The Asian Age – Kapil Mishra questions CM’s absence, marshalled out

The AAP government said that it will urge the Centre to expedite the probe by the special investigation team into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases

New Delhi, 12 August 2017. Amid heated arguments, the four-day long Delhi Assembly session concluded on Friday with the passage of three legislations, which were earlier returned by the Centre, even as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal remained conspicuous by his absence.

The AAP government said that it will urge the Centre to expedite the probe by the special investigation team (SIT) into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases.

Earlier in the day, sacked Delhi minister Kapil Mishra was marshalled out of the Delhi Assembly after the rebel AAP leader held up a banner accusing the chief minister of “bunking off” House proceedings.

As soon the House met on the session’s last day, Mr Mishra stood up with the banner which said “Kejriwal missing, come to the House” written across it.

Speaker Ram Niwas Goel said Mr Mishra’s act was against the rules of the House and called the marshals in. He ordered that Mr Mishra will not be permitted to attend the House for the rest of the day.

“Chief minister Mr Kejriwal has not attended a single sitting of the House over the last four days. I sought to know why was I marshalled out. He bunked off the entire session,” the sacked minister said.

Mr Mishra, who was a Mr Kejriwal loyalist at one point, was stripped off his portfolios of water and tourism and removed as a minister in May after the municipal polls, where the AAP suffered a humiliating defeat.

After that, he made a series of allegations against the AAP supremo, PWD minister Satyendar Jain and other leaders of the party. He was promptly suspended from the party’s primary membership.

Advertisements – SGPC accepts demands of ‘Pathi’ Singhs

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar Sahib-Panjab-India, 10 August 2017. On August 8, the apex Sikh body Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee announced they would accept the demands of ‘Pathi’ (reciter of sacred texts) Singhs.

The aggrieved group had staged a protest inside the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib on July 9 seeking a hike in wages and facilitation of other services like regular SGPC employees.

Interacting with media on August 8, the SGPC president Professor Kirpal Singh Badungar said that the ‘Pathis’ were a responsible and respectable class of the Sikh community and their demands have been accepted after receiving a nod from executive members.

He stated that the SGPC had appointed a sub-committee in this concern and now the SGPC has implemented the recommendations made by this sub-committee.

Den Haag: Grote Markt – Spui – Kalvermarkt

Grote Markt – Spui – Kalvermarkt
14 July 2017

Grote Markt ingang A
Tram 2 and 6
RandstadRail 3 and 4

Lift to Tram-stop Grote Markt
Tram 2 and 6
RandstadRail 3 and 4

Grote Markt ingang C
Tram 2 and 6
RandstadRail 3 and 4

Marks & Spencer – Grote Markt – Den Haag
Will this second coming be successful ?
Rumour has it that this shop will be closed

Spui ingang C
Tram 2 and 6
RandstadRail 3 and 4

Tram turning into Spui from Kalvermarkt

To see all my pictures:

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Indian Express – A day in the life of Golden Temple Langar: Free for all

Around 80,000 devotees, 65 quintals of flour, 16 quintals of pulses, 14 quintals of rice, 7 quintals of ghee daily. What lies behind SGPC’s claim that GST is pinching its Rs 1,106-crore budget

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar, 13 August 2017. It’s 5 am, and the langar at Golden Temple in Amritsar is ready to serve its first meal of the day, tea and snacks. Devotees sleeping on the premises are stirring awake and making their way to the two spartan halls at the Guru Ramdas Community Kitchen building.

The community kitchen, having taken a break for 30 minutes, from 4.30 am to 5 am, its only break in a 24X7 operation, is now ready to serve an estimated 50,000 cups of tea and biscuits or bread, over the next two and a half hours.

On a regular day, at least 50,000-80,000 eat at the kitchen, which was started by the fourth Sikh saint, Guru Ramdas, in 1577. This rises to above a lakh on weekends. The idea behind the langar, as per the Sikh faith, is for people of all castes and religions to eat together before visiting the Guru.

