The Asian Age – Second batch of foreign diplomats shown around Kashmir

Briefings, meetings and boat rides organized for their benefit

Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 12 February 2020. A second batch of New Delhi-based diplomats from over two dozen countries began a two-day tour of Jammu & Kashmir for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation in the troubled territory.

Reports emanating from Delhi said the Russian ambassador to India declined an invitation to join the delegation.

In Srinagar, the delegation was briefed by top Army officers on the security situation in the districts and along the Line of Control (LoC).

They were told of Pakistan’s “unremitting attempts to push in militants and terrorists and perpetrate ceasefire violations” along the de facto border, a defence spokesman said here.

Earlier in the day, the visiting envoys interacted with fruit growers and traders in Baramulla district and had a series of meetings with representatives of political parties, trade unions, civil society groups, women entrepreneurs and a select group of media persons, all handpicked by their hosts.

They were also treated to shikara rides on the Dal lake.

After a night’s stay in a luxury Srinagar hotel, the delegation will visit the winter capital Jammu on Thursday where they are scheduled to meet Lt Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, his advisors and government functionaries, officials of the police and security forces and leaders and representatives of various political parties, civil society groups and business leaders.

Opposition criticism

This is the third visit by foreign diplomats and lawmakers to Jammu & Kashmir since 05 August last year, when the erstwhile state was stripped of its special status and bifurcated into two union territories.

Supervised by the Union Home Ministry, the visits have been strongly criticized by the opposition which questioned the wisdom of “wasting money and other resources of the state by sponsoring such pleasure trips.”

Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said, “The visiting delegation should be allowed to meet the three former chief ministers who have been incarcerated. I too have some ideas to share with them but I wonder if they will be allowed to meet me. I’ve been under house arrest for the past six months.”

He added, “Taking them on shikara rides on the Dal lake and allowing them to meet only people handpicked by the government agencies are not going to help. Such tamashas have in the past left a negative impact on the psyche of the people, especially in the Kashmir Valley.”

Presence of EU diplomats

This batch of diplomats being conducted around Kashmir includes those from Canada, Austria, Uzbekistan, Uganda, Slovak Republic, Netherlands, Namibia, Kyrgyz Republic, Bulgaria, Germany, Tajikistan, France, Mexico, Denmark, Italy, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Poland and Rwanda.

The presence of diplomats from European Union member countries in this delegation is significant. The EU Parliament recently saw moves to bring in a joint draft resolution on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Kashmir situation. A vote on the resolution was later deferred.

In mid January, envoys of 15 countries including United States ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster and diplomats from Vietnam, South Korea, Brazil, Niger, Nigeria, Morocco, Guyana, Argentina, Philippines, Norway, Maldives, Fiji, Togo, Bangladesh and Peru had visited J&K at the invitation of the MEA which had said that they wanted to see firsthand the efforts being made by the government to normalise situation in the union territory.

In October last year, 27 MPs, drawn mainly from far-right parties, of 11 European countries visited Srinagar but the EU embassy in Delhi was quick to clarify then that they were in India in their “personal capacity” and not as part of an official delegation.

That visit too had drawn criticism by the Congress, National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), CPM and other mainstream parties, terming it a “guided tour aimed at misleading the world about the ground realities in J&K.” The opposition and a section of the media had in particular criticised the manner in which European MPs were brought to Srinagar.

The Congress also questioned the wisdom and probity of the government in inviting foreign diplomats to visit J&K when the country’s own political leaders including MPs are being denied access to the erstwhile state.

However, Union minister of state for home affairs G. Kishan Reddy told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that there are no restrictions on Indian citizens visitng J&K.

The Tribune – Witnesses in sacrilege cases face threat to life

Jupinderjit Singh – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 February 2020. In the wee hours of 04 November 2015, two persons on a two-wheeler rode past ex-serviceman Sewak Singh while he was on his way to his village gurdwara in Malke, Moga district. When he reached the shrine, he saw ‘ang (parts)’ of Guru Granth Sahib strewn outside.

