The Telegraph – In custody in Kashmir: Slap, kick and rats

How politicians were treated in captivity to make them fall in line

Murtaza Shibli, a British Kashmiri author and journalist who lives between Srinagar, Lahore and London, reports on the life in incarceration of several politicians in Kashmir since the August 5 clampdown.

Murtaza Shibli

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 20 November 2019. Shibli, who was in Kashmir when the crackdown unfolded, gathered the following information, which includes specific details, over several weeks.

He has put in the report only information he could corroborate with multiple sources, including officials and the relatives of some of those detained. Needless to say, given the situation in Kashmir, few were willing to be quoted on record. Several other names and alleged instances were omitted because of the lack of reliable confirmation.

Two weeks after the Darbar Move, a 150-year-old biannual tradition of shifting the main government work from summer capital Srinagar to the winter headquarters at Jammu, the bunch of demobilised unionist Kashmiri politicians incarcerated at the Centaur Lake View Hotel in Srinagar earned their own move.

But this transfer was without any darbar, bereft of the hoopla that would usually carry their caravans with vehicles and attendants, both official and party workers, amid a lot of ostentatious paraphernalia, all at the expense of the public purse.

With a controlled media, at Srinagar and elsewhere in the country, the relocation was artfully disguised as a progression for the benefit of the detainees, for, according to the news reports, all attributed to official sources, there were inadequate arrangements to deal with the rising cold.

This is simply not true. The Centaur Hotel is a four-star hotel with central heating that had been running smoothly in the past but suddenly became insufficient.

The transfer of the detainees, who include former ministers, legislators and bureaucrats who had benefited from New Delhi’s largesse for controlling and managing Kashmiri aspirations under the misleading rubric of “mainstream politics”, is a terrible demotion.

This is a ploy at their further denigration to wear them down psychologically. In the words of a family member of a detainee, this action was undertaken to “show them their place in the new arrangement”.

The new detention place is a part of the MLA Hostel that contains one-room or studio flats with little or no arrangement for heating.

According to information this writer received, there was no heating arrangement on the first night and the inmates, already shaken by the rough treatment during their transfer, quaked for the night. Next morning, they were each provided with a single-rod electric room heater that could barely warm one’s hands, that too when close.

The detention space has been fortified with large corrugated sheets of steel, making the small park at the hostel out of bounds for the inmates.

The entrances and the windows have been boarded up with chipboard and the remainder of the glass panes covered with a dark film to control the ingress of any natural light to a minimum in addition to blocking any outside view. This will create a ghoulish milieu for those cooped in.

Also, unlike the Centaur Hotel, the new place will face the frequent power cuts that are normal in Kashmir during winter, leaving the much-touted heating facilities practically useless.

For almost all the detainees, this would be their first-ever experience of prison-like conditions and, according to the official thinking that has guided the move, will soften them into submission.

So far, Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and many pro-India politicians such as Imran Raza Ansari (People’s Conference), Rafi Ahmed Mir (PDP) and Khalid Najib Suharwardy (NC) have reportedly furnished bonds to avail certain liberties in lieu of their silence.

All of them are now free except for the Mirwaiz, who has earned a reprieve from the NIA-led inquiries into his impressive portfolio of wealth and assets, allegedly accumulated without any known source of income.

The detention of over 100 days at the Centaur Hotel was not easy, either, as the politicians were deprived of their pampered lifestyles. After the initial shock of the loss of position and prestige, when some of them tried to create a sort of a routine they faced obstacles from the very police force that once danced to their tunes.

No one was allowed to go outside into the sprawling lawns. When the inmates finally settled for the hotel corridor to avail a walk, they would often be stopped by the cops or unidentified men in mufti.

In one instance, when Sajjad Ghani Lone was taking a stroll, a non-Kashmiri person looped an arm over his shoulder, unsettling him in the process. Lone stopped waywardly but was ordered to continue walking, carrying along the man who also asked for his introduction, yelling, “Tu kaun hey?”

