The Asian Age – Raje must act against beating of Sikhs, says Amarinder Singh

Amarinder said the Rajasthan government needs to fix culpability and ensure that the culprits are punished

Chandigarh, 28 May 2017. After the reported assault on four Sikh men in Ajmer, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday spoke to his Rajasthan counterpart, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, to seek her personal intervention in ensuring a thorough probe into the incident of mob violence and stringent action against the constable alleged to have abetted the crowd.

Captain Amarinder also urged Ms Raje to direct the police to take immediate steps to prevent a recurrence of such an incident.

Describing the incident as unfortunate, Captain Amarinder said the Rajasthan government needed to fix culpability and ensure the culprits were punished.

The chief minister expressed concern over the fact that the incident, which reportedly took place in April, was being given a communal hue in media reports.

He expressed surprise that the incident did not come to the notice of the local police till a video surfaced on social media showing the mob drag the four Sikhs out of a Bolera SUV and thrash them.

Dawn – Sikhs donate palanquin for holy book at museum

Shoaib Ahmed

Lahore, 25 May 2017. The Sikh community on Wednesday donated to the Lahore Museum a metallic palanquin with a wooden base for the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious book of the Sikhs, officials told Dawn.

Officials said 10 members of the Sikh Sangat donated the palanquin. The Guru Granth Sahib kept at the museum belonged to the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The community members performed a ritual while placing the holy book in the palanquin, which had been brought from Amritsar to be permanently placed at the museum.

The Sikh community members lauded the efforts of the museum administration for properly preserving heritage of this region, particularly of the Sikh community.

Lahore Museum Additional Director Naushaba Anjum told Dawn that the event went really well. The museum contains a rare collection of artefacts linked to the Sikh community, especially from the time of Ranjit Singh. These artefacts could not be found anywhere in the world, she claimed.

The palanquin was placed in the ongoing exhibition of Sikh artefacts, Naushaba said, adding that the museum was considering declaring the general gallery where the exhibition was taking place as the Sikh gallery.

Though the exhibition was to conclude on May 30, but after the donation of the palanquin it would remain on display in August too, she said.

The exhibition featured paintings, weapons, intricate woodwork among a host of other items.

The museum features a rich collection of Sikh artefacts, including gold, silver and copper coins, as well as Ranjit Singh’s gold medals, miniatures including portraits of Sikh spiritual and political figures, clothing, furniture from the royal court, royal decrees and Sikh holy books.

The Lahore Museum is the ‘wonderhouse’ that figures in ‘Kim’ and of which Rudyard Kipling’s father was the director. The last time I visited, the famous Zamzama gun on which Kim and his friends played was still to be seen outside the Museum

The Tribune – Transporters seek Badal man’s ouster

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 22 May 2017. After Congress MLAs, private transporters have now sought the removal of Harmel Singh Sra from the post of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Punjab State Transport Society.

He is a loyalist of the Badal family.

In spite of the change of guard, Sra continues to hold on to the post. The society, formed in 2011, handles the crucial project of automated driving tracks, the work of collecting a part of the fee levied for issuing driver’s licences and registration of documents.

“At a time when the Congress government is framing a transport policy to end the monopoly of Badal-controlled transport companies, the continued presence of such officials (Badal loyalists) gives a wrong signal,” said Jaswinder Grewal, president, Mini-Bus Operators’ Association.

Sources in the government said Sra had resigned, but certain clarifications had been sought by the Chief Secretary’s office.

Dawn – My visit to Bulleh Shah’s tomb made me feel an otherworldly sense of peace

Sidra Zia

A few months ago, I had assigned a task to my students to bring in any poetic verse or prose in Punjabi, or just introduce themselves to the class in that language. The idea was simply to get them interested in a regional language, but it soon turned into a project where we worked on developing our own interpretations of Bulleh Shah’s poetry.

It was heartening to see how the teenagers in my class found the verses of a 500-year-old saint relatable with their 21st century life.

Coincidentally, my friend who is the founder of Saraab, an organisation formed to document the hidden variants of Pakistan, invited me on a trip to Kasur where she planned to film a documentary about cultural epicentres. I took this as the perfect opportunity for a field trip and asked my students to accompany us.