Amid monetary allurements and threats to withdraw his statement against the two persons he saw that day, Sewak Singh’s life has been a nightmare. He is not the only witness to be living in fear.

Iqbal Singh of Guru Sar Jalal village in Bathinda has faced threats ever since a sacrilege incident was reported in his village gurdwara. “The state has abandoned us. We are left to fend for ourselves,” he told The Tribune over the phone.

Surjit Singh, a witness in the Behbal Kalan police firing incident, who died recently, too had faced harassment at the hands of the accused, provoking Justice Ranjit Singh (retd), who headed a commission to probe sacrilege incidents and the police firing at Behbal Kalan, to write to the Punjab Chief Minister. He wrote that the state, especially the police, had been insensitive to the plight of the witness.

“We will not bend despite the threats and allurement of money,” said Sewak Singh and Iqbal Singh. “But the state is duty-bound to protect all witnesses. My request for police security was turned down,” said Sewak Singh.

Advocate Gagan Pardeep Singh Bal said he had approached the High Court for providing protection to the witnesses.

Gent Be – Kanunnikstraat – Gent Gurdwara

Gent – Kanunnikstraat
05 January 2020

New student housing at the corner of Kanunnikstraat and

Gent Gurdwara
05 January 2020

Gent Gurdwara – Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag)

First wash you hands, then wash your feet

Corridor leading to divan hall

Akhand path – the readers recite the last pages of the
Guru Granth Sahib

In front left : ‘Ik Ongkar’ the first symbols in the
Guru Granth Sahib

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49B
9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

OFMI – “Fascist” Indian group’s presentation to police in Indiana sparks outrage

Carmel PD faces backlash for hosting RSS paramilitary’s international wing

Carmel – Indiana – USA, 12 February 2020. Although the Carmel Police Department was proud to host the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, social media outcry has been far less sweet to the Indiana law enforcement agency.

On 06 February, the HSS gave Carmel, Indiana police officers a presentation about the history of Hinduism and India. Presenters, however, may have neglected to mention that the HSS is the international wing of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

A uniformed paramilitary with an estimated six million members, the RSS has been accused of violence against Indian minorities, an allegation repeatedly raised by hundreds of furious commenters on Facebook and Twitter.

“The HSS/RSS was formed with inspiration from Italian fascists and the Nazi regime,” wrote Khalid Azam on Carmel PD’s Facebook post about the event.

A leader in the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Azam added, “The founder of the Hindu nationalist movement met with Mussolini and collaborated with Nazis to establish a similar fascist movement in India, now represented by RSS and its overseas branch, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.

These are the same people that burnt alive a Christian missionary family in India, have been attacking churches in India, and are currently sexually assaulting women in Delhi, India’s capital.”

Govind Acharya, a member of Amnesty International USA’s Board of Directors, commented on Twitter, “This seems rather troubling.” Navjot Kaur of California, who works with persecuted refugees from India, was more direct. Calling it a “massive misuse of taxpayers’ money,” Kaur wrote on Facebook, “Respected Carmel PD, I am sure you have lot better to do than wasting time on learning about a foreign paramilitary fueled by Nazi propaganda.”

Also on Facebook, North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Committee Member Elyas Mohammed wrote, “Police department is for public service and protecting citizens. Such departments shouldn’t associate themselves with controversial organizations such as RSS/HSS, which has some serious charges of hate and violence against minorities in India.”

Concerns over HSS’s involvement with American police stem from the RSS’s collaboration with police in anti-minority massacres in India.

In 2002, when approximately 2,000 Muslims were killed in the Indian state of Gujarat, Human Rights Watch reported that the RSS was the “umbrella group” behind the Hindu nationalist organizations responsible for the violence. Describing how the violence was “organized with extensive police participation,” HRW reported:

“In almost all of the incidents documented by Human Rights Watch, the police were directly implicated in the attacks. At best they were passive observers, and at worse they acted in concert with murderous mobs and participated directly in the burning and looting of Muslim shops and homes and the killing and mutilation of Muslims.

In many cases, under the guise of offering assistance, the police led the victims directly into the hands of their killers. Many of the attacks on Muslim homes and places of business also took place in close proximity to police posts.

