The Statesman – President Kovind, PM Modi greet nation on Guru Ravidas Jayanti

New Delhi, 31 January 2018. President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid tributes to the spiritual poet, Guru Ravidas, on the occasion of his birth anniversary. Guru Ravidas was a saint of the Bhakti Movement.

PM Modi Tweeted, “Guided by the rich ideals of Guru Ravidas Ji, we are working round the clock to build an India which is strong, inclusive and prosperous…where the fruits of development reach everybody and empower those who are poor.”

In series of Tweets, Modi also shared few lines of Guru Ravidas Ji :

”ऐसा चाहूँ राज मैं जहाँ मिलै सबन को अन्न। छोट बड़ो सब सम बसै, रैदास रहै प्रसन्न।।”

Earlier, on the eve of the Guru Ravidas Jayanti, President Ram Nath Kovind greeted the nation.

President Kovind in his Tweet said, “Greetings to all fellow citizens on Guru Ravidas Jayanti. His teachings & the message of equality, unity and social harmony inspire the nation.”

Revered in Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism, the 14th-century saint was born in Varanasi and was a leading figure in the Bhakti Movement.

The Tribune – US judge orders release of immigration activist Ravi Ragbir

Washington DC-USA, 30 January 2018. A US judge has ordered immediate release of prominent Indian-descent immigration activist Ravi Ragbir and granted him a temporary reprieve from deportation to his native Trinidad and Tobago, saying his detention was unnecessarily cruel.

Ragbir, 43, was arrested on January 12 during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and ordered immediate deportation, irking local community in New York.

In a seven-page decision, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Katherine Forrest on Monday said the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated Ragbir’s rights by denying him due process and “the freedom to say goodbye”.

Forrest said Ragbir’s sudden and “unnecessary detention” after living in the US “without incident, reporting as required to immigration authorities and building a home, a family, and a community was wrong”.

Forrest said Ragbir should have been given time to organise his affairs before being taken in custody.

“There is, and ought to be in this country, the freedom to say goodbye. That is, freedom to hug one’s spouse and children, the freedom to organise the myriad of human affairs that collect over time.”

“It ought not to be, and it has never before been, that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associated with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken away without notice from streets, home, and work.

And sent away,” Forrest said amidst cheers from the supporters of Ragbir who had gathered at the courthouse.

Ragbir arrived in the US from Trinidad and Tobago in 1991 on a visitor’s visa. He became a lawful permanent resident in 1994.

According to New York Immigration Coalition, Ragbir, a Brooklyn resident and executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, has been under the threat of deportation for nearly a decade following a conviction for wire fraud in 2001.

He was placed into removal proceedings in 2006 and spent 22 months in immigration detention before being released in February 2008.

During immigration detention and since his release, Ragbir has devoted his life to the lives of immigrants, working tirelessly to end the use of immigration detention, stop deportations and secure relief for countless individuals.

Known as a fixture in the immigrant rights movement, Ragbir was awarded the 2017 Immigrant Excellence Award by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, given to those who show “deep commitment to the enhancement of their community”.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency called Ragbir “an aggravated felon” in reference to his wire fraud conviction and said it was “actively exploring” an appeal against the ruling. (PTI)

Wire Fraud: Financial fraud involving the use of telecommunications or information technology.

Den Haag: Den Haag CS Hoog

Den Haag CS Hoog
24 December 2017

Tram 6 to Leidschendam Noord

Tram 6 to Leidschendam Noord

HTM RandstadRail 3 to Zoetermeer Javalaan

HTM RandstadRail 3 to Zoetermeer Javalaan

HTM Avenio tram 2 to Leidschendam/Leidsenhage

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Man in Blue

The Times of India – Now, Australian gurdwaras ban Indian officials

I P Singh

Jalandhar-Panjab-India, 29 January 2018. Days after 15 gurdwaras in Canada and over 100 in USA banned the entry of Indian officials, now representatives of 20 gurdwaras and 15 Sikh organizations at Gurdwara Miri Piri in Melbourne, Australia, have followed suit and barred Indian government representatives.

The UK-based Sikh Federation has proposed a similar ban in gurdwaras there.

