BBC News – Why protesting Indians are chanting the Constitution

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

India, 14 January 2020. For more than a month now, men and women, young and old, have gathered in large numbers on streets and university campuses across India to protest against a new citizenship law which they believe is discriminatory.

There, they have been invoking the Constitution and chanting its solemn preamble, which promises justice, equality and fraternity and embodies the basic features of the nation’s founding document.

The mass readings have revealed a deeper public engagement with the Constitution than commonly thought. So far most believed the Constitution hadn’t travelled much in the public imagination beyond dreary classroom lessons.

India’s Constitution, which took four years to write, is the world’s longest founding document. The text governs more than a billion people who practise almost every mainstream religion.

The voluminous document contains more than 450 Articles and 12 Schedules and is painstakingly detailed. It is also, according to legal scholar Upendra Baxi, an “unparalleled exercise in verbosity”, with the text scaling some “extraordinarily ludic heights”.

Article 367, for example, makes it clear that a foreign state “means a State other than India”. The text has been amended more than 100 times since 1950.

Born in the aftermath of a bloody partition and independence, and written amid differences over the “religious and national vision” of what India should be, the Constitution is a remarkable document.

In trying to forge a national identity, the draft was debated fiercely and the document wrestled with questions relating to moulding a national identity in one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries. Critics say the Constitution was largely based on western ideas and written by western-educated elites.

The preamble itself, according to scholars, was a compromise between a range of groups and interests and borrowed from colonial laws.

Seventy years later, the Constitution appears to be igniting the minds of ordinary Indians in a way not seen and heard of in the recent past.

But many scholars believe the document has always had a deep engagement with Indians. As Rohit De, an assistant professor of history at Yale University, explains in his extraordinary book, A People’s Constitution, the document mattered to its citizens, and “constitutional engagement included large number of ordinary Indians, often from minorities or disprivileged groups”.

Dr De writes about how thousands of ordinary Indians from all walks of life have invoked the Constitution in the courts ever since Mohammed Yasin, a young Muslim vegetable seller in north India, petitioned the Supreme Court in 1950, saying his rights to trade and an occupation, guaranteed by the document, had been violated by the authorities who had granted a single merchant a monopoly over the local vegetable trade.

But the ongoing engagement is much wider.

“There are two aspects that make the current engagement remarkable: first, its widespread extent, cutting across a range of demographics. In the 50s, particular groups argued that the Constitution protects them, but today diverse demographics make the case for the Constitution protecting everyone. The second, of course, is the profound focus on the preamble as opposed to specific rights,” Dr De told me.

The unprecedented reading of the preamble, he says, evokes the pro-Independence civil disobedience protests, when Indians marched, sang songs and recited a pledge of independence challenging British rule. “The protestors argued that power need not be given, but was taken by the people themselves,” he says.

Many believe that citizens have taken to the Constitution partly because the Narendra Modi-led ruling Hindu nationalist BJP government has painted almost all opposition to its policies as “anti-national”.

“By using the constitution, the protestors can continue to assert their patriotism, use national symbols and songs and challenge the discourse of ‘anti-nationalism’ with constitutional patriotism,” Dr De says.

Also, many believe, people are invoking the Constitution to express their displeasure with the “failure of the courts” – especially the Supreme Court – in not being transparent and its “weakening record” on civil liberties.

They say the top court, which has built a reputation for itself as a defender of constitutionalism against the executive, seems to have become muted when facing a government with a huge parliamentary majority like the BJP.

“It is this absence of the court as the defender for civil liberty and constitutional processes, that is forcing ordinary citizens to step in and champion the Constitution.” says Dr De.

Last month, 40 lawyers gathered in the lawns of the Supreme Court in Delhi and read out the preamble. And the Communist government in the southern state of Kerala announced that it would make the reading of the preamble compulsory during the morning assembly in schools.

“All this is very important and powerful. It aims to engage and articulate what India as a nation means,” says Madhav Khosla, legal scholar and author of India’s Founding Moment: The Constitution of a Most Surprising Democracy. “I don’t think there is any precedence.”

The Tribune – 1984 riots: Sikh passengers dragged out of trains & killed, police arrested no one from spot, says SIT

New Delhi – India, 15 January 2020. Sikh passengers were dragged out of trains and killed at railway stations in Delhi during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots but the police did not arrest anyone from the spot saying that they were outnumbered, a Supreme Court appointed SIT has said in its report.

The report of the SIT, headed by retired Delhi High Court judge Justice S N Dhingra, which supervised a further probe into 186 cases said that there were five cases of killings by rioters who had attacked Sikh passengers travelling on trains and on railway stations.

