The Indian Express – Allegations against Punjab minister: J S Narang panel submits report to Captain Amarinder Singh

The Chief Minister had constituted the commission on May 29 after allotment of sand mines in Nawanshahar were alleged to be linked to two former employees of the minister.

Chandigarh, 11 August 2017. More than two months after the Punjab government set up the Justice J S Narang (retd) commission to probe allegations of irregularities in auction of sand mines involving Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, the one-man commission submitted its report to the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Thursday.

After going through the recommendations of the commission, the Chief Minister has forwarded the report to Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh. Justice Narang, who prepared the 92-page report in 72 days, met Amarinder at the latter’s official residence and handed over the report.

The Chief Minister had constituted the commission on May 29 after allotment of sand mines in Nawanshahar were alleged to be linked to two former employees of the minister.

The inquiry commission was mandated to find out whether the sand mining auction linked with minister’s ex-employees had caused any loss to the state exchequer, whether there was any pressure from the minister on the department to allot the mines to his ex-employees and whether any rules were bent by the government.

The commission had questioned officials of the sand mining department and Rana’s employees.

Justice Narang told The Indian Express that he would not say anything about the report as it was confidential. “I will speak only after the Chief Secretary gives his remarks on the action recommended by me.”

However, sources in the government said the commission, after questioning officials of the sand mining department and Rana’s ex-employees, is learnt to have reached a conclusion that no pressure was exerted, no rules were bent and the state exchequer did not face any loss.

The commission, set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, was also asked to inquire whether the minister received any undue financial benefit or gain from the award of such two mines to the bidders and if there has been any loss to the state’s revenue by the award of such two mines to the bidders at the price in question.

Allegations against Punjab minister: J S Narang panel submits report to Captain Amarinder Singh

Advertisements – Filmmaker terrorised for exposing caste slavery in Tamil Nadu

Divya Bharathi faces death threats, criminal charges for documentary

Arvin Valmuci

Chennai, 9 August 2017. After releasing a documentary exposing in vivid detail the daily lives of manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu, 26-year-old filmmaker Divya Bharathi has been slapped with criminal charges, including cyber terrorism.

“Kakkoos,” a nearly two-hour documentary, shows how countless sanitation workers remain engaged in the ancient, caste-based practice of removal and disposal of human excrement using bare hands and feet.

The Hindu caste system traditionally relegated the work to those considered “outcastes” and consequently treated them as Untouchables. Bharathi believes more than 200,000 people are currently engaged in manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu alone.

On August 3, Divya Bharathi was charged by Madurai police with violating Indian Penal Codes Section 153A and Section 505 (1)(b) as well as the Information Technology Act (2006) Section 66F.

The first two laws prohibit “promoting enmity between different groups… on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever” and publishing statements “with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.”

The third law prohibits cyber terrorism.

Charges were filed after complaints by Dr Krishnasamy, a wealthy political leader and former member of Tamil Nadu’s Legislative Assembly. “In my documentary, I had listed 10 castes, including Pallar, whose members are involved in manual scavenging,” explained Bharathi.

“It upset K. Krishnasamy of Puthiya Tamilagam, mainly representing the Scheduled Caste (SC) Dalit subgroup Pallar. He was upset that his caste was named. Krishnasamy has moved ahead economically and socially and he thinks it is damaging for this reputation.”

“‘Kakkoos’ reveals the miserable condition of these poor souls who are forced into this life of slavery,” said Bhajan Singh, Founding Director of Organization for Minorities of India.

“Yet instead of being offended by the reality of the suffering of the oppressed, powerful people have taken offense at the documentation of the truth of the ground realities. Divya is a courageous young woman who deserves our praise and our support.”

Bharathi has also endured a wave of abuse. “My phone number was made public on Facebook and other social media,” she said on August 7. “After this public threat, I received around 2000 calls abusing and threatening to rape and kill me.”

She blames the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for instigating both the abuse and the criminal charges, linking Krishnasamy to BJP president Amit Shah.

“[Krishnasamy] emerged as a Dalit leader but now is an ally of BJP,” said Bharathi. “He welcomed the beef ban… and held a meeting welcoming Amit Shah in Madurai. It is a well-organised political attack by the BJP by using Krishnasamy.”

In a video posted to Facebook on August 3, the young filmmaker stated: “Caste system should be annihilated as Ambedkar told…. The BJP, which supports caste, is bringing the fake cases against me…. I request all to raise your voice against these regressive forces.”

“Kakkoos” has faced strong opposition since its release in February 2017. Film screenings in Tamil Nadu have been repeatedly blocked by the state government; according to Bharathi, the government of neighboring Kerala has even acted to prevent screenings as far away as Delhi.

Screenings were cancelled, reported Bharathi, “on grounds that it would become a law and order issue.”

