BBC News – Why Delhi violence has echoes of the Gujarat riots

The religious violence which has roiled Delhi since the weekend is the deadliest in decades.

Soutik Biswas India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 26 February 2020. What began as small clashes between supporters and opponents of a controversial citizenship law quickly escalated into full-blown religious riots between Hindus and Muslims, in congested working class neighbourhoods on the fringes of the sprawling capital.

Armed Hindu mobs rioted with impunity as the police appeared to look the other way. Mosques and homes and shops of Muslims were attacked, sometimes allegedly with the police in tow. Journalists covering the violence were stopped by the Hindu rioters and asked about their religion.

Videos and pictures emerged of the mob forcing wounded Muslim men to recite the national anthem, and mercilessly beating up a young Muslim man. Panicky Muslims began leaving mixed neighbourhoods.

On the other side, Muslim rioters have also been violent, some of them also armed, and a number of Hindus, including security personnel, are among the dead and injured.

Three days and 20 deaths later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his first appeal for peace. There were no commiserations for the victims. Delhi’s governing Aam Aadmi Party was criticised for not doing much either.

Many pointed to the egregious failure of Delhi’s police, the most well-resourced in India, and the inability of opposition parties to rally together, hit the streets and calm tensions. In the end, the rioters operated with impunity, and the victims were left to their fate.

Delhi tense after deadly religious riots

Not surprisingly, the ethnic violence in Delhi has drawn comparisons with two of India’s worst sectarian riots in living memory. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in anti-Sikh riots in the capital in 1984 after the then prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.

And in 2002, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died after a train fire killed 60 Hindu pilgrims in Gujarat, Mr Modi was then the chief minister of the state. The police were accused of complicity in both riots. The Delhi High Court, which is hearing petitions about the current violence, has said it cannot let “another 1984” happen on its “watch”.

Ashutosh Varshney, a professor of political science at Brown University who has extensively researched religious violence in India, believes that the Delhi riots are beginning to “look like a pogrom”, much like the ones in 1984 and 2002.

Pogroms happen, according to Professor Varshney, when the police do not act neutrally to stop riots, look on when mobs go on the rampage and sometimes “explicitly” help the perpetrators. Evidence of police apathy in Delhi has surfaced over the past three days. “Of course, the violence thus far has not reached the scale of Gujarat or Delhi. Our energies should now focus on preventing further escalation,” he says.

Political scientist Bhanu Joshi and a team of researchers visited constituencies in Delhi ahead of February’s state elections. They found the BJP’s “perfectly oiled party machinery constantly giving out the message about suspicion, stereotypes and paranoia”.

In one neighbourhood, they found a party councillor telling people: “You and your kids have stable jobs, money. So stop thinking of free, free. [She was alluding to free water and electricity being given to people by the incumbent government.] If this nation doesn’t remain, all the free will also vanish.”

Such paranoia about the security of the nation at a time when India has been at its most secure has “widened” existing ethnic divisions and “made people suspicious”, Mr Joshi said.

In the run-up to the Delhi elections Mr Modi’s party embarked on a polarising campaign around a controversial new citizenship law, the stripping of Kashmir’s autonomy and building a grand new Hindu temple on a disputed holy site.

Party leaders freely indulged in hate speech, and were censured by poll authorities. A widely reported protest against the citizenship law by women in Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood in Delhi, was especially targeted by the BJP’s campaign, which sought to show the protesters as “traitors”.

“The repercussion of this campaign machine is the normalisation of suspicion and hate reflected in WhatsApp groups, Facebook pages, and conversations families have among themselves,” says Mr Joshi.

It was only a matter of time before Delhi’s fragile stability would be shaken. On Sunday a BJP leader issued a threat, telling the Delhi police they had three days to clear the sites where people had been protesting against the citizenship law and warned of consequences if they failed to do so. The first reports of clashes emerged later that day. The ethnic violence that followed was a tragedy foretold.

The Tribune – Like-minded should come together: Bhagwant Mann

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 01 March 2020. Aam Aadmi Party state president and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann today claimed that the Punjab unit of the party would work independently and the state’s core committee would be supreme decision-making authority.

