BBC News – India Lok Sabha election: 11 things you need to know

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi – UK, 10 March 2019. India’s general election will take place in seven phases between April and May, the Election Commission says.

Polls to elect a new Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament, will be held from 11 April to 19 May. Votes will be counted on 23 May.

With 900 million eligible voters, India’s election will be the largest the world has seen.

PM Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP will be battling the main opposition Congress and a host of regional parties.

Leaders of two powerful regional rivals have formed a coalition against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and a key bellwether state.

The lower house has 543 elected seats and any party or coalition needs a minimum of 272 MPs to form a government.

So what makes these elections distinctive?

1. It’s mind-bogglingly big

Everything about Indian general elections is colossal, the Economist magazine once compared it to a “lumbering elephant embarking on an epic trek”.

This time, about 900 million people above the age of 18 will be eligible to cast their ballots at a million polling stations.

The number of voters is bigger than the population of Europe and Australia combined.

Indians are enthusiastic voters, the turnout in the last general election in 2014 was more than 66%, up from 45% in 1951 when the first election was held.

More than 8,250 candidates representing 464 parties contested the 2014 elections, nearly a seven-fold increase from the first election.

2. It takes a long, long time

The dates on which voting will be held are 11 April, 18 April, 23 April, 29 April, 6 May, 12 May and 19 May.

Some states will hold polls in several phases.

India’s historic first election in 1951-52 took three months to complete. Between 1962 and 1989, elections were completed in four to 10 days. The four-day elections in 1980 were the country’s shortest ever.

Elections in India are long-drawn-out affairs because of the need to secure polling stations.

Local police are seen to be partisan, so federal forces have to deployed. The forces have to be freed from their duties and moved all around the country.

3. It costs a lot of money

India’s Centre for Media Studies estimated parties and candidates spent some $5bn (£3.8bn) for the 2014 elections. “It is not inconceivable that overall expenditure will double this year,” says Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the US-based think-tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Compare it to the $6.5bn that the US spent on the famously free-spending presidential and congressional elections in 2016, and you realise how costly India’s elections are.

Financing of political parties in India continues to be opaque despite the fact that they are forced to declare their incomes.

Last year, Mr Modi’s government launched electoral bonds, which allow businesses and individuals to donate to parties without their identities being disclosed.

Donors have given away nearly $150m in these bonds, and the bulk of it, according to reports, has gone to the BJP.

4. Will women hold the key?

Indian women are voting in large numbers. So much so, that more women are likely to vote than men this time around, the first time ever in a general election.

The vote gender gap has already shrunk – in 2014, the turnout of women was 65.3% against 67.1% for men.

In more than two dozen local elections between 2012 and 2018, the turnout of women was higher than men in two-thirds of the states.

Political parties have begun treating women as a constituency and offering them more sops: education loans, free cooking gas cylinders, cycles for girls.

5. It’s all about Narendra Modi

In 2014, Mr Modi led his BJP and its allies to a historic victory.

The BJP alone won 282 of the 428 seats it contested. It was the first time since 1984 a party had won an absolute majority in a general election. The BJP also picked up a third of the popular vote.

The staggering win was largely attributed to Mr Modi’s ability to promote himself as a decisive, hardworking leader who promised to usher in corruption-free “better times”.

Despite a patchy performance on several of his promises, Mr Modi remains his party’s main vote-getter. He’s also supported by a formidable and disciplined party machinery, run by his trusted and powerful aide Amit Shah.

Analysts believe the summer elections will largely be a referendum on Mr Modi.

The opposition campaign will be entirely targeted at the prime minister, a polarising leader who is loved and loathed in equal measure.

So expect a presidential-style faceoff in a parliamentary election. Whether Mr Modi remains a durable brand will be known when the votes are counted.

6. India’s Grand Old Party will be hoping for a comeback

Can the 133-year-old Congress party step back from the abyss?

In 2014, the party suffered its worst defeat ever in a general election. It won a mere 44 seats, down from 206 seats – and picked up less than 20% of the popular vote.

Things remained bleak as the party lost a string of state elections over the next four years. By the middle of 2018, the Congress and its allies ran only three state governments, while BJP and its partners ran as many as 20.

