BBC News – Shaheen Bagh: Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Varma penalised for comments

Two MPs belonging to India’s ruling party have been removed from a list of “star campaigners” after comments they made against a group or protesters.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) penalised Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Varma after India’s Election Commission ordered their removal with “immediate effect”. The order came in the wake of controversial comments by the MPs against thousands of largely Muslim women who have been staging a demonstration in Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood in the capital, Delhi.

Elections will be held there on 8 February.

The polls pit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which runs India’s government, against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which governs Delhi. The AAP, headed by charismatic chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, is hoping to return to power, pointing to its record on affordable healthcare, education, electricity and water.

The BJP has accused the protesters of being “traitors” to India.

What did the BJP say?

The charge levelled at the women protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been led by the home minister, BJP president Amit Shah. He told supporters to press the button for the BJP with “so much anger that protesters in Shaheen Bagh feel the current”.

Other party leaders have followed suit.

Anurag Thakur, the junior finance minister, was censured by the election commission after he incited the crowd at an election rally to shout “shoot the traitors” while railing against those at Shaheen Bagh. He defended his comments by saying he was merely reflecting the “mood of Delhi”.

Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, said the men of Shaheen Bagh were sending their women out to protest while they stayed home and slept, because they were too afraid to come out themselves.

Yet another minister, Parvesh Varma, swore the protesters would be “sent packing” within hours of a BJP victory, adding that if left unchecked, they would “rape and kill”.

Other party members have called the election a battle between “India and Pakistan”, which critics have denounced as a clear attempt to stigmatise Muslims.

So, what is happening in Shaheen Bagh?

Residents, mostly Muslim women, have been staging a continuous sit-in on a public road for more than a month.

Videos from Shaheen Bagh show women singing songs, clapping and passing tea and food to one another.

It has been a rare moment, one of the few times anyone can remember India’s Muslim women coming out in such large numbers and leading a movement of this nature, although many others from different religions have sat alongside them in solidarity. They have read each other the preamble of India’s constitution, made speeches reaffirming their citizenship and sung patriotic songs.

Shaheen Bagh has captured the imagination of many Indians.

The peaceful nature of the demonstrations have been in stark contrast to other protests against the citizenship law in which more than 30 people have been killed, most of them in Uttar Pradesh state, and the police accused of brutality.

The BJP for its part has painted the Shaheen Bagh protesters as extremists, who are seeking to break the country apart with the support of the AAP and its leader, Arvind Kejriwal.

What is the CAA?

The act offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries. It amends India’s 64-year-old citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens.

It also expedites the path to Indian citizenship for members of six religious communities: Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian, if they can prove they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. They will now only have to live or work in India for six years, instead of 11 years, before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

Under the CAA people holding Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards could lose their right to live and work in India indefinitely if they break local laws, no matter how minor the offence.

Several petitions argue that the law is illegal, claiming that it grants citizenship on the basis of religion, which goes against the country’s secular values enshrined in its constitution. Those challenging it include political parties, civil society and Muslim groups.

Adding to the fears is a government pledge to carry out a widespread exercise to weed out “infiltrators” from neighbouring countries. Many Muslim citizens fear they could be made stateless, given that the exercise relies on extensive documentation to prove their ancestors lived in India.

The government has defended the law, saying it will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution and Mr Shah has vowed that it will not be rolled back.

Why is Shaheen Bagh being targeted?

“What the BJP is trying to do is very clear. Polarisation is a tried and tested method that has won them elections in the past. But the million dollar question is, will it also work in Delhi?” political commentator Neerja Chowdhury told the BBC.

Many critics have said the protesters are an easy target for the Hindu nationalist BJP, as they are largely Muslim, and have said they demonstrate precisely why Muslims are afraid of the CAA.

The BJP comments have also caused a stir on social media. Although there are some who agree with the criticisms against the protesters, many say it is a clear indication the BJP has been rattled by Shaheen Bagh.

AAP supporters say the BJP’s tactics show how desperate the party is to avoid defeat.