Reacting to the appointment of Tilak Nagar MLA Jarnail Singh as incharge of Punjab affairs, Mann said Delhi would only keep “supervision” over Punjab, but all decisions would be taken by the core committee.

“Just as Asha Kumari in the Congress is incharge of Punjab affairs, but does not take any decisions here, Jarnail Singh will be incharge of AAP. He is a respected MLA, who had won thrice from Tilak Nagar in Delhi. He will come here on 05 March. He will participate in a meeting of the core committee during his visit,” he said.

Mann was addressing mediapersons on the occasion of joining of BJP leader Gurtej Singh Pannu.

On speculations regarding former Congress minister Navjot Singh Sidhu joining AAP, he said individuals were not important, but it was time for all right-minded persons who wanted to build Punjab to come together. “Sidhu is an honest person and there is no allegation against him,” he said.

Jalandhar: AAP MLAs and leaders today said they would take up the issue of hegemony of the Badals in the transport business, in the Vidhan Sabha on Monday. Addressing the press here, MLAs Kultar Singh Sandhwan and Jai S Rodi said the state government had failed to streamline the working of the Transport Department.

Gent-Sint-Pieters – Leuven NMBS

18 Januari 2020

Track 1

IC to Brussel and Eupen leaves from an unusual platform

Leuven NMBS
18 Januari 2020

Bay platform A – S2 to Brussel and ‘s Gravenbrakel

I am waiting for the 16:21 to Brussel – Blankenberge

Leuven NMBS station

Leuven NMBS station

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Asian Image – How Sikhs and Muslims came together to fulfill dying wish of Bhagwan Singh

A Facebook post mentioning a village in Pakistan has led to two communities sharing their history.

Shuiab Khan – Writer & Columnist

Patiala – Panjab – India, 02 March 2020. The video features Bhagwan Singh who is talking about his childhood and youth in Pakistan.

He hailed from a small village called Bahowal, near the city of Gujrat in Pakistan and after partition he joined his family and other villagers as they left their home and headed across into India. Families settled in Ghuram just outside Patiala City and in Manewal, near Ludhiana.

In the video shared by his nephew Jatinder Singh Patiala, Bhagwan Singh can be heard talking about the village and surrounding landmarks. He also goes on to mention some of his friends from pre-partition India.

He had hoped that someone somewhere would see the video and it would help to bring two communities together separated by partition.

Bhagwan Singh was believed to be 88 when he died on February 17 and was a teenager growing up in 1940s India. His funeral took place on 26 February.

Jatinder said, “He was my uncle and was known as ‘Bahowalia Rab’ and a much loved man.

“One day he started talking about a village named Bahowal. I said I don’t know of any Bahowal but I will Google it. But we couldn’t find any major details on it. So he mentioned other villages around it and still we had no idea if this was the one he was mentioning.

“So, I said Baba can you tell me something about the pind (village) and we can make a video and hopefully someone somewhere will recognise it and we can make contact with people from the village.”

Jatinder said the video was filmed two months ago and Baba kept asking if anyone had been in touch.

Jatinder said, “I had no idea if anyone would see it. Sadly he passed away recently. Just a few days later it seemed to have been picked up by someone from Bahowal.

“Then all of a sudden I started getting phone calls from across the world.”

Soon after the post, the name ‘Bahowal’ had been recognised by Hamzah Sultan (the great grandson of Sultan Ahmed) who alerted others who had family in the village but living in the UK and America.

They had been told by their parents and grandparents that many Sikhs had resided in the village and had for decades wondered what became of their former compatriots.

Freedom fighters and military officers

Remnants of an old Gurdwara can still be found on the outskirts of the village the contents we have now learned were taken to the Gurdwara in Manewal.

Jatinder said, “Many of our ancestors travelled across India and we believe they hailed from Rajastan.”

They would trace their ancestry further back to those who lived under the reign of Amar Singh Rathore who was a Rajput nobleman affiliated with the royal house of Marwar.