This was rendered in an unflatteringly harsh tone, making sure everyone else around heard, so as to dismantle any pride left in Lone. The man then reportedly roared that it was he who had made Chowdhury Zulfikar Ali a minister in Mehbooba Mufti’s previous government.

Earlier, Lone had managed to sweet-talk an on-duty police officer and use his phone to call a person who was purportedly Amit Shah. A call that lasted a couple of minutes saw “Lone pleading like a baby” and reminding the listener of his and his family’s sacrifices for “the country and the BJP in the state”.

The receiver of the call apparently promised to talk to him again. But soon afterwards, the police chief was informed of the call and an investigation was ordered. The on-duty police officer was immediately suspended and the anecdotal information that has reached the outside world suggests that pressure was increased on Lone to completely cower him into submission.

Omar Abdullah and his father Farooq have shown the least or no resistance, with the senior Abdullah responding to the loss of his political standing with unsettling signs. “He often laughs without a reason and has little appreciation of the situation,” said a source close to his family.

However, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti grew agitated and, at one time, was locked in a fight with a lady police constable. One of her estranged family members in New Delhi told this writer that she had turned into a psychological wreck, and one day when she looked herself in the mirror, she was mortified and this resulted in the fight.

She was calmed down but not before receiving a few slaps on face and head from the lady constable, and, later, a lot of abuse from a senior police officer who had been given an extension before the amendments to Article 370. The situation stabilised after some basic make-up facilities were restored.

Mehbooba’s devaluation from a sprawling Chashma Shahi guesthouse to a nondescript government building that had been ravaged by the 2014 floods followed her daughter Iltija’s Twitterstorm over her mother’s poor health.

The pressures of life inside the Centaur had already unsettled many former legislators. After a week into his detention, National Conference MLC Showkat Hussain Ganai started criticising his party’s founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, for what he termed “the serfdom of Kashmiris”. When he couldn’t control his acidic gob, another NC leader beat him up.

Naeem Akhtar, former minister of education in the PDP, won heaps of rebuke for his unwarranted interventions. The vocal among the lot -– Bashir Veeri, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat and Shah Faesal, were bitten by rats they believe were deliberately let loose in their rooms as a sort of punishment.

Most of the detained politicians were seized during raids on the night between August 4 and 5. The operation was led by the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir police, a force officially raised to fight terrorism.

Before being taken to the Centaur, they were kept in various police lines or attached government properties, closed from the public view with no contact with the outside world.

Some of them, like Sartaj Madni, a former minister and uncle of Mehbooba Mufti, and Altaf Kaloo, former MLC, were reportedly roughed up in the initial days before being shifted to Srinagar. Madni kept complaining for several days, not stopping to mention he had been a former minister. But more than three months into his detention he has mellowed down.

The new place is supposed to bring everyone else to order and wring out every possible trace of rebellion from their hearts and minds, and turn them into dependable assets, if not reliable partners.

Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter rebuts

Dear Sir,

The Telegraph published an article today regarding the current situation of political detainees in Kashmir. Your correspondent claims that my mother Ms Mehbooba Mufti has been manhandled by lady police constables and is a ‘psychological wreck. He then goes on to write that in the course of an altercation, she was repeatedly slapped in the face and head.

I have to admit that since her incarceration I heard all kinds of bizarre rumours but this surely is the most absurd one. The sense of disappointment one feels is compounded by the fact that this has been printed by a credible independent newspaper like The Telegraph whose recent coverage vis a vis Kashmir has been outstanding & based on ground realities.

Such cheap sensationalism stories certainly don’t behove a newspaper of your reputation that has stood up to the establishment & reported the truth.

I’m sure you will agree that Journalism certainly isn’t concocting nonsense and attributing it to ‘sources’. That’s Expected of Indian Rwanda TV and other pliable newspapers. Not the Telegraph.

In the course of these three months I have spoken up constantly about the manner in which Kashmiris have been brutalised. I also speak as an anguished daughter and find it quite odd that your correspondent didn’t bother double checking the lies that he eventually passed off as ‘the truth’.