It said these incidents had happened on 01 and 02 November 1984, at five railway stations of Delhi – Nangloi, Kishanganj, Dayabasti, Shahdara and Tuglakabad.

“In all these five cases, police was informed about the rioters having stopped the train and attacking Sikh passengers. The Sikh passengers were dragged out of trains and were beaten to death and burnt. The dead bodies were found scattered on the platforms and the railway lines,” the report said.

“The police had not arrested any of the rioters from the spot. The reasons for non-arrest were shown that the police was in very small number and that the rioters, after seeing police, had ran away,” it said.

It said that perusal of files revealed that FIRs were not registered by police incident-wise or crime-wise and instead, several complaints were clubbed in one FIR.

The report said that the then Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) had sent 337 complaints received by him soon after the riots to Sultan Puri Police station but an “omnibus” FIR was lodged in respect of all these incidents and thereafter all other complaints of killing and rioting were added in the same FIR.

It said one such FIR had complaints regarding 498 incidents and only one investigating officer was assigned to the case.

“In a few cases, FIRs were registered on the basis of a note given by a police official to SHO (station house officer) stating about a victim identifying a person as rioter and also giving the name and address of victim,” it said.

“All these cases were closed on the ground that victim did not confirm to the information. It is obvious that these cases were registered by the police to give clean chit to certain persons,” the report said.

It said that hundreds of affidavits were received by Justice Ranganath Misra Commission in respect of killing, arson, looting done by the rioters with named accused persons.

“Instead of directing registration of FIRs on the basis of these affidavits directly to the respective police stations and ordering investigation, committees after committees were formed and this further delayed registration of cases for years,” it said.

Regarding an FIR lodged at Kalyan Puri police station here, the report said police had clubbed various cases and sent a ‘challan’ (police report) in respect of murder of 56 persons but the trial court had framed charges only in respect of killing of five.

“It is not known why charges were framed only for five murders and not 56 murders and why trial court did not order separation of trial for each incident of crime,” it said.

“It is also seen from the perusal of judgements found in these files that when the witness stated in the court that she had seen the incident and can identify the culprits, the public prosecutor did not even ask her to identify the rioters out of several accused persons present in the court,” it said.

“The judge conducting the trial, having ample power under section 165 of Evidence Act to ask the questions to the witnesses, also did not bother to ask the witness as to who out the accused persons present in the court were among the rioters and had committed riots,” the report said.

The apex court had set up the SIT, also comprising retired IPS officer Rajdeep Singh and serving IPS officer Abhishek Dular, in January 2018. However, Singh had declined to be part of the team on personal grounds.

Large-scale riots targeting members of the Sikh community had broken out in the national capital in the aftermath of the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh security guards on the morning of October 31, 1984. The violence had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone.

No spontaneous riots but pogroms organised by Congress
Man in Blue

Den Haag (NL) – Hoefkade – Fischerstraat – Station Holland Spoor

Den Haag NL
Hoefkade – Fischerstraat
24 December 2019

Hoefkade: Tram 11 and 12 to Station Holland Spoor

I always stay in this street when in Den Haag

Here live Sikhs

Den Haag NL
Station Holland Spoor
25 December 2019

Very impressive ‘decoration’ of a tram

Tram 1 to Delft, Tram 11 to Scheveningen
Tram 12 to Duindorp,
Tram 16 and 17 to Wateringen
Tram 9 to Vrederust

Tram 16 to Wateringen

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Hindustan Times – Exit of Dhindsas from Shiromani Akali Dal is a blessing in disguise, says Sukhbir Singh Badal

In an interview to HT, the Akali Dal chief says including Muslims on list of communities eligible under CAA will only earn goodwill.

Ramesh Vinayak

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 16 June 2020. Terms ties with ally BJP perfect as the partners have nothing to do with politics of give or take, which is why there’s no crisis like the one with Shiv Sena.

Unlike the other allies of the ruling National Democratic Alliance, the Shiromani Akali Dal remains unruffled by the ferment over the controversial Citizenship ( Amendment) Act.

But, at the helm of the country’s oldest regional party, now in its centenary year, Sukhbir Singh Badal, 58, has to look over his shoulders for other reasons: An internal revolt led by Akali stalwart and Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa who, recently joined by his son and MLA Parminder Singh, has emerged as a rallying figure for anti-Badal Akalis and disparate Sikh factions, all fancying themselves as a third force in Punjab politics.

The unfolding upheaval, now potentially at a tipping point, poses the most serious challenge that Sukhbir has faced since his elevation as the party president in 2008.

Which explains why he has lately been in an overdrive to keep his flock together and burnish his Panthic credentials. Combative against rivals and cautious on the citizenship law, Sukhbir spoke to Hindustan Times at his sparsely-furnished MLA flat in Chandigarh on Wednesday.

