The Asian Age – Persecuted, Rohingyas look for safety in squalid slums

India has refused to accept the Rohingyas except for the few who came in earlier with UNHCR cards.

Asif Yar Khan

Hyderabad – Telangana – India, 24 March 2018. Life is a challenge for about 4,000 Rohingyas living in inhuman conditions in the city, even as a case on their deportation is being heard in the Supreme Court. The refugees are settled in about 70 camps in and around Balapur and Chandrayangutta on the city’s outskirts.

The camps, spread across two km, are squalid with few facilities. Affluent people who own land parcels in under-developed localities have rented the land out to the refugees, says Mohammed Hassan, leader of camp number 20 located in Royal Colony in Balapur.

“Some Good Samaritans have donated cloth, bamboos and other materials to put up tents. Some others chipped in and set up temporary toilets in the camps.”

Shafeeq Ahmed, a realtor who rented out a 400 yard compound, says that as the refugees have come from violence-hit areas and have United National Human Right Council (UNHRC) authorisation he provided them shelter.

“Local police have no objection to those having UNHRC cards”, he said.

The men in the camps try and find work wherever they can. Some collect scrap and plastic material from the streets. “We do not get work at the local labour adda every day,” says Saleem, one of the refugees.

Malnourishment amongst the children is high due to poor food. “Voluntary organisations conduct frequent health check-ups and provide free medicine. Nevertheless, the women continue to suffer from several health problems in the absence of good food,” said Abdul Rahim, a local social worker.

These impoverished families have slim chances of honest employment in the absence of any government programme, could well be exploited by terror groups or criminal networks.

They have been the victims of terrible violence and discrimination in their own country and now have to battle extreme poverty here, where no provision has been made for taking them in and providing them succour on humanitarian grounds.

“In such a situation they can become fodder for nefarious elements who can easily lure them into any organisation or group and exploit them,” said a police official.

The families live hand-to-mouth, dependent on the goodwill of local businessmen who may give them jobs in hotels and function halls. “Some of our men have set up small businesses on the roadside to earn a living,” said Abdul Mabud, one of the refugees.

Clothes, food grains and other necessities are donated by local voluntary organisations. During festivals, people are a little more generous.

These Rohingya refugees are from the Rakhine region in Myanmar and crossed over into India to escape persecution. The bulk of Rohingyas have taken refuge in Bangladesh.

India has refused to accept them except for the few who came in earlier with UNHCR cards. Even these it wants to evict, questioning the validity of the cards in a case pending before the Supreme Court.

Despite Myanmar slightly easing its pressure on the Rohingyas due to the international outcry, the refugees continue to flee.

Cannot deport till SC verdict: Experts

Legal experts say that the Indian government cannot deport the Myanmar refugees till the case in the Supreme Court filed against the government comes to some logical conclusion.

Two refugees filed a writ in the Supreme Court last year against the decision of the Indian government to deport them. They want the court to order the government to grant them the status of refugees.

They argued that there is a threat to their lives and already their property has been lost and several of them killed by the Myanmar army.

“The Central government opposed their petition and argued that they are a threat to the country. But the petition filed by the government has no legal standing in court if one takes into account the humanitarian aspects based on the United Nations charter

“Nevertheless, till the Supreme Court gives a judgment in the case they cannot be deported or sent away,” says High Court lawyer Khaja Aijazuddin, who intends to file an intervening petition in the case.

Senior High Court advocate Shafeeq ur Rahman Mahajir says that legally the government has not accorded the status of refugees to the Rohingyas staying in India.

“Any government has a right to initiate action against persons illegally staying in the country. But as the matter is sub-judice, it has to move cautiously. The government has its own security concerns which are over the humanitarian issues,” he argues.

Mazhar Hussain of Confederation of Voluntary Associations (COVA), who is working in coordination with the UN High Commission for Refugees in rehabilitating the Rohingyas in the city, said that the United Nations charter specifies that any person who faces threat in his native country can take refuge in another country where he feels safe

The first batch of Rohingyas came to India in 2012 following unrest in the Arakan and Rakhine region of Myanmar. There are close to 3,800 Rohingya refugees staying in Kishanbagh, Balapur, Mir Momin Pahadi and Shaheennagar in the southern side of the city.

The Tribune – Baisakhi in the City of Bliss

Guru Gobind Singh chose Anandpur Sahib to be the venue of a transformative movement in Punjab. Today, we see teaming masses march up to Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib on the Baisakhi day

Roopinder Singh

What is it that is raising so much dust? Is it an invading force of raiders?

No, that’s just a poet blessed with wealth by Guru Gobind Singh going home after attending the darbar.

The couplet attributed to one of the court poets of Guru Gobind Singh speaks of the dignity with which they were treated and also the magnificence of his gifts to the gifted. A flourishing cultural milieu came up wherever Sikh gurus set up camp.

