BBC News – ‘Strongman’ image may not win votes for Narendra Modi

Good intentions are ubiquitous in politics, wrote American economist Bryan Caplan. What is scarce, however, are “accurate beliefs”. Elections are always a good occasion to test such beliefs.

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 22 April 2019. Is India’s Narendra Modi really a strongman leader in the mould of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyib Erdogan and Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin? Will he succeed in making the mammoth 2019 election a presidential referendum on his performance?

Are people really unhappy that Mr Modi did not carry out the kind of radical economic reforms that many thought he would? Is he a clear favourite to secure a second term in power, thanks to the lack of a charismatic rival? Is good economics bad politics in the world’s largest democracy? Does rising nationalism threaten democracy?

In his engaging new book, Democracy On The Road, Ruchir Sharma grapples with these questions and more. The global investor, author and New York Times columnist has made 27 election trips to India since 1998 during which, he says, he must have “driven a distance nearly equal to a lap around Earth”.

He’s been to more than half of India’s 29 states and to the 10 most populous and politically important states more than once. I caught up with him on his recent trip to India.

Opinion polls in India have sometimes shown a public desire for a strong leader, unshackled from the compulsions of parliamentary democracy. However, Mr Sharma says, the electoral realities of India actually “rebel” against strongman leaders.

“In the end, Indians root for the underdog,” he told me. “The democratic impulse is strong. If the leader becomes arrogant, he is pulled down by the people. Most importantly, it is difficult for one leader to dominate for long in this extraordinarily diverse country.”

So diverse that a leading multinational firm divides 29 Indian states into a further 14 sub-regions because “consumer tastes, habits and languages are far more fragmented in India”. The real strength of Indian democracy, says Mr Sharma, lies in its diversity.

He believes in spite of Mr Modi projecting himself as a strongman, India is “really no country for strongmen”.

“The 2019 election is being cast as a contest between Modi and the rest, a referendum on India’s appetite for strongman rule and commitment to democracy. More likely, the election will shape up as a series of state contests. The result will depend on whether the opposition parties can work together to unseat the BJP.”

There is ample evidence to support Mr Sharma’s claim. Regional parties now hold more than 160 seats, nearly a third of the seats, in parliament, up from 35 in the early phase after Independence.

“This important new phenomenon has converted our general elections into a combination of state-level regional or sub-national elections,” says psephologist Prannoy Roy.

BJP’s historic win in 2014, many believe, was a “black swan”, a highly unlikely and unpredictable event. Mr Sharma says “BJP could win a third of the popular vote as it did during the Modi wave in 2014, yet lose its majority of seats in the parliament”.

One reason, according to Mr Sharma, is “incumbents don’t usually win, and challengers do”.

Winning parties in crowded state elections often need only a third of the vote to take a majority of seats. Prannoy Roy found that 70% of the governments in big and medium-sized states were thrown out by voters between 1977 and 2002.

The picture now, he believes, is more mixed: governments today have a “50:50” chance of being re-elected.

Indian political power is “hard won and fleeting”, candidates have to go through tests of community, family, inflation, welfare, development, corruption. Between 10-20% of the electorate are made up of some of the dominant communities. Most states are “hotbeds of anti-incumbency”.

Mr Sharma also doubts whether most Indians are really unhappy that Mr Modi did not turn out to be the reformer they may have hoped for.

“India’s political DNA,” he says, “is fundamentally socialist and statist”. “There is no real support for systematic free-market reform, either among voters or among the political elite, and no sign that what is generally considered good economics will ever become a consistent election-winning strategy.”

Reforms in India, usually, have been either by stealth or triggered by an economic crisis. Also, Mr Sharma believes that fears of rising nationalism and religious politics putting democracy in peril are unfounded.

They tend to “underestimate the check provided by sub national pride”. Returning to his favourite theme, he says India is too “heterogeneous to be dominated by populist nationalism”.

And, in the end, he believes the 2019 ballot will “offer a choice of two different political visions, one celebrating the reality of many Indias, the other aspiring to build one India”.