“Rather than acknowledging the problem of manual scavenging and working to correct it, the Indian State is focused on concealing it by brushing it under the rug and gagging anyone who talks about it,” said Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian Affairs.

“Divya Bharathi’s experience is a horrifying reminder that not only is caste a very current issue, but that Indian citizens lack protection of other very basic human rights such as freedom of speech. The State should never possess the power to censor a film, especially an offensive film.

Of course, in this case, the only reason the film is offensive is because it shows the truth about how people are being oppressed by the government with total impunity.”

India’s 2011 census documented 794,000 cases of manual scavenging across the country. According to government figures, the practice was most common in Maharashtra, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Karnataka.

Various laws at state and national levels have addressed the ongoing practice of manual scavenging. Most notably, the Indian Parliament passed “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.”
However, implementation of the laws is severely lacking. According to Bharathi: “Neither the central government nor the state government is interested in rehabilitating manual scavengers…. In my film, I have proved that all sanitary workers are manual scavengers.”

In “Kakkoos,” Advocate Saravanan stated: “The 2013 act that bans humans cleaning human shit says that 44 safety tools are to be provided to the workers. Of these 44, do you know what our workers have?”

The film then cuts to a montage of over a dozen workers explaining: “They have given us nothing. Not even gloves.” Earlier in the film, describing his job duties, a worker said: “Last week, we went into the sewage canal, with slime till our neck.

We cleaned with our hands only.” Another worker stated: “Gloves, boots are all there safely in the office. They are not given to us. If we ask, they will dismiss us.”

Interviewed by Bharathi, social activist Padam Narayanan explained the municipal selection process for sanitation workers: “When the Chennai Metro water hires people through contractors… When they come for job selection, first they have to remove all their clothes, with just a loin around the waste.

Then they have to drink alcohol. Then they will be sent inside the sewage ditches by hanging on a rope. When that person is inside, the others outside will count….

Those people who can hold their breath for 3 to 4 minutes will be selected. Others are not qualified…. In no other part of the world, you would have ever seen such recruitment method.”

“Manual scavenging is a scourge on Indian society,” remarked Friedrich as he emphasized the widespread extent of the practice. “This is not an issue of a few people being caught up in an obsolete method of sanitation.

As ‘Kakkoos’ shows, employment of people as manual scavengers is common practice by the sanitation departments of some of the largest cities in Tamil Nadu.

The sanitation methodology is inseparably connected to the belief in the caste system, as workers in the film testify, safety equipment is available and yet denied to them. These oppressed people are intentionally, deliberately kept as so-called ‘Untouchables’ by compelling them to work in dangerous, filthy conditions.”

In a 2014 report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) explained that many people are forced to perform manual scavenging. “Manual scavenging can constitute forced labor because entry into this practice is entirely caste-designated….

Consequences for leaving manual scavenging include community threats of physical violence and displacement — and even threats and harassment by local officials mandated by law to end the practice, who instead withhold wages and threaten eviction from homes,” stated the report.

Furthermore, reported HRW, “Government village councils and municipalities have engaged in caste-based recruitment to clean open defecation areas.” According to HRW’s South Asia Director, Meenakshi Ganguly: “People work as manual scavengers because their caste is expected to fulfill this role, and are typically unable to get any other work.”

“Only if we get rid of the caste from our minds can we think of providing other jobs to these people,” stated Bezwada Wilson in “Kakkoos.” Wilson is a cofounder of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), which describes itself as a movement to eradicate manual scavenging in India.

As reported on SKA’s website: “The caste system dictates that those born into a particular Dalit sub-caste should engage in manual scavenging and should remain doing so throughout their lives, prohibiting them to lead a dignified life in the community….

Apart from being employed by individual households there are many manual scavengers employed by the government for cleaning at the community dry latrines, Railway stations, government hospitals, etc.”

“The caste system retards all progress,” explained Arvin Valmuci, a communications coordinator for OFMI. “Caste retards economic progress, technological progress, social progress. It stifles innovation.

The Hindu scriptures require the downtrodden to perform the filthiest work of society in the most degrading manner for the benefit of the upper castes. Believers in this system have no incentive to improve conditions. The only way to fully eradicate manual scavenging is to utterly reject caste.”

Bhajan Singh demanded all charges against Bharathi be dropped immediately. “The duty of the government of Tamil Nadu is to protect Divya, not charge her,” said Singh.

“Instead of persecuting her to try and silence her, the government should be acting to completely remedy its atrocious caste-based practices. Instead of harassing her, the government should be hailing her as a hero for standing up against oppression.”

