The Indian Express – Naroda Patiya massacre: Gujarat High Court acquits former BJP minister Maya Kodnani

The Naroda Patiya massacre, in which 97 Muslims were killed, was among the most brutal cases in the post-Godhra violence in 2002.

Satish Jha

Ahmedabad, 20 April 2018. The Gujarat High Court Friday acquitted former BJP minister Maya Kodnani in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case overturning a trial court ruling which had sentenced her life imprisonment in 2012.

Also upholding the conviction of former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi in the same case, the HC commuted his sentence of life imprisonment until death to 21 years imprisonment without remission.

The division bench of Justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehia giving Kodnani the “benefit of doubt” found that the testimonies of the witnesses against her were unreliable. The Naroda Patiya massacre, in which 97 Muslims were killed, was among the most brutal cases in the post-Godhra violence in 2002.

Acquitting 18 of the 32 convicted by the trial court, the HC Friday also overturned the trial court acquittal of three accused, P J Rajput, Rajkumar Chaumal alias Raju who is an advocate, and Umesh Bharwad and held them guilty.

The quantum of sentence will be pronounced on May 5.

The special trial court presided over by Judge Jytosna Yagnik, now retired, and set up on directions of the Supreme Court, which directly monitored the trials of nine 2002 riot cases of Gujarat, had relied on 11 witnesses to hold Kodnani guilty as the “kingpin” in the case and had sentenced her to life imprisonment for 28 years.

Kodnani has been on bail for health reasons.

Reading out the judgment Justice Devani said that in the case of Kodnani, out of 11 eyewitnesses who deposed against her, none had named her when the incident took place.

Justice Devani noted, “Version given by these witnesses are contradictory to each other… none of the police witnesses present at the incident named Maya Kodnani. Given this… it would be hazardous for the court to implicate her.”

The HC discarded the account of eyewitnesses who named Kodnani as the leader of the mob only in 2008 and held that none of the witnesses had even mentioned her name till several probe agencies and NGOs came into the picture.

The bench pointed out that though witnesses claimed later that they did not know the content of their complaints recorded by local police, they never mentioned Kodnani’s name in their later complaints or affidavits to senior police officers and the Supreme Court between 2002 and 2008.

Some witnesses had filed affidavits in the apex court in 2004 and alleged that local police were not probing their complaint properly they did not mention Kodnani’s name.

The bench held that under these circumstances, the eyewitness testimonies recorded after a gap of six years, with the help of NGOs, needed to be evaluated since all the witnesses came forward only in 2008.

In the order, Justice Devani said, “Given this… it would be hazardous for the court to implicate her.” Justice Devnani also said that the “testimony of none of the witnesses is reliable and charges under 120B (conspiracy) not established. Hence she is acquitted.”

In the case of Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi, the HC relied on four police witnesses who had testified that Bajrangi was leading a mob at different times on that day.

The trial court had not relied upon these police witnesses. The high court noted that it was “nobody’s case that police acted in a partisan manner of Hindu mob or assisted them.”

The court commuted Bajrangi’s sentence of life imprisonment until death to 21 years imprisonment without remission.

With Bajrangi, the bench upheld the conviction of Prakash Rathod and Suresh Didawala alias Richard alias Langado for murder and criminal conspiracy. Bajrangi, Rathod and Didawala were also caught confessing to the crime in a sting operation.

All three were the only accused whose convictions were upheld in the conspiracy charge. The trial court had held 27 accused responsible for the conspiracy under which they mobilised people to target Muslims.

The bench opined that CDs or DVDs of the sting operation were not admissible as evidence but former journalist and now AAP leader Ashish Khetan’s deposition in court was part of the evidence. The trial court had held the sting operation admissible as evidence.

“The most important thing about this judgment is that the bench has upheld that even if two witnesses are attributing to an offender with similar versions, punishment can be given. And this is the reason why conviction of 12 has been upheld and three acquittals have been reversed by the court,” said special public prosecutor R C Kodekar.

Among the acquitted is Kirpal Singh Chabda who was said to be the personal assistant to Kodnani but the high court bench held “prosecution failed to prove it.”

The HC also rejected the SIT appeal against the acquittal of Geeta and her sister Ramila Rathod and said there was no evidence to prove their role. Out of 13 convictions, 12 were handed life sentences and one was awarded 10 years jail.

Naroda Patiya massacre: Gujarat High Court acquits former BJP minister Maya Kodnani,17 others

The Tribune – India demands legal action against those who tore Tricolour during Modi’s UK visit

London – UK, 20 April 2018. India has demanded legal action against those behind the desecration of the Indian flag at Parliament Square here during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s UK visit.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the matter had been taken up with the UK government and had been regretted at the highest level.

“We are deeply anguished with the incident involving our National Flag at Parliament Square. The matter was taken up promptly and strongly with the UK side, and it has been regretted at highest level,” Ministry of Exernal Affair spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters on Thursday.

“We expect action, including legal action, against the people involved in the incident and also people responsible for instigating the incident,” he said.

Prime Minister Modi, after his arrival in the country, was greeted by some groups protesting against atrocities in India.

On Wednesday, during the bilateral leg of Modi’s visit to the UK, some protesters at Parliament Square turned aggressive during which the Indian Tricolour was torn down from one of the official flagpoles set up for all 53 Commonwealth countries to mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and ripped up by some protesters.

