The Statesman – Pakistan, India end water talks in Washington

Washington DC-USA, 2 August 2017. Pakistan and India have concluded the much-delayed water talks here “in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation”, raising hopes of avoiding further tensions over an issue with far-reaching consequences.

“The Secretary-level discussions between India and Pakistan on the technical issues on the Indus Waters Treaty took place this week in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation,” the World Bank said in a statement. “The parties have agreed to continue discussions and reconvene in September in Washington,” it added.

In March, India and Pakistan held the annual Indus Waters Treaty talks in Lahore after a gap of two years. The Commission, which is mandated to meet at least once every year, alternately in India and Pakistan, comprises Indus Commissioners from both sides and discusses technical matters related to the implementation of the treaty.

The Secretary of Water and Power, Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, led the Pakistani delegation at the two-day talks which ended on Tuesday at the World Bank headquarters. The Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, Amarjit Singh, headed the Indian delegation. The Indian team also included representatives from the External Affairs Ministry.

Pakistan has been protesting over the design and construction of two projects, the 330 MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project and the 850 MW Ratle hydroelectric project, on the tributaries of the Indus in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 and involves six rivers: the Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. Brokered by the World Bank, the treaty gave the right to use waters of the first three rivers to India and of the other three rivers to Pakistan.

India has said it has the right under the treaty to set up hydropower plants on the tributaries of the rivers flowing through its territory. Pakistan fears this might reduce the water flow of the rivers into its territory.

The treaty came close to being jeopardized following the cross-border terror attack on September 18 last year on an Indian Army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that left 19 Indian soldiers dead.

Blaming the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed for the attack, New Delhi said it would consider revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty, which has withstood three wars and is seen as one of the most successful international agreements.


Sikh – Killing of Punjabi Pastor Linked to Fascist Hindu Terrorist Group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

“People who killed him were surely monitoring his activities,” says Pastor Sultan Masih’s son


Ludhiana-Panjab-India, 1 August 2017. Pastor Sultan Masih, who was gunned down in Ludhiana on July 16 while standing outside his church, had previously been confronted and threatened by members of the violent Hindu nationalist organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

According to reports by a Christian news outlet, fellow pastor Balwinder Kumar said RSS members quarreled with the pastor on several occasions and accused him of converting Hindus to Christianity. Kumar reported the RSS members warned Masih to cancel the anniversary celebration.

“RSS activists accused him that, ‘You Christians get paid for converting people,” said Kumar.

Masih’s son, Alisha Masih, offered further details. In May, he said, the Temple of God Church which Sultan Masih co-founded had celebrated its 25th anniversary. According to Alisha, men approached his father after the celebration and demanded to know how he paid for it. They asked him if they could get money to “convert.”

His father refused to offer anything and said “those who had converted had done so because they had come to believe in Jesus.”

India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, joined the RSS as a child and began working as a full-time volunteer in 1971 at the age of 21. The group, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (PDF link), promotes “an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India.”

Modi proudly confirmed his acceptance shortly before becoming Prime Minister in 2014, stating: “My identity is of a Hindutvawadi.”

The RSS was founded in 1925 to promote an ideology of a “Hindu” India. Its membership is estimated at approximately 6 million, and its members participate in daily, weekly, and bi-weekly at one of approximately 60,000 shakhas (units). Only Hindu males are allowed to join.

The RSS operates as a paramilitary organization, adopting a uniform of brown pants and a white shirt. RSS members drill, exercise, parade, train with weapons, partake of ideological training, and often march in formation through towns in various regions of India.

M S Golwalkar, who was the national leader of the RSS from 1940 to 1973, articulated the group’s ideology when he wrote in 1939: “Non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture.

In a word, they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizens’ rights.”

“RSS is India’s number one terrorist group,” said former Maharashtra inspector general of police S M Mushrif in 2015.

The RSS and its many affiliates have been directly linked to a number of large-scale massacres in the past 35 years. In 1984, for instance, RSS members were implicated in a genocide against Sikhs in Delhi. In 1992, Member of Parliament L K Advani led a mob of RSS members to destroy a disputed mosque in Uttar Pradesh, after which up to 3,000 Muslims were killed in riots.

Again, in 2002, RSS members under the leadership of Gujarat State legislators took to the streets to slaughter approximately 2,000 Muslims.