The intention to malign Ms Mufti’s reputation is painfully obvious. I hope in the future you are more responsible about your reportage. Meanwhile, I recommend the gentleman in question sticks to writing fiction novels.


Iltija – How Guru Nanak’s langar is helping UN achieve its ‘zero hunger’ goal?

Divya Goyal

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 19 November 2019. In 2015, the United Nations’ member nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a universal call to end poverty and protect the planet. The deadline to achieve these goals is 2030.

Of 17 goals, the second one, ‘zero hunger’, aims to end extreme hunger and malnutrition, especially among children, by 2030. The Indian Express explains how Guru Nanak’s ‘langar’ is contributing to achieving this goal and reducing malnutrition in African countries, bringing down ‘preventable children deaths’.

What is langar?

Langar refers to a system of developing a community kitchen, where people irrespective of their caste, religion and social status sit together on the floor and have food. The institution of langar finds its roots in two teachings of Sikhism, ‘Kirat karo, Naam japo, Vand chako’ (work, pray, and share with others whatever you earn) and ‘Sangat aur pangat’ (eat sitting together in rows on the floor).

According to Paramvir Singh, professor, department of encyclopedia of Sikhism, Punjabi University, Patiala, the word ‘langar’ has its origin in Persian, and means a public eating place where people, especially the needy, are given food.

What is the link between Guru Nanak and langar?

It is said that when Guru Nanak was a boy, his father gave him Rs 20 and sent him to buy goods, sell them and return with some profit. However, on the way, he met some hungry sadhus (holy men). He used the Rs 20 to arrange food for them. He made them sit on the floor and served the food with his own hands.

When Nanak returned home, his father was furious as he had returned empty-handed. But Nanak said that he did a ‘Sacha Sauda’ by feeding hungry men, which he said was ‘the most profitable deal’ for him. Currently, Gurdwara Sacha Sauda stands at Farooqabad in Sheikhupura district of Pakistan, which is where Guru Nanak is believed to have fed those sadhus.

Later in his life, Guru Nanak strengthened the practise of langar at Kartarpur, his final resting place, where he had established a dharamsala for prayers and everyone was served food without any discrimination.

How have other Sikh gurus contributed to this tradition?

The second Sikh guru Angad Dev and his wife Mata Khivi played a crucial role in strengthening the tradition of langar. Professor Paramvir Singh said Mata Khivi used to work in a kitchen, serve langar to sangat and her contribution also finds mention in the Guru Granth Sahib.

The third Sikh Guru, Amar Das, too devoutly followed ‘sangat aur pangat’ and anyone who used to come to meet him, was first served langar. It is said that even when Emperor Akbar came to meet him, the Guru suggested he should first have langar sitting with everyone on the floor, which Akbar accepted.

What is the UN’s ‘Zero Hunger’ goal all about?

The goal of ‘zero hunger’, specified under 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN, says, “Extreme hunger and malnutrition remain a huge barrier to development in many countries. There are 821 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2017, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and biodiversity loss.

Over 90 million children under 5 (years) are dangerously underweight. Undernourishment and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing in almost all regions of Africa, as well as in South America.” It further says, “In 2017, Asia accounted for nearly two-thirds, 63 per cent of world’s hungry and nearly 151 million children under 5, 22 per cent, were stunted in 2017 across the world.”

What is the aim?

The target, as per the UN website, is, “By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.

By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.”

How are Sikh organisations using langar to reduce hunger?

Several Sikh organisations like Khalsa Aid, Langar Aid, Midland Langar Seva Society and others are now branching out to other countries where langar is used to provide nutritious meals to the undernourished.

One such organisation is ‘Zero Hunger With Langar’ which is specifically working in two African countries, Malawi and Kenya, which are among the countries with the highest malnutrition rates among children and feature in the UN’s target list.

What does ‘Zero Hunger with Langar’ do?

Founded in 2016, ‘Zero Hunger With Langar’, working under its parent body ‘Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha’ based in the UK, is currently serving over 1.50 lakh meals a month to malnourished children in Malawi and nearly 8 lakh meals a month in Kenya. Jagjit Singh, who founded the project in 2016, says, “We aim to fight world hunger with langar.

