The Tribune – SGPC contests Maharashtra move on Takht board

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 13 July 2018. The Maharashtra government’s move to induct six members into the Takht Hazur Sahib Board at Nanded has invited the SGPC’s ire.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said it was a deliberate attempt to take control of the board.

“We will lodge a protest with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. We will not let the Maharashtra government interfere in our religious affairs. It has amended the Administrative Act, 1956, and added six local government members,” he said.

The Takht Hazur Sahib board has 17 members, of which three are nominated from the local area. Four members from the SGPC, one each from the Maharashtra government, Madhya Pradesh and Chief Khalsa Diwan, and four from the Hazuri Khalsa Diwan are appointed to run the board’s affairs.

The SGPC is not in charge of matters outside the territory of pre-partition Panjab
Neither should any government meddle in Sikh affairs
We have five Takhts, four of them dedicated to just one Guru
Two of those are in areas where very few Sikhs live
Man in Blue

Advertisements – 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Where was the state machinery, asks Delhi High Court

New Delhi – India, 14 July 2018. The court was hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s plea against the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in one of the cases.

The Delhi High Court on Friday asked what the state machinery was doing when one of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots took place next to the Delhi cantonment area. Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra said the court would not have been hearing these cases if they had been properly dealt with earlier.

“What was the state machinery doing? The incidents happened right next to the Delhi Cantonment,” the judges said.
They made the observation while hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s appeal against Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal. A trial court acquitted Kumar, who was accused of murdering five members of a Sikh family in Raj Nagar on November 1, 1984.

On July 5, the Supreme Court made similar observations. “It is high time cases like this should be tried and adjudicated at the earliest,” Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had said.

During the hearing on Friday, Kumar’s counsel Amit Sibal said the Justice GT Nanavati Commission had not directed authorities to re-investigate the case.

But, CBI counsel DP Singh and senior advocate Harvinder Singh Phoolka, who represented the riot victims, contradicted Sibal and said the Parliament had decided to investigate these cases again.

In May 2013, the trial court sentenced former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired Naval officer Captain Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal to life in prison while former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar got three-year jail terms each.

All of them have challenged their conviction and jail terms. The CBI, on the other hand, has asked the court to increase their sentences. The agency said all of them had engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”.

The High Court will take up the matter again on July 19. – Relocation of Shillong Sikhs stayed by Meghalaya High Court

Sikh24 Editors

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 11 July 2018. Tendering a big relief for the Sikh residents of the Punjabi lane area of Shillong, the Meghalaya High Court on July 10 stayed the relocation of Sikh residents from the Punjab lane area of Shillong.

The High Court has also sought a reply from the state government of Meghalaya within four weeks in this petition moved by 280 victim Sikh families against their relocation.

Sharing the development over social media, the DSGMC General Secretary S. Manjinder Singh Sirsa informed that the Meghalaya High Court has made it clear that the High Level Committee (HLC) constituted by the Meghalaya’s state government doesn’t possess any right to relocate Sikhs and its jurisdiction is only limited unto tendering suggestion to the Meghalaya state government.

He further informed that the High Court has also directed each victim Sikh family of Punjabi lane area to register its objection before the High Level Committee. “Beside it, the High Court has also questioned the Meghalaya state government that why the lease contracts of the victim Sikh families couldn’t be renewed” he added. – Jagdish Tytler withdraws plea from Delhi HC, says he will contest defamation charges in trial court

The trial court framed the charges in March 2015 on the basis of a complaint filed by senior advocate H S Phoolka.

New Delhi – India, 12 July 2018. Congress leader Jagdish Tytler on Thursday withdrew from the Delhi High Court his plea challenging the framing of charges against him in a defamation case, PTI reported.

Senior advocate H S Phoolka, who represents the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, had filed the case against Tytler for allegedly making statements harming his reputation.

Phoolka, in a complaint filed in 2006, had alleged that Tytler had levelled “false and derogatory” allegations against him during a television debate aired in September 2004.

A trial court framed the charges against Tytler on March 2, 2015. The same month, Tytler filed a plea in the High Court against the trial court’s order. The High Court then restrained the trial court from taking any decision in the matter.

