The Telegraph – Banner home-truths for Yogi Adityanath and friends

The headline on the banners read: Janata mange jawab, in dangaiyon se wasuli kab

The banner put up by Congress supporters on Saturday in Lucknow shows pictures of several BJP leaders, including Yogi Adityanath, and says they are accused in riot cases. More opponents are paying chief minister Yogi Adityanath back in his own banner. Picture by Naeem Ansari

Piyush Srivastava

Lucknow – Uttar Pradesh – India, 15 March 2020. Uttar Pradesh police have brought down banners put up by a Samajwadi Party leader on Friday night beside the government’s “name-and-shame” hoardings against anti-citizenship act protesters.

But new banners with pictures of the ruling BJP’s leaders, including the chief minister, were put up by two Congress supporters on Saturday morning.

Besides that of Adityanath, the new banners feature the pictures of Keshav Prasad Maurya, deputy chief minister; Sanjeev Baliyan, minister of state for animal husbandry in the Narendra Modi government; Sangeet Som, Umesh Mallik and Suresh Rana, all BJP MLAs; and Sadhvi Prachi, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader.

An error in the poster was testimony to the haste in which it was printed. It carried the photo of Radha Mohan Singh, a senior BJP leader of Bihar and former central minister but the name written below was that of Radha Mohan Das Agrawal, who is a BJP leader of Gorakhpur.

The headline on the banners, put up in Hazratganj area and also near Vidhan Sabha and at the gate of the BJP office, read: “Janata mange jawab, in dangaiyon se wasuli kab (The people are asking, when recovery would be done from these rioters)?”

The state government has put up 100 hoardings featuring photographs, names and addresses of 53 anti-CAA protesters across Lucknow city, declaring that they would be made to pay for the damages to public and private properties, caused at a protest against the amended law on 19 December 2019.

While Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court had said there was no such law to put up the pictures of citizens at public places, the state cabinet on Friday cleared an ordinance amid suggestions that it will have a provision to get around possible legal pitfalls.

I P Singh, a Samajwadi leader, had struck back first. Beside the government hoardings, he put up banners with pictures of Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a rapist who was in the BJP, and Swami Chinmayanand, a former Union minister of state for home, who is accused of sexually exploiting a law student. The police had promptly removed the banners.

The fresh banners erected by Sudhanshu Bajpai and Lalu Kanaujia, the two Congress supporters, kept Lucknow police busy on Saturday.

These banners mention that “Ajay Singh Bist alias Yogi Adityanath” and Maurya are accused of rioting in five and 11 cases, respectively. The other leaders whose pictures and names have been printed (except the erroneously published picture of Radha Mohan Singh) are also accused of rioting.

Bajpai told reporters that he was annoyed with the government’s action against those who were democratically protesting. “The government erected the hoardings with pictures, names and addresses of peace-loving citizens just because they were critical of the Modi government’s citizenship act.

Adityanath wants to impound their properties to make up the loss. However, the BJP leaders whose pictures and names have been published on the new banners have also damaged properties. They should also be made to pay against the damages,” said Bajpai.

Dhirendra Pratap, station house officer of Hazratganj police station, said: “Besides municipal authority’s action against such unauthorised banners, the police are also registering cases against them for breach of peace.”

The Tribune – Coronavirus: NRIs visiting Punjab stay put, as do those planning to come

Deepkamal Kaur

Jalandhar – Panjab – India, It was supposed to be a spring vacation for travel freak couple Amit Taneja and Monika Taneja and their children as they were to head to New York on March 3.

As the kids’ school session had just got over, the Jalandhar-based Tanejas had planned to take them to a host of tourist sites and catch up with their extended family settled in the USA during the 15-day break. But the entire plan went haywire in the wake of panic over the spread of corona-virus.

“I feel it was a wise decision. There is no point travelling amid so much scare,” says Amit. All his NRI relatives, too, have shelved their plans to come to India, “My Surrey-based uncle, who had his flight booked for 26 March, has got it cancelled.

My Vancouver-based cousin, who was to be here for a wedding, is skipping it. Another friend, who was in Kapurthala and was to leave after construction of his house, advanced his tickets to New York by 22 days.”

More than the Indian tourists, it is the NRIs who are affected. Currently at their native places in Doaba region of Punjab, there are many who have chosen to extend their stay here.

Though most of them hail from the US, UK and Canada, they said they were avoiding travel as they were scared of catching the respiratory infection from other tourists at the airport.