The Tribune – AAP struggles to revive wave

Seeks course correction by picking 10 volunteers as candidates

Jupinderjit Singh, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 23 April 2019. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in a piquant situation in Punjab, riding a popularity graph just two years ago to now struggling to develop a wave ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Infighting, resignations and expulsions have left a dent in the party. Only one of its six presidents is actively campaigning for the party. Of the 20 MLAs, six are rebels and one has floated a separate party.

Two of the four MPs are no longer with AAP, Dr Dharamvir Gandhi is re-contesting from Patiala seat but from a party he floated, while H S Khalsa has joined the BJP. Nearly 10 other prominent leaders, including Assembly candidates, have joined other parties.

In its bid to reconnect with the masses, Aam Aadmi Party has tried to do a course-correction by choosing 10 of the 13 candidates from among volunteers.

Earlier, it gave ticket to outsiders or “big” leaders within the party. Punjab AAP has also tried to shed the image of a unit remote-controlled from Delhi. It had suffered a lot owing to party leader’s subservience to Delhi leaders. This time, AAP is giving a message the party is of Punjab and for Punjab only.

However, the leaders are trying to garner support, showcasing AAP government’s performance in Delhi. The Aam Aadmi Party model has many takers but people are confused over party’s desperation to seek an alliance in Delhi when its model of governance was so successful.

Aam Aadmi Party’s state president Bhagwant Mann is leading the campaign with Sunam MLA Aman Arora. Both leaders are connected to the masses and are trying to drum up support. Mann has tried to make an emotive appeal to the voters through a letter in which he talks about his fight with alcoholism and party’s sacrifices in playing clean politics.

The party has been taking up public issues, especially farmers’ suicide, Bargari killings and unemployment.

“The Akalis and Congress defeated Aam Aadmi Party by hatching conspiracies against us. They are playing friendly matches again. They are together because the party is a formidable force,” says Leader of Opposition Harpal Cheema.

Will fare better than last time: Dr Balbir Singh

AAP will do far better than the last time when it won four seats. The party has evolved. Volunteers are ready as leaders. The campaign is going fine. People have come to realise that we offer clean politics and not politics of opportunism. We feel there is still a vacuum in the state for AAP.

Dr Balbir Singh, Party’s co-president

Huffington Post – Vaisakhi celebrates the Canadian Sikh values now under threat in Quebec

Bill 21 would exclude many Sikhs from classrooms, courtrooms and other public sectors where selfless service is most needed.

Montreal – Quebec – Canada, 23 April 2019. We recently observed Vaisakhi, the biggest festival in the Sikh calendar. Vaisakhi marks the founding of the Khalsa, the collective of initiated Sikhs, by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It is not, as is often said, the Sikh New Year.

In 1699, at Anandpur Sahib (in present-day Punjab, India), the Guru called for the heads of those willing to sacrifice themselves. One by one, five Sikhs came forward into a tent. They later re-emerged wearing Sikh military attire and became known as Panj Pyare: the “five beloved ones.” They became the first Khalsa (initiated) Sikhs, and started a collective that today includes millions.

The occasion is celebrated by Sikhs through a nagar kirtan, or street procession of the Sikh Scriptural Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, led by five Sikhs who represent the Panj Pyare. Nagar kirtans include food, the singing of hymns and martial arts displays. Nagar kirtans are usually referred to as Sikh or Khalsa parades in North America.

Sikhs have been holding nagar kirtans in Canada for over 100 year. The first is thought to have been in 1908. Since then, they have grown to become some of the largest Sikh gatherings outside of India.

The Surrey, B.C. nagar kirtan last year saw over a quarter million Sikhs and non-Sikhs participating.

Vaisakhi is more than a celebration of the past

What do you see at a nagar kirtan? Largely, everything you will see in a Gurdwara.

There will be free vegetarian food, thanks to langar, the free Sikh communal kitchen service that is found in every single Gurdwara on earth. Judging from the reaction of many, food is one of the main things people enjoy about nagar kirtans.

However, as well as providing food for the stomach, Sikhs aim to provide food for the soul, too. That can come in the form of kirtan (devotional hymns).

Sikhs accompany the Guru Granth Sahib, singing shabads. Whilst hymn-singing is a normal part of most faiths, in Sikhi the music is integral to Sikh practice. All holy Sikh scripture is uniquely arranged by musical measure. Sikhs don’t just remember the Divine, but through devotional music, connect to it.

