Dawn – Sacred thread of the soul

New Delhi – India, 12 November 2019. Sikhs across the world are celebrating Guru Nanak’s 550th anniversary today, and the fervour is enhanced by the opening of a key road between Pakistan and India that leads to his shrine in Kartarpur in Pakistan. Among the non-Sikhs who have revered Nanak are great Muslim poets.

Nazeer Akbarabadi among them (1740-1830) in a paean to the Guru celebrated him for the succour he brought to those who embraced his message of human fellowship before one God. Allama Iqbal saw him as the seer who raised hopes for India’s social enlightenment after the country exiled Buddhism to foreign shores.

Sikhs who have endeared themselves to Nanak’s world of fraternity include excellent men and women. Foremost these days, in my mind, are the gallant men who escorted Kashmiri women from faraway Pune to their homes in besieged Srinagar.

That they did so in the face of a delinquent state underscored the culture that Nanak bequeathed to his followers. Not any less in chivalry were the Sikhs who rushed to give succour and shelter to the communally shunned Rohingya refugees.

In a world overloaded with rites and traditions, Nanak’s followers have spawned a rainbow of eclectic heroes that few other religions can match.

Where there are ardent believers and a surfeit of Good Samaritans in the fold, there are socially committed atheists and communists too. There are affluent entrepreneurs, promptly countered by the best trade union leaders and even more militant Sikh peasants.

Let’s put it this way. There would no Bhagat Singh without the message of fellowship and human bonding he imbibed from the saint-preacher from the late 15th century.

Bhagat Singh who was hanged at the tender age of 23 wore the turban given by his religion but took it off without offending his community when he needed to disguise himself from his British pursuers to fight for India’s independence.

He used Marxism to imagine a socially and politically enlightened post-colonial India at peace with itself. One of his last pieces of writings argued his case for dying as an atheist while still being proud of his Sikh heritage.

Sikhs who have endeared themselves to Nanak’s world of fraternity include excellent men and women.

Open the mind’s apertures a little and you would find an utterly brilliant Sikh politician in Canada, one of several, actually. In 2017, the turbaned Jagmeet Singh, now 40, became the first non-white head of a major Canadian party.

His New Democratic Party is as far left as any in a First World country. There are rumours that Singh could become deputy prime minister in Justin Trudeau’s minority government whose numbers he helped slash in general elections two weeks ago.

In any case, it is delightful to hear him switch from fluent English to more fluent French while explaining his stand on issues. They may range from support to gay rights to opposing the expansion of a pipeline that carries oil through Canada’s mountains to its west coast, without first getting cleared by the threatened indigenous people.

Leave alone religion, could any Indian or Pakistani politician take a public stand on sexual orientation of their people or oppose a project because the people feared its adverse impact on environment?

Jagmeet was denied Indian visa for his stand on the 1984 massacre of Sikhs. But he sees himself as following Guru Nanak’s path of asking questions relentlessly, to help people fight inequality and ignorance imposed by Brahminical blind faith and superstition. That this follower of Nanak is a first class leader of a First World country says something of his heritage.

Jagmeet Singh’s unique style of turban helps project a stridently multicultural society he wants Canada to remain. He reminds one of liberal writer Khushwant Singh who opposed religious and caste bigotry in the footsteps of Nanak while remaining a self-confessed atheist. How many religious communities can accept the dichotomy?

Harkishen Singh Surjeet was an archetypal Sikh, sporting a turban and a steel kara while leading the largest communist party in India. The affable sardarji was among the last party leaders to promote the use of Urdu to attract the masses, a practice shunned by his successors to the detriment of their cause.

If Sikh women are at the forefront of the fight for gender rights it is because Guru Nanak was himself an ardent advocate of gender equality.

There is an uplifting song by the mystical minstrel Lalon Fakir in 19th-century Bengal, which seems to have its origin in Nanak’s teachings. Nanak was on the same page as the weaver-poet Kabir and cobbler-thinker Ravidas, who are thought to have been his contemporaries. “We can tell a Brahmin by his thread. How do we recognise his womenfolk?” Lalon wondered mockingly.

The question may have been lifted from a defining moment in Guru Nanak’s life when he was nine years old. His father, a high-caste Hindu, had arranged for the son’s thread ceremony but Nanak took the issue to his elder sister Nanaki who he loved and looked up to for guidance. He wondered why she never wore the thread. Why was it prescribed for all Hindus but excluded low-caste Shudras?

Nanaki said the question be raised with the Brahmin priest. Nanak was a brilliant student with a deep knowledge of the cultures and religions of his time. He asked the priest to explain the basis for excluding Muslims, many of whom were his friends, and Shudras and women from the thread ceremony. The priest said it was so prescribed by religious texts.

It naturally didn’t wash with the young boy, and after a long and absorbing discussion with the priest he found support from the guests who were listening in. The ritual abandoned, Nanak summed up his thoughts thus: “Make compassion the cotton, contentment the thread, modesty the knot and truth the twist. This is the sacred thread of the soul; if you have it, then go ahead and put it on me.”

