BBC News – Rohingya crisis: Bangladesh and Myanmar agree time-frame for repatriation

London-UK, 16 January 2018. Bangladesh says it has agreed a timeframe with Myanmar for repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled an army crackdown last year.

Myanmar has agreed to accept 1,500 Rohingya every week, Bangladesh says, adding that it aims to return all of them to Myanmar within two years.

Over 650,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in Rakhine state in August.

Aid agencies have raised concerns about forcibly repatriating them.

A spokesperson from the UN High Commission for Refugees said Myanmar also needed to address the underlying causes of the crisis and that refugees should only return when they feel it is safe for them to back.

According to Reuters, the agreement did not specify when the process would begin but said Myanmar would provide temporary shelter to those returning and later build houses for them.

The two sides agreed on a repatriation deal last November and have now met in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw to finalise the details.

Bangladeshi foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque told BBC Bangla that the government had wanted Myanmar to accept 15,000 Rohingya each week – however, they eventually settled on 300 a day – 1,500 per week.

Both sides would review the agreement in three months, he added.

Under the current agreement, about 156,000 Rohingya would be repatriated in two years, far short of the 650,000 who have taken recently taken refuge in Bangladesh.

‘Mistrust and fear’

Jonathan Head, BBC Southeast Asia correspondent

Both countries have agreed the repatriation will be voluntary. And most refugees say they will only return if their safety can be assured, their homes rebuilt, and if they are no longer subjected to official discrimination. None of these conditions is in place.

Myanmar has started rebuilding, but mostly for non-Muslims. It is preparing two transit camps, the first able to accommodate 30,000 people. Beyond that not much has changed.

More than 350 villages, nearly all of them Rohingya, have been burned down, some recently. The military, which is accused of terrible human rights abuses, still runs northern Rakhine State. It has denied the abuses, denied access to independent investigators, and strictly limits access for aid agencies.

There is talk of closing the camps in which 130,000 Rohingyas are still confined, but not yet of ending restrictions on Rohingya movements. And nothing is yet happening to reduce the mistrust and fear of Rohingyas felt by the non-Muslim population, some of whom have vowed to fight against any large-scale refugee return.

When the initial deal was signed, Amnesty International said it doubted there could be safe or dignified returns “while a system of apartheid remains” and added that it “hoped those who do not want to go home are not forced to do so”.

The Rohingya are a stateless minority in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Huge numbers have fled to Bangladesh after deadly attacks by a Rohingya group on police posts prompted a military crackdown in Rakhine state in late August.

The crisis has been described as ethnic cleansing by the UN and the US.

Despite widespread accusations of human rights violations, Myanmar has consistently denied persecuting its Rohingya minority.

Advertisements – SGPC Jathedar asks preachers to be ready to adopt new methods of parchar; announces year long program

Sikh24 Editors

Anandpur Sahib-Panjab-India, 11 January 2018. Taking an important step towards reforming methods of parchar, SGPC President Gobind Singh Longowal asked all Sikh preachers to develop dialogue by communicating with the Sangat.

Speaking from Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, Longowal asked kirtanis, ragis, kathavachiks and dhadhis to reach the Sangat by acquiring complete knowledge on every subject so that the questions arising on Sikh beliefs could be answered.

“Sikh preachers have played an important role in reaching out to common masses about Sikhi. However, all preachers must establish a dialogue with Sikh sangat and be ready to adopt new modes of parchar so that Sikh values can be installed in hearts of common masses,” SGPC President Gobind Singh Longowal said.

He further announced that a special program will be dedicated to Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th Prakash Purab. The beginning of this program will be held on 21 January from Takht Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo and on 28th January, a Gurmat function will be held in Sri Amritsar, and February 11 at Anandpur Sahib.

He announced that these programs will continue throughout the year to commemorate Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s life and legacy.

“The programs will be divided into four zones, Akal Takht Sahib in Majha area, Takht Damdama Sahib in Malwa region, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib in Doaba area and Dharam Prachar Kendra in Kurukshetra in the state of Haryana. Each zone will have 20 preachers, who will reach the Sangat, and each group will have 2 preachers, 1 dhadi jatha, 1 kavishari jatha and one religious teacher.

The entire campaign will be operating under the supervision of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and members of the Dharam Prachar Committee,” he added.

He further said that besides accessing the Sangat, common schools would also be approached by the SGPC in addition to the SGPC institutions. “This would allow us to raise awareness of Sikh values,” he said.

“Weekly programs will be organized in the main centers of the zones, in which all the ragis, dhadis, preachers, poet etc. will share Gurbani Kirtan and Gurmat philosophy. The weekly programs will be led by the Jathedar Sahiban of Takht Sahibs,” he added.

During this address, SGPC appointed Jathedar of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib Giani Raghbir Singh lauded the efforts of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for the promotion of Gurmat. He appreciated efforts by newly appointed SGPC Jathedar Gobind Singh Longowal and honoured him with a siropa.

Sneeuw – Burf – Snow – Neige – Negxo – Nieve

11 December 2017

Waiting for my delayed train to Leuven

Gentbrugge De Naeyerdreef

11 December 2017

De Naeyerdreef between Ledeberg en Gentbrugge

Gentbrugge Braemkasteelstraat

13 December 2017
It started snowing on 10 December, it snowed again on the 11th
No snow on the 12th and 13th, but the sidewalks were still seriously slippery

Braemkasteelstraat near Gentbrugge Dienstencentrum

Braemkasteelstraat near Gentbrugge Dienstencentrum

On the left the first stop of bus 3 to Mariakerke Post
On the right the last stop before the Gentbrugge terminus

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – Has Supreme Court censured Modi government by reopening the 1984 Sikh massacre cases its SIT closed?

It has, says the senior lawyer Harinder Singh Phoolka, who has fought for justice on behalf of many victims of the anti-Sikh pogroms

New Delhi-India, 16 January 2017. In June 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the Army to storm the Golden Temple to flush out armed Sikh separatists who had turned it into a fortress. Apparently angered by the assault on this holiest of Sikh shrines in Amritsar, Punjab, Gandhi’s two Sikh bodyguards shot her dead four months later.

The assassination set off a pogrom against Sikhs, especially in Delhi. Nearly 3,000 Sikh men, women and children were killed in what is widely seen as a state-sponsored massacre, with the police colluding with murderous mobs. Yet, 34 years later, there has been little justice for the victims.

New investigation

Last week, however, the Supreme Court ordered a new investigation into the massacre. It decided to set up a three-member Special Investigation Team to look afresh at 186 cases that have been closed by another three-member SIT appointed by the Narendra Modi government in 2015.

The government’s SIT was to examine the evidence in criminal cases relating to the 1984 carnage and, if needed, reopen cases that the Delhi police had not investigated or had closed for lack of evidence. It looked at 293 cases and decided to seek trial in 12. As many as 241 cases were closed, reportedly without investigation.

In August last year, the Supreme Court appointed a supervisory committee to examine whether the SIT’s decision to close the 241 cases “was correct or not”.

“We have perused the report of the supervisory committee,” the court said in its order last week. “On perusal of the same, we find that the SIT has not done further investigation in respect of 186 cases. Regard being had to the nature of the case, we think it appropriate that a fresh SIT should be constituted for carrying on the further investigation.”

This raises the question: how effectively has the government’s SIT done its job?

H S Phoolka, a senior lawyer who has represented many victims of the 1984 carnage, argues that the Supreme Court’s intervention was necessary. “The government’s SIT did not do its work properly,” he alleged, speaking to in his chambers at the Delhi High Court.

“It was originally set up for six months. It has been three years but they have concluded the investigation in only 12 cases. In only 12 cases, the SIT has held that there is sufficient evidence to go for trial.”

It was because of the SIT’s low success rate, Phoolka said, that the matter went to the Supreme Court. “The SIT itself told the court that out of 293 cases, they have closed 241 and 12 will go for trial,” he said. “Hence, the court appointed a supervisory panel of two retired Supreme Court judges.

