The Times of India – Akal Takht jathedar warns government over drunk cop ‘misbehaving’ with Amritdhari girl

Amritsar, 25 July 2017. Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, in a statement issued on Monday, said that making advances towards an amritdhari Sikh woman by a drunk policeman, was a blot on men in uniforms.

The jathedar has asked the state government to ‘rein in people like Didar Singh, an assistant sub-inspector in Government Railway Police (GRP)’, who faced public fury after misbehaving with a baptized Sikh woman on a PRTC bus on July 21.

Giani Gurbachan Singh said the government should take exemplary action against the erring policeman, else the Akal Takht would intervene and the government would be responsible for any unpleasant consequences.

The Tribune – Debate rages over exhuming remains of Duleep Singh

New Delhi, 24 July 2017. Amid a renewed debate over exhumation of the remains of Maharaja Duleep Singh, former Chairman of the Minorities Commission Tarlochan Singh today said he had taken up the issue with the British and the process to dig the grave and perform a cremation requires permission from various quarters.

As the NCM Chairman in 2005, he wrote to the British High Commissioner in India to allow digging of Duleep Singh’s grave and perform cremation as per Sikh rites, Tarlochan Singh said.

The High Commissioner replied the UK Government had no objection, but the clearance for it must be obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Head of the Church of England since the graveyards were under it.

The Archbishop advised him that permission must be first obtained from the Church authorities. He then informed Sikh organisations concerned to initiate necessary action.

“I have visited Elvedon estate, which was his residence in England. He was buried in the courtyard of the Church in a small graveyard. There are also graves of his wife and children along with some others… I attended the annual wreath-laying ceremony by the Mayor of Thechfort.

The feeling among the Sikhs is to have a Samadhi of Maharaja Duleep Singh in place of a grave and not shift the remains to Punjab…but it is still being debated,” the statement said. (TNS)

The Hindu – Iraq not sure of fate of 39 Indians

No substantial evidence: Minister

Kallol Bhattacherjee

New Delhi, 24 July 2017. Iraq on Monday said it could not confirm if the 39 Indian nationals who were kidnapped by the Islamic State in 2014 were alive.

Speaking to the media after holding bilateral discussions with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said there was no “substantial evidence” with Baghdad to prove that the men were alive or dead.

“The case is not just the concern of the Indian government and the families of the men in India; this issue is also a concern of the Iraqi government.

We have no substantial evidence that they were killed or they were still alive, so we can’t say anything to you in that regard. We are making serious efforts to find out more in this issue,” said Mr Al-Jaafari.

Frank admission

The Minister’s comments are the most open admission by the government of Iraq about the condition of the 39 Indians, who last spoke to their families from Mosul to say that they had been kidnapped by the IS.

The comments are significant coming as they do after government forces regained control around three weeks ago over Mosul, where the Islamic State had maintained control since June 2014.

It was expected that the missing Indians would be found following the liberation of the city, but that has not happened since the Iraqi army regained retook the city.

The also follows recent reports that the prison in the nearby city of Badush, where the abductees were allegedly held, is now destroyed and empty. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had announced the presence of the prisoners in Badush on July 16 after her meeting with the families.

The families of the missing men have been demanding clarity on the case especially since they were told that the men were held hostage in Badush. However, speaking to The Hindu, a representative of the affected families said they were disappointed.

“We want the government of India to show seriousness in this case so that we can find out what really happened to the 39 men from our country,” said Gurpinder Kaur, a representative of the families.

Sikh – Political Prisoner Bhai Harminder Singh acquitted in 2009 Ammunition Recovery Case

Sikh24 Editors

Ludhiana-Panjab-India, 23 July 2017. A Session Court of Ludhiana on July 22 acquitted Sikh activist Bhai Harminder Singh in an ammunition recovery case registered against him by the Ludhiana police in 2009.

Notably, Bhai Harminder Singh was declared proclaimed offender by the Court in this case in 2010. After his arrest in March 2010, he was given bail by the Court in 2015.

