The Hindu – Attack on couples by ‘Khap Panchayats’ illegal, says Supreme Court

New Delhi-India, 16 January 2018. The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed as “absolutely illegal” any attack by ‘Khap Panchayats’ or associations against an adult man and woman opting for inter-caste marriage.

A Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D y Chandrachud asked the Centre to give its reponse on suggestions earlier given by amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran on ways to prevent harassment and killing of young couples in the name of family honour for marrying inter-caste or intra-clan (gotra).

“Whatever the amicus curiae says about khap, we are not concerned with that. What we are concerned is that if an adult girl or boy gets into marriage, no khap, no individual or no society can question them,” the Bench said.

The Bench told the Centre that would contemplate passing an order based on the amicus’ suggestion.

“Whenever there is any kind of collective attack on a boy or girl who are adult, it is absolutely illegal,” the Bench said and listed the matter for February 5 for further hearing.

The court had earlier sought suggestions from an NGO ‘Shakti Vahini’, amicus curiae on the issue.

Khaps are caste or community organisations in villages which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce harsh punishments based on regressive and age-old customs and traditions.

The NGO had moved the top court in 2010 seeking directions to the central and State governments to prevent and control ‘honour’ crimes by taking a number of measures.

Earlier, the apex court had invited ‘Khap Panchayats’ to hear their views before issuing any order to stop them from harassing and killing couples and women in the name of honour.

The Centre had pleaded with the apex court to put in place a mechanism to monitor crimes against women by ‘Khap Panchayats’, as the police was not able to protect women facing ordeal at their hands.

The top court had also said that as a pilot project, it would examine the situation in three districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where ‘Khap Panchayats’ were active.

It had summoned the Superintendents of Police of Rohtak and Jind districts of Haryana and that of Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh to apprise the court of the situation there.

Advertisements – Hondh Chillad Massacre: DSGMC asked to inscribe names of victims on ‘Sach Di Kandh’

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi-India, 12 January 2018. Manwinder Singh Giaspura and Bhai Darshan Singh Gholia, leaders of the Hondh Chillad Taalmel Committee, told Sikh24 that they have asked DSGMC President Manjit Singh GK to share details of ongoing petition in Punjab & Haryana Court against four senior officials.

“We met with President Manjit Singh GK to inquire about the progress in the case. We also submitted a memorandum to demand inscription of names of the victims of Hondh Chillad massacre on ‘Sach Di Kandh’ along with a brief history about this barbaric carnage,” they said.

‘Sach Di Kandh’ is a project initiated by the Delhi Shiromani Gurdwara Management Committee to inscribe names of 1984 anti-Sikh massacres victims. The walls has names of victims who fell victim to the massacres in November 1984.

It has details of victims from Delhi area and other parts of India, however, it doesn’t include information of those who were killed in Hondh Chillad.

“Manjit Singh GK hailed our efforts and said that the DSGMC had tried its best to include the names of India-wide victims of Sikh genocide. He added that the names of left victims will also be inscribed within short time,” Manwinder Singh told Sikh24.

“Manjit Singh GK has assigned the responsibility of inscribing names of 32 victims of Hondh Chillad massacre on ‘Sach Di Kandh’ to DSGMC Saradar Chaman Singh,” he said. – Hondh Chillad Massacre: Sikh activist finally hopeful for justice as Haryana government files report

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 14 December 2017. In recent developments in the Hondh Chillad anti-Sikh massacres, Engineer Manwinder Singh Giaspura told Sikh24 that the Haryana Government has filed a 15 page report accepting that the murders were targeted and communal.

Engineer Manwinder Singh is a Sikh activist who researched the killings of Sikhs at Hondh Chillad in 1984 and brought these cases to light.

This is an important development as this is the first time the Haryana Government has officially accepted that Sikhs were murdered here during the 1984 Sikh genocide, which was also carried out in other parts of the country.

BJP led Haryana Government submitted its report in response to a petition filed by Engineer Giaspura. The court will hold a hearing on this case in March 2018. Giaspura posted that he hopes after the court concludes its hearing, cases can be filed upon Haryana police and Government officials who added mobs during these massacres.

“The Punjab & Haryana High Court bench has taken on record the reply lodged by Haryana state government and has deferred next hearing on to March 20,” Giaspura told Sikh24.

The Hondh-Chillad massacre refers to the killings of at least 32 Sikhs on 2 November 1984 in a village in the Rewari district of Haryana, by the Hindu mobs during the 1984 Sikh Genocide. The local police did not intervene in the massacre or pursue a First information Report (FIR) filed by survivors or help resettle the survivors.

The Tribune – Rein in illegal travel agents: HC to states

Saurabh Malik, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 5 December 2017. Taking cognisance of advertisements by travel agents to lure susceptible people for sending them abroad even for studies, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the DGPs of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to find out whether the advertisers were registered.

The order by Justice A B Chaudhari came more than four months after Punjab and Haryana were held culpable for not warning people against contacting unregistered or unlicensed agents while seeking greener pastures abroad.

Justice Chaudhari has already asked Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to initiate suitable action against TV channels and advertisers in case broadcast ads were not by registered agents.

As the case came up for resumed hearing, Justice Chaudhari observed that the compliance report on the previous order was not there. He added that advertisements were visible at the rear of auto-rickshaws and at several places for attracting gullible people.

Issuing directions to the DGPs, Justice Chaudhari also called for details of action taken in case the agents advertising were not registered. For the purpose of compliance, Justice Chaudhari fixed the case for third week of December, while making it clear that further adjournment would not be granted.

Justice Chaudhari, on a previous date of hearing, had directed the states to issue immediate instructions to district magistrates in each district to publish “a list of registered agents and to warn the citizens against unauthorised agents”.

The list was required to be made public on a regular basis through TV, radio, newspapers and any other modes of communication.

Justice Chaudhari had observed that agents, not registered or licensed by the government, were taking money and sending people abroad, and gullible citizens were falling in their trap.

He had asserted: “In my opinion, one of the reasons appears to be the failure on the part of Punjab and Haryana in not warning the people at large not to contact any unregistered or unlicensed person/agent and not to give any amount to them.”

The Tribune – Members empower Sukhbir Badal to take call

GS Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 28 November 2017. On the eve of the election of the SGPC president and executive committee members, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal held a meeting with party-backed SGPC members at  here today.

The members unanimously authorised Sukhbir to take the final call on the candidates. The meeting was anchored by SAD general secretary Daljit Singh Cheema.

During the one-hour closed-door meeting, it is learnt that incumbent Kirpal Singh Badungar’s work was lauded by Sukhbir, Bibi Jagir Kaur, Cheema and others. Others present included former SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar, ex-minister Tota Singh and SAD leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder.

Insiders said Badungar could be re-appointed as his tenure had remained largely free of controversy. A sealed envelope containing the new chief’s name would be opened during the general House meeting.

Sukhbir said, “As per the tradition, the members have delegated all powers to the party head. However, the presidents and the executive body will be elected by the members.”

Four members join SAD

Chandigarh: Four SGPC members, who were reportedly with the Sukhdev Singh Bhaur group, joined the SAD on Tuesday, Baba Gurmeet Singh Tirlokewala Haryana, Indermohan Singh Lakhvirwala, Surjit Singh Garhi and Nirmal Singh Johlan. The last two owed allegiance to AAP.

House composition

The SGPC General House comprises 190 members, including five Takht Jathedars (they don’t have voting rights). Of these, 170 members are elected from constituencies in Punjab, Haryana and HP. The existing body has 157 SAD-backed members.

The Times of India – Hectic lobbying for SGPC president’s post

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 26 November 2017. Hectic lobbying is on for the post of the 42nd president of Sikhs’ single largest representative body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the election for which is scheduled to be held on November 29.

Incumbent Kirpal Singh Badungar, Avtar Singh Makkar and Jagir Kaur, both former presidents of SGPC, religio-political leader Balbir Singh Ghunas, former minister Tota Singh and former MP Sewa Singh Sekhwan are considered to be in race for the top post.

The key to the post lies with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal. Sources in the party told TOI that both Makkar and Badungar had developed strained relations at one point of their tenure as SGPC presidents with the top leadership of Akali Dal.

Insiders say that the party is interested in some religious personality who could coordinate well with the jathedars of Takhts, temporal seats of Sikhs. Sources informed that party could seriously consider Ghunas, who belongs to Mastuana Sampardaya, and is a staunch politician and head of a prominent gurdwara.

At the same time, Tota and Sekhwan have a long political career and could help SAD make its grip stronger on Panthic votes and help the party in the next assembly elections in 2022.

Meanwhile, Sehajdhari Sikh Party (SSP) president Paramjit Singh Ranu alleged that election of SGPC president was being held in violation of the Supreme Court (SC) judgment and the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.

“According to SC judgment, the term of SGPC got over in December 2016. Instead of calling for fresh elections to the general house to be organized by the Union home ministry, the SGPC is going to elect its new president. This is illegal and unconstitutional,” he said.

The SGPC general house was elected in September 2011, and its term as per Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, was for five years and thus ended in December 2016, said Ranu.

“Due to pendency of the voting rights issue in the SC, the elected house became defunct and a 15-member executive committee of the SGPC headed by its former president Avtar Singh Makkar was allowed by the court to work as caretaker,” he said.

He said the NDA government at the Centre amended the Sikh Gurdwara Act in May 2016, debarring the Sehajdharis to vote in the SGPC elections. SSP had challenged the amendment in Punjab and Haryana high court.

“Already another petition is pending in the court where the Union government has filed a reply that they have started the process for election to the general house. Then why is it allowing the SGPC to hold its presidential election now,” asked Ranu. – Sikh Group Seeks Memorial Status for Hondh Chillad Massacre Site in Haryana

Sikh24 Editors

Gurgaon-Haryana-India, 21 November 2017. A delegation led by the All India Sikh Students Federation President Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad held a program at the site of Hondh Chillad massacre to commemorate the life of 32 massacred Sikhs.

Notably, 32 Sikhs were brutally killed in village Hondh Chillad (situated on the outskirts of Gurgaon in Haryana) during the Sikh genocide carried out by the mobs in November 1984 following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Addressing the gathering on this occasion, the AISSF President Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad informed that his outfit was conducting a campaign to get 100,000 signatures in relation to a petition regarding Sikh genocide.

He added that camps were being organized by the AISSF to get 100,000 so that the genocide victims could be availed justice at the earliest.

“The AISSF will also raise voice to get the site of Hondh Chillad massacre converted into a Genocide Memorial,” he added.

The tragic episode of Hondh Chillad massacre was brought into light by the Sikh activist Engineer Manwinder Singh Giaspura in 2011. He had penned a detailed story about this massacre in Panthik magazine founded by Sikh Intellectual Baljit Singh Khalsa.

Since then, Giaspura has also provided valuable information directly to Sikh24 regarding the tragic incidents in Haryana relating to the 1984 Sikh genocide.

The Hindustan Times – After Ram Rahim’s arrest, Dera Sacha Sauda dies a slow death

After the conviction of the group’s leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the colossal empire is struggling to stay relevant as the number of followers has dwindled and business affected

Hitender Rao

Sirsa-Haryana-India, 10 November 2017. A colossal business empire, worth an estimated Rs 2,100 crore and spread over 800 acres, has come to a virtual standstill. Its manufacturing plants, for aloe vera products, bottled water, car batteries, confectionery, oil-seed expellers, and atta (flour), are shut down. The nearby newspaper office, resort, shopping mall, cinema, petrol pump, restaurant, and hotel are all closed. The streets, too, are empty.

When Hindustan Times visited late last month, there was a lot of gloom and quiet in Sirsa, Haryana at the headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda. It started on August 25 when a CBI court convicted the group’s leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, of raping two disciples.

The announcement was greeted with fury: more than 45 persons were reported killed and more than 300 injured in riots across north India. This passionate anger was followed by rapid desertion. Interviews with both followers of Dera and officials of agencies investigating the group confirmed that it is in dire straits.

There are some signs of life though. The group’s much smaller, old base has remained active. Last weekend, the main headquarters was opened to celebrate the birth anniversary of Dera’s founder, Shah Mastana Balochistani. Sirsa police officials estimated that 4,000 people attended.

In general, however, recent months have seen the headquarters empty and the sect’s finances come under serious threat. “Neither are there buyers anymore nor anyone to pitch in with monetary contributions,’’ said Mangat Singh, a Dera follower from Sirsa. Dharampal, who runs a shop that sells Dera products outside the group’s headquarters, was one of the few premis (disciples) seen around last month.

“I worked at a Dera manufacturing unit,” he said. “Since it is shut down now, I look after this shop for couple of hours in the morning and the evening.” Not so long ago, Dera brand shops were full of followers of the sect; when HT visited, most stores, including Dharampal’s, were empty.

‘No one to take a decision’

For those that remain at Sirsa, there is a lack of direction and a struggle to maintain business as usual.

With Ram Rahim in prison and a number of his close aides on the run, Dera lacks a leader. According to the Sirsa police, Vipassana Insan, the chairperson, was unwell for a few weeks. Jasmeet Insaan, Ram Rahim’s son, is reportedly not interested in taking over.

“There was no one to take a decision or run the place though Vipassana is back in action since Sunday,” said a senior Haryana police official familiar with Dera. “The post-verdict violence has done them a lot of damage. A number of cases have been registered against Dera managers. It seems everyone is playing safe right now.”

Hindustan Times was unable to reach any official representatives of Dera for comment, since many appear to be avoiding contact with the press and it is unclear who is currently authorised to speak on behalf of the group.

According to a Haryana intelligence official, the number of people inside the compound has dwindled from 10,000 to only around 800. “There are no followers and there is no one to give directions,’’ said one of the remaining sewadars (volunteers). “There is hardly anything for us to do. It is a strange situation.”

The compound’s hospital, colleges and schools are struggling to function. The intelligence official said that all these institutions are seeing a low turnout, of either students or patients, and have sought the permission of the Punjab and Haryana high court to operate their bank accounts in order to meet day-to-day expenses.

These accounts are the subject of both Dera’s hopes and a grave threat against it. The Punjab and Haryana high court is attempting to quantify the damage caused by the riots and considering whether to hold Dera liable.

Meanwhile, on September 27, the high court directed the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department to investigate the personal accounts of Ram Rahim and his associates for possible money laundering.

Before it’s too late

Dera’s businesses have been closing, its followers have dwindled, and its savings are in doubt, but one important source of hope remains: politicians.

When the Haryana state assembly met last month, it made a point of paying homage to the Dera followers who were killed in the violence. The sympathetic representatives were from a wide range of political parties, including the BJP, the Congress, and the Indian National Lok Dal. Dera has been an important vote bank for parties for at least a decade.

The Congress received its support in the assembly polls of Punjab, in 2007, and Haryana, in 2009. Then, in Haryana in 2014, it was the BJP that received Dera’s support. In Punjab in 2012 and 2017, it was the Shiromani Akali Dal.

The diverse array of politicians who have depended on the group is the only indication of its strength. And now, it’s only hope.

The Asian Age – Papa and I are innocent, says Honeypreet; likely to surrender today

Honeypreet said that false news is being spread about her relationship with her foster father and added that the relation was ‘pious’.

New Delhi, 3 October 2017. The adopted daughter of self-styled god man Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Honeypreet Insan, has cried foul and downplayed all allegations framed against her.

Reportedly, Honeypreet is likely to surrender before a court on Tuesday after being on the run for over a month.

While talking to a Hindi news channel, Insan said that false news is being spread about her relationship with her foster father and described the bond she shared with the Dera Sacha Sauda chief as “pious”.

“I am scared, I cannot believe that people are saying such foul things about me. I am depressed. My father is innocent and so am I. I am sure that one day the real truth will come out in the open. I urge people to not believe in these hoax reports. Nothing which is being assumed about me and my father is true,” she told the news channel.

Honeypreet added that she had slipped into depression post the conviction of Ram Rahim and that it took her a while to muster courage and come out in the open, to air her views.

She also criticized reports of her inciting riots in Sirsa and in other parts of Haryana and Punjab.

“I cannot believe that I am being dubbed a traitor. We have been making films on patriotism and they are calling us traitors. The allegations are not true. They accuse me of being involved in riots, but do they have any evidence against me? I don’t know why my name has been brought into this.

I was in the chopper with papa (Ram Rahim) when he was being taken to jail. We were not even aware of any unrest. My movement was being monitored, how could I have instigated riots?,” she said.

Honeypreet is wanted by the police in connection with the violence that broke out in Panchkula, in August, the day a court there held Ram Rahim guilty on charges of rape.

The Delhi High Court, on 26 September, rejected the transit anticipatory bail plea of Insan.

For almost 40 days, Haryana Police has been tracking leads on Honeypreet in UP, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

The Times of India – Haryana cops killed 36 people in a day, yet there’s no outrage

Robin David

Chandigarh, 24 September 2017. Sixteen-year-old Lovepreet Singh, a resident of Theri village in Punjab’s Muktsar district, had accompanied his aunt to Panchkula just for fun. He was killed in police firing in the rioting that followed Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s rape conviction on August 25.

Lovepreet’s father Kaka Singh is a devout Sikh and says his son wasn’t even a dera follower. The aunt was. The last thing this village shopkeeper would have wanted was to see his son die for a faith he did not understand or care for.

Angrej Kaur, 60, of Madheer village was an ardent dera follower. She had gone to Panchkula on August 23 for a glimpse of Gurmeet; her husband, a mason, had stayed back. Kaur sustained serious injuries in the August 25 violence and died in a hospital in Chandigarh.

Lovepreet and Angrej Kaur were among the 36 people killed in police firing in Panchkula that day. Barely a month later, their names seem to have become forgotten footnotes in Haryana government records.

There is not even a whimper of protest for those who were shot dead by the police. The justification seems to be that most of the dead were dera followers who had turned violent in support of a rape convict.

Many choose to ignore the fact that 36 is among the highest number of people killed in independent India in a single episode of police shooting at civilians in a riot. Haryana police virtually made history in Panchkula.

The Haryana government and state BJP leaders say that had dera followers been stopped from congregating in Panchkula, there was a possibility that Gurmeet would have refused to leave his headquarters in Sirsa and surrounded himself with his followers.

According to the government, any attempt to smoke him out of the 750-acre campus would have led to even higher casualties.

But former UP DGP Prakash Singh says smoking out Gurmeet from his headquarters and allowing people to gather in Panchkula are two different things and can’t be equated.

“The police brought the situation under control very quickly, but at what cost? Was it avoidable altogether? If they had taken some initial precautions, probably the need for such strict action would not have arisen.”

He adds that bringing Gurmeet out of his lair was difficult but not impossible. “It was not like Bhindranwale being protected by retired generals (inside the Golden Temple)”.

One of the worst cases of rioting in India in recent years was the 2002 post-Godhra violence in Gujarat which claimed nearly 1,000 lives. Between February 28 and March 3, during the peak of the violence, 47 people were shot dead by police across Gujarat. By April 29, this number had reached 109.

In Panchkula, the police reached a third of that number in just about an hour!

A day after the violence , the HC came down hard on the Manohar Lal Khattar government for allowing such a large group of people to gather at one place in the first place.

“It was a political surrender just to allure the vote bank,” observed a full bench of the court during a special hearing. “There is a sea of difference between administrative and political decisions; administrative decisions were paralysed because of political considerations.”

In effect, the state government which was the gatekeeper allowed a very high number of people to gather in a small place, and when they could not control them, they shot and killed 36 people to restore “order”.

The only other country where the police are accused of shooting down too many civilians is the US, with activists and media maintaining a database of killings. According to the Washington Post database, 663 people were shot dead by cops in the US between January 1 and August 31, 2017, a little less than three a day.

In India, roughly two civilians were killed every week in police firing between 2009 and 2015, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. That amounts to 796 killed in six years, by no means a small number.

Incidentally, a month before the bloodshed in Panchkula, Union minister of state for home Hansraj Ahir told the Lok Sabha that Haryana had topped the country in policemen killing civilians (22 deaths) in 2016, even overtaking strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir (16 deaths). The all-India figure was 92 in 2016.

Last year, a committee headed by Prakash Singh submitted its report to the Haryana government on why its police force had failed so miserably in controlling the Jat reservation riots of February 2016 in which 30 people were killed.

“What was lacking was the will to act, the determination to prevent riotous mobs from assembling in the first instance and then dealing with them effectively while they were committing acts of violence, arson, loot or vandalism,” the report observed, adding that the “picture was very dismal and showed deplorable lack of leadership at different levels.”

Reading the report today makes one thing clear. The disaster in Panchkula was foretold.