The Hindu – Migrant workers returning to cities to reclaim jobs, Solicitor General tells Supreme Court

Economy is opening up and situation is healthy, he says

Krishnadas Rajagopal

New Delhi – India, 09 July 2020. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Thursday told the Supreme Court that migrant workers were returning to cities to reclaim their old jobs as “lockdown is over”, “economy is opening up” and the situation is turning “very healthy”.

Mr Mehta, who was appearing for the Maharashtra government, was expressing his view on what the Bihar government called the “reverse migration” of migrant workers who had gone home to their villages during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, for Bihar, said trains from Patna were running full.

“Reverse migration is happening. Now the workers are going back to their own jobs. Trains are full from Patna,” the Bihar government said.

At this point, Mr Mehta said, “What I feel about this is migrant workers who had gone back to their States are not getting jobs fit for their skills. A carpenter might not want to work as an agricultural labourer…”

“Now, economy is opening up, lockdown is over.

Very healthy (atmosphere), so they are coming back,” the Solicitor General opined to a three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan.

During the hearing, the court pulled up Maharashtra for taking an “adversarial” approach in its affidavit.

The Supreme Court, referring to Maharashtra’s affidavit, said it could not accept a general statement from the State that all migrants had been provided for.

Justice Bhushan said it was the obligation of the State to identify migrant workers in need and those who still wanted to go home. The court asked the State to file a fresh and detailed affidavit.

“Migrant labourers are forced to proceed to their native place after cessation of their employment. They are already suffering.

They have to be dealt by the police and other authorities in a humane manner,” the court had observed in a June 9 order.

The court had passed the order after suo motu taking cognisance of the migrant workers’ exodus.

The Bench had squarely placed the onus on the Centre, the States and Union Territories to provide details of employment and benefits schemes to returned migrant workers.

It had directed that counselling centres should be set up to reach out to them and explain the various schemes framed for their rehabilitation and employment.

The States and Union Territories were directed to conduct extensive skill-mapping of returned workers at village and block levels.

Counselling centres should freely provide information and even “extend a helping hand” to those workers who wanted to return to their places of past employment, the court had ordered.

The Telegraph – Police to journalist: Why do you criticise the government?

Reply: It’s my right. I’m not obliged to answer you.

Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 08 July 2020. The Supreme Court on Tuesday told veteran journalist Vinod Dua not to answer a second questionnaire sent to him by Himachal Pradesh police in a sedition case linked to comments on the Prime Minister and made it clear that it would quash the FIR if there was merit in Dua’s contention that he was being harassed.

The court directed the police to file a status report on the investigation in a sealed cover and posted the matter for further hearing on 15 July.

Dua told the court that as a responsible journalist it was his fundamental right to criticise the government and for that he was not answerable to anyone.

On 14 June, the Supreme Court had restrained Himachal Pradesh police from arresting Dua but refused to stay investigations into a sedition case against him.

The case had been lodged against Dua in Himachal Pradesh by a purported BJP leader. A government led by BJP leader Jai Ram Thakur is in power in Himachal Pradesh.

Dua is accused of stating in a video show on March 30 that “Narendra Modi has used deaths and terror attacks to garner votes” and of creating panic by “spreading false information that the government does not have enough testing facilities” for Covid-19.

In the video, Dua did not explicitly say Modi “has used deaths and terror attacks to garner votes”. He had said the Pathankot and Pulwama terror attacks and the Balakot air strike had been “politicised” to seek votes.

Dua, a Delhi resident, had in his petition expressed inability to go to Himachal Pradesh because of the pandemic. He has been questioned over video and through email.

On Tuesday, a bench headed by Justice U U Lalit and also having Justices Shantana Goudar and Vineet Saran told solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for Himachal Pradesh police: “We want you to satisfy our conscience that investigations have been undertaken in the right earnest.

If we are convinced that the contentions raised in the petition (by Dua) are correct, we will quash the proceedings right away. We won’t adjourn this matter any further.”

Justice Lalit pointed out that Dua’s video had been aired in March, whereas the complaint was filed on 23 April and a notice issued to Dua by the police on 11 May.

