The Hindustan Times – Leo Varadkar: Born to an Indian father, a historic gay PM for Ireland

At 38, Leo Varadkar will be Ireland’s youngest prime minister when the parliament is set to confirm his nomination this month, after a meteoric rise to the head of the governing centre-right Fine Gael party.

Dublin, 3 June 2017. As a gay man born to an Indian father, Leo Varadkar would probably never have become Ireland’s prime minister a generation ago, but a transformation of Irish society has propelled him to success.

At 38, Varadkar will also be Ireland’s youngest prime minister when parliament is set to confirm his nomination this month, after a meteoric rise to the head of the governing centre-right Fine Gael party.

He went public about his sexuality a few months before a landmark referendum in 2015 in which Ireland became the first country in the world to vote in favour of same-sex marriage in a referendum.

“I am a gay man. It’s not a secret, but not something that everyone would necessarily know,” he said in an interview with national broadcaster RTE.

“It’s not something that defines me: I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter,” he said, adding that he just wanted to be “honest with people”.

“It’s just part of who I am. It doesn’t define me, it is part of my character I suppose,” he said.

The influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the traditionally conservative country has waned in the wake of a series of child abuse scandals in Ireland, which decriminalised homosexuality only in 1993.

But there are limits to the country’s newfound tolerance, and early in his campaign for the party leadership Varadkar said he hoped his sexuality would not be an issue.

He also said that if elected he would not expect his partner Matt Barrett, also a doctor, to accompany him on official business.

‘X Factor Leo’

Varadkar was born on January 18, 1979, the son of a doctor from Mumbai who married an Irish nurse he had met in Britain.

He and his two older sisters were raised in Dublin and went on to attend Trinity College in Dublin, where he studied medicine.

Although a qualified doctor, he became a councillor in his early twenties and has been a full-time politician since he was first elected to parliament in 2007.

Currently the minister for social protection, Varadkar has held various cabinet posts and garnered a reputation as a rightwing straight-talker.

But while attracting supporters he has also attracted more than his fair share of controversy, and is regarded as sharply intelligent but socially awkward.

In 2008, when unemployment was running high after a catastrophic economic crash, he was widely accused of racism for advocating payments to unemployed immigrants who agreed to return to their countries of origin.

More recently, after championing a campaign against “welfare cheats”, he said he wanted to lead a party for “people who get up in the morning”, prompting accusations that he was pushing the country’s centrist consensus sharply to the right.

But he is popular with supporters who have dubbed him “X Factor Leo” for his telegenic image.

Opinion polls suggest that he will boost Fine Gael’s ratings, and while he has ruled out an early general election, speculation is growing that the man who shoots from the hip might not be able to resist.


The Tribune – Sikh challaned for not wearing helmet

Fatehgarh Sahib-Panjab-India, 2 June 2017. A delegation of lawyers led by Amardeep Singh Dharni, former president, District Bar Association, submitted a memorandum to SP (Detective) Daljit Singh Rana.

They are demanding action against traffic police incharge Amar Singh (ASI) for allegedly demanding Rs 500 as bribe from a lawyer, Gurmeet Singh Bajwa, during the checking of vehicles.

On his refusal, Amar Singh allegedly challaned Gurmeet for riding “without helmet” (copy of the challan and complaint are with The Tribune).

Gurmeet has written that when he, along with his handicapped sister in-law, was going to Sirhind, the traffic police stopped him for checking at Jyoti Swarup Chowk.

He showed all the papers, but the ASI, who was allegedly under the influence of liquor, said that they have to meet the targets of challan as per the SSP’s directions. So he was challaning the lawyer for riding without helmet as it has the minimum penalty.

So Gurmeet was challaned for not wearing a helmet despite being a Sikh and sporting a turban.

Daljit Singh Rana, SP (Detective), said that he has marked the inquiry to DSP (Headquarters) Anil Kohli and appropriate action would be taken as per the probe report.

Liège Gurdwara – Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan

Liège Gurdwara – Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan
30 April 2017

Rue des Steppes – Father and son

Rue des Steppes – Gent flagbearers

Rue des Steppes – Gent banner and Gent girls

Rue des Steppes – Gent girls and boys

Rue des Steppes – Gent girls and boys

Rue des Steppes – Gent girls and boys

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

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Asian Image – Thousands of Sikhs to gather in London to commemorate 1984 Golden Temple attack

London-UK, 2 June 2017. Thousands of Sikhs from across the UK are set to gather in central London on Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the June 1984 attack at the Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib], Amritsar.

Sikhs will gather in Hyde Park between 11am and 1pm.

This will be followed by a protest march through central London before holding a massive freedom rally in Trafalgar Square between 2-5pm.

The theme of the annual event is Truth, Justice and Freedom. Truth will focus on the need for a judge-led independent public inquiry into UK involvement in the attack and anti-Sikh measures against the British Sikh community and activists following pressure from the Indian authorities in return for trade.