Tara Singh Gosal, a Calgary-based NRI, said, “As many as 15 persons from my family are at our native home in Nawanshahr. We were to return on 02 March but we cancelled our flights as everyone advised us to take precaution. Everyone’s work is getting affected, but we have no choice. We will leave only after the virus threat subsides.”

Kulwant Singh Mahal and wife Bhagwinder Kaur, who are currently at their native Kot Fatuhi village of Mahilpur (Hoshiarpur) and were to go back to Milpitas city in California, have deferred their plans to return. “We will now go only after the Covid-19 threat goes off.”

Now that they are stuck here, NRIs are staying away from crowded places and gatherings in Punjab too. Most elderly NRIs have especially chosen to put off their travel for a longer period because they have been warned that aged people with a chronic history of diabetes, heart problems, high BP and compromised immunity are more prone to the infection.

They are also sceptical about quarantine policies upon arrival, which could lead to their isolation and confinement for 14 days at hospitals. There are monetary issues involved as well, as some of them have got refunds from airlines upon cancellation but many have been denied. Also, all direct flights have become very expensive.

Academicians put brakes

Several international conferences are being postponed. Professor Lakhwinder Pal Singh from Dr B R Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, said he had been invited to Dubai for a conference where he was to receive an award, besides presenting a paper and chairing a session.

But he received a communication that the conference had been cancelled and it would now be held on virtual mode. “They sent me the award by mail asking me to send soft copies of Power Point presentations which would be shown in an e-conference.”

Another professor from the same institute who was to go to Bangkok for a conference on chemical engineering too received a cancellation notice. Director, Public Relations from Lovely Professional University, Aman Mittal said he cancelled his Europe trip last week.

Slump in tourism

For tourism and airlines companies, there has been a complete slump. Amir Hussain, director of sales and marketing, Dream Fly Vacation, said, “Our business has fallen badly with most customers either cancelling or postponing their travel plans. Our company was taking two big corporate trips, one of 195 persons to Dubai and another of 90 members to Sri Lanka.

Both have been cancelled. We had made advance payments for hotel bookings and cannot refund the money. Even though April, May and June are peak travel months, there are no fresh queries for advance bookings. People are on a wait-and-watch mode.”

Trade affected, prices up

Traders who had been importing material from China are looking for other possible sources. Amit Sehgal, president of the Phagwara Gate Electrical Goods Market Association, said, “Some dealers would earlier go to China to buy new stuff but no one is now even thinking of travelling.

Supplies from China have been curtailed. There is a spurt in the prices of electrical items as a result. The prices of LED bulbs have already shot up by 10 per cent. The prices of spare parts like pumps used in coolers and fan bearings have gone up by 20-25 per cent.”

Leuven NMBS – Gent Veldstraat – Gurdwara Gent

Leuven NMBS
01 February 2020

Leuven NMBS

Leuven NMBS

Gent Veldstraat
Tramstop Zonnestraat
02 February 2020

Tramstop Zonnestraat – Tram 1 to Flanders Expo

Tram 1 to Flanders Expo

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
02 February 2020

Granthi Singh reading from Guru Granth Sahib

Sikh women reciting Sukhmani Sahib

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

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Indian Express – No let up in pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Sahib despite coronavirus scare in Pakistan; No plan to close Golden Temple; and more

Coronavirus: No plan to close Golden Temple, any other gurdwara, says SGPC; Punjab DCs told not to grant permission for mass gatherings

Man Aman Singh Chhina & Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar/Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 March 2020. The coronavirus scare notwithstanding, there is no let up in the number of Indian pilgrims crossing over into Pakistan to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur with nearly 4,000 visitors having made the journey in the past one week.

A senior Border Security Force (BSF) official Friday said that no foreign national will be allowed to enter India from Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah border, but the movement of pilgrims from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur through the Kartarpur Corridor to the Sikh shrine in Pakistan would continue.

This comes even as the Union government said that a call on Kartarpur Corridor’s closure in view of the WHO-declared pandemic will be taken soon. The Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh, however, said that the corridor must be kept open.

The Jathedar told mediapersons in Amritsar that the corridor is a matter of faith for the Sikhs and it should only be closed if all other international pilgrimages too are suspended.

With the contagious virus having made its presence felt in Pakistan too, health officials have been expressing their concern over keeping the border crossing at Kartarpur open.

