The Nation – India can’t suppress the voice of Kashmiris: Faizullah Kamoka

Our Staff reporter

Faisalabad – Panjab – Pakistan, 22 October 2020. NA Standing Committee for Finance and Economic Affairs’ Chairman Faizullah Kamoka strongly condemned barbarism and cruelties on people of Indian illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and said that India could not suppress the voice of Kashmiris through force and other tactics.

Talking to media on Wednesday, he said that India was involved in state terrorism through the deployment of additional troops and an unprecedented media and communications blackout. IIOJK has been turned into the largest “prison” on the planet.

He said that PTI government was utilising all forums to urge international community to play its role and force India to end draconian laws in the IIOJK and meet its international obligation by giving the Kashmiris their right of self-determination as enshrined in the UN resolutions.

He said that the hearts of Pakistani nation and the Kashmiri brethren beat together and the whole nation was standing with them. He said that people and government of Pakistan would continue to speak for the right of self-determination of Kashmiri brethren, while India would also face the consequences of illegal detention of Kashmiri people.

He said that whole Pakistani nation along with Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC would observe Black Day on Tuesday (October 27, 2020) to convey the international community that they completely rejected India’s illegal occupation of IIOJK. – Badals may get basic Nanakshahi calendar reinstated in the wake of SGPC elections

Chandigarh – Panjab, 19 October 2020. Keeping in view the upcoming SGPC elections, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) leaders have started deliberating upon the methods to calm down Sikh outrage against them. It is learned that the SAD (B) leaders may take a U-turn on several prominent Panthik issues in an attempt to pacify Sikh masses.

It is being speculated that the SGPC might make a U-turn on the issue of the Nanakshahi calendar by reinstating its basic version.

Earlier, the SGPC had made some amendments in the Nanakshahi calendar to map it with the Bikrami calendar.

However, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had refused to implement the amended version of the Nanakshahi calendar while continuing to follow the version made by Dr Pal Singh Purewal.

Media reports reveal that the SAD (Badal) president Sukhbir Badal, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal and SGPC appointed Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh thoroughly deliberated on this issue in a closed-door meeting held during the past days.

Media reports also claim that the SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal has been trying to approach several Sikh organizations to get their support in reinstating the basic version of the Nanakshahi calendar.

It is pertinent to note here that the challenges for Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) are increasing day by day.

After facing a revolt by eminent Akali leaders like Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Sewa Singh Sekhwan, and Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, the agitation of farmers against draconian laws didn’t leave any way out for Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and it finally snapped ties with its ruling ally BJP.

In 2019, SGPC appointed Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh was asked by the PSGPC leaders to sort out the issue of the Nanakshahi calendar as it causes visa refusals to Sikh pilgrims intending to observe Gurpurabs in Pakistan. This is because the dates of Gurpurabs differ due to which the Pakistani Embassy finds the visa applications moved by SGPC irrelevant.

It is being expected that the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee may ask the SGPC appointed Akal Takht Jathedar for reinstating the basic version of Nanakshahi calendar in an attempt to snatch this issue from its new rivals Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic) and Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali).

Afghanistan Times – Facing persecution – last Sikhs leave Ghazni

Kabul – Afghanistan, 21 October 2020. The community of Sikhs and Hindus shrank to its lowest in Ghazni province as the last group of Sikhs and Hindus escaped the insecurity after centuries of living there.

Taliban threat and insecurity have forced the remainders of the long-persecuted community of Sikhs and Hindus to leave Ghazni province and take refuge in other regions and even overseas.

A report said all Sikhs and Hindus have sold their properties in recent months just to escape the rising threats embattling them.

Thousands of Sikhs have left Afghanistan in the past decades of war, leaving behind their home, businesses and friends, even a street which is widely known as Sikhs and Hindus Street in main bazaar of Ghazni province.

They had had freedom in regions spanning across Afghanistan before the wars broke out, especially in Ghazni, and their temples were crowded and their rituals held without fears of prosecution.

But decades of conflict forced them to gradually leave and the last of their community just left Ghazni province.

Most of the Sikhs and Hindus who have left Ghazni have been displaced in Kabul and then most of them left for India and other countries.

In a conversation with VOA, Delip Singh, a community leader of the Sikhs and Hindus from Ghazni province, said, “We left Ghazni and our homes due to increasing insecurity.”

“We have leased our properties to Ghazni residents after leaving,” he said, adding, “Afghanistan is our homeland and if security improves we will return”.

The number of this community now has shrunk from thousands to hundreds, mostly living in Kabul and Nangarhar province.

Scroll-in – Press Association criticises ‘abrupt sealing’ of ‘Kashmir Times’ office in Srinagar

The media body demanded the immediate opening of the newspaper’s office to allow journalists to carry on their professional duty.