As the October day became sunnier, we grew increasingly impatient to begin our journey. As we parked at the corner of a busy street, we contemplated what we wanted to do next. Try the region’s fish which is famous across the province, or attend the hourly sessions of kafis (poems) being sung by mureeds (disciples) at Bulleh Shah’s shrine?

The kafis won, and we made our way through the traffic to the tomb of Hazrat Baba Bulleh Shah, arguably the greatest Punjabi poet and mystic this region has birthed to date.

Our journey began with a stopover at Baba Kamal Chishty’s shrine, where, according to the local folklore, if you could run up the steep stairs on the small hill while holding your breath, whatever wish you made at the top would come true.

After several failed attempts, we wandered through the shrine that was beautifully decorated with white and green tilework. As we weaved our way under the shade of old trees adorned with colourful strips of visitor’s wishes, we could hear the qawwals in the distance singing verses of devotion.

After another stopover at the small, but neatly maintained Kasur museum, it was time to pay a long overdue visit to the master of the poetic craft.

Bulleh Shah lived in the era of the great Sindhi poets Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Sachal Sarmast. Mir Taqi Mir, too, lived only a few days journey to the east.

The subcontinent spanned over a thousand miles, and Bulleh Shah’s voice was one of many that rose from the small towns of the Orient. Those voices still echo, from air-conditioned rooms in concrete jungles to radio sets held together by scotch tape under banyan trees.

A murshid (spiritual teacher) himself, Bulleh Shah is said to have studied in the famous mohallas of Lahore, with Kasur being his final resting place. The hunt for his tomb involved a drive through bazaars, followed by a short walk while navigating the great Kasuri markets, the scent of fried fish and rubber tyres in the air.

The tomb is a short five-minute walk from the parking lot. The enclosure holds a praying area, a white and green edifice reflective of Islamic architecture, in the courtyard of the shrine where I saw jewellery sellers and Islamic prayer books.

A short walk away is the entrance where local men, who were selling kasuri methi, made sure that we took our shoes off out of respect before going into the shrine. They had large stacks of pre-packed kasuri methi set at the entryway in case visitors wanted to buy them.

Two graves herald your entrance into the tiled courtyard, said to be the final resting place of Bulleh Shah’s greatest mureeds.

Across the graves in the middle of the large courtyard, for the hopeful, a tree sits next to the immediate sanctuary of Bulleh Shah, where strings and colourful strips of cloth are lifted by the afternoon breeze.

As we walked towards the domed structure, we couldn’t help but feel an otherworldly sense of peace. Peeking through the latticed stone, a hint of green and red stares back. It is the double coverlets on Bulleh Shah’s grave, green signifying his ceaseless attachment to Islam, and red a sign of undying strength.

Roses adorn the headstone, and on every side of the great murshid stand people with their hands raised in prayer, silently murmuring hesitant words on their lips. For a minute, it was easy to imagine Bulleh Shah, surrounded by equally devoted listeners, writing the kafis that are still sung.

There is visible life in the enclosure and an inherent sense of peace – not even the scorching sunlight could dull the energy which surrounded his resting place.

Eventually, we settled quietly in the courtyard, eager to hear the kafis of Bulleh Shah being sung by the famous group of qawwals at the shrine. As the men sat up and a crowd began to gather, we watched them transform into passionate devotees.

The men slowly built up a crescendo, the aged and the young alike, and their voices rose with the harmonium. It was only when Tere Ishq Nachaya broke my stupor, I realised how time had flown.

I felt my limbs move, reverently placing a small baqshish, my show of gratitude, where others had placed theirs already. We sat there for a long while, listening to their perfectly stylised rendition of Bulleh Shah’s kalams. It was as though we were in a reverie as the voices of the qawwals drifted across the courtyard.

Bulleh Shah was believed to possess healing powers, and people travelled far and wide to come to him for their ailments. Fighting against the prevalent issues of caste, creed, and familial honour in 18th century Punjab, he devoted his life to art, despite initial misgivings from close family members.

More of a nomadic observer than a fighter, he still managed to shake the status quo, spinning out poetic verses to rival several of his famous contemporaries.