One of the most visually stunning sights of a nagar kirtan is the display of gatka, a Sikh weaponry martial art.
Although in the modern-day Sikh martial prowess is most commonly celebrated based on the hundreds of thousands of Allied Sikhs who participated in First and Second World Wars, the solidification of the martial aspect of the Sikhs goes back to the 1600s, when practices like gatka became crucial as Sikhs became the resistance against tyrannical Mughal rule.

Through modern-day displays, you can see our readiness to defend ourselves, to defend others, and where the inspiration to do so comes from.

Swords and samosas aside, nagar kirtans are expressions of Sikh sovereignty. Guru Granth Sahib is the eternal, worldly and divine, Sikh Sovereign. Canada’s Parliament was established in 1867, but even a hundred years before then, the Sikh Gurus were establishing political institutions of their own.

The divine light of the Guru Granth Sahib is also embodied in the Panj Pyare, who serve a critical Sikh political function. A nagar kirtan shows not just our present, but our past, too.

Quebec Bill 21’s impact on Sikh communities

The nagar kirtan is both an expression and celebration of our very being. And we invite everybody to join us at them, and to come see us for who we are.

This year it’s especially important. Secularism in Quebec is nothing new, but the impending Bill 21 from its provincial government poses very real threats to estimated 15,000 Sikhs in Quebec who wish to serve there.

For example, Sikhs that wish to join the police force would be prevented from joining because of their commitment to the Khalsa, the very same group that are celebrated by millions of Canadians during Vaisakhi.

Initiation into the Khalsa is more than just a baptism or confirmation, it is an unconditional dedication of one’s mind, body and wealth to the Guru. Sikhs of the Khalsa, with their uncut hair, turbans and kirpans, vow to serve and protect.

And yet they are the very people who will be excluded from Quebec’s classrooms, courtrooms and countless other places where the Khalsa spirit could be so beneficial to all Canadians, just as it has been many a time before; from community support for those impacted by the Fort McMurray fires to the countless Sikh individuals that help their community regularly based on the Sikh belief in seva (selfless service).

A Sikh’s uncut hair and turban has deep spiritual and political meaning, brilliantly explained by the likes of B.C.-based poet Jasmin Kaur. It is an assertion of a confidence that should be celebrated, which should serve as a role model for schoolchildren.

When you come to a nagar kirtan, you will see the irony in the attempt to curtail the rights of individuals who proudly and defiantly stand up for the rights of others. Come to a nagar kirtan, join us and ask questions about who we are.

And perhaps ask yourself afterwards: does Bill 21 reflect how Canadian Sikhs should be treated?

Harman Singh : Educator for Basics of Sikhi, a Sikh educational outlet dedicated to teaching Sikh philosophy, history, spirituality and scripture.

The Hindu – Modi amidst a million mutinies

For him, political Hinduism is a way of returning to a theologically grounded reading of India

Keerthik Sasidharan

Editorial, 20 April 2019. Among the great many curiosities of mass psychology that burble up in an election, especially one as gargantuan in scale and radical in its conceit as India’s, which spans over a month and encompasses 900 million voters, none is as intriguing as the singular status of Narendra Modi in the political consciousness of India.

In 2014, Modi offered himself as a bringer of change. One who would incinerate the old world and in the wake of its ashes usher in achhe din, a phrase that is all things to all people. But, either Modi overestimated his own abilities to change India or, more likely, governing India changed Modi’s own instinctive calculus about what was possible versus what was desirable.

He found his natural comfort in planning and organising top-down projects, cleanliness drives, popularising yoga, foreign policy initiatives, reviving Varanasi; he was decidedly at sea when it came to managing more organic, complex phenomena such as rooting out black money, reviving moribund sectors of the economy, radically simplifying income tax regimes.

The result was a panoply of efforts and yojanas, with varying degrees of incompleteness. What Modi revealed is a talent for inspiring, for planning and execution; but when it came to radically rethinking the economy, he revealed that he was an all too familiar, and tiresome, figure in Indian political economy: a socialist who believed he could turn white elephants into gazelles.

