The Indian Express – Presidential polls: Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu to meet Sonia Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury today

President Pranab Mukherjee’s tenure comes to an end next month on July 24, with the Presidential election to take place on 17 July 2017.

New Delhi, 16 June 2017. Union Minister Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu are set to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury at 11 am in New Delhi today to discuss a possible consensus candidate.

Both, Singh and Naidu, earlier in the week, held a meeting with Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Praful Patel and Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Satish Mishra.

Singh, along with Naidu and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, are part of the three-member committee formed by BJP president Amit Shah to discuss possible candidates with the Opposition.

On Wednesday, Naidu told media that he has exchanged views with Rajnath and the party has decided to hold talks with the Opposition over the matters related to presidential elections.

“We exchanged views today, and will be talking to different parties regarding the same. On June 17, the Finance Minister will come back. We will exchange information with him and move forward,” he had said.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has denied rumours that the party will support the bid of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat for the presidential election.

In a statement to news agency ANI, Kharge said, “We are a secular party. We will never support Mohan Bhagwat; neither will the other parties. His name is being recommended by the Shiv Sena. We don’t know what their connection is with the BJP. However, we will choose a candidate from a secular party.”

Regarding Friday’s meeting, Kharge said that the party will keep everyone’s views on the matter. “The minutes of the meeting will be discussed with the rest of our party and the sub-committee that has been set up ahead of the polls. We will consider the opinion of all,” he said.

Sonia Gandhi had held meeting with opposition parties in recent weeks, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Sitaram Yechury in a bid to challenge the presidential candidate named by NDA government.

President Pranab Mukherjee’s tenure comes to an end next month on July 24, with the Presidential election to take place on July 17. According to Election Commission, June 28 will be the last date to file nomination for candidates, with the result to be declared on 20 July.

Presidential polls: Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu to meet Sonia Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury today

Advertisements – UK Sikhs continue relief efforts for London fire victims at Grenfell Tower

Sikh24 Editors

London-UK, 15 June 2017. Sikh volunteers, charities, businesses and Gurdwaras spent yesterday assisting the victims and families of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington.

Volunteers from Sikh Welfare & Awareness Team (SWAT), Khalsa Aid, Midlands Langar Seva Society, United Sikhs, Punjab Restaurant Slough and Central Gurdwara Shepherds Bush and others took part in the relief efforts providing food, drink, clothing and utilities during the course of day.

It is believed the fire started on the fourth floor and spread quickly. Forty fire engines and more than 200 firefighters went to tackle the blaze.

The fire affected all floors of the building, from the second floor up. Firefighters worked with the gas authority to isolate a ruptured gas main in the block.

Once it was completed, they were able to extinguish the fire with the help of a 40 metre aerial appliance.

Seventeen people have died, according to police, with the number expected to rise.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said fire crews only managed to reach the 12th floor at the height of the fire.

The flats were home to between 400 and 600 people, community leaders said.

Smoke continued to rise from the shell of the tower on Thursday morning, more than a day after fire engulfed the building in the early hours and turned it into an inferno.

Firefighters rescued 65 people from the building.

More than £1 million has been raised to help those affected by the fire, while volunteers and charities helped feed and shelter people who could not return to their homes overnight.

A wall of condolence was put up near the scene, with photographs showing dozens of messages left for loved ones.

Gent Gurdwara – Ketelvaart, Brabantdam

Gent Gurdwara
14 May 2017

Granthi Singh and Gurmeet Singh – Gurbani Kirtan

Chaur Seva – Guru Granth Sahib

Sadh Sangat
Men to the left of the Guru Granth Sahib
Women to the right of the Guru Granth Sahib

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

Ketelvaart, Brabantdam
14 May 2017

Seen from Korte Dagsteeg

Junction Korte Dagsteeg / Brabantdam

Brabantdam – Tram stop Vogelmarkt
The new Tram 2, replacing Tram 21 and 22, has been using this route since 21 May

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Politico – The new Catalans

They came for a better life. Now they could be the swing vote that tears the region away from Spain.

