The Asian Age – HC seeks SIT’s reply on 1984 riot convict’s sentence suspension plea

The SIT is investigating nearly 60 cases related to the riots, while it has filed “untraced report” in 52 cases.

New Delhi – India, 25 April 2019. The Delhi High Court has sought Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) response on a plea by a convict, who was awarded life term in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, who has interim suspension of his sentence on medical ground.

It asked the jail superintendent to give a report on the convict Naresh Sehrawat’s medical condition. It asked the (SIT) and the state to respond to the convict’s plea in which he claimed that his liver was 90 per cent damaged and sought interim suspension of the sentence.

The SIT has been asked to verify the documents given by Sehrawat in support of his medical condition.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 1. A trial court had awarded life term to Sherawat in a case related to the killing of two men in New Delhi during the 1984 riots, the first convictions in the cases reopened by the SIT. It had also awarded capital punishment to co-convict Yashpal Singh in the case.

The appeals of both the convicts, against their conviction and sentence by the trial court as well as the death reference of Yashpal, are pending in the high court.

The court had earlier issued notice to Yashpal on the reference to confirm his death sentence. The Delhi Police had closed the case in 1994 for want of evidence, but it was reopened by the SIT.

The SIT is investigating nearly 60 cases related to the riots, while it has filed “untraced report” in 52 cases.

While this was the first death penalty after the SIT was formed, one Kishori was earlier given the death penalty by a trial court in as many as seven anti-Sikh riots cases. However, the Delhi High Court confirmed death penalty only in three cases, which were later commuted to life term by the apex court.

As per the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the death penalty cannot be executed unless confirmed by the high court. The trial court had awarded varying jail terms to the convicts and imposed fines for offences including attempt to murder, dacoity and attacking victims by dangerous weapons.

It had spared convict Sherawat the gallows on medical grounds. The trial court had convicted Yashpal and Sherawat for killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh in Mahipalpur area of South Delhi on November 1, 1984 during the riots that had taken place after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The case was lodged on a complaint by victim Hardev’s brother Santokh Singh. The trial court had held both the accused guilty for the offences of murder, attempt to murder, dacoity and voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means under the IPC.

A mob of about 500 persons, led by the two convicts, had encircled the house of the victims and had killed them. It was just one of the incidents out of several others Delhi alone witnessed during the riots that saw around 3,000 people being killed.

Of the 650 cases registered in connection with the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, 267 were closed as untraced by the Delhi Police. Of these 267 cases, five were later taken up by the CBI. The SIT also scrutinised records of 18 cancelled cases. – 398th Birthday of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji celebrated

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar Sahib – Panjab – India, 25 April 2019. The 398th birthday of ninth Sikh master Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji was celebrated with extreme religious fervor and devotion at sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib on April 24.

A special manifestation of religious artifacts was organized inside Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Sri Harmandr Sahib and Gurdwara Baba Atal Rai Sahib Ji on this occasion.

Thousands of Sikh devotees thronged into sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib and took a dip in the holy sarovar to receive blessings of Guru Sahib on this sacred day.

On the other hand, a special religious program was also organised at Gurdwara Guru Ke Mehal i.e. at the birth place of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. Several renowned Raagi Jathas and preachers addressed the religious discourse to the Sikh devotees in this program.

On April 23, a religious procession was taken out in the holy city Amritsar Sahib in commemoration of the 398th birthday of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji.

398th Birthday of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji Celebrated

Bosnia – Sarajevo

Walkabout in Sarajevo
10 April 2019

Bentbasa – near Hotel Saraj
Sarajevo in Roman and Cyrillic letters

I suspect that vratnik means tunnel

Hotel Saraj, where we had a very pleasant stay

The Miljacka river

Tram turning into Telali


More Bosnian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Huffington Post – Not understanding impact of Anti-knife Crime Legislation on Sikhs shows Government officials lack knowledge of Sikh way of life

In a welcome bid to tackle the menace of knife crime, government officials almost criminalised all Sikh families simply for possessing the large kirpan blade, required for religious purposes.

