The News – Empowering non-Muslims

Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

Op/Ed, 28 February 2017. The Pakistan Movement was a purely democratic and peaceful struggle to protect the rights of common people.

It is, however, very unfortunate that a country that was founded to protect the rights of the Muslim minority in British India is today seen as a Muslim-majority country where the rights of non-Muslim minorities are being violated on a larger scale.

During his historic address to the first Constitutional Assembly of Pakistan in August 1947, Quaid-e-Azam had asked non-Muslim Pakistani citizens, largely consisting of Hindus, to stay in Pakistan because they would be treated as equal citizens in the eyes of Pakistani government.

He had added that religious freedom would also be ensured to them.

The appointment of Jogendra Nath Mandal as the country’s first law minister also served as a ray of hope for the frightened Hindus who had been living peacefully on Pakistani soil for centuries and had cancelled their plans to migrate to India.

At the time of Independence, nearly one-fourth of the Pakistani population (around 23 percent) comprised non-Muslims, which according to the official record has now been reduced to six percent.

Interestingly, Quaid-e-Azam, in his speech at Islamia College Peshawar in April 1948 said, “The demand for Pakistan was not just for the sake of a piece of land but for obtaining a laboratory where the principles of Islam could be adopted”. This part of his speech was widely publicised to visualise Pakistan as a theocratic state.

Although the deviation from Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a peaceful Pakistan for all citizens, the massacre of Hindu citizens and occupation of their properties, was initiated at the very beginning of the country’s administrative affairs, the approval of the Objectives Resolution in March 1949 created a clear division between Muslim and non-Muslim politicians in the power corridors as well.

All Muslim members except for Mian Iftikharuddin voted in favour of it while all the non-Muslims opposed it.

At that time, nobody was in the mood to listen Kumar Datta, a Hindu politician from East Pakistan, who warned that, “If this resolution came in [the] life of Jinnah, it would not have come in its present form. Let us not do anything which [will] lead our generation to blind destiny”.

Serious concerns shown by non-Muslim politicians on the occasion were proven right as the eastern part of Pakistan was lost just 20 years later. However, the resolution has not been implemented in its true spirit till today, and doubts in the minds of non-Muslims still exist.

Pakistan, according to the constitution, is a democratic parliamentary republic with its political system based on an elected form of governance. However, throughout history, deviation from democracy, both in the form of dictatorships and political uncertainty, has existed.

It is believed that in the 20th and 21st centuries, the most extreme atrocities were committed against minorities under dictatorial regimes throughout the world. Pakistan was no exception: under the Zia regime, strict religious laws were enforced on non-Muslims.

The rulers in the past failed to understand that although Pakistan was founded in the name of religion and that majority of its population is Muslim, using majority rule to deny basic rights to non-Muslim minorities is inexcusable.

According to the latest report by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the number of non-Muslim votes stands at 2.99 million where Hindu voters have a dominating majority (1.49 million). Empowering non-Muslim citizens in the state institutions would be beneficial for Pakistan on national and international levels.

The appointment of late Rana Bhagwan Das as the acting chief justice of Pakistan was a positive step. Non-Muslims holding offices at important institutions like the State Bank of Pakistan or the Planning Commission of Pakistan, can send a positive message across.

A non-Muslim Pakistani ambassador to a strategically important country can present the case of Pakistan in a very efficient way. Similarly, to counter the anti-Pakistan bias and propaganda on the international arena, a non-Muslim foreign or information minister could really help Pakistan’s case.

The appointment of a non-Muslim provincial governor by the federal government will not only strengthen the federation but will also win the hearts and minds of non-Muslim citizens.

Furthermore, the chapter of electoral rigging can also be closed if there is a non-Muslim election commissioner responsible for organising and conducting elections to state parliament, provincial legislatures, local governments and the office of president.

There is also a dire need for the implementation of the Liaquat-Nehru Pact which calls for the appointment of a non-Muslim chairperson to the Evacuee Trust Property Board.

The chairperson will take care of the places of worship and evacuee properties attached to educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by the Hindus and the Sikhs who had migrated to India after Partition.

Today, we have a democratic setup where the current government is a result of the first transition of power from one democratically-elected government to the next in our 66-year history.

