Hindustan Times – Takht Jathedar seeks probe into Delhi violence

He made the statement immediately after his return from Pakistan. The Jathedar, along with 12 other Sikhs, had gone to Pakistan to take part in a function to observe the anniversary of the Nankana Sahib massacre on 21 February.

HT Correspondent

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 25 February 2020. The acting Jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Harpreet Singh on Tuesday sought probe into the ongoing Delhi violence that has coincided with the visit of US President Donald Trump. At least 10 people have been killed in the national capital in the violence over the past two days.

He made the statement immediately after his return from Pakistan. The Jathedar, along with 12 other Sikhs, had gone to Pakistan to take part in a function to observe the anniversary of the Nankana Sahib massacre on February 21.

“See, when Bill Clinton (the then US president) had come to India in 2000, 36 Sikhs were killed in Jammu and Kashmir, and, now, when Trump is around, Delhi is burning. It should be probed why India sees violence whenever a US president is around?” he said.

The Jathedar said, “We talked to the Pakistan government and they agreed to open two gurdwaras, named after Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh and Bhai Money Singh (both Sikh martyers). The shrines will be opened after renovation.”

On being asked if he was satisfied with the apology of director general of police (DGP) for his Kartarpur remark, he said, “His mistake is very big and he should step down on moral ground.

The statement has hurt the sentiments of Sikh community,” adding, “I have spent five days in Pakistan and I have not become a terrorist. How can a person become a terrorist spending some hours there?”

On minorities’ condition in Pakistan, he said, “Minorities in Pakistan, especially the Sikh community, are safe and at peace. We met several Sikhs and no one complained of any type of persecution.”

Earlier, the Jathedar had said that Pakistan was a safe country and maximum Sikhs from India should visit all historic gurdwaras there.

The Jathedar had also met the family of a Sikh girl of Nankana Sahib who was allegedly abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and married to a Muslim youth in Pakistan. “They informed me that the girl is under some pressure,” he said.

On the row over Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale’s interpretation of Gurbani and Sikh history, the Jathedar reiterated that he should appear before the five-member committee.


Hindustan Times – Pakistan is safe, maximum Sikhs from India should visit gurdwaras there: Akal Takht Jathedar

People of both India and Pakistan don’t need to fear visiting each other’s country. Pakistanis are loved by people in India, says the Jathedar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 24 February 2020. Akal Takht acting jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh has said that Pakistan is a safe country and maximum Sikhs from India should visit all historic gurdwaras there.

In a video shared by Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) president Satwant Singh, the jathedar can be heard saying: “Historic gurdwaras hold big importance for SIkhs. ‘Darshan-didar’ of these gurdwaras has given me immense pleasure and peace of mind.

I have no word to recognise the love shown by Pakistan’s sangat and common people towards me. Not only me, locals also share warm vibes with every person coming from India here.”

“People of both India and Pakistan don’t need to fear visiting each other’s country. Pakistanis are loved by people in India,” Giani Harpreet Singh said.

He further said, “I would like to give a message to Sikhs living across India that they should come here in maximum numbers to have ‘darshan’ of historic gurdwaras.

By doing so, they will not only get the blessings of the Guru, but also get rid of illusions about the atmosphere in Pakistan. They will come to know that peace prevails in this country. So, Indian Sikhs should visit here.”

“We want historic gurdwaras, many of which are in a state of neglect, to be reopened. Footfall of Sikhs at these gurdwaras will help them getting restored,” said the jathedar.

Speaking on low footfall at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, which was the last resting place of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak, the jathedar said, “Complicated procedure of getting permission for the pilgrimage and condition of passport are the main hurdles. Governments of both the countries should sit together to find out a solution.”

He appreciated the PSGPC’s efforts for the betterment of the gurdwaras and welfare of the Sikhs living in Pakistan.


Sikh24.com – Terrorists are trained in Nagpur, not Kartarpur

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 23 February 2020. Strongly reacting to Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta’s statement about Kartarpur, the Sikh Youth Federation Bhindranwala has said that the terrorists are trained at RSS’ headquarters in Nagpur, not at Kartarpur Sahib.