The perpetrators, caught on camera, were pro-Khalistani demonstrators brought together with Kashmiri separatist groups under the banner of the so-called ‘Minorities Against Modi’ group, led by Pakistani-origin peer Lord Ahmed.

There is growing pressure on the UK government to act against Ahmed, who is seen as repeatedly “instigating” violence against India on the UK soil.

A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokesperson said the UK government had been in touch with the Indian High Commission soon after the incident.

“While people have the right to hold peaceful protests, we are disappointed with the action taken by a small minority in Parliament Square and contacted High Commissioner Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha as soon as we were made aware,” a spokesperson said.

Scotland Yard also issued a statement following the protests and confirmed that it is investigating the incident involving the Indian tricolour being pulled down.

“Police are investigating after an Indian flag in Parliament Square was pulled down at 15:00 [UK time] on Wednesday, 18 April. The flag has been replaced. There have been no arrests. Enquiries continue,” a Metropolitan Police statement said.

A senior broadcast journalist from one of the leading Indian media channels covering the protests, who was caught up in the scrum, has now also registered a formal police complaint with the Met Police.

“To my shock, the protesters while raising anti-India slogans brought the Indian flag down, tore it with scissors until it was completely destroyed…Within seconds, I was pushed, abused and intimidated,” Loveena Tandon, who represents Aaj Tak news channel in the UK, said in a statement.

“A message must be sent to all those out there that we journalists make people aware of what is going on in the world. Shutting us up or being violent towards us defeats their own purpose of being heard,” she said.

The incident also went viral on social media, with people expressing their shock and support to the journalist who was caught up in the incident.

The groups involved were seen with “Free Jaggi” posters and T-shirts, calling for the release of Jagtar Singh Johal who is lodged in a Punjab jail over his alleged involvement in the targeted killings in the state.

Tongeren – Hoepertingen

22 February 2018

Tongeren NMBS Station

23 February 2018

Opposite the Gurdwara : For Sale

Opposite the Gurdwara : For Sale

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A recent fire has damaged the old wing of the Gurdwara

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The Express Tribune – Sikh pilgrims to be given special religious meal

Asif Mehmood

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 20 April 2018. Sikh pilgrims from across the globe, including India, who arrived in Pakistan to commemorate Besakhi Mela and Khalsa’s birthday, will be given specially prepared Prashad and Amrat Jal on their departure.

Over 10,000 packets of Pani Parshad have been prepared in Lahore’s Gurdwara Dera Sahab. The Sikh pilgrims consider Pani Parshad a sacred gift to take back to their homeland.

Sardar Bhushan Singh, the Pani Prasad manufacturing in-charge in Pakistan said that Pani Parshad and Amrat Jal hold the same significance for Sikhs as Aab-e-Zam Zam does for Muslim.

“Scores of Sikh pilgrim from across the world come to the Golden Temple where they are given Prashad halwa. Sikhs believe it to be good for health. Since preserving halwa for long is difficult, hence Pani Parshad is prepared,” shared Amritsar Golden temple manager Rajendra Singh Ruby.

Bhushan elaborated that Pani Parshad is usually prepared during the wheat harvesting season. Semolina is added either to the sattu, wheat or ordinary flour.

“Wheat flour is heated in a big wok and then desi ghee is added to it. When the ghee is absorbed, then refined crushed sugar is added to the wheat flour mix. In addition to it, fennel seeds and thinly sliced almonds are mixed and crushed when dry. This Pani Prashad can be eaten for several months,” he added.

“After the Golden Temple, the Pani Prashad made in Pakistan is the most favourite across the globe.”

Dawn – Editor of damning human rights report harassed, intimidated in ‘burglary-style raid’

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 20 April 2018. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Friday condemned a “burglary-style raid” on the house of its consultant, Maryam Hasan, who edited the recently-released annual report on the state of human rights in Pakistan.

In a press release issued today, the HRCP stated that the house of Hasan, who lives alone in Lahore, was raided Thursday night during a burglary that lasted for over an hour. The two ‘burglars’ took away her laptop, phones, two hard drives, jewellery and some cash.

“They told Hasan, who lives alone, that they had also come the day before, but not committed burglary since she had not been at home,” the statement read.

“They questioned Hasan about her professional engagements and intimidated her in a roundabout manner” before leaving.

“HRCP suspects that the two suave raiders were no ordinary thieves and calls on the Government of Punjab to apprehend the culprits and establish their identity. HRCP will hold the provincial authorities responsible for any attempt by state or non-state actors to harass any persons associated with the Commission,” the commission has stated.

Established in 1987, the HRCP is an NGO monitoring human rights violations in Pakistan and seeking their remedy through public campaigns, lobbying and intervention in courts.

Released last week, its damning report titled ‘State of Human Rights in 2017’ highlighted an increase in enforced disappearances and targeted violence against soft targets and raised the issue of curbs on freedoms of expression and association, while appreciating legal progress in other aspects of human rights in Pakistan.

The report said that 313 cases of missing persons received by the missing persons commission still remain unresolved and that 2017 was a troubling year for journalists and bloggers.

“Journalists and bloggers continue to sustain threats, attacks and abductions and blasphemy law serves to coerce people into silence,” the report said.