Symbolism and metaphors

Looking back at the 2014-19 era, we may discover that Modi’s greatest impact might be in changing the vocabulary of Indian politics, especially in the Hindi belt. Thanks to his overt embrace of Hindu symbolism and metaphors, he has revived a more traditional way of conceiving of society itself.

Whereas the Left has progressively understood Indian society as a conglomerate of interests held together by power structures; in Modi’s rhetoric, India becomes a site held together by ineffable commonalities, unto which sacrifice, as both, balidaan and yajna, are a natural outcome.

If the Indian middle class with one eye on material prosperity and another on what it understands to be tradition, finds in Modi a natural candidate of choice, it is because of the symbols and vocabulary he has adopted, willingly and unabashedly, which endow him with a veneer of authenticity that is recognisable, even communicable.

Two-fold result

Unlike L K Advani, who thought of political Hinduism as a tool to contest in an arena of political ideologies, for Modi political Hinduism is a means to return to a theologically grounded reading of India.

The result of this is two-fold. One, his world view has little use for other religious traditions, except in a pragmatic sense, as ideas that must be accommodated and adjusted to, but not intrinsically of interest for their own sake.

Thus, the inalienable foreignness of Islam and Christianity in India has slowly become an axiomatic public truth in our discourse. Thus, for Modi, any idea of the transcendent can only arrive after being mediated by Hindu thought. There is no ostensible claim of supremacism, merely one marked by deep conservatism.

The second is his preternatural comfort in the company of apolitical religious men on one side and the vast, faceless masses on the other. The world in between, one of small talk, glad handling, and backslapping, the arena where traditional politics is born, is one that he treats as an unavoidable burden of public life.

This allows for a utilitarian view of human interactions, an understanding that is not burdened by sensitivities, but rather one that situates the world within the carapace of ‘duty’.

This allows him to sideline those who are of no use to his idea of duty to the larger goal, as Keshubhai Patel or Advani will attest to.

His instincts are of a loner, yet he has wilfully chosen to ascend to the most visible of roles in Indian public life. We know little of Modi’s personal life, his friends, his idea of pleasure, but from what we can see, he has chosen to sublimate his persona into his calling.

This has allowed him, in reality and in appearance, to think of himself as a worker, a doer, unlike his predecessors, A B Vajpayee, who was happiest when thought of as a poet, or Manmohan Singh who was an economist.

Modi understands the great truth of democracy better than any politician of his generation: if the idea of personal sincerity and hard work is consistently drummed in, the people are willing to provide considerable latitude as far as outcomes are concerned.

It is this recognition that is at the heart of this transformation of a billion people’s election into a litmus test about one man.

The India Express – As criticism grows, CJI Ranjan Gogoi asks Justice Bobde to decide on next steps

This move comes the day two lawyers’ bodies of the Supreme Court cited “procedural impropriety” in the April 20 sitting and said the “full court of the Supreme Court” should take all “necessary steps” to deal with the charges.

Ananthakrishnan G

New Delhi – India, 23 April 2019. Amid snowballing criticism for the manner in which he called a special Supreme Court sitting on April 20 to trash the sexual harassment complaint against himself, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Monday asked Justice S A Bobde, the second most senior judge, to decide on the next steps in the matter.

Sources told The Indian Express that at an informal meeting of the judges Monday morning, CJI Gogoi offered his version of the developments. He later assigned the matter to Justice Bobde who is in line to succeed him in November.

This move comes the day two lawyers’ bodies of the Supreme Court cited “procedural impropriety” in the April 20 sitting and said the “full court of the Supreme Court” should take all “necessary steps” to deal with the charges.

Last Saturday, the CJI had convened an “extraordinary” sitting after reports about a former woman staffer’s sexual harassment complaint against him. The allegations by the woman, who had worked at Justice Gogoi’s home office in Delhi, date to October last year.

She alleged that after she resisted his “sexual advances,” she was fired and her husband and brother-in-law, both posted with the Delhi Police as head constables, were subsequently suspended.

Sitting with Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna, CJI Gogoi called the charges a bid by a “bigger undermine the independence of the judiciary and deactivate the office of the CJI”. He added: “I should not stoop low even in denying it.”