In 2008, Hindu nationalists were linked to the massacre of 70 Christians in Odisha State. RSS members have also been linked to bombings, including the 2007 Samjhauta Express train bombing, as well as targeted violence against Christians all throughout India.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to which Prime Minister Modi belongs, acts as the political wing of the RSS.

However, according to Mushrif: “It is immaterial which party is in power.” Instead, he blames a deeper root cause — a widespread embrace of the Hindu caste system which advocates a hierarchical order of society with Brahmans, the highest caste, at the top.

As Mushrif said, “It is the system that is working, it’s the Brahmanical system. And when I say Brahmanical, it doesn’t mean the Brahman, it’s the mentality, the attitude to dominate and oppress.”

“Brahmanism will use any means to divide people, whether caste, religion, or race,” said Bhajan Singh, Founding Director of Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI).

“Brahmanist elements have been caught on multiple occasions orchestrating false-flag terror attacks with state-sponsorship, such as in the Chittisinghpura Massacre in 2001. All victims of this oppression should be proactive to expose these methods and deny these supremacists any success.”

Singh added: “Brahmanism denies people the right to make their own free choices. The Brahmanical system despises the ability of free people to choose and change their religion. They have a cynical view of conversion because they falsely believe members of any religion only exist as statistics and bodies to empower the ruling elite.”

Controversies about conversion in India have been ongoing for years.

One particular controversy erupted in Agra, Uttar Pradesh in December 2014 after RSS affiliates forcibly converted 250 Muslims to Hinduism. Offered ration cards and government housing on the condition that they convert, the Muslims attended a Hindu sacrificial ceremony, after which they were told they had become Hindus.

The organizers promoted the event as a ghar wapsi (homecoming) ceremony, indicating that the Muslims were returning to the “home” religion of India. Subsequently, they announced their intentions to “reconvert” all Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.

Five states in India currently have active “anti-conversion” laws which generally require government permission before changing faiths; several other states are considering similar laws and the BJP-controlled Union Government has threatened to pass a national law.

However, according to United Nations official Heiner Bielefeldt: “The laws are… applied in a discriminatory manner in the practice of ‘reconversion.’” Those converting to Hinduism are not subject to the same strictures as those converting to any other faith from Hinduism.

“Mob violence against minorities by the RSS and targeted killings all have the same goal as the anti-conversion laws,” said South Asian Affairs Analyst Pieter Friedrich.

“The goal is to use every possible means of force to compel people to identify as Hindu whether they want to or not. Instead of relying on peaceful persuasion to convince people, these extremist elements are relying on brutal coercion.”

“The people who killed him were surely monitoring his activities because they waited for the time until he was alone,” concluded Alisha Masih. “Our father was a courageous man, and he was never afraid to die for Jesus.”

Punjab’s population is nearly 60% Sikh. The Sikh religion was founded in Punjab in 1499 in direct contradiction to the prevailing Hindu caste system. Its teachings and rejection of caste requirements have provoked the hostility of RSS and similar extremist elements throughout the centuries.

“The state of Punjab is very safe in India for Christians,” said fellow pastor Paul Tamizharasan. Praising the relationship between Christians and Sikhs, he explained: “There are Sikhs living here — they are also a religious minority. We are also a minority.”

Pastor Sultan Masih is survived by his wife, Sarabjit, and four children.

OFMI can be reached at

Den Haag Parallelweg – Tunnel to Leeghwaterplein

Tunnel to Leeghwaterplein
11 July 2017

Tracks to Holland Spoor station removed

Tram 12 to Duindorp coming out of the tunnel
Tram 12 to the centre of Den Haag coming down

Tram 12 to Duindorp going up
Tram 12 to the centre of Den Haag going into the tunnel

The tunnel to Leeghwaterplein

Tracks to/from Jacob Catsstraat stop
Tram 9, 11 and 12

Tram 11 to Leeghwaterplein

To see all my pictures:

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

New Statesman – “They tried to take it off at school”: Tan Dhesi on being the first Sikh MP with a turban

The Labour MP for Slough on integration, standing out, and his reservations about Europe

London, 1 August 2017. “The first ever turbaned Sikh to the British Parliament, indeed, I believe, the first ever to be elected to any European Parliament.”