The SYFB has cited names of notorious Hindutva terrorists like Colonel Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya who are being shielded by the Indian state machinery despite committing heinous crimes.

Speaking to Sikh24, SYFB’s senior vice president Bhai Ranjit Singh Damdami Taksal said that DGP Gupta has ultimately depicted the hate he is having towards Sikhs in his mind due to which the sacred Sikh shrine Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib also seems a center of terrorism to him.

“If paying obeisance at Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib makes someone ‘terrorist’ then millions of Sikhs are going to become ‘terrorists’ proudly,” he said while adding that dubbing Sikhs and Muslims as terrorists was not a new thing in India.

Bhai Ranjit Singh Damdami Taksal has posed a question to Dinkar Gupta that does he also feel same about the Hindu pilgrims who return after having a glimpse of Maan Sarovar in China.

Bhai Ranjit Singh Damdami Taksal has sought immediate indictment of DGP Dinkar Gupta.

Terrorists are trained in Nagpur, not Kartarpur

The Asian Age – Donald Trump to flag CAA, religion

Economic and energy ties as well as cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region will also be discussed, the US said.

Sridhar Kumaraswami

New Delhi – India, 23 February 2020. US President Donald Trump will raise the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and religious freedom issues with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit next week, and he will convey that “the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law”, the US administration said on Saturday.

It added that President Trump “will also encourage bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan” on the Kashmir issue, adding that the US expects Pakistan to crack down on terror outfits operating there.

The US said the “Make in India” campaign raised fears in the US of “protectionist” policies by New Delhi, while pointing to “the failure of the Indian government to provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors”.

Economic and energy ties as well as cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region will also be discussed, the US said.

In response to a question on the CAA, the US administration said, “President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration.

And I think that the President will talk about these issues in his meetings with Mr Modi and note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, respect for religious minorities.”

The US administration added, “Prime Minister Modi, in his first speech after winning the election last year, talked about how he would prioritise being inclusive of India’s religious minorities. And, certainly, the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law.

Of course, it’s in the Indian constitution, religious freedom, respect for religious minorities, and equal treatment of all religions in India. We have great respect for India’s democratic traditions and institutions, and we will continue to encourage India to uphold those traditions.

India is a country rich in religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. In fact, it’s the birthplace of four major world religions.”

On Kashmir and Pakistan, the US said, “What you’ll hear from the President is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences.

We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that.

But I think the President will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the line of control and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region.”

On whether India’s “participation” in the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), that had earlier given India many concessions could be “restored”, the US said, “The concerns that led to the revocation, suspension of India’s GSP access remains a concern for us. We continue to talk to our Indian colleagues about addressing these market access barriers.”


The Print – AAP & Akali Dal condemn Punjab DGP’s statement on Kartarpur, seek clarification from Punjab CM

Akali Dal leader Majithia alleged that DGP Gupta said Kartarpur corridor ‘offers a potential’ of people leaving as ‘ordinary chaps’ and coming back as ‘trained terrorists’.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 23 February 2020. The opposition SAD and AAP on Saturday slammed Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta’s for his purported statement on the Kartarpur corridor and sought clarification from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh within 24 hours.

Senior SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia warned, “If a clarification is not issued, the party will stall proceedings of the budget session of the Vidhan Sabha on 24 February.”

The Aam Aadmi Party too lashed out at the DGP, terming the statement condemnable and seeking the removal of the top cop.

Responding to the criticism over the statement he made at an event organised by a national daily on 20 February, the DGP said he was being “misunderstood or wilfully misconstrued” as his remarks strictly pertained the security and safety of Punjab and India.

SAD senior leader Bikram Singh Majithia said DGP Gupta had told a national daily that “Kartarpur offers a potential that you send somebody in the morning as an ordinary chap and by evening he comes back as trained terrorist actually. You are there for six hours, you can be taken to a firing range, you can be taught to make an IED”.

The DGP also reportedly said some elements based in the neighbouring country were “trying to woo the pilgrims and making overtures to them”.

