BBC News – Viewpoint: Why the Kashmir government fall is a tragedy

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 22 June 2018. The break-up of the three-year-old coalition government in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is a setback for peace hopes in the region. The so-called “unnatural” alliance between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the only way forward, writes Sumantra Bose.

How, it was asked, could the PDP, a pro-autonomy party formed in 1999, and the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party which has advocated a disciplinarian approach to Kashmir since the early 1950s, cohabit and co-operate?

Their arrangement prompted puzzlement and derision but this missed a vital point. The constructive potential of the coalition lay precisely in its “unnatural” quality, because it signalled engagement between very different perspectives on the Kashmir conflict.

There is international precedence for this kind of path based on engagement and negotiation between sworn adversaries professing incompatible objectives.

It ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland after 1998, and eventually induced Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists, both hardline parties, to jointly lead a power-sharing government for almost a decade from 2007, a once unthinkable scenario.

The great Nelson Mandela justified his engagement with the apartheid regime in order to craft a transition pact in South Africa thus: “You negotiate with your enemies, not your friends.

Their arrangement prompted puzzlement and derision but this missed a vital point. The constructive potential of the coalition lay precisely in its “unnatural” quality, because it signalled engagement between very different perspectives on the Kashmir conflict.

There is international precedence for this kind of path based on engagement and negotiation between sworn adversaries professing incompatible objectives.

It ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland after 1998, and eventually induced Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists, both hardline parties, to jointly lead a power-sharing government for almost a decade from 2007 – a once unthinkable scenario.

The great Nelson Mandela justified his engagement with the apartheid regime in order to craft a transition pact in South Africa thus: “You negotiate with your enemies, not your friends.”

Five things to know about Kashmir:

  • India and Pakistan have disputed the territory for nearly 70 years – since independence from Britain
  • Both countries claim the whole territory but control only parts of it
  • Two out of three wars fought between India and Pakistan centred on Kashmir
  • Since 1989 there has been an armed revolt in the Muslim-majority region against rule by India
  • High unemployment and complaints of heavy-handed tactics by security forces have aggravated the problem

The coalition in Jammu and Kashmir was formed in March 2015 after elections produced a hung legislature. The two largest parties were the PDP, which won most of the seats from the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, and the BJP, which won most of the seats from the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

The fractured result – the PDP won 28 seats in the 87-member legislature, while the BJP took 25, threw up the intriguing possibility of partnership. Narendra Modi had led to his party to a parliamentary majority in India’s general elections just seven months earlier.

Mr Modi flew over from Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony in Jammu in person, after two months of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

The defining image was of him clasping PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the new head of the state government, in a bear-hug. Behind them was a table adorned with equal-sized versions of India’s national tricolour and the state flag of Jammu and Kashmir.

Hindu nationalists object to the state flag, as Indian states do not usually have their own flags.

In an article on this website just after the PDP-BJP government took office, I noted that the coalition offered the prospect of ameliorating two of the three major dimensions of the Kashmir conflict:

The other dimension – the India-Pakistan antagonism which has its focal point in the common fixation on Kashmir was another matter. India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in its entirety but control only parts of it.

The coalition was based on a detailed written agreement called the “Agenda of Alliance”.

This was a joint statement which undertook to preserve the article of India’s constitution that nominally grants special autonomous status and to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa), under which the Indian army has carte blanche power.

The document’s ambition went much further. “The purpose of this alliance”, it stated, “is to catalyse reconciliation and confidence-building within and across the Line of Control [with Pakistani-administered Kashmir]” and “to [help] normalise the relationship with Pakistan”.

In order “to widen the ambit of democracy through inclusive politics”, the agenda stated, “the coalition government will facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stakeholders irrespective of their ideological views”, a reference to the significant pro-independence and pro-Pakistan groups and their leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Moreover, the agreement promised to work towards “enhancing people-to-people contact across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed territory, by encouraging civil society exchanges and taking travel, commerce, trade and business across the line of control to the next level”.

