The Tribune – Convicted under sedition law, three youths move HC

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 February 2019. Just about a week after a Nawanshahr court awarded life imprisonment to three youths on the allegations of waging a war against the state, the order was on Thursday challenged before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In their appeal filed through counsel R S Bains, the three submitted that no case was made out against them. The appeal is expected to come up for hearing next week.

The three accused, Arwinder Singh of Nawanshahr, Surjit Singh of Gurdaspur and Ranjit Singh of Kaithal in Haryana, were convicted by the Court of Additional Sessions Judge on January 31.

The quantum of sentence was pronounced subsequently.

“From the material on record, common intention and object which brought the accused together could be easily gathered from the documentary evidence such as books, literature, pamphlets, which are seized from them,” reads the order.


NDTV – Amarinder Singh to raise Gurdwara body’s poll delay issue with centre

Amid protests by SAD and BJP members, the House authorised Captain Amarinder Singh to raise the issue with the central government.

Mohammad Ghazali

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 15 February 2019. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said people have the right to early polls of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, hours after he was authorised by the State Assembly to take up with the Centre the issue of delay in elections of the supreme body controlling gurdwaras.

The SGPC elections are pending since 2016.

Talking informally with the media outside the House, the chief minister said the delay in the SGPC elections as wrong and unfair for the people of Punjab.

It was the democratic right of every Punjabi to vote in SGPC elections which cannot be denied by Union Government, he earlier said in the House, while responding to the issue that was raised by AAP lawmaker H S Phoolka.

Amid protests by SAD and BJP members, the House authorised Captain Amarinder Singh to raise the issue with the central government. The chief minister assured the House that he would meet the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh soon to press for early initiation of elections.

Since the Gurdwara Act was a national legislation, it was the bounden duty of the central government to hold timely elections to the SGPC, he said, seeking the permission of the Speaker, on behalf of his government, to adopt the resolution moved by Mr Phoolka.

Amidst protests by SAD and BJP MLAs, the Speaker put the resolution to vote, as a result of which the House authorised Captain Amarinder Singh to raise the issue with Union Government immediately.

As the resolution was put to vote, the members of ruling party and AAP welcomed it with thumping of desks.

The Chief Minister later told media there was unanimity in the House on the issue as the elections were over due by three years. Only the Akalis and BJP were not in favour, he added.

Dawn – Fresh polio case in Punjab after two years

Asif Chaudhry

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 15 February 2019. A new polio case has surfaced after a gap of two years in Punjab and seven years in Lahore.

The case was reported from Shalamar Town where the crippling disease has affected eight-month-old Yashif who was said to be vaccinated soon after his birth.

The health authorities confirmed the boy had been diagnosed with paralysis in right leg.

A health official told Dawn the last case was reported in Jan 2017 in Lodhran district where a baby was declared positive for the polio virus.

The surfacing of the new case in Punjab’s capital has put a big question mark on the performance of provincial health authorities who are already facing allegations of taking inadequate precautionary measures.

The official said 29 environmental samples of polio virus were reported positive in Punjab last year.

He said seven environmental samples drawn from various cities of the province in Jan 2017 alone were declared positive.

Of them, four were reported positive in Lahore, two in Rawalpindi and one in Faisalabad. He said the virus returned to Faisalabad after a gap of two years or so. – Dal Khalsa stages protest against unjust conviction of three Sikh youths; Terms court’s verdict as judicial terror

Judiciary and Executive collude to crush Sikh rights and aspirations – Order of the Nawanshahr judge is a black chapter in the judicial history of Punjab

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Punjab – India, 13 February 2019. Carrying placards with photos of martyrs and books referred to by the Sessions Judge Nawanshahr in the recent judgement against three Sikh youth namely Arvinder Singh, Surjit Singh and Ranjit Singh, Dal Khalsa activists marched to the district courts taunting the administration and daring the state to take action against them.

Waving the books to the protesters, the leaders called the martyrs as Sikh heroes, whose books adorn their homes.

Crushing the already-reduced space for dissent and upholding a different religio-political opinion, especially the right to self-determination, the order of Randhir Verma, the Additional Sessions Judge of SBS Nagar court sentencing three youth to the maximum punishment of life imprisonment for mere possession of posters and literature relating to the Sikh struggle, is an annulment of the freedom of expression and portrays a clear enemy-like attitude towards the Sikhs, said Dal Khalsa leader H S Dhami in a statement released during their protest sit-in here today.

Mother of one of the convict Arvinder Singh participated in the sit-in.

Accompanied by Prof Mohinder Pal Singh, general secretary Akali Dal (A), SGPC members Karnail Singh Panjoli and Panthik front leader Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Dal Khalsa veteran leader Dhami said the order is a clear-cut case of how the judiciary has exceeded its brief to take on the role of the executive and how the executive has taken swift action to buttress the defaults of the judiciary.

“It is nothing but judicial terror and political repression”, said he.

Addressing the spirited gathering outside court premises, Dhami said it was amusingly shocking to note that as a result of the overwhelming objections and denouncements of the judgement for ‘waging war’ by political activists and civil society, the police under instructions of the present Punjab government acted post-facto to foist another case against one of the accused to ‘build the case’ against the accused.

‘This proves that the judiciary, the executive and the police are hand-in-glove,’ said he while addressing the dharna.

‘There was no conspiracy to overthrow the government, there was no evidence of any incitement upon reading the books, there was no proof that the accused actually read all the books that they possessed, there was no communication with any one through social media or otherwise which can come into the purview of criminal activity.

They were all acquitted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, thus proving that they were not members of any proscribed organisation. The accused did not hold any secret or public meetings to incite any individual or group to wage a war against the government of India”, said Dhami and added that the entire case is a frame-up to crush dissenting voices.

Party general secretary Paramjit Singh Tanda said, “The order of the Nawanshahr judge is ‘a black chapter in the judicial history of Punjab.’

Speaking on the occasion Panjoli said “The allegation is that 97 books, 198 photographs and 13 photographs of Sikhs, who had died in the Saka of 1978 and 1000 books in connection with biography of Sukhdev Singh Babbar were recovered from him.” None of this is a crime and none of this has been proscribed by the government.

SYP head Paramjit Singh Mand said, ‘the judge has moved from action pursuant to a conspiracy to mind reading. The judge’s focus is ‘mensrea –the guilty mind.’ No intent or action is mentioned or proved.

The Tribune – Fearless Freda

Freda Bedi, an Englishwoman, was a leading anti-colonialism campaigner, who later became a pioneering Buddhist nun. A new book chronicles the life of this legendary woman who was actor Kabir Bedi’s mother.

Sarika Sharma

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 10 February 2019. When Freda Houlston confided that she was going to marry the handsome Sikh student she’d been seeing, her best friend, Barbara Castle, replied: ‘Well, thank goodness. Now at least you won’t become a suburban housewife!’

Freda had refused to fit into that groove; in fact, she had refused to fit into any groove. She broke the mould not once, but repeatedly in the coming decades. An Englishwoman, she was jailed in India as an anti-Raj political detainee and later became a pioneering Tibetan Buddhist nun, says former BBC journalist Andrew Whitehead, who traces her life in a biography to be released this week.

Aptly titled The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, the book has been published by Speaking Tiger. It draws on the papers in the possession of her movie star son, Kabir Bedi, besides archives of The Tribune, for which Freda wrote regularly.

Freda, from a shopkeeper’s family in the English Midlands, fell in love with Baba Pyare Lal Bedi, an Indian fellow student at Oxford University. In the spring of 1933, they married at Oxford Registry Office, in spite of the disapproval of her family and disciplinary action by her college.

From the moment of her marriage, Freda Bedi regarded herself as Indian and dressed in the Indian style, even though it was another year before she first got to set foot on Indian soil. By then, the husband and wife had edited four books about India’s claim to nationhood.

Freda grew up in an atmosphere of Fabian Socialism, when Laski and the London School of Economics dominated the intellectual life of the English-speaking people.

Baba Bedi was a communist and militant nationalist, and also a champion hammer thrower. All these and a speech by Mahatma Gandhi at Oxford were to determine her anti-imperialist stand that she was to adhere to for the rest of her life.

In India, the Bedis were to become a noted left-wing couple. They set up home in Lahore where Freda decided to teach English at the Fateh Chand College, while Baba Bedi wrote, lectured and organised political activities.

She told a Tribune correspondent in May 1970: “For years we lived in a thatched hut in Model Town. There was no other way to live if one wanted to be active in politics. We could not have stayed with the ICS brother of my husband even though the doors of TD Bedi were open to us.

We would only have been causing embarrassments. Nor could we lock ourselves in the small town of Kapurthala. The city of Lahore was the capital and there we spent some of our best years.”

In the years to come, she was to sway people with her oratory. It is said thousands thronged her meetings to listen to a white Oxford graduate denounce British imperialism. Gandhi was to later handpick her to be a satyagrahi.

Whitehead says during the World War II, both Freda and Baba Bedi were jailed for opposing the war effort and British imperialism. While Baba Bedi spent 15 months in detention, Freda spent three months as a political detainee (a satyagrahi) at Lahore women’s jail in 1941.

Interestingly, the magistrate had given light imprisonment to the Indian satyagrahis. However, Freda got hard labour, probably to demonstrate strictness to the British who went against the establishment.

“She recorded her jail experiences in her first book: Behind Mud Wails. Some of these were stories of the inmates who had worked with her. The English language professor protested against the women jail being described as ‘female jail’.

A mild elite agitation changed the name to ‘women’s jail’. Baba Bedi in the Deoli detention camp had a longer term to serve behind barbed wires,” The Tribune story had reported.

The Partition blizzard, which blew the inhabitants of old Lahore to various places in India, was to send the Bedis to Kashmir. That was to be her new battleground. The two became politically involved in Kashmir, living there for five years.

They worked closely with Sheikh Abdullah. “Freda would dress in a burka to make contact with underground left-wing nationalists and enrolled in a women’s militia,” says Whitehead.

The next turning point in Freda’s life was to come in the 1950s when she encountered Buddhism while working in Burma for the United Nations. Whitehead says, in 1959, she persuaded Nehru to send her to help improve facilities for the tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees who had escaped on foot across the Himalayas.

“She set up a school for young incarnate lamas and in 1966, without telling her children, she was ordained as a novice nun, Sister Palmo. She later took a higher ordination, and was perhaps the first woman in the Tibetan tradition (western or otherwise) to be ordained as a full Buddhist nun.

She arranged for two young lamas to study at Oxford and persuaded her guru, the Karmapa Lama, to reach out to the West, accompanying him in 1974 on a pioneering rock star-style five-month tour of North America and Europe. She has been described as the seed of Buddhism in the West,” he says.

Freda died in Delhi in 1977 aged 66, bringing to end her very fruitful political, spiritual and personal journeys. Baba Bedi too took the spiritual path in later life and died in Italy in 1993.

The Asian Age – Woman dragged out of car, gangraped by 10 men in Punjab

The woman was travelling with a man on Saturday night when their car was stopped by men on three bikes, who were following them.

Ludhiana – Panjab – India. 12 February 2019. A 21-year-old woman was dragged out of a car and allegedly raped by 10 men near Issewal village in Punjab’s Ludhiana, police said today.

The woman was travelling with a man on Saturday night when their car was stopped by men on three bikes, who were following them, Superintendent of Police (Investigation) Tarun Rattan told reporters.

As soon as they stopped, the car was attacked by the men with stones and bricks, he said.

The men on bikes then dragged them out of the car and took them to a vacant spot on the banks of the canal. They called six to seven more people and raped the woman, police said.

The Hindu – New immigration checkpoint for Kartarpur Sahib corridor

Centre designates Dera Baba Nanak check post in Gurdaspur

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 11 February 2019. The Home Ministry has designated the Dera Baba Nanak land check post in Gurdaspur district, the exit and entry point in Punjab for visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan, as an authorised immigration checkpoint.

In a notification, the Ministry said on Monday that anyone with valid travel documents could exit or enter through the check post.

“In pursuance of sub-rule (b) of rule 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950, the central government hereby designates Dera Baba Nanak Land Check Post of District Gurdaspur, Punjab State as an authorised Immigration Check Post for entry into/exit from India with valid travel documents for all classes of passengers,” the notification said.

Sikh bodies have been petitioning both the governments to build a pilgrim corridor over the border from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to Kartarpur in the Narowal province of Pakistani Punjab. The plan is to complete the project by November 23, the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

On November 26 last year, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu laid the foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib Corridor (up to the International Border) at an event at Mann village in Gurdaspur district. On November 28, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the 4-km corridor on the Pakistan side, which is expected to be completed by 2019. – Justice Ranjit Singh lodges criminal complaint against Sukhbir Badal

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 07 February 2019. The former High Court Judge Justice Ranjit Singh, who headed the Commission of Inquiry in sacrilege and police firing cases, has lodged a criminal complaint against the SAD president Sukhbir Badal for his utterances against the Commission of Inquiry.

It is learnt that he has referred to more than one instance where Sukhbir Badal made statements against the commission and its head, which brought it disrepute.

This plea is first of its kind which has been filed using provisions available under section-10 of the Commission of Inquiry Act and Sukhbir Badal might be imprisoned for up to six months by the Court if found guilty. Beside it, the Court may also impose a fine on him along with the imprisonment.

Section 10 of the Commission of Inquiry says: “If any person, by words either spoken or intended to be read, makes or publishes any statement or does any other act, which is calculated to bring the Commission or any member thereof into disrepute, he shall be punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend up to six months, or with fine, or with both.”

Beside it, the section also makes it clear that the High Court may take cognizance of such offence, without the case being committed to it, upon a complaint in writing, made by a member of a Commission or its officer authorized in this behalf.

It may be recalled here that the Justice Ranjit Singh led Investigation Commission was constituted by the Congress led Punjab government in April 2017. The Commission had submitted its report to the Punjab government in two parts last year.