The gurdwara committee and Sikh organizations issued a joint statement on Sunday, announcing a ban on ‘sarkari activities’ in their premises and during functions. They clarified that the ban would not apply to officials visiting in their personal capacity as part of the congregation. ‘Step is to ensure no Indian influence on Sikh institutions.’

The joint statement clarified that the ban only pertained to “their (officials) speaking from the gurdwara stage, their honouring inside gurdwaras or carrying out other official activities”. However, they have clarified that this “ban” would also extend to office-bearers of “anti-Sikh organizations” like RSS, VHP and Shiv Sena.

“It should be noted that this step is not to restrict their access to the Guru, but to ensure that the Sikh institutions remain free of any Indian influence. Gurdwara Sahib is always open to all and any person is always welcome to pay obeisance to the Guru,” they said.

While justifying the ban on their official activities, the Sikh activists stated that when atrocities on Sikhs were on, Indian officials abroad continued to harass Sikhs who raised human rights issues and threatened to block their visas.

The joint statement also pointed out that police officials who eliminated Sikh youths in fake encounters were still being protected and Sikh political prisoners were not being released even after completion of their jail terms.

Notably, it was in third week of November 2017, when Indian high commissioner and consul-general faced protests when they went to a gurdwara in Tarneit, a suburb of Melbourne. The protesting Sikhs had raised the issue of alleged torture of UK national Jagtar Singh Jaggi Johal and alleged that fresh round of hounding of Sikh youths had started in Punjab.

The protesters had also said that Indian officials could visit the gurdwara anytime as devotees, but they would protests if they came with the purpose of keeping tabs on Sikhs and profiling them.

It was after this protest by Sikh youths in Australia that gurdwara committees in Canada and US had announced ban on Indian officials, to stop them from carrying out any activities.

The Hindu – India’s ‘unwanted’ girls: Economic Survey highlights how preference for sons is hurting daughters

K Deepalakshmi

New Delhi-India, 30 January 2018. While an average Indian family prefers to have two children, there are instances where families have more than five children if the last child is not a male.

The Economic Survey has mentioned that the desire for a male child has created 21 million “unwanted” girls in India between 0 and 25 years.

Chapter Seven of the Survey, tabled in Parliament on Monday, deals with gender equality. While India has shown improvement in several parameters related to women’s empowerment, the preference for a son has not diminished.

“In some sense, once born, the lives of women are improving but society still appears to want fewer of them to be born,” the Survey stated.

The Survey has taken note of the behavioural pattern of Indian parents who prefer to have children “until the desired number of sons are born.”

Calling this the “son meta-preference,” the Survey has found that while an average Indian family prefers to have two children, there are instances where families have more than five children if the last child is not a male.

The biologically determined natural sex ratio at birth is 1050 males per 1000 females. After sex selection was declared illegal in India in 1994, the sex ratio at birth (SRB) began to stabilise. In 1970, the SRB was 1060 males per 1000 females. In 2014, this rose to 1108, contrary to the belief that development would mend the skewed sex ratio.

The Survey pointed out the missing link by analysing the sex ratio of last child (SRLC). The SRLC in India is biased against females and is lower by 9.5 percentage points in 2015-16 in comparison with other countries.

The sex ratio among families with one child stood at 1.82 i.e., 1820 males per 1000 females. This drops to 1.55 for families with two children and rises to 1.65 for three, and drops to 1.51 and 1.45 for four and five children, respectively.

Comparing it with the sex ratio of families where the last child is not a male, it stands at 1.07, 0.86, 0.85, 0.84, 0.88 respectively. This shows the Indian families tend to “stop” having children after a son is born.

The Survey pointed out several reasons behind preferring a male child such as compulsion of a woman to move to her husband’s house post marriage, inheritance of property, rituals performed by sons, and dowry, among others.

Male child preference lowest in Meghalaya

The male child preference is highest in Punjab and Haryana and lowest in Meghalaya. More than 2 million women go missing across age groups every year either due to sex-selective abortion, disease, neglect, or inadequate nutrition, according to the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS).

While more women are educated, employed and earning than 10 years ago, they still do not have control over their earnings and childbirth. Quoting the NFHS, the Survey pointed out that more women tend to quit their employment after marriage or childbirth.

The Survey recommended that the nation must confront the societal preference for male offspring.