Jawed Naqvi is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi@dawn.com

https://www.dawn.com/news/1516082/article-370-gone-and-ram-temple-on-the-way-what-does-modis-new-india-look-like

The Tribune – Amid corridor buzz, Nankana Sahib gurdwara draws sea of devotees

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 12 November 2019. A large number of Sikh pilgrims from India, Canada, the US, the UK, the UAE and different parts of Pakistan gathered at the Gurdwara Janamasthan Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak, to mark his 550 birth anniversary today.

The Sikhs carried out a ‘palki’ from the shrine and moved to eight other smaller gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib city. The pilgrims from India, Canada, the US, the UK, the UAE and different parts of Pakistan gathered at the Gurdwara and performed religious rituals.

Federal Interior Minister Ijaz Shah said Sikhs expressed joy over the arrangements regarding the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak and opening of the Kartarpur Corridor project.

The corridor was thrown open by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday, facilitating Indian pilgrims to visit one of Sikhs’ holiest shrines in the Pakistani town of Narowal. The corridor links Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur in India to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan President Arif Alvi addressed the Sikhs at the Governor’s House in Lahore where Governor Sarwar had invited some 2,000 Sikh pilgrims, who had come from different parts of the world, including India, for a luncheon, Dawn News reported.

Alvi said Sikhs would be welcomed in Pakistan and doors would remain wide open for them at every occasion. He lauded Religious Tourism and Heritage Committee led by Chaudhry Sarwar for making arrangement for the corridor opening ceremony and for arrangements made for the birth anniversary celebrations.

“Pakistan is advocating love and peace as wars are not the solution to issues, which could be resolved through dialogues,” he said. Governor Sarwar said, “Pakistan is a safe country for minorities and it is working for restoration of religious places of not only the Sikh community but also other minorities including Christians and Hindus”.

Notwithstanding their strained ties, India and Pakistan signed an agreement last month, paving the way for the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor.

According to the pact, Pakistan will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. Guru Nanak Dev spent last 18 years of his life at Kartarpur Sahib, which has now become the world’s largest Sikh Gurdawara.

Now, turn of guru’s birthplace, says Yogi

Lucknow – UP – India, 12 November 2019. UP CM Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday said that after the Kartarpur Corridor, it was the turn of Nankana Sahib to open its door for the people of this country. “I extend my good wishes to you and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ensuring the opening of Kartarpur Corridor.

The day is not far when we will be able to visit Nankana Sahib too,” he said at a function to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. Nankana Sahib is a city in Pakistan in which Guru Nanak was born. He said the teachings of Guru Nanak were spread across several countries.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/amid-corridor-buzz-nankana-sahib-gurdwara-draws-sea-of-devotees/859859.html

Gent Citadelpark – Gent Zuid

Gent Citadelpark
Roots
29 October 2019


Interesting how these roots cross the path


More roots !


Play of sunlight on the autumn leaves


Evi – Pyar Kaur and her beautiful hair

Gent Zuid
De Lijn Trams
30 October 2019


Tram 4 to Ledebergstraat (Botermarkt)


Tram 4 to UZ via Korenmarkt, Voormuide and Sint-Pieters
Both the longest articulated trams that operate in Gent

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Belfast Telegraph – Prince Charles praises contribution of Sikhs to life in UK

The Prince of Wales will visit a Sikh temple [Gurdwara] in New Delhi. He praised the contribution Sikhs have made to life in the UK on the eve of a two-day visit to India.

Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

London – UK, 12 November 2019. Charles will commemorate the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, when he visits a major temple [Gurdwara] in the capital New Delhi on Wednesday.

His comments are likely to be interpreted as further evidence of his reported desire to take the title defender of faith, rather than “the faith” when he becomes king, to reflect multi-cultural Britain.

In a message to Britain’s Sikh community, and others in the Commonwealth, to mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of the religion’s founder, Charles said: “The principles on which Guru Nanak founded the Sikh religion, and which guide your lives to this day, are ones which can inspire us all, hard work, fairness, respect and selfless service to others.”

Charles added in the message, posted on his official Twitter account: “In embodying these values, Sikhs have made the most profound contribution to the life of this country, and continue to do so.

“This week, as Sikhs everywhere honour the founder of your faith, my wife and I wanted you to know just how much your community is valued and admired by us all, and that our thoughts are with you at this very special time.”

In the UK the prince has visited the places of worship of many faiths and religions, from Hinduism and Judaism to Orthodox Christians and Middle East Catholics, and regularly holds interfaith dialogue events when on official overseas trips.

He recently attended the canonisation of Saint John Henry Newman, the 19th century Catholic cardinal, at the Vatican, where he met Pope Francis before the ceremony.

Charles has a busy schedule in the Indian capital on Wednesday and will sit down for bilateral talks with India’s President Ram Nath Kovind.

The British High Commission in New Delhi said Charles’ 10th official visit to the country would “celebrate enduring British-Indian ties, with a focus on shared global challenges such as sustainability and climate change”.

Charles will also take part in a discussion on how to strengthen disaster resilience and tackle the effects of climate change at the Indian Meteorological Department.

He will later attend a military service to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers from India, the UK and across the Commonwealth in the two World Wars.

