The Indian Express – An inter-religion marriage triggers communal divide in Leh, and exodus

The undercurrents of communal discord rose to the surface here over the last week as news spread of the marriage of a Buddhist woman, who had converted to Islam in 2015, to a Muslim man from Kargil. The two were married on July 31, and the LBA suspects that the conversion and the marriage may have been conducted under duress.

Naveed Iqbal

Leh-Ladakh-J&K-India, 15 September 2017. On Thursday, as the deadline issued by the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) for people from Kargil to leave ran out, Chandu market, a row of shops and tea stalls just off the main road in Leh, wore an abandoned look.

The LBA is a self-styled “welfare group” that works towards “safeguarding the interests” of what they call a “religious micro-minority” in the Ladakh region of Muslim-majority J&K.

The undercurrents of communal discord rose to the surface here over the last week as news spread of the marriage of a Buddhist woman, who had converted to Islam in 2015, to a Muslim man from Kargil. The two were married on July 31, and the LBA suspects that the conversion and the marriage may have been conducted under duress.

A week ago, the LBA held a public rally where they asked people from Kargil, who were living and working in Leh, to “leave town by September 14 and tell their leaders in Kargil to arrange employment for them”. Many Kargil residents find employment in Leh during the tourist season.

Speaking to The Indian Express, LBA vice-president P T Kunzang said, “We have a floating population of about 50,000 people in Leh. No one has ever been harassed here, but a strong message had to be sent to the religious leaders in Leh because they cannot find jobs and livelihood here and also snatch our girls”.

Asked about the marriage that led to the tension, he said, “Why has the girl not been allowed to talk to her parents? I agree that she is an adult and she has the right to choose her religion and partner, but why the secrecy about her whereabouts”?

According to Uday Bhaskar B, Senior Superintendent of Police, Leh, the woman’s family approached police about ten days ago to register a complaint about their “missing” daughter.

“The police investigated and the woman (Stanzin Saldon, now called Shifah) was traced in Jammu. We sent a team there along with her brother. However, we received a court order on September 8, instructing police not to harass the couple. So, the team came back,” the officer said.

According to LBA, a woman police officer in Jammu told the family that she had spoken to Saldon. “The officer said she had spoken to Saldon who told her that she did not wish to speak to anyone from her family,” Kunzang said.

While the family and police looked for Saldon, the LBA issued its ultimatum. In the week since, at least three incidents of violence have been recorded in Leh. Two of those were linked to Muslim men from Kargil allegedly being involved in relationships with Buddhist women in Leh.

One incident involved a meat-shop owner who allegedly kept his outlet open on the day of the full moon, when Buddhists do not consume meat.

On Thursday, as tourists flooded the main plaza in town and the district administration claimed that the situation was “under control,” a police vehicle remained stationed in the market and non-uniformed policemen patrolled the streets.

On Friday, the district administration will hold a “peace meeting” with the three major religious groups in town — LBA, Anjuman Imamiya (a Shia Muslim group), and Anjuman Moin-Ul-Islam (a Sunni group). Officially, the event is being described as an “introduction meeting” for the new district commissioner who took office on Thursday.

Apart from economic and political differences between the two districts, conversions remain the biggest cause for discord in the region. In 1989, the region witnessed clashes between Buddhists and Muslims. The LBA claims that in the last 25 years, over 90 cases of conversion of Buddhist women to Islam have taken place.

An inter-religion marriage triggers communal divide in Leh, and exodus


The Tribune – Evidence of gurdwara in Haridwar, says DSGMC

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 14 September 2017. Delhi Sikh Management Gurdwara Committee (DSGMC) general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa said today that the surfacing of government documentary evidence of a gurdwara being there at Subash Ghat near Har ki Pauri would boost the campaign to reconstruct the historic Gurdwara Gyan Godri Sahib.

Sirsa said it had come to light that the Haridwar civic body record had shown an evidence of a gurdwara at Har ki Pauri. The municipal corporation record of 1935 depicted existence of the gurdwara.

Documents of the Bharat Scouts and Guides office also related to a gurdwara at the site. Surfacing of this evidence would boost campaign to reestablish the gurdwara sahib and the Sikh community would be thankful to all for its reconstruction when it was done.

He said Sikhs had been demanding handing over the piece of land as Guru Nanak Dev had visited Har ki Pauri where he meditated and gave sermons in 1504-05.