Saim Saeed

Barcelona, 16 June 2017. Gagandeep Singh Khalsa might seem like an unlikely name for a Catalan nationalist. And indeed, before he moved to Barcelona from India nine years ago, Khalsa didn’t even know the region’s inhabitants had their own language, culture and history, or that many of them wanted to break away from Spain.

Today, Khalsa is an independentista, part of a large migrant population whose views Catalan’s separatists are hoping will prove critical if the region holds a planned referendum on independence on October 1.

The region is “always shortchanged,” says Khalsa, a spokesman for the Catalonian Sikh community. Catalonia, he’s convinced, doesn’t need Madrid. “We’ve got everything,” he says.

At a time of rising xenophobia across Europe, Catalonian nationalists have been remarkably welcoming towards migrants. That stance has the potential of paying off.

Between 2000 and 2010, the region’s population swelled by 20 percent to 7.5 million — an increase driven in large part by immigration. While many of those new arrivals can’t vote, a growing number can.

Between 2009 and 2015, some 220,000 people became naturalised Spanish citizens in Catalonia, equivalent to about 3 percent of the region’s population. Saoka Kingolo, an independence campaigner focusing on migrants, said that up to 500,000 foreign-born Catalans will be eligible to vote in the referendum.

That’s not a big number. But it could nonetheless be decisive. If Catalan’s independentistes are to eke out a victory, it’s likely to be a close one. A recent poll put the vote for leaving Spain at 44.3 percent, just over 4 points behind remaining at 48.5 percent (if the region is able to overcome Madrid’s resistance to holding a referendum at all).

Independence campaigners have set out to win over the region’s new arrivals with welcoming rhetoric and policy promises.

Polls on Catalonian independence are notoriously volatile, but they show a few clear broad trends. Voters with Catalan parents are overwhelmingly for independence, while those with parents from other parts of Spain are cool to the concept.

Recent migrants lie somewhere in the middle, almost evenly split between those who would vote for independence, those who would choose to remain part of Spain and those who would abstain, according to a 2013 poll by the Institute of Political and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

That makes them fertile ground for those seeking to break with Madrid, and independence campaigners have set out to win over the region’s new arrivals with welcoming rhetoric and promises of policies that would make it easier to obtain work permits and citizenship.

If every legal resident could be granted a vote and convinced to go to the ballot box, the unionists would suffer “a thrashing,” says Diego Arcos, a spokesman for Barcelona’s Argentinian community.

“We’re talking 10 percent of the electorate,” says independence campaigner Kingolo, who is leading a team of 12 people reaching out to migrants at the Catalan National Assembly, a pro-independence grassroots organization.

“If they are motivated [to vote], the impact of their vote would be great,” Kingolo says.

Growing participation

Catalans separatists will tell you the independence movement began in the 18th century, when Catalan forces were defeated by the Spanish crown in the War of Spanish Succession in 1714. But as a cause it only really took off in the 20th century.

The region enjoyed a brief moment of autonomy in the 1930s before being brutally suppressed following the Spanish Civil War. The Catalan language was banned from schools and public offices until 1975.

Separatism has taken on new life over the last decade, as Catalans chafe at what they say is heavy-handed treatment by the central government.

In 2015, a coalition of pro-independence parties won regional elections by promising to hold a binding referendum on independence no later than September this year, a move Madrid says would violate the Spanish constitution.

The approaching vote makes the subject difficult to avoid, even for those who may not be well-acquainted with it.

“Nowadays, you have to say if you are for independence or not,” says Míriam Hatibi, a spokeswoman for Ibn Battuta, an NGO that helps migrants, primarily Muslims, integrate into Catalan society.

More and more recent arrivals are getting involved in politics, she’s noticed. “The first one [to get involved] was 10 years ago. Now you can’t count them, there are so many.”

And as migrants have gotten interested in politics, Catalan parties have sought to harness their participation, painting it as an opportunity to help create an ideal state in which they will be fully represented.