New Delhi – India, 22 October 2020. The Press Association on Wednesday criticised the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s decision to seal the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times and demanded its opening, PTI reported.

The newspaper, one of the oldest English dailies in Jammu and Kashmir, had functioned out of the government allotted offices since the 1990s.

Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of the newspaper, on Monday accused the administration of having a vendetta against the daily for taking a critical stance about government policies. She had said that the due process of law was not followed.

In a statement, the Press Association condemned the “abrupt sealing” of the office. “According to Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of the newspaper, no notice was given for the sealing,” the statement said.

“The Press Association demands immediate opening of The Kashmir Times office to allow the journalists to carry on their professional duty.”

The association, which is a media body of accredited journalists, also quoted Bhasin as saying that the government was “targeting her” for speaking against the administration.

“The state administration should bring the ‘erring’ officials to book,” the statement said. “Law of the land should take its own course and a renowned newspaper office should not be sealed in this way.”

Estates Department officials have claimed they only “took possession” of a house allotted to the newspaper’s deceased founder Ved Bhasin in 1994.

“The building sealed by the department might have been used as an office in the past but now they are operating from the other allotted accommodation, as per our reports,” an official, who did not want to be identified, told

“The sealed building was now being used for residential purposes and since the allotment was in the name of a person who is no longer alive, the government decided to take it back.”

Bhasin rejected the official’s claim. “I am not mad that I will put up a newspaper’s board on a residence I am staying in,” she added. “The other building they are talking about was alloted in my husband’s name in 2002 as a residence.”

Mainstream political parties have also condemned the sealing of the Kashmir Times office and accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of scuttling press freedom and dissent.

Journalists, too, have criticised “the government-sponsored intimidation attempts to silence an independent newspaper”.

Bhasin, who has been at the forefront of the fight for press freedom and against the Internet ban after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir last year, was evicted from her official residence in Jammu two months ago.

The journalist had filed a petition in Supreme Court against the communications blackout imposed in Kashmir after the Centre stripped the region of Article 370.

BBC News – The Tibetans serving in ‘secretive’ Indian force

For decades, India has recruited Tibetan refugees to a covert unit dedicated to high-altitude combat. But the recent death of a soldier in the force has put the spotlight on this unit, reports the BBC’s Aamir Peerzada.

A photograph of Nyima Tenzin was kept in the corner of his house, surrounded by warm light spilling from oil lamps. The hum of prayers continued in the next room, where family members, relatives and Buddhist monks were chanting.

Days earlier, the 51-year-old soldier had died in a landmine blast near Pangong Tso Lake in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, where Indian and Chinese troops have been facing off in recent months.

Sources in the Indian army told the BBC that he was killed by an old mine left from the 1962 war the two countries fought.

“On 30 August, around 10:30 in the night, I got a call, saying he was injured,” Tenzin’s brother, Namdakh, recalled. “They did not tell me that he had died. A friend confirmed the news to me later.”

Tenzin, his family told the BBC, had been a member of the Special Frontier Force (SFF), a covert military unit largely comprising Tibetan refugees. It reportedly has about 3500 soldiers.

Tenzin was a refugee too and he had served in the force for more than 30 years, his family said. Little is known about the SFF, whose existence has never been officially acknowledged by Indian officials.

But it’s also a well-known secret, familiar to military and foreign policy experts as well as journalists who cover the region.

Yet, Tenzin’s death, in the last weekend of August amid rising tensions between India and China, prompted the first public acknowledgement of Tibetans’ role in the Indian military.

The people of Leh, the capital of Ladakh where Tenzin lived, and the Tibetan community came together to bid him farewell in a grand funeral, complete with military honours, including a 21-gun salute.

Indian soldiers pay their respects during the funeral of their comrade, Tibetan-origin India’s special forces soldier Nyima Tenzin in Leh.

Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav attended the funeral and placed a wreath on Tenzin’s coffin, which was draped in the flags of India and Tibet and was carried to his home in an army truck.

Mr Madhav even tweeted, describing Tenzin as a member of the SFF and “a Tibetan who laid down his life protecting” India’s borders in Ladakh. He later deleted the tweet in which he also referred to an Indo-Tibet border rather than an Indo-China border.

Although the government and the army made no official statement, the funeral was widely reported in national media, which interpreted it as a “sharp signal” and a “strong message” to Beijing.

“Till now this [the SFF] was a secret, but it has been acknowledged now and I am very happy,” said Namdakh Tenzin. “Anyone who serves should be named and supported.

