The News – Unusual water releases into Ravi hamper work on Kartarpur Corridor

Munawar Hasan

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 29 June 2019. Pakistan has expressed concerns to India over unusual water releases into the River Ravi from an upstream dam, which is hampering the construction work of the Kartarpur Corridor being built to give visa-free access to Sikh devotees to their sacred shrine across the border.

Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Water Syed Mehr Ali Shah telephoned his Indian counterpart K P Saxena earlier this week to express concern over above-average flows in the River Ravi downstream of Madhopur Headworks into Pakistan.

He asked Saxena to investigate the reason of the above-average inflows as the river water is obstructing the progress of Kartarput Corridor’s construction works going on in the Ravi riverbed.

Shah stressed that the possibility of reducing inflows into the River Ravi to reasonable limit be explored so that the construction activity may not be disturbed and the project may be completed as per stipulated time as agreed by the governments of Pakistan and India.

A formal letter by Pakistan’s commissioner for Indus waters has been dispatched to the Indian Indus waters commissioner, highlighting reservations of Pakistan over untimely releases of water into the River Ravi by India.

Sources informed that Saxena, in a telephonic conversation, admitted releasing water from Thein Dam into River Ravi with a view to maintaining level of reservoir relatively for absorbing potential flood water in the days to come. He explained the river flows were comparatively better this year, prompting authorities to release water from the dam.

The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), which is constructing the Kartarpur Corridor, is facing difficulty in completing work due to gushing water into an active creek of the River Ravi. The Pakistan Army through a letter dated June 18, 2019 took up this issue with the Ministry of Water Resources, which was subsequently forwarded to the office of Pakistan’s Indus Waters Commission on June 24, 2019.

The controversy regarding water intentionally being released into Pakistan from eastern rivers has already gripped the Indian Punjab state where several quarters accused the authorities of letting water flow out of state while canals are not being run as per demand of local farmers. The chief minister of Indian Punjab also admitted water being allowed to flow into Pakistan through eastern rivers, saying that it was being done due to operational needs necessitating to control potential flooding.

The high-ups of the Pakistan Commission for Indus Waters are waiting for the official response of India over the issue. However, they feel that apparent excessive snowmelt in the catchment area could be one of the reasons for above-normal flows in the River Ravi from the Indian side.

The water level of the Thein Dam, which is also called the Ranjit Sagar Dam project, was 511.58 meters on June 27, 2019 against the maximum capacity of storing water up to 527.90 meters.

It is worth-mentioning here that in August 2018, Indian Punjab Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu attended the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor. He was told by Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa about Pakistan’s willingness to open the Dera Baba Nanak–Kartarpur Corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.

Construction work on the corridor started on the Pakistani side in December last after finalizing modalities with the Indian government. Prime Minister Imran Khan had laid the foundation stone of the corridor project at Kartarpur on November 28, 2018.

The Kartarpur Corridor is a proposed area corridor between the neighbouring nations of Pakistan and India, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib located in Indian Punjab and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Punjab, Pakistan.

Currently under planning, the corridor is intended to allow religious devotees from India to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres from the Pakistan-India border, without a visa. The construction of the corridor is expected to be completed by November 1, 2019, for the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak on November 12, 2019. – Manjit Singh GK demands immediate release of political Sikh prisoners

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi – India, 27 June 2019. Interacting with the media today, the former DSGMC president Manjit Singh demanded immediate release of political Sikh prisoners like Jathedar Jagtar Singh Hawara, Bhai Daya Singh Lahoria and others who have been languishing in the Indian jails from more than two decades.

“If the killer cops, who killed innocent Sikh youths in fake encounters, can be pardoned then why not our Sikh prisoners were fabricated in fake cases,” he questioned.

He appealed the Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh to recommend release of political Sikh prisoners to the Punjab governor, who have already served the quantum of sentence addressed to them but are still languishing in the jails.

He has asked the Punjab CM to adopt a similar course of action for the release of political Sikh prisoners as the Punjab government did for getting released the killer cops.

He also asked the Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who tends to be a sympathizer of the Sikhs, to recommend release of Jathedar Jagtar Singh Hawara and Bhai Daya Singh Lahoria as they have already served their life sentences.

“Advocate Mehmood Pracha, the legal counsel of Jathedar Jagtar Singh Hawara, has clarified that Jathedar Hawara has been acquitted in almost all cases but the Police have registered new cases against him to keep him behind bars,” GK said.

“If the parole plea of rapist Gurmeet Ram Rahim could be considered then why not the parole pleas of political Sikh prisoners?” he questioned.

He also took on Badals for demanding probe into the murder of sacrilege culprit Mohinder Pal Bittu.

GK Demands Immediate Release of Political Sikh Prisoners

Brussel Noord – Voem Brussel

Brussel Noord
18 June 2019

Train on Eupen Oostende service

Boarding DoubleDecker train

Voem Meeting in Brussel
‘Waffels’ sweets
19 June 2019

‘Waffels’ donated by me


More sweets

The third dish of sweets

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

CBC News – Turban ripped off devout Sikh man by RCMP officer, alleges civil suit

‘Forceful’ removal of the turban, hair pulling ‘insulting to the plaintiff’s religious beliefs,’ says lawyer

Surrey – British Columbia – Canada, 28 June 2019. In a civil claim filed with the BC Supreme Court, Kanwaljit Singh says that an RCMP officer ripped off his turban and threw it on a booking desk during his arrest for an unspecified reason two years ago at a Surrey RCMP detachment.

The Abbotsford software programmer’s lawsuit alleges that he was the only prisoner in a booking area of the Surrey detachment June 30, 2017, and he faced a semi-circle of about four or five officers when one moved toward him and ripped his turban off his head.

Singh’s statement of claim says “suddenly without provocation or justification” an officer he understood to be Sgt. Brian Blair “approached the plaintiff and ripped the turban off of his head,” then threw the turban onto the booking desk.

After that and despite his compliance, Singh alleges that an unidentified officer grabbed his arms and marched him to a holding cell. During this march the lawsuit alleges that Singh’s arm was twisted and his hair was grabbed and his “topknot” was pulled out.

“The plaintiff had styled his hair in a ‘topknot’ to facilitate the wearing of his turban, and Sgt. Blair pulled his hair out of the topknot,” the suit says.

In the filing Singh says he is a devout Sikh who wears a turban as part of his religious practice and a core part of his identity. He claims to have suffered injury to his dignity, loss of self-respect, embarrassment, stress and anxiety.

He’s seeking damages and a declaration that his charter rights were breached. Singh immigrated to Canada in 2006, according to the claim.

It’s unclear what he was arrested for or whether he was charged. His lawyer would only say that information was “irrelevant” to the treatment Singh received. He described his client as in his late 30s.

“The plaintiff was subjected to negative and differential treatment by employees, servants or agents of the defendants on the basis of his race, ethnic origin and/or religion,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Sgt. Blair intended his forceful removal of the … turban and his pulling of … hair to be insulting to the plaintiff’s religious belief,” says the claim.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. Neither the attorney general nor the RCMP were available for comment.

The Hindu – Lynching incidents should not be politicised or given communal colour: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

Mumbai – Maharashtra – India, 29 June 2019. Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s comment comes in the backdrop of the alleged lynching of 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand last week.

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on June 29 said incidents of lynching should not be given a communal colour or politicised.

“Lynching is a criminal subject. It should not be give a communal colour. It is highly condemnable and no one should politicise it,” the Minority Affairs Minister said while speaking to reporters after inaugurating a renovated hall of the Haj House in Mumbai

The comment comes in the backdrop of the alleged lynching of a 24-year-old man in Jharkhand last week.

The victim, Tabrez Ansari, was allegedly tied to a pole and thrashed with sticks by a mob in Seraikela Kharsawan district of Jharkhand on suspicion of theft. The man was purportedly seen in a video being forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”. He later succumbed to his injuries.

Mr Naqvi said the culture of harmony and tolerance of majority Hindu community has built and strengthened the foundation of India’s democratic secularism.

“India is the world’s largest secular democratic country because after partition, Pakistan chose to become an Islamic nation, while the majority Hindu community in India chose the path of secularism,” he said.

Despite the diversity in languages, faiths, food and style of living, India’s culture has kept us united through a strong bond. Today, the minorities in India are moving forward on the path of development with religious and social freedom, the minister said.

“The strong inclusive culture, unity and harmony of India has defeated terrorism and other enemies of humanity. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State have not been successful in their evil designs due to the commitment to unity of our society,” the BJP leader said.

The Muslim community in India knows very well that terrorism is the biggest enemy of the entire humanity and Islam, he said.

“We should remain cautious to ensure that no negative agenda is successful in disturbing the atmosphere of inclusive development and harmony. We have to make secularism and democracy our strength and not a weakness,” Mr. Naqvi said.

2 lakh Muslims to visit Haj’

The Minister said it was for the first time since independence that a record 2 lakh Indian Muslims will go on Haj this year without any subsidy.

“An honest and transparent system developed by the Modi government has ensured that even after removal of Haj subsidy, there is no unnecessary financial burden on the Haj pilgrims,” he said.

