The Indian Express – Kathua rape-murder case: Gujjars, Sikhs take out rallies, demand death sentence for accused

Led by Choudhary Nazakat Khatana, a Gujjar and Bakerwal leader, Gujjars raised slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association over its call for a Jammu bandh on Wednesday seeking transfer of investigations into the case to the CBI.

Jammu & Kashmir – India, 13 April 2018. Gujjars and Sikh organisations on Friday took out separate marches seeking death penalty to those accused of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district.

Led by Choudhary Nazakat Khatana, a Gujjar and Bakerwal leader, Gujjars raised slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association over its call for a Jammu bandh on Wednesday seeking transfer of investigations into the case to the CBI.

They also demanded Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to sack her two cabinet ministers, Chander Parkash Ganga and Choudhary Lal Singh, for their support to the demand for a CBI inquiry during a rally of the Hindu Ekta Manch in Hiranagar.

“We demand justice for the girl. We demand death penalty to the accused,” Khatana said. Various Sikh organisations, led by Sikh United Front chairman Sudershan Wazir, also took out a candlelight march here. Wazir said that those demanding CBI inquiry for political gains were not doing justice to the soul of the minor.

He praised the Crime Branch for fair investigations, saying that not even one policeman would have been arrested otherwise.

Expressing surprise over family members of the accused demanding a CBI inquiry, which is usually demanded only by victims, Wazir said only two of the seven-member SIT were from the Kashmir Valley.

Kathua rape-murder case: Gujjars, Sikhs take out rallies, demand death sentence for accused – Father of Apartheid: How Gandhi de-humanised black Africans

Here’s the story of how African thinkers are constructing the narrative.

Pieter Friedrich

Ottawa – Ontario – Canada, 13 April 2018. For years, controversy has brewed around Gandhi statues placed outside India. On several continents — Europe, Africa, and North America, people of all backgrounds have stepped forward to protest the Indian political figure.

In Ottawa, Canada at the University of Carleton, a statue installed in 2011 has galvanized student leaders to demand its removal.

In November 2017, an African student at Carleton published a letter in the student newspaper saying, bluntly, “Remove the Gandhi statue.” Kenneth Aliu, president of Carleton’s African Studies Student Association, believes history has been twisted to conceal Gandhi’s racist past.

“His proximity to whiteness as one who continually espoused anti-Black rhetoric is, perhaps, one of the reasons behind his apotheosis,” writes Aliu. He explains, “For you to deify Gandhi, some people have to be erased from history. You don’t engage with how his activism as a whole was detrimental to certain segments of society.”

Controversy centers around the argument that Gandhi was the “father of apartheid”, a shocking claim to make about a person who is sometimes valorised as “the greatest man who ever lived”, and that he systematically de-humanised black Africans while living in South Africa from 1893-1914.

Here’s the story of how African thinkers are constructing the narrative :

Gent Gurdwara

Gent Gurdwara
18 February 2018

Kirtan Darbar

Tabla and wajas (small harmoniums)

Harpreet Singh and daughter

Guru Granth Sahib

Two more young ladies doing kirtan

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – Lost in Partition, the Sikh-Muslim connection comes alive in the tale of Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana

A descendant of the guru’s Muslim disciple speaks of the importance of the rababi tradition in Sikhism

Haroon Khalid

Friday, 13 April 2018. “Why weren’t the Muslim rababi protected? They held such high status in Sikhism? Why were they allowed to leave East Punjab at the time of Partition?” I asked.

The question was directed at Ghulam Hussain. I was in his home, deep within the older part of Lahore, close to the shrine of Data Darbar, the city’s patron saint. Dressed in a white shalwar kameez and maroon waist coat, a white scarf tied around his neck, the octogenarian had only recently recovered from what had become for him a recurring sickness.

He had nevertheless agreed to my request for an interview. Behind him, the walls and cupboard were adorned with symbols of the Sikh religion, a picture of a kirpan, the Golden Temple, and numerous awards he had received from Sikh organisations over the years.

Along with them were a few Islamic symbols, including a poster with a verse from the Quran. It was February of 2014 when I met Hussain. He died in April the following year, and this was possibly his last interview.

I had searched for Ghulam Hussain for a few years, having heard that he was a descendant of Bhai Mardana, Guru Nanak’s Muslim rababi. Bhai Mardana played an important role in the development of the Sikh religion. Not only did he accompany Guru Nanak on his travels, he also played the rabab while Nanak sang his divinely inspired poetry.

Since their time, Muslim rababi had been given the responsibility of performing the kirtan at gurdwaras, till the tradition was abruptly disrupted during Partition.

From kirtan to qawwali

‘“Everyone was only concerned about their own selves at the time,” Hussain recalled. “We were Muslims, therefore we had to leave. It did not matter if we were rababi. What mattered was our Muslim identity. That became our only identity. In fact, a couple of our rababi even lost their lives during the riots.

My father-in-law, Bhai Moti, was one of them. He used to play tabla at a gurdwara in Patiala. Another rababi who used to perform at Guru Amardas’ gurdwara at Goindwal was also killed.”

He continued, “My chacha, Bhai Chand, was a rababi at the Golden Temple. He had three houses in Amritsar, all of which were three stories high. He was a millionaire at that time. He used to live in Bhaiyyon ki gali, named after the rababi family. He became a pauper in Pakistan.”

Elaborating on his Sikh heritage, Hussain said his family’s ancestral gurdwara was Siyachal Sahib, which lies between Lahore and Amritsar. His father was a giani*, one who leads the congregation in prayer, who also gave lectures on Sikhism.