Guru Gobind Singh inherited many of the poets in his darbar from his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and we find compositions in Braj bhasha, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and Punjabi from the period in different manuscripts.

The village of Makhowal became Chakk Nanki when Guru Tegh Bahadur christened it after his mother. He had bought the village and surrounding areas in 1665 and it became his headquarters.

He was to live here for 10 years before undertaking the fateful journey to Delhi and facing martyrdom while defending religious freedom for the adherents of other religions, not just his own.

It was this ethos that Guru Gobind Singh evoked in his fight against the repression of the day, personified by the Mughal rule of Emperor Aurangzeb. “I will make sparrows fight the hawks,” said Guru Gobind Singh, after he formed the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib on Baisakhi in 1699.

Lakhs of Sikhs go to the birthplace of the Khalsa to celebrate Baisakhi, even as it is celebrated on a grand scale at other places too, notably at Talwandi Sabo.

The collected hymns of his predecessors and his own compositions were the guiding force for all.

The annual gathering at Anandpur Sahib became the focal point of a renaissance that had as much to do with the transformation of religious beliefs, a push towards an egalitarian society and a firm belief in the oneness of the Almighty, as it had with military preparation.

The Baisakhi of 1699 threw up a vision of a new and regenerated humanity. Today, all those who visit Anandpur Sahib go to Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, and rightly so.

Rich in history, the present gurdwara, however, is relatively recent. It was built in the mid-1930s. It houses a collection of relics associated with the Gurus, especially Guru Gobind Singh.

These relics draw us to the magnificent heritage of the City of Bliss, as Anandpur literally translates into. It is here that the Gurus and their families lived. A thriving trade was provided for the inhabitants and visitors and the Guru’s darbar attracted the hordes, especially during festivals like Hola Mohalla and Baisakhi.

Guru Gobind Singh spent some years of his childhood and later raised his family at Anandpur Sahib. It was here that he created the Khalsa. It was from here that he lost his family and his home, but never relented in his fight against tyranny. It was he who re-named Chakk Nanki as Anandpur. His Sikhs suffixed the honorific Sahib.

“Redemption comes through knowledge,” said the Guru and the sheer volume and quality of literature that was created in the city became the stuff of legends. Going by what Bhai Santokh Singh says in Suraj Parkash the manuscripts weighed around 350 kg!

All except the small volumes that had been taken out earlier were lost when the Khalsa forces evacuated Anandpur Sahib in December 1705. They had to go through the Sirsa stream that was in spate.

The eldest two sons of Guru Gobind Singh were killed in the battle with the Mughal forces at Chamkaur Sahib. His two younger sons and his mother were separated from him, and much of the treasures, including the literature, were lost in the melee.

Anandpur would later be taken over by the Raja of Bilaspur and bought by the cousins of Guru Gobind Singh whose families ran the local gurdwaras. The family’s writ ran over various institutions.

One of the descendents, and it was under Sodhi Kishan Singh, a descendant, that the town became a municipal committee in the last decade of the 19th century. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) took over the gurdwaras in 1923 and has managed these since.

Over the years, Hola Mohalla became a festival associated with the city and its people. On this day, Nihangs, resplendent in cobalt blue tunics and turbans, horses and other accruements of warriors, perform death-defying feats.

Crowds gathered for Baisakhi, too, but not in such great numbers. Anandpur, the sleepy town at the foothills of the Shivalik Hills, remained out of public eye and missed much of the boom that other cities in Punjab benefited from.

Having, in Giani Zail Singh, a Chief Minister who was an MLA from Anandpur Sahib, helped. The Guru Gobind Singh Marg celebration in 1973 brought focus back to the city.

This route traced the 47-day journey of Guru Gobind Singh from Anandpur Sahib to Talwandi Sabo, and the joint effort of the SGPC and the Punjab Government resulted in a major up gradation of infrastructure around the area.

The Anandpur Sahib Resolution, adopted by the Shiromani Akali Dal that year, lit a political fire that would soon ignite passions far beyond the town.

The Singh Sabha Shatabdi Committee, led by Hukam Singh and Giani Gurdit Singh, made a concerted effort to revive the spirit of Baisakhi at Anandpur Sahib. Scholars read out research papers to massive audiences.

Some of them were honoured publically for their contribution to history and understanding of religion. Like in much of Punjab, the decade between the mid-1980s and 1990s was largely lost.

Celebrations to mark the tercentenary of the Khalsa in 1999 saw the city being painted white. Lakhs of people, hundreds of langars and massive functions marked the occasion on which the establishment of the Virasat-e-Khalsa museum was announced by the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Giani Tarlochan Singh’s appointment as Jathedar of Keshgarh Sahib in 2003 was another milestone. He had spent much of his life at Anandpur Sahib, and served as a catalyst to growth till his death, in harness, in 2013.