Noting that schemes such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana, enhanced maternity leave and mandatory creches in workplaces are steps in the right direction, the Survey called for a stronger commitment on the gender front similar to the government’s push for Ease of Doing Business.

BBC News – What could China do in a US trade war?

Karishma Vaswani, Asia business correspondent

Washington DC-USA, 24 January 2018. President Trump’s backing for slapping tariffs on imports of washing machines and solar panels will hit China and South Korea hardest.

And it has opened up the prospect of some retaliation, especially from Beijing.

The hardline Chinese publication Global Times says “nothing good” would come out of a trade war with President Trump, and has warned that China could fight back.

There’s lots at stake. The two countries did $578.6bn worth of trade in 2016.

And by the US government’s own estimates that trade supports just under a million American jobs.

So what could China do? Well here are a few options:

1) File complaints to the World Trade Organisation

China says the US tariffs are bad for global trade and has already said that it will work with other WTO members to defend itself.

Of course there will be plenty in Washington who won’t miss the irony of China, much-maligned for its own trade practices, complaining that it is being hard done by.

2) Limit US beef imports

Last May, the US and China signed a deal to allow, amongst other things, the resumption of US beef exports to China after 14 years.

But there are specific requirements from the Chinese that US beef companies need to adhere to.

Although trade has barely just begun, China could raise these health and safety standards and make life far more difficult for the US beef exporting businesses that are looking to capitalise on middle class Chinese consumers.

3) Tell Chinese customers not to buy American cars

China is the world’s biggest passenger car market. By 2022 it will contribute to over half of the world’s car growth.

China is also consistently among the top five export markets for US cars and car parts, so a directive from the government to stop buying American cars out of loyalty to the Chinese state would hurt US manufacturers.

It’s not unheard of for Beijing to dictate how Chinese consumers spend their money.

Korean retailer Lotte Mart for example, suffered massive losses in China because of the Beijing-Seoul spat over a US anti-missile system.

4) Tell tourists to stop visiting the US

China is the world’s leading outbound tourist market, with more than 130 million Chinese people travelling around the world each year, a number that just keeps rising.

They spend something like $260bn (£185.2bn) a year when they travel, and while the most popular Chinese tourist spots tend to be in Asia, the US has also benefited.

Chinese tourists are projected to spend $450bn on holidays and shopping overseas by 2025, so the US could lose out if Beijing says America is an unsavoury place to travel to.

5) Sell some US bonds

China owns more than a $1tn of US debt.

It has threatened to sell US Treasuries before, and many have worried that this level of debt could mean that Beijing has leverage over the US economy.

But the truth is even if China did sell US debt, it would most likely be picked up by other countries.

But will anything happen?

The reality is China doesn’t want a trade spat to escalate into a more damaging confrontation.

If a trade war between the two countries does escalate, it won’t just be Beijing and the USA losing out.

The wider Asian region could suffer too, simply because of how integrated global supply chains are.

But we might well be just days away from more tariffs, with President Trump to soon decide whether to slap extra duties on steel and aluminium imports. China is the world’s largest producer of both.

Then there’s the intellectual property theft investigation against China, or Section 301, the findings of which should be released soon.

Now, as I’ve said before, President Trump hasn’t really been as hard on China as he said he would during his election campaign, partly because he needs Beijing onside to help push North Korea into giving up its aggressive nuclear strategy.

But with more pressure coming from the voters who elected him, the Republican base, and mid-terms this year – President Trump could decide that now’s the time to finally push his ‘America first’ policy through.

@BBCKarishma on Twitter – Sikh Leaders Urge Boycott of Indian Consulate Sponsored Seminar on Guru Gobind Singh

Sikh Information Centre

Boston-Massachusetts-USA, 28 January 2018. Sikh community leaders are voicing objections to an upcoming seminar about their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, which is being organized by the Consulate General of India.

“The new strategy by the Hindutva-ruled Indian State is to systematically steal and twist the legacy of our Gurus, especially Guru Gobind Singh, to serve the purposes of a supremacist agenda,” states Balbir Singh Dhillon, President of West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara.

“Every Sikh who values his Sikhi and cares about stewarding the true message of the Guru Granth Sahib should boycott and protest such events.”