“We fought in 1971, which was kept a secret, then in 1999 we fought Pakistan in Kargil, that was also kept a secret. But now for the first time it has been acknowledged. This makes me so happy.”

The SFF, experts say, was created after the 1962 war between India and China.

“The aim was to recruit Tibetans who had fled to India, and had high altitude guerrilla warfare experience, or were part of Chushi Gandruk, a guerrilla Tibetan force, which fought China till the early 1960s,” said Kalsang Rinchen, a Tibetan journalist and filmmaker, whose documentary Phantoms of Chittagong is based on extensive interviews with former SFF troops.

In 1959, after a failed anti-Chinese uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and set up a government in exile in India, where he continues to live. Tens of thousands of Tibetans followed him into exile and sought asylum in India.

India’s support of the Dalai Lama, and the refugees who came with him, quickly became a source of friction between the two countries. India’s humiliating defeat in 1962 added to the tension.

B N Mullik, the then chief of Indian intelligence, is reported to have set up the SFF with the help of the CIA.

The extent of Washington’s role is disputed, while some sources say it was a purely Indian initiative with “full endorsement” from the US, others say that some 12,000 Tibetans were trained by US special forces and partly funded by the US.

“Most of the training was given by Americans,” Jampa, a Tibetan refugee, who joined the SFF in 1962, told the BBC. “There was one guy from the CIA who spoke in broken Hindi, he trained four of our men who understood Hindi as most of us didn’t know Hindi. Then those four men trained others.”

The force only recruited Tibetans initially but later expanded to include non-Tibetans. Throughout, experts say, the force has reported directly to the federal cabinet and is always headed by a high-ranking official from the army.

“The primary motive was to fight China covertly and gather intelligence,” Mr Rinchen said.

The Chinese deny any knowledge of the SFF.

“I’m not aware of Tibetans in exile in the Indian armed forces. You may ask the Indian side for this,” Chinese spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a recent press conference.

“China’s position is very clear. We firmly oppose any country providing convenience in any form for Tibet independence forces’ separatist activities,” she added.

Beijing still governs Tibet as an autonomous region of China. And its relations with India have worsened since June when border clashes between the two sides left 20 Indian soldiers dead. India said Chinese soldiers also died in the clash but Beijing has not commented on this.

The cause of the decades-long tension is the poorly demarcated border between the two countries, it cuts through miles of inhospitable terrain.

“It’s an odd situation for India,” says professor Dibyesh Anand, head of the School of Social Science at the University of Westminster. “India has essentially indicated to China that it will use Tibetans against them, but officially they will not say that.”

“We did everything the Indian army does, but we never got the usual military honours or acknowledgement, it still makes me sad,” Mr Jampa, the former SFF fighter, said.

It’s hard to say what impact India’s recent subtle acknowledgement of the SFF will have on its relations with China. But the tensions between the neighbours certainly worry more than 90,000 Tibetans in India, many of whom still hope to return to Tibet some day.

But India feels like home too.

“We all feel proud that Tenzin gave his life for two of our countries – India and Tibet,” said his brother-in-law, Tudup Tashi.

The Tribune – Punjab BJP MLAs showed political cowardice: Chidambaram

Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India – 20 October 2020. Congress veteran P Chidambaram on Tuesday slammed BJP lawmakers of Punjab as political cowards for not showing up to oppose the state assembly bills nullifying central farm laws.

“Why did the BJP MLAs stay away from the Punjab Assembly when the House was considering the Bills introduced by the state government?

If the BJP MLAs supported the Centre’s policy and the Farm Acts passed by Parliament, they should have participated in the Assembly proceedings and opposed the state government’s Bills,” said Chidambaram.

He noted, “What the Punjab BJP MLAs did can be aptly described as political cowardice.”

Barking, Havering, Redbidge University Hospitals – Parminder Kaur, our honorary Sikh chaplain ‘humbled’ to receive MBE

Posted Tuesday, 20 October 2020 by Claire Still

Parminder Kaur Kondral, who supports patients at our hospitals as a volunteer honorary chaplain, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s delayed Birthday Honours.

Parminder is the National Coordinator of the UK Sikh Healthcare Chaplaincy Group and has worked with the group since 2012. The MBE recognises her services to the Sikh community.

She said: “I am truly humbled to receive this MBE. It makes me feel proud of what I have achieved in my lifetime so far. Without the ongoing support from my husband and family, none of these accomplishments would be possible.

“The work I do with hospitals, hospices and healthcare centres across the UK means I am able to support people sometimes in very difficult situations. It is my honour to be able to do this.”

As well as her work with our Trust, Parminder has links with Saint Francis Hospice, Romford, St Luke’s Hospice, Basildon, St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney, the John Howard Centre, London, as well as Haven House and Richard House children’s hospices.