On Monday the executive committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) resolved that the Saturday session of the court in the matter of allegations made by ex-employee against the CJI is “in violation of procedure established by law as well as principles of natural justice,” a statement issued by the SCBA said.

It urged the full court to collate all material with regard to the allegations from “electronic, print, social media and other available sources” for consideration at its next meeting.

The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) also pointed to “procedural impropriety” in convening the session and sought “immediate appointment of a committee headed by full court of Supreme Court to impartially investigate and inquire into the allegations.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association came out in support of the CJI and said it “strongly condemns the false, fabricated and baseless allegations” against him. It claimed that “unscrupulous allegations are aimed at maligning the institution”. – Bibi Khalra lodges strong reply to election officer’s notice

Sikh24 Editors

Tarn Taran Sahib – Panjab – India, 23 April 2019. Replying to the District Election Officer’s notice regarding violation of model code of conduct, the PDA’s candidate Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra has said that the message of living Sikh master Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was not only for the Sikh community but for the entire humanity.

She wrote in her reply that Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji teaches the principles of equality, helping the needy and meek ones, eradication of the caste system and welfare of entire humanity so she doesn’t find anything worth objection in following this ideology to contest the elections.

“I pain that you have sent me the show-cause notice on the complaint of those who once tried to oppress this great ideology with the use of tanks and by backing sacrilege episode,” she wrote.

Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra further wrote that she has not cheated with her constituents like the Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh did by taking oath of Gutka Sahib during the Punjab assembly polls.

“I think, this issue doesn’t need further heed as no one has any right to challenge the secularist and humanitarian ideology taught by the living Sikh master Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji,” she added.

It may be recalled here that after being pressed by the Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress, the District Election Officer of Tarn Taran had issued a show-cause notice to Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra on April 20 for terming Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as her election manifesto. She was asked to submit a clarification within 48 hours.

Bibi Khalra Lodges Strong Reply to Election Officer’s Notice

Dawn – Peshawar police arrest man alleging anti-polio vaccines cause children to faint, die

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 23 April 2019. Police in Peshawar arrested a man on Tuesday after he allegedly spread misinformation about the anti-polio vaccine in a series of videos that went viral on social media, a day after hundreds of children in different cities complained of illness and were admitted to hospitals in the midst of a province-wide anti-polio drive.

Videos circulating on Twitter show a resident of Peshawar’s Mashokhel area, Nazar Muhammad, in Hayatabad Medical Complex, where children from a school in Badhber were admitted yesterday with complaints of illness following administration of the anti-polio vaccine.

In the video, Nazar alleges that administration of the vaccine causes children to fall unconscious. Then he turns to a group of children standing next to him and orders them to “fall asleep”. They then lie down on the hospital bed behind them as if they were unconscious.

When a boy gets up, Nazar tells him to “fall asleep” again, after which he lies down on the bed again.

In another video, Nazar is speaking to reporters outside, surrounded by a crowd of men. He alleges that some children in his video died after being administered the vaccine.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tweeted the videos with the caption: “EXPOSED: Watch how young innocent kids were made to lay down in hospital beds and pretend they’re suffering due to polio vaccination, to give a wrong message to masses regarding the polio campaign.”

KP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas have long seen vaccine refusal cases. According to provincial officials and anti-polio campaign documents, suspicion about the vaccine stems from misconceptions about the oral polio vaccine (OPV) which have persisted since 2004, when obscurantist elements and militants in the area spread rumours that certain hormones were deliberately added to the OPV to make Muslim children sterile.

Panic over anti-polio drive

Panic spread across Peshawar yesterday after reports that 75 students at a school in Badhber, complaining of headaches, nausea and abdominal pain allegedly after being administered the anti-polio vaccine, were admitted to Hayatabad Medical Complex. Shortly after, doctors began releasing them, saying they were in stable condition.

Family members and area residents resorted to agitation in protest against the incident. They broke the doors and windows of a hospital during their protest, set a Basic Health Unit in the area on fire and held polio workers hostage for some time.

Panicked parents continued taking their children to hospitals for checkups till late at night, some 300 children visited Lady Reading Hospital, and mosques added further grist to the rumours by issuing intermittent warnings over their loudspeakers to not get children vaccinated, and that those who had must reach hospitals to avoid a reaction.

Most children were released after treatment, health workers said. The doctors at LRH said it was psychological whatever it was that was impacting the children. In Charsadda 800 children were hospitalised.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Saddar Sahibzada Sajjad told DawnNewsTV that a first information report (FIR) had been registered at the Badhber police station against identified individuals for setting fire to a Basic Health Unit and causing widespread panic by rumour-mongering.

DSP Sajjad confirmed Nazar Muhammad’s arrest and said that further arrests would be made using videos of the protests and vandalism.

Police obtained one-day remand for Nazar from the court today.

KP government to probe incident

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan held a press conference in Peshawar last night to debunk the rumours about the vaccine. “We have an inquiry report and the only thing it points towards is panic.

The school from where it all started, there should be an investigation against them. These two, three schools had also refused the anti-polio campaign earlier. They did not want drops administered to their students,” he claimed.

His claim was echoed by Chief Police Officer Qazi Jalilur Rehman, who had said the issue of alleged reaction from polio vaccines emerged from one school.

The health minister added that a preliminary investigation had revealed there was no issue of the expiry of vaccines. “We are also investigating a batch of vaccines which we procured from an Indonesia-based manufacturing firm.

The matter was blown by media out of proportions which swelled to a big crisis but in reality there is nothing to worry as all the children are safe,” he said.

The Emergency Operation Centre of KP has formed a committee under the additional deputy commissioner to investigate the issue and submit its findings in 48 hours.

Prime Minister’s Focal Person Babar Bin Atta had said that action would be taken against those who created the rumours to damage the polio vaccination campaign.

“Panic was created to jeopardise polio vaccination as part of a campaign and to put our children at risk of diseases. It is a criminal act and perpetrators will be held accountable. There were no instances of diarrhoea or skin rashes on affected children,” he explained.

He pledged that the vaccination drive would continue till polio was completely eradicated from the country. “The WHO-approved OPV used for eradication of poliovirus worldwide is safe for children and parents must have it administered to their children.”

The Hindustan Times – Sri Lanka imposes emergency, says international network involved in attacks

Police said 87 bomb detonators were found at the city’s main bus station, while an explosive went off near a church where scores were killed on Sunday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it.

Colombo – Sri Lanka, 22 April 2019. Sri Lanka said on Monday it was invoking emergency powers in the aftermath of devastating bomb attacks on hotels and churches, blamed on militants with foreign links, in which 290 people were killed and nearly 500 wounded.

The emergency law, which gives police and the military extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders, will go into effect at midnight on Monday, the president’s office said.

Colombo, the seaside capital of the Indian Ocean island, was jittery on Monday. Police said 87 bomb detonators were found at the city’s main bus station, while an explosive went off near a church where scores were killed on Sunday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it.

A night curfew will go into effect at 8 pm, the government announced.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack but suspicion was focusing on Islamist militants in the Buddhist-majority country.

Investigators said seven suicide bombers took part in the attacks while a government spokesman said an international network was involved.

Police had received a tip-off of a possible attack on churches by a little-known domestic Islamist group some 10 days ago, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The intelligence report, dated April 11 and seen by Reuters, said a foreign intelligence agency had warned authorities of possible attacks on churches by the leader of the group, the National Thawheed Jama’ut. It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken on the tip-off.

Police said 24 people had been arrested, all of whom were Sri Lankan, but they gave no more details.

International anti-terrorism experts said even if a local group had carried out the attacks, it was likely that al Qaeda or Islamic State were involved, given the level of sophistication.

Two of the suicide bombers blew themselves up at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel on Colombo’s seafront, said Ariyananda Welianga, a senior official at the government’s forensic division. The others targeted three churches and two other hotels.

A fourth hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital Colombo were also hit, but it was not immediately clear how those attacks were carried out.

“Still the investigations are going on,” Welianga said.

Most of the attacks came during Easter services and when hotel guests were sitting down for breakfast buffets.

