The Hindustan Times – Mob attacks by extremist Hindu groups against minorities continued in India: Report

The USA State Department in its annual 2018 International Religious Freedom Report alleged that some senior officials of the ruling BJP made inflammatory speeches against the minority communities.

Washington DC – USA, 22 June 2019. Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against the minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018, amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef, an official US report said Friday.

The State Department in its annual 2018 International Religious Freedom Report alleged that some senior officials of the ruling BJP made inflammatory speeches against the minority communities.

“Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef,” it said.

According to some NGOs, the authorities often protected perpetrators from prosecution, it said. The report said that as of November, there were 18 such attacks, and eight people killed during the year.

On June 22, two Uttar Pradesh police officers were charged with culpable homicide after a Muslim cattle trader died of injuries sustained while being questioned in police custody, the report said.

Mandated by the Congress, the State Department in its voluminous report gives its assessment of the status of religious freedom in almost all the countries and territories of the world.

Releasing the report at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the report was like a report card which tracks countries to see how well they have respected this fundamental human right.

In the India section, the State Department said that there were reports by nongovernmental organizations that the government sometimes failed to act on mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalised communities and critics of the government.

The State Department said that the central and state governments and members of political parties took steps that affected Muslim practices and institutions.

The government continued its challenge in the Supreme Court to the minority status of Muslim educational institutions, which affords them independence in hiring and curriculum decisions, it said.

“Proposals to rename Indian cities with Muslim provenance continued, most notably the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj. Activists said these proposals were designed to erase Muslim contributions to Indian history and had led to increased communal tensions,” the State Department said.

There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytize, the annual report said.

Senior US government officials underscored the importance of respecting religious freedom and promoting tolerance throughout the year with the ruling and opposition parties, civil society and religious freedom activists, and religious leaders belonging to various faith communities, the report said.

India has 1.3 billion population as per July 2018 estimate.

According to the 2011 national census, the most recent year for which disaggregated figures are available, Hindus constitute 79.8 per cent of the population, Muslims 14.2 per cent, Christians 2.3 per cent and Sikhs 1.7 per cent.

Groups that together constitute less than one per cent of the population include Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians (Parsis), Jews, and Baha’is.

The Tribune – Shillong Sikhs to stay put only if ‘respected’

“We will stay in Meghalaya till we can live with our head held high,” says Bhanwar Nain Singh Didan, a rich Sikh businessman in Shillong.

Jupinderjit Singh, Tribune News Service

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 21 June 2019. Besides Punjabi Lane, Sikhs live in Ghora Lane, an up-market place, and are settled in posh areas all over the state.

While Punjabi Lane Sikhs are in direct conflict with the locals over ownership rights, others, including Didan, have suffered losses in violence or tension triggered from Punjabi Lane. His office was smashed and his Renault Duster burnt by an angry mob last year.

Didan runs two hotels besides a construction company leased out to him by locals. He came to the state in 1960, more than a century after the Punjabi Lane residents had reached the state to take up employment as scavengers offered by the British.

“You can run a business here if a local is your partner. To outsiders, owning a property is not allowed. A trader’s licence is given only through locals,” he said.

Unlike the Punjabi Lane residents, whose street is called Haryan colony or a slum by the local media, many Sikhs have a rich lifestyle and have employed many.

After Home Minister James K Conrad assured Sikhs were safe in the state, Didan said it was more about respect. “We have helped the state grow with our investment in the past six decades. We employ locals but it hurts when they call us outsiders.

I will leave if we don’t get the respect we deserve.” His children are settled in the US. “The next generation doesn’t want to stay here,” he said.

Sunny Gill from Sherpur village near Khanna, Punjab, runs “Sardarji ka Dhaba” on the Shillong-Guwahati road. He had opened it two years ago but suffered badly after it was attacked last year. “I feel we are welcome only when some enterprise work is needed. Once we set it up, we become targets.”

Locals say…

Local mediapersons and government officials say it’s not about Sikhs versus Khasis. “Haryan Colony is overpopulated now as old settlers have invited many relatives over the years. The new settlers are illegal dwellers, besides being a civic problem as they have encroached upon public land and built houses in already congested street,” they said.