The hashtag #KejriwalAgainstEntireBJP was the top India trend on Tuesday afternoon.

Ms Chowdhury said that although it was expected the BJP would come out strongly as the election drew nearer, she was still surprised by the tone of the campaign.

“We have had many lows in Indian politics and electioneering. But I don’t ever remember a legislator telling people that they would be raped and killed,” she said.

Was this a spontaneous demo against the blocking of a road or was it more political and supported by BJP/RSS ?
Man in Blue

The Tribune – US lawmakers hail Sikhs’ contribution in American milieu

Washington DC – USA, 02 February 2020. More than 10 Congressmen gathered at the US Capitol this week to celebrate the immense contributions of the small but vibrant Sikh community in American milieu.

Sikhs are America’s exemplary community, said the Congressmen addressing a gathering of more than 200 members of the community.

“History was made when Dalip Singh Saund was elected first Asian in the USA Congress. It is about time another Sikh American runs for congressional seat,” said Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna.

“Sikhs have added to the richness of my district and America,” said Congressman Jim Costa, at the event organised by the Sikh Council On Religion and Education marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak and to honour 50 prominent Sikhs in the USA.

A book, highlighting the contributions of the 50 Sikhs, was released and the author of the book, Prabhleen Singh from Panjabi University, presented a copy to each of the US representatives.

“We are always here to speak for your rights and issues,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “You can count on us for support. You have contributed to make America strong,” said Congressman Peter King.

Among other lawmakers who attended the event were Congressmen Ami Bera, Greg Stanton, Grace Meng, John Garamendi, Haley Stevens, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal, Steve Cohen, Peter King, Tom Suozzi, Jerry McNerney, Judy Chu, and former Congressman Joe Crowley.

“This shows the hard work of Sikh men and women across the United States and how they have impacted the communities around the country. This shows how our elected officials are impressed with the way Sikhs are making this country strong and prosperous,” said Rajwant Singh.

As far as I know Ami Bera loves Modi more than he loves the Sikhs
Man in Blue

Den Haag – Grote Kerk – Gravenstraat

Grote Kerk – Gravenstraat
31 December 2019

Grote Halstraat – Tram 16 to Statenkwartier

Grote Halstraat – Tram 16 to Statenkwartier

Gravenstraat – Tram 16 to Wateringen

A very traditional ‘drogisterij’

Gravenstraat – Tram 16 to Wateringen

Gravenstraat – Tram 16 to Wateringen

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Pieter Friedrich – 5000 Sign Petition for USA to declare RSS a terrorist organization

Calls USA State Department to list RSS as “Foreign Terrorist Organization”

A petition, started by author Pieter Friedrich on 30 January 2020, has gathered over 5,000 signatures from people requesting the US State Department to add India’s Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary to its “Foreign Terrorist Organization” list. The petition reads:

Founded in 1925, the RSS took direct inspiration from the European fascist movements of the 1920s-1940s, including the Nazi Party. Today, it has metastasized into a 6 million + member uniformed and armed paramilitary. The RSS is responsible for acts of gross violence, including participating in every major pogrom in independent India. We are calling on the US State Department to declare the RSS a terrorist organization.

The RSS is infamous for its members dressing in uniforms which strongly resemble those worn by members of the Hitler Youth. It was founded in 1925, the same year that the Nazi party was reformulated with Hitler as its leader. In addition to drawing inspiration from the Nazis, the RSS modeled itself after Mussolini’s fascist movement in Italy.

In 1931, RSS co-founder BS Moonje met Mussolini in Rome. After praising the dictator’s fascist youth group, ONB, for its “military regeneration” of Italian youth, Moonje wrote, “India and particularly Hindu India need some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus.”

He claimed that “the idea of fascism vividly brings out the conception of unity amongst people” and declared: “Our institution of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh of Nagpur under Dr Hedgewar is of this kind.”

The longest-serving RSS chief, M.S. Golwalkar, called it treason for an Indian to convert away from Hinduism or refuse to “glorify the Hindu Race and Nation.”