“A record number of two lakh Indian Muslims will go on Haj this year in over 500 flights from 21 embarkation points across the country,” Mr. Naqvi said.

The number of women Haj pilgrims going without ‘mehram’ (male companion) this year is double as compared to last year, the Minister added.

The Telegraph – India must address water scarcity issue on a war footing

The unregulated use of groundwater, the primary source of drinking water for rural India, must be checked.

Editorial Board, 28 June 2019. Access to resources that are critical for the sustenance of communities should be recognized as rights. It is thus heartening to note that Madhya Pradesh is seeking to enact the Right to Water Act, a first-of-its-kind legislation, which seeks to guarantee a certain quantum of water to every citizen on a daily basis.

The prime minister, too, has expressed his resolve to make piped water available to every household by 2024. Such initiatives, even though they are ambitious, are laudable. Yet, there is a case to argue that the transformation of natural resources into commodities meant for public consumption in a populous country like India often leads to wastage and, subsequently, scarcity.

The pressure exerted by populism on policy compounds shortages in precious resources. Incidentally, sops to agriculturalists for the use of groundwater as well as the unregulated extraction of water for industrial purposes are not uncommon in the country.

India is all set to pay a heavy price for such lapses. Niti Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index states that 600 million Indians reside in high or extreme water-stressed zones and that the creaking water supply system is on the verge of collapsing. The think tank has also expressed the apprehension that 21 Indian cities would run out of groundwater by 2020.

The scale of the imminent crisis can perhaps be adjudged from Chennai’s present troubles. Scanty rainfall, a scorching summer and, most importantly, apathy and myopia of successive administrations have brought untold suffering to the city and its people. Time is of the essence. India must address the problem of water scarcity on a war footing and on multiple levels.

Practices that lead to the exploitation of water in agriculture, the sector uses 78 per cent of the nation’s water, and industry must stop. The unregulated use of groundwater, the primary source of drinking water for rural India, must be checked. Distribution systems in metropolitan areas suffer from leakages: they need to be modernized.

Equally significant is the conservation and regeneration of resources. A law may not always be enough in this context. Tamil Nadu had made water harvesting compulsory; yet Chennai is now bone dry. The real challenge, therefore, would be to sensitize citizens to the criminal wastage of water. Only then can they claim to have a right over this valuable resource.

The Tribune – Gurdaspur village in troubled waters, courtesy caste divide

Ravi Dhaliwal, Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur – Panjab – India, 26 June 2019. Nearly 1,600 residents of Khojepur village, 3 km from here, are living in inhuman conditions as a sharp divide between Scheduled Caste Mashas and upper caste Jat Sikhs is keeping the issue of waterlogging simmering.

Sewage from households, which accumulates in narrow alleys, has no outlet making the entire village waterlogged. This has led to an outbreak of a number of diseases.

The Tribune in September last year had published the plight of the hamlet, following which Gurdaspur DC Vipul Ujwal accompanied by officials of 14 departments, including Health and Water Supply and Sanitation, reached the spot and tried to find a solution, but to no avail. Water samples were collected, but the results are not known to date.

Politics is said to be another reason behind the unending problem. Village sarpanch Jyoti Bala owes allegiance to Dinanagar (Reserved) MLA and Cabinet minister Aruna Chaudhury. The nearby agricultural fields, which have the capacity to absorb the excess water, are owned by the Jat Sikhs.

The divide between the communities is too palpable to be dismissed. In February this year, a clash took place between the Mashas and the Jats and an FIR was registered. It was perceived to be an altercation between Chaudhury’s men and the Akali-minded Jat Sikhs.

A majority of the population belongs to the SC community here.

Five months down the line, the political equations have changed but nothing has changed for the poor villagers. Jyoti Bala now says that Chaudhury was unwilling to help them for “reasons best known to the legislator”.

“MLA or no MLA, things are simply not moving. To make things worse, water from a nearby pond reverses its flow and enters the houses during monsoon. Every second day we have to take somebody to the Civil Hospital.

We have nothing against the Jats or the Akalis. All we want is to find a solution to drain out the contaminated water,” said Pardeep Kumar, a relative of the sarpanch.

The DC, however, claimed that his officers were trying to make the Jats see reason. “The paddy sowing season is on during which water can be used in their fields. It used to happen earlier but somehow they are not allowing it to enter their landholdings now. I have asked the District Development and Panchayat Officer to submit a report on this at the earliest,” he added.

