BBC News – India’s animal rights activists forced to lie low

Chennai-Tamil Nadu-India, 2 January 2018. The failed campaign to ban bull taming in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has dented support for the animal rights movement and forced local activists to lie low out of fear, as Swaminathan Natarajan reports from Madurai.

So-called Jallikattu contests have been popular in this region for centuries but were banned by the Supreme Court in 2014 after objections from animal rights groups.

Mass protests in support of the contests in January led to a new law overturning the ban.

In the year since then Jallikattu has restarted in many places in and around the temple town of Madurai, but the fall-out from the ban means that formerly welcoming villagers are now reluctant and sometimes even afraid to talk to strangers.

They say clandestine filming and selective editing by animal rights groups has given them a bad name.

People carrying cameras are stopped and asked the purpose of their visit.

“Our office is near one of the Jallikattu venues,” says an official working with an Indian animal rights group. “Some locals suspect us of providing evidence of torture to Peta [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]. We know there is a lot of hostility and mistrust.”

He refuses to talk in detail about the Jallikattu controversy and wants to remain anonymous. Such is the level of fear. Madurai has a population of more than 1.5 million people. As in so much of India, many stray animals crowd the streets.

Every evening it is common to see people offering temple elephants coins in return for blessings. Begging with elephants is illegal, but the practice continues. And much more serious mistreatment of animals goes on openly too.

Cows can be seen eating plastic waste; live birds are hung upside down and moved from one place to another by motorcycle; dogs and cats are pelted with stones by children; and bulls and donkeys are worked to exhaustion. But the city has no animal rescue centre.

“We rented a place to keep abandoned stray dogs but neighbours complained about the noise levels and we had to leave. We are still asking the government to allot land for an animal shelter,” says the same animal rights official.

Madurai does have a government-run veterinary hospital which provides free treatment, and a few private clinics which charge for their services.

“Just a few months ago Madurai got two ambulances for animals,” says another animal rights campaigner, who also requested anonymity out of fear of repercussions. “This helps to an extent to treat animals involved in traffic accidents,”

But supporters of bull taming say animal rights groups have no right to preach to others about animal welfare.

‘Animal rights groups talk nonsense’

A few kilometres away from Allanganallur, one of the main venues for Jallikattu, one can see a memorial to a bull that was buried in front of a temple. Locals say it’s a tribute to an animal never tamed and still close to the hearts of villagers.

Visitors now light lamps at the shrine to honour the animal’s memory. Many such memorials exist for bulls in Madurai.

“Those who haven’t even seen a bull in real life are preaching about animal welfare to people like us who have been living with cattle for generations. This is nonsense,” fumes farmer Muthu Raj.

But Peta, the animal rights group, wants the Jallikattu ban restored.

Nikunj Sharma, Peta India’s head of public policy, says: “Cruelty to animals and disregard for human life and safety is inherent in Jallikattu.”

As evidence, he points to video filmed earlier this year showing participants beating bulls and even allegedly biting their tails.

“Just as there can never be a middle ground that allows child abuse, there is no such thing as an acceptable level of causing unnecessary suffering to animals.”

Cattle trading rules are also a source of controversy.

“Well-connected mafia gangs are involved in this trade and no one is trying to stop it,” says S Nizamudeen, founder of the Coimbatore Cattle Care Welfare Trust.

One of the common complaints against activists is that they do not prevent the transportation of animals from Tamil Nadu to neighbouring Kerala.

Unlike most parts of India, slaughtering cattle for human consumption is allowed in Kerala. But many animals suffer or die avoidable deaths while being transported over long distances.

The rules say cattle should each be given at least two square metres of space – yet trucks are often crammed with several times the permissible limit.

“We often track down trucks loaded with 40 to 60 animals. But for the police and local administration this is not a priority. The courts let them go after charging them less than a $1 fine per animal,” says S Nizamudeen.

Increasing incidents of vigilante groups attacking cattle traders and anyone suspected of consuming beef are overshadowing moral and ethical arguments in favour of animal welfare.

“People who are carrying out attacks in the name of protecting cows are harming the animal rights movement,” says Dr S Chinny Krishna, former vice chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India.

Over the past two decades animal rights groups successfully ended the practice of culling stray dogs by local authorities and stopped animals like elephants, tigers and lions performing in circuses. In some places they have stopped traders offering camel and horse rides and banned sporting spectacles involving animals and birds.

But, now some of these hard-won gains are in danger. In Tamil Nadu, cock fighting has restarted. The neighbouring state of Karnataka has seen a revival of buffalo races known as “kambala”, and Maharashtra has lifted its ban on bullock cart races.

“The floodgates have been opened. We are planning a massive public education campaign to win back popular support,” says Dr Krishna.

But while that battle goes on, grassroots volunteers must carry on their work with very little public backing.


The Tribune – For Sikh identity, amend Article 25: SAD

MP rakes up demand in Lok Sabha; Four such bids have failed in the past

Ajay Banerjee, Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 30 December 2017. The demand to amend Article 25(2) of the Constitution, which clubs Sikhs with Hindus, reverberated yet again in Parliament with Shiromani Akali Dal’s Professor Prem Singh Chandumajra, while speaking on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, in the Lok Sabha, maintaining the Sikhs had waited far too long to be granted a separate identity.

“Please amend clause 2 of Article 25 and give us justice,” he pleaded. Tarlochan Singh, former Rajya Sabha member, had made two attempts to get Article 25(2) amended through a private member’s Bill, but it could not be tabled.

In 2012, Akali leader Rattan Singh Ajnala made a similar effort in the Lok Sabha but drew a blank and so did Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (SAD) in 2014.

Dhindsa and Ajnala had argued that Article 25 granted the “right to freedom of religion”, which must be given to the Sikhs. Chandumajra reiterated much the same.

Clause 1 of Article 25 gives every person the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion. Clause 2 clubs the Sikhs with Hindus. The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, set up in 2000, via a resolution when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was PM, had recommended that this Clause be reworded.

Leuven NMBS – Gentbrugge Farys and Stad Gent works

Leuven NMBS
25 November 2017

Platform along Track 1
Resurfacing work making progress

IC Train to De Panne via Airport

Gentbrugge Water company Farys and Stad Gent works
Emiel Verhaerenlaan / Raf Verhaeststraat / Braemstraat
26 November 2017

Emiel Verhaerenlaan
Junction with Raf Verhaeststraat and Braemstraat

Junction of Raf Verhaeststraat and Braemstraat

Junction of Raf Verhaeststraat and Braemstraat
Stumbling danger

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Times of India – British Sikh MP hosts Ludhiana socialite in UK Parliament

Mohit Behl

Ludhiana-Panjab-India, 1 January 2018. City based businessman and socialite, Harjinder Singh Kukreja was hosted in the British House of Commons by the first Turbaned Sikh member of Parliament, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi.

In a remarkable achievement, Harjinder also read out a note in the Parliament in which he acknowledged the MP and appreciated his efforts for his constituents and for Sikh issues.

During his meeting Harjinder presented a painting of Guru Nanak Sahib to Dhesi in the presence another British Member of Parliament, Nick Brown who is the Chief Whip of the Labour Party.

Harjinder also congratulated Tan Dhesi on moving an early day motion in the British House of Commons for the setting up of a National Sikh War Memorial in Central London. Speaking on the occasion he said “A Sikh War Memorial in London is common cause as I have had the opportunity to visit Ieper in Belgium, Forli in Italy and Saint Tropez in France to raise awareness about Sikh military history”.

He also added, “it was a privilege and an honour to meet Dhesi and I deeply appreciate this unique opportunity. In the hour that I spent there, I was enamoured of his personality and stature. His sweet mannerisms, welcoming attitude and typical English accent are unforgettable”.

Meanwhile appreciating Harjinder, MP Dhesi said, “I want to put on record that I was very honoured and touched by the warm hospitality extended to me by Harjinder and his family during my recent visit to Ludhiana and Punjab and its my way of reciprocating the honour by hosting him here in UK Parliament.

Along with being a successful entrepreneur and social activist he is a great human being as well” Harjinder’s wife Harkirat Kaur who also accompanied him during his visit congratulated Dhesi for making it big by making his way to the Parliament through the Slough constituency.

Dawn – Trump’s tweet on Pakistan sparks war of words

President Donald Trump fumes at Pakistan, saying it thinks US leaders are fools.

Anwar Iqbal / Iftikhar A. Khan

Islamabad-Pakistan / Washington 2 January 2018. Ties between Pakistan and the United States, strained for the past several weeks, suffered a New Year setback on Monday when President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of being a liar, inviting a series of sharp responses from the Pakistani leadership.

In his first message, directed at a foreign nation in the new year, the president pledged to change the nature of a relationship he claimed was based on “nothing but lies and deceit”.

“We are making America great again, and much faster than anyone thought possible,” he wrote.

At 4:12am, on Monday, Mr Trump tweeted his warning to Pakistan: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools”.

Foreign minister says Islamabad will not do more after US president calls it ‘liar’

He said: “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

The message was retweeted and liked by tens of thousands of his followers.

It took only an hour for Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to come up with a rejoinder. “We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly Inshallah…Will let the world know the truth…difference between facts & fiction,” he tweeted.

The timing of Mr Trump’s tweet, at 4 in the morning and more than 12 hours after his last tweet, has caused much speculation in the US capital, with some linking it to reports of a further escalation in India-Pakistan tensions.

In a related development reflecting on worsening ties, the US ambassador in Pakistan was summoned to the Foreign Office and a strong protest over Mr Trump’s remarks was lodged with him, informed sources told Dawn.

Mr Trump’s tweets come a few days after Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Major General Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan had done enough and it was time for the United States and Afghanistan to do more. He was referring to accusation by the US and Afghanistan regarding the presence of militant bases in Pakistan.

He urged the US to “check India’s anti-Pakistan role not only from inside Afghanistan but also through the enhanced and increased ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary”.

His news briefing last week was considered the strongest-ever reaction from Islamabad since Washington began alluding to the possibility of unilateral action.

According to sources, Foreign Minister Asif soon after Mr Trump’s tirade against Pakistan held a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to discuss the situation.

In an interview with a private news channel in the evening, Khawaja Asif said Pakistan had already done enough. “We have already said no more [to the Americans] so Trump’s no more is of no importance now,” he added.

“We are ready to publicly provide details of the US aid that has been received by the country,” said the minister, adding that Mr Trump was disappointed with the US defeat in Afghanistan and was accusing Pakistan in retaliation.

He suggested the US should try and negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan instead of using the armed forces.

Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan in a separate tweet said: “Pakistan as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16 yrs, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust.

They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis.”

Khawaja Asif said: “The claim by Trump regarding the funds, if we account for it, they include reimbursements too for the services rendered by Pakistan.”

“Our land, roads, rail and, other different kinds of services were used for which we were reimbursed. A proper audit took place for the reimbursements,” he said. He asked the US to hold accountable those who failed in Afghanistan.

He also said that only Afghanistan’s neighbours can find a peaceful solution for regional peace and security.

Asked as to what would be Islamabad’s response if the US carried out drone strikes in Pakistan’s settled areas, he said: “The country will defend its sovereignty”.

He said the foreign policy direction is dictated only by the national interest.

A senior military official when contacted said it was time for a united front and single national narrative. He recalled that the ISPR chief in his presser on December 28 had said, “we are receiving threats but once it comes to Pakistan we all are one. No more do more for anyone. We fought two imposed wars”.

The ISPR spokesperson had clarified that the Coalition Support Fund, received from the US, is reimbursement of money spent for operations in support of the coalition for regional peace. “Had we not supported, Al Qaeda would not have been defeated”, he had stated.

Another source said the federal cabinet will hold an emergent meeting today (Tuesday) to ponder over the situation arising out of the harsh remarks. A national response is expected after the cabinet meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.