They went through the SIT records and submitted a report in which they mention that 186 cases have not been investigated by the SIT. The court decided that they will not send these cases back to the SIT since they had not done anything…[and] decided to appoint its own SIT.”

What does the Supreme Court’s intervention mean? “This is an expression of no confidence in the Union government’s SIT by the Supreme Court,” Phoolka said. “The SIT was not interested in the case. One of the judges [on the SIT] was also the president of a district consumer forum at the time [of the carnage]. They took the matter lightly.”

Lack of evidence

The SIT, however, dismissed the allegation that it has not done its work competently. “It is not that the cases were summarily closed,” said Rakesh Kapoor, a retired district and sessions judge who is one of the SIT’s members.

“These cases were investigated. The SIT scrutinised them and came to the conclusion that further investigation was not warranted because of lack of evidence.”

Phoolka rejected the contention that cases cannot be prosecuted because of an apparent lack of evidence. He pointed to cases reopened in 2005 that resulted in the conviction of five people in 2013, including a former legislator.
“That conviction was why there was a demand, since evidence is available, that the other 1984 cases should be reopened too,” said Phoolka. “It is for this purpose that the Union government formed the SIT in 2015.”

As to the argument that the Supreme Court has shown a lack of confidence in his team, Kapoor said, “The SC order, in fact, says the SIT is functioning very well. The new SIT is not a reflection on the working of the earlier SIT.”

Phoolka, meanwhile, is confident about the new SIT making progress where the old one did not. “The head of this new SIT, Justice Dhingra, had sent Congressman H K L Bhagat to jail,” Phoolka said.

Shiv Narayan Dhingra, as an additional sessions judge in Delhi in the 1990s, had conducted trials in several cases relating to the 1984. He is said to have been so tough with the accused, The Times of India reported that Bhagat, a former Union minister, asked for his case to be transferred from Dhingra’s court.

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Dawn – Saeeda Warsi calls for end to hypocrisy in Muslim societies

Amjad Mahmood

Lahore-Panjab-Pakistan, 15 January 2018. Baroness Saeeda Warsi has called for upholding principles in politics and other sphere of life to eliminate the current trend of hypocrisy in Muslim societies.

She was talking at the session, “The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain”, during the Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest here on Sunday.

Lamenting that the Muslims in Western societies were demanding rights which in their countries of origin were being denied to the minorities, she said this hypocritical attitude would not serve the purpose.

Explaining that she resigned as minister after developing differences with the then British government over the Gaza policy, Ms Warsi said a politician should continue asking oneself two questions: “Am I saying what I believe in?” and “Am I doing what I’m saying?”

Stressing that the people should learn to agree to disagree, Ms Warsi, the chairperson of the Conservative Party of England, said, “my faith is about who I’m and not about who you are”.

Earlier, Dr Nizamuddin of the Higher Education Commission called for exploring the culture of dialogue and termed the festival a key to that goal.

Census: Former chief census commissioner Asif Bajwa says the 2017 census will affect the forthcoming general election as new faces are likely to emerge because of demarcation of the constituencies afresh.

He was speaking at a ThinkFest session on Census and 2018 Elections.

He claimed the census was far a more authentic exercise than the ones conducted by the election commission or the data available with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for the latter had a database of only 135 million citizens.

Mr Bajwa said per head cost of census was Rs75 which, he claimed, was much lower than in the United States and other countries.

He said the final result of the latest census would be available next year and that around 2 million people would be reduced when those somehow counted double would be deleted in the final count.

Dr Nizamuddin believed the census would entail implications other than elections.

He said the audit of the 5pc provisional census results would be a challenge for the commission formed for the purpose as the process contained many complications.

Political analyst Tahir Mehdi expected the Punjab Assembly would also witness more than half new faces notwithstanding gerrymandering in carving out of the constituencies on the basis of the latest census.

He expected changes in faces in Sindh too because of changes in electoral maps (constituencies) there.