The party appeared to be in terminal decline. Its leader Rahul Gandhi, fourth generation scion of the famous Nehru-Gandhi family, became the butt of social media jokes.

But in December, the party seemed to seemed to have staged a revival of sorts.

Led by a more assured and energetic Mr Gandhi, the Congress wrested three key northern states from the BJP. Many attributed the recovery to anti-incumbency, two of the three states had been ruled by the BJP for years. But it would be churlish to deny Mr Gandhi and his party workers credit.

Clearly, Congress has got some of its old mojo back. Mr Gandhi has positioned himself as a more open and receptive leader in contrast to the forceful and take-no-prisoners leadership style of Mr Modi.

And in a surprise move, his charismatic sister Priyanka has been formally inducted into politics to infuse some fresh energy into the party’s campaign.

Congress’s revival has helped rejuvenate a fractured opposition, and promises to make the 2019 election more of a contest than what was believed it would be.

7. It’s the economy, stupid

Under Mr Modi, Asia’s third-largest economy appears to have lost some of its momentum.

Farm incomes have stagnated because of a crop glut and declining commodity prices, leaving farmers saddled with debt and angry.

The controversial 2016 currency ban, locally called ‘demonetisation’, and a complex and badly executed new uniform goods and services tax hurt small and medium businesses and threw many out of their jobs in India’s huge informal economy.

Exports have dropped. Joblessness has risen, and Mr Modi’s government has been accused of hiding uncomfortable jobs data. To make matters worse, some of India’s state-owned banks are drowning in bad loans.

Yet, inflation is in check. Increased government spending in infrastructure and public works has kept the economy moving. Growth is expected to be 6.8% this fiscal year.

But the fact is that India’s GDP needs to grow at a rate faster than 7% for the country to continue to pull millions out of poverty.

Mr Modi has said reforming the economy is a work in progress. The elections will prove whether people are willing to give him more time.

8. Parties are banking on populism

Economist Rathin Roy says India is moving from a “development state to a compensatory state” where governments are putting cash in the pockets of the poor to cover up for the deficiencies of the state.

The result is competitive populism.

Mr Modi’s government has announced direct cash transfers to farmers and waivers of farm loans. It has also promised job quotas for the less well-to-do among the upper castes and other religions.

Rahul Gandhi has promised to guarantee a minimum income for the poor if his party wins the elections. Others will be showering the voters with freebies ranging from TV sets to laptops. There is no clear evidence to show that sops win votes.

9. But nationalism could tilt the balance

Mr Modi’s muscular nationalism and his party’s majoritarian politics have left India a deeply divided and anxious nation, say critics.

But his supporters say it has energised and consolidated his base. They believe there’s no need to be apologetic about political Hinduism because India, well, is an overwhelmingly Hindu nation.

Unfortunately the nationalist rhetoric has emboldened radical rightwing groups to lynch Muslims suspected of smuggling cows. Hindus consider the cow sacred. Thanks to aggressive enforcement of anti-slaughter laws, the cow has become a polarising animal.

People critical of radical Hinduism have been labelled anti-nationals. Dissent is frowned upon.

India’s 170 million Muslims, many say, have become the “invisible” minority. The BJP has no Muslim MPs in the lower house – it fielded seven candidates in 2014 and all of them lost.

10. And India’s attack on Pakistan could bolster Modi’s strongman image

The tit-for-tat aerial bombings by India and Pakistan at the end of February following a deadly suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir triggered more nationalistic chest thumping.

Mr Modi has made it clear he would not hesitate to retaliate if there was another attack on Indian soil provoked or sponsored by Pakistan-based militant groups.

What is clear now is that Mr Modi will make national security a key plank of his campaign. Whether this will work is not clear. The opposition has to still come up with a persuasive counter-narrative. Will the pull of nationalism override other issues and fetch swing votes for Mr Modi?

11. A battleground bellwether could decide the polls

The northern state of Uttar Pradesh has an outsize influence on Indian politics.

One in six Indians lives here and it sends 80 MPs to parliament. It is also one of India’s most socially divided states.

The BJP won 71 of the state’s 80 seats in 2014. Last time, Mr Modi’s charisma and his party’s ability to stitch together a rainbow coalition of castes contributed to the rout of powerful regional parties, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Ms Mayawati, who heads the BSP, is an icon to millions of low-caste Dalits, a fifth of the state. She has now joined hands with her arch rival Akhilesh Yadav of SP, a nominally socialist party. Together they hope to win more than 50 seats and halt the BJP’s march to Delhi.