Gentbrugse Meersen – Gent Dampoort – Gent-Sint-Pieters

Gentbrugse Meersen
09 June 2019

Once more the white horse

Gent Dampoort
10 June 2019

The Dampoort station on the viaduct

Straight on for Gent Centre
Left for Dampoort station

Bloemekes – Flowers
11 June 2019

Wild flowers in front of the railway station

Beautiful yellow

Gent is not just a green city, other colours are here too !

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Pakistan Today – Governor endorses condition on Indian Sikh pilgrims to carry dollars

Staff Report

Nankana Sahib – Panjab – Pakistan, 21 June 2019. Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has supported a proposal, given by the Sikh community leaders that Indian Sikh pilgrims should be bound to carry dollars with them, instead of the Indian currency, while visiting their religious places in Pakistan.

He was addressing a press conference here on Friday, after visiting the DC office and Gurdwara Janamsathan in Nankana Sahib.

However, the governor added, the final decision in this regard would be taken by the finance advisor, in consultation with other stakeholders.

Sarwar said that whatever India do, we will complete the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan within the given timeframe and apprise the world about the stubbornness of the neighbouring country. “India used to defame Pakistan through its lies in the past, but after the Pulwama incident, we exposed India on the diplomatic front before the world,” he added.

The governor said that only 3,000 visas were issued to the Sikh pilgrims at a time for participation in any religious ceremony in the past, but we have decided to award 10,000 visas in future, and all institutions were making a strategy to turn this proposal into a reality.

“We will provide fool-proof security to all Sikh pilgrims and a committee under the Lahore commissioner has been set up, which is working to make comprehensive arrangements for the yatrees.

“We are setting a target of an annual $3 billion in revenue by promoting religious tourism. On the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, visas would be provided to 10,000 Indian and one lakh non-Indian Sikh pilgrims for the first time in Pakistan’s history.

Historical residential building of Sardar Bhagat Singh will also be renovated and all projects in Nankana Sahib including renovation of the railway station will be completed before November,” he added.

Inspector General Police Punjab Captain (R) Arif Nawaz Khan said that names of criminals involved in murders, dacoity and ransom and other dangerous crimes should be enlisted in IBMS list so that they may be obstructed from fleeing to foreign countries whereas their CNICs should be cancelled keeping in close coordination with NADRA and FIA so that they could not move to other foreign countries after committing the crime.

He further said that cases of liceneced weapons used in criminal activities should be immediately sent to Deputy commissioners for cancellation of the said license and all DPOs should send a detailed report to Central Police Office of cases meant for cancellation of liceneced weapons sent to DC office within a week.

He further said that officers involved in abuse with a woman in Chishtian should be arrested within 24 hours and strict legal action should be taken against him without delay. IGP further added that a zero-tolerance policy against extortionists should be adopted to make them an example for others.

He said that in order to improve the environment of Police stations, DPOs under their supervision should distribute the tasks equally so that performance of officers and officials could be made better ending over the burden of work to staff.

He said that the officers and officials involved in misbehaving with citizens do not deserve any leniency and concession and the liable officers and officials should be prepared themselves for stern departmental actions.

IGP added that the alleged persons involved in child and women abuse and blackmailing do not deserve any concession and field officers should constitute special teams to get these anti-social elements punished so that social protection of children and women should be provided.

He furthermore said that timely promotion of officials on merit and seniority basis is the fundamental right of the force so promotion boards in sessions in all districts should be conducted to speed up the process of promotions and letters should be sent to officers in case of delay of ACRs. IGP expressed these views while he was giving directions to CCPO Lahore, all RPOs, all DPOs through a video link conference at central police office today.

Dawn – ‘Pakistan supports an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself,’ FM Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said that Pakistan is resolute towards finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict as “Pakistan supports an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself”. The comments were made while addressing the inaugural session of a conference on Afghan peace titled Lahore Process held at Bhurban.

Naveed Siddiqui

Bhurban – Panjab – Pakistan, 22 June 2019. The Lahore Process has been set up to discuss different aspects of the Afghan peace process, which include bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan through connectivity, trade, economy and health.

The moot will discuss the issue of repatriation of Afghan refugees who have been living in Pakistan for the last four decades and delegates are expected to give proposals on the future course of action for Afghanistan.

Pakistan supports an Afghanistan at peace with itself

“Pakistan’s perspective on Afghanistan is clear, we support an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself, and at peace with its neighbours,” Qureshi said in his welcome speech.

“We respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our neighbour and remain firmly committed to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. We are determined to build our bilateral relationship on the principles of non-interference, mutual respect and common interest.”