This is how Tan Dhesi, the new Labour MP for Slough, described himself in his maiden speech to the House of Commons. “A glass ceiling has truly been broken,” he said.

“I, for one, Mr Speaker, am very much hoping that these brightly-coloured turbans will act as a magnet as you repeatedly point towards the Member for Slough to make his invaluable contributions to proceedings in this House.”

Standing out for his turban had a very different effect when Dhesi, now 38, was growing up in Kent’s Gravesend. “At school, you get discriminated against,” he recalls. “One student tried to take off my turban then. Thankfully such instances haven’t scarred me, but I’ve always taken any negativity as a challenge.”

I speak to him over a cup of tea in Parliament’s Portcullis House. Today he is wearing a deep red turban, and looks relaxed in a checked blue shirt with no tie. It’s a few days until recess, and Parliament has an end-of-term feel.

“Only 1 per cent of the population is Sikh in the UK,” he tells me. “Anyone wearing a turban, you’re always going to stand out, you’re going to look different to others.”

For the first time, British Sikhs who wear turbans have someone in Parliament who doesn’t look different from them, and Dhesi is proud of that, but he says he will work to serve everyone, in the Sikh spirit of sarbat da bhala. “Working for the betterment of all, regardless of background, colour or creed,” he explains.

Dhesi has been a Labour councillor for almost a decade, and was Mayor of Gravesham in Kent in 2011. He was born in Slough and spent his early years there, where his father worked at the Ford factory in Langley and his mother worked for a local petrol pump company. Both his parents emigrated to Britain from the Punjab.

Work dried up in Slough after a few years, so they moved to Kent where Dhesi’s father started a construction company. As a 16 year old, Dhesi spent his school holidays as a labourer on a building site. He worked his way up from sweeping to operating dumpers and diggers and then to drilling.

“If someone is pushing a broom all day, you can’t tell them what to do unless you’ve been there, on the other side, doing that [yourself],” he says. “You don’t quite appreciate how hard people have to work.”

At the age of four, Dhesi was sent to school in India for four and a half years, returning at nine years old to Gravesend rather than Slough. He speaks eight languages: Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, French, German, Italian, Latin, “and a bit of English”, he smiles.

Dhesi recalls turning up as Mayor to the French town twinned with Gravesham and surprising locals with a speech in fluent French. “I don’t think they were expecting a turbaned guy, coming over from England, to be giving them a ten-minute speech in French,” he says, with a chuckle.

“We in England, I think, are famed for not learning or not going beyond English, but it’s important within wider society that we do try to learn other languages as well, foreign languages are important.”

Yet he doesn’t feel “overly attached” to the European Union, citing France’s insistence that Sikhs remove their turbans when going to state school or having an ID photo taken. He calls this “highly disappointing” and “ironic, when more than 80,000 turbaned Sikh soldiers died to liberate [that] very country”.

He adds: “In Britain, I think that people are more cultured, or they’re more aware. The same can’t be said at most European airports. That cultural sensitivity and understanding of people of Sikh background, or Muslims with hijabs or niqabs, or others, I don’t think [that] is there in various other parts of Europe.”

In local politics, Dhesi has focused on community, faith and integration. “We’ve got a common language in terms of the national language of English,” he says. “So it’s important that we push that, but we don’t do it to the detriment whereby we try to obliterate or eliminate other languages and cultures.

“You can be proud to be Sikh… but you can still be proud to be British.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Dawn – When Indira Gandhi was unseated by the judiciary

Bajinder Pal Singh

Op/Ed, 31 July 2017. The year was 1975. It was mid-June, and the scene had shifted to the city of Allahabad, more famously known as the place of confluence of the Rivers Ganga and Yamuna.

On this occasion, however, the city was to emerge as the place of convergence of at least three pillars of Indian polity — politics, judiciary, and the media.

It was a rare occasion in India, when a political battle was being fought in the courts, and an increasingly belligerent media was looking toward the legislative arena, anticipating yet another opportunity to corner the government.

Raj Narain, a popular figure in the wrestling pits of Benares (as Varanasi was then called), and who is credited to have brought akhara politics (street politics) to the Indian political scene, had challenged the election of Indira Gandhi in the Allahabad High Court.

