BBC News – Farooq Abdullah: Outrage over detention of senior Kashmiri MP

The detention of a veteran Kashmiri parliamentarian and former chief minister under a controversial law has generated heated debate in India.

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir, 17 September 2019. Farooq Abdullah is now detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which among other things, allows detention without formal charge for two years.

He had previously been under house arrest along with other leaders ahead of a move to strip Kashmir of its special status in August.

His detention has been criticised.

Many, including veteran journalists and politicians, have condemned the move as “draconian” and argued that it sets a dangerous precedent.

“If an 81-year-old politician is seen as a threat to public safety then it flies in the face of the government claim that the situation in the Kashmir valley is returning to normal,” senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said in a television programme that is being widely shared on social media.

The leader of the the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM) Sitaram Yechury called the decision a “cowardly afterthought” and said that Mr Abdullah had “supported India through thick and thin”. Salman Khurshid, a leader with the main opposition Congress party, said that Mr Abdullah had “upheld the unity and integrity” of India.

Regional politician MK Stalin tweeted that the move was “excessive, arbitrary and unlawful”.

The announcement that Mr Abdullah would now be detained under the PSA came hours after a regional politician from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Vaiko, filed an application in the Supreme Court, asking for Mr Abdullah to be produced before the court.

He had said that there were “competing claims” about where Mr Abdullah, a member of India’s upper house of parliament, was.

The court, in turn, asked the government to respond by 30 September.

Earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah had told parliament that Mr Abdullah was “not detained”. He was responding to criticism that the government had not followed procedure in informing parliament about the arrest of a member of the house beforehand.

Correspondents say the decision to detain Mr Abdullah could well be an attempt to pre-empt any court decision compelling the government to release him even for a few days, as this could be used as a precedent to release other people currently under detention.

The government is believed to have detained thousands of people including activists, local politicians and businessmen. Many have been shifted to jails in cities outside the region.

However, there has been some social media support for the government’s decision as well. The government has not made any public statement regarding the order to detain Mr Abdullah under the PSA.

The Tribune – Selja: Khattar government betrayed people

New Delhi – India, 22 September 2019. Eyeing a comeback in the Haryana Assembly polls, the Congress is all geared up to highlight the Manohar Lal Khattar-led government’s “betrayal” of the people, as unemployment rate is at an all time high in the state at 28 per cent.

The 90 Assembly seats in Haryana will go to the polls on 21 October, while the results will be declared on 24 October. The Congress, which will soon announce its list of candidates, has also asked its leaders to mention about them being “teetotallers” and “using khaadi” in their membership forms for getting tickets to contest the Assembly polls.

In an interview, former Union Minister and Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja said, “Every election brings challenges and this one is no different. The BJP government in the state made over 154 promises in its manifesto in 2014 but it has not been able to fulfil any of them.

They bring in extraneous issues and do not even look at how the people of Haryana are suffering.” Accusing the state government of using diversionary tactics, Selja said, “They just want to whitewash the real issues and raise different kind of matters, hoping that people will believe them and give the BJP the mandate.”

She said, “I am 100 per cent sure that people have seen through this veil of lies unleashed by the BJP and they will teach the ruling party a lesson in the Assembly polls.” The Congress, which was in power in Haryana from 2004 to 2014, lost to the BJP in the last Assembly polls held in 2014, when the saffron party won 47 seats while the Congress managed only 15.

Describing unemployment as the biggest issue in the state, Selja said, “I am very sorry to say that under the Khattar-led government, Haryana achieved the dubious distinction of having an unemployment rate of 28 per cent, the highest in the country.”

New voters can register till tomorrow

Chandigarh – Hayana – India. Joint Chief Electoral Officer Inder Jeet has said new voters for the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections will be registered till Tuesday. He said one could apply online on and call the toll-free number 1950 for more details.

He said all issues related to pending applications would be resolved by focusing on Form 6. He said the revised electoral list published on August 27 would be used in the elections. He said about 1.83 crore voters would be able to exercise their franchise.

Antwerpen Zuid – Gentbrugse Meersen

Antwerpen Zuid – Montignystraat
27 Augustus 2019

Beautiful flowers in city street

Gentbrugse Meersen
30 Augustus 2019

Note the hot-air balloon

Four balloons
Some dirt on my lens

Lijsterbes – Rowanberry

The Gentbrugse ‘wilderness’

I have no idea which tree or bush this is

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Pieter Friedrich – Howdy Modi: shameful for American politicians to participate

Speaking at “Adios Modi” protest announcement at CAIR-Houston

On 21 September 2019, I joined a diverse coalition gathered under the banner of Alliance for Justice and Accountability for a press conference at the CAIR-Houston office to announce an #AdiosModi protest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 22 September #HowdyModi pep rally at the NRG Stadium in Houston, TX, USA.

