The Tribune – Sikh activists barred from entering Kashmir

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 09 December 2019. Citing law and order, activists of the Dal Khalsa and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) were today barred from entering Jammu and Kashmir. They were scheduled to go to Srinagar to hold a peaceful sit-in at Lal Chowk to observe Human Rights Day tomorrow.

Acting upon the orders of the Kathua magistrate, the police intercepted them at the Madhopur-Kathua interstate border.

The protesters were carrying placards to convey their message and sought release of political prisoners in Kashmir and Punjab.

Dal Khalsa leader H D Dhami said when Home Minister Amit Shah had announced that everything was normal in Kashmir, why were they not allowed to go there? “This prompts us to say that there is no normalcy in Kashmir and Union Government has been telling lies to hoodwink the world,” he said.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh, while speaking at the sit-in at the border, said, “It is ironical that even on the occasion of Human Rights Day, we were not allowed to talk and uphold human rights.”

The agitating Sikh leaders said it would be brought to the notice of the United Nations Human Rights Council how Kashmiri people had been reeling under state repression since the August 5 lockdown.

Hindustan Times – Sikh Uber driver racially abused, strangulated by passenger in US

Bellingham – Washington – USA, 10 December 2019. A Sikh Uber driver in the US was racially abused and strangulated by a passenger, a media report said.

The incident took place in the coastal city of Bellingham, Washington, on 05 December when the Sikh driver picked up Grifin Levi Sayers, The American Bazaar reported on Monday citing The Bellingham Herald as saying in a report.

The same day, the Bellingham Police received a 911 call from the driver that he had been attacked by his passenger.

The police arrested and booked 22-year-old Sayers on suspicion of second-degree assault and a failure-to-appear warrant for fourth-degree assault. According to police records, he was released on $13,000 bail the next day.

The driver told the police that Sayers took the cab to make some purchases and then returned to the pick-up location. It was at this point that the passenger became abusive and grabbed the driver by his throat and squeezed it violently.

He also made racial comments about the driver’s ethnicity.

The driver somehow managed to get out of the cab and made a 911 call. When the police arrived, they were able to locate Sayers nearby and arrested him.

Hate crimes against Sikhs in the US have always been on the radar for civil rights and minority groups, The American Bazaar said.

A report released just last month, identified Sikhs as the third largest most targeted groups in the country after Jews and Muslims.

Anti-Sikh hate crimes rose by a whopping 200% since 2017, according to an FBI report.

Even as Sikh groups and minority organisations continue to make attempts to educate Americans on Sikhism and the tenets of its faith, Sikhs are often mistakenly targeted because of their turbans.

The Hindu – Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: USA panel considers recommending sanctions against Amit Shah

Sriram Lakshman

Washington DC – USA, 10 December 2019. USA International Commission on Religious Freedom calls the Bill’s passage ‘deeply disturbing’

With the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) having been passed by the Lok Sabha, the USA International Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has expressed concern about the Bill and considered recommending sanctions against Home Minister Amit Shah and other top leaders.

“If the CAB passes in both Houses of Parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership,” a 09 December statement from USCIRF said.

The commission, which is an independent and bi-partisan federal government body, called the Bill’s passage “deeply troubling” .

“The CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion.

The CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction; it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” USCIRF said.

“In conjunction with the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam and nationwide NRC that the Home Minister seeks to propose, USCIRF fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims,” the commission said.

The Print – Over 1,000 scientists oppose citizenship bill, say it violates spirit of Constitution

Read full text of statement signed by more than 1,000 scientists & scholars who say they find it troubling that bill uses    religion as a criterion to determine citizenship.

Bengaluru -Karnataka – India, 09 December 2019. In a statement circulated online, more than 1,000 Indian scientists and scholars from the country and abroad have released a statement opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill tabled Lok Sabha by the Narendra Modi government Monday.

The 2019 bill, which was approved by the Union cabinet on 4 December, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there.

In the statement, the scientists have argued that the “use of religion as a criterion for citizenship” would be a “radical break” with the idea of independent, post-colonial India. The bill is a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 and would reduce the residence period in India from 11 years to six years to obtain citizenship.

Drafted over the weekend, tT. These include scientists and research scholars from institutions such as various IITs, the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS, Bengaluru), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR, Mumbai), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Indian Statistical Institute, and different IISERs as well as international institutes such as Harvard University, University of Chicago, University of Toronto, Nikhef Amsterdam, and Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics.

Signatories also include directors of major research institutions, such as Rajesh Gopakumar of ICTS, Sandip Trivedi of TIFR, and Atish Dabholkar of International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Italy.

We are a group of Indian scientists and scholars

We are issuing this statement in our personal capacity as concerned citizens to express our dismay at the reported plans to table the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 in the parliament. We do not have access to the exact text of the current version of the Bill.

Our statement is based on media reports and the text of the previous version of the Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha in January 2019. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to issue this statement already at this point of time in view of the reports that the Bill may be tabled in parliament early next week and may be taken up for voting in both houses soon after.

We understand that the Bill seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The stated intent of the Bill is to provide refuge to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries.

While we support this laudable objective, we find it deeply troubling that the Bill uses religion as a legal criterion for determining Indian citizenship.

The idea of India that emerged from the independence movement, and as enshrined in our constitution, is that of a country that aspires to treat people of all faiths equally. The use of religion as a criterion for citizenship in the proposed bill would mark a radical break with this history and would be inconsistent with the basic structure of the constitution.

We fear, in particular, that the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the Bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country.

We note that article 14 of the Indian constitution prohibits the State from denying “to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” While it is the job of legal experts to determine whether this draft bill violates the letter of the constitution, it seems certain to us that it violates its spirit.

For the reasons mentioned above, we call for the immediate withdrawal of this bill and as its replacement request for appropriate legislation that will address the concerns of refugees and minorities in a non-discriminatory manner.

Over 1,000 scientists oppose citizenship bill, say it violates spirit of Constitution

Indian Express – Criminals in uniform: Encounters should not be encouraged by political leadership

All stakeholders in the judicial process must sit across the table and take a decision to speed up the trials of rape and murder cases, at least. No encounters should be encouraged by the political leadership.

Julio Ribeiro

Op/Ed, 07 December 2019. When I was a young student of law, those accused of heinous crimes like murder or rape were tried swiftly and punished or set free, as the evidence on record dictated, within a year. The average time taken was eight or nine months, during which time the accused were in the custody of jailors.

The hearings were held daily, and no adjournments were asked for or given. The public prosecutor and the lawyer of the accused were invariably present in court to rise in their seats when the presiding judge entered at the appointed hour of the morning.

The witnesses were kept ready outside the court and would be ushered inside the courtroom when his or her name was called by the judge’s clerk.

There was great precision and solemnity to this whole process. Sadly, this has disappeared now with advocates for the prosecution or the defence seeking adjournments, often on flimsy grounds.

Sadder still, they are able to obtain it without any difficulty. The entire atmosphere has been transformed into one witnessed routinely in the courts of the lower judiciary.

Delays in the disposal of trials of those accused who are charged with murder and rape, or other heinous crimes, has warped the judicial system. If those who dare to commit such crimes feel that there is laxity within the system, where the chances available to suborn witnesses are enhanced, then the threat of law catching up with offenders retreats.

An atmosphere of lawlessness creeps in.

It is exactly this atmosphere of lawlessness that presently prevails. The middle-class, who form the bulk of the opinion makers in any country, put pressure, subtle or overt, on the governments of the day to preserve their sense of security in any way possible.

Since the judicial system does not operate as smoothly as it used to in the past, popularly elected governments, in turn, put pressure on the police forces to use other methods to solve the problem.

I remember Gopinath Munde, deputy chief minister and home minister in the first Shiv Sena-BJP coalition government in Maharashtra, standing up to critics in the legislative assembly and countering them by proclaiming openly that he had ordered his police chief to dispose off criminals by shooting them at sight.

He was not concerned by the legality of what he said he had ordered the police to do, and, surprisingly, the Opposition also seemed to have concurred.

Third-degree methods adopted by the police and the fake encounters which have become a part of the police and public lexicon, are short-cuts that have become accepted, and almost formalised, because of public support.

A beleaguered society that knows not what ails the system, openly supports short-cuts adopted by the police to circumvent the failures of the judicial process.

The public is unaware of the fall-out of this new practice of fake encounters: A whole new breed of criminals is born. They are known as “encounter specialists”.

These “specialists” are hero-worshipped by this puzzled society. Even films and biopics are made on their patently illegal deeds. In the process, they turn into criminals in uniform, willing to take on private requests for a price.

That they are in uniform gives them an immunity that is doubly dangerous. Many of them have become filthy rich. If they contest elections after retirement, they declare assets that are clearly beyond the capacity of police inspectors to accumulate.

The Telangana police unit which shot dead the four suspects in the veterinary lady doctor’s rape-cum-murder offence were likely carrying out a mandate entrusted to it by their own leaders who, in turn, will have received instructions from political superiors. The public baying for blood is a symptom of a puzzled and ill-informed society.

Until the system of judicial process is put back on the rails, these short-cuts will continue. How does the government, with the judiciary, the Bar and the police, all components of the judicial process, correct all these flaws in the system?

For starters, the courts must hold daily hearings in such cases without any interruption. No adjournments should ever be given. If lawyers are busy with other cases, they must take steps to send their juniors to attend those other cases instead.

All stakeholders in the judicial process must sit across the table and take a decision to speed up the trials of rape and murder cases, at least. No encounters should be encouraged by the political leadership.

In fact, there will not be any such demand from the public if the offenders are charged and punished swiftly. After all, the public, specifically the middle classes, who have a vested interest in law and order, want the legal system to work. They will not ask for illegal methods to be adopted if they enjoy a feeling of security.

This article first appeared in the print edition on December 7, 2019 under the title ‘Criminals in uniform’. The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab.

Please note who the author is, I am surprised that he does not refer to (fake) encounters during his tenure in Panjab
Man in Blue

Criminals in uniform: Encounters should not be encouraged by political leadership – UK Sikh couple who were told they cannot adopt a white child win case against racial discrimination

The court awarded them nearly £120,000 (approximately Rs 1.12 crore) in damages.

Steve Evans

A Sikh couple living in the United Kingdom won a landmark court battle against a local council that refused to let them adopt a child because of their Indian heritage. The court ruled that it was discriminatory and awarded them nearly £120,000 (approximately Rs 1.12 crore) in damages, The Guardian reported.

Sandeep Mander and Reena Mander were not allowed to join a list of approved adopters in 2016 because of their heritage. Adoption agency Adopt Berkshire told them “not to bother applying” and to try to adopt from the Indian subcontinent.

The agency had said that only white pre-school children were available for adoption. The couple, who are in their 30s and live in Maidenhead in Berkshire, eventually adopted a child from the US.

They tried to get the decision overturned and got the support of their then MP Theresa May as well as the Equality and Human Rights Commission. With the panel’s support, the Manders sued the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council for discrimination.

Judge Melissa Clarke of the Oxford County Court ruled that the “defendants directly discriminated against Mr and Mrs Mander on the grounds of race”. She awarded them general damages of £29,000 each and special damages of £60,000.

“I consider that there is clear evidence that Mr and Mrs Mander, who I have found expressed willingness to consider a child of any ethnicity, received less favourable treatment than would a comparable couple of a different ethnicity,” the judgement said.

“All of this discloses, in my judgment, what the unknown social worker stated in the very first phone call with Mr Mander, namely that Adopt Berkshire operated a policy of placing adoptive children with parents who come from the ‘same background’ namely race,” Clarke wrote in her judgement.

“I am satisfied that race was the criterion by which the unknown social worker decided not to book an initial visit with Mr and Mrs Mander, because the defendants have not satisfied me that there was any other criterion applied by that unknown social worker.”

The evidence shows that Adopt Berkshire refused to progress the Manders “on the assumption that it would not be in a putative child’s best interest to be matched with prospective adopters” of a different race, the judge said.

“This assumption was a stereotype which gave race a disproportionate importance as a factor regarding the welfare of children.”

The couple and their lawyers were elated and called it a landmark law. “This decision ensures that no matter what race, religion or colour you are, you should be treated equally and assessed for adoption in the same way as any other prospective adopter,” Sandeep Mander said.

His wife Reena Mander called the judgement a relief and said that they can now move on “knowing we have changed something for the better”.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead said it was disappointed by the judgement. “We have reviewed our policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and are confident that we do not exclude prospective adopters on the grounds of ethnicity,” a spokesperson said.

“Finally, we always put the best interests of the children at the heart of any adoption decisions and are committed to best practice in our provision of adoption services.”

The Tribune – SAD’s Naresh Gujral differs from party, backs Manmohan Singh on 1984 remark

Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 05 December 2019. Senior Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral today backed Congress veteran Manmohan Singh for his remarks that the 1984 Sikh massacre could have been averted had then Home Minister P V Narasimha Rao heeded late Prime Minister I K Gujral’s advice to call in the Army immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

While the BJP and Akali Dal attacked Singh for the statement made on Wednesday saying he was trying to absolve Rajiv Gandhi of his role in the massacre, MP Gujral hailed the former PM for “speaking the truth”.

Gujral also said there was a “mystery around the level at which the conspiracy to kill the Sikhs was hatched in the Congress”.

“I compliment Dr Manmohan Singh for honestly accepting the truth that then Home Minister Rao and the Congress government of the day were at fault and that the tragedy of 1984 carnage could have been averted had I K Gujral’s advice been heeded.

Rao shirked his responsibility as Home Minister. Otherwise the 1984 Sikh killings would have been 100 per cent averted. Eventually, the killings stopped only after the Army was called in,” Naresh Gujral, son of late PM I K Gujral, said today.

The Rajya Sabha MP said his father accompanied by late Air Force Marshal Arjan Singh and late Kuldip Nayar went to meet President Giani Zail Singh on 31 October 1984, soon after the violence against Sikhs broke out in the capital and urged the President to call in the Army.

“The President told them that he was unable to reach then PM Rajiv Gandhi. Thereafter, Mr Gujral and others drove to the residence of then Home Minister Rao and told him that the violence could escalate unless the Army was called in.

Rao assured them of action, but when no orders were passed until 3 pm that day, Mr Gujral and others again went to see Rao, who was sleeping. They got him to wake up, but he remained non-committal. By then things had gone out of control,” said Gujral.

Terming 1984 killings a “carnage and not a riot”, Gujral said top Congress leaders were involved in mass killings. He, however, added that he didn’t know the level at which the conspiracy to kill the Sikhs was hatched in the Congress.

Gujral’s remarks came when the BJP and Akali Dal directly attacked late PM Rajiv Gandhi for not letting the Army come in to stop the Sikh killings.

“There is a mystery around the level at which the 1984 carnage conspiracy was hatched. It is difficult for me to say. Of course, then Home Minister must have been under orders from someone.

There was a game plan to massacre the Sikhs and play the Sikh card to win elections and the Congress succeeded in that,” Gujral said even as SAD spokesperson Manjinder Singh Sirsa alleged, “Rao deliberately ignored IK Gujral’s advice because he had orders from Rajiv Gandhi to ensure maximum killings of Sikhs.”

Naresh Gujral also said today that the Sikhs were edgy even after Rajiv’s assassination. “Even when Rajiv was assassinated, my father got calls from anxious Sikhs who were wary of the repercussions because nothing was known of the late PM’s killers till then. Mr Gujral immediately spoke to then PM Chandrashekhar who called in the paramilitary and stationed the forces across the capital to avert potential violence,” Gujral said.

He lamented that 35 years after the carnage, victims had not had closure.

It seems simple to me : Narasimha Rao was under orders not to act to protect the Sikhs and although I do not know this, I think that only Rajiv Gandhi was in the position to give such orders.
Man in Blue

The Statesman – We are not criminals,’ Shashi Tharoor tweets Lok Sabha MP Farooq Abdullah’s letter

Calling it a ‘preventative measure’ the Centre has detained thousands of Kashmiris including Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah under the Public Safety Act, which allows the authorities to detain an individual without trial for two years.

New Delhi – India, 06 December 2019. As Kashmir completed four months of unprecedented communication and movement lockdown, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor shared a letter by former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and member of Parliament Farooq Abdullah, who called out the government for not allowing him to attend the winter session of parliament.

Former chief ministers, Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti, whose Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in an alliance with the BJP, are among hundreds of local political leaders who are under arrest in one of the two newest Union Territories.

“Thank you for your letter on 21st October 2019 which has been delivered to me today by my magistrate who looks after me while I am in the sub-jail,” Mr Abdullah said in the letter. “It is most unfortunate that they are not able to deliver me my post in time. I am sure this is not the way to treat a senior Member of the Parliament and leader of a political party. We are not criminals,” the National Conference chief said.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has given no certain date for when the lockdown will be uplifted. Calling it a ‘preventative measure’ the Centre has detained thousands of Kashmiris including Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah under the Public Safety Act, which allows the authorities to detain an individual without trial for two years.

The opposition has been raising the issue of prolonged political detention in Jammu and Kashmir, alleging that the Centre is not freeing Abdullah to stop him from speaking up.

“Letter from imprisoned Farooq saab. Members of Parliament should be allowed to attend the session as a matter of parliamentary privilege. Otherwise the tool of arrest can be used to muzzle opposition voices. Participation in parliament is essential for democracy and popular sovereignty,” Tharoor tweeted along with the letter.

‘We are not criminals,’ Shashi Tharoor tweets Lok Sabha MP Farooq Abdullah’s letter – Dal Khalsa, SAD (A) announces to mark World Human Rights Day in Kashmir

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 05 December 2019. Perturbed over the plight of Kashmiri people who’s rights are being suppressed and abused en masse by the India’s fascist regime led by PM Narendra Modi, the Dal Khalsa along with SAD (Amritsar) has decided to observe the World Human Rights Day on the soil of Kashmir, where the worst human rights violations have occurred during 2019.

Being geographical neighbors of Kashmir, it is the duty of Sikhs of Punjab to rise to the occasion and continue to protest the deteriorating human rights situation in Kashmir, said Dal Khalsa leaders at a press conference held at party office in Amritsar Sahib.

Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh said their groups would observe the rights day with the people of Kashmir who have suffered the gravest abuses of human rights. “The fundamental rights of the people of Kashmir are our primary concern and it will be our endeavor to highlight the plight of Kashmiris,” he added.

Giving a call to human rights defenders to join the peaceful sit-in at Lal Chowk on December 10, he said teams of both the organizations led by Simranjit Singh Mann and Harpal Singh Cheema will proceed towards Kashmir from Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur on 09 December and reach Srinagar the next morning (10th). He said UAD president Gurdeep Singh Bhatinda and Akal Federation head Narien Singh would also join the march.

Dal Khalsa appeals to all human rights bodies and civil rights groups worldwide to spare a thought for the people of Kashmir when they observe the 72 years of World Human Rights Day in their states and countries.

Deriding international bodies for paying only lip service to the cause of Kashmir, the Dal Khalsa statement stated that, “The suppressed people of Kashmir need succour, support and an international voice to uphold their rights.”

On the occasion of Human Rights Day, Dal Khalsa will also voice concern about systematic denial of justice in Punjab in the Maur Bomb blast case, the Behbal Kalan firing case and Bargarhi sacrilege cases.

The Dal Khalsa will also take the cause of custodial torture, illegal detention and harassment of under trials, prevalence of archaic laws, like 124-A, UAPA, denial of reprieve to political prisoners and special concessions to police personnel responsible for human rights abuses.

Replying to a question on BJP government’s U-turn on commuting death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana, he said the Modi dispensation has played fraud on Sikhs that too in the name of giving special remission to Sikh prisoners on the sacred occasion of 550th Parkash Purab of Guru Nanak Sahib.

“Indian leadership is habitual of ditching the Sikhs since 1947 and traditional Akali leadership is immune in facing such betrayals and embarrassments,” he added.

Dal Khalsa general secretary Paramjit Singh Tanda and SYP head Paramjeet Singh Mand were also present during the meet.

Dal Khalsa, SAD (A) announces to mark World Human Rights Day in Kashmir

Hindustan Times – Centre has treated Sikhs badly since 1947: Akal Takht jathedar

Says a pardon should be granted to Rajoana and all Sikh prisoners should be released

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 05 December 2019. Acting jathedar of the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh on Thursday condemned the Centre after home minister Amit Shah stated in Parliament that no pardon had been given to Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was convicted for assassinating then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995.

Replying to a media query over Shah’s statement, the jathedar said, “The Centre has always treated Punjab and Sikhs badly since 1947. A pardon should be granted to Rajoana and all Sikh prisoners should be released. This is the demand of all Sikhs.”

The jathedar also appealed to Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders and other Sikh leaders to raise their voice for release of the Sikh prisoners. The jathedar’s comment comes two days after SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal termed the statement of Amit Shah as ‘very unfortunate’.

Replying to another query over former PM Manmohan Singh’s remark that “If Narsimha Rao had paid heed to IK Gujral’s advice, the 1984 anti–Sikh riots could have been avoided’, the jathedar said, “He has expressed his feelings. The government itself was committing genocide, who could stop it?”

Gurdwaras must help Panjabi students abroad

Meanwhile, several Sikh organisations from India and abroad also met the jathedar and informed him about several issues pertaining to Sikhs and Punjab. There, Khalsa Aid’s founder Ravi Singh urged the jathedar to appeal to the Sikhs living abroad to help Punjabi students in their difficult time.

The jathedar said, “We want to appeal to Punjabi students studying abroad to maintain Sikh tenants. They should also not involve themselves in any kind of hooliganism there, and should diligently follow the law of the country they live in. We want to direct Gurdwara committees abroad to help all Sikh students with food and accommodation.”

He also said some organisations visited him, expressing grave concern regarding the crushing of Punjabi language in Punjab. The government should work for implementation of programmes that promote Punjabi, he said.