The January 28 event at the Boston Public Library is co-sponsored by the Milan Cultural Association and the Consulate General of India (New York). Titled, “Celebrations of 350th Anniversary of Shri Guru Gobind Singhji,” the seminar features Dr Bal Ram Singh (University of Massachusetts), Professor Gary Goldstein (Tufts University), and Professor Alan Douglas (University of Maine).

The Boston seminar is scheduled to occur just a little over two months after the Consulate General of India (San Francisco) sponsored a similar seminar at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles.

Bhajan Singh, a community activist, attended that seminar to protest. “These seminars are being organized by the Indian State in collaboration with the Uberoi Foundation, a Hindutva front that is trying to prostitute American academia for its own ends,” says Singh.

“Bal Ram Singh, for instance, uses grant money from Uberoi to promote Vedanta, hobnob with scammers like Baba Ramdev, and organize ‘Teach India’ programs to indoctrinate American schoolteachers about how to talk about India.

He led a letter of American academics inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Butcher of Gujarat, to attend a ‘Rock Star’ reception in San Jose. He’s a Hindutva stooge.”

At the Los Angeles seminar, when the organizers attempted to honor Indian Consul General Ambassador Venkatesan Ashok by crowning him with a turban, Singh stood up to object. “I protest this activity,” declared Singh.

Speaking to Ashok, he continued, “Guru Gobind Singh is a warrior. You are a coward. You have killed so many people near New Delhi. We are suffering. You are coming here representing the government…. You are casteist. You belong to the Hindutva forces.”

Avneet Kaur, an activist affiliated with several Sikh students associations, remarks, “Every Sikh who respects their Gurus should attend these seminars solely to protest. US Gurdwaras should follow the example set by those in Canada and boycott all Sikhi-related events sponsored by the Indian State.

We should also do our part to stand up and deny the legitimacy of any Hindutva vadiwho tries to co-opt the precious legacy and teachings of our Gurus.

The event on January 28 begins at 1pm at 700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA.

Den Haag: Mosque – Hobbemaplein – Haagse Markt

Moskee/Hobbemaplein/Haagse Markt
24 December 2017

Mosque (Masjid) – Van der Vennestraat

Haagse Markt – Avenio Tram 11 to Scheveningen

Hobbemaplein – Avenio Tram 11 to Scheveningen

Hobbemaplein – Tram 6 to Leyenburg

Hobbemaplein – Avenio Tram 11 to Leeghwaterplein

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Man in Blue – Congress leader Jagdish Tytler says Rajiv Gandhi travelled around north Delhi during the 1984 riots

Former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal claimed the former prime minister had ‘supervised’ the riots

New Delhi, 29 Jaqnuary 2018. Congress leader Jagdish Tytler on Monday claimed that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi took several rounds of North Delhi during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, to assess the situation, News18 reported.

The former union minister claimed Gandhi was “extremely anguished” at the behaviour of the Congress’ Delhi MPs, who were asked to control the situation.

The Nanavrati Commission has named Tytler as one of the organisers of the riots. He is also an accused in the killing of three Sikhs outside the Gurudwara Pulbangash in his Delhi north constituency.

On Monday, Tytler also accused the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab of carrying out a “vicious smear campaign”.

Meanwhile, former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal claimed on Monday that Rajiv Gandhi had “supervised” the 1984 riots, ANI reported.

“Jagdish Tytler has revealed that Rajiv Gandhi travelled with him across the city in 1984,” Badal told the agency. “It means that the then prime minister was supervising the killings. The Central Bureau of Investigation must look into it. It is a very serious issue.”

In April 2017, Tytler had refused to undergo the CBI’s lie detector test in connection with the 1984 riots.

Dawn – Mother of all confusions

Muhammad Amir Rana

Op/Ed, 28 January 2018, International politics is the art of constructing narratives, which in turn cultivate public opinion. This requires diplomacy and opinion-making, yet the arguments embedded in a narrative are themselves the most important part.

When a narrative loses appeal it simply requires a review. Harping on lost arguments creates only confusion and distraction.

Pakistan is annoyed at the international community’s repeated concerns about the alleged presence and status of non-state actors on its soil. Pakistan tries to convince the world by describing multiple anti-militant actions it has taken and the sacrifices it has rendered. It also claims that it does not distinguish between good and bad militants.

