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.

Advertisements – 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

BBC News – Harappa grave of ancient ‘couple’ reveals secrets

Soutik Biswas India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 9 January 2019. About 4,500 years ago, a man and a woman were buried in a grave together in a sprawling cemetery on the outskirts of a thriving settlement of one of the world’s earliest urban civilisations.

In 2016, archaeologists and scientists from India and South Korea found these two “very rare” skeletons in a Harappan (or Indus Valley) city, what is now Rakhigarhi village in the northern Indian state of Haryana.

For two years, they researched the “chronology” and possible reasons behind the deaths; and the findings have now been published in a peer-reviewed international journal.

“The man and the woman were facing each other in a very intimate way. We believe they were a couple. And they seemed to have died at the same time. How they died, however, remains a mystery,” archaeologist Vasant Shinde, who led the team, told me.

They were buried in a half-a-metre-deep sand pit. The man was around 38 years old at the time of his death, while the woman was around 35. Both were reasonably tall, he was 5.8ft (1.77m) and she, 5.6ft.

They were both possibly “quite healthy” when they died, tests didn’t find any lesions or lines on the bones or any “abnormal thickness” of skull bones, which could hint at injuries or diseases such as brain fever.

Archaeologists say this unique “joint grave” was not an “outcome of any specific funeral customs commonly performed at that time”. They believe that the man and the woman “died almost at the same time and that, therefore, they had been buried together in the same grave”.

Ancient joint burial sites have always evoked interest. In a Neolithic burial site in an Italian village, archaeologists found a man and a woman in an embrace. In another joint burial reported from Russia, the couple were holding hands and facing each other.

Nearly 6,000-year-old skeletons in Greece were found embracing each other, with their legs and arms interlocked.

Everything else they found in the Rakhigarhi grave was unexceptional for its time: a few earthen pots and some semi-precious stone bead jewellery, commonly found in graves from the bronze age Harappan civilisation.

“The most striking thing about Harappan burials is how spartan they were. They didn’t have grand burials like, for example, kings in West Asia,” says Tony Joseph, author of Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From.

In Mesopotamia, for example, kings were interred with hoards of precious jewellery and artefacts. Interestingly, jewellery made of carnelian, lapis lazuli and turquoise possibly exported from Harappa were found in graves in Mesopotamia.

In Harappan cities, graves usually contained pots with food and some jewellery, people likely believed in life after death and these materials were meant to be grave offerings.

A lot of the pottery, says Mr Joseph, comprised lavishly painted dishes on stands and squat, bulging jars. “There was nothing remotely suggestive of royal funerals, which were common in west Asia,” he adds.

Archaeologists believe the “mystery couple” lived in a settlement spread over more than 1,200 acres, housing tens of thousands of people. Of the 2,000-odd Harappan sites discovered in India and Pakistan so far, the settlement in Rakhigarhi is the largest, overtaking the more well-known city of Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan.

The ancient civilisation was first discovered at Mohenjo Daro in what is now Pakistan in the 1920s.

To be sure, this is not the first time archaeologists have discovered a couple in a Harappan grave.

In the 1950s, the skeletal remains of a man and a woman, heaped on top of each other, were found in a sand pit in Lothal in what is now Gujarat. The skull of the woman bore injury marks. Some excavators made a controversial claim that the grieving woman had killed herself after her husband’s death, a claim that could never be proved.

At Rakhigarhi, archaeologists have discovered 70 graves in the cemetery, barely a kilometre away from the settlement, and excavated 40 of them. But this single grave of the “mystery couple” has turned to be most fascinating of all.

FirstPost – ‘Rajiv Gandhi supported 1984 anti-Sikh riots’: Haryana minister Anil Vij wants ex-PM punished posthumously

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 18 December 2018. Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij kicked up a new controversy on Monday when he demanded that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi should be “punished posthumously” so that families of about 3,400 Sikhs, who died in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, get justice.

In his tweet, Vij said that the Delhi High Court has sentenced Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, who was one of the accused of 1984 anti-Sikh riots, to life imprisonment.

“This has provided little relief to affected Sikh families, but justice will be delivered when Rajiv Gandhi will be punished. Then Rajiv Gandhi had supported the massacre by saying ‘Jab koi bada ped girta hai to dharti hilti hai’,” Vij, who is a senior BJP leader in Haryana, said in his tweet in Hindi.

The minister, who is known for making controversial comments, said that along with the “Bharat Ratna” conferred on Rajiv Gandhi, all other honours should be withdrawn from him.

Vij also demanded that Rajiv Gandhi’s name should be removed from all the schemes being run after his name.

He said not only one or two persons but the entire Congress Party is guilty of the massacre of thousands of Sikhs.

“Justice is incomplete until everyone gets sentenced,” he added.

Haryana has a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government since October 2014.

The Delhi High Court on Monday convicted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case and sentenced him to imprisonment for life.

The Hindustan Times – Ikea wants to make stuff from the straw now being burnt in India

The first rice-straw product prototypes will be decorations and paper boxes, and Ikea plans to start selling them in India during 2019 or 2020, it said in a statement.

Anna Molin

Panjab/Haryana – India, 15 November 2018. Ikea wants to turn rice straw into household wares in a move that could end up reducing a major source of pollution in India.

The Swedish company has set itself a goal of using only renewable and recycled materials by 2030. Ikea is now planning to get Indian farmers to sell it the straw that’s left after they harvest rice, instead of burning it.

The practice is one of the reasons India is among the world’s most polluted countries, with the mass burnings resulting in dangerous smog levels.

With a reputation built over decades for mass production of cheap furniture, Ikea is rebranding itself as a champion of the environment as customers increasingly demand greener products. It plans to stop using all single-use plastics in its products by 2020.

The first rice-straw product prototypes will be decorations and paper boxes, and Ikea plans to start selling them in India during 2019 or 2020, it said in a statement. If the initiative takes off, Ikea may expand it to more products and markets, it said.

The Asian Age – Om Prakash Chautala expels older son for ‘anti-party activities’

Two weeks ago, INLD chief had also expelled from party Ajay Singh Chautala’s two sons, Hisar MP Dushyant and his brother Digvijay.

Chandigarh – Haryana – India, 14 November 2018. The ongoing feud within the Chautala family escalated with INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala expelling his son Ajay Singh from the primary membership of the party for alleged anti-party activities.

The decision was taken on Monday and announced at a press conference in Chandigarh on Wednesday called by Ajay’s younger brother and Leader of Opposition in the Haryana Assembly, Abhay Singh Chautala.

Ajay Singh who is serving a 10-year jail term along with his father and former chief minister O P Chautala in a teachers’ recruitment scam in the state is currently out on a two-week parole.

Two weeks ago, the INLD chief had also expelled from the party Ajay Singh Chautala’s two sons, Hisar MP Dushyant and his brother Digvijay.

Though Ajay Singh’s wife and INLD MLA Naina Chautala too has been vocal against her detractors within the party after action against her sons, she has been spared from any disciplinary action.

INLD state unit president Ashok Arora announced the decision to expel Ajay in presence of Abhay Singh Chautala as well as nine of the 18 party MLAs and two of the three MPs. He flashed before reporters a letter signed by Om Prakash Chautala in this regard.

Arora said the INLD has called a meeting of the state executive as well as of MLAs and MPs in Chandigarh on November 17. On the same day, Ajay Singh has called a similar meeting in Jind.

The INLD state unit president claimed that the meeting called by Ajay Singh in Jind “is in violation of the party constitution because such a meeting cannot be convened without the approval of the party president.”

“Therefore, any meeting which is convened without prior approval of the party’s national president shall invite disciplinary action,” Arora said.

Asserting that the party is supreme and no one is above it, the letter by Om Prakash Chautala stated that the “anti-party activities” of INLD’s Haryana unit secretary-general Ajay Singh have “caused hurt and have become unbearable”.

“Ajay Singh has convened a meeting on November 17, which is unconstitutional, and makes it clear that he is trying to run a parallel set up to weaken the party,” the letter stated while announcing Ajay Singh’s expulsion from the party.

At the press conference, Abhay Singh Chautala, for the first time, launched an attack on his elder brother and accused him of playing into the hands of the BJP and the Congress to weaken the INLD.

Pitted against his younger brother Abhay in a power struggle within the INLD, Ajay Singh had on Tuesday hit out at his detractors for dubbing a party meet, convened by him, “unconstitutional”.

Ajay Singh had on Monday written a letter inviting the INLD’s sitting and former MPs and MLAs, besides other office bearers for a state executive meet in Jind on November 17.

INLD spokesperson Praveen Attrey had questioned Ajay’s authority to call the meeting. The objections to Ajay Singh’s move to convene the meeting surfaced amid a festering family feud, which saw two of his sons – Dushyant and Digvijay being “expelled” from the party on November 2 by an order they have refused to accept.

Ajay Singh has been critical of the action against his sons.