“My father was the gadi nasheen of the rababi seat there, which meant I would have taken over his position eventually,” he added.

But Partition changed all that. “Not only did we lose our money, we also lost our profession,” Hussain said. “While we knew the [Guru] Granth by heart, we knew nothing about being Muslim, besides the kalma. The Muslims had no interest in our profession. Thus, we began doing odd jobs, selling samosa, kheer, meat.”

However, Hussain soon found a second calling in qawwali, after receiving an invitation to a performance of Punjabi poet Najm Hosain Syed. The baithak was part of a weekly gathering of poets who recited and sang the works of Panjabi poets such as Bhai Gurdas, Shah Hussain and Bulleh Shah.

“At one of these meetings, not many years after Partition, I was invited to perform qawwali,” Hussain said. “In those early days, I struggled because my Urdu pronunciation was weak. I couldn’t even read the script, having been trained in Gurmukhi.

However, I practised and gradually mastered singing in Urdu. My financial condition also began improving.”

I asked him, “How similar or different are these two traditions, of kirtan and qawwali?”

He answered, “There is an old Panjabi saying, a hundred wise men sitting together will end up saying the same thing, while in a group of a hundred fools each one will say a different thing. Bulleh Shah reiterated what Nanak said.

Guru Arjan’s and Sultan Bahu’s message is the same as that of Shah Hussain. Their kalam overlaps. In fact, I would go to the extent of saying that Guru Nanak expounded the Quran. Thus, to answer your question, qawwali and kirtan are part of the same tradition**.”

A dying connection

But not everyone shares his view of syncretism.

Hussain’s son, sitting quietly with us as the interview progressed, suddenly jumped into the conversation. “A few Sikhs say Mardana was nothing but a funny character in Nanak’s Janamsakhis, who was always either hungry or thirsty,” he said.

“I would choose to disagree. It was Mardana who brought out the divinity of Nanak. It was for Mardana that Nanak turned sweet the bitter fruit of a Kekkar tree.”

Hussain had a personal story of his own about Mardana’s importance in the history of Sikhism. “Once, before Partition, my father was at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hassanabdal,” he said. “He was in the sacred pool taking dips when one Sikh got offended and complained to the office.

He accused my father of polluting the water. My father was summoned to the office. When questioned why he had taken a dip in the water, he asked the official, ‘Who did Nanak create this pool for? To quench Mardana’s thirst.

This is, therefore, Mardana’s pool and I being a rubabi am his descendant. Now let me ask this question, who are you to claim ownership over this pool?’”

He let out a loud chuckle at the end of this story, but quickly became serious as he spoke of his visit to India and to the Golden Temple in 2005, for the first time after Partition. “I wanted to perform at the Golden Temple,” he said. “My family had performed there for seven generations.

We are the descendants of Bhai Sadha and Madha, who were appointed at the Golden Temple by Guru Tegh Bahadur. Such was our honour that we used to receive a share from the offerings at the shrine, which was then equally distributed among all the rababi families.

Throughout Sikh history, the rababis have displayed their loyalty to the gurus. It was Bhai Bavak, a rababi with Guru Hargobind, who rescued his daughter, Bibi Veera, from the Turks, when no other Sikh dared cross into their territory.”

But Hussain’s wish to perform at the gurdwara was not to be fulfilled. “Our family has a deep connection with the Golden Temple but now it has become extremely difficult for a rababi to perform kirtan there. The officials there told me only Amritdhari could perform there,” he said, referring to Sikhs who have been initiated or baptised by taking amrit or “nectar water”.

He added, “I wanted to tell those officials that my ancestors had been performing kirtan here before Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Singh. There is no tradition of any rababi ever converting out of Islam. When the gurus never asked us to become Sikhs, then what right did these officials have?”

*Gian = knowledge with understanding – Giani – Het that has such knowledge

** Sikhi is linked to the Panjabi Muslim Sufi and Hindu Bhakti traditions

Haroon Khalid is the author of three books
Walking with Nanak, In Search of Shiva and A White Trail.

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The Hindu – India, UK in talks over education

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 14 April 2018. India and the United Kingdom (UK) were holding talks to seal an agreement on mutual recognition of educational qualifications, London’s envoy said here on Friday.

Speaking to a group of journalists, Sir Dominic Asquith said that education was a major area of bilateral cooperation between the two sides which was likely to feature in official discussions during the upcoming London visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

One-year masters

“We have 14,000 masters students from India in the UK. Students form an important part of bilateral ties. But the one-year masters degrees given by the UK universities are not recognised in India.

So discussion is under way for an agreement to mutually recognise these degrees. This will open up more opportunities for the students and this also seems to be fair to the students,” Mr Asquith said.

India’s non-recognition of the one-year masters programmes given by various British universities had been an issue between two sides as these courses are popular among Indian students.

One of the factors that had prevented India from recognising the one-year master courses was the fact that several less-reputed educational institutions were also found to be offering such courses, often jeopardising academic prospects of students.

But Mr Asquith assured that the government of Prime Minister Theresa May had undertaken steps to prevent Indian students from falling for such institutions. “We are taking steps against the bogus universities,” said Mr Asquith.

Agreement with France

India last month signed an agreement on mutual recognition of educational degrees with France, during the visit of President Emmanuel Macron to Delhi. The British envoy observed that ongoing talks between London and Delhi were on the lines of the India-France one.

Educational cooperation would be one of the major issues on the table during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to London next week when he is scheduled to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) and hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister May’s team.

While international issues like the attempted assassination of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter with nerve chemical agent were expected to be the talking points at the Commonwealth meeting, the bilateral issues like cyber-security cooperation and data protection were also expected to be on top of the agenda.