“I condemn the statement in the strongest possible words. I do not think it is the statement given by the Punjab DGP, I see this coming from the Congress headquarters because this DGP was handpicked by overlooking several senior officers,” alleged Majithia.

Majithia dubbed the statement a “deep-rooted conspiracy” of the Congress to paint every Sikh pilgrim a “terrorist”.

“As many as 52,098 pilgrims have so far paid obeisance at the Kartarpur gurdwara. Please check and see which one of them became terrorist,” asked Majithia, alleging that they (Congress) were trying to get the corridor shut.

AAP MLA and the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Harpal Singh Cheema, sought the DGP’s removal.

“The statement poses a threat to the country’s unity and integrity. The CM should lodge an FIR against him (DGP), put him behind bars and remove him from his post,” said Cheema.

Meanwhile, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Gobind Singh Longowal also condemned the DGP’s statement and said the corridor gave a message of peace.

“With the DGP’s statement, sentiments of Sikhs have been hurt. So far, 50,000 devotees have offered prayers at the Kartarpur gurdwara and no such instance like what the DGP has said has come to the fore yet,” said Longowal in a statement.

Later in the day, DGP Dinkar Gupta said there was absolutely no reference to any religion or community in his remarks.

“I only red-flagged the obvious potential for the misuse by elements notorious for their hostility towards India and their efforts to exploit every opportunity, even the most pious one, to disturb peace and communal harmony,” said Gupta in a statement here.

Therefore, we need to be vigilant to such potential dangers in the interest of peace and security of the people of the state, who, he said, had already suffered a lot in the past at the hands of terrorism promoted by the hostile neighbour.

Gupta said as the DGP of the state, which is faced with continuing battle against violent extremism funded and supported from across the border, he cannot over emphasise the need to remain vigilant.

Clarifying his position, Gupta said he was “rejoiced” at the opening of the Kartarpur corridor which fulfilled the decades-old aspirations of millions of devotees.

The state government and all its agencies, including the Punjab Police, worked with great devotion and commitment to successfully observe the historic event (opening of Kartarpur corridor), he said.

“As the state DGP, I assure that we will continue to strive to work towards facilitating trouble-free access to the holy shrine of Kartarpur,” he said.

Earlier, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh too had repeatedly warned that Pakistan had “nefarious designs” behind the opening of the Kartarpur corridor and had also maintained that while he was extremely happy as a Sikh at its opening, “the threat it posed to India could not be ignored”.

The Kartarpur corridor, which was opened on November 9 last year, links the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan–the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev–with Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur of Indian Punjab.

AAP & Akali Dal condemn Punjab DGP’s statement on Kartarpur, seek clarification from Punjab CM

Dawn – India vs Pakistan

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

Op/Ed, 21 February 2020. Earlier this week, while wrapping up the high-profile case of peaceful protestors arrested and charged with sedition in the federal capital in late January, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah asserted the inviolability of citizens’ constitutional rights and made the pointed remark: “This is Pakistan, not India”.

In truth, the CJ was commenting less on India than on the imperative of constitutional courts in Pakistan defending the social contract, and political dissidents in particular, from state excess. Our democracy is, at best, fragile. Superior courts have often sided with the establishment, and military dictators in particular.

The proceedings in the said case, then, set an important precedent for whose side constitutional courts should take in times to come.

Yet the reference to India did not go unnoticed. Narendra Modi’s BJP is increasingly turning India into a theatre of the absurd, approximating the most draconian regimes history has known. The political executive, and, in some cases, superior courts, are constantly running roughshod over citizen’s rights.

Police and paramilitaries are making a habit of beating up, arresting and disappearing ordinary people. Right-wing vigilante mobs appear to have license to attack vulnerable populations and anti-government protestors at will.

In both India and Pakistan, these dark times, and the chances are that things could get darker still, also represent an unprecedented opportunity for progressive constituencies on both sides of the border to close ranks, not only to arrest the current wave of authoritarianism, but overturn the entire narrative of enmity and distrust that has persisted since soon after the British partitioned the subcontinent.