Speaking to Sikh24, Bhai Harminder Singh’s legal counsel Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur informed that Justice Anjana acquitted Bhai Harminder Singh agreeing with his contentions. He informed that the Court had conducted a debate on the case during last hearing in which he had cornered claims of Punjab government’s counsel.

Sikh Relief had been financing Bhai Harminder Singh’s family and prison welfare costs when he was in custody.

Earlier, Bhai Harminder Singh had been acquitted in seven other fabricated cases placed on him, including bomb plots at Ludhiana’s Shingar Cinema, Ambala and Patiala.

The Tribune – Fresh worry over missing Indians

Badush jail razed, no inmates: Reports

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 22 July 2017. Doubts have arisen over the whereabouts of 39 missing Indians, taken captive by Islamic militants three years ago, following media reports that the Badush prison in Iraq where they were believed to have been lodged had been reduced to rubble.

Six days ago, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had told kin of the missing construction workers (most of them are from Punjab) that they were probably in Badush, northwest of Mosul.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) did not comment on the media reports. However, some clarity is expected when Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari arrives on a four-day visit to India on Monday.

Reports emanating from Badush say the prison has been destroyed and that there are no prisoners. Harjit Masih of Gurdaspur district, among those to have fled from captivity three years ago, had told the media back home that his 39 compatriots had been killed.

Last month, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Bagley had said the Indians were alive since there was no information to the contrary.

Going on the offensive, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala today tweeted: “Unfortunate that Sushmaji & MEA continue to mislead the families of 39 Indians missing in Iraq. Not just clueless but also heartless”.

DSGMC president Manjit Singh GK said the government seemed clueless and that the External Affairs Minister should insist on definite information during her meeting with the Iraqi minister.

Congress to move privilege motion against Swaraj

Chandigarh: Partap Singh Bajwa said on Saturday he would bring a privilege motion against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for “misleading Parliament and the nation” about the missing youths. The Rajya Sabha MP said: “The families of the missing Indians as well as the nation wants to know the truth.” (TNS)

The Hindustan Times – Operation Bluestar: Army does not have manuscripts, other items missing from Golden Temple, says Centre

In reply to a plea by Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi on July 7, the ministry said about the manuscripts, purportedly found during the operation to flush out militants from the Sikh shrine in Amritsar, that these “were handed over to Mohan Singh, curator, museum, Punjab government”.

Navrajdeep Singh

Patiala-Panjab-India, 21 July 2017. The Indian Army does not possess any manuscripts and other historical documents reportedly missing from the Golden Temple after Operation Bluestar in 1984, the defence ministry has said. It claims the manuscripts and other items were handed over to the state government and other agencies; but it mentions no dates.

In reply to a plea by Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi on July 7, the ministry said about the manuscripts, purportedly found during the operation to flush out militants from the Sikh shrine in Amritsar, that these “were handed over to Mohan Singh, curator, museum, Punjab government”.

It further stated, “Other items were handed over to functionaries of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC); government treasurer, Amritsar; and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).”

The SGPC says 15,000 rare books, 16,000 artefacts related to Sikh religion and history, edicts issued by the 10 gurus, and handwritten ‘birs’ (copies) of Guru Granth Sahib were among the items missing.

Gandhi said he, for now, only wanted the ministry to bring the issue of missing documents on record, which he has achieved. In the latest in his series of efforts, he had written to home minister Rajnath Singh for return of the material, but his plea was shifted to the defence ministry on May 31.

“I will meet SGPC officials now to approach the Centre again to trace the documents, which are not only a treasure for the Sikh community but also for Hindus and Punjab as a whole,” said the MP, who was elected to the Lok Sabha on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket but remains suspended from it due to differences with its leadership.

SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar, when contacted, said the central ministries have been “lying repeatedly over such sensitive issues”.

“Where are the rare manuscripts and documents then, if the army claims to have not taken them away?” he asked.

The state government, besides the SGPC, have approached the Centre on multiple occasions over the years for “return” of the items held at the Sikh Reference Library in the Golden Temple complex till June 7, 1984, when the operation ended. But the defence ministry had said all material seized was handed over to intelligence agencies.

The matter had come to light prominently when a former sub-inspector associated with the CBI in 1984 had claimed that the material was shifted to an undisclosed location by the army and CBI officials.

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Pakistani Christian boy, 16, charged with blasphemy for discussing his faith

World Watch Monitor, 19 July 2017. A 16-year-old Pakistani Christian boy has been charged with blasphemy for talking with a colleague about his belief in Jesus, the second such incident in a month.

Shahzad Masih, 16, a cleaner at a hospital in the city of Dinga (near the religiously conservative city of Gujrat), was arrested on 13 July after his colleague, Ishtiaq Ahmed Jalali, accused him of insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad, a crime punishable with death in Pakistan.

A month earlier, on 15 June, Ashfaq Masih, 28, was arrested in the nearby city of Lahore for saying he believed Jesus to be the final prophet.

The latest incident took place at the Shameem Riaz Polyclinic. Jalali, who works at the hospital pharmacy, is a member of Tehreek-e-Tahfuz-e-Islam Pakistan, an organisation that strives to protect the name and honour of Muhammad.

It belongs to the Barelvi school of Islamic thought, which is considered “moderate” and has even faced criticism from other Muslims for its “polytheism” of worshipping at shrines.

Barelvis are known for the special respect they afford to Muhammad, more so than any other Islamic school of thought, and are chief supporters of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Shahzad Masih’s father, Shafaqat, who works as a labourer, told World Watch Monitor that the argument related to who Christian worship.

“My son told him that we follow Jesus and then their discussion became sour, at which point a doctor intervened and calmed them down,” he said.

The police complaint was lodged by another man, Nadeem Ahmed, who claims to have called Shahzad Masih from his mobile phone repair shop, which is beside the hospital, to ask him about what he’d said. In his report, Ahmed states that Masih repeated his “abusive words” against Muhammad and then fled.

Police reports in Pakistan, called First Information Reports (FIR), are often key in court cases, though the veracity of the claims in such reports is often the subject of contention.

Shafaqat Masih says that two days prior to the lodging of the FIR, his son’s colleague, Ishtiaq Jalali, told his son that Christians worship at the shrines of Muslim sages.

“My son told him that he didn’t know about this and he would ask me about it,” Shafaqat Masih said. “Then on 13 July, I was at work when he called me at around 4 pm. He had returned from hospital but they asked him to come to the mobile phone repair shop, which is in front of the hospital.

“I told him that it would take me some time to get there, so he should call his uncle, Rafaqat, whom I also called on the phone to go to him. I arrived at around 7 pm at the hospital, where they all had gathered. We tried to intervene, but they did not let us talk.

Then they told us that they did not want to make the matter public and wanted to settle it amicably. At the same time, they kept calling others to join them and a large number of clerics gathered while we three were all alone [Shahzad, his father and uncle].

“One of the clerics told me that the head of a nearby madrassah had called them to the madrassah to settle the matter, after which the entire mob went there.

“[His uncle] Rafaqat and I also went there, but I sent Rafaqat to go inside along with Shahzad, who they had in their custody. The leader of the group argued that the crime committed by Shahzad was punishable with death alone. While they were discussing this, two police vans arrived.

The chief policeman asked for Shahzad, but they were reluctant to give him up and only handed him over on the promise that the decision would be taken the next morning. As I was standing outside, I saw the police taking Shahzad along with them, but since then they haven’t allowed us to see him.”

The police chief, Shahbaz Hinjra, told a local newspaper that Masih was in their custody and that they were investigating the matter.

Former Punjab parliamentarian Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, leader of the largest Christian political party, told World Watch Monitor that he had personally investigated the matter and found that initial argument had centred over Shahzad Masih’s colleague’s attempts to convert him to Islam.

“When our people try to defend themselves and their faith then often it becomes an issue and later such cases are lodged,” he said.

One of Jalali’s relatives, Muhammad Saqib Shakeel Jalali, a leader of Tehreek-e-Tahfuz-e-Islam Pakistan, told a local TV station a day after Masih’s arrest: “If the blasphemer is acquitted of the charge then each member of our organisation would attack him.”

