– June-1984 Holocaust: Sikh activists to take out religious procession on 27 May

By Sikh24 Editors

Faridkot – Panjab – India, 24 May 2018. In commemoration of the martyred Sikhs of June-1984 holocaust, a religious procession has been scheduled to be taken out on May 27 in village Bhana and other villages situated in its vicinity.

Notably, hundreds of Sikhs had attained martyrdom while battling against Indian army’s invasion into Sri Harmandr Sahib in June-1984.

Sharing the development with media, the SYFB’s senior vice president Bhai Ranjit Singh Damdami Taksal informed that the procession will commence under the patronage of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and leadership of Panj Piares from Gurdwara Patshahi Shevin in village Bhana.

“It will conclude back at village Bhana after traversing through villages Dhuddi, Mand Wala, Dhoorkot, Bhaloor, Nathu Wala, Nathe Wala, Demru, Rode, Lande, Jioon Wala, Baggeana, Kot Sukhia, Nangal, Chameli etc.” he added.

He further informed that the writers and lyricists working for the high spirit of Punjab and Sikhism will be specially honoured on this occasion beside the Sikh freedom fighters and families of martyred Sikhs.

Sikh activists Bhai Gursewak Singh Bhana, Bhai Sarabjit Singh Ghuman, Dr Sukhpreet Singh Udoke, Manwinder Singh Giaspura, Bhai Damandeep Singh, Bhai Baljit Singh Dhuddi, Bhai Sukhchain Singh Sikhan Wala, Bhai Angrej Singh Khalsa, Bhai Sewak Singh, Bhai Arshdeep Singh Tilla etc. were also present on this occasion.

Advertisements – The-hero-we-need: In Uttarakhand, Sikh cop saves Muslim man from angry-mob

Shalini Ojha

Ramnagar – Uttarakhand – India, 25 May 2018. What could have turned into another tragic incident of mob-lynching was averted, all thanks to a Sikh cop deployed in the area.

An angry mob attacked a Muslim man in Ramnagar, Uttarakhand, after he was found meeting with his Hindu girlfriend at the famous Girija temple.

When the mob tried beating the man, sub-inspector Gagandeep Singh hugged him and took him away.

Locals learnt couple belonged to different communities.

The Girija temple is frequented by couples because it is situated in a secluded area.

On May 22, when this Muslim man met his girlfriend at the temple, somehow locals got a whiff about their religions.

Soon the couple was surrounded by a furious mob who intended to hurt the boy. The presence of police and most importantly, Gagandeep Singh saved his life.

Cop attempted to save man, mob criticized him

A video of the incident, that has gone viral on social media, shows how Gagandeep fought hard against the group to save the man.

As the crowd heckled the man and even slapped him, Gagandeep held on to him tightly and took him away from the spot.

When the mob’s greed couldn’t be fulfilled they started yelling ‘Police prashasan murdabad’.

Mob alleged they found couple in compromising position

Speaking about the incident, Ramnagar police station in-charge Vikram Rathore said members of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were a part of the crowd.

They alleged they found the couple in a ‘compromising’ position.

“By the time our team reached, the crowd had started manhandling the youth and his friend,” he said.

Officer Singh can’t be thanked enough for his bravery.

Firstpost – Brahmins and Jat Sikhs lead campaign for Dalit land rights in Punjab amid milieu of deep-rooted caste prejudices

Arjun Sharma

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 24 May 2018. Upper castes have been rightly accused of oppressing and denying the human rights of Dalits for centuries. But in Punjab, a significant section of the leadership of the campaign for Dalit land rights comes from Brahmins and Jat Sikhs, both considered high castes.

The Malwa region of Punjab is witness to a growing Dalit movement over rights to common panchayat land. Section 6(1)a of The Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules, 1964 stipulates that one-third of the cultivable common land proposed to be leased shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes.

However, Dalits complain that the law is not being followed. They say the land is used for other purposes and have been protesting this injustice for years.

Interestingly, in this cause, they have not just been joined, but led by members of communities that have traditionally been the most notorious violators of their rights, the Brahmins and Jat Sikhs.

While leaders from higher castes working for Dalit causes in Punjab downplay their caste origins, their support is deeply appreciated by the Dalit leaders.

Laws rarely implemented

Mahi Pal, a prominent Brahmin leader of the landless peasants’ movement from Bathinda district, started working for Dalit causes in 1980. Pal who is the finance secretary of the Dihati Mazdoor Sabha said that caste has never come in the way of his work for Dalits, and that he tries to keep his caste a personal affair.

“After entering the movement for Dalits and landless labourers, I was shocked to see that people from this section of society are being discriminated against only because they are born in a specific caste,” Pal says.

He stressed that despite the many laws for uplifting Dalits, little has been done as they are rarely implemented.
“While the law demands renting out of one third or 33 percent of the panchayat land to Dalits, a village in Bathinda, Jai Singh Wala, has allotted the entire panchayat land for construction of a gurudwara. Now how will the Dalits in the village get their share of land?” questions Pal.

No land for Dalits

Dalits in villages of Punjab are mostly landless labourers who work on the agricultural lands of Jat Sikhs. After widespread mechanisation of agricultural processes in recent decades, most of them have lost their jobs and been forced to do menial work.

A Dalit rights activist, Mukesh Sharma Malaudh, from Sangrur district was recently declared a proclaimed offender (PO) in a case going back to June 2014. Sharma, along with other protesters, had then clashed with police over their demand for the lease of panchayat land to Dalits at a nominal price.

Sharma, who is the president of Zameen Prapti Sangarsh Committee (ZPSC), is fighting for the one-third share of Dalits on panchayat land as well as on Nazool land, which is un-irrigated, barren land located outside municipal limits and escheated to the state government.

The Nazool Land Cooperative Societies were established under the Nazool Lands (Transfer) Rules, 1956. As per the rules, there is a provision that Nazool land may be allotted to landless Dalits.

Sharma says that the state government increases the rent on panchayat land for Dalits every year. “If the government is serious about improving the status of the Dalits in the state, there is a need to overhaul a few things and implement all laws created for the welfare of Dalits,” says Sharma.

The problem of casteism is deep-rooted in Punjab, where separate cremation grounds and gurudwaras for Dalits still exist in most of the villages. While the law regarding renting out of one-third of panchayat land could be applicable in large villages, it becomes difficult to implement in case of smaller villages.

According to the 2011 census, Punjab has the highest percentage of Scheduled Caste population among all the states of the country.

The Scheduled Caste population in Punjab numbers 88.60 lakh, or 31.94 percent of a total population of 277.43 lakh.

As per the 2011 census, the vast majority of the Scheduled Castes (73.33 percent) live in rural areas, while 26.67 percent reside in Punjab’s urban centres. The majority of Scheduled Caste labourers work in the agricultural sector or are engaged in low-wage and arduous occupations in the cities.

Communist movement in Malwa

S R Darapuri, a retired IPS officer and Uttar Pradesh-based Dalit thinker whose family belongs to Doaba region of Punjab, says that the spread of the communist ideology in the Malwa region has led to many intellectuals and social activists, irrespective of their caste, to join the Dalit movement.

“It is a classic case where Brahmins and Jat Sikhs are steering a movement of people who were suppressed by these very castes. The success of the communists in the Malwa region of Punjab is the main cause why leaders have forgotten their castes for the cause of Dalits,” says Darapuri.

A case in point is the All India Kisan Sabha, the mass organisation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Ruldu Singh, president of the Punjab Kisan Union says that despite being from the Jat community, he has been supporting the cause of poor farmers and Dalits in the area for a long time. “I was also arrested during a protest for Dalits in year 2009 in Mansa district,” he says.

Singh says the Jat community, for the most part, rarely concerns itself with issues other than the mounting problems of agriculture in Punjab. “But I will continue to work for poor and Dalits in our state as successive governments use Dalits only as their vote bank and never see them as humans,” Singh says.

Arjun Sharma is a Ludhiana-based freelance writer and a member of, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters

The Hindu – No discrimination on basis of religion: Rajnath

The minister was responding to the Archbishop’s call for prayers

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 22 May 2018. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday that he had not seen the letter by the Archbishop of Delhi, Anil Couto, asking for a prayer campaign in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, along with an appeal to fast on Fridays.

“I have not seen the statement [of the Archbishop] verbatim but all I can say is that India is a country where there is no discrimination against anyone on the basis of caste, sect or religion. Such a thing cannot be allowed,” Mr Singh said on the sidelines of an event of the Border Security Force (BSF) here.

His comments came in the wake of the Archbishop referring to a “turbulent political atmosphere” in the country, and appealing for a prayer campaign ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Archbishop Couto, who had written to all parish priests in the national capital earlier this month, did not name any political party in his letter.

The Home Minister said the government would not allow any breach of the unity of the country.

“Sometimes questions are posed to us. We will not compromise on the unity, integrity and sovereignty of this country at any cost and this is our top priority. We are also committed to strengthening the bonds of amity, affinity and harmony in our society,” he said.

Call for campaign

Citing the political atmosphere which allegedly poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and the secular fabric of the nation, the Archbishop letter says, “It is our hallowed practice to pray for our country and its political leaders all the time but all the more so when we approach the general elections.

As we look forward towards 2019, when we will have a new government, let us begin a prayer campaign for our country”.

No discrimination against anyone on the basis of caste, sect or religion in India
Rajwant Singh must be joking !
Man in Blue

The Indian Express – To scan movies on Sikhism, Akal Takht Jathedar forms 21-member ‘censor board’

This announcement to form the censor board came after a huge controversy that had erupted last month over the release of movie ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, based on life of first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 23 May 2018. Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has formed a 21-member ‘censor board’ to scrutinise movies related to Sikhism. Akal Takht Jathedar has also asked movie makers to take approval for movies related to Sikhism.

However, there is no name on the board which is directly related to filed of making movies.

Prominent members include Giani Harpreet Singh, Jathedar Takht Damdama Sahib, Partap Singh, representative Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, some Sikh scholars including Balkar Singh, Professor Amarjit Singh, Dr Gurmeet Singh Sidhu, Professor Sarabjit Singh, Dr Sarabjinder Singh and Dr Harpal Singh Pannu.

Religious bodies Damdami Taksal, Tarna Dal and Budha Dal have also secured seats on the panel. This announcement to form the censor board came after a huge controversy that had erupted last month over the release of movie ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, based on life of first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev.

Though initially the SGPC had cleared the movie produced by Harinder Sikka for screening in theatres, the body revoked its approval at the last moment sparking controversy.

Sikka was excommunicated after he declined to accept last minute order of SGPC and Akal Takht to remove the movie from theaters that released on April 14.

To settle the issues related to release of such movies made on Sikhism, Akal Takht Jathedar said: “We have formed the censor board due to repeated controversy erupting over movies made on Sikhism. This censor board will assure that every side is heard properly.”

He added: “It would be a must for the movie makers to get approval from censor board for any movie related to Sikhism.”

Censor board will not be the final authority on such matters and it will submit its reports to Akal Takht Jathedar for a final decision.

While this censor board will have no legal authority, however Akal Takht Jathedar has issued directions for the movie makers saying it would be mandatory for them to seek permission of Akal Takht whenever they make any movie on Sikhism.

When I first was taught about Sikhism I understood that we stood for freedom of expression
An advisory board would be acceptable, a censor board should be anathema to Sikhs

Man in Blue

The Tribune – Dalit youth beaten to death for opposing liquor sale

Our Correspondent

Abohar – Panjab – India, 21 May 2018. A Dalit youth was allegedly beaten to death and his hands crushed on Sunday night for opposing open sale of liquor in Mirzewala Mer village near Hanumangarh.

Jan Kranti Morcha convener Pooja Chhabra said she had informed Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria about the incident. “Kataria has assured suitable action against the accused. I will meet him on Tuesday,” she said.

Security has been beefed up with the Station House Officers from six police stations and around 100 other police personnel camping in the area.

In the FIR lodged at 3 am on Monday, Hakim Nayak, brother of the deceased, alleged that a dozen jeep-borne persons had barged into the house of Mohinder Nayak, 33, at 8 pm on Sunday and started beating him up as he had opposed the sale of liquor on the village streets. When his wife Suman intervened, she was also reportedly attacked.

The miscreants had allegedly dragged Mohinder out of the house and thrashed him to death. Before leaving, they allegedly ran the vehicle over his hands. Some of the accused were identified as Dholu Bhadoo, his brother Naresh Bhadoo, Bhim Jakhar and Sonu.

Villagers alleged that they carried lathis, iron rods and a pistol. Mohinder’s relatives and other villagers sat around his body and refused a post-mortem till the accused were arrested.

Zila Parishad ex-vice chairperson Shabnam Godara, BJP Mahila Morcha district president Gulab Sinwar, CPM leader Jagjit Jaggi, Dalip Birat of the Bahujan Samaj Party and some other senior activists reached the village to express solidarity with Mohinder’s family. – Punjab government annuls FIR registered against Sarbat Khalsa organizers

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 May 2018. On the recommendation of Justice Ranjit Singh led Investigation Commission, the Congress led Punjab government has annulled the FIR registered against organizers of ‘Sarbat Khalsa-2015’.

Notably, the Amritsar police had registered an FIR against around 20 Sikh leaders indicting all of them under sedition charges on November 10, 2015.

The District Police of Amritsar has submitted a detailed report in Court about cancelling this FIR against Sikh leaders.

Warmly welcoming the move, the SAD (Amritsar) president Sardar Simranjit Singh Mann has conferred the credit of this FIR cancellation to Justice Ranjit Singh.

The Sikh congregation named ‘Sarbat Khalsa-2015’ organized at village Chabba (situated on the outskirts of Amritsar Sahib) on November 10, 2015 had witnessed a record gathering of Sikhs. This Sikh congregation had annulled the SGPC appointed Takht Jathedars while appointing Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara as new Akal Takht Jathedar.

The Times of India – ‘Fear drives Peshawar’s minorities to turn cremation ground into graveyard’

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 May 2018. In yet another twist to the Peshawar crematorium issue, the Sanskar Sewak Samiti (SSS), a Peshawar-based organization, has claimed that Hindus and Sikhs, who can’t afford to travel to the nearest crematorium (which is about 90km at Attock), are forced to bury their dead in a five-kanal (2,500 sq yards) cremation ground that has been turned into a graveyard following objections by the locals.

Former SSS president Zahid Kumar told TOI over the phone from Peshawar that after the Partition, they were allotted five-kanal land for a cremation ground, but due to opposition by neighbouring residents and some locals against burning the dead, they started burying them.

“We are peace loving minority communities of Pakistan, so we changed our last rituals so as to not create any bad blood,” said Zahid, adding that they had also got the platforms constructed for burning the dead ones, but they didn’t use them to maintain communal harmony.

He said both Sikhs and Hindus have filed a writ in a court urging it to direct the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government to release Rs 3 crore, which was earmarked by it in 2017-18 budget for a crematorium for the minorities. The writ was filed by Gurpal Singh, a resident of Peshawar, said Zahid.

He said an ambulance charged something between Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,000, while a bus takes Rs 15,000 and Rs 18,000 to ferry a body to Attock for cremation.

“Sometimes when there are many relatives or friends, then there is requirement of two buses which costs anything around Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000,” he said, adding that everyone couldn’t afford the expenses.

Notably, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh GK has also appealed to the KPK government to provide land to the minority Sikh and Hindu communities of Peshwar for the cremation ground in the absence of which they were forced to bury their dead ones.

GK had also offered financial assistant for the construction work, which evoked sharp reaction from Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC).

Zahid said SSS provides conveyance expenses, wood and a pandit for the Hindu families who couldn’t afford to travel to Attock for cremation of their dead ones.

The Tribune – Government will render justice to 1984 riot victims, says BJP leader in USA

Washington DC – USA, 20 May 2018. The BJP-led NDA government has taken steps and “will do its best” to render justice to each and every family that has suffered from the grave injustice perpetrated against them during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, a senior BJP leader has said.

“I stand before you to assure the community that we will do our best to render justice to each and every family that has suffered during those unfortunate years,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said amidst applause from the few hundred Sikh Americans who had gathered in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC to celebrate Vaisakhi.

He said the NDA government has decided to go to any extent to punish the guilty in the crimes that were perpetrated against the Sikh community during 1984 riots.

Justice Dhingra Commission is actively looking into 186 serious cases of crime against the Sikh community in 1984, he added. A number of FIRs have been filed again.

“In fact, arrest warrants have been issued against the leaders who were in the forefront of this whole crime against the community,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a special message said that observing the Vaisakhi festival abroad is a glowing sign of the traditions and the values that the Sikh community continues to cherish.

“We are proud of the achievements of the Sikh community in North America, which has contributed significantly to the growth and prosperity in its adopted home. It is commendable that the community has also preserved its traditions and ethos, and is a living bridge with India,” he said.

Madhav also said that Indian-Americans are playing a pivotal role in building India’s strategic ties with the US.

“We are not just political, strategic allies, we are natural allies because we are two people who share a very strong bond between us,” he said.

“People of Indian origin who live in this country are an important pivot of this relationship. We value your contribution to strengthen this relationship,” he said.

Dawn – The ‘not-yet-disappeared’

Rafia Zakaria

Op/Ed, 16 May 2018. It’s the stuff of nightmares: the sudden arrival of a number of men into the privacy of one’s home, a search, and then a family member taken away. This is what reportedly happened last month to a Ph D student Laeeq Aslam.

According to details of the reported event, about half a dozen men barged into his Rawalpindi home late at night. The men showed the inhabitants, including the victim and his family, a search warrant, and then proceeded to go through all the contents of the house.

They must have gone through personal belongings in the cupboards and drawers and everywhere else, scattering items across the floor of the home.

At the end of this, they were said to have taken some mobile phones and a laptop that belonged to Laeeq, indicating that they would need to conduct some tests on it. No one objected; after all, everyone was scared. Then, as they were leaving, they took Laeeq outside, to ‘talk’ to him. He did not return.

Laeeq’s family, his bereft mother and his father, have done everything that parents can do in such a hapless situation. They have filed a missing person’s case. In a short video, Aslam’s mother begs for her son to be returned.

We imagine ourselves safe, not at threat of armed men arriving in the depths of the night

They are hardly alone in their grief. In January of this year, a young scientist, Nozair Hassan, and his wife were suddenly taken away from their house in Islamabad. Their two young children cried and watched their parents disappear.

A petition filed in that case is before the Islamabad High Court, which has repeatedly demanded that the whereabouts of the couple be revealed and that they be brought before the court. So far, this has not happened.

According to the data kept by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, which has been ordered to investigate these cases, 1,822 remained pending since April 30 this year.

A hearing before the Supreme Court earlier this month, resulted in additional attorney general Sajid Ilyas Bhatti admitting that over 1,330 people were being kept in ‘internment’ centres in various parts of the country. A little over 250 have been released from these centres.

When the judge asked for more details and whether proceedings had been initiated against these centres, the AAG requested an additional two weeks. It is difficult to tell from the record of the hearing whether these obviously illegal internment centres and the people in them form part of the 1,822 total missing persons cases that are pending.

The confusion and lack of information must undoubtedly be excruciatingly painful for those whose loved ones have been ‘disappeared’.

While all losses are terrible, the uncertainty of not knowing what exactly has happened to them, whether they are being tried or persecuted, held safely or are in peril, dead or alive, exerts its own torturous cruelty on those left behind.

The depth of this kind of pain is attested to in historical memoirs that speak of repressive realms as in the Soviet Union and pre-war Germany. Then, too, strange men would appear, often in the dead of night and always without warning.

Then, too, people, hurriedly dressed and still groggy from sleep, were carried away to unknown locations. Then, too, children and wives or parents and husbands were left behind, wondering if they would ever see their loved one again. Then, too, there was a regime of ‘disappearance’, where one is not dead, not alive, just inexplicably, painfully gone.

But Pakistan is not Stalin’s Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany. We have, at least in theory, a system that includes the rule of law, where detention must be lawful and its conditions transparent, where every citizen has the right to freedom unless they are accused of committing a crime.

But these perhaps are the pretensions of all the rest of us, the not-yet-disappeared, who choose to believe in certain sorts of fictions, such as legality and criminality.

These stories, in turn, give us the courage to look away, to imagine the disappeared as inherently culpable, people who were involved in something sticky or nasty, something that offended the powers that be.

We, the play-it-safe, not-yet-disappeared, thus imagine ourselves safe, not at threat of armed and unknown men arriving in the depths of the night and rifling through our belongings and then taking away with them the most cherished, children or husbands or sons or daughters, with no explanation, not a single clue to their destination.

There may be 101 hearings, orders by courts demanding the production of the disappeared in courts, asking for explanations to these unknown ‘internment’ centres where so many Pakistanis reportedly remain far from the law of the land.

None will end the problem of enforced disappearances. For that to happen, the not-yet-disappeared, each and every one of the rest of us who imagine the gone as guilty, the present as safe, must let go of that myth, recognise disappearance as a fate worse than death imposed by unseen, unaccountable powers.

It is only when the ‘not-yet-disappeared’ recognise how perilously close their own existence, the lives they have built, are to being erased, that this problem will find a solution.

It is this silence, practised by the not-yet-disappeared in the Soviet Union and in Germany, that permitted enforced disappearances to take place, their numbers to grow. So, too, will be the consequences of similar silence in Pakistan. No one expects things to devolve, their own lives to be impacted — until it is too late.

The not-yet-disappeared of Pakistan must awake, suddenly and immediately, and realise that innocence is not sufficient protection against the abyss of disappearance.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.