Brussel/Bruxelles: Place Schuman – Schuman NMBS – Brussel Noord

Place Schuman
18 June 2019

European Commission

More European buildings

Schuman NMBS
18 June 2019

Waiting for a train to take me to Brussel Noord

It is not easy to negotiate the rabbit warren that is Schuman rail and metro station

My train is due at 15:55

Brussel Noord
18 June 2019

Brussel Noord NMBS

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Ottawa Citizen – Leader of India’s Punjab calls for sanctions against Canada if it does not crack down on Sikh extremists

‘India had, for too long, been soft towards Canada and needed to crack its whip aggressively, even seek UN sanctions if needed, to end the growing threat once and for all’

Tom Blackwell

Ottawa – Ontario – Canada, 27 June 2019. Captain Amarinder Singh has always made it clear he thinks Canada is soft on alleged Sikh extremists in this country.

The head of India’s Panjab state government once alleged the Liberal cabinet harbours four “Khalistani” advocates of an independent Sikh homeland, publicly snubbed Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a list of purported Sikh terrorists living here.

But Singh went even further with his critique in an unexpected statement issued this week, accusing the Canadian government of providing “overt and covert” support to the Khalistani movement, and calling on New Delhi to consider sanctions against Canada if it does not take a tougher stance.

The Panjab chief minister urged India’s national government “to mount global pressure on Canada to put an end to the use of its soil to unleash terror against India, particularly the Sikh community being targeted by Khalistani terrorists.”

“India had, for too long, been soft towards Canada and needed to crack its whip aggressively, even seek UN sanctions if needed, to end the growing threat once and for all, the Chief Minister stressed,” said the news release posted on the Punjab government’s website Monday.

The comments add to ongoing tension between the two countries over the Khalistani issue, and the degree to which Canadian politicians support the movement.

It’s unclear what prompted the latest outburst, although it follows a decision by the federal government in April to remove specific references to Sikh extremism from a contentious Public Safety Canada report on terrorism.

Global Affairs Canada, asked about the statement, was unable to respond by deadline.

The Indian government has also voiced concerns over Canadian politicians’ approach to Sikh nationalism, but the Indian High Commission in Ottawa did not reply to a request for comment.

For Sikhs here, Singh’s verbal attack comes “completely out of left field,” said Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization.

The allegations are unfounded, and some of them are “outlandish”, but they will nonetheless harm Canadian members of the faith, he said.

It hurts us here as a community

“What this looks like to us, is foreign interference, a narrative created in India and pushed into Canada about Canadian Sikhs,” said Singh. “It hurts us here as a community. It’s something that affects our reputation, and affects folks here on the ground.”

Singh suggested the Panjab leader may simply be angry that Canada barred him from coming here in 2016 to campaign among the Indian diaspora, a group considered to have considerable influence and financial clout in Punjab politics.

Accusing another country of giving a safe haven to terrorists could also help distract voters from the state’s struggling economy, he said.

Amarinder Singh, a former Indian army officer, first aired his criticisms of Canada in April 2017, when he insisted the four Sikhs in Trudeau’s cabinet were Khalistanis, a charge denied by all of them, and refused to meet Sajjan when the minister visited Punjab.

Peaceful support for an independent Khalistan in India is strong among leadership of Sikh temples [Gurdwaras] in Canada, with some gurdwaras displaying portraits of alleged extremists, and Canadian politicians have for years now reached out to such leaders as they court the powerful Sikh vote.

One of the guests on Trudeau’s ill-fated India trip in February 2018 was Jaspal Atwal, convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister in 1986.

Trudeau sat down with Singh for a fence-mending session during that same trip, with the Punjab chief minister handing over a list of nine alleged Sikh extremists in Canada.

Whether by coincidence or not, at least three Sikhs were for the first time placed on the federal no-fly list last year. Last December’s edition of the annual terror report also mentioned the threat of Sikh terrorism for the first time, though that phrasing was removed and replaced with a reference to extremists who pursue separatism in India after an outcry from Sikh leaders here.

In his statement, Singh referred to the list of “wanted terrorists” he provided to Trudeau last year but said “the lack of response from their government so far has exposed their intent.”

Canada’s “failure to check anti-India activities being carried out from its soil would be detrimental to its own security and interests in the long run,” he warned.

As evidence, the chief minister quoted extensively from the 2010 findings of a public inquiry into the Air-India bombing by Sikh terrorists, which concluded the attack followed a “cascading series of errors” by security agencies 34 years ago.

Singh’s statement exhibits a less-than-perfect knowledge of Canadian political geography, indicating the seat of federal government is Toronto, not Ottawa.