Hoepertingen Nagar Kirtan

Hoepertingen Nagar Kirtan
27 August 2017

Walking along the Palki Sahib lorry

This what makes Hoepertingen real rural :
Tractor pulling the Palki Sahib

Nanak Singh, former Halmaal langri

Two flagbearers and Panj Piare

Panj Piare

Two flagbearers, Panj Piare, Palki Sahib

Guru Ram Dass Sikh Study & Cultural Centre
Smisstraat 8
B-3840 Borgloon

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Asian Age – Mystic Mantra: Mardana – The first Sikh

Bhai Mardana, born in 1459 in a Muslim family, was a life-long companion of Guru Nanak

Kulbir Kaur

Op/Ed, 15 September 2017. I reside where you reside O Mardana!” says Guru Nanak. In Sikh history and religion it is impossible and rather unthinkable to remember Guru Nanak without Mardana.

Bhai Mardana, born in 1459 in a Muslim family, was a life-long companion of Guru Nanak. He was 10 years elder to the Guru and they grew up in the village of Talwandi Rai Bhoe, now known as Nankana Sahib in Sheikhpura district of Pakistan. Bhai Mardana belonged to the Mirasi caste, community of Bards.

“Miras” means heritage and a Mirasi was supposed to be the custodian of “Miras” or heritage. In the Sikh religion, Bhai Mardana played the role of a true custodian of Guru Nanak’s ideas, principles and faith.

Bhai Mardana was named “Dana” by his parents and it was Guru Nanak who renamed him as “Mardana” (warrior). Guru Nanak, during his childhood, had given Mardana a simple string instrument made from reeds to play while he sang the hymns.

When Guru Nanak started working with the Nawab of Sultanpur Lodhi, Mardana went to meet him but never came back. He accompanied the Guru on his spiritual journeys across India and abroad. It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship, one playing the Rabab and the other singing the praises of God.

Bhai Mardana was, in fact, the first Kirtania of the Sikh religion.

The relationship and bond between Guru Nanak and Mardana is very symbolic and significant. It is sacred but reflects upon the everyday mundane life as well. In the Janamsakhis, Mardana represents this worldly affairs like hunger, desires, need for shelter, etc. Guru Nanak is the other worldly manifestation of truth.

Once Mardana felt very hungry and needed something to eat. Guru Nanak asked him to go the nearby village and satisfy his hunger. The villagers served him well and gifted him a number of things. Mardana returned to the Guru with a big bundle. When Guru Nanak saw this he rolled on the ground laughing.

Mardana realised his mistake and threw the bundle, which in fact was an unnecessary burden of desires and greed. Guru Nanak’s philosophy is portrayed through these journeys in an extremely simple and practical manner, without any heavy discourses and sermons.

In almost all the journeys Mardana raises certain doubts or encounters, certain situations typical of this world. Guru Nanak in a simple manner provides clarifications and solutions.

In the company of the Guru, Bhai Mardana acquired the traits of a Gurmukh, the one oriented towards the Guru. Three of his hymns are included in the Adi Granth under Raag Bihagra.

These hymns denounce the evil practices like drinking and differentiate between Gurmukh and Manmukh — the one oriented towards the world. Mardana is the only Sikh who could use Guru Nanak’s name in his hymns as Mardana Nanak.

Bhai Mardana did not care for the restrictions of the organised religion. When Pir Julaali’s son Jul Julaali asked Bhai Mardana not to play the Rabab, he replied that he was singing the hymns of the Guru and would not stop. During one of the journeys, when Mardana fell very ill, Guru Nanak asked him about the performance of his last rites.

Since he was a Muslim, the Guru asked about his wish. Bhai Mardana replied that in the company of the Guru he had overcome the pride of his body and was no longer attached to it. He asked the Guru to do as he wished. In 1534, Bhai Mardana breathed his last at Kartarpur.

Bhai Mardana had all the qualities of a Gursikh. He was child-like and pure in his conduct. He was the first Sikh, the first Kirtania and the first Rababi of the Sikh religion.

Above all he was a friend, a disciple and a companion of Guru Nanak. Bhai Gurdas says, “Ek Baba Akal Rup Dujja Rababi Mardana (There was Guru Nanak as the manifestation of the supreme being, and along him was Mardana, the musician).”

Notes :
1) Not everybody agrees that the three shabads headed Mardana are actually written by him
2) Bhai Mardana’s family was of Sufi background.