Participants included myself, as well as the Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, Black Lives Matter Houston, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Indivisible Houston, AZAAD Austin, and a number of other activists.

“The ‘Howdy Modi,’ event is intended as a propaganda bonanza for an authoritarian ruler,” I stated during my remarks. “The event’s main organizers and promoters are leaders within the international wings of the RSS and the BJP. It’s shameful for any American politician to participate in a self-promotional event hosted by a pogrom-tainted foreign leader on US soil.”

My full remarks were as follows:

Yesterday evening, Congressman Brad Sherman confirmed that he was dropping out of “Howdy Modi.” His decision was especially shocking considering not only that he is co-chair of the India Caucus but also that he recently wrote to his colleagues in US Congress to urge them to join the event.

Also yesterday evening, Houston-based Congressman Pete Olson doubled-down on his commitment to attending the event, writing, “Howdy Modi is about unity, not division.”

Congressman Olson’s short-sighted remarks overlook that, while a shared commitment to the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness do have the potential to bring the United States, India, and Texas closer together, what we are currently seeing Mr. Modi inflict upon Kashmir is occupation, torture, and death.

Modi’s actions in Kashmir are merely one of many examples of how and why “Howdy Modi” is a divisive event which is driving a wedge between the incredibly diverse South Asian communities of Houston, of Texas, and of America.

“Howdy Modi” is a partisan Indian political event designed to promote Modi abroad in order to distract attention from the atrocities of his totalitarian regime in India.

Most recently, Modi annexed Kashmir. His regime has mass arrested the entire civil society of Kashmir. The region remains under a communications blackout.

In Assam, Modi has made nearly 2 million Indians, primarily Muslims, stateless after stripping them of citizenship. He is currently constructing massive detention camps for these newly-declared “foreigners.”

Since 2014, and especially since Modi’s reelection in 2019, India has suffered a wave of lynchings of minorities, mostly Muslim and Dalits, in the name of “cow protection” and, more recently, in the name of the Hindu deity Ram.

Furthermore, Modi’s regime recently announced plans to introduce a national law to criminalize religious freedom.

Meanwhile, in the United States, just last month, a white supremacist terrorist murdered 22 people in El Paso, Texas.

His evil act was inspired by the murder of 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

That man’s evil act was inspired by the murder of 77 people in Norway in 2011.

In Norway, terrorist Anders Breivik left a manifesto that describes how he was inspired by other extremist and nationalist groups around the globe. Breivik pointed to the RSS in India.

He praised the “right wing Hindu nationalism” of the RSS and its goal of making India into a “Hindu nation.” He praised the RSS for how “they dominate the streets and often riot and attack Muslims.” He said that the goals of white supremacists and the RSS are “identical” and that they should “learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible.”

The RSS is a fascist paramilitary founded in 1925, the same year that Hitler published Mein Kampf, reformulated the Nazi Party, and oversaw creation of the SS.

The RSS developed with inspiration from the Nazis. It modeled itself after them in appearance, adopting a uniform that closely resembles that of the Hitler Youth. It also modeled itself after them in ideology.

For instance, the RSS’s longest-serving leader wrote, “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here.”

He called this “a good lesson for us, to learn and profit by.” He further described those who do not “glorify the Hindu Race and Nation” as “traitors” and called it treason for an Indian to not be a Hindu.

Modi, who began his public life in the RSS, calls the author of these remarks his “guru worthy of worship.”

Considering that the RSS produced Modi, it is not surprising that, in 2002, he presided as soldiers of the RSS massacred 2,000 Muslims. They gang-raped women, hacked people to death, burned people alive. Leaders of the pogrom later confessed on camera that Modi sanctioned their violence.

For this reason, Modi was banned from entering the USA for over 10 years.

Today, under Modi’s iron-fisted regime, Christians, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and every Hindu who disagrees with the hate, violence, and supremacy of the RSS lives in fear of their lives.

The “Howdy Modi” event is intended as a propaganda bonanza for an authoritarian ruler. Thus, the event’s main organizers and promoters are leaders within the international wings of the RSS and the BJP.

This especially includes Vijay Chauithawale, the BJP’s Foreign Affairs Cell Chief, who has been overseeing organization of “Howdy Modi.”

It’s shameful for any American politician to participate in a self-promotional event hosted by a pogrom-tainted foreign leader on US soil. Modi’s hands are stained with blood. Those who shake his hand in welcome cannot wash their hands of complicity in his crimes.

As Bishop Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

So what then do we say of those standing with the oppressor? The proper response to “Howdy Modi” is “Adios Modi.”