“Guests who had come for breakfast were lying on the floor, blood all over,” an employee at Kingsbury Hotel told Reuters.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said an international network was involved, but did not elaborate.

“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Senaratne said. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”

The president, Maithripala Sirisena, said in a statement the government would seek foreign assistance to track the overseas links.

Sri Lanka was at war for decades with ethnic minority Tamil separatists, most of them Hindu, but violence had largely ended since the government victory in the civil war, 10 years ago.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus.

Foreign victims

Most of the dead and wounded were Sri Lankans although government officials said 32 foreigners were killed, including British, USA, Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

Denmark’s richest man Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife lost three of their four children in the attacks, a spokesman for his fashion firm said.

A British mother and son at breakfast at the Shangri-La, British media reported, while five Indian political workers were killed at the same hotel, relatives told Indian media.

The hotel said several guests and three employees were killed.

The USA State Department said in a travel advisory “terrorist groups” were plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka and targets could include tourist spots, transport hubs, shopping malls, hotels, places of worship and airports.

There were fears the attacks could spark communal violence, with police reporting late on Sunday there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.

Bomb found near airport [bold

Traffic was uncharacteristically thin in normally bustling Colombo after an island-wide curfew was lifted earlier Monday.

Soldiers with automatic weapons stood guard outside major hotels and the World Trade Centre in the business district, a Reuters witness said.

An Australian survivor, identified only as Sam, told Australia’s 3AW radio the hotel was a scene of “absolute carnage”.

He said he and a travel partner were having breakfast at the Shangri-La when two blasts went off. He said he had seen two men wearing backpacks seconds before the blasts.

“There were people screaming and dead bodies all around,” he said. “Kids crying, kids on the ground, I don’t know if they were dead or not, just crazy.”

There were similar scenes of carnage at two churches in or near Colombo, and a third church in the northeast town of Batticaloa, where worshippers had gathered. Pictures showed bodies on the ground and blood-spattered pews and statues.

Dozens were killed in a blast at the Gothic-style St Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Police said they suspected it was a suicide attack.

Questions over why the intelligence report warning was not acted upon could feed into a feud between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the president.

Sirisena fired the premier last year and installed opposition strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his stead. Weeks later, he was forced to re-instate Wickremesinghe because of pressure from the Supreme Court but their relationship is still fraught as a presidential election nears.

The Nation – 1,898 Sikh pilgrims return to India

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 22 April 2019. As many as 1898 Indian Sikh pilgrims after celebrating Baisakhi festival in Punjab went back to India through Lahore Railway Station.

Sikh pilgrims arrived on April 12 to take part in the annual Baisakhi celebrations held at Gurdawara Hassan Abdal.

The pilgrims were headed back to India in three phases through a special train carrying. 624 Sikh pilgrims left for India on Sunday morning followed by another special train carrying 834 pilgrims, while the third train carried the remaining pilgrims.

Pilgrims paid visits at Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib and participated in Baishaki festival which marks the beginning of harvest season.

Talking to media, Sikh pilgrims lauded all the arrangements from accommodation to food and from transport to the security measures.

The Hindu – A time of deep turmoil for the Supreme Court

“Whether you like it or not, My Lords, you have seriously eroded the independence of the judiciary from within by such acts. It does not need outsiders to do it, it seems”

Dushyant Dave

New Delhi – India, 21 April 2019. Speaking for the Gauhati High Court in 2006, Justice Ranjan Gogoi said in the matter of Ganesh Electric Stores vs. State of Assam & Ors: “Law will reach its most glorious moment when ‘men’ can be made wholly free from the shackles of arbitrary and despotic power, however subtle the exercise of such power may be.

However, over the years, two basic principles have been recognised as fundamental in the doctrine of natural justice. The first is ‘nemo judex in causa sua’, that is, ‘no man shall be a judge in his own case’; the second is ‘audi altarem partem’, that is, ‘hear the other side’.”

In 2018, speaking for the Supreme Court of India in Lok Prahari v. State of UP & Orissa, Justice Gogoi recognised the seven principles of public life in the report by Lord Nolan and recapitulated them as “Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, and Leadership.”