We started this project after UN announced ‘zero hunger’ as its goal. In Kenya, we are cultivating 300 acres of land and aim to serve 10 million meals a year. Malawi is among the countries with the highest levels of malnutrition in the world hence we started serving there first.

We are targeting children in primary schools, nurseries because there children are exploited for something as basic as food. They are made to work in return for food. Now we are serving highly nutritious porridge meals with maize, soya etc. rich in carbohydrates and other vitamins, minerals to them.

Since 2016, we have served more than 3 million meals in Malawi. Poor families here were just mixing water in maize flour and drinking it to fill their stomachs.”

What has been the impact of the ‘Zero Hunger with Langar’ movement in Malawi? How severe is the problem here according to UNICEF?

Jagjit Singh says, “Attendance in primary schools and nurseries has improved considerably. We are more than 90 per cent malnutrition-free across our centers where we serve in Malawi.”

According to a UNICEF report published in 2018, “In Malawi, malnutrition still remains a serious challenge and contributes to preventable children deaths. Twenty-three per cent of all children deaths in Malawi are related to undernutrition. Four per cent of under-5 children here still suffer from acute malnutrition.

There is occurrence of anemia in 64 per cent of children from 6 to 59 months. Thirty-seven per cent children are affected by stunting and just 8 per cent children from 6 to 23 months of age meet the minimum acceptable diet.”

In India, which are the largest kitchens serving langar?

The langar kitchen at Sri Harmandr Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar feeds nearly a lakh people a day daily. In Delhi, Sri Bangla Sahib gurdwara kitchen serves langar to 45,000-50,000 persons a day.

Originally published by The Indian Express @ source URL:

How Guru Nanak’s langar is helping UN achieve its ‘zero hunger’ goal?

Gent: Gent-Zuid – Veldstraat/Zonnestraat

Gent-Zuid Tram 4
09 November 2019

A long tram 4 to UZ via Rabot and Sint-Pieters

Another of these long trams,
this one to Ledebergstraat/Botermarkt

Veldstraat/Zonnestraat Tram 1 and 2
10 November 2019

Veldstraat – Stop for Tram 1 to Flanders Expo

Even on a Sunday morning the tram service is quite frequent

Tram stop Zonnestraat

Zonnestraat stops for Tram 2
On the left for trams to Sint-Pieters and Zwijnaarde
On the right for trams to Gent Zuid and Melle Leeuw

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Express Tribune – A visiting Indian delegation opened my mind and heart

Nazia Jabeen

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 20 November 2019. When all eyes were on Kartarpur Corridor’s landmark inauguration scheduled for 09 November, a day before the main event (on 08 November), a group of Indian journalists crossed into Pakistan via the Wagah Border. They were in Lahore to attend the opening ceremony of the corridor ahead of the 550th birthday of Baba Guru Nanak on 12 November.

Baba Guru Nanak is also respected among the Muslims of Pakistan because of his teachings on humanism and unity, and against separatism and barbarism. I was the part of a team tasked with hosting the Indian journalist delegation and it was a riveting experience to say the least.

The 34-strong delegation comprised of both print and electronic journalists including at least ten women, most of them belonging to the Indian state Panjab.

On 09 November, they attended the inauguration of the corridor by Prime Minister Imran Khan. They were speechless as they got of the bus and soaked in the grandeur of the gurdwara. I too could feel that they were spiritually elevated there, forgetting that they were here to cover the event.

On the eve of Kartarpur Corridor opening, we had arranged a dinner for them at the Governor’s House. An all-vegetable and lentils menu did not go well with a few of them. A journalist said: “I was expecting some beef and mutton dishes too.”

When explained, that it was arranged viewing cultural and religious sensitivities of the delegates, the visiting journalist said that the love and respect the team had received in Pakistan, had changed his views about the country.

Besides attending the Kartarpur Corridor event, the Indian journalists were keen to see sights and shop in Lahore. Owing to the recent wave of smog and pollution in Dehli, the blue Lahore sky was really fascinating for the team.