The Virasat-e-Khalsa museum, which opened in 2011, is now a major tourist attraction. Today, the celebrations have evolved too. People on horseback could well be polo players, not just Nihangs. The SGPC and the city administration play a major role in directing the festivities, with kirtan darbars and katha sessions dominating the discourse.

Relative newcomers like the Anandpur Sahib Foundation and Sikh Chamber of Commerce have planned a half-marathon, a movie festival and knowledge sessions, activities reflecting an evolving spirit of Baisakhi.

Baisakhi at Anandpur Sahib reflects the egalitarian ethos of the Gurus, who re-kindled the spirit of the downtrodden and the battered and made them stand up for the rights of others, as well as their own.

Gent-Sint-Pieters – Leuven Den Bruul – Leuven Vaartkom

10 February 2018

L EMU to Kortrijk

On my way to Leuven

Leuven Den Bruul
10 February 2018

Arashdeep and Simran


Leuven Vaartkom
10 February 2018


To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Evening Times – Vaisakhi 2018: Glasgow Sikh community takes part in annual festival procession

Aftab Ali

Glasgow – Scotland – UK, Glasgow’s streets were awash with colour on Sunday as Sikhs from across Scotland celebrated the festival of Vaisakhi.

Thousands in the community took part in a four-hour-long procession through the city.

The festival marks the beginning of the Sikh new year on April 14* and commemorates the birth of the Sikh Order of the Khalsa, after Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, passed.

The procession always takes on the Sunday before Vaisakhi each year.

Participants marched from the South Side at 9.30am, making their way to all four of the city’s temples, also known as Gurdwaras.

They finally came to a stop at the Central Gurdwara on Berkeley Street at 1.30pm.

Each Gurdwara in Glasgow then served up a free community meal to all visitors, regardless of race, religion or social status.

Scotland currently has eight temples [Gurdwaras] with half of those in Glasgow.

Charandeep Singh, general secretary of Glasgow Gurdwara in Pollokshields, described how the festival is always a highlight for Scottish Sikhs.

He added: “It has a special place in all our hearts because of its ability to bring people together from diverse backgrounds and communities.

“On behalf of the Sikh community, I would like to wish everyone a happy Vaisakhi 2018 and hope that we strive to embody the Sikh values of equality, humanity and justice into all of our lives.”

* Neither the Bikrami nor the Nanakshahi year start with the month of Vaisakh.
  Man in Blue

Dawn – All of Fata’s people deserve to be heard without losing any more time

Stability, development is unsustainable with a security-oriented institution behind the mainstreaming drive in Fata

Peshawar – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 09 April 2018. The murder a few months ago of a young man from South Waziristan, days after parliament had extended the jurisdiction of superior courts to the tribal areas, once again underscored the need for expediting the move to bring Fata’s people into the mainstream.

While the staged encounter took place in Karachi, Fata’s tribespeople view Naqeebullah Mehsud’s killing as emblematic of their collective experiences under draconian colonial-era laws, exacerbated by problematic aspects of our counter-insurgency efforts.

It has galvanised a peaceful, rights-based Pakhtun movement that, two months in, continues unwaveringly, as seen in the large rally in Peshawar yesterday. The state ought to read the tea leaves and ameliorate their disaffection. For its part, the military has pledged to demine the area and replace Watan cards with CNICs.

Last week, during a visit to South Waziristan, army chief General Qamar Bajwa met Naqeebullah’s father to assure him of justice for his son. He also claimed that the area had entered a phase of stability and development.

Such an outcome, however, is unsustainable with a security-oriented institution behind the wheel of the mainstreaming drive in Fata.

As the clock winds down on the PML-N’s current tenure, among its most consequential failures has been the party’s inability to implement the National Action Plan’s recommendation to introduce reforms in Fata.

Undoubtedly a behemoth challenge, and albeit worsened by poor civil-military cooperation, it is primarily to blame for consistently caving into the political pressure of its coalition partners, the JUI-F and PkMAP, even as a sizeable section of the tribes are expressing their discomfort with the status quo that these parties’ leaders seek to preserve.

As this paper has stated before, the aforementioned bill has significant issues, not least of which is that it does not repeal provisions of the Frontier Crimes Regulation. The previously introduced rewaj bill was also controversial for giving legal sanction to anti-women practices.

But with every reform attempt, the PML-N has dithered as its allies have cried ‘too much’ while the opposition complains ‘not enough’.

All sides must put an end to political point-scoring at the expense of a marginalised people, and get back to basics.
Empowering Fata’s stakeholders (especially women), by seeking their consensus, granting equal rights and restructuring the civil administration to resemble what exists elsewhere in Pakistan, must be the keystone of a policy that all parties commit to maintaining, even after the transition of power to a newly elected government.

All of Fata’s people deserve to be heard, not just those who have hitherto claimed a monopoly over articulating their aspirations.