However, a drone strike and a subsequent press conference, or public demonstration by the leaders of banned organisations and their other public activities, offset the impression. The blame lies largely with the civilian governments that have failed to diplomatically defend Pakistan’s case.

For instance, just before the recent visit of the UN Security Council’s sanctions monitoring team, Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a banned group, approached the Lahore High Court to prevent his arrest. He suspected that the government would put him under house arrest during the team’s visit.

He got temporary relief from the court but the media coverage of one of his news conferences resulted in his views being known abroad. Who now would believe that Pakistan recently took serious measures against banned groups?

Banned militant groups are continuously giving Pakistan diplomatic stress.

The monitoring committee looks into the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1267, dealing with sanctions by the body on designated militant groups. Media reports indicate that the government took special measures to convince the UNSC monitoring team.

The committee was particularly interested in the case of the Jamaatud Dawa and a few other banned groups operating under the garb of welfare organisations.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had also indicated that JuD charities and assets would be taken over by the government. In the past, these had been taken over by the Punjab government that found itself having to allocate a budget to run them.

The UNSC monitoring team’s visit was part of its regular inspections but the Financial Action Task Force, an international body that combats money laundering and terror financing, shares concerns with many other international actors about the activities of banned groups in Pakistan.

Banned militant groups are continuously giving Pakistan diplomatic stress. It has been discussed at various high-level national forums that these groups have become a strategic burden for the country. And that they are also causing internal security problems.

These groups provide recruitment bases to anti-Pakistan and global terrorist networks and also have an impact on relations within law-enforcement departments.

Most importantly, these groups are a major source of confusion at multiple levels. When they take refuge under the cover of nationalist agendas, ambiguities are created in the public perception.

On social media, members of banned groups portray themselves as the ‘ultra-patriotic’ custodians of the ideology of Pakistan and defenders of the country’s borders. The silence of state institutions regarding their activities in cyberspace creates fear amongst ordinary citizens.

Though the effective implementation of banning militant groups is part of the National Action Plan, and the government has taken steps to put pressure on these organisations, the latter have devised a counter-strategy: they are building a soft image through expanding their outreach in political spaces and avoiding confrontation with the government.

The establishment of the Milli Muslim League is a case in point. But a recent development did not receive enough notice. The new narrative of ‘Paigham-i-Pakistan’, prepared by religious scholars to counter militant narratives, was also endorsed by the heads of banned organisations present at the President House during the launching ceremony.

Interestingly, the media did not create a hype this time as it did a couple of years ago when the same leaders met the then interior minister, Nisar Ali Khan; at that time, even the court took notice.

The counter-strategy of banned militant groups has proved effective. Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal sees the workers of JuD and other conventional militant groups as ‘ex-militants’ who are engaged in welfare work. He has cautioned that if disturbed, they may join terrorist outfits.

Interestingly, he was expressing these views after attending the graduation ceremony of the Counterterrorism Force at the Police Lines Headquarters in Islamabad. He also claimed that about 4,000 to 5,000 militants had quit militancy and were raising funds for welfare activities.

It is not certain where he got these statistics from as the JuD claims it has more than 50,000 registered workers across the country.

It may not be true that civilians and the military establishment have not tried to find out a way out. But two major issues lie in the way of a clear position.

The first is linked with the state’s long association with these groups, during which they have hijacked the ideological narrative of the state, and the second is about the strategy of dealing with the groups.

That is why despite repeated debate and policy input provided on the prospects of rehabilitating, reintegrating and mainstreaming certain groups, no coherent policy has been chalked out yet. For this purpose, the government and military establishment will have to be on the same page.

This is the time to remove all ambiguities and confusion regarding banned groups, as a national security policy is in the making and an internal security review under way. The architects of our security policies have to come up with a comprehensive, workable mechanism to deal with the challenge.

One cannot ignore the role of parliament, which should have a frank debate on banned militant groups. Army chief Qamar Bajwa endorsed this idea when he addressed the Committee of the Whole in December and stressed that parliament take the lead in devising policies, including defence and foreign affairs.

He held out the assurance that the army would abide by such policies. It is parliament’s turn to assert itself through taking over policy discourse on critical challenges.

The writer is a security analyst.