Pakistan government has detected 28 cases of coronavirus till now with eight of them being Army officers between the ranks of Lt Colonel and Major General posted in Rawalpindi in Punjab. Cases have also been reported in Pakistan from Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Health officials in Panjab say that since Pakistani citizens also have access to Kartarpur Sahib, there is a danger that some of the infected individuals may pass on the virus to Indian pilgrims visiting the shrine.

Data accessed by The Indian Express from Punjab government officials show that 3,871 pilgrims have visited Kartarpur Sahib after crossing over from Dera Baba Nanak border in Gurdaspur between 07 and 13 March.

The figures show that 585 visitors crossed the border on 07 March; 1,111 on 08 March; 618 on 09 March; 417 on 10 March; 452 on 11 March; 331 on 12 March, and 357 on 13 March 13.

State government officials inform that approximately 16,000 passengers have been screened at the Dera Baba Nanak check post with Pakistan and that no individual has been found to be symptomatic for coronavirus till now.

Meanwhile, the Global Sikh Council has urged greater precaution at gurdwaras. It has asked all gurdwara managements to scale up precautionary measures. The president of the council, Gurpreet Singh said that use of food grade gloves for sewadars and volunteers performing sewa in langars should be enforced.

Speaking about Kartarpur Corridor, Gurpreet Singh said that there is no hard and fast rule that pilgrims have to visit the gurdwara when such a disease is prevalent.

“Our appeal to the ‘Sangat’ is that they should judge the situation themselves as far as Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is concerned. It is upto the individual to decide and exercise whatever restraint that they want to use. Unless you know for sure that there is some emergency the state should not interfere till then,” he said.

The closure of Kartarpur Sahib corridor is an emotive issue in Punjab even if it is for temporary period. There had been a huge furore in February when the state DGP Dinkar Gupta made a statement that the corridor could be misused by Pakistan to train terrorists in a few hours time that the visitors’ spend in Pakistan.

The Kartarpur Corridor, which was opened on 09 November last year, links the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, with Dera Baba Nanak India’s Punjab.

No plan to close Golden Temple, any other gurdwara, says SGPC

There is no plan to ask devotees to stay away from the Golden Temple or other gurdwaras, the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Friday said, adding that it has already taken necessary precautionary measures to avoid spread of coronavirus.

“There is no dent in the number of devotees. They are still coming (to Golden Temple) in same numbers. There was a long queue today too. Panic over the coronavirus has failed to discourage the devotees. The tourist inflow, however, has decreased,” SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh told the Indian Express.

“Devotion works in its own way. Devotees have faith that all their pain will be healed with the power of prayer. How can we ask devotes to not come to gurdwaras? It is not even on our mind,” he added.

Roop Singh, however said, that it doesn’t mean that the SGPC was not alert. “We have told devotees not to shake hands. We have also replaced the towels at the hand washing points inside Golden Temple with paper napkins. We are taking precautions,” he added.

Meanwhile, amid reports that some gurdwaras in the United Kingdom have been closed for the devotees over coronavirus fears, Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh said, “We don’t have anything to comment. The managers of those gurdwaras are wise enough to take the right decision. They must have taken decision to close the shrines after calculating all the aspects in the respective country. We leave this decision to them”.

Earlier the Jathedar had made an appeal to the devotees visiting Golden Temple to avoid shaking hands. “Administration has told us that devotees coming to Golden Temple should take precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus and they must avoid hand shake.

Devotees should greet everyone with traditional Sikh Fateh. We should keep hands clean. Devotees are welcome at Golden Temple. I appeal all to take precautions and pray to God to save us all from this disease,” the Jathedar said.

Golden Temple receives 80,000 to one lakh visitors every day on an average and the numbers increase on weekend and holidays. The SGPC officials claim that even now close to 50,000 devotees are visiting the Golden Temple.

Punjab DCs told not to grant permission for mass gatherings

A seven-member group of ministers, formed by the Punjab government to review on a daily basis the situation triggered by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Friday asked the deputy commissioners not to grant permission for mass gatherings.

In a meeting held here under the chairmanship of Local Bodies Minister Brahm Mohindra, the panel urged religious leaders and Dera (sect) heads to postpone their scheduled religious congregations.

Mohindra said that to check the spread of the deadly disease, 2,200 quarantine beds were ready throughout the state. Also, a total 250 ventilators in private hospitals and 20 ventilators each were ready at government medical colleges in Amritsar and Patiala.

The minister said consistent awareness campaign would be launched in coordination with all the government departments, the Indian Medical Association, social and religious organisations, and NGOs to educate people to refrain from shaking hands and avoid mass gatherings.

Mohindra added that anganwadi workers, panchayat secretaries and others would establish personal contact with all the households in the rural areas to sensitise the people.

Later in the day, Minister for Social Security, Women and Child Development Aruna Chaudhary, announced holidays for children in all Anganwadi Centres in state till March 31 owing to the Covid-19 threat. The staff will, however, continue to be present at the Anganwadi Centres.

More than 88,000 passengers have been screened so far for coronavirus at the Amritsar and Mohali airports. Over 6,600 passengers with travel history to coronavirus-affected countries were screened and 335 passengers were found untraced, according to government statement.

A passenger, who returned from Italy, was tested positive and was admitted to government hospital in Amritsar. Seven passengers were found to have symptoms of suspected coronavirus, as per the bulletin. (ENS)

Dawn – A call to arms

Irfan Husain

Op/Ed, 14 March 2020. Let’s not kid ourselves: ‘mera jism, meri marzi’ (my body, my choice) is not a mere slogan. It is a call to arms.

Those thugs who stoned the women participating in the Aurat March in Islamabad recently are aware of the implications of the activism displayed by the girls and women who marched. They want to seal off the contagion of free choice before it enters their homes and infects their wives, sisters and daughters.

This battle between the sexes has been fought for millennia, and mostly, it has been contested across the bodies of women. It is only in the last century that women in the West have gained a measure of equality. Apart from a handful of small matriarchal societies, men have called the shots around the world.

Women demanding equality in Muslim countries are routinely told that their religion gave them unprecedented rights when it was first revealed. This is true. But no society and no rules can remain frozen.

Just as slavery was once acceptable but is now discarded, so, too, do our women need to move on with the rest of the world. The reality is that we cannot make meaningful progress while half our population is marginalised.

Even within the Islamic world, there are wide variations in women’s rights. When Islam swept out of the Arabian peninsula, it encountered and conquered many societies and regions with totally different traditions and practices.

From Kosovo to Kabul, while oppression was common, women participated in society to varying degrees. In Afghanistan and Arabia, they were always forced to cover themselves.

For centuries, oppressive attitudes have prevailed under the garb of religious sanction. And while Muslim women watch most of their non-Muslim sisters progress socially, they mostly remain stuck in the past, at the mercy of their men, with few economic or educational opportunities.

In Pakistan, women are worse off than virtually every country in the world. According to the latest Global Gender Gap Index issued by the World Economic Forum, Pakistan sits virtually at the bottom (151st out of 153 countries listed), having risen from 112th in 2006.

In terms of economic participation, we are down to 150, and score a miserable 143 in educational attainment. But we score well in honour killings and domestic violence.

The men who tried to violently block the Aurat March in Islamabad are unconcerned with progress and education. They know they will get left behind, but want to ensure that they retain control at home, free to beat their wives and daughters, and force them to do domestic chores for the rest of their lives.

Being a man, I obviously have no direct experience of the daily humiliations and pain women endure every day of their lives. Even my indirect anecdotal knowledge is limited as my father had just one brother; I was one of five brothers; and my only son has two lovely young boys. So clearly, there was a severe shortage of females for me to learn from in my life.

This changed when I encountered my four free-spirited English stepdaughters who put me on a steep learning curve. They enjoyed their visits to Pakistan, although the youngest complained about all the restrictions she had to endure. Now they are older, they have no time to come, and the violence of a few years ago has put them off.

This is the kind of freedom most Pakistani men fear. Their impression of the West comes mostly from cheap soft porn movies that depict a decadent culture where women sleep around, and men often play second fiddle.

And yet, in the index I have just cited, women (and men, for that matter) fare much better in the very societies we criticise for their supposed licentiousness.

But Pakistanis (and Muslims from other countries) spend a fortune trying to reach Western countries by hook or by crook. And if the whole family can’t make it, young men are put on dangerous paths at the mercy of people smugglers.

If and when they finally make it, they encounter the temptations of the West. Obviously, they cannot allow their sisters to emulate this lifestyle, but many of the men themselves indulge in criminal sexual activity.

These double standards are widely prevalent across the Muslim world. To impose them, men use legal means and dubious dogma. Women, mostly uneducated, often accept the status quo as a religious norm.

In Pakistan, as well as in most Muslim countries, educated urban women have made some progress in terms of jobs in government departments and the corporate sector. Others with supportive parents have been able to go abroad to study.

But almost all of them conform to the demands of conservative societies in terms of family responsibilities. Until we men learn to do our share, little will change for women or our backward societies.