The Indian Express – Mr Bhagwat, your belief that talk of lynchings is just an attempt to defame India is wrong

Lynching has a specific context. It does not mean a riot, it does not mean any old act of public violence, it means a public hanging or stoning to death by a mob. It means punishing someone in such a manner that others will see it as a warning and a lesson.

Tavleen Singh

Op/Ed, 13 October 2019. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, when the RSS chief addressed his troops on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashmi, people like me paid no attention. This is no longer possible. The RSS is now seen as a vital player in the decisions made by the Government of India. So I have learned to pay attention to what the RSS chief says.

When Mohan Bhagwat held a huge press conference in Vigyan Bhawan last year, I made it a point to be there and listened carefully as he articulated his worldview. It cheered me up enormously when he announced that the thoughts of Guru Golwalkar were no longer considered sacrosanct and that the RSS did not believe any more in a Hitlerian final solution to our ‘Muslim problem’.

So it came as a disappointment to hear his views on lynchings last week. He said the word did not exist in any Indian language and that it was being used to malign India’s fair image by people with a vested interest in making India look bad. The word probably does not exist, which is why when Hindi newspapers write about the newest victim of mob violence, they use the word in English.

But, can we at least begin by admitting that ever since a former member of the RSS became prime minister, a certain kind of mob violence in the name of saving cows has become a routine feature of Indian life?

The RSS chief is not alone in believing that these ‘so-called lynchings’ are actually just routine breakdowns in law and order. After listening to his speech, I tweeted, “Call it lynching, call it murder, these incidents shame India. There is no ‘conspiracy’ by the West to defame India Mr Bhagwat. It is savagery by violent mobs against helpless victims that defames India”.

As usual, I was inundated with angry responses. The efficient, wrathful and vigilant army of BJP trolls went nuclear. They attacked me for not being a good enough Indian and for only noticing incidents when the victims were Muslims. They said they had noticed that I was unconcerned about Hindus being killed in similar fashion.

And, some posted pictures of the bloodied bodies of an RSS family that had just been murdered by a Muslim mob. In my view that is just murder.

The truth is, I have not so far come across a video of a Hindu being forced to yell ‘Allah o Akbar’ while being beaten to death. I have seen many, many horrific videos of Muslims killing Hindus, and they are very upsetting. But, a lynching has a specific context. It does not mean a riot, it does not mean any old act of public violence, it means a public hanging or stoning to death by a mob.

It means punishing someone in such a manner that others will see it as a warning and a lesson. When two Dalit children were beaten to death for defecating in the open last month, it was plain and simple murder, not a lynching. And, yet many reporters used the word ‘lynching’ to describe what happened. This is probably why the RSS chief is confused.

All acts of public violence indicate a breakdown in law and order, but not all acts of public violence mean a breakdown in the rule of law. That happens only when punishment is delivered for some imagined crime by a mob made up of people who believe they have the right to judge and punish someone because they are so certain of his guilt.

In Behror, when I went to the place where Pehlu Khan was beaten to death, I asked people what they thought about what they had done. They said he deserved what he got and it was only when this kind of public killing came as punishment would Muslims stop smuggling cattle.

When I asked about due process, they said that they did not believe in it. They were telling the truth. Pehlu Khan’s family has been attacked and shot at when they have tried coming to the Behror courthouse for a hearing. It is such things Mr Bhagwat that have truly defamed our dear Bharat Mata.

If after Mohammad Akhlaq was dragged out of his house and beaten to death in the village of Bishada in Dadri district, there had been firm words of disapproval expressed by the leader of the RSS, there might have been no more. Since these words of disapproval never came, the vigilantes who have made it their cause to kill Muslims who they think might be smuggling cows or eating beef have not hesitated to admit proudly why they are doing the things they do.

In some excellent investigative journalism by India Today reporters, vigilantes were filmed admitting on (hidden?) camera that the reason why they beat their victims so badly was not to kill them but to disable them for life. Victims who survive a lynching suffer from all sorts of injuries even when they live to tell the tale.

So Mr Bhagwat, your belief that this talk of lynchings is just an attempt to defame India is wrong. It is true that India’s image in the world has suffered in recent years, but it is not because of some sinister plot but because too many people have seen too many times on uploaded videos the terrified eyes of men who know they are about to be beaten to death.

Speak up against this kind of violence Mr Bhagwat, and not just the image of India but the image of the RSS will improve. And, next time you want to understand what a lynching is, remember that it is always something that happens in public to create terror and to revive the most primitive kind of imagined justice.

Mr Bhagwat, your belief that talk of lynchings is just an attempt to defame India is wrong


The Tribune – ‘Obstacles’ abound for disabled at Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib]

Akal Takht Jathedar urged to direct SGPC to make arrangements for them

Neeraj Bagga, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 12 October 2019. A resident of Patiala, Shingara Singh Shergill, today approached Akal Takht, seeking directions to the SGPC to make arrangements for physically challenged devotees at the Golden Temple.

Shergill, who is paralysed by polio, said his wheelchair was not allowed inside the complex by SGPC staff in February. “They wanted to carry me on their back to the sanctum sanctorum. I refused. Physically challenged are not burden on anybody,” he said.

He emailed six times to the SGPC demanding disabled-friendly infrastructure. He said it was his fifth email on 05 June that elicited a response from the office of SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal, mentioning that his request was being considered. Finding no change, he shot off another email on 13 June.

“As per Sikh tenets, I wear turban and am ready to wash my feet before entering the Golden Temple. A barrier-free environment must be created in the Golden Temple complex as per the Rights of Persons With Disability Bill 2016,” he said.

Ranjit Singh, another devotee with disability from Bathinda, says adequate space is not there between pillars for wheelchairs on the stretch from Saragarhi Parking to the Golden Temple.

Besides, parking fee is being charged from physically challeged, he said. SGPC Chief Secretary Roop Singh said, “There are two chair lifts and one general lift to assist people with disabilities and elderly. There is also a ramp from the entrance near Langar Hall. The Saragarhi parking is being managed by the government.”

Gent: Korenmarkt – Week of Peace/Vredesweek

25 September 2019

The man who blows bubbles

She folded a crane

Doing Tao ‘exercises’ 

Peter Van Lierde

Kruis de handjes

Voetjes van de vloer !

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Express Tribune – Across religious divides: For Sikhs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there is no other place like home

Ahtisham Khan

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 12 October 2019. Where grim occurrences of violence routinely taint the news, the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shines as a beacon of light for religious harmony in the country.

Amidst the lush green valleys and the rugged mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Muslims and Sikhs enjoy a rich culture of mutual-corporation and hospitality that transcends the bounds of faith, and embrace each other in the name of humanity.

Thousands of Sikhs migrated to Pakistan after the split of the subcontinent, settling in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where they’ve lived in peace with the Muslim Pashtuns for time immemorial, sharing roofs, meals and a long-established sense of brotherhood.

Through the ages, the Sikh community has remained at the forefront of charity in the face of calamity, be it the massacre of APS, the suicide attacks in Kohati Gate or the attack on All Saints church in Peshawar.

“If there’s death in the family of our Muslim brothers and sisters, we extend our shoulders, take part in their prayers and share our food with the grieving family. If there is festivity, we open our homes for their ceremonies and take part in their festivals” told Muneet Kaur, a Sikh resident of Peshawar, while speaking to The Express Tribune.

According to Dr Sahab Singh, Ex-City Leader, the Sikh population in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is approximately 30,000 with 1100 families, while in Peshawar, their number is almost 7000. Yet, despite the large numbers and the prevalent extremism, there has never been an occurrence of a major scuffle between the members of two faiths.

Although the Sikhs were compelled to move out of the tribal areas in the wake of deteriorating law and order situations, they reiterated that it was not possible for them to forsake their Muslim brethren, told Singh.

During the previous years, members of the Sikh community were victim to target killing and were forced to move from Peshawar to Punjab in pursuits of peace. Sardar Soren Sigh, a PTI worker and MPA from Buner, who actively campaigned for minority rights, was murdered in cold blood on the 22nd of April 2016.

However, the man accused for his murder, Buldev Kumar, also a former PTI lawmaker, sought political asylum in India.

Another prominent Sikh social worker and leader of cross-border religion committee, Sardar Charan Singh, was murdered in the Budhper area of Peshawar on the 29th of May 2018, which devastated the morale of Peshawar’s Sikh community.

Although the two men involved in the target killing were soon arrested, Singh’s family was left with crippling financial constraints and with no option but to move to Bahawalpur in Punjab.

“The relations between Sikhs and Muslims have always been cordial and whenever the birthday of Guru Nanak comes, the Muslim brothers welcome Sikh pilgrims with carpets, which is a gesture of honour and respect.

Besides this, Sikh community is hand in hand with the Muslims in their religious festivals too; we hold Iftar parties in Ramadan and I share all my joys and sorrows with my Muslim friends,” shared the General Secretary of Gurudwara Bhai Beba Singh.

Pakistan to issue 10,000 visas to Sikh pilgrims

For the past four decades, Sikh traders of Tehsil Jamrud in Khyber Agency, have maintained a tradition of selling food items for exceptionally low prices, in honour of the month of Ramadan.

“Our women clean pulses and peas at homes to facilitate our Muslim neighbours in the holy month,” told Narinjan Singh, a K-P local, while speaking to The Express Tribune.

The Hindu – In a first, USA lawmakers take a step against India on Kashmir

Senate panel adds appeal to end the “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir in its report.

Suhasini Haidar

New Delhi – India, 05 October 2019. In what could become the first step towards legislative action by American lawmakers against India on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has added an appeal to end what it calls a “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir in its report ahead of the annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Chris Van Hollen, who visited Delhi this week as a part of a congressional delegation that discussed the Kashmir situation as well as India-USA bilateral relations, trade ties and defence purchases with key officials.

‘Restore communication’

According to the report, which was submitted to the Senate by Lindsey Graham, senior Senator and key Republican leader known for his close ties to President Donald Trump, the committee on Appropriations “notes with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir and calls on the Government of India to: fully restore telecommunications and Internet services; lift its lockdown and curfew; and release individuals detained pursuant to the Government’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution.”

What makes the report as well as the tough language on Kashmir more startling is that the document was submitted on 26 September, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was still in the US, and came just a few days after his joint address at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event in Houston with Mr. Trump, as well as their bilateral meeting in New York.

Expression of concern

“This amendment, which was accepted unanimously by the bipartisan committee, is a strong expression of concern by the Senate about the situation in Kashmir and sends the signal that we are closely monitoring the human rights situation there, and would like to see the Government of India take those concerns seriously,” Mr. Van Hollen told The Hindu here, adding that he had “hoped to share his concerns privately” with Prime Minister Modi, but had not been able to meet him.

Mr Van Hollen had met with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Washington last week and Senator Bob Menendez, also a part of the delegation, met with Commerce and Industries Minister Piyush Goyal this week in Delhi. Both Senators have made public statements in the last two months on the Kashmir situation.

Denied permission

While it is unclear whether their concerns over Kashmir elicited any responses from the government, The Hindu has learnt that Senator Van Hollen was rebuffed when requested permission to visit Srinagar in an effort to assess the situation on the ground.

When asked, MEA officials said the Ministry of Home Affairs handled such requests. No diplomat or foreign journalist has yet been given clearance to visit Kashmir since the government’s decision on Article 370 on 05 August.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in Delhi on Friday, Mr Jaishankar said many key decision-makers in the USA had been “misinformed by their media” and that he had spent considerable efforts in the past few weeks to clear misconceptions on the government’s decision to drop the “temporary” Article 370.

With inputs from Sriram Lakshman