The Hindu – Tough test for the BJP in Haryana

Political analyst says farmers’ issues could impact outcome, but party buoyed by Jind bypoll win.

Vikas Vasudeva

Chandigarh – Haryana – India, 11 May 2019. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP almost swept Haryana riding on the “Modi” wave and an undercurrent of anger against the ruling Congress for alleged regional biases in recruitment and development.

For the May 12 election in the State, the voters are, however, set to rate the ruling BJP on its performance and fulfillment of election promises in the State and the Centre.

In 2014, the BJP won seven of the 10 seats and the Indian National Lok Dal two. The Congress retained just the Rohtak seat, won by Deepender Singh Hooda, son of the then Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The BJP contested eight seats, while its then ally, the Haryana Janhit Congress, lost the two it contested.

A leading political analyst in the State opines that in 2014, the BJP benefited from a confluence of favourable factors.

“Apart from the undercurrent [against the Congress] and Modi wave, Jat division and non-Jat consolidation proved to be a catalyst in 2014,” said Kushal Pal, Head of the Department of Political Science at Dyal Singh College in Karnal.

“Also, the BJP got the support of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, which helped the party in a big way as north Haryana has a sizeable strength of Dera supporters. Another factor that worked in the BJP’s favour was the crossing over of senior Congress leaders like Birendra Singh and Rao Inderjeet Singh,” he said.

This time, however, the performance of the BJP at the Centre and in the State are likely to be a larger factor in influencing voting intentions. The recent win in the Jind Assembly election and victories in the municipal polls in five cities have buoyed the BJP’s confidence.

However, with the Congress fielding seasoned campaigners like Kumari Selja and Ashok Tanwar in many seats, the party is seen offering a “challenging fight”.

“People will assess the BJP on what has been delivered by it on key promises, which included two crore jobs, and this doesn’t look to be working in favour of the party,” Professor Pal said.

The BJP has been consistently evoking the national security issue. “Haryana sends its youth to the armed forces so air strikes post Pulwama and surgical strikes will find some favour. But with the BJP not in favour of farm loan waiver schemes, it could dent its farmer vote base,” he said.

The Congress is publicising its proposed ‘Nyay’ scheme, besides policies aimed at benefiting farmers.

“The grand old party is also banking on its old warhorses including former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his son Deepinder Singh Hooda,” observed Mr. Pal. “Besides, it has fielded heavyweight leaders including Kumari Selja, Ashok Tanwar and Kuldeep Sharma to not let the election be a cakewalk for the BJP,” he added.

This time, the INLD’s breakaway faction, the Jannayak Janta Party, is in the fray and is contesting seven seats in alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/tough-test-for-the-bjp-in-haryana/article27104734.ec

The Indian Express – Mohali: Police bust terror module, arrest 5 Babbar Khalsa men

Police also recovered a .32 bore pistol along with a magazine and four live cartridges and 15 letter pads of the BKI from the accused.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 01 April 2019. In a major breakthrough, the State Special Operation Cell (SSOC) of the Punjab Police busted a terror module and arrested five “highly radicalised” members of the banned Babbar Khalsa International (BKI).

Police also recovered a .32 bore pistol along with a magazine and four live cartridges and 15 letter pads of the BKI from the accused.

Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of SSOC, Mohali, Varinder Paul Singh, said that acting on a tip off they had busted a militant module comprising of highly radicalised youth, who were planning to kill specific targets, including Hindu leaders and members of Dera Sacha Sauda.

Those arrested include Harvinder Singh, a resident of Rally village in Sector 12, Panchkula, Sultan Singh, a resident of Saidpura village in Kurukshetra, Haryana, Karamjeet Singh, a resident of Raoke Kalan village in Moga district, Lovepreet Singh, a resident of Baliyan village in Sangrur district and, Gurpreet Singh alias Preet, a resident of Sector 20-C, Chandigarh.

Three other accused who were named in the FIR, but are yet to be arrested, are Rupinder Singh, a resident of Niwasri village in Kurukshetra district in Haryana, Daler Singh Bunty, a resident of Rohini in New Delhi and Ranjit Singh, a resident of Pakhoke village in Gurdaspur district. Ranjit Singh is a former chief of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) and is based in Germany, police said.

It is always difficult to make out what are facts or fiction in these stories. I suspect that the people arrested are in favour of Khalistan and have grudges against leaders of the Dera Sacha Sauda and certain radical Hindu leaders. But one .32 bore pistol and 15 letter pads are not very convincing evidence of serious offences planeed.
Man in Blue

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/mohali-police-bust-terror-module-arrest-5-babbar-khalsa-men-5651908/

Sikh24.com – Kaithal attack: SGPC announces financial aid for victim Sikhs

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 26 March 2019. The apex Sikh body Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has announced financial aid for the Sikhs who were attacked by the Hindus of Badsui village on March 23.

The family of deceased Sikh Shamsher Singh will be given a financial aid of Rupees 2,00,000/- while all the other injured Sikhs will be given financial aid worth 25,000/- each.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal made this announcement while meeting the injured Sikhs at Rajendra Hospital in Patiala on March 25.

Strongly criticizing the attack, Longowal said that the attacks on minorities in India are rising day by day. He added that the Union government of India and the state governments need to adopt strong strategies to tackle such attacks.

It may be recalled here that the Hindu villagers of Badsui village (Kaithal) had attacked Gurdwara Sahib on March 23 in which an innocent Sikh Shamsher Singh had lost life and several others were injured.

The assailants had even tried to attack the holy corpus of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji but the Sikh men present inside the Gurdwara premises didn’t let them succeed.

https://www.sikh24.com/2019/03/26/kaithal-attack-sgpc-announces-financial-aid-for-victim-sikhs/#.XJumCrh7nIU

Sikh24.com – Hindu villagers attack Gurdwara Sahib in Kaithal; 50 year old Sikh lost life, 16 others injured

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 24 March 2019. An innocent Sikh Shamsher Singh (50) reportedly lost life and several others got injured in an attack on a Gurdwara Sahib of Badsui village of Kaithal (Haryana) by the Hindu villagers.

It is learnt that the Hindu assailants even tried to attack the holy corpus of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji but the Sikh men present inside the Gurdwara premises succeeded in defending the holy corpus.

Sikh24 has learnt that the Sikhs were attacked in a pre-planned way by the Hindus as there was a longstanding dispute of land between the two communities of Badsui village.

A few months ago, the issue was resolved with the interference of village Panchayat but the Hindu villagers crossed the line of mutual understanding in a deliberated way and later attacked the Sikhs showing hooliganism over the minority.

An injured Sikh told the media that the Hindu villagers erected a boundary wall in the night while illegally taking possession of Gurdwara Sahib’s land.

“When we (Sikhs) gathered together in the morning hours and went to the Temple to express our objection to their move, they attacked us due to which one of us lost life while several others got injured,” he added.

The injured Sikh further informed that the Hindu villagers then attacked on Gurdwara Sahib while hurling stones and bricks, but the Sikhs present there succeeded in shielding the Gurdwara premises.

“One of us died and two others got seriously injured during this attack while we eight are getting treatment here in the local hospital,” he said while adding that the seriously injured have been transferred to PGI, Chandigarh.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that a case has been registered against 35 Hindu villagers and the Police has rounded up 17 Hindu assailants. The police has also destroyed the illegal wall constructed by the Hindu villagers during the darkness of the night hours.

A Special Investigation Team has been also constituted to probe the incident.

https://www.sikh24.com/2019/03/24/hindu-villagers-attack-gurdwara-sahib-in-kaithal-50-year-old-sikh-lost-life-16-others-injured/#.XJfDhbh7nIU

The Hindu – Tension grips Haryana village as demonstrators tell residents to oust Kashmiri students

Ashok Kumar

Gurugram – Haryana – India, 16 February 2019. Tension gripped Mullana village in Haryana’s Ambala on Saturday after some demonstrators told the villagers to oust Kashmiri students who were staying on rent there.

The students are pursuing courses at the Maharishi Markandeshwar University. The demonstrators are said to have told the villagers that the students’ activities were “suspicious”.

They threatened to hold demonstrations outside the houses of villagers who did not send the students away within 24 hours. Announcements were made on loudspeaker too. A video of the situation in Mullana began to circulate on social media.

Police have requested the university authorities to accommodate the students in a hostel on campus.

Ambala Superintendent of Police Astha Modi told The Hindu over phone that the comments in the video were “misdirected” but the situation on the ground was “perfectly normal”. She said that security had been stepped up at the village and around the campus.

“We are speaking to the sarpanches to ensure that no more provocative videos are shot and no one indulges in this kind of activity. We are looking into the security of these students,” said Ms. Modi, adding that there was no formal complaint registered against the shooting of the video.

Sultan Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, said “We have supplied our phone numbers to students and asked them to get in touch if they face any harassment.”

J K Sharma, the university’s dean of students welfare, said around a hundred off-campus students have now been accommodated in the hostel. He said the university had adequate security arrangements and it was safe inside the campus.

Two police personnel were also deployed at the Technology Education and Research Integrated Institutions campus in Kurukshetra in Haryana. M.P. Gupta, adviser to the trust running the institutions, said there were around 15 Kashmiri students in the hostel.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tension-grips-haryana-village-as-demonstrators-tell-residents-to-oust-kashmiri-students/article26292879.ece?homepage=true

Sikh24.com – Three Sikh youths sentenced to life just for possessing printed material about Sikh martyrs

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 06 February 2019. A Nawanshehar based Court of Additional Sessions Judge Randhir Sharma on February 5 addressed life imprisonment to three Sikh youths namely Arwinder Singh (Nawashehr), Surjit Singh (Gurdaspur) and Ranjit Singh (Kaithal, Haryana) just for possessing printed biography of Shaheed Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar, photographs of 13 martyred Sikhs of 1978 and a mobile phone.

The trio Sikh youths have been addressed life sentence by holding them guilty under sections 121 (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India) and 121-A (conspiring to commit offences punishable by section 121) of the Indian Penal Code.

It may be recalled here that all of these Sikh youths were arrested in May 2016 by the police. Later, the police had cooked a “special story” about their arrest and had claimed recovery of 97 books, 198 photographs, 13 photographs of 1978’s martyrs and 1000 books related to Shaheed Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar while accusing one of these Sikh youths of pasting pro-Khalistan posters at Sri Anandpur Sahib.

The judgment of the case reveals that the Judge sentenced the trio Sikh youths just on the basis of the statements given by 21 prosecution witnesses. Interestingly, all of these prosecution witnesses were the Police cops.

Meanwhile, Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur has stated that the Court’s verdict has many flaws and the Judge delivered a biased decision proving himself a tool of the Indian state.

https://www.sikh24.com/2019/02/06/three-sikh-youths-sentenced-to-life-just-for-possessing-printed-material-about-sikh-martyrs/#.XF6Mvrh7nIU

The Hindustan Times – Living with the past: How Rakhigarhi residents share space with the remains of one of India’s ancient cities

Haryana’s Rakhigarhi is much like any other Indian village. Except that it was once a Harappan city. For residents, it is no longer a surprise to have scholars find history in their fields’

Poulomi Banerjee

Rakhigarhi – Haryana – India, 02 February 2019. Many of the streets of Rakhigarhi, Haryana, are cobbled or bricked. But it’s often difficult to see the road surface, so covered is it with dried animal dung. As in most rural households in India, animals are a part of nearly every household. Milk is rarely, if ever, bought.

Butter is made fresh, at home. And dried dung cakes are used to light fires for warmth through the freezing winters, heat water and often cook. “Even people with gas connections use dried dung cake fires to heat water and to cook.

There’s a different flavour to the food, when cooked in an earthen pot over an open flame,” explains Vicky Malik, a Rakhigarhi resident, as he stands on a high mound beyond which stretches fields of wheat and yellow blossoming mustard.

Near his feet, as indeed across most of the mound, are scattered round, flattened cakes made of animal dung – in various states of dryness. Beneath the waste lie the remains of the Indian subcontinent’s earliest-known urban culture.

Three years ago, a team of archaeologists working under Vasant Shinde of Pune’s Deccan College, found skeletons in one of the farmlands in the village. The cemetery they uncovered dated back to the Indus Valley Civilisation that had flourished in the subcontinent between 2600-1900 BCE.

The locals weren’t surprised. Rakhigarhi’s introduction to its ties with the past had begun years ago.

Finding the lost town

The revelation of Rakhigarhi’s links to history was quite accidental, recalls archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht, who specialises in the study of the Indus Valley Civilisation – or Harappan Civilisation, as it is often called, after the name of the village in present-day Pakistan, where the first site of that ancient culture was discovered, sometime in the 1920s.

“Acharya Bhagwan Dev headed a gurukul in Jhajjar, Haryana. He was also a collector of antiquities. Once, on a trip to Rakhigarhi, he found some old earthenware urns and other things in the soil here, but was unable to identify them,” explains Bisht.

Dev invited Suraj Bhan, a professor who was studying the Harappan era, to examine his findings. “It was Bhan who established that these antiquities dated to the Indus Valley Civilisation. This was in the 1960s,” he adds.

Bisht paid his first visit to Rakhigarhi in 1972. Though referred to collectively as Rakhigarhi, the area is made of two small villages – Rakhi Khas and Rakhi Shahpur – each with its own panchayat. The site of the old Harappan Civilisation spreads across both.

“Initially I identified five mounds where remains of the Harppan Civilisation could be found,” he says. Later he found two more with remains of a pre Harappan (or early-Harappan as some call it) settlement and recommended that they be all declared as ‘protected monuments’ by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Presently four of the seven mounds are ASI-protected. The others are too thickly populated at present to bring them under protection, says an ASI official. It was the reason why Bisht never did any excavations at Rakhigarhi.

“Some of the biggest mounds were under occupation. I felt I could not do justice to the study in such a situation,” says the archaeologist, who has done extensive work in Dholavira, another site of the Harappan Civilization.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/living-with-the-past-how-rakhigarhi-residents-share-space-with-the-remains-of-one-of-india-s-ancient-cities/story-jJdqeE6V8PkC00BslYFo1J.html

The Hindu – Soon, you can see what Harappans looked like

Experts recreating faces of five skeletal remains; results will be out in 2 months

Ashok Kumar

Gurugram – Haryana – India, 26 January 2019. Have you ever wondered what the people from the Harappan civilisation, more than 8,000 years ago, looked like ? Were they any different from modern day humans in appearance or did they look the same? Interestingly, it may not be long before one can have the answer to these questions.

Koreans roped in

A team led by Professor Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor, Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Deemed University, Pune, is on the brink of recreating the faces of a few skeletal remains, dug up during the excavation of a Harappan site at Haryana’s Rakhigarhi village in Hisar, in collaboration with South Korean scientists.

Dr Shinde told The Hindu that his team was recreating the faces of five skeletal remains and the results would be available within the next two months, soon after the publication of the paper in a journal after its review by experts.

The archaeologist, who along with his 25-member team, comprising experts from different fields, had excavated the site from 2012-16, said they had dug up cemeteries in a targeted excavation to find about 40 human remains.

However, most of the remains were found to be unfit for facial recreation.

“We needed complete skeletal remains in a good condition,” he said. “And we were lucky to find five, three males and two females,” he added.

The skeletal remains were CT scanned and the data fed into a programme developed by the Korean scientists to fill them “layer by layer with blood and flesh to show as to what the Harappan people looked like”, said Dr. Shinde, explaining the forensic facial reconstruction technique.

He added that the tentative results were already available. “We can, therefore, soon answer questions on physical similarities between the modern day population and the Harappan people,” he added.

While the technique in itself is not new, with forensic scientists having helped investigators probe crimes by recreating faces using this technology, it will be the first instance when it will be used in India for the ancient population.

The technique has also been used to recreate faces for the inhabitants of Egyptian and the Mesopotamian civilizations, but never for the Harappan population.

Dr. Shinde also shared that the analyses of the DNA collected from the skeletal remains was at an advanced stage and the findings would be published soon. He rubbished reports that the findings were being delayed due to political pressure, contending that DNA analysis was a lengthy process.

Besides, he added, the samples was very small and the signatures were very weak. “Whatever little we have in terms of DNA data, that needs to be properly authenticated, scientifically analysed and interpreted before it is made public,” contended the professor.

Rakhigarhi is one of the largest sites of the Harappan civilisation and the major objectives behind the excavation there, according to Dr. Shinde, were to trace its beginnings and to study its gradual evolution from 6000 BCE to 2500 BCE, besides protecting it from encroachment by the locals since the village is settled exactly on top of it.

“Another aim was to find out who the Harappan people were. There was a lot of debate whether they had come from West or were locals. We wanted DNA for this and started excavation at burial sites,” said Dr. Shinde.

However, the findings from excavation have now largely substantiated that the Harappans were locals, said Dr. Shinde, explaining that the excavation hinted at the gradual evolution of the Harappans proving that they were locals.

“The structural activity, pottery, jewellery and other crafts seem to have evolved gradually. They did not immediately start with town and villages but started with circular structures to evolve to rectangular ones and then arranged them in a pattern in the third stage before setting up cities in the fourth stage. It substantiates the hypothesis that they were locals and did not come from outside, contrary to the view held by some scholars,” said Dr. Shinde.

He said that Harappans, credited with several present day traditions such as the folded hands greeting or namaste, chicken tandoor, use of the bindi and yoga, also seemed to have started the marriage system.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/soon-you-can-see-how-the-harappans-looked/article26101458.ece

The Hindu – Dera chief Ram Rahim Singh, and 3 others get life imprisonment for journalist murder

Special Correspondent

Panchkula – Haryana – India, 17 January 2019. Ramchander Chhatrapati was killed in 2002 after he published an anonymous letter in his evening newspaper, Poora Sach, by a female Dera follower who accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim of rape.

The special CBI court on Thursday sentenced the Sirsa based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim Singh and three others to life imprisonment for the murder of journalist Ramchander Chhatrapati. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each.

Central Bureau of Investigation court judge Jagdeep Singh, who pronounced the sentence had last week convicted all the four accused including, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, Nirmal Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Krishan Lal in the murder case.

All the accused appeared through video conferencing when the quantum of sentence was pronounced by the court.

The CBI counsel H P S Verma told reporters that “all the four accused have been awarded life imprisonment, besides the court has also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each.”

The case pertains to the murder of journalist Ramchander Chhatrapati in year 2002 after he published an anonymous letter in his evening newspaper ‘Poora Sach’ by a female Dera follower who accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim of rape. Chhatrapati was shot five times outside his house. He succumbed to his injuries a few days later.

All the four accused had been convicted under section 302 (murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal were also convicted under the Arms Act.

The CBI lawyers during their arguments in the court urged for capital punishment for the accused, submitting that the case falls in the category of rarest of the rare as it was unprecedented that a god-man, who had several lakhs of followers, sexually exploited women and was involved in getting people murdered.

Ram Rahim Singh, who is serving serving 20-year imprisonment for two counts of rape of female followers appeared before the court through video-conferencing from Sunaria jail in district Rohtak while other three accused appeared from the Ambala jail.

The police registered the case in year 2003 but did not include the name of Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Later, Anshul Chattrapati, son of late Ramchander Chattrapati approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court asking to transfer the case to the CBI.

The case was handed over to the CBI in year 2006 and a chargesheet by the CBI was filed in July 2007.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/journalist-murder-dera-chief-ram-rahim-singh-others-get-life-imprisonment/article26016205.ece?homepage=true

The Tribune – Judgment day for dera chief

Hope floats for slain journalist’s family

Sirsa – Haryana – India, 10 January 2019. Back in 2002, a journalist dared to tell the unpleasant truth about a mighty sect head.

In his eveninger, aptly titled Poora Sach, he published an anonymous letter, written to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, about the alleged rape of sadhvis at Sirsa’s politically patronised Dera Sacha Sauda. His voice was silenced, predictably, with bullets.

Ram Chander Chhatrapati was shot at outside his residence in Sirsa. After a struggle lasting four weeks, he lost the battle for life.

Over 16 years later, judgment day is nigh. The CBI special court in Panchkula is set to pronounce its verdict in the murder case on Friday.

Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who is serving a 20-year term in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail for the rape of two of his followers, will make an appearance before the court through video-conferencing.

The once-bitten-twice-shy Haryana authorities seem keen to avoid a repeat of the mayhem triggered by his conviction in the rape cases on August 25, 2017. The Manohar Lal Khattar government had come under fire for grossly mishandling the situation and allowing a sea of dera supporters to invade Panchkula.

The post-judgment violence had claimed over 40 lives, besides the loss of government and private property worth crores of rupees.

The Chhatrapati family, which has bravely refused to bow before the sect all these years, is hoping that its long wait for justice and closure will finally end.

The developments are also being watched closely by the country’s journalistic fraternity, which remains vulnerable to threats or worse for calling a spade a spade. India’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index-2018 was a lowly 138 (out of 180 countries), one place below Myanmar and one above Pakistan.

Several journalists, including Gauri Lankesh, have lost their lives in recent years for taking on radicals.

Many others have been browbeaten into self-censorship by unleashing prosecution proceedings on them. The sorry state of affairs will only worsen for the fourth estate if it’s let down by the judicial system.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/editorials/judgment-day-for-dera-chief/711084.html