Blog on Huffington Post by Dabinderjit Singh, 24 April 2019.

The Offensive Weapons Bill has completed its nine-month progression through Parliament and is expected to receive Royal Assent in the next couple of weeks. I along with many others from the Sikh community welcome the new legislation aimed at young people and to tackle the menace of increased knife crime and acid attacks.

The Bill however included clauses directly impacting on Sikhs, including extending existing offences of possessing a bladed article or offensive weapon on school premises to cover further education premises and banning the sale and possession of curved swords defined as those over 50 cm both in public and private.

As an Amritdhari or practising Sikh, who is the principal adviser to the Sikh Federation (UK) and regular attendee at government Sikh Roundtable meetings I was however alarmed these proposed changes that would have a huge impact on Sikhs were being introduced without any consultation with the community.

The most disturbing proposed change was to criminalise the sale and possession of the large or 3ft Sikh Kirpan and the effect this would have on Sikh religious practices. The change was justified by overzealous Home Office officials as proportionate in the Policy Equality Statement that was published alongside the Bill.

The Home Office and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that holds Sikh Roundtable meetings were negligent not to communicate or consult with the Sikh community. This is inexcusable as government officials failed to identify significant unintended consequences of banning the possession of large Sikh Kirpans that are kept by virtually all Sikh families in their homes.

Their logic that the impact was mitigated by the narrower “religious ceremonies” defence introduced in legislation for curved blades over 50 cm in 2008 covering the use of the large Sikh Kirpan in religious ceremonies i.e. Anand Karaj or Sikh wedding ceremonies shows officials lack a basic understanding of the Sikh way of life and religious practices or consult those who also have little or no understanding.

The advisers to the Sikh Federation (UK) were alerted by a Sikh police officer from Leicester on the potential impact on the Sikh community just prior to the Third Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons.

Within 48 hours a group of cross-party MPs led by Preet Kaur Gill MP, Dominic Grieve MP and Pat McFadden MP belonging to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on UK Sikhs tabled an amendment to change the wording in the Bill to the much wider term “religious reasons”.

Simply possessing the large Kirpan would have meant all Sikh families being criminalised and those found in possession facing a prison sentence of up to one year. The Sikh Federation (UK) arranged for constituents to write and lobby over 250 MPs before the Third Reading.

MPs met with Victoria Atkins, the Home Office Minister responsible the Bill and Preet Kaur Gill MP met with the Home Secretary, Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid. They convinced them of the need for a wider government amendment to cover the sale, possession and use of the large Sikh Kirpan for “religious reasons”.

The government amendment was approved at the Third Reading in the Commons on 28 November 2018 and the word Kirpan meaning ‘mercy (kirpa) & honour (aan)’ was included in the Explanatory Note for the first time.

Recently it has emerged some Sikhs learnt of the risk presented by the Bill much earlier but neglected to act. To make matters worse it transpires some of them unscrupulously worked with officials at the Home Office and MHCLG to try and undermine the proposed amendment by MPs.

However, due to the quick thinking and excellent cross-party approach by the APPG they were able to convince Home Office Ministers to address the concerns of the Sikh community. Officials were instructed by Ministers to move to use the broader term “religious reasons” as large Kirpans are kept in Sikh homes for a range of religious reasons, such as to place before the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh holy scriptures.

The same Sikhs then showed their naivety by going directly to opposition politicians in the House of Lords to persuade them to table an amendment to seek a change in the law to try and use the Bill to make the smaller Kirpan worn by Sikhs “lawful”.

Unfortunately, those campaigning failed as they did not consult or properly understand the situation and what had been achieved by the APPG, their briefing was inaccurate and the strategy adopted lacked the intellect to convince Home Office officials and Ministers.

Sections 139 and 139A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provide for offences of having an offensive weapon in a public place or school premises respectively without lawful authority or good reason. However, it is a defence for a person charged with an offence to prove that he or she had good reason or lawful authority for having the article in a public place or school premises.