Edited excerpts: Q: You are an ally of the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre. Is there is a case for reconsidering the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act ( CAA) in view of opposition parties’ concerns and street protests across the country?

A: I am not for a re-think. My party’s view is that CAA should mention ‘minorities’ instead of naming religious communities. Nobody in the country should feel that they have been omitted or left out.

Q: But, other NDA allies, chiefly Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik who had supported the bill in the Parliament, have refused to implement CAA?

A: I cannot comment on other allies or on their agenda and why are they changing their decision now because every state has its own perspective. Akali Dal has been sticking to its position right from the beginning. In Punjab, there may not be a case of Pakistani Muslim seeking Indian citizenship due to persecution, but we are for considering that on case-to-case basis.

Even if we put the Muslims on the list of communities eligible under the CAA, it does not make any difference, but will earn you the goodwill.

Q: But, you only expressed an opinion and never took a stand on inclusion of Muslims.

A: We are suggesting that even now. We fought for the Sikhs of Pakistan and Afghanistan who stand to gain
citizenship. We cannot jeopardise their rights now.

Q: The Amarinder Singh government has taken a clear stand against CAA-NRC and NPR, saying it will not implement in Punjab?

A: Captain sa’ab (chief minister Amarinder Singh) cannot take any stand. He is governed by the directions of the Gandhi family.

Q: His government is likely to bring a resolution against the CAA in the assembly session. What will be Akalis’ stand?

A: That is just a PR exercise. We will stick to the position that we took in Parliament. That is, we should include Muslims in the CAA beneficiaries.

Q: What do you make of unrelenting protests across the country?

A: Lot of politics has started coming into it. Now, it is one-upmanship. It is difficult to judge the real sentiments of the people because everybody has jumped onto the CAA bandwagon. Everybody is looking at his own interest now.

Q: Should the Modi government reach out to dissenters? As an ally, what will be your advice?

A: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a seasoned politician. May be they are trying (to reach out). How can I advise? They themselves have a lot of advisers. Why should I get into it?

Q: There is a perception that the CAA represents an aggressive Hindutva which has accentuated a sense of anxiety among minorities, especially Muslims.

A: Look, this country belongs to everybody. Sikhs are the most liberal of them. Our Guru made a sacrifice for other religions. Going by the philosophy, a Muslim is as Indian as a Hindu or a Sikh. That is the idea of India. No government should make anybody feel insecure.

I gave example of my father Parkash Singh Badal in the Parliament. Every community felt that he is their leader. He developed religious places of all communities. These are the ways which give people confidence. It is duty to the government to make every community feel that it is part of India.

Q: The opposition says the CAA goes against the secular grain of the Constitution.

A: A lot of political games have started at this moment. Every political party has jumped in to take advantage of the situation from all sides. In such a ‘khichdi’, the common man’s views are not coming out. Let there be a stop to all this. If the politics (over CAA) continues, it will create more problems for the nation.

Q: How satisfied is the Akali Dal with the current consultative mechanism in the NDA?

A: Consultation should be more than what it is now. Because lot of issues crop up in a nation as complex as India. Even I have requested the BJP president that the NDA constituents should meet regularly.

If not all of them together, they can be called individually or region-wise, because each partner has its own issues. That way, a lot of feedback can come up.

Q: Perception is that the BJP is taking Akalis for granted?

A: Nobody can take us for granted. The Akali Dal has its own history and commitments. Our relationship with the BJP is perfect. We have no problem. It has nothing to do with politics of give or take. That is why our relationship has not got into crisis like the one the BJP had with the Shiv Sena. We respect their turf and they respect ours.

Q: SAD is facing a fresh bout of rebellion led by its veteran face Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and his son Parminder. How do you look at their challenge to your authority?

A: Their action is a blessing in disguise for the party. They were long discarded by the people. Churning takes place in every party. But, we have gone from strength to strength. Both Dhindsa and Ranjit Singh Brahampura had credited me for winning the assembly elections in 2007 and 2012. They are the ones who had proposed and seconded my name as the party president.

My father never said no to them for anything. Nor did I. Sangrur and Tarn Taran were the traditional Akali bastions. But, in last 30 years, they became the most unsafe constituencies for Akalis. That was because of non-performance and autocratic conduct of Dhindsa and Brahampura.

Q: But, they accuse you of running party un-democratically like a dictator.

A: If all senior leaders are in the core committee and Mr Dhindsa himself was in it, how can he say it is undemocratic? What is the parameter for a politician’s credibility? If he wins elections, it means people like him. If he doesn’t, they don’t like him. Dhindsa sa’ab, who now calls himself a tall leader, has been a serial loser for last thirty years.