To strengthen democracy in Pakistan and project the country’s positive democratic image on all platforms, a number of bold steps are required so that the international community is reassured that Pakistan is protecting the rights and self-identity of its non-Muslim citizens.

Once this is achieved, non-Muslim Pakistani citizens will also be in a better position to participate in and contribute to their country’s development.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

According to the 2012 Government of Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) information : Hindus: 1,414,527 – Christians: 1,270,051 – Ahmedis: 125,681 – Baha’is: 33,734 – Sikhs: 6,146 – Parsis: 4,020 – Buddhists: 1,492 – Others: 66,898
Man in Blue

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/189209-Empowering-non-Muslims

 

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The Tribune – Sikligar Sikhs eager to be back in mainstream

Khalsa Diwan ready to adopt 100 children

G S Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 27 February 2017. As a community, they possess an incredibly rich history, yet they are longing to return to the mainstream even three centuries later.

Endeavoured by Glasgow-based charity organisation Sikh Council of Scotland (SCS), a group of 173 Sikligars from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were fortunate enough to enjoy pilgrimage to the Golden Temple and other gurdwaras in Amritsar, Anandpur Sahib, Chamkaur Sahib, Fatehgarh Sahib and Delhi.

Originally named Sikligar by Guru Gobind Singh, they were known to be blacksmiths having incredible craft of weapon making and armed the Khalsa Army in the 17th century.

But in the present era far from education, development and health facilities, they lead a poverty-ridden life in the far flung villages and hilly jungle terrains of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and beyond.

In Amritsar, Chief Khalsa Diwan president Charanjit Singh Chadha too extended a helping hand by offering free education, boarding and lodging of at least 100 children belonging to the Sikligar community.

Very little is known about the Sikligars as they have been displaced through years of colonisation and government oppression.

Sikh Council of Scotland president Sulakhan Singh said they came to know about Sikligars through an article written by a Cambridge University professor Dr Harbhajan Singh in 2001. He resented that the SGPC should have come forward to help them out to have better life with changing times.

Chadha said: “We are ready to adopt 100 Sikligar tribal community children who are away from civilisation, if they agree to come to Punjab. We will be happy to provide them free education and employment opportunities to merit holders as we have an established placement cell here.”

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/sikligar-sikhs-eager-to-be-back-in-mainstream/370449.html

Gent: Flanders Expo

Flanders Expo Tram 1
26 January 2017

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Route from the new terminus to Kortrijksesteenweg 

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Towards the new terminus

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IKEA – a perfect place to get lost in
The trams will be running on the viaduct

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Tram terminus and access to Flanders Expo

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Both trams and buses will stop here

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No trams or buses expected very soon …

To see all my pictures:

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

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Pakistan Observer – Sikhs cry for justice

Khalid Chandio

Islamabad, 27 February 2017. Since 1984, countless Sikhs have been killed in India. The roots of the Sikh dilemma in India are very complex with the main factors being inadequate recognition of Sikhism as a separate religion and the Punjabi language coupled with mistreatment from the successive Indian governments since its formation in 1947.

The year 1984 stands the most fateful year in the history of Sikhs around the world. Indian army invaded the “Golden Temple” [Harmandr Sahib] in June 1984, which shocked the Sikh community around the world as the site is considered the holiest of Sikh religion.

Countless Sikhs were ruthlessly killed and a normally proud community stood humiliated. It was a systematic genocide of the Sikhs.

Darshan Singh Tatla in his paper titled “The morning after: Trauma, memory and the Sikh predicament since 1984”, published on August 19 2006, writes that “Rajiv Gandhi, the next Prime Minister of India, lost no time in making capital out of his mother’s assassination.

During the 1985 parliamentary elections, Sikhs were presented as the “enemy within”. Across many towns and cities, huge billboards showed two uniformed Sikhs shooting down a bloodstained Mrs Gandhi against the back-drop of a map of India.

Other posters displayed in prominent places in major Indian cities screamed headlines such as ‘will the country’s border finally be moved to your doorstep?’ By whipping up such hate and hysteria, Rajiv Gandhi won 401 of 508 parliamentary seats, the biggest landslide since 1947.

H K L Bhagat, a Congress candidate from a Delhi constituency where the largest number of Sikhs was killed during anti-Sikh riots, secured the second largest majority.”