As one of his famous verses says:

Oh Bulleh Shah, let’s go there
Where everyone is blind
Where no one recognises our caste
And where no one believes in us.

As we silently walked out of the courtyard, I couldn’t help but think of Bulleh Shah’s undying message and compassion that is still revered today.

To see the wonderful pictures that go with the article click on the link below:

If you are interested in this subject I would advice you to read :

Of Sacred and Secular Desire: An Anthology of Lyrical Writings from the Punjab

by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 15th 2012 by I. B. Tauris
(first published January 1st 2012)

The News – Anti-state content: Government launches crack-down on social media activists

Islamabad, 21 May 2017. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said on Sunday that 41 suspects were being investigated for uploading anti-state content on social media.

A senior official said that some two dozen suspects were in FIA custody.

He said out of the two dozen suspects eight belonged to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Meanwhile, PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday visited his party activists being detained at the FIA headquarters, Geo News reported.

Speaking to media, Qureshi said his party stands by the workers and added that they had not been nominated in any specific case.

The Tribune – SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar approaches Yogi over UP gurdwara loot

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 21 May 2017. Taking cognisance of the incident in which a group of armed persons barged into a gurdwara and looted the ‘golak’ and other articles in Saharanpur (UP), SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar has approached the UP Chief Minister.

“If the spiritual places are not safe, the plight of the common man can be well gauged. This instance has raised a question mark on the law and order situation over there. The culprits should have been arrested. I have asked for the intervention of CM Yogi Adityanath to take action against the accused,” he said.

The SGPC has formed a committee which will visit the gurdwara and gather information about the incident. The committee comprises SGPC senior vice-president Baldev Singh Kaimpur, member Manjit Kaur and Gurdwara Kapal Mochan manager Harwinder Singh.

The Asian Age – Amritsar: Shoe hurled at former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia

While raising slogans against Majithia, they held him accountable for drug menace in the state, police said.

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 21 May 2017. A shoe was hurled at former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia in Majitha today after he reached a venue where a public meeting organised by a Congress party member was going on.

Majithia, who had recently won the elections after defeating Congress candidate Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli Majithia, was confronted by some of Lalli’s supporters.

While raising slogans against Majithia, they held him accountable for drug menace in the state, police said.

The incident occurred in the Majitha constituency, where ADGP (Security) Rohit Chowdary was listening to grievances of people along with the leaders of Congress party led by Lalli Majithia.

Bikram reached the venue along with his cavalcade of cars and security cover.

The police-public meeting was arranged by Lalli Majithia.

Congress activists allegedly lost their temper after seeing Bikram inside the campus. They started raising slogans against him and forced him to leave the venue.

While Bikram’s cavalcade was leaving, a youth hurled his shoe at the Akali leader.

When asked, Majtiha strongly reacted over the incident, alleging that it was a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by Lalli who was defeated by him three times in a row.

He said that an FIR would be lodged.

When Bikram was asked why he trespassed the meeting venue, he said that he had gone there to meet the ADGP over the law and order problems being faced by Dalits and poor people in his assembly constituency.

Dawn – A Sufi, a Sikh and their message of love, A journey from Lahore to Amritsar

Taimur Shamil

This article was originally published on 2 February 2016.

Lahore, 20 May 2017. Sufi music and architecture has always fascinated me. Consequently, I have taken it upon myself to explore the tribal areas of North Pakistan and the remote areas of Sindh to learn as much as I can about the Sufi culture.

During recent travels, I happened upon the shrine of renowned Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir of the Qadariyyah Sufi order in Lahore.

The shrine is situated in what T S Eliot calls, “streets that follow like a tedious argument”.

The saint’s life history, however, contains clear messages of peace. His times were soon to be followed by cultural degradation and “insidious intents”.

Surrounded by a populated area, the shrine is home to many poor people to whom it provides free shelter, and food on Thursdays.

“Thursday evening is considered to be a Mubarak day for Sufis,” explained Ghulam Fareed, a Qawwal vocalist. Him, along with other Qawwals, have been regular visitors at this shrine. He sings here because he feels the act gives him a sense of belonging.

“This shrine has given us an identity.”

Singing qawwalis here also helps them make a living. After interacting with a few Qawwals, I realised that it’s not just mere appreciation and money; these Qawwals spoke with a sense of purpose as well.

To them, Sufi singing is a way to spread the message of unity and harmony, and they take immense pride in it.

Here, every Thursday, Qawwals sing in the courtyard of the shrine, while men and women clap and sway to the rhythm. Some men dance in ecstasy, some sing along, while others pay their tributes to the saint by bowing in front of his grave.

The air is filled with the mixed scent of roses and locally-made incense. Salvers of sweets and other food items are distributed among the crowd, both inside and outside of the shrine.

There are certain food items that are specific to the Sufi shrines in Lahore and can be found around Mian Mir; for instance, Qatlaammay (desi pizza) and Doodh Badam (milk with nuts).

On the outskirts of the shrine, vendors swarm the place. They sell dahi baray, chaat, sharbat and samosas to the visitors.

One of the samosa vendors, Akbar Shakir feels he doesn’t belong in the posh areas of Lahore, only here in the street next to the shrine.

“Quality is not ensured at these rairrhis but is it ensured at the hotels?” questioned Aleem Khan, a visitor to the darbar. “After seeing what’s going on in expensive food chains that people dine in, I think we are better off over here,” he added, pointing to the samosa carts close by.

Women constitute a huge number of devotees here.

“I was sick for the last two years,” said Sakeena, 32. “I went to many doctors and hakeems but no one knew what my problem was. I took medicines but nothing worked.

Then one day, my mother asked me to go to the shrine and pray for myself. I am much better since then. I believe that Awlia (friends of God) have the power to make things work for you,” she added thoughtfully.

Historically, I learned, Mughal royals and nobility would frequent the Shrine of Mian Mir religiously.

According to local and British historians, Dara Shikoh had given orders to build the mausoleum of Mian Mir Shikoh. He was a Mughal prince with Sufi and mystical inclinations. He strongly believed in social harmony and a peaceful co-existence.

Shikoh authored several books on Sufism, and wrote a treatise on Bhagavad Gita (a sacred book on Hinduism). His book Sakinatul Aulia is dedicated to the life and works of Mian Mir.

Shikoh’s intellectual pursuits made him strive for a heterogeneous culture and harmony in the subcontinent, an important ingredient that was much needed in the 17th century as much as it is required now.

Students of history, who are proponents of a pluralistic society, mourn the execution of this philosopher prince who was killed by his puritan brother Aurangzeb Alamgir.

Many modern-day historians are of the view that Shikoh was the bearer of the legacy of King Akbar whose stance was Sulh-e-Kul (Peace with all), a stance that Sufis, too, have taken.

On my most recent visit to the shrine, I met many Sikh yatris who had come to pay homage to this great saint. Many of them were from Pakistan, while some had come from India. Mostly Sikh Yatris come here during the birthday celebration of Guru Nanak.

What makes the Sikhs visit the Shrine of Mian Mir ? I was curious to know. I met a group of Sikhs and asked them.

“To us, Mian Mir Sahab is as divine as the saints of Sikhism,” replied Diljeet, who came to visit the shrine from Ferozepur, India.

Sufis and Gurus, and their message, transcends geographical and cultural boundaries. “They are the beacons of light,” added Gursevak, another devotee.

Mian Mir was an icon of unity, tolerance and love during and after the Mughal era. According to Sufi as well as Sikh traditions, Mian Mir laid the foundation of, what is now known as, the Golden Temple Amritsar, also known as Harmandr Sahib.

Mian Mir is said to have travelled from Lahore to Amritsar on the invitation of Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Guru of Sikhs, who asked Mian Mir for his blessings.

The story goes that Mian Mir was revered by Guru Arjun Dev. Both were divine figures of their respective religions, had mutual respect for each other and also had a similar notion: respect for humanity.

The goal of human life, according to Sufis, is to realise the divinity within; irrespective of cast, creed and religion. Harmandr Sahib, in this sense, is more of a cultural hub for the people of Punjab; it is a place where self-actualisation is promoted. It is also marked as a Gurdwara — literally meaning door of the Guru.

On these grounds. Mian Mir laid the foundation of a worship place of a nascent religion.

It is noteworthy that Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh faith, includes the kalaam (poetry/works) of renowned Sufis like Baba Fareed of the Chishtiyyah Sufi order.

And hence, aptly, the kalaam of popular Sikh poet Ravidas jee resounds at the Shrine of Mian Mir in Lahore today as a reminder of humanity and tolerance, echoed by this shrine’s existence.

In today’s era of chaos and war, such places of religious and ethnic harmony always manage to leave the heart at peace, if only for a little while.

Taimur Shamil is a broadcast journalist based in Islamabad. His areas of interest include religion, culture and politics.

To see the beautiful pictures that go with the article go to : – Jathedar Hawara wants Sikhs not to clash over ideological differences

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi, 19 May 2017. Expressing deep concern over incidents of violence in Gurdwaras in Europe, the Akal Takht Jathedar, Singh Sahib Jagtar Singh Hawara, has appealed to the Sikh community to refrain from raising controversial issues. He has directed Sikh masses to form a robust unity within the community to tackle existing challenges facing Sikhism.

Commenting on the attack on the Sikh preacher Bhai Panthpreet Singh in a Gurdwara Sahib of Germany, Jathedar Hawara has said that becoming violent towards a fellow Sikh who doesn’t adhere to our ideology was not right at all. He said that it was very unfortunate that the Sikhs were becoming a source of humour for their rival communities.

He has directed the whole Sikh world to sort out their ideological differences in constructive ways and not to indulge in internecine confrontations. He has further asked Sikhs to direct their anger towards the enemies of Sikhism who aim to destroy the whole of Sikhi.

Appreciating the initiative of Anandpur Sahib based group of Sikh youths, Jathedar Hawara has advised the whole community to unite Sikh ideologues on a common platform to form a panel who could act as a ‘Think Tank’ for the Sikh community.

Times of India – After CM’s disclosure on militants killed in encounter, Sikh bodies demand justice

Jalandhar, 21 May 2017. After Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s disclosure about the killing of 21 militants whose surrender he arranged after talks with then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, demands for full disclosure, investigation and legal action are being raised.

Rights group Khalra Mission Organization (KMO) and Sikh group Dal Khalsa, in separate statements, said if it was really a burden on his conscience, he should help the truth come out and ensure justice to the families of those killed.

Now that he admitted that 21 militants, whose surrender he facilitated himself, were subsequently eliminated in stage-managed encounters, he should follow it up with action, they said.

“This disclosure is from an incumbent CM and now he should make the names of the 21 and those of the guilty public. He should initiate legal action in the case. The Supreme Court and high court should also take cognisance of the disclosure made by the incumbent CM and initiate legal proceedings,” KMO activists, led by its patron Paramjit Kaur Khalra, Satwinder Singh Palasaur and Haramndeep Singh Sarhali said in a joint statement issued here.

“Amarinder is known for bold admissions and going by his character, he has made public how security forces and state police carried out illegal killings with impunity during the period of militancy. It is an admission that they were killed in fake encounters.

But mere regret on deaths means little to the victims and justice-seekers. Coincidentally, he is in the saddle now and in a position to entrust a probe into the unlawful killings.

If Amarinder has any burden on his conscience, doing justice to the victims can relieve him. A fair and impartial investigation is essential to bring the guilty policemen to book”, said Dal Khalsa members Kanwar Pal Singh, Satnam Singh and Ranbir Singh.

Kanwar Pal said he read the book on Amarinder Singh and there were no detailed references of 21 militants except for Anokh Singh Ubhoke, who approached Amarinder to surrender. According to the book, he was handed over to the IB director in the presence of former PM Chandra Shekhar in 1991. Ukhoke was shown to have been killed in an encounter in December 1992.

Releasing his biography in Delhi on Wednesday evening, Captain Amarinder Singh said he arranged for the surrender of 21 militants but they were killed. “I felt betrayed by then PM Chandra Shekhar after 21 Khalistani militants I arranged to surrender were killed. Never spoke to him after that,” he tweeted.