Disturbing development

But what happened in the Supreme Court of India on the morning of Saturday is just the opposite. The constitution of the bench, of course in the exercise of the power of the Master of the Rolls, Chief Justice Gogoi himself styling it as ‘a matter of great importance touching upon the Independence of Judiciary’, and permitting mention by the Solicitor General are all acts done by the CJI contrary to ‘nemo judex in causa sua’.

The proceedings of the court, or rather the Bench, are even more disturbing. There was no cause, no matter, no petition, and no reason for the court to take upon itself the perceived duty to protect its reputation.

More puzzling

The order issued thereon is even more puzzling. If the Bench comprised three judges, how in God’s name did the order come to be issued in the name of only two judges? Was it to get over the salutary principle referred above? Surely it could not have been, after all that happened in the open court hearing.

Under no circumstances could and should the Supreme Court have done what it did on Saturday morning. It is an institution to uphold the majesty of law, not to undermine it. It is a temple of justice, not an instrument to cater injustice. It is the highest court of this great land to protect the basic human values and fundamental rights.

It has to protect the most cherished of those rights, the freedom of speech and expression and protect the true guardians of democracy, the media.

It has no power to stop them from doing their duty, much less to advise them “to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage reputation and negate independence of Judiciary.”

Saying that, the court kindly requests the media “to take off such material which is undesirable.”

Surely the Supreme Court of India does not have any advisory jurisdiction except on a Presidential Reference. In fact, time and again, judges are heard telling lawyers and litigants when requested to advise on what to do while matters are being dismissed: “it is no part of our function to advise you.”

The order so made has itself seriously damaged the reputation of the Supreme Court of India. Judges so concerned about the reputation of the court should have refrained from undertaking this slippery exercise.

My Lords, you have acted against every known judicial norm and practice. You have acted against your law which you have brilliantly and rightly declared over decades. Please remember, the law so declared binds Your Lordships too.

Government’s hand

The entire set of events seeks to overpower independent media and discourage reporting on a matter which I consider to be of a far greater ‘importance touching upon [the] survival of democracy.’

Involvement of the government through its top law officers to initiate the process when the government is the biggest litigant before the court (including in some cases like Rafale, and the CBI Director’s matter besides matters involving virtually all opposition leaders) is certainly objectionable and negates the court’s independence by itself.

In present times, the government and the party in power would like to muzzle whatever little independent media that is left out. So was the court right in allowing itself to be protected at the instance of a law officer? I don’t think so.

What is even sadder is that the Chief Justice of India has done what was objected to by four senior judges of the Supreme Court of India, including Justice Gogoi himself, on January 12, 2018, and that is constituting a bench in the most selective way (and that too on a Saturday morning, during holidays).

There have been repeated wrong moves in this regard by previous Chief Justices of India, and that too in their own ‘causes’. Whether you like it or not, My Lords, you have seriously eroded the independence of the judiciary from within by such acts. It does not need outsiders to do it, it seems.

Let me make one thing clear, citizens, including lawyers who stand up to defend the underdogs, respect the institution the most. They do nothing to damage its reputation. In fact, they help in building it by their own courage, which results in courageous judgments by the courts.

The judiciary comprises outstanding judges and its reputation remains intact despite odd judicial conduct from time to time. It does not need self-serving individuals or the government to enhance it.

But then those good judges must also be aware that the institution belongs to all and each of those within it, judges and lawyers alike, must work to protect it from attacks from within. If they fail, the institution will fail, and it appears to be failing.

Public confidence

Remember what the Court said in the K. Veeraswami case: “The judiciary has no power of the purse or the sword. It survives only by public confidence and it is important to the stability of the society that the confidence of the public is not shaken.”

What prompted the court to hold such an extraordinary hearing in more extraordinary fashion is a mystery. Surely, the court is not constituted by the framers of the Constitution to protect one of its own. It is not my purpose to go into allegations that have surfaced against the Chief Justice of India, I earnestly hope they are proved to be wrong upon fiercely independent inquiry.

But that definitely is not the matter touching upon the judiciary, much less its independence or reputation. There can be no doubt that Saturday’s proceedings have shaken public confidence, and quite badly so.

The author is a Senior Advocate and a former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association