British High Commissioner to India, Sir Dominic Asquith, said about the prince: “His many visits to India and his enduring interest in promoting our common interests is another example of the living bridge between the United Kingdom and India.

“His Royal Highness will witness how India makes use of innovation to respond to natural disasters and how its clean technology is helping deal with the challenges of climate change.

“He will celebrate our strong cultural links and experience the warm hospitality that diverse religious communities in India have to offer.”

During the day Charles will also present a Commonwealth Points of Light award to an Indian woman for her exemplary contribution to the field of social development.

The prince will celebrate his 71st birthday on Thursday, and will be in Mumbai for a meeting about sustainability.

From Sunday, Charles will begin a tour of the South Pacific, lasting more than a week, and will spend the majority of his time in New Zealand with wife Camilla before making solo trips to the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/charles-praises-contribution-of-sikhs-to-life-in-uk-38684540.html

Dawn – Article 370 gone and Ram Temple on the way: What does Modi’s New India look like?

So much has been accomplished by the Hindutva forces in the last 10 months that it is hard to predict what comes next

Rohan Venkataramakrishnan

Scroll.in – 10 November 2019. When the year began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announcing, introducing and passing a Constitutional Amendment introducing a 10 per cent quota for the upper-caste poor, we should have known this would have been a year in which just about anything could happen.

The massive mandate Modi’s government was given in the Lok Sabha polls in May only cemented this impression.

And so, this weekend, following a landmark Supreme Court verdict, it became clear that Ayodhya is going to get a Ram Temple on the spot where an organised Hindutva mob in 1992 demolished a 16th-century mosque, known as the Babri Masjid, sparking riots around the country.

If you’re unfamiliar with the history of this case, here’s an extremely basic recap: For over a century, Hindus and Muslims have clashed over this spot in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stands, with the Hindus claiming it is the birthplace of Ram, one of the avatars of Vishnu.

In 1949, Hindutva organisations conspired to place a Ram idol in the mosque, effectively turning it into a makeshift Hindu temple and leading to a court case over who owns the land.

Then in the 1980s, the BJP and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, used a nationwide campaign for the building of a Ram temple on the spot as a means of whipping up passions (and sparking off violence), culminating in mass-scale vandalism that demolished the mosque on December 6, 1992.

Since then the case had been in court, although it has always been politically volatile, with the BJP promising a Ram temple.

Many faultlines about Indian politics and society were exposed by the case, from the tremendous emotive power of Hindu nationalism to the difficulty other political parties have had in defending secularism, from India’s insistence on turning back to disputes from centuries ago to the growing marginalisation of Muslims.

This reading list should get you caught up on the background

On Saturday, the Supreme Court sat on the weekend to pronounce its decision in the case, after a record 40 days of arguments and two abortive attempts at mediation.

The short version of the verdict: The land goes to the Hindus, and the government has to set up a trust that will oversee all activities on it, including the construction of a temple. To make up for the mosque demolition, the Muslim parties will get another plot of land, double the size, but somewhere else, to be decided by the (BJP-run) state government.

The political implications are myriad, some of which Shoaib Daniyal has collected here.

Here’s my thread on Scroll.in’s coverage of the judgment and The Weekend Fix also collected the most interesting reads from around the web on the subject yesterday.

Even earlier this year, before the elections, there were some people who believed that a Ram temple might not be built in their lifetimes, partly because the promise of one seemed more potent politically than the temple itself.

Yet, things have moved swiftly since then. Modi managed to unilaterally alter the position of Jammu and Kashmir, though until the people of the Valley are free to speak their mind, the fallout of that move remains unclear.

Now, the Supreme Court has cleared the decks for a Ram temple. The question to ask is: What next? Article 370 gone, Ram temple on the way, what could the Modi government have in mind following this?

Its socio-cultural agenda is, to some extent, clear:

  • A pan-India National Register of Citizens, as Home Minister Amit Shah has been promising for some time now, along with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which combined would essentially mean state-sanctioned harassment of Muslims.
  • A Uniform Civil Code: A long-standing right-wing demand that seeks to abolish the personal law of individual religions, essentially forcing minorities to follow the laws of the majority.
  • An anti-conversion law: Another old demand, in place in a few states, that ties into the Hindu Right’s belief that poor Indians are often converted to Christianity through “bribes”.

In many of these cases, the question is not if but when. Will the BJP find it useful to push everything now, in the hopes that it can blunt the impact of what appears to be a severe slowdown?

Or will it hold on to some of these moves, so that they can be used as selling points ahead of major state elections, or even the Lok Sabha polls in 2024?

So much has been accomplished by the Hindutva forces in the last 10 months that it is hard to predict what comes next. But what is clear is that, despite setbacks at the state-level and an economic slowdown, on the national stage, the BJP’s flag is flying high and for now it can attempt to accomplish just about anything.

This article was originally published in Scroll.In and has been reproduced with permission.
Illustration: Nithya Subramanian

https://www.dawn.com/news/1516082/article-370-gone-and-ram-temple-on-the-way-what-does-modis-new-india-look-like