On paper, the charter of the PDP-BJP coalition government represented both a vision and a roadmap for resolving the Kashmir conflict.

But it remained just that, on paper. When I referred to the document as the political equivalent of toilet paper during interactions with students and youth in the Kashmir valley in mid-2017, no one laughed at the black humour.

In hindsight, any prospect of advancing the vision-cum-roadmap ended with the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at the start of 2016.

Sayeed, a wily veteran of both Kashmiri and Indian politics over six decades, may have tried in due course to hold the BJP to the letter and spirit of the alliance charter, and pulled the plug if it did not.

His daughter Mehbooba Mufti, who succeeded him, proved to be an unmitigated disaster as chief minister.

She passively continued with the paralysed, dysfunctional coalition government after renewed turmoil gripped the valley from July 2016, until the BJP pulled the plug in June 2018.

The timing of the BJP’s move may be explained by a decision to project an untrammelled mailed-fist in the restive and recalcitrant valley in the countdown to India’s general election in April-May 2019.

But that still leaves the question of why, three years ago, Mr Modi’s party made a pact with an “unnatural partner”.

The explanation that the BJP simply wanted to get into government in yet another state, and India’s only Muslim-majority state, at that, has merit, but is not fully convincing.

What is clear is that Mr Modi decided not to emulate the diplomacy-based and healing-touch strategy that Atal Behari Vajpayee, India’s first Hindu nationalist prime minister, doggedly pursued vis-à-vis Kashmir (and Pakistan) in the very difficult period between 1999 and 2004.

In August 2016, a month after mass protests gripped the valley for the first time since the summer of 2010, Mr Modi framed the problem, in an address to an all-party meeting in Delhi convened by his government, as simply one of “cross-border terrorism”.

In April 2017, in a speech to a large political rally in the Jammu region, he called on the valley’s angry youth to abjure “terrorism” and instead seek “progress through tourism”, citing “every Indian’s dream of visiting Kashmir [at least] once”.

The PDP-BJP coalition government of 2015-2018 is the newest addition to the overflowing dustbin of the Kashmir conflict’s 70-year history. But, and this is the irony, the vision and the roadmap articulated in the 2015 Agenda of Alliance represents the only feasible path to a better future.

Such a future will need to bring together many unnatural partners in a pragmatic compromise.

Sumantra Bose is Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His latest book, Secular States, Religious Politics: India, Turkey, and the Future of Secularism has just been published by Cambridge University Press.


The Tribune – No stopping mining mafia, even cops aren’t spared

Arun Sharma, Tribune News Service

Ropar – Panjab – India, 21 June 2018. The attack on AAP leader and local MLA Amarjit Singh Sandoa is not an isolated case of brazenness of the mining mafia in the district.

On May 11, constable Jaswant Singh along with his colleagues had stopped a tipper loaded with sand illegally dug up from Lohand khud, near Kiratpur Sahib police station.

The driver had fled the spot, but when the policemen were ferrying the impounded vehicle to the police station, some mafia men roughed them up and took away the vehicle. Jaswant Singh had sustained injuries on his jaw and was hospitalised.

Despite this, his seniors did not register any case against the accused in this regard. Jaswant Singh, who had told The Tribune about the incident, later said in his statement that he got injured as he fell while chasing the tipper driver.

Illegal mining is rampant at Lohand Khud village. The locals say nearly six persons from a nearby village are involved and they enjoy the patronage of a senior politician.

A few years ago, the pillars of Agampur bridge were found bare as the sand from the area was extracted. A former IPS officer had business interests in the crusher set up near the bridge.

The policemen posted on both sides of the bridge had said that whenever they tried to stop people extracting sand from the area, they were threatened with dire consequences.

In fact, the illegalities could never be checked in the district despite much noise over it. The involvement of huge money, vested interests of a section of local people, senior officials and political patronage proved stronger than any measure taken up to check it.

According to an estimate, at least 50 truckloads of material used to be supplied from each of nearly 200 crushers in the district everyday before the quarries were shut down in April.

These crushers get the material from Himachal Pradesh as well. The supply is mostly local, but its volume is much more than what is supposed to be extracted from local quarries.

Residents of Nurpur Bedi area have several times staged dharnas in protest against illegal mining and damage to roads due to plying of heavy vehicles, but to no avail.

Gent Gurdwara Kirtan Darbar – Gent Zuid and Keizerpoort

Gent Gurdwara Kirtan Darbar
06 May 2018

Harpreet Singh – Granthi Singh

Gent Zuid and Keizerpoort
06 May 2018

Gent Zuid – Tram 2 to Zwijnaarde

Gent Zuid – Tram 4 to Muide

Gent Zuid – Tram 2 and Tram 4

Tram 2 from Vierwindgatenstraat to Keizerpoort

Turning into Brusselsepoortstraat

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The Times of India – SGPC, PSGPC to discuss events for 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak

Yudhvir Rana

Attari – Panjab – India, 22 June 2018. The Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will hold discussions with the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) about celebration programmes for the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev in 2019.

While talking to TOI before boarding the Sikh pilgrim special train on Thursday, SGPC additional secretary Balwinder Singh Jaura Singha said he would discuss the issue of programmes with the officials of both PSGPC and Pakistan government representatives.

Jaura Singha is leading SGPC jatha (group of pilgrims) to Pakistan for observing 179th death anniversary of Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore on June 29. The Sikh pilgrims would return on June 30. A total of around 300 Sikh pilgrims left for Pakistan via Attari border.

Both SGPC and PSGPC have chalked out series of religious programmes to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev at his birthplace Nankana Sahib.

PSGPC member Bishan Singh said Sikhs from around the world would be converging at Nankana Sahib and both the district administration, as well as PSGPC had started preparations to receive the pilgrims.

Bhai Mardana Yadgaree Kirtan Darbar Society president Harpal Singh Bhullar, who also sent a Sikh jatha to Pakistan under the leadership of Gurmukh Singh Chohla Sahib, said main functions would be held at Nankana Sahib.

“Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) has convened a meeting of leaders representing Sikh groups in India that would send jathas to Pakistan on the occasion of 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November this year to discuss the programmes and arrangements,” said Bhullar.

He said their major concern was boarding and other arrangements for a large number of Sikh devotees at Nankana Sahib.

Earlier, there was proposal of holding joint cerebrations by SGPC and PSGPC. “The proposal will again be discussed during the meeting in November,” said Bishan, adding that many Sikh leaders from the UK, the US and European countries would also participate in the meeting.

Dawn – Pakistan wants UN team to visit both AJK, held Kashmir

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 22 June 2018. Pakistan on Thursday expressed its willingness to receive the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), but impliedly again conditioned it with New Delhi also agreeing to the commission’s visit to India-held Kashmir.

Pakistan was ready for a commission of inquiry to visit both AJK and held Kashmir, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing apparently linking the acceptance of the commission to its visits to both parts of Kashmir.

Mr Faisal exhorted India to accept the commission.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein had called for setting up of a Commission of Inquiry, the UN’s highest-level probe, to investigate human rights violations in Kashmir.

The call followed the first report on Kashmir by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The report that pointed to impunity for rights abuses and lack of access to justice in India-held Kashmir; and certain administrative, constitutional and legislative issues related to Azad Kashmir, was welcomed by Pakistan, but rejected by India.

The report had mentioned that neither India nor Pakistan allowed unconditional access to territories under their control for investigations for preparation of the document.

The findings were then based on “remote monitoring of the situation” in the two parts of Kashmir. India had refused to allow the UN visit, while Pakistan linked its permission to India allowing the UN team to tour held Kashmir.

The spokesman challenged India to allow the UN team to access the occupied valley. “India can address its claims of the (OHCHR) report being based on unverified information by allowing the COI and OIC Independent Permanent Hum­an Rights Commission access to held Kashmir.”

Mr Faisal further said: “The isolation of India in the international community is complete. The skeletons in Indian closet are growing in numbers and size.” The spokesman further asked the Indian government to hold an independent, transparent and credible probe into the assassination of Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bokhari.

Mr Bokhari was assassinated by unidentified gunmen while leaving his office on June 14.

He said that Mr Bokhari’s murder was manifestation of Indian state terrorism and reflection of intolerance of Indian state apparatus which wants to stifle freedom of speech and expression.

“The Indian government remains fearful of international exposition of the brutalisation of occupied Jammu & Kashmir. India can run, but can it hide? This remains to be seen,” he added.

The spokesman praised slain Bokhari as a vocal voice, who consistently spoke out against human rights abuses in held Kashmir and strongly advocated the need for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Mr Faisal also expressed concern over imposition of the governor rule in India-held Kashmir.

The valley was put under the governor rule on Wednesday after PDP-BJP coalition government collapsed as the two allies decided to part ways.

The spokesman said that the ongoing bloodshed in held Kashmir along with Indian statements about the crackdown in the valley shows an alarming Indian imperviousness to international opinion.

The Times of India – Jammu & Kashmir governor calls all-party meeting tomorrow

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 21 June 2018. Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra has called an all-party meeting here on Friday to discuss the situation in the wake of the implementation of governor’s rule in the state, officials said today.

Jammu and Kashmir was placed under governor’s rule on Wednesday, a day after the PDP-BJP government collapsed as the BJP snapped its three-year-old alliance with the regional party citing “larger national interest” and “deteriorating security situation”.

The governor also placed the legislative assembly in suspended animation till the proclamation of governor’s rule is revoked or varied by a subsequent proclamation, according to a gazette notification. The six-year term of the current assembly ends in March, 2021.

According to the officials, the governor has called a meeting of all party heads, including the heads of the state units of the national parties, tomorrow to discuss the situation in the state.

They said the meeting will take place on Friday evening. – Meghalaya government in action to displace Sikhs from Shillong’s Punjabi Lane

Sikh24 Editors

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 20 June 2018. As per the latest updates, the state government of Meghalaya has commenced work to displace the Sikhs living in the Punjabi lane of Shillong. Images of government officials taking survey of the Punjabi lane in Shillong have surfaced over social media.

Sources have informed that a team of Land Record and Survey Department (Meghalaya) today undertook the land survey exercise at the Punjabi lane area of the city as per the instruction of the High Level Committee (HLC).

Notably, the HLC was formed by the state government to resolve the long pending issue of relocation of the colony from its present location as per the demands of local pressure groups.

Punjabi women residing in Punjabi lane registered a protest by holding placards opposing Meghalaya government’s attempt to displace Sikhs from Punjabi lane.

Meanwhile, SYFB’s senior vice president Bhai Ranjit Singh Damdami Taksal has asked the Punjab government to immediately take an action to stop the Meghalaya state government from devastating Punjabi lane in Shillong.

“If the Meghalaya government succeeds in displacing Sikhs from Punjab lane of Shillong then it will be a start of new chapter of atrocities against Sikhs living in other states of India” he added.

Brussel Noord – Gurdwara Gent – Kirtan Darbar

Brussel Noord
05 May 2018

On the way from Leuven to Gent

Gent Gurdwara
06 May 2018

Somnath’s daughters and son

Somnath’s daughters and son

Granthi Singh behind the young kirtanis

Harpreet Singh – Granthi Singh

Tabla and waja

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

On the 6th of May Harjinder Singh became a 71 year old !
On the 14th of July he will be 22 year old

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The Indian Express – North-east floods: Sikh volunteers lend a helping hand in flood-hit Assam

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone, Gurpreet Singh said, “Karimganj is the worst-hit district in Assam. We have selected those villages which are still under water and inaccessible by roads.”

Divya Goyal

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 22 June 2018. Sikh volunteers from Punjab have started relief operation in the remote villages of Assam worst-hit by floods in the north-east.

The operation first started in the south Assam districts- Karimganj, Cachar and Hailakandi, where volunteers distributed basic grocery packets and water-cleaning tablets. Government relief is yet to reach the villages which are still under water.

Gurpreet Singh, 24, from Patiala and Japneet Singh, 29, from Ludhiana in Punjab are leading the Khalsa Aid International team in Karimganj district along the India-Bangladesh border.

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone, Gurpreet Singh said, “Karimganj is the worst-hit district in Assam. We have selected those villages which are still under water and inaccessible by roads. We have hired boats from locals here and have started distributing ration packets in these villages.

In some villages, there is still at least 11-feet water. Initially, we provided them with bottled water to drink. Now, we are distributing water-cleaning tablets and masks so that dirty water does not lead to bacterial infections and other water-borne diseases.”

Singh added that a team of at least nine volunteers from Khalsa Aid is working in Assam and travelling to the affected areas, using boats. Basic grocery items, sanitation kit and water-cleaning tablets are being distributed in remote villages, including Tukurgram, Kalain and Badarpur.

“We were informed about a peripheral village Tukurgram, located along the border of Karimganj and Cachar. It is still completely under water and no aid had reached there. We reached there by boats and distributed relief kits,” he said.

The relief teams are hiring boats from locals to reach the concerned areas and fields that have been completely washed away in flood waters. “We are mapping more villages in need with the help of local administration.

We are trying our best to help those places where government relief is yet to reach. The locals are cooperating with us and giving us their boats. Their kutcha homes and crops have been completely washed away,” Gurpreet said.

“The team also visited Unakoti district in Tripura but the situation proved to be better with flood waters receding,” he added.

“We are not providing cooked food (langar) here yet because people are more in need of grocery and sanitation kits. Also, with areas still submerged in water, it is difficult to distribute cooked food through boats,” he said.

North-east floods: Sikh volunteers lend a helping hand in flood-hit Assam

The Hindu – AAP MLA assaulted by Punjab sand mafia

CM Amarinder Singh seeks detailed report on the incident

Special Correspondent

Chandigarh/New Delhi, 21 June 2018. An Aam Aadmi Party MLA in Punjab was allegedly assaulted by a group of people involved in illegal sand mining near Nurpur Bedi in Rupnagar district on Thursday, prompting Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to seek a detailed report on the incident.

Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira alleged that MLA Amarjeet Singh Sandoa was attacked for trying to expose the ongoing illegal activities of the sand mafia.

The AAP MLA and his gunman, head constable Sukhdeep Singh, were injured in the incident.

“Both were taken to a civil hospital, from where Mr Sandoa was referred to PGI, Chandigarh, for further check-up after he complained of chest pain,” an official spokesperson said.

Three arrested

The police have arrested three persons allegedly involved in the incident.

The spokesperson said three relatives of Ajwinder Singh, the key accused from Baihara village, have been arrested. Ajwinder and another accused, Bachittar Singh, of Bhauwal village fled after the incident.

Those arrested have been identified as Jaswinder Singh Goldy, Manjit Singh and Amarjit Singh, all residents of Baihara. One vehicle and two guns were seized from them.

The Chief Minister has sought a detailed report from the Deputy Commissioner and asked him to ensure a free and fair probe.

The two PSOs attached to the MLA have also come under the Chief Minister’s scanner for evidently failing to protect him and have been transferred to the police lines. “The Chief Minister has directed the DGP to investigate their role in the entire episode,” the spokesperson added.

‘CM should resign’

Reacting to the alleged attack, the AAP in Delhi said the Chief Minister should resign if he cannot rein in the mafia.

AAP spokesperson Ashish Khetan said Mr. Sandoa had raised his voice against the sand mafia in the past as well.

He said the Chief Minister had during last year’s election campaign promised to rid the State of the drugs, transport, extortion and mining mafia. “Instead, the influence of the mafia has increased. They are carrying out lethal attacks on MLAs,” he said.

The AAP has demanded a new policy to put an end to illegal mining and also called for a White Paper detailing the loss of revenue caused to the State by illegal mining during the past 15 years.