The journey the families would have made after partition

Among them was Gurdit Singh, military officer and freedom fighter Gurmukh Singh who fought to gain independence from the British empire long before 1947. Both ended up in Ambala jail and their lands were taken by the British.

Jatinder also told of the famous Sikh Pehalwans (wrestlers), Harnam Singh and Barkat Singh.

Those who made the journey across the Punjab included Baba Bachittar Singh, Bhagwan Singh, Tarlok Singh. Gurmukh Singh, Molkha Singh, Chana Singh, Tara Singh, Hazara Singh, Barkat Singh and Mohinder Singh Lambardar.

Others travelled to Manewal, near Ludhiana and they included the families of Baba Sukhdev Singh Bedi, Beaunt Singh, Sudhager Singh, Rohar Singh, Bakhshi Singh and Bhaga Singh.

Soon contact was made from relatives in Blackburn, England and Jatinder, a history student who was researching his Rajput clan, told how those who had moved from the village were actually known as ‘Bahowalia’s,’ the very same term used to describe others in Pakistan who had moved away to Britain and the US!

Among those groups in Pakistan who were recollected were the Zaildars, Subedaars, Mehars, Bhagi Bharas, Baba Mhannis, the decendants of Baba Koda and the descendants of Sharaf Ali. Many reside in Blackburn, Lancashire whilst others in London and New York.

Images, of course, were hard to come by in an age when memories were shared through oral tradition.

One image of Ahmed Khan, a Blackburn bus conductor who came to the UK in the 1950s, was sent over in the hope someone would recognise him. Earlier, Ahmed Khan had joined the navy.

He was recognised and known to the Sikhs as one who had gone off to join the navy. And also someone who knew of the knowledge of the Sikhs history.

From Pakistan, one of the last surviving women from the era, Sardar Begum now aged 92, filmed a short message to be sent across the border. In it she describes some of her Sikh friends she played with as a child and her favourite store run by a Sikh family.

Another video from the village filmed by Riaz Ahmed gave a short tour of the village and through the narrow alleyways. Here, an old section of the Gurdwara remains still standing next to the Mosque.

The video was played to those who still remembered the village as children and they were said to be overwhelmed by the footage they saw.

Dawn – Shireen Mazari condemns ‘calls by political leaders to forcibly stop ‘Aurat March’

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 02 March 2020. Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari on Monday condemned those political leaders who were calling on people to “forcibly stop Aurat March”, set to take place on March 8.

“Women, like other segments of society, have a right to peacefully protest and demand their rights already enshrined in our Constitution,” Mazari said on Twitter.

“Our government is committed to ensuring an end to discrimination against and harassment of women and has put in place programmes, policies and legislative measures to empower women and girls,” she added.

Like the past two years, controversy is surrounding Aurat March 2020, which takes place on March 8, the same day as International Women’s Day.

Political parties are also polarised, with the PPP seeking security for the participants and JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman asking his followers to stop the march from taking place.

In a recent political rally, Rehman, without naming the Aurat March, said, “whenever you see these types of elements, you should alert security forces about them and if they [security forces] provide protection to these people, your sacrifices are going to be required to stop them by force”.

A petition in the Lahore High Court is also seeking a ban on the march, citing that it is “against the very norms of Islam” and that its hidden agenda is to spread “anarchy, vulgarity and hatred”.

During a hearing on Thursday, the LHC chief justice observed that “freedom of expression cannot be banned”.

In a statement issued on Sunday, PPP secretary general and former senator Farhatullah Babar said the Constitution guaranteed freedom of association and freedom of assembly to everyone and that could not be curtailed by those hurling threats.

Babar said that it was unfortunate that even some of those who claimed to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution were talking about using force to deny the women their right to hold peaceful assembly, peaceful protest and exercise freedom of expression.

He called upon the federal government to ensure that women were given all protection and no one was allowed to take the law into their hands in the federal capital.

When reminded that providing the march security in Sindh is the provincial government’s responsibility, Babar said that the party was fully aware of its responsibilities in this regard and that he had already talked to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on the matter.