In the 2012 London Olympics, Parminder was a community advocate, as well as a games maker, and in 2014, she won a Redbridge Asian Women’s Achievement Award.

Parminder, who is married to Sajit Singh, and has three children and a granddaughter, is an executive member of the Sikh Women’s Alliance and works in the adult health and social services care centre in Barkingside.

The 64-year-old also sits on faith committees across Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge.

FirstPost – UN rights chief tells India to safeguard rights of NGOs; MEA says law violations can’t be condoned

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet specifically cited as ‘worrying’ the use of FCRA, which prohibits the receipt of foreign funds ‘for any activities prejudicial to the public interest.

New Delhi – India, 21 October 2020. India on Tuesday strongly reacted to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s concern over restrictions on NGOs and arrest of activists, saying violations of law cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights and a more informed view of the matter was expected of the UN body.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava also asserted that India was a democratic polity based on the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

“We have seen some comments by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on an issue relating to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

India is a democratic polity based on the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

The framing of laws is obviously a sovereign prerogative. Violations of law, however, cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights. A more informed view of the matter was expected of a UN body,” Srivastava said.

Earlier, Bachelet expressed concern over the restrictions on foreign funding for the NGOs and the arrest of activists in the country.

She appealed to the Indian Government to “safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work” on behalf of the many groups they represent.

“India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally,” she said in a statement.

“But I am concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices,” she said.

Bachelet specifically cited as “worrying” the use of the FCRA, which prohibits the receipt of foreign funds “for any activities prejudicial to the public interest.”

As per the amended FCRA law, furnishing of Aadhaar numbers by office-bearers of NGOs has become mandatory for registration.

The Act also provides for a reduction in administrative expenses of any NGO receiving foreign funding, from 50 percent to 20 percent of annual funds to ensure spending on their main objectives.

The government has maintained that the legislation was not against any NGO and was an effort to maintain transparency.

The Telegraph – Democracy is under threat in many places

Currently, there are diverse groups of people and if their interests are not met, conflicts arise.

Not by definition

Democracy means a “government of the people, for the people, by the people”. Currently, there are diverse groups of people and if their interests are not met, conflicts arise.

There is a dominant class in every society that pledges to fulfil the interests of many such groups, influencing them to carry out their propaganda through powerful social drummers such as the media.

As a result, the common mass is exposed to whatever the dominant class wishes to transmit through the media. This is still “of the people, by the people”, so we cannot say democracy is threatened.

Arunima Dutta,
Second year, Rani Birla Girls’ College, Calcutta

Speech is muzzled

In a democracy, the people are the real rulers. When the voices of these people are subdued, when the freedom of speech and expression just becomes a line in the Constitution, where raising your voice against wrongs is seen as a crime, then democracy indeed is under threat.

Srideepta Neogy,
Class XI, St Agnes’ Convent School, Howrah

Exploiting Covid-19

In present times, the freedom, health and dignity of people are being put at stake. Leaders around the world are using the coronavirus crisis to grab power and advance their political objectives by clamping down on human rights and civil liberties.

Soujanyaa Ghosh,
First year, Narula College of Technology, Calcutta

Lose faith

The Covid-19 pandemic is increasing poverty, hunger, inflation and unemployment. Many a government is unable to cope with it. As a result, people may lose faith in the democratically elected governments, allowing dictatorships to raise their ugly head.

Shreya Maji,
Class X, Assembly of God Church School, Asansol – Extremists threaten to remove building of Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 19 October 2020. The activists of Dawat-e-Islami (Barelvi) and Peer Shah Kaku Chishti’s tomb have pasted posters outside Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh threatening Sikhs to remove the Gurdwara building. These posters have been printed in Shahmukhi i.e. a dialect of Punjabi.

In a separate video released by Suhail Butt Attari, who has been conspiring to take over 4-5 canals piece of land adjacent to Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh, and his supporters have said that Pakistan was meant for Muslims only and they won’t allow construction of Gurdwaras in Pakistan.

They have also mentioned the names of Punjabi Sikh Sangat’s chairman Gopal Singh Chawla and Bhai Fauja Singh in their video.

They have claimed that the land of Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh and Gurdwara Singh Singhnia belongs to the tomb of Peer Shah Kaku Chishti and Shaheed Ganj mosque respectively.

“The Sikhs would have to present evidence about the martyrdom of Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh before coming to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh,” they said while adding that the whole land of Pakistan belongs to Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Evacuee Trust Property Board’s officials and PSGPC leaders are tightlipped due to which there is a sharp outrage among Pakistani Sikhs as their silence can prove dangerous for the existence of Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh.