World Sikh News – Detention of Catalonia leaders seeking self-determination has lessons for all

Catalan flag

Dr Paul Newman

Published 17 August 2019. While nearer home, the people of Kashmir and Punjab are struggling for the right to self-determination against heavy odds and a grossly inhuman approach by the Indian government, it is in order to understand how the world over, governments are maltreating peoples with a separate history and who aspire for nationhood.

This is the current state of the people and leaders of Catalonia, which wants to secede from Spain. WSN publishes this piece by scholar activist Dr Paul New­mann, which will serve the need to highlight the Catalonian cause as well as enable others struggling for the right to self-rule to learn significant lessons in how to tackle rogue states.

The referendum in Catalonia, which is part of Spain was organized on the first of October 2017 and was declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Tribunal and boycotted by those opposed to the independence of the region. Thus far, 12 pre-indepe­dence Catalonian politicians have completed trials under Spanish laws.

The public prosecution in the Supreme Court of Spain has used Spanish police reports to craft a narrative that speaks of “violence”, “rebellion” and “public money laundering”. The Catalonian defence team said their clients merely acted on “the mandate from the people” and never used violent means to declare or propagate independence.

Article 92 of the Spanish constitution has provisions for the King of Spain to permit a referendum. In the modern world, where the monarchy is defunct, a Catalonian cannot become the King, so by its very nature, this provision is flawed.

In the 21st century Europe and across the world, exercising the right to self-determination, either people decide about their own future, or there will be no permanent solution to the problem in various parts of the world including Kashmir and Punjab.

Notwithstanding the pit­falls of democracy, the modern world carries on governance through the ‘will of the people’. An over­whelm­ing 90 per cent of Catalonians, in the referendum, expressed the desire for an independent Catalonia.

Of the 10 per cent, many did not vote fearing state persecution and unleashing of state-sponsored violence on Catalonian civilians, which ultimately happened after the voting and declaring of the results.

In the run-up to the referendum, Spain sent thousands of troops into Catalonia to seize ballot papers and arrest pro-independence officials. Websites informing Catalans about the election were shut down.

Catalan Referendum

On the day of the referendum, the police used rubber bullets and truncheons to control the crowds and keep people out of the streets. Thousands were injured in what the Times described as “one of the gravest tests of Spain’s democracy since the end of the Franco dictatorship.

At the same time, the perpetrators of violence during the referendum polling and the aftermath, in this case, the Spanish police, are being tried at the provincial courts at Barcelona, while those political prisoners are directly sent to the Supreme Court, violating the principle of natural jus­tice.

The only violence that occurred during the referendum on 1 October was committed by the Spanish police or Guardia Civil, and not by the Catalan government.

In the 21st century Europe and across the world, exercising the right to self-determination, either people decide about their own future, or there will be no permanent solution to the problem in various parts of the world including Kashmir and Punjab.

Spain, which had never before invoked Article 155 of its constitution, allowing it to suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy, but it did so in October 2017 to crush the legitimate aspirations of the Catalan people.

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association:

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are enshrined in a number of international and regional human rights instruments, from Article 20(1)) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Similar protections exist in a number of regional human rights instruments as well, including Article 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is the right to gather publicly or privately and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests.

This right includes the right to participate in peaceful assemblies, meetings, protests, strikes, sit-ins, demonstrations and other temporary gatherings for a specific purpose. States not only have an obligation to protect peaceful assemblies but should also to take measures to facilitate them.

Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly. States may not limit this right based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, polit­ical or another opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status.

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is the right to gather publicly or privately and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests.

International law only protects assemblies which are peaceful, and significantly, the peaceful intentions of those assembling should be presumed.

During the referendum in Catalonia, there was sufficient evidence to validate that those people who had assembled at Barcelona were very peaceful and there was no sign of any violence. A good number of women and men, well above the age of 60, participated without any fear and exercised their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The Spanish authorities converted the right to assembly and demonstration, into a crime of rebellion. Spain grossly erred because neither the events of 20 September 2017 nor those of 1 or 3 October 2017, led to the kind of violence mentioned in Article 472 of the Spanish Criminal Code as this required a violent public uprising which never happened.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Particiption rights are inextricably linked to other human rights, such as the rights to peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression and opinion and the rights to education and to information.

The right to, directly and indirectly, participate in political and public life is important in empowering individuals and groups and is one of the core elements of human rights-based approaches aimed at eliminating marginalization and discrimination.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

It is a well-documented fact that the Spanish police fired blank cartridges and rubber bullets, seriously injuring a person and causing him to lose sight in one eye. Easily visible was the brandishing of the baton by the police on women and men who were on the streets.

Many leading human rights groups have alleged excessive use of force by the Spanish police, which was deployed by the central authorities and which ordered to halt the vote, in part by seizing ballot materials, and in others, they used baton-charges against peaceful demonstrators outside polling locations.

Is the Spanish Judiciary independent?

The 12 judges of the Spanish Supreme court who sat on the 20-member General Council of the Judiciary which oversaw the courts were not directly elected by their peers, but appointed through a threefifths vote in the parliament, as with the other eight members.

Supreme Court judges are appointed by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the body elected by the Spanish parliament, in a process which has been challenged due to political interference, which can potentially jeopardize the independence of the high ranks of the judiciary, particularly in politically sensitive cases.

The Council of Europe has criticized that this current provision of the Spanish constitution and experts have rightly argued that this arrangement increases the risk of political influence.

The highly political nature of the ongoing criminal procedure is evidenced by the fact that the far-right political party VOX is taking part in the private prosecution.

Pretrial detention:

The right to personal liberty, in order to be compatible with international standards and the presumption of innocence, pretrial detention must only be applied as a last resort. Pretrial detention constitutes a disproportionate restriction on the fundamental rights to free expression, peaceful assembly and personal liberty.

Catalonia protest

Many international human rights organizations who have examined the Catalonian case thoroughly have concluded that the charges against those detained are unfounded and must, therefore, be dropped.

Ideological Freedom:

Section 16 of the Spanish Constitution states that “Freedom of ideology, religion and worship is guaranteed, to individuals and communities with no other restriction on their expression than may be necessary to maintain public order as protected by law”.

In the case of the detained leaders, it is very clear that all of them stood for ideology, the ideology that represents the freedom to live and exist as a people of the people of Catalonia. They stood for the ideology of upholding the Right to self-determination, enshrined in all human rights statutes, from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Everyone has the inherent right to self-determination; the Spanish authorities are questioning this very basic right and have imprisoned nine Catalonian political leaders as political prisoners. Spain has a conflict of interest in this trial. Spain is the sixth-worst member state in the EU’s judicial independence perception.

The Spanish state forces have so far enjoyed complete impunity and there is no guarantee that it will not be extended. Keeping these events and the past history of the Spanish judiciary in view, it is pertinent that if justice and truth have to prevail, the case has to be shifted to a neutral venue and under an international tribunal.

Spain has obligations to protect freedom of expression, including political expression, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (IC­CPR); and freedom of peaceful assembly and association under Article 11 ECHR and Article 21 and 22 IC­CPR.

Even the allegation of laundering of public money is false. Charging leading politicians, activists and social workers who have a very high reputation in society with sedition and laundering of public money is an absurd charge with complete disrespect for human rights.

Catalan is the tenth most-spoken language of Europe and their unique identity needs to be protected.

Unconditionally the Spanish government must immediately release all political prisoners and suitably compensate them for the period of illegal confinement and detention. Spain must withdraw all frivolous charges and recognize the victory of the majority who exer­cised and won the right to self-determination.

About the Author: Dr Paul Newman is a Professor from Bangalore specialising in conflicts, right to self-determination, refugee studies and human rights issues. He was one of the four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka at Dublin. He attends the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva championing the cause of Nations fighting for Self Determination. In August 2018 he addressed the 1st Yazidi Genocide Conference and is also an International Observer on the Catalonian referendum case which is ongoing in Spain. He has authored several books on the Eelam Tamil struggle for a separate homeland and written many articles on human rights issues.

Detention of Catalonia leaders seeking self-determination has lessons for all – …and now it’s turn of Punjab; Meeting between Centre, Punjab and Haryana to complete SYL-canal tomorrow

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 15 August 2019. After revoking the special status of Jammu & Kashmir by scrapping Article 370, the BJP led saffron Indian government seems all set for hitting its next target Punjab. It is learnt that the Centre, Punjab and Haryana will be sitting together tomorrow to discuss upon completing the construction of SYL canal.

It is noteworthy here that this meeting has been called upon at the behest of the Supreme Court of India, which will be convened by the secretary of Union Water Resources Ministry. The Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Haryana will represent the two states in this meeting while the principal secretaries, irrigation, of both states will also be present.

On July 9, the Supreme Court of India had directed the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana to constitute a high level committee of its officials to sort out the SYL-canal issue.

After observing that its previous orders of completing the construction of SYL-canal were not being imposed, the Supreme Court had said that if the two states can’t sort out this issue then the Centre must help them.

The next hearing on this case is scheduled for September 3.

What is Punjab’s stance on SYL-canal?

On 14 March 2016, the former SAD led Punjab government had unanimously passed The Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Act-2016 in the Punjab assembly.

It was decided to de-notify the land acquired from farmers for the SYL-Canal project and return it back to them free of cost.

While the Governor’s assent to Bill was being awaited, the Haryana government had moved to the Supreme Court seeking annulation of the Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Act-2016 passed by the Punjab government.

…and now it’s turn of Punjab; Meeting between Centre, Punjab and Haryana to complete SYL-canal tomorrow

Gent: Sassekaai – Walking from Sint-Pieters to Drongen – Gentbrugse Meersen

07 August 2019

Left for trams to Moscou – Right for trams to UZ

Sassekaai – Scheepvaartstraat

Will trams soon be using these tracks ?

Walking from Sint-Pieters to Drongen
18 August € 10,00
09 Augustus

I can walk to Drongen without buying a € 10 ticket

Gentbrugse Meersen
10 August 2019

Gentbrugse Meersen

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Atlantic – Modi’s Kashmir decision is the latest step in undoing Nehru’s vision

The Indian government’s move to revoke special status for Kashmir is its latest step in reversing what it regards as historic wrongs committed by India’s first prime minister.

Krishnadev Calamur

New Delhi – India, 05 August 2019. No single person is as responsible for the shape and foundation of modern India as Jawaharlal Nehru. In August 1947, Nehru, a Harrow and Cambridge educated atheist who was deeply influenced by Fabian socialism, led a newly independent, intensely religious, and poorly educated developing country, and made it in his image.

Nehru’s three biggest ideas, a socialist economy based on centralized planning; a secular state where, unlike France, all faiths would be celebrated equally; and the promotion of a scientific temper, which resulted in the creation of world-class educational and research institutions, shaped India’s path for the next five decades.

A fourth idea was pursued by Nehru, and its consequences are being felt even now: special status for his beloved Kashmir.

India’s government announced today that it is revoking Article 370, the constitutional provision that gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir its special status; downgrading the state’s status so that New Delhi has more direct say over how Kashmir is governed; and splitting it so that Ladakh, the mountainous region that borders Tibet, becomes its own union territory.

The controversial move will almost certainly result in unrest in Kashmir, where a separatist movement has bedeviled India since the 1980s, and which has been at the heart of multiple wars and armed conflicts with Pakistan. It will also almost certainly be challenged all the way to the Indian Supreme Court, which ruled last year that Article 370 cannot be abrogated.

Whichever way the court ultimately rules, today’s announcement by the Indian government is the latest in a series of measures that have attempted to reshape Nehru’s vision for India. Under this view, propagated by the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters, Nehru was far too Western to understand India; his socialist economic policies choked growth for decades; and his views toward India’s minorities, especially Muslims, were tantamount to appeasement.

In the BJP’s vision, much of India’s ailments spring from policies adopted during Nehru’s premiership, from 1947 to his death in 1964, and so the party is doing its best to reverse them. Kashmir might be the centerpiece of this effort.

In 1947, Britain divided India on the basis of religion: The two Muslim-majority regions that flanked what is today’s modern India became a new country, Pakistan (the eastern flank of which became an independent nation, Bangladesh, in 1971).

But there was the matter of more than 600 princely states that Britain, the imperial power, said could choose among India, Pakistan, and independence. The overwhelming majority of states picked one of the two countries. Some of the rulers of the states that chose to remain independent were ultimately coerced into joining India or Pakistan. And then there was Kashmir.

