The Statesman – With Sushma’s help, Punjab woman ‘sold’ as domestic help in Saudi Arabia returns

Amritsar/Chandigarh, 31 May 2017. A woman from Punjab who was allegedly “sold” to a family in Saudi Arabia as domestic help, returned to India on Wednesday, following the intervention of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Talking media persons at the airport, Sukhwant Kaur revealed that she had flown to Saudi Arabia from India on a valid visa. She said that after having worked there as a domestic help for a month when she asked about her wages she was told that she had been sold to the family by the agent.

After getting stuck there, Kaur narrated her tale to her husband over telephone, who in turn approached the Ministry of External Affairs.

Kaur thanked Minister Sushma Swaraj and others who made her return to her homeland possible.

Members of her family and residents of her Ajtani village near Nurmahal in Jalandhar district were also at the airport to receive 55-year-old Kaur who was sent to Saudi Arabia by a Delhi-based travel agency last year.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday thanked the External Affairs Minister for facilitating her return.

Amarinder promised a time-bound action plan by his government soon to prevent unscrupulous travel agents from duping innocent people like her.

Swaraj had on Tuesday spoken to the Chief Minister to apprise him of the situation regarding Kaur.

The Chief Minister deputed officials in Amritsar to receive Kaur on behalf of the government as she landed at Guru Ram Dass International Airport, Amritsar, ending her ordeal.

The woman, who was forced to work there as a slave, and was badly treated and also tortured, finally succeeded in returning home to be reunited with her family, with the external affairs ministry’s active intervention.


The Tribune – Punjab police bust terror module; 4 arrested

Chandigarh, 30 May 2017. The Punjab police on Tuesday claimed to have busted a terror module that allegedly had Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar on its hit-list.

Four persons, including a woman, have been arrested, who according to the police, were planning to carry out targeted killings under the banner ‘Khalistan Zindabad’.

On the radar of these “highly radicalised youth” were Congress leaders Tytler and Kumar, as well as those they considered responsible for incidents of sacrilege or desecration, an official spokesman said here today.

Tytler and Kumar have faced allegations related to their role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi.

The youths had formed a group, ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ after having been radicalised over Facebook and other social media platforms by certain individuals based in Pakistan, various middle-eastern countries and the UK, the spokesman said.

Working in close collaboration with their handlers and associates based in India and abroad, the youths were in the process of mobilising funds, procuring weapons and arranging training for its members, when the Mohali police swooped on them, the cops claimed.

Those arrested have been identified as Harbarinder Singh, Amritpal Kaur alias Amrit, Jarnail Singh and Randeep Singh, police officials said.

While Harbarinder and Amritpal were nabbed from the Mohali bus stand on May 29, Jarnail and Randeep were arrested today from Gurdaspur and Ludhiana respectively, according to the police.

The police also claimed to have seized two .32 bore pistols with 4 magazines and 5 live rounds from them.

These weapons were to be used to carry out killings of those accused of sacrilege or desecration and leaders or members of some socio-religious organisations in Punjab, the police claimed.

The four have been booked under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Arms Act and sections of the IPC.

They have been remanded in police custody for seven days, police officials said. (PTI)

Liège Gurdwara – Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan

Liège Gurdwara – Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan
30 April 2017

Three Sikh men

French Gatka Akhara

French Gatka Akhara

Palki Sahib – Gurdwara Sahib

Rue St Léonard

French Gatka Akhara

Gurdwara Guru Nanak Prakash
Rue St Léonard 625
4000 Liège/Luik – Province de Liège

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Man in Blue

The Kabul Times – Anarkali Honaryar; a heroine Sikh woman fighting for equal rights

Following is an article written by Sambuddha Mitra Mustafi about the prominent Sikh woman civil and human rights activist, sparing no time to fight for equal justice for the rights of Afghan women and looked over by The Kabul Times Desk of Reporters.

Sambuddha Mitra Mustafi

Kabul, 1 June 2017. She had a dream of becoming a pilot as a child, but has now been recognized as a leading campaigner for the rights of Afghan women.

“It is difficult for a woman to be a pilot in Afghanistan. My father said it does not fit in with this country’s culture,” Dr. Anarkali Kaur Honaryar told me, sitting in her office at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

In some ways, the high flyer has taken on a challenge much tougher than piloting planes. She fights for women’s rights in a society that remains staunchly patriarchal, and where many of her genders still breathe beneath their veils.


In May 2009, the 25-year-old was chosen by Radio Free Europe’s Afghan chapter as their “Person of the Year”. The award has made her a household name in Kabul.

Dr. Honaryar, a trained dentist, is one of about 3,000 Sikhs and Hindus who remain in Afghanistan.

Their number and their prosperity has significantly dwindled since 1991 when civil war broke out.

Before then, there were an estimated 50,000 Sikhs and Hindus in this ethnically diverse country and many ran successful businesses in Kabul, Kandahar and other cities.

But the outbreak of hostilities meant that most, including Dr. Honaryar’s relatives, moved to safer places in India, Europe, and Canada.

She has led campaigns for the civil rights of the embattled communities who stayed on, including one to get crematoriums built for their dead.

“Some people still think we are foreigners. They think we are Indians who are working and living here for a while. But we are Afghans too, and we should have all the rights and opportunities that other Afghans have,” says the demure yet outspoken doctor.

She has grown up in turbulent times.

In the early 1990s, Afghanistan was a country at war, with no stable central government. The provinces, including Dr. Honaryar’s native Baghlan in the north, were ruled by warlords.


