooking facility, air-conditioned sitting place, lifts, separate provision for washing the vegetables, basement for storage of vegetables and ration, apart from a conveyor system.

Antwerpen De Lijn Trams and Middenstatie – Sint-Truiden

Antwerpen De Lijn Trams
30 May 2017

Sint-Jacob – Tram 24 to Melkmarkt

Antwerpen Middenstatie
30 May 2017

Middenstatie / Central Station
Train to Oostende via Gent

Middenstatie / Central Station

31 May 2017

Sint-Truiden NMBS station
Doubledecker to Hasselt and Genk

Halmaalweg – Poppies

Halmaalweg – Poppies

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Guardian – British Sikh couple take legal action after being advised not to adopt

Sandeep and Reena Mander say they were told they were unlikely to succeed as the only children in need were white

Kevin Rawlinson

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead-Berkshire-UK, 27 June 2017. A British Sikh couple are bringing a legal case, claiming they were advised by an adoption agency not to apply because of their “cultural heritage”.

Sandeep and Reena Mander said they had wanted to adopt a child of any ethnic background.

But they were told that, as only white children were in need, white British or European applicants would be given preference, meaning they were unlikely to be selected.

Instead, the Berkshire-based couple allege, they were advised to try to adopt from India, a country with which they have no close links.

“Giving an adopted child, no matter what race, the security of a loving home was all we wanted to do,” Sandeep Mander said.

“What we didn’t expect was a refusal for us to even apply for adoption, not because of our incapability to adopt, but because our cultural heritage was defined as ‘Indian/Pakistani’,” he told the Times.

Adoption agencies are allowed to prioritise on the basis of race in order to match children to prospective parents of the same ethnic background. But the government has also said that a child’s ethnicity should not be a barrier to adoption.

In 2012, the then education secretary, Michael Gove, told an audience in London: “One particularly sensitive element of the matching process is, as you all know, matching by ethnicity. Which is much more complex than simply race.

“I won’t deny that an ethnic match between adopters and child can be a bonus. But it is outrageous to deny a child the chance of adoption because of a misguided belief that race is more important than any other factor.

“And it is simply disgraceful that a black child is three times less likely to be adopted from care than a white child.”

The Manders are applying to Slough county court, seeking a declaration that the policy should allow them to adopt. They are being represented by the law firm McAllister Olivarius and their case is supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

On Monday, the law firm’s senior partner, Ann Olivarius, told the Guardian that too little attention had been paid to the best interests of children in need of adoption.

“It is very odd when you have children in great need and who are desperate for a home. This couple seem the best candidates for parenthood you would want to know.

“They do not see racial divides, they just have so much love in their hearts and want to raise a family.”

To place them lower on the list than another family because of their background suggested that the authorities had “lost the plot, we have lost what is important”, she said.

David Isaac, chair of the EHRC, said: “There are many children who are waiting for a loving family like Sandeep and Reena to help give them a better life. To be denied this because of so-called cultural heritage is wrong.”

The Manders said they had been trying to conceive for about seven years, and had gone through 16 IVF sessions, before deciding to try to adopt.

They attended introductory workshops organised by their local authority, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and its adoption agency, Adopt Berkshire.

They said their case was first taken up by Theresa May, who is their local MP, during her time as home secretary.

“Mrs May was shocked and was very helpful. Her office wrote letters but nothing happened,” Sandeep Mander said.

“When prime minister, she sent further letters and involved the then minister for children and he suggested we take legal advice.”

The couple have been approved to adopt from the US, which is expected to cost them about £60,000.

Adopt Berkshire’s website says children in need of adoption “will reflect the racial, cultural and religious backgrounds of the populations within the areas from which they originate”.

It adds that the authority will seek prospective parents of a similar background to the child, though they would not keep children waiting to “achieve a direct match”.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead did not respond to a request for comment.

The Hindu – Junaid murder: Gloom descends on Khandawali

No Eid celebration in Faridabad village following last week’s brutal attack on young Muslim students at Ballabgarh railway station

Ashok Kumar

Faridabad-Haryana-India, 26 June 2017. With four of his sons studying in different Madrasas in Gujarat and Mewat, Eid every year was a reunion time for Jalauddin and his family. But with the murder of teenager Junaid on Thursday, a couple of days before the festival this year, Eid will never be the same again for this family.

Seventeen-year-old Junaid was stabbed to death and his two brothers Hasib (21) and Shakir (23) injured when a group of people attacked them inside a crowded train following a dispute over a seat. The incident took place at Ballabgarh railway station in Haryana on Thursday evening.

While Junaid was studying at a Madrasa in Nuh, Hasib and two of his brothers had been studying at separate Madrasas in Gujarat for several years.

Recalling the good old days, Hasib said that Eid was the only time of the year when all the brothers would spend time with each other. “Now with Junaid gone, it does not feel like Eid today [Monday]. The Eid now will be marked by his haunting memories and pain every year,” said Hasib, choking with emotion.

But the pain and mourning is not confined to this one family in Khandawali village in Faridabad. It feels like the entire village has lost its loved one.

“The usual hustle-bustle on the eve of Eid was missing at the nearby Ballabgarh market the previous night after the moon was sighted. A shopkeeper told me that the turnout was low this year with several villages around being Muslim dominated,” said Saddam Hussain, one of the villagers.

Nassir Khan, another villager, added: “Even the children did not burst crackers and no one in the village bought new clothes this time around. The traditional fervour associated with Eid is missing. Even those visiting their relatives in the village have actually come to express sympathy to the family.”

The villagers said the streets swarmed with revellers and children all through the day on Eid, but wore a deserted look today, and the shopkeepers had also downed the shutters.

Wearing a black band around his arm, Ushman Khan, a customer executive with a private company in Faridabad, said there was a sense of fear, and many of his Hindu friends who usually visit him on the occasion of Eid had preferred not to come to the village.

Ushman said the village youth, in a meeting on Sunday, had decided to wear black armbands, against the advice of elders, in a silent protest against the incident.

“The elders did not want us to do so, but the youth decided to wear black bands as a mark of resentment and protest against the brutal murder. We are not happy with the response of the government towards the incident and the investigation in the case.

“It has been four days, but only one person has been arrested. No government representative has visited us,” said Ushman, adding that the Muslims were too scared to proudly proclaim their identity.

Around 300 young Muslim men from several villages in the region visited the family under the aegis of Mewat Yuva Sangathan on the occasion of Eid to express their sympathy.

“It is a serious matter and not an isolated incident. Similar incidents are happening across the country. Be it [Mohammad] Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, DSP Mohammad Ayub, Dingerheri gang-rape or the murder of Junaid, the Muslims are being targeted across the country.

We plan to hold a peaceful protest at Jantar Mantar later this week and devise a strategy for the next course of action,” said Javed Khan, one of the members of the Mewat Yuva Sangathan.