Kashmir, from where Nehru’s family hailed, had a Hindu king, Hari Singh, and mostly Muslim subjects. Singh opted to remain independent, but quickly found his kingdom overrun by tribesmen from Pakistan. He sought India’s help, which Nehru offered on the condition that Kashmir join India.

Singh agreed. But Nehru took two additional steps: He promised a plebiscite in Kashmir in the hopes that Kashmiris would overwhelmingly pick India, and he accorded Kashmir special status that ensured, among other things, no one but a resident of the state could buy property there.

Since then, India and Pakistan have fought two wars and innumerable skirmishes over Kashmir, which has been the scene of a bloody separatist rebellion that India says is abetted by Pakistan; the plebiscite was never held.

Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP maintain that Kashmir is a mess because of Nehru’s decision to accord it special status. This, Modi’s supporters say, has stifled investment in the state, which lags behind other Indian regions in economic growth.

As Arun Jaitley, the former Indian finance minister said on Twitter today: “Separate status led to separatism. No dynamic nation can allow this situation to continue.”

But indications are that the BJP, which ironically enjoys the same kind of hefty parliamentary majority that Nehru did, has other plans to remake India, apart from its so far mixed record of reforming the economy. Last week, Parliament banned “instant divorce” for India’s Muslims.

The step has been long demanded by Muslim women’s-rights groups, but critics of the government say they believe it is the first step toward the introduction of a uniform civil code that would reverse the current system, which allows each of India’s major faiths to follow religious doctrine on matters such as divorce and inheritance.

Nehru, as an atheist, supported a uniform civil code, but gave in to pressure on personal law at the time from religious minorities.

The issue is fraught because of the BJP’s perceived hostility toward India’s minorities, especially Muslims: The country’s Islamic past, which at its zenith combined India’s many faiths, is presented more and more as alien; minorities are forced to praise the Hindu god Ram; Hindu vigilantes, who consider the cow sacred, attack and kill Muslims they suspect of eating beef.

Nehru, whose vision of India was that of a modern, secular nation, wrote more than seven decades ago: “It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, or a rich country inhabited by starving people.”

That view has been cast aside in favor of a more nationalist view of science. In Uttar Pradesh state, which is ruled by a BJP government, cow urine is sold as an elixir.

Officials have claimed at scientific congresses that ancient Indians possessed the ability to conduct stem-cell research, and cast doubts about Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Even as India launches rockets that go to the moon and Mars, it promotes pseudoscience.

If Nehru is the man most responsible for the first half century of India’s modern life, then Modi may well be the one most consequential for its next 50 years. Nehru, the elite atheist who willed India into a secular, socialist, scientific republic, one where Kashmir held a special status—built India into what it is today. Modi is transforming it into what he wishes it to be.

Dawn – Another prayer-leader killed near Quetta

Quetta – Balochistan – Pakistan, 18 August 2019. A day after a prayer leader was killed in Kuchlak, another imam was gunned down in the same area on the outskirts of the provincial capital on Saturday.

Hafiz Hamdullah, the imam who was killed on Friday just before the weekly prayers in a bomb blast at his Al-Haj mosque, was said to be a brother of Afghan Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhun­dzada. A total of four people were killed in the explosion.

Police said on Saturday that Muhammad Azam, who was the imam of Usman bin Afaan mosque of Kuchlak, was killed in what looked like a targeted attack.

The prayer leader was sitting in a shop in Kuchlak town when some men opened fire on him, before fleeing from the crime scene on their motorbike, police said.

Maulvi Azam received multiple bullet injuries and succumbed to his wounds on the spot, they said.

“The 50-year-old man was an Afghan citizen and had been the prayer leader of the Usman bin Afaan mosque for many years,” a police officer said, adding that he used to live in a house close to the mosque.

Police said that investigations were under way in the case.

Till the filing of this report no group or individual had claimed responsibility for the killing.

The Afghan Taliban, meanwhile, said the killing of their chief’s brother in an explosion on Friday would not derail talks with the United States aimed at securing the withdrawal of US troops after 18 years of war, Reuters reported.

There was no claim of responsibility for the bomb blast that came after both the Taliban and US officials reported progress in talks on an agreement centred on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban security guarantee.

“If someone thinks martyring our leaders would stop us from our goal they’re living in a fool’s paradise,” a Taliban leader said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“We are close to our goals,” he said, referring to the talks with the United States. He declined to be identified.