In 1939, he also wrote glowingly in support of Nazi racial policy: “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here.” He called this “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

In its June 2019 report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom warned that the RSS’s agenda “to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus is a significant contributor to the rise of religious violence and persecution.”

The RSS has been repeatedly accused of instigating violence. It has been banned several times, the first time following the assassination of M K Gandhi by a former RSS member.

In 2002, Human Rights Watch named the RSS and its subsidiaries as the groups responsible for an anti-Muslim pogrom that killed 2,000 in the Indian state of Gujarat. In 2012, Swami Aseemanand, a full-time RSS worker, confessed to orchestrating several terrorist bombings which claimed hundreds of lives from 2006 to 2008. Many other instances of bombings, assassinations, and pogroms have been laid at the feet of the RSS.

The RSS (including its many subsidiaries) has been linked to many other major incidents of anti-minority violence all across India. These include the 1947 Jammu Massacre (20,000+ Muslims killed) and the 1969 Gujarat Riots (400+ Muslims killed) — both of which occurred shortly after visit by Golwalkar. Later came the 1970 Bhiwandi Riots in Maharashtra (190+ Muslims killed), the 1983 Nellie Massacre in Assam (2,200+ Bengali Muslims killed), the 1984 Sikh Genocide in Delhi (3,000+ Sikhs killed), the 1985 Gujarat Riots (hundreds of Muslims killed), the 1987 Meerut Riots in Uttar Pradesh (hundreds of Muslims killed), the 1989 Bhagalpur Riots in Bihar (900+ Muslims killed), the 1992 nationwide riots following the Babri Mosque destruction (2,000+ Muslims killed), the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom (2,000+ Muslims killed), the 2008 Odisha Pogrom (100+ Christians killed), and countless other smaller-scale incidents.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.

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The Print – Shaheen Bagh protest: Locals demonstrate against closure of Kalindi Kunj road

The protesters demanded that people who have been sitting on the anti-CAA protest site in Shaheen Bagh, should clear the stretch as commuters are facing difficulties.

New Delhi – India, 2 February 2020. A group of locals Sunday staged a demonstration near the anti-CAA protest site in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, demanding the removal of barricades from the road connecting Noida with Kalindi Kunj.

The protesters demanded that the people, who have been sitting on dharna there for over a month to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, should clear the stretch as the commuters are facing difficulties, police said.

Senior officers, including Joint Commissioner of Police (Southern Range) Devesh Srivastava and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Southeast) Chinmoy Biswal, are at the spot monitoring the situation to ensure no untoward incident takes place.

The officers are trying to negotiate with the protestors and asking them to maintain peace. The protestors, including women, raised slogans like “Jai Shree Ram”, “Vande Matram” and “Khali Karao Shaheen Bagh wallo ko”.

“We want the roads to be cleared. They (anti-CAA protesters) have been sitting on protest for 50 days now. It has been causing inconvenience to us. Our children have not been able to go to school because the roads are blocked,” said Rekha Devi, a resident of Jasola.

Around 52 people have been detained. They will be released shortly, police said. Deepak Patel, a resident of Jasola, said he somehow managed to go to work after crossing the area.

“With heavy barricading, police don’t allow us to enter the protest site where women have been sitting for over a month. I somehow managed to go to work crossing the area. But since yesterday, there has been strict checking and we were not allowed to pass through the stretch without showing an identity card,” Patel said.

On Saturday, a 25-year-old man fired two rounds in the air at Shaheen Bagh and was later taken into custody. No one was injured in the incident.

Rekha Khanna, another protestor, said they want the road to be cleared at the earliest. “It’s been 50 days now. My husband works in Noida and my children also go to school through the same route.

“We want the road to be cleared at the earliest. We only came here to protest for a day and we are being asked to disperse from here. But those who are protesting at Shaheen Bagh are not even asked to vacate. At least they should open one side of the road.” Khanna added.

Was this a spontaneous demo the blocking of a road or was it more political and supported by BJP/RSS ?