The Congress leader’s counsel Arunabh Chowdhury, however, told Justice R K Gauba on Thursday that his client wants to contest the charges in the trial court, which is scheduled to hear the matter for three days starting 17 July.

Tytler’s counsel told the High Court during previous proceedings that the trial court had framed charges in the case on the basis of a video cassette obtained from the channel. The video cassette was not certified as required by Indian Evidence Act and various Supreme Court rulings, his counsel had argued.

However, Phoolka said that witnesses would be able to corroborate his allegations and this was enough to frame the charges against the veteran Congress leader.

Tytler is accused of having a role in the riots that took place in North Delhi’s Gurdwara Pulbangash, where three people were killed on November 1, 1984, a day after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. – Indian Army Chief expresses innocence about rare Sikh manuscripts looted during June-1984 Holocaust

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 09 July 2018. The Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat paid obeisance at the holiest Sikh shrine Sri Harmandr Sahib on July 8. He was accompanied by his wife Mrs. Madhulika Rawat on this occasion.

After partaking ‘langar’ at the world’s largest community kitchen, General Rawat offered ‘Karah Prasad’ and paid obeisance inside the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib. While traversing through the periphery of Sri Harmandr Sahib, he was apprised of the history of the sacred Sikh shrine and various Gurdwaras situated within the shrine.

He was honored with a gold model of Sri Harmandr Sahib at the Information Office by the SGPC president S. Gobind Singh Longowal and other SGPC officials.

“I am feeling blessed on having a chance of paying obeisance at Sri Harmandr Sahib” wrote General Rawat while highly appreciating the dauntless and brave spirit of Sikh fighters.

SGPC president S. Gobind Singh Longowal took up the issue of rare Sikh manuscripts and literature looted by the Indian army during June-1984 holocaust with General Rawat.

He asked him to return the looted treasure trove of Sikhism back to the SGPC. Longowal also asked General Rawat to handover the management of Gurdwara Pathar Sahib situated in Leh-Ladakh to SGPC.

Pretending to be innocent about the treasure trove looted by the Indian army, General Rawat said that he will go through the matter. He promised the SGPC president to deliberate upon handing over the management of Gurdwara Pathar Sahib to SGPC.

The Tribune – Afghan Sikhs see land mafia’s role in blast

Varinder Singh, Tribune News Service

Jalandhar – Panjab – India, 09 July 2018. Afghanistan’s land mafia eying hundreds of acres of precious land with Sikh gurdwaras may have carried out the July 1 Jalalabad blast that killed 17 Sikh leaders on way to meet the President.

There were reports that the attack may have been carried out by the Taliban or Daish (Islamic State). But both organisations have through emissaries conveyed to the community their concern over the killings.

While a government investigation is yet to ascertain the identity of the attackers, the Sikh community in Kabul has little doubt the powerful land mafia did it, pointing out it has already usurped gurdwara land, assets and properties in villages on the outskirts of Kabul, Jalalabad, Ghazni, Herat and Kandahar.

The announcement by Afghanistan Prime Minister Mohammad Ashraf Ghani eight months ago on transfer of government land worth USD 7,00,000 for Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Jalalabad for setting up a school for Sikh children may have triggered the July 1 blast, say local Sikhs.

“The mafia paid USD 4,00,000 as bribe to officials for usurping the land allotted to the Sikhs,” claims Narinder Singh Khalsa, who is contesting the parliamentary elections scheduled for October in place of his father Avtar Singh Khalsa, who was among those killed in the Jalalabad blast.

He says the Sikh delegation was attacked while on way to meet the PM in Jalalabad for government aid for the proposed school.

“Our acquaintances and friends in Ghazni tell us that the Taliban and DAISH have expressed their sympathy for the Sikh victims. They say they have no animosity for the Sikh community,” claims Narinder Singh.

Canada urged to give asylum

Toronto – The Canada India Foundation (CIF) has urged the country to accept Sikh and Hindu minority communities from Afghanistan as refugees following the killing of 19 Sikhs by an IS suicide bomber in Jalalabad.