It is an opportunistic alliance, bitter foes turned strange bedfellows, but could end up hurting the BJP’s prospects in the state. It will be pinning its hopes on Mr Modi to neutralise the alliance.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47493056

The News – Issuance of ticket for not wearing helmet

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 23 January 2019. The Traffic Police authorities on Tuesday apologised to the Sikh community after an officer mistakenly issued a ticket to a Sikh bike-rider for not wearing helmet.

An official of the Traffic Police in Peshawar said all the wardens have been directed not to issue tickets to Sikhs for not wearing helmets. Similar orders were issued a few months back. However, a traffic officer Fayyaz issued a ticket to one Manmeet Singh on Tuesday.

The elders of the Sikh community immediately took up the issue with the Traffic Police bosses who tendered an apology. They directed the wardens not to issue tickets to Sikhs as they have been exempted from wearing helmets due to religious reasons.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/422329-issuance-of-ticket-for-not-wearing-helmet

The Province – How ethnicity is playing out in Jagmeet Singh’s by-election battle

Douglas Todd

Burnaby South – British Columbia – Canada, South Asians were tremendous financial supporters of Jagmeet Singh during the NDP leadership race in 2017. What role are they playing in the Burnaby South by-election?

The Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha gurdwara in Burnaby was packed recently for a speech by Jagmeet Singh, the federal New Democratic Party leader.

Hundreds of people squeezed into the Sikh temple, in the heart of the ethnically super-diverse riding of Burnaby South, where Singh is fighting for the first time to win a seat as a federal MP. The Punjabi-language Sach Di Awaaz newspaper ran 15 photos of the event featuring the Ontario-based politician.

At the gurdwara this week, Sikhs said they want Singh to win, hoping he’ll make moves to improve education and the job market. A variety of ethnic Chinese and Caucasians walking in the vicinity of the temple also said they intend to vote for Singh, with one man remarking he hoped it will “shake things up”.

Ethnicity has already been highlighted as a factor in the crucial Burnaby South by-election.

This week, media reported on the way Liberal candidate Karen Wang said in a WeChat post that, as the only Chinese candidate, she could beat Singh, who she noted is of “Indian descent.” Wang said the post was written by a campaign volunteer, but she took responsibility for it and apologized to Singh.

Under pressure from the Liberals for her remark, Wang dropped out of the race, although she hinted Thursday there is a slim chance she’ll run as an independent.

Burnaby is known as one the most diverse cities in Canada, if not the world. An earlier Vancouver Sun study found there’s a 73 per cent chance that two randomly chosen people from Burnaby will be of a different ethnicities. For comparison, the chance is just 34 per cent in Ottawa.

The riding of South Burnaby is almost 40 per cent ethnic Chinese, 30 per cent white, eight per cent South Asian (a category that includes most Sikhs), six per cent Filipino and three per cent Korean.

Given the riding’s eclectic ethnic makeup, the proportion of South Asians and Sikhs within it is not nearly as large as it is in other pockets.

The modest Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha gurdwara is the only Sikh temple in South Burnaby, whereas there are many gurdwaras serving the large Sikh populations concentrated in places such as Surrey and the western suburbs of Toronto.

The successful campaign of Singh, a turban-wearing orthodox Sikh, for the 2017 NDP leadership relied significantly on him visiting gurdwaras and drumming up support from Sikhs, who almost all have roots in the Punjab region of India.

Such South Asians were tremendous financial supporters of Singh during the leadership race, which he surprisingly won with 54 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

Elections Canada data shows Singh collected $ 603,000 in the year of the NDP leadership convention. More than nine out of 10 of his donors in that year had South Asian names, specifically Panjabi and Sikh (Sikhs often include “Singh” or “Kaur” as one of their names).

Donors to Singh’s leadership campaign — which boasted about signing up a dramatically high number of new NDP members — hailed heavily from the western Toronto suburbs of Brampton and Mississauga, and from Surrey. More than a third of Singh’s 2017 campaign funding came from those three municipalities alone.