Den Haag: Brouwersgracht – Prinsengracht

Brouwersgracht / Prinsengracht
14 Juli 2017

Tram 6 turns right here into the tram tunnel

RandstadRail TramTrain

RandstadRail TramTrain entering the tram tunnel

RandstadRail TramTrain
Tram 2 to Krayenstein

RandstadRail TramTrain

RandstadRail TramTrain

To see all my pictures:

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue


The Sacramento Bee – Slaying of Sikh gas station employee shocks community accustomed to tragedy

Laura Sussman

Sacramento, 10 August 2017. When Harfateh Singh first heard about the July 25 murder of Simranjit Singh at a south Sacramento gas station, the former president of the Sikh Cultural Association at UC Davis thought immediately of the tragedies that already have struck his community.

Closest to home was an attack from 2011, when two men from the Sikh religious minority, Surinder Singh, 65, and Gurmej Singh Atwal, 78, were gunned down while taking their afternoon stroll in Elk Grove. That apparent hate crime remains unsolved.

More recently, Subag Singh was found dead in a canal in Fresno the day before Simranjit Singh’s murder. The 68-year-old Sikh man’s death is being investigated as a homicide but as yet not a hate crime, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Last month’s killing of 20-year-old Simranjit Singh, who had come to the USA less than two years ago, hasn’t been linked to his ethnicity or religion, but that violence nonetheless has shocked Northern California’s enormous but tight-knit Sikh community.

“While trying to process the event, I also learned about the older Sikh gentleman who went missing in Fresno, and his body was found in a canal with trauma marks,” Harfateh Singh said.

“Maybe they were both at a wrong place at a wrong time, but what if they were not? I wondered if I will be the next headline or statistic, but I also felt a renewed determination to not stop being who I am.”

Sikh men, in particular, have had to confront more prejudice and violence in the USA, especially after the 11 September 2001, attacks, according to a book by Dawinder Singh Sidhu, a law professor at the University of New Mexico and Neha Singh Gohil, the former Western region director of the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights group.

Sikh men often are confused for Muslims because of the turban and long beard many of them wear for religious reasons. In fact, the first revenge killing in the USA after September 11 was against a Sikh man thought to be a Muslim.

More than 15 years later, Sikhs still face similar problems, even in communities such as Yuba City and Elk Grove, which are part of one of the biggest Sikh populations outside of India.

Some successful Sikhs go on to buying their own gas stations or convenience stores, which often employ more recently arrived Sikhs. Friends of Simranjit Singh said the young man had hoped to buy his own gas station after earning enough money at the station owned by his brother-in-law.

He was also taking an introductory calculus class at American River College to prepare for a possible career in computer engineering.

Singh did not experience episodes of discrimination while in the United States, said his sister, Dimpy Kaur. As for themselves, she and her husband have mostly encountered interest in their customs but “never faced any problems related to religion,” she said.

She added that she did not know whether her brother was killed because of his appearance.

Since moving to the USA in 2007, Harfateh Singh said, he has learned to use his religion to endure the discrimination he’s encountered. He remembered one incident in particular, in his third month after coming to the USA, when a stranger approached him while he was sitting in a San Jose library and asked if he was going to bomb the place.

His reaction, he said, has been to “say a prayer, take a deep breath and remember what’s good in this world.”

Singh said he also has tried to teach people locally and nationally about the Sikh religion, in the hope that through education people will stop mistreating his community.

Rajan Gill, who was born and raised in Yuba City, said Sikhs “mostly face micro-aggressions, such as snide comments or rude stares. They make you feel like the place where you live, where you were born isn’t welcoming and isn’t your home.”

Still, the community has won victories. Rajan’s father, Kash Gill, was elected Yuba City’s mayor in 2009, becoming the first Sikh to head a USA city. Kash Gill insisted that his religion did not play a role in the election. Still, he described the event as a “huge accomplishment for our entire community at large.”

Killings like that of Simranjit Singh, however, quickly dispel that feeling of safety.

The shooting occurred at about 10:30 pm 25 July as Singh and a co-worker were cleaning the Chevron gas station’s parking lot, said Sacramento County Sheriff’s Sergent Tony Turnbull. The suspects began hassling Singh’s co-worker, who went inside to call 911. The men approached Singh, and one of them shot him.

Turnbull said the shooting appears to be the result of the argument rather than a hate crime against Singh.

Two men, Rodolfo Zavala, 23, and his 15-year-old brother, Ramon Zavala, are being sought on murder charges in connection with Singh’s killing. One suspect, Alexander Lopez, 40, of Sacramento, was arrested.

Similar sad news has been a regular occurrence. A 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple [gurdwara] in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by a white supremacist left six dead. On September 21, 2013, a Sikh professor walking in Harlem was beaten by 20 to 30 men as they screamed “Osama” and “terrorist.”

Also in 2013, an elderly Sikh man in Fresno was beaten with an iron bar in what was possibly a hate crime. In December 2015, Amrik Singh Bal, 68, was beaten and then purposely hit by a car in what Fresno police have identified as a hate crime.