Contemporary records describe Raj Narain as a person with the “heart of a lion and the practices of (Mahatma) Gandhi”.

Raj Narain had decided to confront Indira’s brand of politics with his own brand of akhara politics. His first move was in the political ring when he fought an electoral battle against the sitting prime minister.

While he was associated with the royal family of Benares, he decided to move east to launch his political battle in Rae Bareli, which is located in the alluvial Gangetic plains of the Avadh region.

Since India’s independence, the ruling Indian National Congress had never lost an election from Rae Bareli. Indira Gandhi’s husband Feroze Gandhi had won that seat in India’s first election in 1951-52, and he had repeated his performance five years later.

It was now Indira’s turn to nurture the constituency and Raj Narain, despite his larger-than-life persona, was hardly a match. Raj Narain lost at the hustings, garnering only a quarter of the total votes polled, while Indira Gandhi outscored him with nearly two-thirds of the votes cast.

Undeterred by the political loss, Raj Narain changed tracks, and decided to shift the bout to the legal arena as he filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court, alleging electoral malpractices by the sitting prime minister.

Four years had gone by since his loss in 1971, and the case was now heading toward closure. Suddenly, it was not Lucknow, the administrative capital of Uttar Pradesh; but Allahabad, the judicial capital of the state, that would create one of the biggest political upheavals of post-independence India.

On 12 June 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court declared the Rae Bareli election “null and void” on account of electoral malpractices, and debarred Indira Gandhi from holding elected office for six years. The ruling party was given a time of 20 days to find a replacement for Indira Gandhi.

Significantly, Indira Gandhi was cleared of major charges of electoral malpractices, but she was unseated and debarred on two relatively minor charges, using the services of a government servant for electoral purposes (Yashpal Kapoor was a government servant who had resigned to work for Indira Gandhi, though his resignation had not yet been approved by the president); and erection of a dais by police officials and use of electricity for relaying her election speech.

She was acquitted of more serious charges of bribery, illegal solicitation of votes, and the use of religious symbols for electioneering.

The two offences for which Indira Gandhi was unseated were regarded as standard administrative and security practices. The judgement was, and even today, is often criticised in various quarters as “unseating a prime minister for a traffic offence.”

The political fallout of the judgement was phenomenal as it electrified Indian politics. Raj Narain emerged as a national hero to all those opposed to Indira Gandhi. Having failed to dislodge the Congress party from political power for almost three decades, the judgement provided ammunition for an opposition onslaught.

The galvanised opposition led by Jayaprakash Narain called for the ouster of Indira Gandhi, and announced a campaign of civil disobedience. Both Jayaprakash Narain and Raj Narain were socialists, but in their campaign to oust the Congress, they forged an alliance with the right (though the communist parties largely stayed away).

Though the initial shot had been fired by the socialist parties, the right wing would quickly move centre stage as the contours of the agitation unfolded themselves. The events that followed would help the right wing gain a later-day unprecedented ascendancy over Indian politics.

The beleaguered prime minister smelled a conspiracy. She quickly approached the Supreme Court, but to a vast majority of the Indian populace, Indira Gandhi had already lost the moral authority to rule.

Editorials asked for her resignation, the judiciary had already announced their verdict, and street politics was on the verge of launching the final push.

Contemporary accounts reveal that Indira Gandhi toyed with the idea of resignation, but decided against it. If she was no longer the prime minister, and her party was to face the electorate the next year, would the party be able to counter the narrative of a united opposition, was the reasoning offered by her supporters.

Less than a fortnight later, on 25 June 1975, Jayaprakash Narain organised a rally in Delhi, stating that the police should stop accepting orders of an immoral and unethical government. Through his movement, he was seeking a total elimination of corruption, strengthening of democracy, and eyeing what he called “total revolution.”

Indira Gandhi was now convinced of an underlying agenda, and conspiracies, coteries and a possible conflagration made for a heady cocktail. The die had been cast.

Later that day, Indira Gandhi requested a compliant president, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, to sign an order declaring emergency in India.

As civil liberties were quashed, political activists were imprisoned, and censorship was imposed, India entered one of its darkest phases after independence.

India was never the same again.

The writer is a journalist, and he is currently based in Thailand.
Twitter: @bajinder

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the  Dawn Media Group.