These dark times also represent an unprecedented opportunity

India and Pakistan are not the only states in our world to have come into being on the back of European colonial rule and cultivated state nationalisms to the detriment of the majority of their people. There are many adjacent states in Africa, for instance, which have been at loggerheads since formal independence. Think Ethiopia and Eritrea, for instance.

But India and Pakistan are literally home to one-fifth of the world’s population, the subcontinent is more at risk of climate disasters than any other region and, perhaps most significantly, both countries are experiencing massive youth bulges with access to an increasingly digitalised public sphere unprecedented in size and scope.

It is of course true that both countries have different postcolonial histories. Many observers see Pakistan as a praetorian state in which the military establishment has remained the arbiter of the polity virtually since its inception. India, on the other hand, is viewed as a more functional bourgeois state with deeper democratic foundations in the trenches of civil society, including educational institutions and media.

Yet these stylised narratives gloss over the shared legacies of colonialism, most notably the thana, katcheri and patwari. Moreover, everyday politics in both countries is heavily structured by entrenched caste, religious, gender and class faultiness that make political parties outlets for patronage rather than carriers of universal programmatic change.

Perhaps most significantly, in both countries, the coercive apparatus of the state has brutalised its peripheries.

It requires deep introspection for ordinary people on both sides to transcend nationalist proclamations of ‘our’ country being better than ‘their’ country. We Pakistanis have always struggled to do so due to the state’s foundations, official historiographies of the unitary Muslim ‘nation’ and the institutionalised power of the religious right.

The rise of the RSS to state power in India has made it even easier for hawks on our side of the border to peddle an ‘us versus them’ narrative as Muslims in India become the most prominent target of the Hindutva project.

Indian progressives also face an uphill battle to stem the tide of hateful nationalist rhetoric. The universities and media entities that housed the dissidents of Indian democracy are being flushed out by mobs. Meanwhile, social media, as we know in this country as well, gives progressive voices an outlet, but also ample opportunity for right-wing hawks to coalesce around simplistic and hateful slogans.

Yet to reduce the current conjuncture to just doom and gloom is to ignore what is qualitatively different about it. Young people can recognise the ‘other’ and the parallels between our polities in ways that were arguably impossible in the past. New forms of solidarity are emerging in Pakistan and India between central regions and peripheries, and, increasingly, across the borders of both states as well.

It may be a long haul, but there is hope yet that ‘India vs Pakistan’ eventually gives way to a shared future beyond militarism, establishments and hate.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.


Sikh24.com – UN chief pays obeisance, partakes langar at Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Lahore – Panjab – India, 18 February 2020. Mr Antonio Guterres, the chief of United Nations, today paid obeisance at the historic Sikh Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib, where Guru Nanak Sahib spent almost the last two decades of his life.

He also partook langar after traversing various parts of Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib complex during the afternoon hours.

Highly hailing Pakistan government for opening the Kartarpur corridor, Antonio Guterres said that the Kartarpur Corridor is a practical example of Pakistan’s desire for peace and inter-faith harmony.

Interacting with the media, he said the opening of the corridor is a good step and it will promote tolerance and interfaith harmony. He also appreciated the facilities being provided to Sikh pilgrims at the complex.

He was honored by the PSGPC officials and other Sikh representatives of Pakistan as per Sikh traditions.

UN chief pays obeisance, partakes langar at Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib

The News – Sikh pilgrims meet PBIT chairman

Islamabad – Pakistan, 20 February 2020. A group of 140 Sikh pilgrims, including socialites and investors living in England, met Chairman Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan at a breakfast here on Wednesday.

They discussed matters of mutual interest, investment and tourism in Pakistan with particular reference to religious tourism.

The Sikhs led by Sardar Ranjit Singh Rana, described the opening of the Kartarpur corridor by the incumbent Government as a great step for the Sikhs.

Sardar Ranjit Singh said that the way Pakistan was focusing on Sikh religious tourism, especially by Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan and his company Centaurus, Pakistan would surely become the best place for tourism. “I have been here three times this year and have been hosted by PBIT chairman”, he said.