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.
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The Hindu – Punjab’s pain, India’s agony, Britain’s unrepentance

The UK needs to build on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s repentant gesture at Jallianwala Bagh

Nonica Datta

Amritsar – Pasnjab – India, 23 September 2019. I happened to be in Amritsar for some research work on the day of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Jallianwala Bagh in early September. I actually bumped into him and spoke to him briefly in the hotel lobby. He came across as affable, kind and humble. He was ready to talk to a stranger like me.

Gesture of atonement

His presence in Jallianwala Bagh, on 10 September, as we remember the 100 years of the massacre this year, is momentous. What he did inside the premises of the Bagh was even more dramatic. He lay down flat to pray in front of the memorial and said he was “personally very sorry”. This was no publicity stunt. It requires courage to do that.

The Archbishop further added, “I have no status to apologise on behalf of the UK, its government or its history. But I am personally very sorry for this terrible atrocity.” He said, “Coming here arouses a sense of profound shame at what happened in this place. It is one of a number of deep stains on British history. The pain and grief that has transcended the generations since must never be dismissed or denied.”

No words could be more appropriate, well-timed and consoling.

As head of the Anglican Church of the world, the Archbishop, Justin Welby, commands a worldwide status. But he also has a special place in Britain. A post granted by the Queen, he crowns the British monarch and holds a significant position in the hierarchy of the British state.

In his statement on the Amritsar massacre, he said he was not speaking for his country, but the Anglican Church. As the senior most churchman in a Christian country, his words do matter.

In the light of the descendants of the victims appealing for an apology from the Archbishop to assuage their “hurt feelings against the British atrocities”, the Archbishop’s repentant gesture seeks to lend a healing touch to the echoes of the dead. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre is one of the most horrific acts of violence in modern history.

The impact of General Dyer’s cold-blooded, rational shooting of hundreds of innocent lives, on April 13, 1919, with 1,650 gunshots continues to torment. We still have not got over it. Many may never. Not just confined to Punjab, the pain of the carnage forms the collective agony of entire India. The Archbishop did more than what anybody in his position could possibly do.

Predictably, his visit brings to the fore once again the age-old hyper-sensitive question of the UK, taking responsibility for its own imperial past and violence. This is the unresolved and controversial historical issue of colonial injustice and apology. The Queen did not apologise. Prince Philip did not. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron on a visit to India in 2013 did not.

The current British High Commissioner in 2019 did not. The list goes on and each time a British dignitary comes to Amritsar, it feels like scratching a scab on the wound. A perpetual wound. The city of Amritsar continues to grapple with the legacy of Dyer’s savagery. The ensuing military violence echoed across the Punjab.

Contours of imperial violence

Dyer’s monstrous act was principally a racially motivated onslaught, which formed the core of imperial violence. He ordered the troops to fire without warning and continued even when he could see that people were running for their lives. In his evidence to the Hunter Committee, he persisted, “I had committed a just and merciful act.”

Dyer regretted nothing, and made no attempt to conceal anything. After the firing, there was no provision for the relief of the wounded. When questioned, the unrepentant Dyer said, “It was not my job.”

Dyer’s brutality was justified in the racial climate of those times. He was celebrated as a hero in certain British circles. The Dyer Fund was set up for his survival back in England. What is appalling is that the colonial monstrosity continued even after April 13, 1919 in Punjab. Martial law was imposed from April 15.

The British held summary trials, tortured prisoners and executed Indians. Punjab, which provided the largest number of recruits during World War I, was rewarded with such type of terrible punishment and brought under a rule of terror. Punjab could never be the same again.

On 19 April, Dyer promulgated the “crawling order” on a street in Amritsar where a lady missionary, Miss Sherwood, had been attacked.

The order instructed people to crawl on all fours through the lane. They were tied to flogging posts and flogged with several stripes. Dyer’s excessive use of racial force was designed to, in his own words, create a “wide impression” and “moral effect”.

He had the backing of Michael O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab and Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy of India.

The shrieks of the victims of the massacre continue to hound the legacy of the British empire. They echo as haunting cries of a victimised generation of a community whose trauma has not been fully addressed. The shrieks have now turned into a seething rage.

This is not just a matter of apportioning blame and instilling guilt on the British Empire and its after-effects and holding it culpable for its unwarranted monopoly on violence against the colonised. It is also about introspection, acknowledgment and responsibility that would facilitate healing and restitution.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s compassionate gesture is certainly a symbolic sign of reconciliation and empathy. The people of India demand that the British government takes the “historic step” towards tendering an apology. Is it not time for Britain to acknowledge the inconvenient truth and trauma of colonial and racial violence? Perhaps, the Archbishop’s initiative marks a new beginning.

Nonica Datta teaches history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi