FirstPost – Punjab farmers say they have no option but to burn stubble, claim industries, vehicles contribute more to pollution

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 14 October 2018. Farmers in Punjab on Saturday claimed that industries and vehicles majorly contribute to air pollution and not stubble burning.

For the last few days, Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) have been experiencing pollution due to the burning of stubble in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana.

However, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee district secretary Jarmanjeet Singh told ANI, “The farmers have no other option than to burn stubble. We will not let the government impose fines on farmers for stubble burning. Industries and vehicles majorly contribute to pollution, not farmers”.

Demanding a subsidy for farmers as per the directives of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), he said, “The Green Tribunal also said that farmers with two acres of land must be given tools free of cost.

The owners of five acres of land would be given Rs 5,000 subsidy while the farmers having land more than five acres will get an amount of Rs 15,000. But the government is doing nothing in this regard”.

Speaking on the suggested alternative of making cardboard out of paddy straw, another farmer explained that it is not a feasible option for them. “It (paddy straw) is just sand for us.

They say that cardboard can be made out of it but only if the government takes the initiatives. Labour is costly; they ask us for Rs 4000 per acre. Where are we going to pay this amount from?” he asked while speaking to ANI.


The Hindu – Crimes against women in Haryana: As they rise, men push them back

Last month in Rewari, a student on her way to class was abducted, drugged, and gang-raped by three young men. The author reports on how the growing crimes against women in Haryana are stifling their freedom and aspirations.

Ashok Kumar

Rewari – Haryana – India, 06 October 2018. Rewari’s Civil Hospital is a drab, double-storey structure that caters to roughly 15 lakh people living in and around the district.

Sitting on a wooden bench in the hospital premises, in a small park littered with plastic cups, cigarette butts and polythene bags, is a frail man, mostly unnoticed by the crowd of visitors hurrying past him.

In his late forties, he is a meagrely paid Physical Training Instructor at a local school. He augments his modest income by training kabaddi students in his village.

He fought against all odds, including the violently patriarchal mindset entrenched in Haryana’s culture, to fulfil the aspirations of his teenage daughter, a Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) topper in Haryana.

On this September afternoon, he cuts a forlorn figure. His “little princess”, sexually assaulted by three men from his own village on the morning of September 12, is undergoing treatment inside the hospital.

“Having struggled all my life to make both ends meet, I just wanted to see my daughter stand on her own feet and get a government job,” he says.

The girl’s teachers and friends fondly remember the teenager as “obedient”, “studious” and “industrious”. In 2016, she was invited by the Ministry of Defence for the Republic Day parade, and was part of a select group of students that met the President, a proud moment for her family.

“Most of the girls in the village quit studies after middle school (Class VIII) as they have to walk 4-5 km to the nearest senior secondary school,” says Ram Prasad, a local villager. “There is no public transport, and that is enough for concerned parents to pull their girls out of school.

But despite his limited resources, the teenager’s father got her admitted to a private school in Mahendergarh (around 25 km from their village) where he is an employee. The father-daughter duo would commute together in a school bus everyday.”

The 19-year-old opted out of regular college and enrolled at a coaching institute, located about 20 km away, which was an hour’s ride by bus. She had represented her school in kabaddi and baseball at State-level competitions, and also excelled in academics. She devoted herself to preparing for competitive examinations.

On that fateful morning, she left as usual for her coaching class in Mahendergarh. But unbeknownst to her, three young men from her own village began following her in a car and two motorcycles.

When she got down at her usual stop near her coaching centre, the trio allegedly abducted her, drugged her, and transported her to a secluded tube-well room on the outskirts of their village, where they took turns to rape her for several hours.

“We found out much later that they had been trailing us right from our village,” says the father. “Both of us boarded the school bus from our home at seven in the morning. When my daughter got down at her designated bus stop, I waved her goodbye.”

Insensitivity of the police

The teenager’s father is deeply pained that among the alleged rapists was someone who he had trained in kabaddi. Pankaj, an army jawan, had been his student since the age of ten.

The father also feels let down by the system in his quest for justice.

A man with limited financial resources, he borrowed a few thousand rupees from his relatives, hired a vehicle, and reached the Women’s Police Station, set up in all the districts of Haryana to deal specifically with crimes against women, in Rewari around midnight, along with his wife and daughter, to report the crime.

But the Station House Officer, Sub-Inspector Heeramani, who was later suspended, threw their complaint out. She accused the victim of fabricating stories to implicate “innocent boys” and deprive her of sleep in the middle of the night.

Claiming that she had dealt with a similar case two days ago, she chose to interrogate the hapless teenager, who was already in deep distress, and embarrass her in front of her parents.

A Zero First Information Report (an FIR which can be registered at any police station) was eventually registered two hours after the parents and the teenager came to lodge a case. But their bureaucratic nightmare had only just begun.

The incident had taken place under the jurisdiction of the Kanina Police Station in Mahendergarh, and the Rewari Police did not inform their counterparts about the case for more than 24 hours, thereby providing ample time for the accused to abscond.

Recounting the sequence of events that took place in the 48 hours following the registration of the FIR, the teenager’s father says that one of the accused, Nishu, came to their house the morning after they had lodged the FIR and threatened them with dire consequences if they did not withdraw their complaint.

“While the accused were roaming freely, the Kanina Police told me on the evening of September 13 that they were yet to receive the FIR from Rewari. It was only the next morning that the FIR was finally received by the Mahendergarh Police.

More than 30 hours had elapsed since the registration of the case,” he says. And this was a simple procedure that takes barely a few minutes and is done at the click of a button.

The Haryana Police, however, took another 24 hours to fathom the gravity of the crime and constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT). Though Nishu was arrested four days after the crime took place, the SIT took another week to nab Pankaj and his accomplice Manish.

Meanwhile, the Superintendent of Police, Rewari, Rajesh Duggal, was shunted out following allegations of laxity.

Series of rapes

As the investigation progressed, it emerged that the accused are named in a series of gang-rapes, giving credence to rumours that unlawful activities had been going on at the tube-well room for more than a year.

In a press conference held on September 23, the SIT head, Nazneen Bhasin, said that the accused had lured several women from outside the village over the past few months and raped them. She added that the victims could not be positively identified and no complaints were received so far in this regard.

Bhasin also made an appeal to the victims to come forward and lodge complaints. Following her appeal, another woman from the same village has come out and accused Nishu of attempted rape and criminal intimidation.

She said that in September last year, when she was returning home from the fields in the evening, Nishu grabbed her from behind, but fled after she raised an alarm. She finally gathered the courage to complain and lodged an FIR on September 30.

Ram Avtar, a panchayat member from the girl’s village, says: “Everyone knew that the tube-well room had turned into a den of crime, but the villagers were too scared to speak out. The families of the accused were also in the know, but they too chose to keep mum.”

Besides, rumours in the village had it that a girl from a neighbouring village, who had been gang-raped by the accused about a year ago, was murdered, allegedly by her family to protect their honour, further emboldening the culprits.

The tube-well room in question is a single room located far out in the fields and not frequented by the villagers. When the police personnel raided the place, they found it well-stocked with food and liquor in a refrigerator.

Victim, accused knew each other [bold]

The victim and the three prime accused in the case knew each other well and had studied at the same school in Mahendergarh at different points in time. Nishu, a promising wrestler, had trained at Mahavir Phogat’s Dadri akhara (made famous by the Bollywood hit Dangal) for almost four years.

He was arrested just four days before his scheduled medical examination for a job in the Merchant Navy. As his father, Rajesh Phogat, had lost his right leg in a road accident seven years ago and become bed-ridden, the family’s hopes were pinned on Nishu.

“My son is innocent. He has been framed. It was all done by Pankaj,” claims Rajesh Phogat. He says that Pankaj was alone with the girl at the tube-well room, and when her condition deteriorated, he called Nishu, who was then sleeping at home, to arrange for a doctor.

However, Nishu’s Facebook posts tell another story. They are replete with innuendoes and vulgar remarks. The villagers maintain that Nishu was the most notorious among the three and was sacked from the job of a school bus driver just a month prior to the incident, after school girls complained about his misbehaviour.

Pankaj got married a year ago, after he joined the Indian Army. His seven-month pregnant wife walked out of the marriage after he was named in the FIR, breaking all ties with him and his family.

His mother, Silochna, says that Pankaj had been visiting the teenager’s house since he was in Class V. As a widow, she does not even have the resources to hire a lawyer for her son, she says.

Eighteen-year-old Manish, the youngest of the three accused, just finished his senior secondary school in Mahendergarh and was preparing for a job in the Indian Air Force. His father Om Prakash says that his son, the youngest among four siblings, was framed due to political rivalry in the village.

“Manish and Nishu were not present when Pankaj allegedly abducted the girl. He [Manish] had only gone to drop the girl back to the bus stand in the evening at the insistence of Pankaj,” he says.

Besides the three, five more persons, including a medical practitioner, have been arrested so far by the SIT, on charges of criminal conspiracy, concealment of information, and harbouring the criminals while they were on the run. The medical practitioner, Sanjeev, has two daughters who go to college and a minor son.

When the blood pressure of the teenager dropped dangerously, the accused allegedly telephoned him and told him that a labourer in the fields had fainted. Sanjeev gave first aid to the girl and in a way saved her life.

But the police have charged him with concealment of the crime since he did not inform the police. Local villagers sympathise with him as they believe that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Joblessness and skewed sex ratio

Gangs of unemployed and unmarried youngsters have emerged as troublemakers in almost every village of Haryana over the past few years.

The trend has been attributed to several factors, ranging from lack of employment opportunities and a skewed sex ratio to growing drug addiction. Taken together, these have created a law and order situation marked by rising crimes against women.

As per the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures, Haryana recorded 191 cases of gang-rape in 2016, the highest among Indian States in terms of crime rate, number of crimes reported per lakh of population.

While the national average for gang-rapes in 2016 was 0.3, it was 1.5 for Haryana, earning it the dubious distinction of being the ‘gang-rape capital’ of India.

Haryana stood sixth among all the States in 2016 in terms of crimes against women, with a total of 9,839 cases, contributing to 2.9% of the total.

In one of the most high-profile cases, State Bharatiya Janata Party chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas and his friend Ashish were arrested in August last year for chasing the daughter of a senior IAS officer in Chandigarh in their car late at night, allegedly in a bid to abduct her.

Both were booked for stalking and drunken driving amid allegations that the police had invoked lighter sections of the Indian Penal Code.

Abductions and killings

In May last year, a 23-year-old woman was abducted on her way to work, gang-raped, and brutally murdered in Haryana’s Sonipat district after she had refused the accused’s proposal for marriage. Her mutilated body was found by a passer-by. Stray dogs had bitten away the victim’s face and the lower portion of her body.

Similarly, the death of a Dalit teenager in Kurukshetra in January this year remains a mystery. The girl’s mutilated body was found in a canal in Haryana’s Jind with 19 injuries. Not satisfied with the probe, the family has been seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the matter.

Human rights activist and former general secretary, All-India Democratic Women’s Association, Jagmati Sangwan, says that Haryana’s girls have been proving their mettle in every sphere of life, be it sports, academics or beauty contests, but they lack a safe environment to realise their dreams.

Referring to an indefinite hunger strike by a bunch of Class IX and X girls at Rewari’s Gothra Tappa village over a year ago, she says the girls were only seeking better facilities in their village school. The government approved their demands on paper, but the situation on the ground has remained unchanged.

While the girls are aiming high, there is no infrastructure in place, y way of stadiums or sports clubs, to help channelise the energies of the unemployed young men in the right direction and nurture their talent.

“Though the villages may not have stadiums, liquor vends at the bus stops are hard to miss, hinting at the priorities of the government,” says Sangwan. Frustrated by the lack of job opportunities and unable to get married due to a skewed sex ratio, the youth have turned into rebels, asserting their masculinity in problematic ways.

Not just young girls, even women in the State are now seeking a greater role in decision-making at the household level, but are denied by men. The various provisions of the law pertaining to crimes against women are rarely implemented due to lack of budget, resources and commitment, says Sangwan.

Need to change mindset of police

Rajbir Deswal, a retired IPS officer, points out that Haryana Police is not unaffected by the “rabid patriarchy” in the State. He adds that there have been attempts to improve the thinking of the police personnel but there is still a long way to go when it comes to being sensitive to women, children and the elderly.

He says the setting up of Women’s Police Stations across the State three years ago has led to an increase in demand for women police personnel, but since there are not enough trained women police officers, inexperienced women personnel and those recruited under the sports quota have to be deputed in these police stations to bridge the demand-supply gap.

“The workload in these women police stations has increased several-fold as most of the cases involve women. Earlier, the women police personnel were not involved in serious investigation and mostly dealt with regulatory jobs.

In fact, the overall policing in the State has been affected adversely by the creation of the Women’s Police Stations in an unprecedented hurry, as they are both understaffed and under-trained for tackling these serious crimes,” says Deswal, now an advocate at the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Deswal, who retired as Additional Director-General, Human Rights and Litigation, believes that changes in the functioning of the khap panchayats have also contributed to the crisis: “In the past, the much misunderstood khaps would rise above petty and partisan considerations in their decisions.

But today, they are dominated by misguided men seeking a shortcut to a political career, and they keep issuing problematic diktats. This has damaged a key social institution that used to play a constructive role.”

Meanwhile, the distraught father is struggling to understand why his daughter has to suffer. “I still cannot find one reason why she had to undergo all this pain and trauma. Is it because she is a woman? Perhaps she was wrong to have big aspirations despite being a woman in this male-dominated society.

But could staying indoors have guaranteed her safety? Maybe, maybe not,” he says. “It is not just those three youngsters but the entire society and the system seem to have conspired to rape her.” – Haryana Chief Minister forced to cancel visit to Sikh dominated village in Haryana

Sikh24 Editors

Dabri – Haryana – India, 04 October 2018. As Sikhs of Dabri village in Karnal announced the plan to protest Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s address, he was forced to cancel his scheduled address there.

Khattar was scheduled to address a programme at Dabri during his road show programme in six villages of Karnal district. However, as Sikhs announced to protest his visit, his office announced that Khattar would no longer be visiting Dabri.

Earlier, Khattar refused to pay homage at a gurdwara in Dachar village of Karnal on Friday, citing that the Gurdwara committee did not agree to remove a portrait of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale installed in the langar hall.

As news of Khattar skipping the visit to Gurdwara reached Sikh outfits, more posters went up in Dabri and Sikh groups announced to carry a protest. A large portrait has also been installed at Dabri’s village gurdwara.

“We were planning to hold a protest during Khattar’s address,” said a Sikh youth from Dabri. “We are proud of what Sant Bhindranwale stood for and his posters will never be removed from the Gurdwaras,” he added.

The Asian Age – Man lynched by villagers in Haryana over suspicion of cattle theft

Police have filed a case against three brothers, who were involved in the incident, and arrested one among them.

Behrola – Haryana – India, 04 August 2018. In another incident of lynching and mob violence, a man’s hands and legs were tied and he was beaten to death by villagers over suspicion of cattle theft in Behrola village of Haryana. The incident took place on the intervening night of August 2 and 3.

Two people accompanying the victim fled away from the spot.

The body of the victim has been sent for post-mortem.

According to news agency ANI, case has been filed against three brothers who were involved in the beating. One among the three have been arrested. – Police shot at Behbal Klan victims at point blank range, reveals Justice Ranjit Singh

By Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 01 August 2018. The initial reports about the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission’s investigation on Kotkapura and Behbal Klan firing incidents reveal that the Commission has held in the report that the martyred Sikh youths were shot at point blank range.

He has cited the medical reports of the dead bodies of martyred Sikh youths Shaheed Bhai Krishan Bhagwan Singh and Shaheed Bhai Gurjit Singh Nikke Sarawan.

Justice Ranjit Singh Commission has disclosed in the first part of its report that Dr Rajiv Joshi, who had conducted a post-mortem examination of the mortal remains of Shaheed Bhai Krishan Bhagwan Singh and Shaheed Bhai Gurjit Singh, told him that the victim appeared to be sitting and the assailant standing as the track of the firearm wound, evident from the location of the entry and exit points, was found going downwards.

“Recommending the registration of criminal cases against police officers for firing or accused of directing others to open fire, Justice Ranjit Singh is believed to have stated that the cops acted without warning, and permission.

Recommendations were also made for the initiation of appropriate action against police officers failing to carry out proper and fair investigation in the incidents of sacrilege and the cases entrusted to them regarding the use of force” notes The Tribune.

In its report, the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission could be observed jolted over no action against any Police cop despite the registration of an FIR on October 21, 2015. Notably, a SIT was supposed to supervise the investigation, but no progress was noticed till date.

Justice Ranjit Singh has made it clear in the report that the delay in action against the Police cops seems an attempt to suppress the case for letting off the guilty cops as the then Punjab government and the Union Home Ministry also didn’t do much in this concern.

Key findings of the Commission:

  • The approach of the police was too casual and mind-boggling.
  • Some weapons carried by police personnel from Ludhiana were not sent for inspection.
  • The tampering of the rifle grooves of a bullet were deliberate to prevent detection of the weapon used.
  • The bullet could have been fired from AK-47. As such, all police officers carrying AK-47 would become potential accused.
  • The police admitted opening fire at Behbal Klan, yet showed no expenditure of ammunition.
  • Primarily, the finger of suspicion for sacrilege incidents was pointed towards Sirsa cult disciples.
  • The Police cops were unable to act against the Sirsa cult disciples, but happily pulled the trigger of their guns
    against the protesters.

The Hindu – Alwar lynching: attackers came with firearms and sticks, says survivor

Survivor recalls Alwar assault; three of the accused arrested

Ashok Kumar

Jaipur/Nuh – Rajastan – India, 23 July 2018. A day after dairy owner Rakbar Khan from Kolgaon village in Haryana’s Mewat district was lynched by a group of seven persons in Rajasthan’s Alwar district on Friday night, his friend Aslam, who managed to escape the attack, named five persons in a statement to the Rajasthan police, who said three of them had been arrested.

Assistant Sub-Inspector of Ramgarh Mohan Singh came to Nuh to record Mr. Aslam’s statement.

Without provocation

According to Mr. Aslam, he and Rakbar were returning from Khanpur with the cattle when the attack took place at Ramgarh’s Lalawandi village.

Mr. Aslam told The Hindu that the assailants were armed with firearms and sticks and attacked them without provocation after their cows strayed into the fields along the road. He said that through the assault, the assailants egged on each other to attack the two men.

“‘Vijay, break his legs’; ‘Dharmender, hit him hard on the head’; ‘And Naresh, you break his hands’. This is how they were talking among themselves,” said Mr. Aslam, his voice still shaking. “They were seven people. I remember the names of five of them,” he said.

A daily wage labourer, Mr. Aslam said he had agreed to accompany Rakbar on his request to help transport the cows. The duo had decided to travel at night in view of the several incidents of lynching in Alwar by alleged cow vigilantes.

Walking the two cows and their calves on foot through a forest area in Ramgarh’s Lalwandi village, the duo were halfway home when, according to Mr. Aslam, “the animals were startled by a motorcycle on the road and strayed into the fields”.

Surrounded in minutes

“Holding the ropes of the cows, Rakbar was trying to drive them back on the road and I was a few steps behind him when the men surrounded us and opened fire in the air. While two ran towards me, the others caught Rakbar,” said Mr. Aslam. He, however, managed to flee and hide in the fields.

“I heard Rakbar screaming, but could not muster courage to come out,” he said.

After the attack, he walked through the night having lost his way, and reached Kolgaon village at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

“By the time I reached the village, the police had already informed Rakbar’s family about his death,” said Mr. Aslam.

The villagers and locals gathered at Rakbar’s house alleged that the Muslims transporting cattle from Rajasthan were frequently robbed, beaten up and even lynched.

“I have been in dairy business for almost two decades now, but this was never the case earlier. It started two to three years ago and has become a routine now. In fact, it is the worst in Alwar. Even the policemen at the check-points seek a bribe for letting us go.

The so-called cow vigilantes also waylay us to seek money and sometimes even take away our cattle,” said Rakbar’s uncle Mohammed Ilyas.

The family of the victim blocked the Gurugram-Alwar Highway for several hours on Saturday night seeking the arrest of the accused and compensation for his family.

The blockade was lifted around midnight following assurances from Rajasthan and Haryana officials of swift police action.

“We demanded that all accused be arrested and no mercy be shown to them. He was the sole bread earner of the family of nine. We also demanded Rs 5 lakh compensation for the family,” said Rakbar’s uncle Mohammad Umar.

Three held

The Rajasthan police arrested two of the accused, Dharmendra Yadav and Paramjeet Singh, on Saturday. The third person, Naresh Singh, was held on Sunday.

All the three were produced before the Ramgarh Judicial Magistrate, who remanded them in police custody for five days.

Superintendent of Police Rajendra Singh, who was transferred from Ajmer to Alwar three days ago, visited Ramgarh on Sunday to monitor the probe. He said those found guilty would not be spared.

Dharmendra Yadav and Paramjeet Singh reportedly provided clues to the police during interrogation about the identity of the other persons involved in the crime. Police were also investigating the accused’s links with right-wing organisations.

With inputs from Mohammad Iqbal in Jaipur

The Asian Age – Amarinder Singh writes to Rajnath, asks to make Chandigarh capital of Punjab

Chandigarh joint capital of Haryana and Punjab remains one of the most contentious and long-standing issues between two states

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 21 July 2018. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wrote to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh reiterating his demand for making Chandigarh the capital of the state.

The Union Territory of Chandigarh, the joint capital of Haryana and Punjab, remains one of the most contentious and long-standing issues between the two neighbouring states.

In his letter to the Home Minister, Singh said the pending territorial dispute should be solved by restoring Chandigarh to Punjab, being its legitimate and original capital.

Chandigarh undoubtedly was an integral part of Punjab, the chief minister said, adding that being Punjab’s capital, no other state can stake claim over it.

Nevertheless, subsequent to the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966, territorial dispute remains unresolved, Singh said as he sought Rajnath Singh’s intervention to ensure the “fine balance” of sharing of resources between Haryana and Punjab is not disturbed.

“During this period a fine balance in sharing officers/officials and other resources of Union Territory, Chandigarh between Haryana and Punjab has been achieved with an advantage of hard earned peace in Punjab,” Singh said.

“Unfortunately, during the past few years, it has been observed that there is a constant effort to disturb this fine balance. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has been inducting more officers of UT cadre and other Union Territories into administration of Chandigarh without realising implications of such avoidable decisions,” he added.

A decision was taken to induct more deputy SPs of UT cadre in Chandigarh whereas such positions are filled by officers from Punjab and Haryana in a pre-determined ratio. These decisions were clearly avoidable as they can cause bigger unrest in the region, he added.

“There has been a reduction in the departments allocated to officers of Punjab and Haryana as also an increase in the number of UT cadre officers in Chandigarh,” he said further.

The responsibilities of the officers of Haryana and Punjab should not be curtailed, Singh said, adding that the role of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Chandigarh, as the head of the district police as earlier must be restored.

Recently, the powers of SSP, who is an IPS Officer of Punjab cadre were curtailed, making him SSP (Law and Order).

The chief minister asked the Home Minister to consider the matter and issue appropriate instructions accordingly.

The Hindustan Times – Gurugram has a Hindu-Muslim problem far bigger than the namaz row

On April 20, eight or ten young men from two villages, Kanhai and Wazirabad, rode their motorbikes to the public ground just as the Muslims were about to start their prayers and asked them to pack up, leave, and never return.

Snigdha Poonam

Gurgaon/Gurugram – Haryana – India, 09 July 2018. On 10 June, a Hindu priest and his followers met at a budget bar in Gurugram (previously Gurgaon) to declare war on Muslims.

The alcohol had been replaced by a vegetarian buffet, the doors and windows thrown open to light up the dark interior, the tables and chairs rearranged to host a press conference, but the smell of cheap whiskey remained thick in the air.

Ignoring the inappropriate setting, Narsinghanand Saraswati stared hard at the collected members of the press and made his urgent announcement: “We are about to launch a revolution on the land of Gurgaon.”

Just out of arrest for trying to set himself on fire in front of Haryana’s chief minister’s residence to protest public namaz in Gurugram, Sawaswati said he was going to organise a maha havan in the city to “destroy the enemies of Hindus.”

The president of All India Saints Council, Saraswati, who has built an army of 15,000 young Hindus to fight ISIS, was asked by journalists if he is counting on the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party in his “revolution”.

He fulminated in response. “No political party can save us. Advani ji is too old, retired. Modi ji hasn’t done anything for Hindus in four years to inspire any faith. I don’t know whether Yogi ji is with us or not anymore.” He said all he needed are young Hindus burning with anger, “Our motto should be: Gita in one hand and Gun in another.”

Living and Dying for Hindus

Sitting on his left, young and muscular Amit Hindu twirled his goatee. A wrestler trained in his village’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh akhada, the 23-year-old, who insists that he be known by his chosen last name, said he had only goal in life: “to live for Hindus and to die for Hindus.”

This is what he used to do all day with a bunch of unemployed friends, each affiliated with a local Hindu organisation, in an empty ground near his village, Kanhai, in Gurugram’s Sector 53.

“We used to treat the space as our office. We discussed problems, like the smuggling of cows, and came up with plan of action,” he said. This land was their turf for every day of the week except Friday when Muslims gathered there to offer the afternoon’s namaz. It made them very angry.

On April 20, eight or ten young men from two villages, Kanhai and Wazirabad, rode their motorbikes to the public ground just as the Muslims were about to start their prayers and asked them to pack up, leave, and never return. Yelling ‘Jai Shri Ram’, the young men spread through the crowd of worshippers and spelt out consequences.

Shot on a mobile phone, a video of the incident became instantly viral (“five lakh searches in five days”) and sparked off similar disruptions of namaz all over Gurugram the following Friday.

On April 27, Sector 53’s police arrested six friends of Amit for outraging religions feelings, disturbing religious worship and criminal intimidation. They were let out on bail three days later.

By June 10, two of them had been arrested and released again. “They had a fight with someone and busted his head,” Arvind Dahiya, the officer in charge of the police station, said. The young men keep making trouble, he added. “If it’s not Muslims, it will be someone else. Most of them are in and out of jail.”

Going to jail doesn’t make anyone a criminal, argued Sube Singh Bohra, the ex-headman of Wazirabad and the father of BJP’s councillor from the village, who rallied Gurugram’s administration for the bail out of the six young men. Holding out a plate of homemade sweets, the village patriarch proceeded to offer a series of justifications on their behalf.

“BJP’s president Amit Shah was also in jail on criminal charges. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“I just got out on bail myself. I had been arrested for threatening the police commissioner of Gurugram.”

“What do you think happens in any fight? You either break someone’s head or someone breaks your head.”

A member of the newly formed Sanyukt Hindu Sangarsh Samiti, an umbrella organisation for Gurugram’s vast network of Hindu-interest groups, Bohra said the rising number of Muslim migrants in the villages left the native Hindus with no other option but to fight for survival.

“Otherwise a day will come when we will cease to exist”. In his own village, he later mentioned, Muslims made up less than 2 percent of the population.

“This city is sitting over barrels of gunpowder,” said Rajeev Mittal, a leading light of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangarsh Samiti. “Sparks have been flying across the two sides. The matter has been under control because of the tolerance of Hindus, but things can blow up any day,” he said.

“Our own Muslims we can live with, but the majority of Muslims arriving in Gurugram are from Bangladesh. All of them undocumented. Most of them Rohingyas,” he said, checking his phone for alerts from WhatsApp groups buzzing with Hindu solidarity.

The Gurugram police deny the presence of undocumented migrants from Bangladesh in the city. Official denials do not rattle Rajeev Mittal, however. “It is not a small issue,” he maintained. “These people aren’t worthy of living in civilized society by nature or by behavior. Do you know that Rohingyas burn people alive and eat their flesh?”

Being Muslim in Gurgaon

A native of Nadia district in West Bengal, Akbar Ali can live on fish curry. It’s what he has been cooking every day for a living since he left his village ten years ago. Two months ago, he left his cooking job in Mumbai to join his uncle’s restaurant in Sector 49’s Bengali Market in Gurgaon.

The market caters to the needs of blue-collar migrants from West Bengal who provide their services to white-collar residents of South City, one of Gurugram’s many private townships, as maids, cooks, drivers, security guards and construction workers.

Dozens of people from Nadia live in Ali’s tenement; hundreds from other districts live around Bengali Market; and thousands from his state live in the backyards of shopping malls, gated colonies, and private townships across Gurugram’s newly developed sectors.

Akbar Ali has an Aadhaar card of which one copy remains in the possession of his landlord. He is happy to not live in one of Gurugram’s migrant ghettos where the landlords affix the renters’ identification papers to the gates.

However, the right to privacy isn’t as big a concern for him and his people as the right to offer namaz in the vicinity of their homes or workplaces.

Of Gurugram’s ten official mosques, eight lie in the older areas and remain largely inaccessible to the Muslim migrants settled on the other end of the district. Some travel the long distance nevertheless. Many of them head to their nearest empty ground, park, pavement, parking lot, during lunch time on Fridays.

Ali doesn’t have many options himself. He could pray inside the tin shed put up in the middle of the market by fellow shopkeepers, but its surfaces sizzle in the summer. For now, he travels in his uncle’s auto rickshaw to New Gurugram’s only (unfinished) mosque in Sector 57 where thousands of Muslims offer namaz in four shifts every Friday.

“There must at least be at least 100,000 Muslims offering namaz every Friday if 500,000 are estimated to live in Gurugram,” said Altaf Ahmed, an entrepreneur who lives in a gated colony. For years he offered Friday’s prayers in an open space in Sector 45.

“I used to work in Unitech’s Cyber Park in Sector 39 and it was the closest public space available near my office. Most people who prayed there were office-goers,” he said.

Responding to pressure from the Sanyukt Hindu Sangarsh Samiti, the district authorities reduced the number of approved public sites for namaz from 73 to 37. “People are not offering namaz in open by choice.

Just try offering namaz under the sun for half an hour. You will know. We are not asking anyone to give us space for free. Assign us land where we can build mosques,” Ahmed said.

A Divided City

Having lived in Gurugram for 11 years, Ahmed said that even his privilege doesn’t shield him from the petty prejudices bubbling under the city’s cosmopolitan facade. “In the offices, Muslims don’t want to bring up their Muslimness to the table.

They know the perception others have of them: we marry several times, we eat meat from morning to night, our wives wear burqas and our fathers keep beards,” he said. “In her posh school, my daughter is asked, ‘are you from Pakistan?’ She is too young to even know what Pakistan is.”

Gurugram, argues Radha Khan, a resident of the “millenium city” for the past ten years, is a “place built for Hindus.” The social inclusion consultant asks how a place that thrives on migrants can call itself city when it can’t accommodate their religious diversity. “Where are the mosques, the churches, the gurudwaras?”

To feel Gurugram’s Hindu dominance, she said, one needn’t venture out of their high-rise apartment. “Hindu festivals are publicly celebrated, from karva chauth to krishnashtami. Space is cleared for people to play with colours on Holi or burst crackers on Diwali. Cultural performances are organised.

In a Resident Welfare Association (RWA) meeting that my husband once attended, the proposal to build a temple came up, but it was later vetoed.”

On Eid, though, she said, Muslim residents wonder if wishing each other openly is too loud an expression of their religious identity. “Muslims in these housing societies are increasingly aware of the constraints under which they live. Many of them no longer carry meat from the markets for the fear of being branded as beef eaters but order it home from supermarkets.”

At Wellington Estate, a housing society in DLF’s Phase 5, only 1 or 2 percent of the residents are Muslims, said Ajay Jain, the secretary of its RWA. He briskly added that 99 percent of maids and cooks who work in the society are “Mohammedan ladies. Mostly Bengali.”

Almost all of them, he mentioned, go by Hindu names. It keeps things simpler, he explained. Jain doesn’t think the lack of namaz space for a society’s residents or their staff should be an RWA concern.

The issue wouldn’t have come up in the first place, he argued, if Muslims didn’t insist on praying in public. “Don’t the Hindu residents carry on with their bhajan-kirtan inside their homes?”

When historian Veena Oldenburg hired a maid for her house in Phase 3 of DLF’s Cyber City 13 years ago, she knew her as Usha. “Later, she revealed that she is Kohinoor. It’s a common story. No one will give them a job in the city if they identify themselves as Muslim,” she said.

Irrespective of the discrimination they face in the city, Bengali migrants continue to pour into Gurugram in search of opportunity. “First Kohinoor came with only her daughter. Thirty of her relatives have joined her since: three sisters, two brothers, their mother,” said Oldenburg who has been researching Gurugram’s history for over a decade.

All About Land

The region has no deep-rooted history of communal tension, Oldenburg mentioned, because it has had few Muslims until a few years ago. “It being a Hindu-dominated society, the tension among communities was based on caste. Khap panchayats ruled on social conflicts and their focus was on controlling the women.”

The arrival of Muslims has changed the social dynamic of the villages, Oldenburg argued.

Like most things in Gurugram, this too revolves around land.

“Gurugram’s development began with villagers selling and leasing their land. Some landowners sold their land and suddenly had more money than they had ever seen. Some drank it away, others bought big cars, went on big holidays, threw lavish weddings. Several went broke.

They remain uneducated, unskilled, but they have a chip on their shoulder about having owned land in the past. They are the core of the bloodthirsty lot who hate any intrusion into their villages. They have nothing to rent out. They mark out poor migrants,” said Oldenburg.

Then she described a different kind of Gurugram’s landowners.

“They did better. Some sold their land and re-invested the money into the property business. Some went into partnerships with real-estate companies.

Others held on to a portion of their land and built multi-storey tenement houses with basic rooms and common bathrooms to rent out to labourers arriving to build the new Gurugram. They don’t want the migrants to be driven away.”

War and Peace

The conflict between their interests came to a head with the row over public namaz. On May 27, after two weeks of namaz disruptions, 200 people representing different faiths from 360 villages of the district convened at a mahapanchayat to call for communal harmony to keep alive “the cosmopolitan culture of the international city.”

“When I went village to village mobilising support, the villagers spoke about their anxieties,” said Pradeep Zaildar, a Congress leader. “Gurugram’s development has brought in companies and companies have brought in migrants, who live on their property and work in their remaining farms.

They are afraid that if the communal incidents persist, the companies will leave Gurugram, its progress will stop, and they will end up starving. They have no option but to come together.”

On 10 June, hours after the “Hindu revolution” was “launched” in Sector 10,” Zaildar repeated the call for peace at an “interfaith iftar” organised to resist Gurugram’s polarisation in Sector 27.

“We can’t allow ourselves to be scared by this intimidation. We must come together and fight. This evening is a slap in their faces,” Mohammed Amin, a factory worker from Manesar, called out to the city’s secular citizens in one of the speeches.

“I have lived in a bubble for far too long,” said Rita Jain, an optician circulating plates of fruit around the hall. For a few years now, my clients have been making divisive statements such as, ‘this is my country. We can accomodate Muslims but they must know their place.’ I can’t sit and listen anymore.”

“This isn’t going to change the world, said Veena Oldenburg, “but there was a message and it went out.”

It may not be enough to stop the agitating Hindus in their tracks. Amit Hindu said his group would prevent namaz being offered in public after the month of Ramzan that ended in mid-June.

On 29 June, a group of Muslims were stopped from reading namaz in a vacant plot in DLF Phase 3. An officer at the local police station said they had received a complaint alleging misuse of public land. A similar incident was reported from Sector 34 on the same day.

Regardless of the disruptions, Altaf Ahmed said the city’s Muslim community will continue to push for their rights. “We will put up a united front against them.”

The Hindustan Times – Jind youth killed over elder brother’s inter-caste marriage

Dalit neighbours picked up fight with Jat victim’s family over his brother’s wedding to a lower caste girl and attacked them with lathis and farm implements, leading to his death.

Hardik Anand

Jind/Rohtak – Haryana – India, 24 Jun 2018. A 23-year-old man was killed in Jind by his neighbours who were upset at his elder brother’s inter-caste marriage, the police said on Saturday.

The deceased has been identified as Sompal Singh, the youngest of the three brothers. He worked as a labourer.

Sompal’s elder brother Satyawan, a Jat, had married a Dalit girl three years ago against her family’s wishes. This had upset their Dalit neighbours in Chandralok Colony, who often fought with them over petty issues.

On Friday night, Sompal’s eldest brother Ramjeet was walking near his house after dinner when his drunk neighbour Satish Kumar confronted him and started abusing him for bringing a Dalit girl home. As per Ramjeet, Satish said, “Your brother Satyawan made a mistake by going in for love marriage with a girl of our caste. He will have to pay for it.”

Ramjeet said he had a minor scuffle with Satish after which both of them went home.

“I had just reached home when Satish along with his family members reached our house with lathis and sharp agricultural implements. They shouted that they will teach us a lesson for bringing a girl of their community to our home.

My youngest brother Sompal came out of the house hearing the noise and Satish’s family brutally attacked him with lathis and sharp implements on his head. Satyawan, his wife Neelam and I were also beaten up when we tried to save Sompal,” said Ramjeet.

He said the accused ran away when other neighbours gathered outside their house and called the police. The family rushed Sompal to a hospital where doctors declared him brought dead.

Based on the complaint, the police registered a case against seven members of Satish’s family, including his wife and two other women, under Sections 148, 149, 302 and 323 of the Indian Penal Code.

Inspector Dinesh Kumar said Satish and his brother Deepak have been arrested while other five accused are on the run.

“None of the accused is related to Satyawan’s wife, so there is no clear explanation as to why they were so angry about the marriage that they could kill someone over it. It has been found that accused were drunk. Things will be clear after interrogation,” Kumar said.

Times of India – Sikh intellectuals object to Khattar’s remarks on Banda Bahadur

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 June 2018. Sikh thinkers and intellectuals on Wednesday criticized Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar for misrepresenting Sikh warrior Banda Singh Bahadur as ‘Banda Bahadur Bairagi’ and naming Lohgarh-Shahabad road after him with an apparent motive of ‘placating Hindutva forces’.

“Such move is blatant distortion of history being done to appropriate the Sikh hero into the Sangh Parivar fold,” they said in a joint statement. A delegation of Sikh historians issued the statement after holding a meeting at a gurdwara in Sector 28, Chandigarh.

In a joint statement issued by Khushhal Singh, general secretary Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha, said, “We appreciate Khattar’s desire to honour Banda Singh Bahadur, who had created an indigenous republic, was laudable but he should not insult the great Khalsa general, saint and statesman by posthumously converting him to the Bairagi sect of the Hindu faith”.

The statement further added, “There was no dearth of Bairagis in that world but not a single Bairagi joined Banda Singh’s struggle. Five thousand Muslims did join in his effort to establish the only indigenous ‘People’s Republic led by the Khalsa’ after centuries of political slavery”.

It has also been stated that any attempt to misappropriate icons of the Sikhs and minorities by the Hindutva forces is pathetic and deplorable. Glory cannot be gained with retrospective effect by an administrative action now.

The act of stealing icons rather becomes a painful reminder of the shocking cultural barrenness of the contemporary society during slavery. Painfully as it is, the deficiency cannot be covered up by renaming monuments, historical persons and by rewriting history to suit the cover-up.

The joint statement signed among others by retired IAS officer Gurtej Singh, Prof Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, Sukhdev Singh, Jaspal Singh Sidhu and Gurpreet Singh, spokesperson of Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Chandigarh.