The federal Liberals have also long been aware of the political power linked to the related issues of ethnicity and immigration status. They could be major factors in the riding of South Burnaby, since six in 10 residents of the riding are either immigrants or non-permanent residents. That’s triple the national average of two out of 10.

The Trudeau Liberals frequently highlight how they are increasing Canada’s annual immigration levels to 340,000, from 250,000 in 2015 under the Conservatives.

And Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has recently been goading the Conservatives on Twitter for not being as supportive of family-reunification programs, which are especially important to many extended South Asian families.

At the gurdwara in South Burnaby this week, some visitors supported the Liberals’ moves to increase the number of sponsored spouses, parents, and grandparents permitted into Canada under the family-reunification program.
People interviewed at the gurdwara, who did not want their names used, said they had relatives in the Punjab they would like to bring to Canada.

How much is ethnicity, culture, immigration status and religion a factor in Canadian politics? Some people on social media found it controversial in 2018 that Caucasian candidates for city councils in Metro Vancouver appeared to be relatively more successful than candidates from other ethnic groups, leading to the derogatory Twitter hashtag #councilsowhite.

Data have not been made publicly available in Canada, however, on the extent that people of any particular ethno-cultural group vote for candidates of their own ethnicity. Privately, though, Canadian political party strategists often target voters based on which group they belong to.

The federal Conservatives, for instance, have over the years won many votes from evangelical Christians.

Since the NDP candidate for Burnaby South won the riding in 2015 with only 500 more votes than the Liberal candidate, Singh will need to work hard to appeal to voters outside his own ethno-cultural-religious group if he is to hold onto the seat for the party he now leads.

https://theprovince.com/news/local-news/douglas-todd-jagmeet-singhs-byelection-battle-in-super-diverse-burnaby/wcm/e8fdb15b-0424-4338-b32f-4a2d0bfd79ab

The Economic Times – Sikh, Hindu refugees from Afghanistan torn between identity and livelihood

New Delhi – India, 13 January 2019. Every couple of months Surveer Singh, who fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, is torn between identity and livelihood.

And his dilemma between fulfilling requirements for citizenship of his “natural homeland”, India, and holding on to a stable job refuses to end even after 27 years.

The 33-year-old, who, along with his family of four, lives in Amritsar, says he is struggling to stay afloat as every other month he has to visit government offices and cut through red tape to continue living in his “natural homeland”.

Surveer Singh’s family had been living in Afghanistan’s restive Nangarhar province before his parents decided to move to India in 1992, when a wave of Hindus and Sikhs left Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the USSR and the arrival of Mujahideens.

Being the sole bread-winner of the family, Surveer Singh, who earns his livelihood doing odd jobs, says though his family migrated to India at the same time, every person in his family has their visas and refugee certificates issued on different dates.

As their citizenship application is caught in a bureaucratic maze, they need to visit government offices on a regular basis to maintain their papers. They have pleaded with several political leaders for getting the Indian citizenship but all they have got is assurances, he says.

“Since the papers expire every 12 months, I have to visit New Delhi once in two or three months along with one of my family members for renewals,” Surveer Singh said, adding that he is sick of his shaky status in India.

It is already very difficult to find a job as no one wants to employ refugees. Even if one secures a job, often low-paying ones, the need to visit New Delhi every other month frustrates employers who then look for staffers who need leave less, he said.

The plight of immigrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan seeking to renew long-term visas and refugee certificates does not end here. They also have to find two Indian citizens who are ready to become their guarantors.

“After hearing that we are from Afghanistan, no one readies to become our guarantor. We continue to be nowhere people,” he says.

However, the Narendra Modi government’s push for the Citizenship Amendment Bill has rekindled hopes of Surveer Singh and thousands of other refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The proposed legislation seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to people from minority communities, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don’t possess any proper document.

Like him, Saran Singh said he wants a dignified life.

The 50-year-old, who left his properties worth crores of rupees in Pakistan and reached Punjab in 1999 along with his family, says they were treated as “second-class citizens” in Pakistan.

He lived in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency where militancy and religious persecution are rampant.

He said militants would often coerce him and his family to convert to Islam if they want to be alive. So many women were kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam.

“No one wants to marry our daughters and sons as people become suspicious once they get to know that we are from Pakistan. People say since you do not have the Indian citizenship, what would happen if the government decides to deport you? What would happen to the marriage?” said Saran.

“We escaped religious persecution in Pakistan and reached India, our natural homeland, but here we are entangled in red tape and bureaucratic hurdle. Sometimes officials ask us to renew our Pakistani passports for which we have to risk our lives to visit Pakistan and get the papers issued,” Saran said.

“When we were living in Pakistan, locals would say you are not Pakistanis as you are Hindus and Sikhs, and you must go to your country. While living in India, people say you are from Pakistan,” Saran said.

He requested the government to give them citizenship as soon as possible as the pain of living in India as refugees has been taking a huge toll on their lives.

“We have been facing a lot of hardships in our daily lives as one needs Aadhaar and voter identity cards for any work,” Saran said.

In the absence of papers, many refugees are even unable to educate their children, he claimed.

The condition of refugees living in Punjab is worse as compared to those living in New Delhi as every time they apply for citizenship, their file gets stuck on the way and never reaches the capital.

One of the biggest hurdles for the Pakistani refugees seeking the Indian citizenship is lack of paperwork. The government asks them to establish that their grandparents or parents were born in undivided India, Saran said.

“Finding proof that our grandparents or parents lived in undivided India is like finding a needle in haystack,” he said.

From a vibrant population of 2.20 lakh in Afghanistan, the number of Hindus and Sikhs have now come down to 5,000 now, according to estimates of India security agencies.

The refugees have now pinned their hope on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, whose approval in pending in Rajya Sabha. They say the opposition parties should not protest against the bill and ensure its safe passage on humanitarian grounds.

“It is our last hope of leading a dignified life,” one of them says.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is wrong because it is based on the religious or ethnic background of refugees. Hazaras from Balochistan and Afghanistan and Rohingiyas from Myanmar are genuine refugees, just like Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Man in Blue

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/sikh-hindu-refugees-from-afghanistan-torn-between-identity-and-livelihood/articleshow/67512034.cms

The Hindustan Times – 1984 anti-Sikh riots survivors deface Delhi’s Rajiv Chowk signboard, demand its renaming

The protesters demanded renaming Rajiv Chowk, previously known as Connaught Place, after revolutionary leader Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The incident comes a day after a statue of the late prime minister was vandalised in Ludhiana in Punjab by Akali Dal leaders.

New Delhi – India, 26 December 2018. A group of survivors of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots on Wednesday allegedly defaced a “Rajiv Chowk” signboard in Central Delhi and demanded renaming of the area, previously known as Connaught Place, after revolutionary leader Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Raising slogans against former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the protesters garlanded the signboard with shoes and slippers and sprayed black paint on it.

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) approached the police in this regard.

“A case for defacement of public property has been registered on the basis of a complaint filed by the NDMC,” DCP (New Delhi) Madhur Verma said.

The incident comes a day after a statue of the late prime minister was vandalised in Ludhiana in Punjab by Akali Dal leaders.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/1984-anti-sikh-riots-survivors-deface-delhi-s-rajiv-chowk-signboard-demand-its-renaming/story-sS7qu8ULEryWEwmowyFNPJ.html

LiveMint – A landmark verdict for ‘84 riots, and also for mob violence cases: Harviner Singh Phoolka

Phoolka also spoke about the charges against Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath, and how the judgement is going to have an effect on future cases of mob violence

New Delhi – India, 24 December 2018. The Delhi high court sentenced former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar to life imprisonment for conspiring to commit murder, promoting enmity and for acts against communal harmony during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Even as Kumar approached the Supreme Court challenging the order, senior counsel H S Phoolka, who has been representing riot victims for over three decades, said that justice has finally been delivered.

In an interview with Mint, Phoolka also spoke about the charges against Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath, and how the judgement is going to have an effect on future cases of mob violence. Edited excerpts:

What are your thoughts on the judgement?

It is a very good judgement and we are very satisfied with it. The court has come out very firmly on this trend of mass violence and killing of innocents. When the court talks about attacks on minorities, it does not only mean religious minorities. It does not have to be a particular group. It can be a caste minority.

If an otherwise majority group (by religion or caste), which is in a minority in a particular place, is attacked, it will also be considered a minority group. That is what the court means.

This is what has been happening in our country and it is on the rise. The court was pained to see this situation, and that clearly comes out in the judgement. And, there is a clear message that the country will not accept it.

Why do you see this as a landmark judgement?

The court has called for the legal system to be strengthened. It has said that we should not leave any loopholes for the police (to not act), because under political pressure, the police may not take up cases of mob violence. They may not take action.

It should be made so tight that the police has to act as per the law and not as per the politicians. In that sense, it is a landmark judgement not just for the 1984 riots, but for all other cases of mob violence in the country. This will be taken forward in all other cases as well.

You have questioned the appointment of Kamal Nath as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. Is there any clarity on his involvement in the 1984 riots?

The person is so powerful that he does not allow the wheels of justice to move. He has been scuttling the process till now. He was the first politician whose name appeared in the media.

On 2 November 1984, there were news reports that Kamal Nath was leading the mob where two Sikhs were burnt alive and a gurdwara was burnt. The police, in its report, had mentioned that Kamal Nath was present there, but still there no case against Kamal Nath was registered.

Before the Nanavati Commission also there was evidence given that Kamal Nath was seen instigating the mob. On the basis of this evidence, he must admit that he was there, but he said that he was trying to stop the people from getting violent. If you were trying to stop people, then how were two people burnt alive?

They were there for two hours, but why were they not taken to the hospital. There was firing. In his presence, the gurdwara was burn. What does it mean?

The judgement of the Delhi high court by Justice Gabba, which convicted 88 people, clearly questions those people who were a part of the unlawful assembly. (It asked), why were they there? He (Kamal Nath) was there for two hours. What was he doing for two hours?

Do you think there was enough evidence against him?

100%. There was very strong evidence against him.

Do you think the recent judgement strengthens the case against Kamal Nath?

That’s true. This will strengthen the case against Kamal Nath. It will definitely boost the other cases. Not just cases of the 1984 riots, but also other cases of mass violence.

Are you planning to take up the case against Kamal Nath?

The gurdwara committee is looking into the complaint. I only do the legal work. I have asked them to file a complaint and I will help legally.

What is the way forward?

Sajjan Kumar has to be in jail now. It is a big lesson for all of those who have committed such crimes under the influence of power.

It is a big warning, There is a clear message that one day law will catch up with them, and they will have to spend their old age in jails. They need to think about the steps they are taking for small political gains. It is a very big message.

The court made a comment on genocide. It said that genocide should be included in our laws. How do you see this?

The court is right. It should be included.

Soon after the judgement both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress raised allegations against each other. Do you think political parties are misusing the issue?

This is very unfortunate. The only debate is that who killed whom. Both need to be punished, 1984 riots and 2002 riots. The only way forward is through Tihar Jail.

There have been delaying tactics by Sajjan Kumar and his lawyers. Do you think they will be successful in this?

That is the legal procedure. We never wanted him to be punished at a crossing and shot. We wanted the law (to act). He is entitled to go to the Supreme Court, but we will ask the SC to not entertain his petition.

He is used to scuttling the process. But we will not let him get away with it. Now the whole country is there with us. We are not alone. Those days are gone when I was alone. Now crores are with me.

This judgement has come after three decades. How do you see this delay?

They were protected by the entire system. If you see the judgement and my arguments, which have been accepted by the court, there was a whole system which was there to shield him. It was the duty of the government and the administration to bring the guilty to book. Rather than that, the total system was working to shield them.

There have been various incidents of mass violence. Do you see such incidents ending?

If the guilty of 1984 had been punished, then Mumbai would not have seen what it did. We would not have seen Gujarat, and what we are seeing today. They are being rewarded. So this trend of killing minorities, winning elections and getting rewarded. This started from 1984.

If they were punished then it would act as a deterrent. That is applicable even today. It is not that we are brooding over the past or it is only revenge we are talking about. We want punishment to act as a deterrent for the future.

This will be applicable for all kinds of mass violence incidents. That’s right. It could be a model for future cases.

You have tried your hand in politics, but subsequently you resigned from the Punjab assembly as an Aam Aadmi Party member of legislative assembly (MLA) to focus on the 1984 riots. However, your resignation has not been accepted yet. What are your plans?

The speaker has not accepted my resignation. I have taken a step back from politics. I didn’t join politics for a long time thinking that it was not meant for people like me. I was a link between all the parties in the 1984 riots and it was my focus.

https://www.livemint.com/Politics/zZtn21ayw4Y7FVBZ8lRanJ/A-landmark-verdict-for-84-riots-and-also-for-mob-violence.html

The Times of India – Akal Takht jathedar appeals to maintain peace on June 6

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 02 June 2018. Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has appealed to the Sikh masses to peacefully observe ‘Ghallughara Diwas’ on June 6. While talking to newspersons here on Friday, the jathedar said no one would be allowed to create nuisance or disturb the scheduled programme at the Akal Takht.

He said the sangat (community) should come to Akal Takht in large numbers and listen to gurbani on the occasion. The jathedar also asked the Amritsar district administration to make arrangements to maintain law and order in the city.

“If any untoward incident happens, the district administration will be responsible for it,” he said, adding that no one would be allowed to violate maryada (religious code).

Gurbachan Singh also directed the sangat to not raise any slogans in presence of Guru Granth Sahib. In reply to a question about Narain Das, who had allegedly made objectionable utterings against Sikh gurus, the jathedar said Narain couldn’t be pardoned.

He asked the Sikh bodies to send suggestions to prevent such incidents in future. The jathedar said that the Akal Takht secretariat had only received an e-mail from Narain seeking apology.

Meanwhile, informal Sarbat Khalsa-appointed jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, Baljit Singh Daduwal, said that the parallel jathedar of Akal Takht, Dhian Singh Mand, could give message to the Panth from Bargari where they had laid a ‘morcha’ against the persons responsible for desecration and theft of saroop of Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari and Burj Jawahar Singh Wala respectively.

In wake of any untoward incident during the ‘Ghallughara week,’ the Amritsar deputy commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha has invoked Section 144 (banning assmebly of five or more persons) of CrPC in the district. He has directed people not to carry any licenced weapons, explosive, sharp-edged weapons. The directions would remain in force from June 1 till further orders.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/amritsar/akal-takht-jathedar-appeals-to-maintain-peace-on-june-6/articleshow/64421464.cms?

The Tribune – Two young victims of ‘honour killing’

Tarn Taran – Panjab – India, 14 May 2018. In a suspected case of honour killing, a young couple, both in their 20s and in a relationship for the past one month, were allegedly killed by the girl’s family members in Khemkaran area of Tarn Taran early on Monday morning.

The victims have been identified as Husanpreet Singh and Ramandeep Kaur. The bodies have been sent for post-mortem.

Tarn Taran police chief Darshan Singh Mann said eight members of Ramandeep’s family have been booked under Sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), 364 (kidnapping in order to murder), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the IPC.

He said Ramandeep’s father Jassa Singh, mother Manjit Kaur, paternal uncle Harpal Singh and his wife Manpreet Kaur had been arrested and those on the run were Sher Singh, Akash, Ghulla and Rana.

Husanpreet had allegedly gone to Ramandeep’s house around midnight. However, around 3.30 am, Ramandeep’s family woke up and allegedly attacked the duo with sharp-edged weapons, killing them on the spot.

Later, they disposed of Husanpreet’s body in a sewerage chamber. When Husanpreet did not return home, his family approached Ramandeep’s family, who did not allow them to enter their house. They got suspicious and informed the police.

Mann said the duty magistrate was called on the spot and the bodies were recovered in his presence. Ramandeep’s body was wrapped in a quilt and hidden in a box, whereas Husanpreet’s body was recovered from a sewerage chamber outside the house.

The people involved might be of Sikh background, but they are not Sikhs, as they do not practice Guru’s teachings.
Man in Blue

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/2-young-victims-of-honour-killing/589605.html

The News – IHC rules US diplomat Colonel Hall doesn’t have ‘absolute immunity’

Islamabad – Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 11 May 2018. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday directed the interior ministry to decide on placing the name of US diplomat Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall, Defense and Air Attache, on Exit Control List (ECL) within two weeks.

Justice Amir Farooq of IHC court issued this order on a petition filed by father of victim Ateeq Baig, who was killed after US diplomat’s car hit his motorcycle in federal capital on April 07.

The IHC ruled that US diplomat Colonel Joseph Emmanuel Hall, who was involved in the traffic accident that led to the death of Ateeq does not have ‘absolute diplomatic immunity’.

