Tolo News – Logar activists in safe place: Human Rights Group

But freelance journalist Matiullah Sarwar claims he was threatened by an MP from Logar for helping with story.

Zahra Rahimi

Logar – Afghanistan, 27 November 2019. The National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Wednesday handed over two civil society activists, Musa Mahmoudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

The two men, who reported widespread allegations of sex abuse of boys in Logar province earlier in November, were detained by the NDS last week but released today after condemnation by Amnesty International, AIHRC, the UN as well as the US, UK, German, and Dutch embassies.

The NDS originally declined to confirm or deny reports that they held the activists, but on Tuesday the agency stated that they had taken the activists into custody to “protect” them from death threats, and the agency released a video of Musa Mahmoudi saying that his research on sex abuse (of students in Logar) was “incomplete” and “incorrect” and it was “exaggerated” by the media and he “apologizes to the people.”

US Ambassador John Bass on Twitter blasted the NDS, saying such “Soviet-style” tactics of coercing confessions was “appalling.”

This was re-tweeted by German ambassador Peter Prugel who commented: “This is just shameful and embarrassing and profoundly disturbs my perception of a professional NDS.”

The former head of the NDS, Rahmatullah Nabil, tweeted: “With full responsibility I can say that, without instruction from the Presidential Palace, NDS will not take such a decision on their own.”

Officials from AIHRC confirmed that both activists had been handed-over.

“They have been released by the National Directorate of Security and currently they are being kept in a safe place,” said Zabiullah Farhang, head of AIHRC’s media department.

“This issue needs to be investigated, because it’s a threat to freedom of speech and press freedom,” said Reza Moeeni, a member of Reporters without Borders in Afghanistan.

“It has no legal justification. In our perspective, it is against the law and therefore unnacceptable. I think it was more a political approach to the issue rather than a legal action,” said legal expert Abdul Wahid Farzayee.

In a new development, Matiullah Sarwar, a freelance journalist in Logar, claimed he was threatened by Shapor Hussainzoi, a member of the Afghan parliament from Logar, because of his cooperation with Tolo News to report on the sexual abuse allegations.

“Matiullah Sarwar should be imprisoned tonight and he must be referred to the Attorney General,” said Shapor Hussainzoi on the audio recording that was obtained by TOLOnews. Tolo News report did not manage to get a comment from Hussainzoi.

“Shapor Hussainzoi will be responsible for any threat or action against me. Both the government and the human rights commission should be aware of this,” said Matiullah.

“Media outlets are pushing our society towards their desired path in pursuit of their personal interests. Foreign spy agencies are behind this to implement their ideology here. I pray that these topics that are circulating today are proved wrong,” said Sayed Ahmad Khadem, a lawmaker.

The NDS kept the two activists in captivity for five days. But the detention sparked a strong backlash inside and outside Afghanistan.

“If civil society activists are arrested and their rights are violated, then such a move will prevent our people from cooperating with the government,” said Samiullah, a resident in Kabul.

“This approach increases our fear and this also dampens our will to report those acts that are against the law,” said Helal, a resident in Kabul.

The Tribune – Not just Punjab officials, farmers in firing line too

Agriculture department starts compiling data on erring peasants

Aman Sood – Tribune News Service

Patiala – Panjab – India, 26 November 2019. A day after the Supreme Court came down heavily on Punjab authorities for failing to stop farm fires and asked why they shouldn’t be made to pay compensation to those suffering, it has emerged that the apex court has suggested similar action against erring farmers.

Acting accordingly, the state agriculture department is learnt to have started compiling data of the erring farmers and fines pending to date. The department, said sources, had started analysing the cases of the 2019 season separately. They said a separate list would be compiled of farmers who burnt paddy stubble after the SC banned the practice.

“We also issue notice to the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the farmers as to show cause why the orders of this court have been violated and why the farmers should not be asked to pay compensation, which may be determined by this court, and why the burden should not be fastened upon them also,” said the SC order on Monday.

As many as 201 fire incidents were reported on Monday itself. The residue burning continues despite registration of nearly 1,700 FIRs against farmers for flouting the ban.

“We are compiling the data pertaining to farm fires and only the total farm fires and fines for this season are left to be compiled. We will send the list to the government and if the Supreme Court clears us to collect the fines, necessary action will be taken,” said Punjab Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu.

The Punjab Remote Sensing Centre has recorded around 2.25 lakh cases of stubble burning after the paddy harvesting season over the past four years. An amount of Rs 38.58 lakh had been recovered as penalty while Rs 2.83 crore was outstanding till the beginning of this year’s paddy season, as per government data.

Penalties worth over Rs 50 lakh have been levied in around 53,000 farm fire cases so far this season. The maximum challans were issued in 2018 and a fine of Rs 1.37 crore levied on defaulters. But only Rs 19 lakh could be collected. A few months ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had barred the state pollution control board from collecting fines from farmers.

An official said erring farmers, backed by politically inclined unions, refused to deposit fine and even took officials hostage when they were approached.