Masih’s father says he and his family have been on the run ever since. “We don’t even know what to eat and where to live,” he said.

His uncle, Rafaqat, told World Watch Monitor that there are about 25 Christian families in the area and no such incident had ever taken place before.

The Tehreek-e-Tahfuz-e-Islam Pakistan website claims that no suspect has yet been awarded the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, even though the Christian woman Asia Bibi has been on death row for blasphemy since 2010.

The website also says that liberal Muslims want to amend the current blasphemy law and must be stopped, a key reason for the organisation’s founding 10 years ago. In April, a Muslim student was beaten to death in the city of Mardan following an accusation of blasphemy.

Several blasphemy cases have been registered before in Gujrat, one of the most conservative areas of the Punjab province. In August 2015, 15 Christians were accused of blasphemy after they used the word “apostle” to describe a pastor who had died years before.

Then in July 2016, a Christian man was accused of blasphemy after a religious argument on the messaging service WhatsApp. Both cases are still pending in the court.

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Christians in shock after pastor shot dead in ‘safe’ Punjab

World Watch Monitor, 17 July 2017. The Christian community in Ludhiana, the largest city in India’s north-western state of Punjab, is in shock after a pastor was shot dead outside his Pentecostal church on Saturday evening (15 July).

Sultan Masih, 47, who also ran a school for the poor, was gunned down by two people on a motorbike, who shot him at close range outside the Temple of God Church, where he was senior pastor. He suffered multiple wounds to his body and head.

Hundreds of Christians took to the streets on Sunday (16 July), blocking off a major national highway (the road to Jalandhar) for three hours, and only ceasing once they had received assurances from the police that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

“Pastor Sultan Masih was my neighbour and my friend,” fellow pastor Paul Tamizharasan told World Watch Monitor following the funeral today (17 July).

“Family members are grieving and we hope the government will catch the accused. We demand answers and have gone to the Punjab government, but they couldn’t find who did this.

“The state of Punjab is very safe in India for Christians. There are Sikhs living here, they are also a religious minority in India. We are also a minority, but never before have we had any threats. But unfortunately this has happened and we are all shocked about how this is possible. Nobody knows how this can happen.

“Two people came by bike. Every Saturday, the pastor, after finishing his Sunday-service preparations, at 8.30 pm he will come out. As usual, he had been talking with people outside, very casually. Then at 8.45, two people came very near, about 2-3 feet, and they shot his leg, and his face and his chest.”

CCTV cameras recorded footage of the attack, but a police spokesman said it was too dark to make out the attackers’ faces.

Masih had been pastor of the church for 20 years and also ran a school for the poor from inside the church. He is survived by his wife, Sarabjit, and sons, Elisha, 26, and Hanok, 18.

According to The Tribune, the Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, has promised 500,000 rupees (around $8,000) for Masih’s widow and a guaranteed job with the police for one of Masih’s sons. He also promised that the killers would be brought to justice.

Some reports say that Masih had received threats before his death. The police denied this but refused to rule out “terror” as a possible motive.

Meanwhile the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee said the attackers were trying to “disturb the peace” and called on the Christian community to “maintain the peace”.

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The Tribune – Thirty-six years after plane hijacking, two Sikh militants face trial

Granted two-day bail; have already served life sentence in Pakistan

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 18 July 2017. Thirty-six years after a Srinagar-bound Indian Airlines plane with 111 passengers and six crew members was hijacked and taken to Lahore, two of the five Sikh hijackers appeared before a Delhi court to face sedition charges.

Accused Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh, who have already served life term in Pakistan for the 1981 crime, appeared before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Jyoti Kler, who granted them two-day interim bail.

After serving their sentence, Tejinder and Satnam had moved to Canada and the US, respectively, and were deported to India in 1998 and 1999. The other hijackers, Gajinder Singh, Jasbir Singh and Karan Singh, are not in India.

Belonging to the Dal Khalsa, the hijackers had demanded the release of then Damdami Taksal head Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was arrested on September 20 that year in a murder case.

Asking the investigating officer to file a report, the ACMM posted the matter for further hearing on July 20.