A few days later, a Sikh convenience store clerk was stabbed to death in the same city. In September 2016, two men in Richmond ripped the turban off the head of Maan Singh Khalsa and cut his previously unshorn hair.

“The possibility of hate crime extremely worries me because folks like Simranjit, like me, like my relatives and friends who wear a turban and do not cut their hair or shave their beard, may have to be extra cautious,” Harfateh Singh said.

“But we should not and will not let this dampen our spirits, and we will continue to actively work with allies in combating hate and phobia of any sort.”

Laura Sussman

Dawn – Sharif caravan’s crawl and canter puzzle PML-N supporters

Amir Wasim

Islamabad, 11 August 2017. The delayed departure of Nawaz Sharif and his rush to reach Jhelum on the second leg of his homeward journey to Lahore via GT Road on Thursday indicated a lack of planning and coordination within the ruling .

In the morning, the rally waited for more than two hours in the hope of attracting more and more people, but when it did not happen, the convoy rushed out of Rawalpindi district bypassing the planned stopovers in Rawat and Gujar Khan, disappointing the local leaders who had set up camps to receive their leader.

Interestingly, the vehicle ousted prime minister Sharif was travelling in sped up all of a sudden while passing through the constituency of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, making it difficult even for the other vehicles, including those carrying the personnel of protocol and security, to keep pace with it.

They, however, managed to catch up with him only when Mr Sharif made a brief stopover at Sohawa.

The former interior minister was present in the Parliament House when Mr Sharif’s convoy was passing through his constituency.

Mr Sharif had himself announced on Wednesday night during his unplanned address at Committee Chowk in Rawalpindi that they would begin their journey at 11am. However, the local Pindi leadership kept on delaying the departure due to an unimpressive gathering at Kutchery Chowk, the starting point for the rally for the second day.

The unusual and unnecessary slow pace of the rally from Islamabad to Rawalpindi on the opening day has strengthened the claim of critics and opposition parties that the PML-N leadership had not received the response it was expecting from the people.

The opposition alleged that the PML-N leadership had intentionally adopted a “go-slow” strategy in order to provide the organisers time to ensure the presence of the maximum number of people.

Sources claimed that Mr Sharif through his close aides had even conveyed his displeasure to the Pindi leadership over the lack of coordination and poor arrangements.

It was because of the lack of planning that most of the TV channels missed the live broadcast of Mr Sharif’s first-ever direct speech to the public after his ouster at Rawalpindi’s Committee Chowk as the former prime minister was not scheduled to speak at this point, according to the initial plan.

Meanwhile, Chaudhry Nisar through his spokesman in the evening denied reports aired by some TV channels quoting him as saying that he had not accompanied Mr Sharif because of backache.

The clarification issued by the former interior minister, however, once again created a controversy when he indirectly criticised other party leaders for not joining the convoy. He said the backache was not the actual reason for his decision to stay away from the rally.

“The fact is that 99 per cent of senior party leaders are not present in the rally. Why am I only made a controversial person?” he asked, apparently indicating that besides him, there are others in the party who are not happy with Mr Sharif’s decision to go to Lahore via GT Road.

The media reports claim that Chaudhry Nisar wanted Mr Sharif to travel via Motorway and hold the rally only in Lahore. On the other hand, incumbent Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal denied that the party leadership was not satisfied with the people’s response.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Iqbal claimed that the situation was contrary to the reports being aired by some TV channels known for their opposition to the PML-N, and said the former prime minister had in fact “praised” the local leadership of Rawalpindi for their work.

Mr Iqbal also denied that they had intentionally adopted a “go-slow” policy, saying that the convoy was unable to move because the people had started walking in front of Mr Sharif’s vehicle, forcing the whole convoy to move with pedestrian speed. He said that they had attempted several times to remove people from in front of the vehicle, but they failed to do so.

Mr Iqbal said Rawalpindi was not included in the plan as a night stopover, but they had to change the plan as they could not get on GT Road as per schedule due to the large crowd that had gathered in the twin cities to welcome their leader.

When asked about the low attendance on Thursday morning, Mr Iqbal said the Pindi show was over on Wednesday night with the address of Mr Sharif. He said the PML-N rally should not be compared with the long marches and the reception which Benazir Bhutto had received in 1986 upon her return to the country after ending exile.

The minister said Mr Sharif was going back home and on his way he would meet the people to thank them for their support to the party.

Denying differences within the party, Mr Iqbal said that in fact the Supreme Court decision had united the party which had come out as more cohesively.

“The party which had been in a dormant mood for four years has all of a sudden become energised and all the ranks and files have been galvanised,” he added. He also denied that Chaudhry Nisar had not been part of the rally due to differences. “He is very much with the party.”

Mr Iqbal expressed the hope that Mr Sharif would reach Lahore on Saturday after staying in Jhelum and Gujranwala on Thursday and Friday nights, respectively.