As more than a month and a half had passed since the notice had been issued, the court wanted to know the status of the investigation within a week.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Dua, told the court that although the journalist had answered all the questions posed to him by the police, he had now been served with another set of questions.

“…They sent me a questionnaire. I answered, then one more comes, It’s endless, it’s nothing but harassment. This court told me I should be interrogated, I cooperated. The way the questioning is going on and if this continues, it will lead to a lot of harassment,” Singh said on behalf of Dua.

Referring to the police’s question on why he made remarks against the government, Singh asserted that as a journalist with over 45 years’ experience, Dua had a fundamental right to free speech and expression for which he did not owe any explanation.

“I have freedom of speech and have the right to criticise the government. Till date, the police have refused to give us details on the nature of the complaint even though the Supreme Court had asked for a status report.

When they could not do anything, they invoked the Disaster Management Act,” Singh told the court on Dua’s behalf.

“I don’t have to answer the police as to why I criticised the government. For 45 years, I have been into responsible journalism.

I enjoy constitutional protection. I am not obliged to give them any answer. They have also invoked the Disaster Management Act against me.

The way I am being questioned and the kind of questions being asked amount to outright harassment,” Singh added.

The senior counsel told the court that the cases, one in Himachal and another in Delhi, had been filed against Dua “at the instance of BJP workers”.

When Singh sought an interim stay on investigations, Justice Lalit orally said: “We will say don’t answer the second questionnaire”.

Mehta, the solicitor-general, objected, saying it would amount to an interim stay on the probe. Justice Lalit replied: “You (police) can carry on with everything except this (second) questionnaire”

Justice Lalit expunged some of his own remarks on the police’s questions after Mehta raised an objection.

Cases under IPC Sections 124A (sedition), 501 (criminal defamation) and 505 (public mischief), among others, were registered against Dua by Himachal Pradesh police on 06 May on the complaint of one Ajay Shyam, who claims to be a local BJP leader. – Stop branding democratic struggle for Khalistan as terrorism, Dal Khalsa tells India

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 05 July 2020. Strongly condemning the Indian Government’s move of branding nine Sikhs associated with Khalistan struggle as “terrorists”, the Dal Khalsa and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) has asked the Union Home Ministry to rectify its error.

Addressing a joint press conference in Patiala on 05 July, Dal Khalsa president H S Cheema and SAD (A) general secretary Mohinderpal Singh termed the Indian government’s move as an attempt to paint the image of Sikh Nation worldwide with “terrorism” brush, which is totally unacceptable and intolerable.

“Continuing with its anti-minority policies and mindset, the Union government under Narendra Modi has designated nine Sikhs associated with Khalistan movement as “terrorist” under amended draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967,” said they.

“We don’t see any justification or logic behind government’s provocative and illegal move. The timing of New Delhi’s move to target Khalistani Sikhs has raised eyebrows.

The move looks like Modi government’s smokescreen to hide its failure to address disputes with all neighboring countries and to face the Chinese aggression,” observed Cheema.

Last year on 05 August, the special rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir were snatched at gunpoint, then the heat was turned against Indian Muslims by amending Citizenship Act and now Sikhs are on the radar of the Modi government, they pointed out.

They said presently, 13 persons figured in this list, four are Muslims and nine are Sikhs. They took SGPC and Akali MP’s to task for not raising their voices and succumbing to BJP’s anti-Sikh tactics.

Making their position clear, they said “We stand by the goal of Khalistan through democratic means and are of the opinion that a referendum or plebiscite is the only peaceful method to resolve conflicts.

Being the main indigenous faces of the political movement for a sovereign Punjab or Khalistan, we have presented the Sikh case for referendum for Punjab under the aegis of United Nations at national and international fora a number of times”.

To a question on the referendum 2020 issue, they made it clear that they had no alignment with ‘Sikhs For Justice’, but they stand by the democratic rights of all people to peacefully propagate their mission. There are only two kinds of referendums which can deliver results.

One is UN sponsored and the other is conducted by an occupied country (read India). In the SFJ case, both are not involved.

In July 2018, we had asked the organizers of the SFJ to clear all vagueness and ambiguity in their 2020 referendum proposal but got no response.

They condemned the state police for harassing Sikh youths under the guise of tackling the referendum 2020 campaign.

The youth are being called to police stations, their pictures are being clicked, forms filled only to instill fear in their minds, which is totally undemocratic and illegal.

They asked the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to intervene and direct the police to stop intimidating the youth.

Dal Khalsa general secretary Paramjit Singh Tanda, SYP president Paramjit Singh Mand and SAD (A) leader Harbhajan Singh Kashmiri were also present.

The Print – India sees ‘conspiracy’ in Pakistan move to grant second consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav

Wednesday Pakistan said Kulbhushan Jadhav has refused to file a review plea of his death sentence. India says Jadhav was ‘forced’ to do it.

Nayanima Basu

New Delhi – India, 08 July 2020. India believes Pakistan’s sudden decision to grant second round of consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is serving a death sentence in that country, cannot be seen in isolation with what China has been doing in Ladakh, ThePrint has learnt.

According to official sources, while India has been seeking a second consular access to Jadhav ever since it got the first one on 2 September last year, during which he appeared to be under “extreme pressure”, Pakistan chose to approve the request only now.

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Additional Attorney General Ahmed Irfan announced at a press conference that it has granted India a second consular access to Jadhav.

Sources said Pakistan had been refusing to grant the second consular access after offering the first one last year, citing the verdict given by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in July 2019.

Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.

The ICJ had last year stayed Jadhav’s execution. India had filed a case before the ICJ in May 2017 to get consular access to Jadhav.

Sources said New Delhi believes Pakistan is doing this “deliberately” and is a “conspiracy” as India and China are taking the first steps towards de-escalation of the border standoff going on for over two months along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh, by opening up another challenging diplomatic front for India.

The India-China border standoff this time witnessed the killing of 20 soldiers during a violent face-off at Galwan River Valley with Chinese troops.

As a result of which, India has put most of its diplomatic focus on that front.

On Kulbhushan Jadhav, Pakistan must blame its military for another international humiliation.

Jadhav was ‘forced’ not to file a review plea

Sources said Jadhav was “forced” not to file a review plea of his death sentence by Pakistani authorities, which granted him permission to meet his family.

Irfan, during the press conference, said Jadhav was asked “to file a review and reconsideration of his sentence and conviction”.

“Exercising the legal right, he refused to file a petition for review and reconsideration of his sentence and conviction,” he said.

According to Irfan, Jadhav was asked to file the review petition on 17 June.

“Pakistan is fully cognizant of its international obligations and committed to implementing the ICJ judgment in letter and spirit,” he said, adding that an ordinance was issued in May that allowed Jadhav or his legal representative or a representative of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to file a review petition in line with the ICJ verdict of July last year.

India has time until 19 July to respond to the ordinance, following which Jadhav will have to rely on the mercy petition he had filed before Army Chief Qamar Bajwa in June 2017 after his death sentence was announced.

Dawn – Age of consent

Sulema Jahangir

Op/Ed, 07 July 2020. Earlier this year, 13-year-old Maria, a Christian by faith, eloped with Ali, aided and abetted by various others.

Both the magistrate and the Lahore High Court dismissed Maria’s parents’ petition to restore her custody to them.

They felt that under Islamic rules minors could be married after they reach puberty, and there are several decisions of the superior courts to this effect.

Yet, the Child Marriage Restraint Act makes it an offence to marry a girl below the age of 16 and a boy below the age of 18. In Sindh, it is 18 years for both sexes.

The Majority Act 1875 holds that every person domiciled in Pakistan would attain the age of majority at 18 but it excludes marriage, dower, divorce, adoption and religion or religious rites and usages from this provision.

In effect, a person below 18 is not able to vote or enter into a commercial agreement but could enter into a marriage, convert from his or her religion or even divorce.

Pakistan is a party to several international conventions protecting the right of religious minorities to raise their children in their own belief.

A legitimate question then is should the Muslim rule of puberty as the age of consent to marriage also apply to non-Muslims?

There is growing international consensus that child marriages need to be eradicated but international conventions have been unable to concede a minimum marriageable age and have largely left this for member states to specify.

More importantly, where a child under 16 years is concerned, sex is statutory rape. In 2006, through an amendment the offence of rape was redefined.

Marital rape, although not explicitly included in the definition of rape, is now part of the offence of rape.

Previously, rape was defined as an offence by a man committed against a woman who was not his wife.

The proviso relating to the wife has been removed. Further intercourse with a female below the age of 16 is rape with or without her consent.

The law provides an explanation for this: “This accords both with the need to protect the weak, which the Quran repeatedly emphasises, and the norms of international legal obligations.”

The Child Marriage Restraint Act has been toothless for decades.

It is high time our legislature mustered the courage to outlaw child marriages in absolute terms for both Muslims and non-Muslim citizens, the Child Marriage Restraint Act has been toothless for decades now.

If the only consideration for a court is the onset of physical signs of puberty it could sanction the marriage of a nine-year-old girl.

Naturally, courts should retain discretion in individual cases, where, for example, two minors elope and it would be unjust to punish the boy, or where the girl falls pregnant, but these have to be the exception rather than the norm.

In most cases of conversions and marriages, it is underage girls who are preyed upon by older men aided and abetted by entire families and influential members of the community.

Typically in such cases there is manipulation and abuse of power against vulnerable minors.

If sex with an underage girl is rape, then those who aid and abet must also be punished.

Further, in the absence of an age limit or procedure for changing one’s religion, courts have had to tiptoe around this issue where minors are concerned.

In the case of Pumy Muskan in 2019, the Lahore High Court ruled that a 14-year-old girl, whose family claimed she had been forcibly converted by her employers, should be returned to the care of her family.

It ruled that a 14-year-old did not have legal capacity to change her religion but her conversion was not invalid since it was a matter of her personal conviction and there was no statutory authority prescribing it as unlawful.

In effect the court refused to give effect to the conversion for certain legal purposes while not holding the conversion per se as unlawful. In Pumy’s case she was not married.

Where a minor girl is married along with the conversion, courts have been reluctant to restore her to her parent’s custody.

India (in some states), Nepal, Myanmar, and Bhutan have all outlawed forced conversions and in some cases with more severe penalties where children are concerned.

In Pakistan, in the case of the Pakistan Hindu Council, the Supreme Court observed that a law on forced conversions was not required because the Constitution guarantees freedom to profess one’s religion.

Yet, the reality is that in many areas the law as well as its implementation is unequal to the detriment of religious minorities. Courts must refrain from paying lip service to rights that are not implemented.

At the very least judges must apply existing laws to protect vulnerable young women rather than use the pretext of religion to appease their own personal views.

The writer is a board member, AGHS Legal Aid Cell, an advocate of the high courts, Pakistan, and a solicitor of the senior courts of England and Wales. – 1984 Sikh genocide culprit Mahender Yadav dies of coronavirus in Delhi

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi – India, 05 July 2020. Mahender Yadav, one of the 1984 Sikh genocide culprits, died of coronavirus at Akash Healthcare Hospital in Delhi on 04 July.

He was tested positive for corona-virus on 26 June after which he was rushed to DDU Hospital.

Mahender Yadav, an Ex-MLA, was serving a 10-year sentence in Delhi’s Mandoli jail after being held guilty in a case pertaining to the 1984 Sikh genocide.

It is pertinent to note here that Mahender Yadav was part of the Hindu mob headed by Sajjan Kumar which was responsible for killing five Sikhs namely Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Singh and Kuldeep Singh in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar area during the 1984 Sikh genocide. – In Jammu and Kashmir, long-marginalised minorities are granted domicile rights

But the region’s Muslim inhabitants fear being reduced to a minority, pushed out of jobs and land.

Safwat Zargar

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 06 July 2020. The dry government document went viral on social media on 26 June.

“This is to certify Shri Navin K Choudhary, son of Shri Deokant Choudhary, resident of, at present, Gandhi Nagar, Jammu, is a domicile of the UT of J&K,” it read.

The certificate was issued by Rohit Sharma, tehsildar of Bahu in Jammu district. Choudhary is an Indian Administrative Service officer from Bihar, now serving as principal secretary in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

He is also the first non-local bureaucrat to be recognised as a domicile of Jammu and Kashmir.

This was granted under new domicile rules introduced by the Centre in March. These were implemented from 18 May, when the procedure for applications was notified.

According to officials of Jammu and Kashmir revenue department, more than 32,000 domicile certificates have been issued since then.

A few, like Choudhary, were people who had moved to Jammu and Kashmir for work and other reasons.

Many belong to groups who may have lived in Jammu and Kashmir for decades or generations but were not recognised as permanent residents, which meant they did not have the right to own land or hold government jobs.

“The government has laid down a procedure and whosoever fulfills the criteria will get domicile,” said an official who did not wish to be named. “The number of applications is rising.”

According to officials, the majority of applications came from marginalised groups like West Pakistani refugees as well as the Valmiki and Gorkha communities.

“More than 90% certificates issued are in the Jammu division,” he said. “But permanent residents of J&K are also applying for it because the government has made it mandatory for jobs.”

Under the new rules, a candidate will be required to produce a domicile certificate only after being selected for a government post.

Domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir

The new domicile rules were made possible by the decisions of 05 August, when the Centre struck down Article 35A, stripped Jammu and Kashmir of special status and split it into two Union Territories.

Article 35A had given the government of the former state powers to define who the “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir were, and to reserve certain rights for them.

Under the previous law, those who were state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir in 1954 and their descendants were considered permanent residents.

Those who had lived there for 10 years and owned land before 1954 also made it to this category.

The new rules replace “permanent residents” with “domiciles”, anyone who has lived in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years or studied there for seven years or written Class 10 or 12 board examinations in a school there.

The children of such individuals would also be considered domiciles.

So would the children of Central government officials, All India Service officers, various public sector employees and researchers who had spent more than 10 years in Jammu and Kashmir as part of institutions recognised by the Centre.

Tehsildars, or local revenue officers, have the power to issue domicile certificates. If they do not do so within 15 days of receiving an application, the applicant may appeal to the deputy commissioner.

If the tehsildar’s reason for rejection fails to satisfy the deputy commissioner, and he still does not issue a domicile certificate to the applicant, Rs 50,000 will be forfeited from their salary.

In Jammu, there was a rush of applicants. “We organised a camp for two days and issued around 3,100 domicile certificates to the residents on spot,” said Dhruv Gupta, former tehsildar of Siot tehsil in Rajouri.

“Most of these certificates were issued to those who were already state subjects and their kids.” According to Gupta, giving certificates to those who were not state subjects already took more time as it needed “more scrutiny”.

Online applications will also be accepted. On 22 June Aaliya Tariq of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district became the first recipient of a domicile certificate through the online process.

She received the certificate in an online event presided over by Girish Chandra Murmu, lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir, and other top officials.

‘Finally, we are citizens’

After 05 August, the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir feared they would be overwhelmed by a flood of people from outside the Union Territory, which would eventually lead to them losing land rights and being pushed out of government jobs.

The fears were particularly acute among Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir, who feared reduced to a minority in what had been India’s only Muslim-majority state.

Other groups, however, were pleased by the new rules. Take the West Pakistani refugees, mainly Hindus, who have lived in Jammu since 1947, when they crossed over after Partition.

“Our demand has finally been met. We have finally become citizens of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Labha Ram Gandhi, who heads the West Pakistani Refugees’ Action Committee.

Gandhi said many members of the community had already applied for domicile status, which would pave the way for government jobs previously barred to them.

According to estimates by community leaders, there are around 20,000 West Pakistani refugee families living in Jammu.

While they could vote in the Lok Sabha elections and apply for jobs in the Central government, they were not eligible to vote in former state’s assembly elections or apply for state government jobs.

Many ended up joining the army. In 2018, the Centre government had announced Rs 5.5 lakh in aid for each family, but it failed to address other concerns.

“For now, we can apply for jobs and vote in assembly elections, but they haven’t said anything about land rights yet,” said Gandhi. He estimated around 100 West Pakistan refugees have been granted domicile certificates till now.

Not only safai karamcharis

For members of the Valmiki community in Jammu, the certificates open up possibilities of a better future.

An estimated 1-1.5 lakh members of the community live in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir. They trace their roots to Amritsar and Gurdaspur in Punjab.

“In 1957-58, there was a long strike by local safai karamcharis [sweepers] of Jammu city and they were not relenting,” explained Jang Bahadur, president of the Valmiki Samaj.

“At that time, a health officer called Dr R S Modi had relatives and acquaintances in Punjab.

It was on his initiative that our ancestors were brought to Jammu and given government quarters and some land. Since then, we have been working as safai karamcharis in Jammu.”

Under Section 35 B of the old Jammu and Kashmir Civil Service Regulations, “sweepers” did not have to produce state subject certificates, but that only made them eligible for cleaning jobs.

“Earlier, a member from our community was eligible to only become a safai karamchari,” explained Bahadur, who has applied for a certificate himself.

“Now, like others, we can apply for other jobs as well, depending on qualifications.” The community will also be able to buy property and vote in local assembly elections, not just in Lok Sabha elections.

According to him, only a few members of the community had got the domicile certificate.

“Recently, there was a function by the Jammu Divisional Commissioner where they handed out instant certificates to some members of our community,” Bahadur said.

“The rest of our community is working on preparing necessary documents like Aadhaar cards and ration cards in order to apply for domicile certificate.

It might take some time but the process has started. We have prepared a list of formalities required for the domicile certificate and distributed domicile forms among the community.”

‘BJP united us all’

The 11,000 members of the Gorkha community also qualify for domicile status. Most live in Jammu city’s Gorkha Nagar.

“Gorkhas settled in Jammu and Kashmir during Dogra rule in the 19th century and worked as top generals and soldiers in the army,” said Karuna Chettri, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Gorkha Sabha.

“However, since Independence, our community was marginalised continuously.

With Article 370 in place, we weren’t treated as state subjects and therefore we couldn’t get jobs in state government or education.”

Chettri hopes that domicile certificates would ensure “a bright future” for the community.

For most of these communities, whether it is the Gorkhas or the West Pakistani refugees, the repeal of laws like Article 35A and Article 370 has been a long-standing demand.

Successive state governments steered away from recognising them as permanent residents due to popular fears that it would pave the way for “demographic change”.

The reluctance of regional parties like the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party to address their concerns had pushed the community closer to the Bharatiya Janata Party over the last decade.

In 2019, for instance, Gorkhas are believed to have mostly voted for the BJP. “All other governments, under National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Congress ignored us and our issues,” said Chettri.

“It was the BJP which joined small communities like ours to ensure that all of us are treated as equals.”

After August 5, Chettri and others in the Gorkha Sabha formally joined the BJP.

The ruling of the Law Lords in the Mandla versus Dowell-Lee case

From a briefing: What the courts decided
This is a summary – not the full ruling

The House of Lords (highest court in England) ruled that although ‘ethnic’ still retained a racial flavour, it was not used in the Act in a strictly racial or biological sense, but in an extended sense, to include other characteristics which might commonly be thought of as being associated with common racial origin.

For a group to constitute an ethnic group, it had to possess and be regarded by others as possessing, certain essential characteristics:

  1. a long shared history, of which the group was conscious as distinguishing it from other groups, and the memory of which kept it alive,
  2. a cultural tradition of its own, including family and social customs and manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance,
  3. a common literature peculiar to that group,
  4. a common religion,
  5. being a minority or being an oppressed group, and
  6. additional characteristics, such as a common geographical origin, or common language, were relevant, but not necessary.

Also, the court ruled that converts and people who marry into an ethnic group are included in it, provided they feel that they are a member (in our case, they meet the Reht Maryada definition of a Sikh).

The House of Lords also noted that the word “ethnic” is of Greek origin, being derived from the Greek word “ethnos,” the basic meaning of which appears to have been simply “a group” not limited by reference to racial or any other distinguishing characteristics.

Tolo News – Taliban’s Violence ‘Unacceptable’: NATO Secretary

Based on the government’s statistics, over the past one month the Taliban initiated 1538 attacks on 32 provinces of the country.

Gulabuddin Ghubar

Kabul – Afghanistan, 04 July 2020. The NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, on Saturday updated NATO members in Brussels on the situation in Afghanistan and said that the Taliban needs to end the violence to help kick start the intra-Afghan talks.