Further details will be revealed about the ongoing legal action and political campaign for an independent public inquiry to get to the truth of UK involvement.

The Labour Party has committed in its 2017 General Election manifesto to hold an independent public inquiry into the actions of the UK Government.

A senior figure in the Labour Party is expected to address the 25,000+ Sikhs gathered in Trafalgar Square a few days before the General Election on 8 June and confirm the inquiry will also address restrictions imposed on British Sikhs in the UK.

Those gathered for the event will be told using the definition of Genocide in Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide 1948 the series of events in June 1984, the killings and disappearances in the months that followed and the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent Sikhs in November 1984, separately and collectively constitute Genocide.

The Sikh Federation (UK) will disclose at the rally in Trafalgar Square they have been lobbying the five permanent members of the UN Security Council for a UN-led inquiry into the atrocities committed by the Indian authorities in 1984.

On 6 June a written submission will be presented to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, UK, US, France, China and Russia. It will be communicated that international law and the experience of the Sikhs over the last 70 years is the basis on which Sikhs have a legitimate demand for an independent state.

Dawn – Back to barracks ?

Irfan Husain

Karachi, 3 June 2017. In the immediate aftermath of the Manchester suicide bombing, troops were seen on the streets of a major British city after many years.

But the government was quick to assure citizens that the soldiers were under the orders of police officers, and would not operate independently. In Pakistan, it is difficult to imagine circumstances under which even a young army captain would take orders from a senior police officer.

In the US, when a popular general, Stanley McChrystal, denigrated president Obama in an interview, he had to resign. In Pakistan, a major general can send out a controversial tweet, and not face action.

Ruling generals have left behind a bigger mess

I could cite endless examples of generals being kept on a short leash by governments in other countries to highlight the imbalance in the relationship here in Pakistan.

Civil-military ties here have been fraught for many years. In most countries, few know the names of their army chiefs; here, periodic meetings of corps commanders are covered on the front pages of national newspapers.

The problem began early on when politicians squabbled for nearly a decade after Partition before they could agree on a constitution in 1956.

The reason for the delay was that if the document had incorporated the universal democratic principle of one-man, one-vote, power would have passed to the more populous East Pakistan, something West Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats were not willing to accept.

This, combined with other political turbulence, caused a power vacuum to develop, one soon filled by General Ayub Khan in 1958 following a coup that marginalised the entire political class.

Following a popular movement, he was replaced in 1969 by General Yahya Khan who led Pakistan into a disastrous civil war. He was followed by General Zia in 1977 who lasted 11 ruinous years. Then came General Musharraf who was in the saddle from 1999 to 2008.

One point to recall is that three of the four wars Pakistan has fought were caused by these generals: the wars of 1965, 1971 and the Kargil fiasco would not have been launched had the military not been in charge.

Most Pakistani students could recite these facts off the top of their heads, so why am I walking down this well-trodden path? Simply to underline the reality of the military’s dominance over the country’s politics for much of its existence.

As we have noted, the ascendancy of the military has taken place due to the perceived incompetence and corruption of the political class. Never mind that once in power, the officer class takes full advantage of its control of the levers of power to feed at the public trough, just as they accuse politicians and bureaucrats of doing.

Direct control and self-censorship in the media prevents the public from being informed of the security establishment’s wrongdoing, so in millions of eyes, the army is seen as a disciplined, honest force compared to our squabbling and venal politicians.

Hence the periodic appeals to our generals, often amplified and orchestrated by sections of the media, to intervene.

This is clearly a victory of hope over experience: each time the generals have taken over, they have left a bigger mess behind. And yet, as we have been hearing over the last few years, the cry for the ‘third umpire’ to step in retains its potency.

But beyond catering to the hard-wired beliefs of democrats, does this imbalance of power really matter? Yes, it does. A democratic dispensation permits us to boot a poorly performing elected government out. This option is simply not available under a dictatorship.

Even a flawed democratic system gives people a voice that is not available to them under martial law. Freedom of speech and assembly are basic rights that, again, are denied us under a dictatorship.

But in desperately poor countries like Pakistan, most people are more interested in employment, access to clean water and uninterrupted electricity. These needs trump political freedom and human rights.

Given our long experience of military rule, the army has learned lessons, just as politicians have. Basically, generals have come to realise that they have no magic wand to solve the country’s many problems.

After seeing their predecessors forced out in humiliation, and the reputation of their beloved institution sullied, they have decided not to intervene directly again. After all, if they retain their clout, why stage coups?

The lesson politicians have learned is that like it or not, the military is a power they have to cope with. And if they want to reclaim the space the generals have seized over the years, they will have to up their game, and stop squabbling with each other. Good governance will reinforce their legitimacy and right to govern.

And over a period of time, it might even send the army back to the barracks.