Since its inception, the langar at the Golden Temple has only been interrupted when the then Sikh Confederacy lost Amritsar to a host of invaders in the 18th century, and during Operation Blue Star in 1984.

These days, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which runs the community kitchen, has more contemporary issues to contend with.

After the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, the SGPC expects the budget to run its three prominent community kitchens, at Golden Temple, the Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur and the Takht Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, to go up by Rs 10 crore.

The committee spends Rs 30 crore every year on running the langar at Golden Temple from its annual budget, which was Rs 1,106 crore in 2017-18.

“Our purchases were out of the tax system before the GST. We want this back,” says SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar.

Over at the langar halls, the sewadars (working in the kitchen) are catering to people sitting in rows along the floor, from a steel container that is pushed along on wheels. They open a spigot at the bottom of the container to let out the tea into steel bowls.

At the kitchen, stock-taking is on, to ensure there is enough material for the day, as cooking must begin immediately. Nearly a quarter of the material is given as offering by devotees; the rest is bought in bulk, for which Golden Temple has a manager and a team.

The material is transported to the kitchen on trolleys and mini-trucks, from trucks that halt outside the Walled City, as the lanes leading to Golden Temple are narrow. The vehicles move almost constantly.

A total of 495 SGPC employees work at the kitchen in three shifts, apart from 150 sewadars and 250 volunteers at a time. Volunteers are allowed to perform all the tasks except cooking, for which there are 13 cooks, four of whom are working today.

The menu for the day is dal, lauki (bottle-gourd), rice and kheer, along with chappatis. It changes every day and sometimes has to be changed at the last minute if a devotee offers, for example, a lot of vegetables, or for a certain dish to be served.

The first meal has to be ready by 8 am when the devotees start streaming in. “The langar is cooked in three spells. We cook in advance so as to avoid any mess,” says Bhupinder Singh, who has been a ground manager with the kitchen for 17 years.

When he first joined the Golden Temple community kitchen in 2001, Singh says, 30-35 quintals of flour would be consumed for chappatis daily. “Now we consume around 65 quintals daily.”

The kitchen also uses up around 16 quintals of pulses, 16 quintals of vegetables and 14 quintals of rice on a routine basis. Kheer takes up at least 7.50 quintals of dry milk powder in a day.

“The per day budget of running the community kitchen is around Rs 11 lakh, going up to Rs 16 lakh on weekends and special occasions. We have dal, a vegetable, rice, salad, a sweet dish and chappatis. There may be extra items on special occasions such as Gurupurab and Diwali,” Singh says.

The kitchen, spread across an acre, has three machines to make chappatis, each churning out around 4,000 an hour. Besides, women volunteers make chappatis, around 2,000 an hour. Each chappati gets a dab of desi ghee, applied with a cloth tied to a stick.

The ghee, in fact, is one of the commodities that will cost the SGPC dear after the GST, inviting a tax of 12 per cent. The Temple uses around 7 quintals daily and expects an increase of Rs 50,000 on its daily budget of Rs 4 lakh for ghee.

Wazir Singh, also a ‘ground manager’, says there is no alternative. “Desi ghee is also the identity of Punjab. It makes food more healthy and tasty.”

Bhupinder Singh says Guru Amardas, who formalised the idea of the langar, would have been happy at the diversity of those eating together at the community kitchen now. “Earlier mostly Sikhs would come. Now people come from across the world.”

Sandeep Singh Teja, a government teacher and volunteer, says the GST on the langar is unfair. “The SGPC is caught up in a lot of politics. I also condemn it. But this is not about the SGPC alone. You will find Hindus and even Muslims serving as volunteers. Such a service should be above any kind of tax,” he says.

Says Wazir Singh, “We try to make the food tasty, but it is not our cooks but God Himself who makes this food.”

A day in the life of Golden Temple Langar: Free for all

Dawn – The untold story of Sophia Duleep Singh, who advanced human rights in the subcontinent

“What I discovered about Sophia rocked my world,” says biographer Anita Anand about the subject of her book

History owes Anita Anand for writing Sophia

Mehr F Husain

With her book, she uncovers perhaps the most unsung hero of the suffragette movement, sheds light on the sole person who brought the advancement of women to the subcontinent and reveals the person who did justice by her royal lineage as she single-handedly took on the British (who tried their best to wipe her family and her out of history having stolen their identity).