“I have updated the North Atlantic Council on the situation in Afghanistan leading up to intra-Afghan negotiations.

I was glad to see that once again NATO and alliance affirmed commitments to Afghanistan and to Afghanistan’s national security and defense forces has been reiterated.

We also discussed the situation on the ground, Taliban violence has to go down, it is simply unacceptable and it is creating an issue, a problem for getting to the peace talks,” said the NATO envoy Stefano Pontecorvo.

The Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan (AIHRC) has also called on the warring factions to avoid further violence to help achieve peace in the country.

“The more the violence is increased, the more the pains and wounds are increased; this also makes it difficult to achieve peace and to attend the peace negotiating table,” said Shahrzada Akbar, the chairperson of the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan (AIHRC).

Meanwhile, the US embassy Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson has said that there was an expectation that the level of violence in Afghanistan would have been reduced after the US-Taliban peace deal was signed on 29 February in Doha, but it didn’t happen like that and violence didn’t stop.

“We hope that when this prisoners release is concluded, up to 5,000 Taliban by the Afghan government, up to a 1,000 by the Taliban, intra-Afghan negotiations can be begin,” said Ross Wilson.

Based on the government’s statistics, over the past one month the Taliban initiated 1538 attacks on 32 provinces of the country.

The Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) has said that 153 civilians have been killed as a result of the attacks by the Taliban.

Nevertheless, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that Kabul will host three important meetings on the Afghan peace process before the start of the intra-Afghan talks aimed at creating consensus in the regional and international level.

“The first meeting will be convened on Monday with the attendance of delegates from 20 regional and major countries and the meeting will be inaugurated with a presidential speech, the second meeting will be held on Tuesday, it is a trilateral meeting between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chinese government under the framework of the Strategic Dialogue,” said Geran Hewad, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Under the US-Taliban deal, the Afghan government has to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners before heading to the intra-Afghan talks. So far the Afghan government has released over 3,000 of these prisoners.

The Taliban have clarified that they will not attend the peace talks with the Afghan sides before the completion of the prisoners swap.

As part of goodwill gesture, the Taliban also pledged to release 1,000 Afghan government hostages. – Wife of falsely imprisoned Scottish citizen Jagtar Singh Johal holds virtual meeting with UK Government Official

Johal’s wife urges UK Government minister to help end ‘darkness’

Manpreet Singh

London – UK, 04 July 2020. The wife of detained Scottish citizen Jagtar Singh Johal has pleaded a UK Government minister to help her family out of the “darkness” of his Indian jail ordeal in a virtual meeting.

The Dumbarton man, a Sikh blogger known to supporters as Jaggi, has now been held by Indian authorities for 970 days over alleged involvement in the killings of right-wing Hindu leaders and the funding of a now-proscribed group.

He says police subjected him to torture after his November 2017 arrest, which followed his Punjab wedding, and threatened to shoot him or set him on fire.

No evidence has been led against him, even though authorities said they had everything they needed to prosecute him in the days after his arrest. UN experts have raised concerns about his case and more than 40,000 people have signed a “Justice for Jaggi” petition.

Yesterday his wife, who is now living with his family in Scotland, urged Foreign Office Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad to help them. We have agreed not to identify her while she awaits the outcome of a residency battle due to potential reprisals in India.

The 40-minute virtual meeting came after The National revealed how the family had been waiting almost two months for talks. It was conducted in English and Punjabi, which Johal’s wife says helped her to “have a voice”.

During the session, she and brother-in-law Gurpreet Singh-Johal, Jagtar’s solicitor brother, asked Ahmad to do everything he can to raise the many delays in Jagtar’s case and his recent bail refusal.

His wife said: “We are not saying ‘get him out tomorrow’, we are saying ‘do something about the case’.”

And she told Ahmad, who has taken a “personal interest” in her mental and emotional turmoil, saying: “I’ve got to wake up every morning to this. Everything is darkness, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”

The family has not spoken to Johal, who is in the sprawling Tihar jail, since September. On what she’d say to her husband, she said: “I’d ask him how he is. I’d tell him I’m waiting for him so we can pick up our life together and forget about this nightmare.”