Later, a special debate session was organized by the Congress led Punjab government in the Punjab assembly on this report in late August. The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) leaders had staged a walk out from the Punjab assembly during this debate session.

The Tribune – Pakistan Gurdwara where Guru Nanak used to play as a child gets a new look

Varinder Singh, Tribune News Service

Jalandhar – Panjab – India, 09 February 2019. The main building of Gurdwara Bal Leela Sahib at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan has been thrown open to the pilgrims after a 10-year-long renovation.

The gurdwara holds great importance for Sikhs and Hindus around the world. It was here that Guru Nanak used to play with his childhood friends in an open field. It was here that the guru-born in Nankana Sahib in 1469, would enlighten his friends about God.

The gurdwara is located 300 metres south-east of Gurdwara Janam Asthan. The Nanaksar Sarovar on the gurdwara premises was built by Rai Bular, the ruler of Rai Bhoe Ki Talwandi, currently known as Nankana Sahib.

The gurdwara management before 1921 was with the Nirmala Sikhs. Between 1921 and 1947 Sikhs managed its affairs. After Partition, the management was transferred to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) of Pakistan.

The dilapidated building was closed for visitors around 17 years ago.

“Now, the gurdwara has once again been thrown open to the pilgrims after completion of the ‘Kar Sewa’ with the joint efforts of the UK-based Jatha Guru Ka Bagh, Baba Jagtar Singh Kar Sewa Wale of Tarn Taran, the ETPB and the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee,” Sukhbir Singh Maan, the head granthi of the gurdwara, told The Tribune over the phone.

The langar hall, Parkash Asthan and Sukhasan Sthan had been renovated over a period of 10 years, he said.

“The old sarovar adjacent to the gurdwara is lying dried-up and needs renovation. The gurdwara is now open to pilgrims after completion of the Kar Sewa,” Maan said, adding that the ‘Parkash’ of Guru Granth Sahib is held there daily.

The sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, had reportedly visited the town and had the shrine premises enlarged. Dewan Kaura Mal, a Hindu noble, had got the holy pond renovated and brick-lined after his victory over Multan in 1748. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was behind the renovation of the holy shrine building and enlargement of the sarovar in the early 1800s.

The last renovation of the gurdwara was held under Sant Gurmukh Singh Sewa Wale between 1930 and 1940.

Dawn – PM Khan kicks off tree plantation drive at Nankana Sahib, vows to protect Pakistan’s forests

Nankana Sahib – Panjab – Pakistan, 09 February 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan, while launching a spring tree plantation campaign at Balloki, Nankana Sahib on Saturday, said that Pakistan’s forests would be protected at all costs.

The prime minister planted a sapling at Balloki, where he was also briefed about the tree plantation drive.

Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Khan said that forest land leased out in Punjab should be retrieved, noting that forest cover in Pakistan is already very low as compared to the rest of the countries in the region.

He pointed out that there used to be large forests in Chichawatni, Mianwali and Changa Manga, which have all but disappeared now.

Speaking about the alarming rate at which Pakistan’s forests have been depleted, he said that Pakistan’s forests should be protected at any cost.

“70 % of Pakistan’s forests have been cut down in the past few years, which has created an imbalance in our environment,” Prime Minister Khan said.

“We are now going to allow builders to build higher buildings just so our cities can stop expanding [horizontally] and encroaching on our forests,” he said, adding that the health of Pakistan’s elderly population, as well as of children, is continuously declining “since the air we breath is getting more and more contaminated.”

“Our children do not have parks to play in anymore; all of those places have been taken over by concrete and cement, this needs to stop,” the prime minister said while stressing the need for rehabilitation of forests.

While addressing the crowd, Prime Minister Khan announced that his government will also create a wildlife reserve under Baba Guru Nanak’s name and that Nankana Sahib will also become home to the Baba Guru Nanak university.

Doing NRO is tantamount to treason, says PM Khan

“These days, there has been a lot of discussion about NRO. What is NRO? It is about forgiving convicts, not just small convicts but the big ones,” the premier said, adding that the NRO has twice caused historical damage to the country.

Because of the two NROs, one favouring Nawaz Sharif and the other benefitting Zardari, “those in power felt that it was okay to steal and do as much corruption as you want”, Khan said.

Whoever thinks that the PTI government will give anyone an NRO, they should realise that doing any such deal will be tantamount to high treason, Imran Khan said.

“We will not leave and forget anyone who has looted the country,” he said. It is happening for the first time in a democratic setup that a “man comes from jail and becomes the chairman of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman and then summons the accountability watchdog [which has arrested him]”.

“We have tried our best to let the parliament function in a peaceful manner, but no more compromises will be made with any other ‘corrupt’ person,” the prime minister said.

Imran clarified that the sitting government did not differentiate between its own minister and leaders of the other parties when it comes to accountability against corruption.