Princess Sophia, the youngest of Duleep Singh’s children from his first marriage and granddaughter of Ranjit Singh must be recognised nationally and internationally for her work and status. Sophia is one of the most extraordinary history books to be written in recent times.

Anand painstakingly pieces together bits of information to produce one glorious book documenting the lives of Maharajah Duleep Singh and his family.

The biographer delves deep into uncovering a mysterious figure who despite having the esteemed position of being Queen Victoria’s goddaughter is buried by the British.

She exposes how this youngest child of Duleep Singh transformed from being an airy society figure to someone who’s politics were stoked whenever she witnessed indignity of any kind.

Most importantly, the Princess emerges as a figure who knew how to manage both her worlds, an alien history with India and her own life in Britain, so that she transformed herself into being more than just another Indian ‘native’ or British ‘subject’.

It’s no wonder then that such a book was the Winner of the Eastern Eye Alchemy Festival and was shortlisted for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize.

When asked how she discovered this hidden but crucial historic figure, Anand who worked as a journalist and is Punjabi herself says, “I didn’t discover her. She found me. I’d had a baby and was on maternity leave and so, in an effort to get the baby to sleep, there was no television, no radio and I read like crazy.

One magazine, the type I wouldn’t usually have read, had an editorial about the suffragettes. There was a picture with the piece, of a suffragette selling militant propaganda newspapers outside Hampton Court Palace. It was pretty provocative; There was something about this woman.

I thought she’s Asian, she had a very hawkish, very Punjabi look and I thought ‘she looks like my aunty’. So I started looking into who he she was. What I discovered about Sophia rocked my world.”

As Anita scratched under the surface, what she found floored her, this suffragette simply labelled as Sophia was actually Princess Sophia, daughter of Maharajha Duleep Singh and goddaughter to Queen Victoria.

For the next four years Anita would go on to unearth one of the greatest colonial secrets that the British had buried.

Sophia grew up in the shadow of tragedy, watching her father abandon them in his pursuit to reclaim a lost kingdom, a mother who drank her life of misery to death, the death of her beloved baby brother Prince Edward, poverty, alienation, resistance from the British and so much more.

Consequently, she knew very little happiness or peace with her family and became somewhat of a recluse refusing to talk or look at anyone.

Anand documents how she was eventually “saved by her godmother Queen Victoria”, who sent her to live with an adopted family in Brighton restoring sanity in her life. This was where she developed some form of stability and the seeds of compassion and kindness were sown.

Despite having suffered so much interestingly out of the three princesses Bamba, Catherine and Sophia it was Sophia who bore no hatred towards anyone, not even the British, choosing to live a life of overwhelming love for all, working for the betterment and emancipation of all.

Undoubtedly her personal story created this attitude. But it was also a trip to India, an act of defiance to the British, where she saw what had been stolen from her father and the levels of poverty in India, coupled with the horrendous treatment meted out to her sisters and her by the British.

Anand says of Princess Sophia, “I found her to be the strongest [emotionally]. Princess Bamba was hurt, reacted with rage. She saw her father’s treatment by the British and she hated them.

Bamba spent most of her life fighting for recognition and compensation. Catherine preferred to be away from it all, living in Germany. Sophia dedicated her life to fight for women, regardless of their colour.”

And while Bamba inherited her father’s sense of stolen identity and anger, Sophia’s relationship with her father was tricky.”Bamba became obsessed with Duleep Singh’s cause, which was claiming the Sikh kingdom.

But Sophia never did. She had no romanticised version of him and knew he was a flawed creature. She spoke about him with respect but not the passion of her eldest sister. He had abandoned them all after all.”

Duleep Singh had ditched his first family and remarried another woman, Ada and had two children with her, Irene and Pauline. Yet despite being conflicted about her absent father and his legacy, it was Sophia who reached out to them time and time again with love and maturity.

Bamba again reacted with hatred. “Sophia was the one who looked after everyone. She looked after Bamba who lived in Lahore and Catherine who was in Germany. She took on her responsibility towards her step siblings. She acted like a little mother,” says Anand.

Disillusioned with empty society life consisting of parties and dog-breeding, Sophia made the most of her time with opportunities life presented her, dedicating her life to not just looking after family but also the lost Indians in Britan.

The lascars (lashkars) of Britian were Indian seamen who worked on the ships used by the East India company. Anand writes about how horrendously they were treated and in the cruelest manner possible, including being beaten with chains and starved, pigs tails forced into Muslim Indians’ mouths, their meager wages unpaid.

Eventually cold, hungry and beyond poor they were abandoned at the banks of the Thames unable to return home or find shelter.

Aware that her father had taken on their cause, Sophia took the fight further. She galvanised support and raised money through her society friends and set up a respite home for those who survived and landed on British soil.

Although it was not a political cause, she was making her soft spot for India and its people known. It would not be the last time she would look after Indians on British soil.

Later during World War I, she would again galvanise support and raise money to ensure Indian soldiers who fought for the British in a fight that wasn’t really theirs but were sent off to the trenches.

While the lascars and the Indian soldiers’ care were undoubtedly noble causes, the greatest cause she took on was on female suffrage.

Anand documents the suffragette movement and Sophia’s incredible role in it beautifully.

She describes how Sophia battled against the British in a most principled manner while they tried every dirty trick in the book to undermine her efforts, disillusion her and eventually bury her name for fear that anyone should credit the Sikh Princess for being a part of female empowerment in Britian or in India where Gandhi was inspired and influenced by the suffragette movement.

Tragically, even in the subcontinent Princess Sophia’s name is nowhere to be seen amongst feminists whether in India or Pakistan.

“Sophia was born to be an outsider. The British just wanted to bury her role. The last thing they wanted their colony to know was that an upstart Punjabi princess defied them in their own land. She might have caused an uprising.”

Years before, it was Duleep Singh who had tried to start an uprising with an army through Russia and Afghanistan and failed.

The nationalists and freedom fighters of India including Gandhi and Jinnah never acknowledged Sophia’s role despite her being politically active before any other Indian woman for freedom and human rights.

According to Anand, “Gandhi mentions only a handful of people including the female poetess, Sarojini Naidu. Although inspired by the suffragettes, he divorced them spiritually due to their violent tactics. Neither Gandhi nor Jinnah had time for royals and less so for those who weren’t really properly connected to new India.”

The fact that this Princess who could have opted for a lavish life risked everything for female equality went completely unnoticed.

Despite her fight against the British for the betterment of poor Indians on British soil and universal female empowerment, Sophia retained Britain as her home unlike her sisters. Even though she visited Lahore, she still felt more at home in Britain most probably because she felt ‘needed’ there.

“Britain was her home. She felt most useful when she was doing something and Britain gave her the time and opportunity to take up causes. When she had nothing to do she felt sad and lonely.”

One could be forgiven for thinking why didn’t she take up her father’s cause to reclaim the Sikh Kingdom or at least ask for the Koh-i-Noor from her godmother. “Unlike Bamba who fought for recognition as Maharani of Punjab, for Sophia the matter was done and dusted.

As far as she was concerned he [Duleep Singh] had lost everything, dying broken and alone. The family also had a lot more to deal with than the loss of the Koh-i-Noor. Sophia just didn’t give a toss.”

Sophia is a crucial part of British and Punjabi history and culture and she must be recognised as such. She alone personified the entire family and rose out of tragedy after tragedy in the utmost dignified form.

“She became most like Ranjit Singh. He was secular, choosing not to destroy mosques or other places of religious worship. She believed in the equality of all people. She was also much like Jindan, her grandmother, who openly defied the British, much to her cost.”

Anita Anand cannot be credited enough for writing about Princess Sophia. It is time Princess Sophia be given credit too.