To make matters worse, swathes of the country were falling into Taliban hands.

Girls’ schools were banned in Taliban strongholds and religious minorities felt threatened by their extremist Sunni Muslim ideology, Dr. Honaryar fell into both categories: a female and a non-Muslim.

Fortunately for her, Baghlan did not come under Taliban rule. She carried on her education in relative freedom and graduated from high school four years ahead of her peers.

“I am grateful to my parents for supporting my education. Not all Afghan girls have been so lucky,” she says.

Once the Taliban were overthrown in 2001, Dr. Honaryar went to Kabul University to study medicine. She was part of the loya jirga (grand council) that selected the interim government to replace the Taliban.

“The situation for women has improved since the Taliban days. Now if the Karzai government does not listen to us, at least we can appeal to human rights groups,” she says.

And so she joined the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in 2006.

“They know I am a Sikh but they still trust me with their most personal problems,” she says of the hundreds of mostly Muslim women she meets.

“The culture here is loaded against women. We try to solve their problems, but we also need to change the laws.”
Awareness of existing laws is also at a premium here, the female literacy rate is less than 20%. Dr Honaryar recounts how an illiterate woman had traveled a long way to Kabul to meet her.

The woman’s husband wanted to divorce her when she was expecting their child. “She didn’t know that Afghan laws state a husband cannot divorce his pregnant wife. He has to wait till the child is at least two months old. We helped her secure her rights,” she says, with a hint of pride.

To conclude with the writer said while conferences have taken her to different parts of the globe, Dr. Honaryar regrets not traveling enough in the land of her ancestors, India.

A visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, is top of her to-do list. And of course, the Taj Mahal.

Dawn – Massive blast rocks Kabul diplomatic quarter; 90 killed, 300 wounded

Kabul, 01 June 2017. At least 90 people were killed and hundreds wounded Wednesday when a massive truck bomb ripped through Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, bringing carnage to the streets of the Afghan capital just days into the holy fasting month of Ramazan.

Bloodied corpses littered the scene and a huge cloud of smoke rose from the highly-fortified area which houses foreign embassies, after the rush-hour attack tore a massive crater in the ground and blew out windows several miles away.

Witnesses described dozens of cars choking the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls sought safety. Men and women struggled to get through security checkpoints to search for loved ones.

It was not immediately clear what the target was. But the attack underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan, where a military beset by soaring casualties and desertions is struggling to beat back the insurgents. Over a third of the country is outside government control.

Hours after the explosion ambulances were still at the scene as rescue workers were digging bodies from the rubble.

“Unfortunately the toll has reached 80 martyred (killed) and over 300 wounded, including many women and children,” said health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh, adding the figures would continue to climb as more bodies are pulled from the debris.

The interior ministry, which put the number of wounded at 320, said a suicide bomber had detonated an explosives-packed vehicle in Zanbaq Square around 8:30am. “More than 50 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged,” it said in a statement.

The ministry called on Kabul residents to donate blood, saying hospitals were in “dire need”.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Taliban — currently in the midst of their annual “spring offensive” — tweeted that they were not involved and “strongly condemn” the attack.

The insurgent group rarely claims responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians.

The militant Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for several recent bombings in the Afghan capital, including a powerful blast targeting an armoured Nato convoy that killed at least eight people and wounded 28 on May 3.

Pakistan condemns attack

The Foreign Office said in a press release that the blast has caused damage to the residences of some Pakistani diplomats and staff, while some sustained minor injuries.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Kabul… that has caused loss of precious human lives and injuries to many,” the FO said.

“Pakistan being a victim of terrorism understands the pain and agony that such incidents inflict upon the people and society.”

The FO extended condolences to the government and people of Afghanistan and condemned “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.

Embassies damaged

Manpreet Vohra, India’s envoy to Afghanistan, told the Times Now television channel the bomb went off around 100 metres from India’s embassy, one of several in the area.

“We are all safe, all our staff, all our personnel are safe. However, the blast was very large and nearby buildings including our own building have considerable damage in terms of broken glass and shattered windows and blown doors etc,” he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “We strongly condemn the terrorist blast in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured.”

The explosion also shattered windows at the Japanese embassy. “Two Japanese embassy staffers were mildly injured, suffering cuts,” a foreign ministry official in Tokyo told AFP.

France also reported damage to its own embassy and the German one, but there was no information on possible casualties. Bulgaria said its mission had been damaged and its staff evacuated.

BBC journalists injured

The BBC’s Afghan driver was killed and four of its journalists were injured in the explosion, the British broadcaster said.

“It is with great sadness that the BBC can confirm the death of BBC Afghan driver Mohammed Nazir following the vehicle bomb in Kabul earlier today, as he was driving journalist colleagues to the office,” the BBC World Service said in a statement.

“Four BBC journalists were also injured and were treated in hospital. Their injuries are not thought to be life threatening,” the statement said.

“Mohammed Nazir worked as a driver for the BBC Afghan Service for more than four years and was a popular colleague. He was in his late thirties and he leaves a young family,” it said.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of “another tough year” for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan.

Afghan troops are backed by US and Nato forces, and the Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more soldiers to break the deadlock in the battle against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 now, and there are another 5,000 from Nato allies. They mainly serve in an advisory capacity — a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.

Wednesday’s blast was the latest in a long line of attacks in Kabul. The province surrounding the capital had the highest number of casualties in the first three months of 2017 due to multiple attacks in the city, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.