The Statesman – War against Coronavirus can’t be fought with moral armaments, PM must act boldly: Chidambaram

PM Modi had on Thursday evening announced ‘Janata Curfew’ in the entire nation on 22 March, from 7 am to 9 pm to avoid public gatherings and prevent the spread of the deadly novel Coronavirus.

New Delhi – India, 20 March 2020. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday said the war against Coronavirus cannot be fought with “moral armaments” and asserted that lockdown was the only solution.

After offering his support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s measures to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, Chidambaram said the PM must come back with tougher social and economic measures to contain the disease.

“Yesterday, I got the impression that PM was testing the waters. He should act boldly. The war against corona-virus cannot be fought with moral armaments,” he tweeted.

He further stressed that “this was the moment to act” although the ICMR has said that the disease is still at Stage 2 in India. “Let us not allow this moment to pass without decisive action and regret later,” Chidambaram added.

He further said he is duty bound to support the PM in the fight against COVID-19 and added that the ‘Janata Curfew’ call for Sunday, March 22 will be followed.

PM Modi had on Thursday evening announced ‘Janata Curfew’ in the entire nation on March 22, from 7 am to 9 pm to avoid public gatherings and prevent the spread of the deadly novel Coronavirus.

Hours before the special address, Congress leader P Chidambaram had said he will be “disappointed” if the PM does not announce a total lockdown.

The former finance minister has expressed concerns and urged the Government to order an “immediate lockdown of all our towns and cities for 2-4 weeks” in an effort to contain the novel Coronavirus outbreak in the country.

War against Coronavirus can’t be fought with moral armaments, PM must act boldly: Chidambaram – Investigative report reveals disappearance of youth Sukhpal Singh & Encounter of Gurnam Bandala (Damdami Taksal) interlinked

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 20 March 2020. In an investigation report submitted in the Punjab & Haryana High Court, the Special Investigation Team headed by Siddhartha Chattopadhyay has stated that there is some kind of link between the fake encounter of Damdami Taksal activist Gurnam Bandala and disappearance of an innocent Sikh youth Sukhpal Singh.

The SIT has presented the statements of Sukhpal Singh’s wife Dalbir Kaur, his neighbors, prominent personalities of village Kala Afghana and Colonel G S Sandhu besides the statements of Gurnam Bandala.

According to the SIT, Bandala was shown killed in Morinda police station but he is still alive.

The SIT has also claimed that the SHO of Morinda police station has submitted a report in the Ropar Court that this case was unsolved. However, the Ropar Court’s record room authorities have denied any such kind of report. Meanwhile, the SIT has said that it will seek permission from the Ropar Court to further probe the case.

It is noteworthy here that the Punjab police had killed an innocent Sikh youth Sukhpal Singh Kala Afghana in a fake encounter in 1994 and had shown it the encounter of Damdami Taksal affiliated Gurnam Bandala, who was once a close aide of Baba Thakur Singh.

It is believed that this was an attempt by the Punjab police cops to provide a new life to Gurnam Bandala with a new identity. After the downfall of the Sikh militancy movement, several Sikh youths active in the Sikh militancy were rehabilitated by the Punjab police under new names after showing them killed in fake encounters.

Such a case of Amritpal Sukhi remained in news during the early years of the last decade. On coming under fire after exposure Amritpal Sukhi’s case, the former Punjab DGP Sarbdeep Virk had admitted of “rehabilitating” more than 400 such youths.

In a book named Neeh Rakhi Gayi, senior journalist Mohinder Singh had exposed Gurnam Bandala’s role in misguiding Baba Thakur Singh about the martyrdom of the great Sikh of 20th century Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale due to which the Damdami Taksal didn’t declare the martyrdom of Sant Bhindranwale for about two decades.

A faction of Damdami Taksal headed by Amrik Singh Ajnala still believes that Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale escaped Sri Akal Takht Sahib during June-1984’s holocaust and that he is still alive.

Gurnam Bandala is also accused of carrying out several internecine killings of prominent Sikh militants like Sukhdev Singh Sakhira and Gurinder Singh Bhola besides several other All India Sikh Student Federation leaders.

Investigative Report Reveals Disappearance of Youth Sukhpal Singh & Encounter of Gurnam Bandala (Damdami Taksal) Interlinked

Gentbrugse Meersen – Brusselsesteenweg – VijfWindgatenstraat

Gentbrugse Meersen
12 February

Result of storm

Nature will break this tree down to fertilise the soil

A more park-like part of the Meersen

Spring ! New leaves

15 February

Brusselsesteenweg, rail and E17 viaducts
Taken from tram stop Schooldreef

Vijfwindgatenstraat, Tram 4 to UZ via Muide

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Print – Kashmir’s Chitti Singhpora struggles between remembering and forgetting a 20-yr-old massacre

A plaque embossed in the wall of a gurdwara where 17 of 35 Kashmiri Sikh men were lined up and shot dead is now gone. All that remains are bullet holes.

Khushdeep Kaur Malhotra

Chitti Singhpora – Anantnag – Jammu & Kashmir, 20 March 2020. Exactly twenty years ago, on 20 March 2000, thirty-five Sikh men were massacred by armed assailants in Chitti Singhpora village in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

Nearly everyone in the village recalls the evening in the exact same way: the assailants turned up at around 7:30 pm, lined the men up in front of the two central gurdwaras on the pretext of a routine ‘crackdown’, shot them dead, and disappeared into the night.

Hidden amongst lush apple orchards, the village is hard to find, except for a yellow banner marking its entrance. It will replace one that lay in tatters until recently. It is the first of many reminders in this living memorial, “shaheedan da pind” (village of the martyred), as it has come to be known.

The new banner that villagers have decided to put up at the entrance of Chitti Singhpora

Although 20 years have passed, and efforts to keep Chitti Singhpora alive in the public memory continue, people’s own willingness to remember tells a different story.

“They are just forgetting it, they are trying to forget it,” lamented 25-year old Baani over the phone.

For Baani (not her real name), whose father was one of those massacred, March is a difficult month in the village, not only because most of the families are away in their winter homes in Jammu, but also because to her it feels like people have moved on.

At the commemoration ceremony in 2019, attended by less than a few hundred local people, she showed me the inside of Gurdwara Samundri Hall where the last rites of the ‘martyrs’, as the village remembers them, were performed.

“Kutte bathroom karde si ethe (dogs would relieve themselves here),” she said, informing me that the place was only recently fenced after family members of the deceased protested the desecration of a space that has become sacred to them.

There was a memorial outside with a plaque embossed in the wall of Gurudwara Samundri Hall (where 17 of the 35 men were lined up and shot dead), stating:

“In Memory of 35 Martyrs,
Who Were Murdered On The Night of March 20, 2000,
By Unknowns”

The plaque is gone. For now, only the holes that the bullets made in the wall, highlighted in yellow, remain.

Earlier in 2018, a fire that started due to an electric malfunction engulfed almost all of Gurudwara Samundri Hall, including the wall that carried photos of the martyred, a second “shaheedi” as the village residents saw it.

Work is on to rebuild its main façade, with the aim of constructing a ‘historical’ gurdwara marking the Chitti Singhpora massacre. But while these markers are important reminders of a history that risks erasure, what those who lost their loved ones most desire, is justice.

Searching for closure

For three years now, I have been in continuous conversation with the men and women, old and young, who do this labour of remembering. While media, researchers like myself, guests curious to know its history, and even anniversaries come and go, answers to what happened and why remain elusive. So does the hope that these answers will ever come.

While Chitti Singhpora has seen ‘development’ after the massacre, as many of the local people often remark, Darbara Singh (name changed), a petite man with huge brown eyes and a heart to match, asks me, “Tussi mainu dasso, roadan ta ban hi janiya si, par sadde Daddy da jawab kaun dega? (you tell me, roads would have been made anyway, but who will answer for our father’s death?)”.

Memorials, as anthropologist Ruth Van Dyke writes, are “conscious statements about what to remember”, and place, as sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argues, “is a starting point to retrieve memory”. But where there is a litany of massacres that have hardly left anyone untouched, what is memorialisation without justice?

The Indian government said the massacre was the work of terror outfits from across the border, but Kashmiris (in my research, both Sikhs and Muslims) believe it was the work of ‘agencies’ to show American President Bill Clinton, who was visiting on the day, that minorities in Kashmir were unsafe.

Yet another narrative is that this was the work of renegades, intended to create communal tensions between Kashmiri Sikhs and Muslims.

Just another chapter in history

Whatever the ‘truth’, as 60-year-old Nanak Singh, the sole survivor of the massacre, said to me in my first meeting with him in 2017, “Koi vi kuch vi kar sakda hai. Militants aakhange government of India ne kitta, government kahegi militants ne maarya. Es vele Kashmiri Sikh nihatta hai.

We are scapegoats, jad lod payegi, qurban kar den ge (Anyone can do anything. The militants will say the Indian government has done it; government will say militants killed them. At this time, the Kashmiri Sikh is helpless. We are scapegoats, when needed, they will sacrifice us).”

To date, Chitti Singhpora has been the subject of only one government inquiry, and even that was never made public and was later found by a Justice Pandian commission probe to have had many irregularities.

One of these relates to the five Kashmiri Muslim men who were killed in the days after, in a nearby village called Panchalthan. You have probably heard of it as the Pathribal encounter. The case is still being fought in the Indian Supreme Court.

In the quagmire that is Kashmir, the impossibility of seeking the ‘truth’ is perhaps why Chitti Singhpora has been relegated to a ‘localised’ event, one which Baani said, people are trying to forget. It’s also why, as Darbara Singh cautioned, “E ta itihaas banke rehe jayega, hor kuch ni hona (this will become just another chapter in history, nothing else).”

The author is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. Views are personal.

Kashmir’s Chitti Singhpora struggles between remembering and forgetting a 20-yr-old massacre

The Print – Four other CM contenders in MP but here’s why BJP likely to go with Shivraj Chouhan again

Madhya Pradesh looks set for a change in government with Congress leader Kamal Nath resigning as chief minister ahead of the floor test.

Shanker Arnimesh

Bhopal – Madhya Pradesh – India, 20 March 2020. With the resignation of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Friday, the BJP is set to form the state government under former three-term chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, ThePrint has learnt.

While there are other contenders, primarily BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and former state minister Narottam Mishra, sources said the party was unlikely to look beyond Chouhan, who is seen as a popular leader.

The BJP will have to field and ensure the victory of the 22 Congress rebels, the sources added, and Chouhan’s popularity was key to this objective.

“Shivraj Singh Chouhan has a clear-cut edge in becoming the chief minister for the fourth time over other contenders,” a source said.

“Being a popular chief minister, he was the face of the BJP in the 2018 assembly elections and he was just short of a majority, so it is very unlikely that the BJP high command will deny Shivraj Singh Chouhan chief minister-ship,” the source added.

A party strategist said the new leader will be chosen at a BJP legislature party meeting. “Other formalities will be decided after the meeting,” the strategist added.

Why Shivraj is essential in the number game

Other main contenders for the chief minister’s chair include Vijayvargiya, who serves as general secretary in charge of West Bengal and is known as former BJP president Amit Shah’s man, and Mishra, the BJP whip who was instrumental in “managing the Congress MLAs”, according to the sources.

There was a glimpse of internal conflict at a legislature party meeting last week when supporters of Chouhan and Mishra raised slogans against each other.

Mishra was also a contender when the BJP was looking to decide the leader of the opposition, but Shivraj voted for Gopal Bhargava, a low-profile leader, to ensure he willingly hands over charge in the event of a change in government, sources said.

There are two other contenders in Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, a Modi-Shah confidant and good friend of Chouhan who served as state party president when he was chief minister, and state BJP chief Vishnu Dutt Sharma.

However, according to sources, the two upper caste leaders are unlikely to make the cut over Chouhan, a member of the other backward classes. Also, said one source, Chouhan only put in efforts in the recent machinations when the BJP high command assured him that he would lead the battle.

“Tomar is a good organiser but at this juncture he can’t ensure wins of defected MLAs,” the source added. Vijayvargiya said he didn’t expect a role in Madhya Pradesh given that he had “big work” to do in West Bengal ahead of the 2021 assembly polls.

“I am doing big work assigned by Amit Shah to defeat the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal,” said Vijayvargiya. “This is much bigger work and it is not completed yet. So there is little question of my candidature. Shivraj ji is at the helm of affairs and the party will select a leader after the trust vote.”

Kamal Nath and Congress out – Shivraj Chouhan and BJP in

Four other CM contenders in MP but here’s why BJP likely to go with Shivraj Chouhan again