Panicked phone calls made to the police, fire brigades, and even ambulance services generally proved futile. Many witnesses testified that their calls either went unanswered or that they were met with responses such as: ‘We don’t have any orders to save you’.”

The controversy in Carmel comes mere months after the city’s police department sparked similar outrage for hosting an HSS celebration of Raksha Bandhan, a traditional Hindu ceremony.

Commenting on Carmel PD’s Facebook post about the August 2019 event, IAMC founding member Shaik Ubaid wrote that “no US police department should have anything to do” with the HSS.

“The HSS is the international wing of the RSS, a violent and supremacist paramilitary in India whose founders praised Nazi racial policy and modeled themselves along the same lines as the Hitler Youth,” Ubaid explained. “They display pictures of these founders at most of their gatherings. They are a fascist organization, not a religious group.”

“Under the guise of celebrating Raksha Bandhan, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh infiltrated the Carmel Police Department,” says Arvin Valmuci of Organization for Minorities of India.

“We are deeply disturbed that the HSS, which represents a violent Hindu nationalist movement in India, is now lecturing police in Indiana about Hinduism. The presence of the fascist HSS/RSS in an American police department frightens minorities of Indian origin and inculcates a feeling of deep insecurity.”

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity. Visit for more information. – The Daily Fix: BJP’s NRC threats could endanger census and data collection by all Indian agencies

Panic related to citizenship means even routine data collection by government agencies is now in peril.

Shoaib Daniyal

Op/Ed, 13 February 2020. As part of its Hindutva ideology, the Bharatiya Janata Party has energetically pushed two polices that seek to fundamentally change the nature of Indian citizenship. The party has repeatedly announced that it will institute a National Register of Citizens, an unprecedented measure that seeks to get every citizen to prove their citizenship.

In December, it also passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which for the first time, brings in a religious element to India’s citizenship law.

Even more troublingly, the party has reiterated that the two initiatives are linked. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has implied on several occasions that with the Citizenship Amendment Act being implemented before the National Register of Citizens, only Muslims will have to prove their citizenship.

The Union government has also begun work on the National Population Register, the first step on the road to an NRC.

This attempt to institute a communal citizenship verification drive has set off alarm bells across India. Many Muslims now fear any attempt at data collection, seeing in it a drive towards an NRC. The result of this panic has been a widespread refusal to submit data to any agency suspected of being sent on behalf of the Indian state.

In just one district of West Bengal, for example, at least six incidents of NGO worker being accosted based on rumours that they were collecting NPR data have emerged after the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in December.

In another instance in Uttar Pradesh, state government employees collecting health data were held hostage by a mob. In Rajasthan, two women collecting data for the Economic Census were attacked on suspicion of collecting NPR data. In Kerala, a state government official conducting an agricultural census was forced to call the police after a mob accosted him.

This panic has meant that multiple state government attempts at data collection as well as the Union government’s National Sample Survey are now facing enormous roadblocks. A report found that for the first time in 148 years, the Census is also in danger, given that door-to-door data collection for the NPR and Census are scheduled to be conducted simultaneously.

Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician of India and head of the Modi’s government’s Standing Committee on Economic Statistics explained how dire the situation would be if the Census were to collapse:

“So, you may well have a situation where you are unable to do the Census properly and if the Census is not done properly, then for the next 10 years, no household survey would be reliable because all household surveys rely on the Census as the frame.”

Without data, India will be unable to frame developmental policies. Even more alarmingly, no country can afford a situation where widespread panic means even a government act as simple as a survey is not possible.

The cause for this panic is clear: the BJP’s attempts to force through an NRC has set off an destabilising chain of events. The party must now immediately fix the problem it has created.

Given that the National Popular Register is the first step to the National Register of Citizens, two states, West Bengal and Kerala, have already suspended it. However, this is not enough. Both states are still seeing continuous public alarm over the NPR.

It is clear that the Modi government itself needs to suspend the National Population Register and repeal the 2003 Citizenship Rules, which create the legal framework for a National Register of Citizens.