He said that the Sikh community was grateful to Prime Minister Imran Khan, his Government, and Chairman PBIT Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan for their gesture.

Speaking on the occasion, Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan said that the way in which Pakistan’s actions regarding religious freedoms are being appreciated in the world is the core spirit of religion of Islam.

Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) emphasized on protection of rights of non-Muslims and made their lives easy,” he said saying that no one could find greater act of tolerance than that.

He said that the honesty and affection shown by Chief of the Army Staff for Navjot Singh Sidhu was widely criticized in India, but General Bajwa fulfilled his promise.” Thanks to their initiative, the dignity of Pakistan has increased in the world,” he said.

He said the Sikh community also stands with Kashmiris all over the world, while it is regrettable that the Modi’s Government attitude towards Muslims in the neighboring country is sad and condemnable.


The Telegraph – Cops bow to hawks, re-arrest students

The police summoned them on Monday morning amid protests by Hindutva groups

Hubli – Karnataka – India, 18 February 2020. Three Kashmiri students of an engineering college in Hubli – Karnataka, facing sedition charges have been arrested again after being released a day earlier.

The police summoned them on Monday morning amid protests by Hindutva groups.

Members of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad staged a protest outside the Gokul police station soon after the students’ release.

Hubli police commissioner R Dilip on Monday said: “We summoned them again today (Monday) after we found incriminating evidence and subsequently arrested them.”

But he did not dwell into why they were arrested after being released just hours earlier. Police had arrested them on Saturday after a purported video clip they had recorded showed them chanting “Pakistan zindabad”.

The police released them on Sunday citing Section 169 of CrPc that permits any person to be released for want of proper evidence. They were produced before a court that remanded them for 14 days in judicial custody.


The Tribune – UN chief applauds Pakistan, censures India during Islamabad trip

New Delhi-India/Islamabad-Pakistan, 19 February 2020. During his four-day trip to Islamabad United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres applauded Pakistan for its peace efforts and expressed concern for the Muslims in India.

Before concluding his Pakistan visit on Wednesday, the UN chief in an interview to Pakistani newspaper Dawn commented on India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The Dawn quoted Guterres as saying that there was a “risk of statelessness for two million Muslims excluded by the divisive Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed by the Indian Parliament.”

Guterres also told Dawn that he was personally concerned about the rising discrimination against the minorities in India.

The newspaper claimed that the UN chief said: “All the reports, including two by the UN High Commissioner, in the international media, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and recent fact-finding reports on Kashmir released in New Delhi, regarding torture, sexual abuse and incarceration of children as young as seven by the Indian military”, played an important role in “clarifying exactly what is happening” in Kashmir and “it is essential that these reports are taken seriously”.

While visiting Pakistan’s Kartarpur Corridor constructed to facilitate the visit by Sikh pilgrims from India, Guterres praised Pakistan for opening “a symbol of interfaith harmony.” During his four-day trip, the UN chief showed huge admiration for Pakistan and patted the Imran Khan government on its back for its peace efforts.

“For 40 years, Pakistan has sheltered Afghan refugees. I urge the world to support host countries and show similar leadership in standing with the refugees. The country has stood in solidarity with the refugees from Afghanistan for 40 years, showing how generosity is not always proportional to wealth,” he said.

The UN Secretary General said that Pakistan is one of the most consistent and reliable contributors to the UN peacekeeping efforts around the world. “I am closely following vital peace efforts in Afghanistan to reduce violence, especially against civilians. By building regional consensus, Pakistan’s role in this process remains crucial,” he tweeted.

Sources in Islamabad said that the Imran Khan government had lobbied hard to invite Guterres in view of the fact that US President Donald Trump was skipping Pakistan and visiting only India during his maiden trip to the region.

“The UN chief was invited to handle the opposition at home and also pacify domestic constituency that is unhappy about an ailing economy and failing diplomacy even as Prime Minister Khan has been travelling around the world and campaigning against India over Kashmir,” said an Islamabad-based politician who did not want to be named.