Paddy pain: dual challenge

  • Studies suggest area under paddy increased from 2.27 lakh hectares in 1960 to 30 lakh hectares in 2016
  • Total irrigated area over the period rose from about 38% to 98%, of which 73% is irrigated via tubewells
  • Paddy cultivation is also contributing to depletion of water table, posing a dual challenge for authorities

Gent-Sint-Pieters – Going to Ieper/Ypres again

12 November 2019

Like on the 11th of November I took the 08:36 to Ieper

I think this is the Tongeren – Hasselt – Brussel – Gent train

Another of these mixed-up trains that are
semidirect – fast – and all stations

Commemoration of 1918 armistice
12 November 2019

Menenpoort/Menen Gate

All male Sikhs are Singh
Not all Singhs are Sikh

Going by their first names some of these might be Sikhs

At the Indian Monument
Ashoka’s lions

Belgian veterans

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – ‘He’s with all of us’: Vigil held for beloved South Hadley teacher Khalsa

Mosier third graders Stella Martinez, Violet Carillon and Nora Proulx talk Tuesday at a vigil for Parmatma Khalsa, seen in a self-portrait that serves, at right, as a cover for a collection of poems his students wrote about him that was given to his widow.

South Hadley – Hampshire County – Massachusetts – USA, 26 November 2019. Hundreds gathered outside Mosier Elementary School on Tuesday for a candlelight vigil in memory of third-grade teacher Parmatma S Khalsa.

Khalsa, 44, taught at Mosier for four years and was known for his ability to understand his students and foster a love of learning. The Leverett resident died in a two-car crash in South Hadley on Thursday morning, which remains under investigation.

Among those gathered outside of Khalsa’s classroom were family members, students and their parents, and other members of the community. Attendees held candles, wore pins with ribbons on them, and released peace lanterns into the sky.

Khalsa’s wife, Jai Fuller, addressed the crowd that had gathered, telling mourners that she felt “like I’m meeting Mr Khalsa’s other family.”

Becoming a teacher was deeply fulfilling to he husband, she said, and changed him as a person.

“He just cared so much about all the children,” Fuller said.

Khalsa was strongly guided by his Sikh faith, Fuller said, adding that their tradition holds that the soul lives on while “the body is just like a house for the spirit, for the soul.”

“I think he wants all of you to know that he’s OK, He’s with me, he’s with all of us,” she said.

The Hindu – Maharashtra poltics: Aaditya Thackeray and Rohit Pawar the centre of attraction as MLAs take oath

Hugs, selfies and sulks at House

Alok Deshpande

Mumbai – Maharashtra – India, 27 November 2019. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule welcoming MLAs of her party, the Congress and the Shiv Sena, jubilant supporters hugging each other and sulking Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders exuding confidence that the government won’t last for more than six months.

These were some of the scenes in the Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday as the newly elected MLAs took oath.

Ms Sule was among the first NCP leaders to arrive at the legislature building. She stood at the entrance and greeted all MLAs coming for the oath-taking ceremony. Her cousin and NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, who had attempted rebellion but backtracked and returned to the party, hugged her before entering the building.

Will do as told

“I am with the NCP and Sharad Pawar is our leader. I will do as Sharad Pawar tells me to do,” Mr Ajit Pawar said. Ms Sule expressed happiness over the fact that three parties were coming together to form the government.

On Wednesday, 287 of the 288 MLAs took oath. Former Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar was not present in the Assembly owing to a family function at his native district Chandrapur. Pro-tem Speaker Kalidas Kolambkar, who was sworn in by the Governor on Tuesday night, administered the oath.

Shiv Sena MLA Aaditya Thackeray and NCP MLA Rohit Pawar, both elected for the first time and touted as future leaders of their respective parties, were the centre of attraction with a huge crowd surrounding them to click selfies and greet them.

The young leaders posed together showing the victory sign for a special photo session on the Assembly building staircase.

Apart from the two leaders, the new Assembly consists of youngsters such as Dheeraj Deshmukh, Ruturaj Patil, Zeeshan Siddiqui of the Congress, Yogesh Kadam of the Sena, Aditi Tatkare of the NCP, and Ram Satpute of the BJP.

“The mandate of the people is to create a new Maharashtra. We youngsters will all work under the leadership of our senior leaders and for the welfare of common people of Maharashtra,” said Mr Thackeray.

Senior NCP and Congress leaders were however seen cautioning the over enthusiastic supporters that despite Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray being the Chief Minister-designate, the real test of the government will be on the Assembly floor after the swearing-in ceremony.

“The election of the Assembly Speaker will be an extremely important move. We have not loosened up. All our MLAs will remain in hotels till the government clears the trust vote,” said Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan.

Meanwhile, sulking BJP MLAs were seen expressing doubts in hushed voices about the stability of the government. “There is going to be internal conflict in this government and we will now wait till one of the three parties breaks away. It won’t take more than three months,” said a former minister and BJP MLA.

Wait for the next instalment: Watch this space !
Man in Blue