Kulbir Kaur teaches sociology at Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Delhi University

The Hindu – Gauri Lankesh murder: Probe the conspiracy angle

Why the investigation into Gauri Lankesh’s death should be taken up in a larger context

Veeraraghav T M

Op/Ed, 11 September 2017. Following the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh outside her Bengaluru home, 18 writers and activists in Karnataka have been given police protection to address fears that others may be on her killers’ radar.

Such swiftness has not been in evidence in joining the dots, at the investigative level, between the killing of Lankesh and three other prominent rationalists and critics of Hindutva and campaigners against superstition and orthodoxy: Narendra Dabholkar (killed in August 2013), Govind Pansare (February 2015) and M.M. Kalburgi (August 2015). There is still no closure in these cases.

The manner in which all four were killed is eerily similar: bike-borne men firing at them at close range using a country-made gun.

All four intellectuals had challenged the core of social beliefs and customs that divisive political ideologies are built on and political parties claim to represent. Their work was at the grassroots.

The common link in all these cases has given rise to the suspicion that the murders were a part of a well-planned conspiracy to target intellectuals with a particular leaning and capacity to mobilise people. Thus there is a fear that more such rationalists could now face danger.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the Dabholkar case while a Maharashtra special investigation team (SIT) is inquiring into the Pansare murder. They have arrested one activist each linked to a Goa-based radical Hindu organisation, the Sanatan Sanstha. With the arrest of Virendra Tawde, the organisation is under the scanner for links in both cases.

The criminal investigation department of the Karnataka police is probing the Kalburgi case while an SIT of the State police has been formed to look into the Lankesh murder. Given the similar nature of the crime, it is bewildering why these investigations have not been clubbed together. Even the Bombay High Court observed recently that there appeared to be a “clear nexus” between the “well planned” murders of Dabholkar and Pansare.

A larger conspiracy?

Forensic analysis in Maharashtra of the cartridges used in the Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi cases has shown that the weapons used could be the same, the key word being same and not similar. The CBI wants further verification and has sought the help of Scotland Yard, but this request hasn’t been met as yet.

Despite these facts, the prime intent of the individual probes has been to look at them as individual murder cases. There has been no dedicated probe into the probability of a larger conspiracy. The four cases need to be seen in tandem by investigators as there is a suspicion of a common thread, and that is what makes them seem far more serious than a murder.

In the absence of material evidence, investigations are all about finding evidence to prove or disprove a theory. In the absence of having a probe looking at all four cases as one, as in cases of terror, a perception of weakness in response to that possibility is created.

For a credible investigation

Condemnation of such incidents cannot be restricted to statements. The strength of the response to these cases must be weighed by the action taken. One measure of that action to start with would be the seriousness with which the probability of a larger conspiracy is probed. But which agency can be trusted to carry out such a probe?

The CBI may have the ability to carry out such an investigation, but the political leanings of the slain activists and the ideological position of the dispensation in power at the Centre, unfortunately, raise questions about the independence of its work.

It is incumbent on the Central and State governments to come up with a solution. This could be in the form of an inter-State task force or a judicial commission, or even an investigation monitored by the Supreme Court, but one that seeks to probe the probability of a larger conspiracy in a dedicated way.

A history of violence

India has had a long history of political and ideological murders and assassinations; the way we lost Mahatma Gandhi is a prominent example. Journalists and activists at the grass-root level are always under the threat of physical intimidation or annihilation.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau show that there have been over 140 attacks, this includes over 70 murders, against journalists, since 2015. Unlike Lankesh, Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi, several social activists have perished in anonymity.

Irrespective of ideological persuasion, political workers brazenly perpetrate acts of violence, physical intimidation and annihilation. The use of violence to silence political or ideological opposition and inhibit the freedom of expression is a reality, and there is no moral high ground any side can take on this.

In the case of right-wing groups, there hardly seems to be any action against those who put out abusive messages or even celebrate murder. The absence of powerful condemnation and subsequent action by major political parties has created a perception of permissibility for such acts.

While each such case, wherever it happens in India, demands the strongest condemnation, the Lankesh, Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi cases have given rise to a worrying possibility of a hit list, of brutality against those seeking to raise their voice.

This underlines the need for the state to send out a clear message that there will be “zero tolerance” of such acts. This starts by beginning a genuine search for the guilty. Till this happens, the question ‘who is next’ will hover over civil society.