They lamented that they had not seen the sky in a few days in Dehli. In about two weeks, as I write this, Lahore too is under a blanket of smog and schools are being shutdown, which is very unfortunate.

The delegates could not be taken to Lahore’s historical places including the Fort, Badshahi Mosque and Shalimar Gardens due to the paucity of time. They could only be taken to shop and when they got to the Packages Mall, the delegates went on a shopping spree.

They loved an array of Pakistani clothing brands. To the extent where they bought as many un-stitched and stitched pieces as they could. One of the Indian journalists even wore the Pakistan bought kurta on her journey back home.

Some of the women from the delegation really liked my dupatta, prompting me to gift them to all the women in the delegation. My personal gifts were accepted with smiles and gratitude. Only one journalist was reluctant to accept the gift because her newspaper had a strict policy but I insisted that it was not a gift from a news source but from a new friend.

This put her mind at ease and also started a beautiful friendship between us. I did not forget the men though, and decided to get cuff links for them but as journalists are known to dress for comfort one of them protested,

“I will need a shirt to use them.” “He means give him a shirt too,” quipped another delegate and with this laughter erupted.

The joke made me think about how much we share as neighbours, including our sense of humour. Everything during the trip went without a hitch, expect when it came to pronouncing some of the names. While counting the members of the delegation on the bus, at one point I said only Parveen is missing. A female journalist was quick to correct me politely, “Mr Praveen, not Parveen.”

The visit by the journalists from India really opened my eyes to all the things we share in common and how little the differences between us are. We speak the same language almost, we look similar and when we hang out with each other, we usually end up making the same jokes.

The interaction also opened my mind and since they left I have started reading about India beyond what news channels throw at me and have also gotten books about Hinduism and Sikhism.

The differences between India and Pakistan perhaps could then be called political and I feel if the governments on both sides work towards recognising what makes us similar instead of what sets us apart, maybe we can overcome the hostile history that the two nations share. – Canada: Four persons of Indian origin appointed to Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet

Among them is former law professor Anita Anand, who is the first Hindu minister in the country’s Cabinet.

Ottawa – Ontario – Canada, 21 November 2019. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed four persons of Indian origin to his 36-member Cabinet, Hindustan Times reported on Thursday. They are Navdeep Singh Bains, Harjit Singh Sajjan, Bardish Chagger, and Anita Anand, who is the first Hindu minister in the Cabinet.

While Sajjan will remain the minister of defence, Bains has been appointed the minister of innovation, science and industry. Chagger is the new minister of diversity, inclusion and youth, while Anand will lead the ministry of public services and procurement.

Anand is one of the only two new members of parliament elevated to the Cabinet along with Quebec environmentalist Steven Guilbeault, reported CBC Canada. She has taken charge at a time when the government is putting the finishing touches on a multi-billion dollar purchase of new fighter jets.

A resident of Nova Scotia, Anand has taught law at the University of Toronto, and is known as an expert in shareholder rights.

Meanwhile, Trudeau moved Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to the ministry of intergovernmental affairs and will tasked with keeping the minority government afloat and prevent a national unity crisis, The Guardian reported.

She will also have the symbolic role of deputy prime minister. Freeland will be responsible for the government’s dealings with the country’s western provinces that have increasingly come into conflict with the prime minister’s environmental policies that they believe are harming the struggling oil and gas industry.

The former foreign minister, who is known as a skilled negotiator, will also continue overseeing the country’s relationship with the US. She has been replaced at the foreign ministry by Quebec-based international lawyer Francois-Philippe Champagne.

His appointment, along with that of Montreal’s Pablo Rodríguez as House leader, is indicative of the growing importance of Bloc Quebecois, a federal party pushing for a sovereign Quebec that is crucial to the survival of Trudeau’s minority administration.

Former Trade Minister Jim Carr will be the prime minister’s special representative to Alberta, Saskatchewan and the central province of Manitoba to ensure they have “a strong voice in Ottawa”.