He had lost even in 1997 when the party had swept the assembly polls. But, every time he lost, Badal sa’ab still put him in the position of power, whether it was chairmanship of power board or planning board.

Last time, we had promised a Rajya Sabha seat to Daljit Singh Cheema because he was denied the ticket. But, when Dhindsa lost, he demanded the Rajya Sabha nomination which my father agreed to, denying Cheema his due. Was the party undemocratic then?

Likewise, when Parminder lost the Lok Sabha elections last year from his family’s home turf, I made him the leader of legislature party. Was I dictator then? The dictatorship of Dhindsa sa’ab can be judged from the fact he didn’t allow his son to take a decision on his political future and told him that ‘either you leave the Badals or I will disown you’.

Q: Your detractors say the Akali Dal under you abandoned the Panthic ideology and agenda.

A: Did they say all this when they were enjoying power as Akalis? They have stabbed Panth in the back and are now projecting themselves as more Panthic than us. Dhindsa sa’ab is now aligning with Paramjit Singh Sarna who is a Congress member. He is saying all this under frustration. The Brand Dhindsa was built by the party. He wants me to resign for the party’s defeat in 2017.

Did he resign as secretary general when he lost six elections? Did Parminder resign when he lost the Lok Sabha polls by two lakh votes and came third in is bastion Sangrur. I and my wife won the Lok Sabha polls. So, who is Panthic? Those elected by the Panth or ones rejected?

Q: Is the SAD staring at another split?

Not at all. When Manpreet Badal left us, everyone said the party will split. Individuals can’t destroy a party. The Shiromani Akali Dal is bigger than thousand individuals. If I leave the party, Sukhbir Singh Badal will be finished but SAD will be there. If someone wants to be a human bomb and destroy the party, we will give our life but never allow that.

Q: But, the Dhindsas and Taksalis want to free SAD from the Badals and revive its old glory.

A: My father has served the party for seven decades and became chief minister five times because of his credibility with the people and the Panth. I have been chosen the party president for the third time by delegates elected by 47 lakh members.

Why do they need to free Akali Dal from an elected president? Why don’t they start their own party ? Let’s see how many people go with them. They are not Akali Dal Taksali. They are Akali Dal ‘nakli’(fake).

Q: Do you see the breakaway Akalis forging a third front ahead of the 2022 assembly polls?

A: Today people go on credibility. If you look at the list of Taksali leaders, they never won elections in 30 years. People had a very bad experience with the third front in 2017. People want future of Punjab. Can you name one thing that Amarinder Singh has done for the state in last three years?

When in power, we never said ‘khazana khaali’ (empty coffers). This is the defence of incompetent rulers.

Q: The probe into the sacrilege cases is still hanging over your head.

A: We are not scared because we have not done anything wrong. Lies will always be lies.

Q: Captain has hinted that he is here to stay and may again lead the party in the 2022 assembly polls.

A: I am very happy for him. People of Punjab will decide whether they want him to stay or not. And the way he is performing, they have surely made up their mind to retire him.

Badal Sahib refers to Akali Dal or Sikh principles. If he really believes in those principles he should break the alliance with the BJP, a party whose ‘principles’ are 100% against the teachings of our Gurus !
Man in Blue

The Hindu – India-Pakistan situation has impacted Afghanistan, says Hamid Karzai

Dinakar Peri

New Delhi – India, 16 January 2020. We are the best of friends with India, but how do we convey to Pakistan that we can be the best of brothers at the same time, asks the former Afghan president, the India-Pakistan situation has impacted Afghanistan at the Raisina Dialogue.

The unfortunate situation between India and Pakistan had impacted Afghanistan “tremendously”, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday. “We are the best of friends with India,” Mr. Karzai said adding, “but how do we convey to Pakistan that we can be the best of brothers at the same time.”

Speaking at the ongoing Raisina Dialogue jointly organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation, he said there was no other way for Afghanistan, “we need the peace process to be successful.”

Asked about the troubled relationship with Pakistan, Mr Karzai said there were two sides to it. “Pakistani people received us as refugees with open arms, we’re grateful for that.

On the other hand, we have serious complaints with the Pakistan government and military on the issue of terrorism,” he stated adding they too in Afghanistan perhaps made some mistakes in managing the relationship.

Terming Iran and Pakistan the most consequential relationships for Afghanistan, he said, “We cannot have peace in Afghanistan, unless we have the best of relationships in Pakistan.”

On the issue of continued USA military presence in Afghanistan, Mr Karzai said a vast majority of people would agree with a USA presence in Afghanistan as long as the “Afghan people are given the legitimacy to live in a dignified way, and politics and institutions in Afghanistan are not interfered with.”