CIF chair Ajit Someshwar said Canada should help alleviate the plight of Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan the same way it helped Syrian refugees by giving them asylum in the country. – SGPC dubs dope test decision as a trick to divert attention from drug menace

By Sikh24 Editors

Mansa – Panjab – India, 08 July 2018. Interacting with media today at village Fafde Bhai Ke of Mansa, the SGPC president S. Gobind Singh Longowal has said that the Congress led Punjab government is playing card of Dope test to divert attention of Punjab masses from prevalent drug menace in Punjab.

He claimed that the Captain Amarinder Singh led Punjab government has fully failed in controlling drug menace in Punjab.

He informed that the SGPC has decided to launch a vehement campaign against the drug menace in Punjab. “The SGPC’s preachers will aware the common masses about the hazardous effects of drugs and a special tract about drug menace will also be distributed among common masses to create awareness among them” he added.

Longowal further said that the SGPC has also chalked out a plan to aware the common masses about the hazardous effects of Drugs by conducting awareness marches, by holding seminars and by organizing plays at village level.

“The SGPC will offer free treatment for drug addicted youths at the Sri Guru Ram Dass Hospital if they aspire to get out of drug addiction” he added.

WIO News – Sikh migrants from Afghanistan living in deplorable condition in India: Report

New Delhi – India, 09 July 2018. Many Sikh families who have migrated from war-ravaged Afghanistan to India’s northern state of Punjab are facing many hardships.

Muslim-majority Afghanistan is home to minorities like Hindus and Sikhs who have been known to work for the overall development of the country. But the minorities are often treated as second-class citizens and their numbers have gone down tremendously in the last decade.

A Sikh migrant Shami Singh, who lives in India, said they were treated and looked down upon like sinners. They were tortured and were asked to convert to Islam.

He further said that whenever someone died they were not allowed to perform the last rites and this was not only with the Sikhs but Hindus living in Afghanistan too faced similar situations.

Speaking of the recent blast in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad that killed 19 people including Sikhs and Hindus, Singh said that he would have also been killed if he was still living in the war-torn country.

Another Sikh migrant, Kalwant Kaur, who had move to India after her husband was killed by militants in Afghanistan, said all she wants was the federal government to provide her with a safe haven as well as Indian citizenship.

The 11,000-plus Afghan refugees in India fare better than some other poor communities, but many still live hand to mouth.

The Eurasia Review – Anticipated extinction of Afghan Hindu and Sikh minorities: can Afghanistan stop it?

Dr. Bawa Singh and Dr. Jaspal Kaur

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 08 July 2018. The safety and security of minorities have always been remained in question, particularly in the war-torn and highly terrorism infested countries.

Recently, Afghan minorities such as Hindus and Sikhs had undergone the horrible experience of a terrorist attack in which 19 people were killed and about 20 injured.

The responsibility of the same was claimed by the Islamic State. Given this terrorist threat, the population of these communities has been decreasing substantially (from estimated seven lac to only a few hundred families).

The recent terrorist attack (1 July 2018), in which Awtar Singh Khalsa (only one candidate of these communities running for the parliamentary election 2018) was killed. It has further created panic in the community.

Seeing the exponentially declining the population of such communities, perhaps make us convinced that these people are on the brink of extinction.

Many media reports indicated that they used to feel at sea and one question is pestering them how to face/come out of this challenge? In this dire straits, how Afghanistan can assure the safety and security of the affected minority, is a major question to be taken into account?

Despite the civilizational and geo-cultural relations of Hindus and Sikhs with Afghanistan, these minorities had been remained eclipsed and invisible for the scholarly attention for a long time.

However, when these communities had come under security threats, then only the communities started getting the attention of the media, scholars and policy makers etc.

The beginning of the Afghanistan and Punjab relations started with the visits of Sikhs’ first Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the 15th century way from Mecca to Jalalabad and Ghazni.

However, all the Sikhs have not been of the Panjabi origin, rather a small number of locals, whose ancestors adopted Sikhism during Guru Nanak’s visits to Afghan cities, had become part of the same.

Sikhs and Hindus were sent by Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) as part of missions (the 1820s) to promote trade, who in due course of time had settled in Jalalabad and Ghazni provincial towns.

As per the study of anthropologist Ballard (2011) the Hindu Khatri merchants settled in Afghanistan, and since then they have been enjoying a substantial share in the regional trade.

The Taliban rule (1996–2001) had spelled doom for the lives of minorities. Afghanistan’s economy and infrastructure have been devastated.

But Bansal (2012, 4 March) had contested this argument who was of the opinion that during the Taliban regime, the Sikhs and Hindus had not been suffered any discrimination, rather their businesses grown by leaps and bounds.

This community used to share good terms with the Taliban and many members of the same used to make frequent visits to Sikh shrines as well. Rather, with the outbreak of civil war in the post-9/11, the Hindu and Sikh have been caught in the crossfire of violence.

Their gurdwaras and temples have been destroyed. Most of the remaining Gurdwaras (65) and temples (21) have been taken over by the local authorities given their misuse by the terrorists as ammunition warehouses.

Currently, these communities are passing through the cycle of violence and many other serious challenges haunting their lives in Afghanistan. Protection of ethnic identity has become a major question for these minorities given the compulsion of paying Jizya, (a religious tax), generally imposed on the non-Muslims.

These people have been asked to put on the yellow bands by the individuals on their arms and have to hoist yellow flags on the rooftops of their homes and businesses shops for public identification purposes. They lost the meaning of freedom due to some restrictions on their religious practices as well.

The forced conversion, the imposition of strict Islamic laws, staged public executions, forbade the practice of cremation, harassment, atrocities, violence, beating, looting, land grabbing, and banning girls from schools etc. are part and parcel of their day to day lives.

The prevailing hostile environment had forced these people to leave Afghanistan. As per the report of Ehsan Shayegan (Afghan Researcher with Porsesh Research and Studies Organization-Kabul), which is studying minority religions, is of the opinion that, “In the 70s, there were around 700,000 Hindus and Sikhs and now they are estimated to be less than 7,000.”

During the Karzai administration (2004-14), these communities had felt more ostracized than ever. As per the report of UK Border Agency Report COI (16 November 2009), “There were approximately 500 Sikhs and Hindus in the country.
Although those communities were allowed to practice their faith publicly, they reportedly continued to face discrimination, including intimidation; discrimination when seeking government jobs….”

The minority leaders of Sikhs and Hindus communities have also been expressing their concerns over declining their population.

Dr. Anarkali Kaur (Honorary Senator in the Afghan Parliament) said, “The number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus has dwindled over the years with only about 1000 Sikhs remaining in the country as they migrated, leaving their successful businesses in Kabul, Kandahar and other cities, to safer places in India, Europe, and Canada.”

Awtar Singh Khalsa, Head of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Council (recently killed in the attack), has also substantiated the same argument by saying that given the decades of war, instability, and intolerance, our community had just reduced from lacs to 372 families nationwide.

It means once the thriving community, is on the brink of extinction in Afghanistan, raising a serious question for the host country and government, Indian government, international human rights protecting organizations in general and the countries which are engaged in fighting against Taliban in particular.

On the unfortunate day of July 1, 2018, a suicide bomber attacked the convoy of Awtar Singh Khalsa (An Afghan Sikh Politician from Jalalabad), who was going to meet President Ashraf Ghani, the latter was going to speak in the governor’s residence in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Avtar Singh Khalsa was about to be elected unopposed for the lower house of Afghanistan Parliament in the coming election (October 2018). He had made a very special and important place in the hearts of not only Sikhs and Hindus given his selfless service, rather of the local people as well.

During his interview with BBC Punjabi, he expressed his dreams how he would love to work for Afghanistan where, each one of the Afghans either Sikhs, Hindus, Uzbek could enjoy a peaceful and respectful life.

Along with Avatar Singh Khalsa, about 19 other people including the activist Ravail Singh, Sikh Community spokesman Iqbal Singh and peace activist Anup Singh was killed. As per the report of public health officials, about 20 people were wounded in the same attack.

Since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), these communities have frequently been exposed to life threat vulnerabilities. Once these communities are believed to be the most prosperous but now the spurt of the violence and discriminations against them, made their lives bad to worse.

In the 1970s, the share of the Afghan population stood at estimated seven lac, which is currently declined to 350 families only. In this backdrop, the extinction of such minorities in Afghanistan seems within the realm of possibility.

