The News – Horrific details of how India suppressing protests in occupied Kashmir

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 21 August 2019. Rafiq Shagu’s wife died shortly after Friday prayers in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) when tear gas smashed through a window in their home and filled the room.

Now, with Indian authorities denying their troops have caused any civilian deaths while enforcing a lockdown of more than two weeks in the Himalayan region, he is facing what may be a futile quest to hold those responsible to account.

“They (the police) are not ready to take responsibility for the death. We want answers but I don’t know where to seek justice,” Shagu said.

In an interview with AFP, Shagu recalled the horrific events of the August 9 afternoon when he said his wife, Fehmeeda, was teaching her two children at their home in Srinagar, the largest city of occupied Kashmir.

Shagu said there had been small clashes between government forces and protesters nearby, then police started firing tear gas and pepper shells into residential houses.

The clashes occurred four days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped occupied Kashmir of its autonomy, with tens of thousands of extra troops deployed there ahead of the announcement to stop residents from protesting.

“We couldn’t see each other in the room as the smoke was so dense. There were three huge thuds when the canisters burst,” Shagu said.

“We somehow removed the children from the room and as she tried to run out amid the chaos, she fell. By the time we moved her out of the room she was unconscious and frothing.”

He said Fehmeeda was taken to hospital on a motorcycle where doctors were unable to revive her.

The medical report seen by AFP said she “had inhaled toxic gas from a tear gas shell” and that a possible cause of death was a “toxic lung injury”.

No deaths

Indian authorities have sought to block any news coming out of occupied Kashmir since imposing the lockdown.

Aside from deploying the extra troops, they cut off telephones, mobile phones and the internet – though some landlines have now been restored.

Authorities say there is no credible proof that anyone has died in occupied Kashmir as a result of the lockdown, and only that eight people have been injured.

But multiple hospital sources told AFP at least 100 people had been hurt, some of them by firearm injuries.

Others were treated at home, fearing that they may be arrested if they visit hospitals, people who had been hit by pellets told AFP.

Unaccounted deaths

AFP also spoke with relatives of two other people died due to violence from the security forces.

One of the reported victims was Usiab Ahmad, 15, who drowned on August 5.

His family said Ahmad was near his home when police used live ammunition and tear gas shells and chased protesters towards the river bank where the student drowned.

“His body was taken out after five hours from the water and his funeral was attacked by police,” one of Ahmad’s relatives who could not be identified for security reasons told AFP.

“They tried to snatch away the body because they feared more protests,” he said.

Another alleged victim, Mohammad Ayub Khan was standing outside his home in downtown Srinagar on Saturday when police fired tear gas canisters to break up a small group of stone-throwing protesters, according to multiple family members and neighbours.

Two shells fell in front of the 62-year-old timber trader, immediately causing him to collapse on the road and froth from the mouth.

The father of three daughters was declared dead at the hospital but police forcibly took over his body.

Just 10 family members were allowed for the funeral and burial that took place under police watch in the dead of night.

“The police officer threatened us that he will throw the body into the river if we talk to media or try to make a procession,” Shabir Ahmed Khan, his younger brother told AFP.

“We were escorted by four police vans to the graveyard,” he said.

Khan’s family has visited the hospital multiple times for a death certificate but doctors told them police had instructed them not to issue it.

“His death will probably not even get recorded by the government but for us he is a martyr,” Khan said.

“His death is another example of India’s brutality.”

The Hindu – American Sikh activists demand apology from Kamala Harris for defending discriminatory policy in 2011

Washington DC – USA, 30 June 2019. A group of Sikh activists has launched an online petition asking Indian-American Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris to apologise to the community for allegedly defending a discriminatory policy in 2011.

In a statement, the Sikh activists alleged that during her tenure as California’s Attorney General, Harris defended a policy that prohibited state prison guards from keeping beards for religious reasons, even though exceptions were given for medical reasons.

The case settled without a policy change in 2011, prompting the USA Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation and forcing California Sikhs to successfully lobby for stronger workplace religious freedom laws in the state the following year.

Kamala Harris lectures her opponents on civil rights, but she needs to apologise for trampling on the civil rights of Sikh Americans as California’s attorney general, Rajdeep Singh Jolly, a lawyer and political consultant in Washington, DC, said.

He said that Ms Harris denied religious freedom to Sikh-Americans even when the Obama administration was taking historic steps to allow it. While the Obama/Biden administration was taking historic steps to allow observant Sikhs to serve in the USA military, Ms Harris was fighting hard to deny religious freedom and equal opportunity to Sikh Americans, Jolly said.

Winty Singh, author of the American Turban blog and commentator on Sikh American issues, said Ms Harris’ civil rights rhetoric will ring hollow until she addresses her defence of workplace discrimination against Sikhs.

It’s her opportunity now to right that wrong, he said.

The Kamala Harris campaign did not immediately respond to the email sent seeking their reaction on the allegations by the group.