Dawn – It takes two to tangle

Asha’ar Rehman

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 28 June 2019. Signs are that the powers within the house of Sharif are finding it a wee bit tough to reconcile with each other’s authority. The latest proof of a lack of, or a need for, adjustment came in the shape of a statement by Ms Maryam Nawaz that was found by the rightly inclined to be agitating against the considered view of her uncle, Mian Shahbaz Sharif.

Ms Nawaz had dubbed any possible ‘meesaq-i-maeeshat’, or charter of economy, ‘mazaq-i-maeeshat’ or a joke with the economy. This provided the channels with an opportunity, and they had a field day identifying the breach inside the Sharif fortress, not for the first, nor likely the last, time.

The expected twist to this little rift that cast a long shadow over the Sharif dynasty’s internal discipline was given by Ms Nawaz who, as predicted, furnished a fresh statement of her belief in the leadership of Mr Shahbaz Sharif.

The PML-N would have behaved as if Ms Maryam Nawaz’s oath of allegiance to her leader has resolved the small matter. But its desire to stay poker-faced in the wake of the fresh realities aside, there are new centres of powers to be spotted inside the PML-N camp for anyone who cares to see.

The sequence where a remark is passed by one of the authorities within the PML-N and then withdrawn on one pretext or the other has been played just too many times. The strain, or the causes that could lead to one, is increasingly showing.

To begin with, it is unnatural for anyone to believe that two leaderships diametrically opposed to each other over not just strategy but, ‘visibly’, ideology as well can coexist in a party.

Quite often, mistakenly, the Shahbaz-Maryam situation is compared to the old and successful formula where Mr Shahbaz Sharif and Mian Nawaz Sharif were supposed to be individually, and separately, providing leadership to the PML-N in the past.

The attempt to draw a parallel between that long-serving arrangement and the current understanding has been flawed from the beginning, since over all these years of spectacular PML-N victories and occasional setbacks, it was never in any doubt as to who the supreme leader was.

Mian Nawaz Sharif is still that supreme adhesive but his capacity to provide a bonding at every required moment has been grossly compromised by his incarceration.

Everyday decisions pertaining to running party politics have to be taken by the relatively more free souls existing outside the walls of Kot Lakhpat jail.

The process to reach these decisions is most definitely going to shackle the minds of those who make them, given the different directions that Mr Shahbaz Sharif and Ms Maryam Nawaz took as evident in this latest two-pronged, in fact two-faced, PML-N front.

Over the decades, analysts, comprising both, the one with ill intent and the well-wishers, have struggled to break down the ingredients of what went into the solid and lasting partnership between the Sharif brothers.

One easy explanation we all relied upon for years was that it was the presence of Mian Sharif, the Sharif dynasty founder, which had kept his sons united.

When the patriarch passed away during the Sharif exile after the 1999 coup, some readily described it as the moment that was to release Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif from each other’s bondage.

It was thought that soon they would embark on their independent journeys determined by the difference in their respective personalities. It’s been some years since the alliance has survived the worst wishes that have been directed its way.

Looking for ever simpler explanations, the major, if not the clinching, reason for the continued partnership between these two politicians with distinct styles was said to be Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s belief in the unshakeable patriarchal system.

It was said that he was able to easily replace his father with his elder brother as the leader, propped up on the basis of the respect that those with more recent origins must have for their elders.

In the most celebrated local tradition of jauris or duos or pairs, allegiance by the younger to the older statesmen is considered absolutely essential, and as recent trends go, the Nawaz-Shahbaz jauri is the most steadfast and the hardest to crack.

Many other pairings seemingly unbreakable at one time, have fallen by the wayside; usually such allies were seduced or devoured by interests around them.

Like items in a scheme, this allegiance business is complemented by other matters of convention. In times, when resistance is inevitable against the old forces holding the puzzle together many old things that are not being ostensibly targeted do come under immense pressure to survive.

And a match between the ostensible and really desirable takes an altogether new meaning when the spotlight is put back on the PML-N in its present state.

Ms Maryam Nawaz is out to challenge, even if some old observers insist that what she has put up is a facade, and a longing for a deal with the establishment is not any less pronounced in her camp in comparison with other power-chasers in the country.

Her stance is going to repeatedly bring her in confrontation, before anyone else, with the much more softly moving Mr Shahbaz Sharif. And this despite the fact that for all practical purposes the Shahbazian command of the PML-N was replaced with a Maryam takeover of the party some time ago.

A Shahbaz Sharif having wielded so much authority in his typically flamboyant style, it is a picture that is most difficult to imagine. There will have to be rationalisation here. One plank will have to retreat.

The other option is the takeover of the PML-N by one of the two factions after a clash that will be difficult to paper over with high-sounding, conventional lines.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.