For Ana María Surra, the argument was compelling. Born in Uruguay, Surra moved to Catalonia to be closer to her son, who lives in Barcelona. She arrived in the city to celebrate her grandson’s first birthday in 2005, and never left.

Now an MP for the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party, a member of the ruling coalition, Surra also founded a group called Sí, amb Nosaltres (Yes, with Us) a pro-independence group of Catalan residents originally from elsewhere.

The (migrant) case for independence

The classic case for Catalan independence, Surra says, is based on two factors: identity and economics. Catalonia is a nation with a distinct language, history and culture. And since the region pays more in taxes to the national government than it takes out, it merits full control over its finances.

For migrants, the case for independence looks a little different. Its appeal lies the promises of employment, papers and dignity.

Free from Spain’s “plunder” of its resources, says Surra, the Catalan government would be able to provide migrants with better employment opportunities.

Under Spanish labor laws, many recent migrants are unable to secure proper contracts with paid holidays. That would be fixed in an independent Catalonia, she claims.

“When we can have papers, we are going to be citizens of the first category, like everyone else,” Surra says. “We will able to vote, we will be able to participate in public life, we will be giving a bonus to the future Catalan republic as migrants.”

Oriol Amorós, the Catalan government’s secretary for equality, migration and citizenship, says the ERC intends to grant immediate citizenship to all legal residents living in Catalonia when it becomes independent.

Even if legal residents can’t vote in the referendum, “they will be immediately added to the new Catalan electoral body to express their opinion in the, for example, the referendum for a new Catalan constitution.”

He also intends to provide visas for people searching for job opportunities, as well as group visas to help citizens and residents bring their families over, all within EU parameters, he added, since the region hopes to maintain its membership in the bloc after independence.

Catalonia is a ‘nation of immigrants’ much like the United States, Amorós says. “Catalonia has been built thanks to many waves of migrations.”

People come to Catalonia, and end up staying, “because it’s a country that doesn’t ask anyone to get rid of its own identity.” Instead, it encourages them “to be part of a diverse and shared society, that is, to become Catalan.”

Dawn – Kulbhushan Jadhav case: ICJ rejects India’s request for six-month time to submit response

Haseeb Bhatti

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected India’s request to delay proceedings for Kubhushan Jadhav’s case until December and ordered India to submit a response by September 13, Attorney General (AG) Ashtar Ausaf Ali said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Ali said that the court’s registrar had informed Pakistan through its consulate in Netherlands of the development.

“The ICJ has written a letter to Pakistan informing us of their decision,” the attorney general said.

India had asked the ICJ to offer them time till December to file pleadings in the Jadhav case, however, “the court has dismissed their request,” the AG added.

“India had adopted the stance that the matter was one of life and death, but Pakistan had stated that the ICJ is not a court of appeals.”

The attorney general further pointed out that the world tribunal was supposed to decide on giving the convicted spy consular access. “The ICJ is supposed to conclude whether or not Jadhav can receive consular access, for which a time period of two to three months is more than enough to file a response.”

Sources privy to the information noted that Pakistan will submit its response to the ICJ in December, while the court proceedings will begin in January 2018.

In a hearing of the case on May 18, a 10-member bench at The Hague restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav, who India claims is a retired naval officer.

Jadhav case

The UN’s top court had announced its ruling on May 18 regarding an urgent bid by India to stop Pakistan from executing a death sentence for Jadhav, one of its nationals convicted of spying and subversive activities in Pakistan.

Rejecting Pakistan’s argument that the court did not have jurisdiction in the matter, the court reasoned it could hear the case because it involved, on the face of it, an alleged violation of one of the clauses of the Vienna Convention, which both Pakistan and India ascribe to and whose interpretation falls under its purview.

“[Meanwhile] Pakistan should take all measures to ensure that Mr Jadhav is not executed till the final decision of this court,” the court said at the time.

The court also said Pakistan should inform it of all measures taken in implementation of the order.