Pakistan has also suffered because of the Afghan conflict

Speaking on how Pakistan has been affected by the conflict, Qureshi said: “The decades-long conflict has brought great suffering to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. After the Afghan nation, no one has suffered more than the people of Pakistan due to this persistent instability and conflict.

“Pakistan’s security continues to be deeply influenced by the security situation in Afghanistan. Advancing the cause of peace and stability in Afghanistan is, therefore, in Pakistan’s own national interest.

“Let this be absolutely clear: No one in Pakistan subscribes to any notion of so-called ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan. We must not let anyone resurrect this dead horse to advance their propagandistic aims or seek to sow the seeds of misunderstanding between us and our Afghan brethren. We wish to see a friendly Afghanistan, governed by an elected leadership, representative of the aspirations of all Afghans.

The cycle of mistrust must end

Speaking about the previously prevailing mistrust between the two countries, the foreign minister said: “For far too long, the vicious circle of mistrust, often fed into by our common enemies, has affected our relationship. The blame-game has not helped either of us. It is indispensable to move away from this negative paradigm.

“It is incumbent upon the leadership of the two countries to take practical steps to build mutual trust and confidence. We must not allow our respective territories to be used by anyone to the detriment of our interests.

“We must also remain vigilant of the other forces that wish to create misunderstandings and divisions between us. We must not allow them to harm our brotherly relations. We both have the same objective of long-term peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region. If there is, at times, variance in approaches, it must not be construed as difference in objectives.”

Pakistan always believed the solution to the Afghan conflict is not militarised, the world agrees with us now

Discussing Pakistan’s commitment to the Afghan peace process, Qureshi said: “While others believed in a military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, we always thought that a politically negotiated settlement was the only way forward. It is gratifying to note that others have also reached the same conclusion now.

“Pakistan has whole-heartedly facilitated the Afghan peace process in good faith and as a shared responsibility and will continue playing its due role. Our support has been crucial in overcoming the political stalemate that looked impossible to break just a year ago.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has for long been personally committed to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. My first visit after assuming office again in August 2018 was to Kabul. I have since visited Kabul three times.

I also visited other regional countries including China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE in an effort to build regional consensus on the ongoing peace process.”

We believe the ultimate arbiters of future of Afghanistan are the Afghans themselves

Reiterating the fact that it is only the Afghans that can effectively lead the peace process in their own country Qureshi said: “While efforts of all stakeholders are important, we do believe that the ultimate arbiters of the future of Afghanistan are only the Afghans themselves. We appreciate the progress achieved by Afghanistan over the past 18 years despite enormous challenges.

“It is critically important to preserve those gains and in fact, build on these achievements. Strengthening of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and progress on human rights, particularly women empowerment, are praise-worthy.

“Pakistan will continue to deepen its engagement with all sections of the Afghan society and their representatives in further cementing these achievements, as per expectations of the people of Afghanistan. In addition to playing our role in the peace process, Pakistan also remains committed to the Afghan reconstruction and development efforts, post-settlement.

“We stand ready to help Afghanistan through trade, investment, connectivity and capacity-building of the Afghan people. We are committed to enhancing people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges. We also wish to work with Afghanistan, and the world community, to help create conditions that enable dignified, safe and voluntary return of Afghan refugees to Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan is at the cross-roads of peace and stability

Speaking of the renewed push for peace and stability in Afghanistan, the foreign minister said: “The renewed push for peace has created a new opportunity and every effort must be made to seize it. We cannot afford to miss this rare opportunity.

“Let me conclude by reiterating Pakistan’s unshakable resolve to support peace, stability and long-term prosperity of Afghanistan and appreciating your respective contributions toward that end.

“It is the leadership of the country that can steer it out of conflict and put it on the path of stability and prosperity. This is a test of the wisdom and sagacity of everyone involved.

“The people of Afghanistan are looking towards their leaders including all those present here, with the hope for a better future, a future that they so earnestly deserve.”

Heads of all Afghan political parties and the political advisory to the Afghan president are participating in the conference.

In all, fifty seven delegates are attending the moot including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, senators and members of Afghan parliament.

The conference is being held before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan, which is expected to take place on next Thursday.

President Dr Arif Alvi will host a banquet in honour of delegates and participants of the conference will also call on Prime Minister Imran Khan.