The Tribune – No religion, no caste, only humanity: Harbhajan Singh on clip of Sikhs distributing food in UK

Yuvraj and Harbhajan paired up with Afridi to help those in need during the pandemic

New Delhi – India, 02 April 2020. Ace India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has reacted to the criticism which he and Yuvraj Singh received for extending support to Shahid Afridis humanitarian work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Harbhajan uploaded a video on his Twitter handle showing Sikhs preparing and distributing food to needy in England. “No religion, no cast, only humanity, that’s what it is, stay safe stay home, spread love not hate or virus, let’s pray for every single one, May Waheguru bless us all,” he wrote along with the video.

Earlier, Yuvraj had also said that by asking for help for Shahid Afridi foundation, he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and all he tried was to help people suffering due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really don’t understand how a message to help the most vulnerable people gets blown out of proportion!

All I tried to achieve through that message was to help people in our own respective countries by providing healthcare, my intention was not to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Yuvraj said in a message posted on his Twitter handle on Wednesday.

“I’m an Indian and I will always bleed blue and will always stand for humanity. Jai Hind,” he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh paired up with Afridi to help those in need during the pandemic which has claimed thousands of lives across the world.

“These are testing times, it’s time to lookout for each other specially the ones who are less fortunate. Let’s do our bit, I am supporting Shahid Afridi and Shahid Afridi Foundation in this noble initiative of COVID-19. Please donate on,” Yuvraj had tweeted tagging Harbhajan.

Harbhajan had also praised Afridi for the valuable social work he was doing in these trying circumstances.

However, a hashtag #ShameonYuviBhajji started trending on Twitter with users lashing out at the duo for helping Afridi. At the same time, there was also support for the former India all-rounder with #IStandWithYuvi hashtag doing the rounds.

The Print – Cremate all Covid-19 victims’ bodies, regardless of religion, VHP tells government

VHP terms Nizamuddin Markaz gathering that resulted in the spread of Covid-19 to hundreds ‘shameful’, urges Muslims to close all mosques that are still open.

Neelam Pandey

New Delhi – India, 01 April 2020. The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has asked the government to cremate the bodies of all those who have died of Covid-19, irrespective of religion.

It has also demanded strict action over the Nizamuddin Markaz incident, in which nearly a hundred Covid-19 cases have been traced back to a three-day gathering organised by the Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi in mid-March.

Speaking to ThePrint, Alok Kumar, working president of the VHP, said: “A coronavirus-infected deceased must be mandatorily cremated, irrespective of religious affiliations, to stop the spread of the infection. We have requested the government to look into this.”

Kumar said the VHP has requested the Muslim community to not allow the use of mosques for assembling, which could be a medium through which the corona-virus can spread.

He said while all other religious places have closed voluntarily, the Muslim society should itself come forward and close with immediate effect all the mosques in India that are still open.

The VHP also put out a press release reiterating these points.

The statement comes two days after an uproar in Maharashtra on the same issue, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation commissioner Praveen Pardeshi had put out a circular that bodies of all Covid-19 victims would be cremated irrespective of religion, but had to amend the circular after the state government intervened.

The circular was criticised by Maharashtra minority development minister Nawab Malik of the Nationalist Congress Party, and later, All India Majlis-e-Ittihadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who said it was against health ministry guidelines.

The VHP statement termed the Nizamuddin Markaz incident as “shameful” and “unfortunate”, saying it may shatter the 18-day struggle against the novel corona-virus and the achievements of the pan-India lock-down. It also used the word “obstinate” for Muslims insisting on their dead being buried.

“For covering up their unpardonable crime, the Markaz officials are daring to hold the administration and police accountable,” it said of the Nizamuddin incident.

“The entire country is taking all pains and making all kinds of sacrifices to break the chain of Corona (sic) spread. Most of the shrines were closed voluntarily to avoid crowds and make social distancing a success. But some people forcibly insisted to offer Namaz in mosques,” the Hindu body said.

“Similarly, it was obstinately insisted to bury the dead corona victims while everyone knows burial causes the Corona bacteria (sic) to spread rapidly. We appeal to all responsible people of India to motivate their communities to move back from such intransigence and dogmatism. The mindset and mentality will not only hurt the country, they themselves cannot benefit either,” it said.

It added that “instead of taking out these elements hiding in markaz, Mosques and Madarsas, they should be quarantined in those buildings themselves and treated there, so that the pandemic remains confined and curbed there”.

“Those foreign Mullahs and Maulvis with tourist visa who have indulged in the promotion of their religion and fundamentalism, their visas should be cancelled, and strict legal action should be taken against them,” the VHP further said.

Calling out “liberals” for their “silence” on the Nizamuddin incident, it added: “Recently, the so-called secular intellectuals of the country went to places like Shaheen Bagh and supported the protestors and their countrywide violence. Their silence on this development is surprising. Our appeal to them is to use their influence to stop such activities.”

Cremate all Covid-19 victims’ bodies, regardless of religion, VHP tells govt

The Tribune – Bodies of three Sikhs killed in Kabul attack to be brought to India on Monday: Harsimrat Kaur

Urges PM to facilitate relocation of Afghan Sikhs who want to settle in India

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 29 March 2020. Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Sunday said bodies of three Sikhs killed in the Kabul gurdwara attack, whose families were based in India, would be brought back to the country on Monday.

She also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps to facilitate the relocation of all Afghan Sikhs who wanted to leave Afghanistan and settle in India.

In a statement here, Harsimrat said the bodies of three Sikhs were being brought back to India tomorrow. He said while the families of two, Shankar Singh and Jiwan Singh were based in Ludhiana, the third Tian Singh’s family was based in Delhi.

She said while Shankar’s wife would also return with her husband’s body to Ludhiana where his six children were residing with their maternal grandparents, Jiwan’s wife and children were living in Ludhiana.

The Union minister has appealed to the Prime Minister to initiate an exercise to relocate all Afghan Sikhs who wanted to leave Afghanistan due to growing insecurity and threats to their very lives and livelihood.

She said from a population of several thousands, only around 300 to 400 Sikh families remained in Afghanistan with thousands migrating to India and elsewhere in the last more than one decade.

She also appealed to the Prime Minister to take up the issue of the safety and security of the Sikh community in Afghanistan with the latter government. “Sikhs in Afghanistan are undergoing a trauma. They are facing threats on a day to day basis.

Earlier also there have been gruesome attacks on its members including a terrorist attack in 2018 while killed 13 persons in Jalalabad. Many want to leave Afghanistan and relocate in India. This relocation should be facilitated at the earliest,” he added.

The Indian Express – Serving over 10k meals a day, Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib’s kitchen runs short of wheat

It is for the first time in four decades that the gurdwara management has sought help from the government to meet the need for supplies to its kitchen.

Divya Goyal

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 29 March 2020. Not once in its 90-year existence did Ludhiana’s Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib run out of wheat flour for its langar kitchen.

But as it serves over 10,000 meals daily amid the lockdown, the gurdwara is running short of wheat supplies to keep serving parshadas (rotis) to those who turn up for langar and those who look forward to packed meals from its langar kitchen in these unprecedented times due to corona-virus.

It is also for the first time in four decades that the gurdwara management has sought help from the government to meet the need for supplies to its kitchen.

But while people, migrants, daily-wagers and the homeless, continue to show up, Punjab government’s Department of Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs is yet to respond to gurdwara management’s request for wheat bags.

In the meantime, the management has arranged a few tonnes of wheat, but it fears that the stock won’t last long given the surge in demand for langar during lockdown.

Apart from serving langar at the gurdwara, food packets are being supplied by the shrine 24×7.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Prithpal Singh (65), president, Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib, said: “Langar is the most valuable element of our Punjabi culture and Sikhism.

People and faiths across the globe admire us for langar because in Punjab no one sleeps empty-stomach. Our langar kitchen has been serving 10,000 meals a day at least since always, and now after the curfew, even as the people coming to langar hall has decreased, the demand for packed meals is increasing.”

He added: “We are supplying at least 6,000 meals of packed food a day (twice a day) and then another 5,000 meals (twice a day) are being served to homeless and poor people, mostly migrants, who are still coming to have food.

It was for the first time that we ran short of wheat and we approached the food supplies minister. But they have failed to deliver wheat bags. It was disappointing as well as heartbreaking.”

Gurdwara president said that they are ready to supply double the capacity of food packets, but for that they need wheat. “I personally called Food Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu and asked for help apprising him of entire situation. We have always paid and bought grocery for langar.

Even now we were ready to pay to government also but the department did not deliver us wheat bags. At last, we have arranged some stock on our own through arthiyas (commission agents) but we do not know how long it will last,” he said.

Temporarily, the gurdwara has now arranged 23 tonnes of wheat from arthiyas paying Rs 21,085 per tonne but seeing that demand for meals has been increasing with 2-2.5 tonnes being consumed each day, it might last for next 7-10 days or less.

“It all depends on how many food packets are delivered apart from sangat still visiting langar hall. At least 5,000 (twice a day) are still coming to gurdwara to have food, mostly daily wagers and migrants. We cannot deny food to anyone. We are also supplying food to temples and mosques.

Assi ajj tak kisi aggey hath ni failaaya, sarkar agge vi ni (We have never begged for anything from government or otherwise) but if langar kitchen is expected to deliver cooked food, we need raw material for that. We are even ready to pay for it but the department failed to arrange wheat for us on priority.

We did it on our own,” said Prithpal Singh. He added that there was enough stock for dal (pulses) and vegetables are being brought on daily basis but all they need is wheat flour.

“This situation would have been avoided had our wheat crop on 40 acres of land owned by gurdwara had not been damaged due to untimely rains or if some time was given to prepare for curfew instead of sudden announcement,” he said.

The kitchen at gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib, among the largest in Punjab, serves meals (dal, roti and vegetables) to at least 10,000 persons apart from tea-snacks langar (once a day). The kitchen has capacity to produce 4,500 rotis in an hour. “We can arrange another roti making machine and double up the capacity.

But we need at least 30 tonnes of wheat more for lockdown till 14 April. People are coming to ask for food packets. Today also food was supplied in Haibowal and Dugri areas,” said Pithpal Singh, who has been a sewadar at the gurdwara for over 34 years.

When contacted, Arvinder Sandhu, Inspector, Food & Civil Supplies Department, said: “There were some issues such as transportation and scarcity of wheat and we have informed higher officials about wheat shortage being faced by gurdwara. District Food Supplies Controller will be the right person to comment on it.”

Sukhwinder Singh Gill, District Food Supplies Controller, said that wheat stock lying with them belongs to central government and for that they have to get permission from Food Corporation of India (FCI) to supply it to the gurdwara.

“We cannot issue wheat bags to anyone without FCI’s permission. We will try solving issue on Monday and gurdwara can buy wheat from us for Rs 20,080 per tonne,” he said. – Afghan Sikhs re-attacked with missile in Crematorium; Ammunition mines recovered near Crematorium

Sikh24 Editors

Kabul – Afghanistan, 26 March 2020. In a video uploaded recently over social media, the DSGMC president Manjinder Singh Sirsa has revealed that the Afghan Sikhs have been re-attacked with missile in the crematorium of Kabul when they were about to cremate the dead bodies of more than two dozen Sikhs killed in 25 March attack.

“All of them are currently hiding in the crematorium and the Army has recovered ammunition mines in the nearby area,” Sirsa informed.

Afghan Sikhs re-attacked with missile in Crematorium; Ammunition mines recovered near Crematorium – World leaders are using Covid-19 to undermine democracy, and history won’t judge them well for it

Democratic governments are best-equipped to deal with the fallout of the global crisis.
Shutdowns. Lockdowns. Blanket bans. Closed borders. States of emergency or calamity, if you’re in the Philippines.

Huma Yusuf

Dawn, 25 March 2020. Temperature-checking drones and the surrender of mobile data to track citizens. Government directives to industry. Corona-virus has made authoritarians of us all.

Delaying the spread of the virus is of paramount importance. But it is not too early to consider the long-term toll the virus will take on our political systems. Democracy seems particularly vulnerable to this pandemic.

On the simplest level, the pandemic has highlighted how voting systems cannot handle disruption. Local and national elections around the world are being suspended, the logistics are too overbearing and costly in the midst of a crisis, and social distancing impossible during polling.

These delays will undoubtedly erode trust in the system as leaders without a credible mandate bungle their way through an unprecedented crisis.

The dithering of political leaders in democratic states when making difficult decisions has also been criticised, and contrasted with quick action in China. Some of this is due to the slower pace of consensus gathering in democracies, as different departments and numerous political stakeholders must be consulted.

Many delays can likely be attributed to leaders weighing the political costs of what they must do. Either way, democracy can be found wanting.

Dying democracies

It doesn’t help that democracy has been equated with cacophony over these trying weeks. In devolved systems, provinces and states have been responding differently, often at odds with each other, spurring the virus’s spread. Even democracy’s most die-hard supporters have found themselves longing for centralised command and control.

Many democratic leaders have, unfortunately, also exploited Covid-19 as an excuse to behave badly. The United States has doubled down on its irrational travel bans.

In Singapore and Israel, the governments are invoking the crisis to start tracking people through their mobile phones. In Delhi, a Bharaitya Janata Party activist has blamed those protesting the citizenship act for spreading the virus.

Globally, journalists are facing pressure and threats for criticising government responses to coronavirus, or questioning the accuracy of reported numbers.

It has only taken a few weeks for the situation to get dire enough for a group of United Nations special rapporteurs on human rights to issue a reminder to governments to not use Covid-19 as a cover for repressive, discriminatory or unconstitutional measures.

Such bad behaviour will persist while democracy’s greatest asset, accountability, is undermined. The fast pace of events and the unprecedented nature of this crisis means that typical accountability functions such as the media, courts and civil society organisations are unable to serve as effective checks.

In the short term, this will result in dubious decision-making. In the long-term, today’s mistakes will be held up as examples of flagrancy, venality or incompetence by populists and autocrats hell-bent on further undermining democratic systems.

Our only hope

But we cannot lose faith in the system during this crisis. Democracy, when agile and credible, can deliver the efficacy of an authoritarian system while maintaining transparency and accountability. This is the “wartime democracy” being daily extolled in the Western press.

In this conception, democracy can rely on a unified public mandate, which authoritarian states rarely have, to make quick decisions, while being kept answerable for its actions.

Don’t forget, China, which is now recording no or few daily new cases, and is being envied the world over for its top-down coronavirus crackdown, initially sought to suppress the outbreak of the virus, leading to its spread.

The real stress for democracies is not now, during the handling of the crisis. Rather, it will come when the pace of the spread of the virus has been made manageable, and people observe how quickly their systems bounce back.

How soon and proactively will governments reevaluate emergency measures, roll back monitoring and tracking provisions once they are no longer needed, and, most importantly, re-engage citizens to understand their priorities and needs.

Moreover, once the virus is controlled, we will recognise that the fallout of the pandemic can only be managed by a robust democratic system. When we seek to rebuild shattered economies, and societies, we will need inclusive representation so that all constituents can be heard and accounted for.

We will need social welfare programmes, local governments to engage the public at the grass roots, and civilian policing to tackle the likely rise in petty crime during a recession.

Above all, we will need governments – and democratic ones are best suited for this – to hear the global public’s priorities, and improve access to quality health and education so that we’re never so vulnerable again.

This article first appeared on Dawn

BBC News – Omar Abdullah: Kashmir leader released from months-long detention

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 24 March 2020. Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir, has been released after nearly eight months in detention.

The decision was taken amid concern for his health because of Covid-19, a police official told BBC Urdu.

He added that Mr Abdullah would be home “anytime today”.

He was among thousands of local leaders put under house arrest a day before the disputed region was stripped of its semi-autonomous status on 5 August.

His house arrest was further extended in February under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention without charge for up to two years.

But last week India’s top court asked the federal government for an update on his release, in response to a petition by Mr Abdullah’s sister.

Another former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, whose house arrest was also extended under the PSA, is still in detention. It’s also unclear how many Kashmiris continue to be held. Some estimates put the number in the thousands.

The Kashmir region has been tense since August. The government deployed tens of thousands of troops to quell unrest and enforced a crackdown on communications after it decided to strip the region of its special status and split it into two federally-administered territories.

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party defended the decision, saying it was necessary to uphold law and order.

Although phone connections and internet services have been restored, access remains poor and speeds are below what is common in the rest of India.

The Print – Delhi Police clears Shaheen Bagh protest site amid coronavirus threat

Shaheen Bagh had become the heart of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests since 15 December last year, days after the law was passed by Parliament.

Fatima Khan

New Delhi – India, 24 March 2020. The Delhi Police cleared the Shaheen Bagh protest site early Tuesday, two days after Section 144 was imposed in the national capital due to the widening corona-virus outbreak.

Shaheen Bagh had become the heart of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests since women from the area launched their agitation on 15 December last year, days after the contentious law was passed by Parliament.

“The protest site was cleared around 7 am Tuesday. There were five women who were sitting in the protest last night. In the morning, we were told they have been removed,” Khurshid Alam, one of the protest organisers, told ThePrint.

The Delhi Police reportedly also removed tents that marked the site.

“People at the protest site in Shaheen Bagh were requested today to clear the site as lockdown has been imposed. But after they refused, action was taken against violators as the assembly was unlawful.

Protest site has been cleared. Some protestors have been detained,” the southeast deputy commissioner of police told ANI.

Women had been holding a 24/7 sit-in protest at Shaheen Bagh against the CAA, demanding its withdrawal, and talks with the government.

Over three months, the protest continued through biting cold winter nights, heavy rainfall, and even the communal riots in Northeast Delhi last month.

At any given time, at least 150-200 women used to be present at the site, sloganeering against the CAA as well as the National Population Register and the proposed National Register of Citizens.

However, since Sunday, when the country observed a ‘Janata curfew’, only five women had been sitting at the Shaheen Bagh site, marking a symbolic protest.

The latest move has come nearly a week after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal banned gatherings in the national capital to deal with the corona-virus spread.

In the wake of his order, the anti-CAA protestors in the city had modified their style, by sitting on wide benches, instead of the floor, and not allowing older women and children to enter. However, several of these protests were called off on 22 and 23 March, after the Kejriwal government announced a complete lockdown.

Delhi Police clears Shaheen Bagh protest site amid coronavirus threat – Delhi violence: We will increase efforts to rehabilitate riot victims, Centre and AAP tell HC

The Centre and the Delhi government said that they are also looking into setting up three additional camps for the victims.

New Delhi – India, 21 March 2020. The Aam Aadmi Party-led government, the Centre and the municipal corporation of East Delhi on Friday assured the Delhi High Court that they will accelerate the process of rehabilitating the victims of the communal violence that broke out in the national Capital last month, PTI reported.

At least 52 people died and over 500 were injured in North East Delhi, after protestors who opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act clashed with those who supported it.

The applications were filed in response to a plea alleging hate speech made by political leaders from several parties, including the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the AAP.

The plea has sought the registration of cases against the politicians for allegedly making provocative speeches and an inquiry by a special investigation team to assess the damages to property in the communal violence.

Central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan and Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra told the High Court bench that steps will be taken to focus on the health of the riot victims and to provide them basic amenities such as ambulances, toilets, fire engines, mobile phones and counsellors.

The authorities will also ensure that proper sanitation and hygiene facilities are available to the people at the camps, they added. Bed and linen will also be provided, the counsels added.

The Centre and the Delhi government said that they are also looking into setting up three additional camps on the basis of locations mentioned in the applications seeking interim relief for the riot victims.

Taking cognizance of the claims made by the authorities, the court listed the matter for further hearing on March 24.

The Hindu – Halt use of capital punishment: UN on Nirbhaya convicts’ execution

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the world organisation calls on all nations to stop the use of capital punishment or put a moratorium on it.

New York – United Nations, 21 March 2020. The UN has called on all nations to stop the use of capital punishment or put a moratorium on it, a day after four men convicted of gang-raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman were hanged in India.

Seven years after the rape and murder of the young medical student, who came to be known as ‘Nirbhaya’, sent shock waves across the country, the four convicts, Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31), were hanged to death on Friday at 5.30 am in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

Responding to the hanging, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the world organisation calls on all nations to stop the use of capital punishment or put a moratorium on it.

“Our position has been clear, is that we call on all States to halt the use of capital punishment or at least put a moratorium on this,” Mr. Dujarric said at the daily press briefing on Friday.

The horrific gang-rape and murder of the physiotherapy intern on 16 December 2012, who came to be known as Nirbhaya (the fearless), had seared the nation’s soul and triggered countrywide outrage.

This was the first time that four men have been hanged together in Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest prison complex that houses more than 16,000 inmates.

The executions were carried out after the men exhausted every possible legal avenue to escape the gallows. Their desperate attempts only postponed the inevitable by less than two months after the first date of execution was set for 22 January.

Only stupid countries like China, the USA, Pakistan and India still insist on murder as a form of punishment