The Sikhs around the world have been brave, hardworking, smart, hospitable, intelligent, and have great sense of humor. The Indian Sikhs have been instrumental in “green revolution” in the country and the Indian Punjab, home of Sikhs, is considered the food basket of the country.

The Sikhs around the world and in India have excelled in business and industry. But if one closely monitors Indian Bollywood industry, the Sikhs have continuously been humiliated in one way or the other as the ones having no brain at all.

I feel sorry to use this word but the context would have been incomplete in presenting the broader picture of the Sikhs’ plight in a country, which claims to be the largest democracy in the world having so-called secularism being its backbone.

A fact-finding team, jointly organised by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in 2003, claimed on the basis of its investigations that the attacks on the Sikh community were the outcome of “a well-organised plan” and some Sikhs called the police and the Indian army as “mute spectators” during the 1984 Sikh carnage.

Virtually, no government existed during the first two to three days of the violence against Sikhs in 1984. As per BBC, they were turned refugees in their own cities. Prosperous and wealthy one week before the violence, Sikhs were camping and dropped to roads with empty hands one week next.

After decades of living what they thought a tolerant and secular country, four days of madness and ruthless killings exposed the lie of India being secular democratic state.

If one looks at the pages of history since 1984, almost nothing seems to have changed so far as continuous subjugation and human rights abuses and violations of the Sikh religion in India keep simmering. The history of the Sikh issue in India goes back to 1947 when Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, had promised a separate state to the Sikhs.

The Sikh religion’s holy book titled “Guru Granth Sahib” was torn-up in 2015 in India. Sikhism, which promotes equality, compassion, and tolerance, is the world’s fifth-largest religion. The Indian extremist organization, i e “RSS” has been working since long to assimilate Sikhs into Hindu religion.

The Indian text books have systematically equated Sikhism with Hinduism. The children in India are already taught this, i e “Sikhs are an inseparable part of Hindu society. If Hinduism is a tree, Sikhism is a fruit on that tree.

Gurbani is like the Ganga, it emerges from the Gangotri of the Vedas. The Khalsa was created to protect Hinduism and Hindustan. Japji Sahib is a summary of the Gita. Equate ‘Ik Oankaar’ with ‘OM’. The Sikh Gurus worshipped the cow.”

The Sikhs in India have still been children of lesser God as they continue to face issues of identity and recognition. They are often seen less patriotic than the Hindus in the country. The Sikhs are stereotyped at best as untrustworthy, at worst as traitors.

Political marginalization of the Sikhs in India is gradual but certain, especially when the country is occupied by a typical mindset of making India a Hindu country under the leadership of Modi with the support of the RSS.

In the wake of Modi mantra of “reverse conversion” (Ghar Wapsi), not only the Muslims and the Scheduled castes but Sikhs could also be either brought back into Hinduism or considered a sect of Hinduism one day, if things kept on moving with the current wave in India.

The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad

khalidhussainchandio@gmail.com

http://pakobserver.net/sikhs-cry-for-justice/

The Hindu – DU girl’s anti-ABVP tweets trigger political slugfest

Daughter of Kargil braveheart complains of rape threats

Vikas Pathak

New Delhi, 28 February 2017. The social media protest launched against the RSS’ student affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad by Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur after the Ramjas College violence snowballed into a political controversy on Monday, with political leaders taking positions for and against her.

On her part, the student, daughter of Kargil braveheart Captain Mandeep Singh, visited the Delhi Commission for Women to complain against abusive ‘rape’ threats on social media from online trolls.

BJP MP from Mysuru Pratap Simha created a controversy by comparing her to Dawood Ibrahim. “At least Dawood did not use the crutches of his father’s name to justify his anti-national stand,” he tweeted. Mr. Simha also posted a photograph showing the underworld don with the message, “I didn’t kill people in 1993. Bombs killed them.”

In a string of tweets, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju sought to know who had poisoned the girl’s mind. “Who’s polluting this young girl’s mind? A strong Arm Force prevents a war. India never attacked anyone but a weak India was always invaded,” he tweeted.

“Freedom of expression is not a licence to shout anti-national slogans in campuses. Criticise the government but don’t abuse the motherland. Everyone has right of views but she said Pakistan didn’t kill our brave martyr & India should shun war. India never perpetrated violence!” he added.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/du-girls-antiabvp-tweets-trigger-political-slugfest/article17379601.ece?homepage=true