On behalf of the two accused, senior advocate Mohit Mathur and advocate Manisha Bhandari contended that the duo had already served life sentence and spent 35 years of their life in litigation.

Terming it a “classic example of double jeopardy”, the lawyers said the duo’s entire life would be spent in facing one trial after the other for the “same set of facts”.

Mathur said they couldn’t be tried again for the same incident under a different name, adding that the accused must be discharged.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh, who accompanied the accused, said there had been a travesty of justice in the case as the Indian Government had put them on trial after 36 years on “sedition” charges, ignoring their life imprisonment in Pakistan for the same offence.

However, the prosecution and the court maintained that the principle of double jeopardy did not apply as the offences for which they were tried and convicted in Pakistan were different from the ones mentioned in the present chargesheet.

The Delhi Police had filed a supplementary chargesheet in a court on September 29, 2011, under sedition charges. After taking cognisance of the chargesheet, the court had asked the accused to appear before it on July 18 for a fresh trial in connection with the crime that took place on September 29, 1981.

In May 2017, the Delhi High Court had refused to quash the supplementary chargesheet against the accused and asked them to appear before the trial court.

Vancouver Sun – Film backed by Surrey businessman reveals truths about Sikh royal history

In 1843, five-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh sat on the throne of the Sikh kingdom

Dana Gee

Vancouver, 18 July 2017. The Punjabi boy had ascended due to the death of his father, the Lion of Punjab, a.k.a. Ranjit Singh.

The boy ruled (sort of, he was five after all) for five years until war broke out and Britain got involved. The result was in that in 1849 Punjab was annexed to British India, and the boy was removed from the throne thus becoming the last ruler of the Sikh kingdom.

Duleep Singh’s mother (who was pretty much in charge) was imprisoned and Duleep Singh ended up in the guardianship of a British army surgeon and his wife. From tea and crumpets to Christianity, the couple taught him the way of the English.

In 1854, Duleep Singh and the doctor’s family went to England, and Duleep Singh met and charmed Queen Victoria. He was such a hit he became a kind of brother from another mother in the royal household: everybody wanted to hang with him, and he even went on holiday with the Queen and Prince Albert.

If you stopped the tale there you would still have a really good story, but an incomplete one.

A new film The Black Prince picks up the ball and completes the play, delivering the full story of Duleep Singh.

In the Kavi Raz written and directed movie, Duleep Singh’s story continues with the adopted Brit reuniting with his mother, and in turn reigniting his Sikhism. Soon he begins to question his own story and wants to connect with his roots. He makes financial demands, and faster than you can say ‘I’m not amused,’ he went from prince to pariah.

Duleep Singh’s plan was to return to the old country and set up royal shop again, but the English didn’t want trouble in the colonies and stopped him en route, putting him under house arrest. He eventually went to Paris, where he died penniless.

And to add a bit more meat to the story there is the question of the ownership of a big diamond called the Koh-i-noor (Mountain of Light).

“Everything is in there,” said Raz about Duleep Singh’s story. “Like I say, it is a Shakespearean tragedy that was just waiting to be told. There is just so much going on.”

The story is packed, but it has been parsed over the years leaving many Sikhs with that incomplete tale of a boy abandoning his homeland in favour of British finery and fancy parties.

“The general perception in the Sikh community was he betrayed the Sikh nation, he became a Christian of his own will, and he never looked back. What we try and portray in the film is ‘no, no that’s not true,’ ” said Raz during a phone interview from Toronto recently.

“I think a lot of Sikhs will be surprised when watching this film. I think it will correct a lot of the wrong notions that are out there. Maybe even start a debate, which is always a good thing.”

Executive producer Jasjeet Singh, who began researching the story back in 2011, says the story was given a British spin.

“People in Punjab didn’t know much,” said Singh who calls Freemont, California home.

“Most of the news that came to them was from the British, who said he was ‘a spoiled kid now. He doesn’t care about Punjab.’ The people were like, ‘OK he’s gone.’ The Indian historians were using the same historical documents that the British established.

“It’s a new story for everybody.”