The court had reserved the verdict on Monday.

The CCTV footage of the incident indicates that the white Land Cruiser jumped the red light and hit the motorbike being driven by Muhammad Ateeq while Raheel Ahmed was on the back seat.

The accident resulted in Ateeq’s death on the spot while Raheel Ahmed sustained serious injuries.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/315467-ihc-rules-us-diplomat-col-joseph-doesnt-have-absolute-immunity

Dawn – Asma Jahangir: The street fighter

Saroop Ijaz

The Contrarion

Op/Ed, 11 February 2018. Immediately after the horrific Quetta terror attack on August 8, 2016, Dr Danish, a television anchorperson, tweeted pictures of Asma Jahangir with a caption in Urdu which translates as: “When lawyers were being killed in Quetta, the so-called leader of the lawyers was enjoying herself in the northern areas.”

The post was enthusiastically retweeted, shared on Facebook and distributed through WhatsApp groups.

Asma Jahangir was not “enjoying herself in the northern areas”. She was in Gilgit-Baltistan on a human rights fact-finding mission when the attack happened. There was no way she could travel to Quetta the same day.

She took to Twitter and responded to the anchorperson: “Shame on you for exploiting facts even when people [are] in grief … Ask [your] spy friends not to stoop to the lowest levels of viciousness.”

A picture of her from a March 2008 meeting with Bal Thackeray, the now deceased leader of Mumbai’s Hindu chauvinist Shiv Sena party, created a similar furore. Nationalist websites and media persons wrote thousands of words to denounce her for sharing the same space with one of Pakistan’s most vicious detractors.

It did not matter that she had met Thackeray in her capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, investigating violence against Muslims in India.

Indeed, many people go ballistic every time her name is mentioned. Haroon Rashid, an Urdu-language columnist with a large fan following, wrote in 2013, “warning” that he would lead a march on to Islamabad if Asma Jahangir was appointed caretaker prime minister. She had said earlier that she had no intention to accept the post.

Asma Jahangir’s earliest recollections of activism are from her time in school at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, a church-run school in Lahore.

If anything, these examples suggest a pattern: often wild, unsubstantiated allegations are levelled against her. Often she, too, responds to her detractors in a no-holds-barred manner.

In 2012, in typical Asma Jahangir style, she accused intelligence and security agencies of trying to eliminate her. National and international concern and outrage poured in with such vehemence that the plan, if there was any, had to be dropped.

It seems Asma Jahangir seeks controversy, her critics attribute it to a search for glory. The Lebanese-American writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb has a word for it: “antifragile”, that is, things and people that benefit from volatility, shock, disorder, risk and uncertainty.

Asma Jahangir does not agree. She argues that she does whatever she does in order to adhere to her core principles, not to seek glory, not to benefit from adversity.

In September 2015, the Lahore High Court ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to black out the coverage of Altaf Hussain, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) supremo.

Very few, if any, lawyers in Lahore were willing to represent him due to his alleged involvement in acts of violence in Karachi and his volatile speeches and media statements.

Asma Jahangir was perhaps the unlikeliest lawyer he would get: the two had never found themselves on the same side of the political divide.

In May 2007, MQM had called Asma Jahangir a “chauvinist lady” who should form her own “chauvinist party”. An MQM statement had also accused her of having a secret affiliation with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

But she agreed to represent him.

Her opponents took to the streets. A small group of lawyers in Lahore brought out a demonstration, demanding the cancellation of her licence to practice law.

Her supporters in bar rooms were also uncomfortable with the idea but they knew she could not be swayed against fighting for someone’s freedom of speech, no matter if the person concerned was a serial abuser of that freedom. “Well, that is how she is,” says one of her supporters, shrugging their shoulders.

When Asma Jahangir decided to contest the election for the Supreme Court Bar Association’s president in 2009-2010, she faced stiff opposition from many sections of the society, including newspapers and television channels.

The media campaign against her was led by the Jang Group’s senior reporter Ansar Abbasi and it focused on projecting her as anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam. Six years later, the same media group engaged her as a counsel to represent it before the Supreme Court.

To read the full article on Asma Jahangir, fearless defender of human rights, click on the link below.

https://herald.dawn.com/news/1153540