It is a defence to show that you had the knife or bladed or pointed article for use at work, for religious reasons (e.g. the Sikh kirpan) or as part of a national costume (e.g. the sgian dubh of traditional Highland dress).

Amritdhari Sikhs are required to always wear the Kirpan and have been able to rely on the religious reasons defence in most public places, employment and schools. However, challenges have existed in private establishments e.g. London Eye and complications sometime arise in schools or employment that are often overcome.

The changes in legislation that are about to come into effect now mean the broader “religious reasons” phrase specifically applies to the Sikh Kirpan. What has gone unnoticed is that “religious reasons” now for the first time have been defined in law as a “good reason” for possession.

Many in the Sikh community now realise there is no substitute for having Sikh MPs, like Preet Kaur Gill who connect with the Sikh community and have their fingers on the Sikh pulse.

Dabinderjit Singh is a principal adviser to the Sikh Federation

Dawn – PM Imran regrets upsurge in violence in Afghanistan, terms it counterproductive to peace

Sanaullah Khan

Islamabad Capital Teritory – Pakistan, 25 April 2019. Responding to the new wave of violence in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday issued a condemnatory statement saying “Pakistan is highly dismayed” by the developments.

“The Afghanistan conflict has brought great suffering for both Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last 40 years,” it began. “Now, after a long wait, the Afghanistan Peace Process presents a historic opportunity for peace in the region and Pakistan is fully supporting the process, including the next logical step of Intra Afghan Dialogue wherein Afghans will themselves decide upon the future of their country.

“In this backdrop, Pakistan is highly dismayed by the surge of violence in Afghanistan from all sides. The so called offensives are condemnable and will undermine the peace process. It is not right to seek an edge in dialogue through coercion.

“Pakistan implores all parties to recognise the importance of the moment and seize it. Pakistan has committed all diplomatic and security capital to success of [the] peace process. Pakistan will not be party to any internal conflict in Afghanistan anymore,” it read.

Although it is not clear what prompted the Prime Minister’s Office to issue the cryptic statement, it seems to be a veiled reprimand to the Taliban as well as a warning to Washington that Islamabad will not exert its influence over the militant group for long if Kabul continues with its confrontational policy.

Earlier this month, Taliban fighters stormed Afghan army checkpoints in southern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border overnight, killing 20 troops. Eight other security forces were wounded in the attack.

Later, on April 20, at least seven people were killed in an attack on the Afghan communications ministry in central Kabul, breaking months of relative calm in the capital and underlining continued security threats.

Kabul has also been extremely indignant at what it sees as Islamabad’s ‘interference’ in Afghanistan’s affairs, having recalled its ambassador twice over a statement from Prime Minister Khan regarding a possible interim setup in Afghanistan while a peace is brokered.

Pakistan has been playing a key role in the Afghan peace process, helping US President Donald Trump keep an election promise of withdrawing US military presence from Afghanistan.

On the surface, the talks seem to be progressing to the satisfaction of both sides — the US and the Taliban — but the incumbent Afghan regime has largely been excluded from several rounds of negotiations, and hostilities between Kabul and the Taliban show no signs of abating.

Hopes for a breakthrough last weekend were dashed when a dialogue planned between the Taliban and Afghan officials in Doha collapsed at the last minute when Ghani announced a delegation of some 250 people from all walks of Afghan life, including government figures, would attend talks.

The Taliban had rejected the lengthy list, saying the meeting was “not an invitation to some wedding or other party at a hotel in Kabul”.

US President Donald Trump is eager to reach a solution to end the longest-ever US war, which dislodged the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced disappointment over the impasse during a call with President Ghani last weekend and “encouraged all sides to seize the moment and reach an understanding on participants, so that an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue can be convened in Doha as soon as possible”.

The Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told AFP that the upcoming talks will focus on a timetable for pulling all foreign forces from Afghanistan.