In the dire straits, how these minorities could be kept safe in the highly terrorism infested country like Afghanistan, has been worrying not only the stakeholders rather the humanistic thinkers and scholars as well?

Since the end of the WW II, several human rights protective mechanisms at the international level have been put in place to protect and promote the same. The Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (18 December 1992) is one of them.

Its article 1 says that “ the states shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.”

Despite given several such mechanisms in place, still, the lives of these minorities have been exposed to the vulnerabilities. Declining of the population along with always hanging the sword of Damocles have been putting them in panic, how to face violence, discrimination and life threats at the moment.

Under Article 1 of the Declaration(1992), it is obligatory for Afghanistan to take some steps to ensure their safety and security. However, given its limited capacity particularly from defence forces side, it seems to be very difficult for Afghanistan to take care of these communities.

India has been sharing good terms with Afghanistan. Using its good office and influence, it may urge Afghanistan to take some strong steps and cooperate with the latter to find out some ways/means to ensure the safety and security of these communities.

The future of peace-building also seems very bleak given the divergent interests of the geopolitical players engaged in Afghanistan. Trump’s South Asia Policy did not show any concrete results. Along with the safety and security of such communities, peacebuilding would remain major strategic concerns.

If these people are not protected and left them to leave the country, it would emerge as a major set back for Afghanistan. It would also prove as a major set back for Trump’s South Asia policy, by exposing its hollowness.

Violence and use of military are not the means to sort out any ethnic issues. Dialogue is only can become a pathfinder. The Taliban should understand that they are killing only their own innocent people, which is of no use and would take them nowhere.

Afghans people including these minority communities would be on their side provided they should become part of the mainstream national/international social and political norms along with the shunning of violence. Being in the mainstream, world, Afghanistan and its people would become yours.

Going by such means, only Afghanistan and Taliban could check the role/intervention of the external powers. Until Afghanistan remains under the control of external powers, the same situation would remain prevailed. In this background, the minority communities likely to suffer extinction, which further torn the country.

Therefore, the constructive role of Afghans including Taliban and other minorities only could turn Afghanistan into one of the best countries, peaceful and progressive provided the Taliban could part of the mainstream.

No other countries/financial aids are the solutions of any ethnic/social/political problems, if it comes, it always comes with a lot of strings.

In this way, only Afghans could sort out their political and ethnic problems and check the anticipated extinction of these communities. Alas! peace and prosperity should prevail in Afghanistan. The pluralistic fabric of Afghan society may remain intact!!

Dr Bawa Singh is teaching at the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies, School of Global Relations, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India and Dr.Jaspal Kaur (AP), teaches in the Department of Law, Regional Campus Jalandhar, Guru Nank Dev University (Amritsar). – Pakistani Sikhs Stage Protest against Killings of Afghan Sikh Leaders in Jalalabad

Sikh24 Editors

Nankana Sahib – Panjab – Pakistan, 07 July 2018. In protest of the targeted killings of Afghan Sikh leaders in a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad, the Pakistan resident Sikhs held a demonstration at Gurdwara Janam Asthan Sri Nankana Sahib under the leadership of the former PSGPC president S. Bishan Singh.

The peaceful demonstration was held following the culmination of a religious program organized for the spiritual peace of the departed Afghan Sikh leaders.

The Sikh protesters were carrying placards having slogans like “Deliver Justice to Afghan Sikh Leaders”, “Stop Target Killings”, “Stop Committing Atrocities on Afghan Sikhs”, “Deliver justice to the families of deceased Sikh Leaders” etc. The slogans were written on the placards in Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi script.

Interacting with media, the former PSGPC president S. Bishan Singh strongly criticized the suicide bomb attack carried out on Afghan Sikh leaders in Jalalabad.

He informed that S. Narinder Singh, son of deceased Sikh leader S. Avtar Singh Khalsa, has been appointed as new leader Sikh and Hindu minorities in Pakistan and the Sikh masses of Pakistan will support him in every possible way.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the Sikh masses of Pakistan have laid Sri Akhand Path Sahib at Gurdwara Sri Panja Sahib (Hasan Abdal) and Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh (Peshawar) of Pakistan for the spiritual peace of departed Afghan Sikh leaders.