The Hindu – Police arrest accused in Govind Pansare murder case

Also involved in rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar’s murder.

Special Correspondent

Pune – Maharashtra – India, 11 June 2019. A local court in Kolhapur on Tuesday directed Sharad Kalaskar, named by Central Bureau of Investigation as one of the killers of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, to be remanded in seven-day police custody till June 18 in connection with the 2015 murder of senior Communist leader and writer Govind Pansare.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing Pansare’s murder got Mr Kalaskar’s custody from Mumbai unit of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Tuesday and produced him before the Kolhapur court.

The SIT, through Mr Kalaskar’s custody hopes to shed more light on the murder. The police said investigations had established that he manufactured firearms in Kolhapur and Belagavi and they needed to further probe his role in the meetings hatched to plot Pansare’s murder.

The Mumbai ATS had first arrested Mr Kalaskar along with fringe right-wing activist Vaibhav Raut from Nallasopara in Mumbai on August 10 last year for allegedly planning disruptive activities in several parts across the State.

The Indian Express – Why it is necessary to remember and reflect on our history of mass violence

Those baying for the blood of Sam Pitroda must also think about the need to remember and reflect on our history of mass violence and our own thoughtlessness towards it.


Op/Ed, 15 May 2019. Rahul Gandhi’s firm and unambiguous rebuke to Sam Pitroda for his flippant observation regarding the violence of 1984 is welcome. But to say it was a “tragedy” which caused pain to “people” is to shy away from calling the violence by its name, that it was a violence targeted against the Sikhs.

It was definitely a tragedy but only for the Sikh community. Besides, the hatred this violence unleashed was harnessed for the polls by the Congress campaign managers.

It is ironic but true that such acts of violence generate contempt and hatred for the victim and not sympathy in the perpetrators. There is hardly any repentance and atonement. They feel more empowered by this violence. Any claim for justice by the victims is thus resisted as it may weaken their new-found position of power, since justice would make the victims equal to the perpetrators.

Another point we often miss is that in the wake of the violence, when processes of justice and reparation begin, the community of perpetrators starts consolidating. The community which treats the perpetrators as its own, begins to complain that their own are being wrongly and unnecessarily hounded by “victims”, who refuse to come out of their victimhood.

The argument is the original fault lies with the victim who provoked simple, non-violent people and thus, dehumanised them. It was a momentary thing and should be forgotten; people need to move on. It is this attitude which subconsciously leads the system, made of people who identify more with the perpetrators, to create obstacles in the pursuit of justice.

That the victims are left alone in the search for justice and mostly resented, explains why the idea of a “people” cannot turn into reality. Without a sincere community of pain, you cannot have a community of justice. In the absence of these, the talk of a nation becomes farcical.

Pitroda must take the flak for the crudeness of his remarks, but it should also be a moment for all of us to reflect on the nature of the violence and our complicity in it. Most of the persons, their numbers must be in the thousands, who participated in the massacre of thousands of Sikhs have not only escaped justice but continue to live with, and within, us respectfully.

My mind often goes back to Ashok Rajpath of Patna and the shops of Sikhs being looted with glee by students and government employees. None of them had to face punitive action for the violence they unleashed on the Sikhs.

Non-reflection on the violence stops us from thinking about the implication of letting all the police and executive officers in the services, who were mute spectators of the violence or in many cases collaborators, go scot-free.

To expect partners in arson and murder to keep law and order distorts the very concept of rule of law. The lack of a sense of urgency in various organs of the state, including the judiciary, to punish the perpetrators of violence, shows that a desire for justice remains an exception in this country.

It should not be a surprise that the anti-Sikh violence got a mention for the first time in the textbooks only in 2005. Ironically, the books were prepared under the watch of a Congress-led government. Our carelessness towards acts of mass violence and the tendency as a society to be blind towards it has a long history!

We, who claim to be traditionally a non-violent people, must be brave enough to face the genocidal tendency inherent in us. There is a substantial body of literature comprising testimonies of the victims, stories of their woes and agony, their struggle for justice. But there is almost nothing available to understand the minds of the murderers and their accomplices.

It is fine to keep the focus on the wronged, but it often makes them look helpless. We need to turn our gaze towards the perpetrators, and name them. It is not difficult to identify the origins of mass violence and reflect on the impact of the violence.

We would then be able to see its relations to another episode of violence, committed by state agencies in Punjab in the decade following 1984. The police officers involved in the killings and disappearances, all of them Sikhs, were rewarded by the state.

The deaths were justified as unavoidable to keep the nation intact. In post-War Europe, textbooks, poetry, prose, films etc, help us understand the nature of mass violence. Anti-Semitism is treated as a crime in those lands. Those baying for the blood of Pitroda must also think about the need to remember and reflect on our history of mass violence and our own thoughtlessness towards it.

This article first appeared in the print edition on May 15, 2019, under the title ‘The banality of hate’. The writer teaches Hindi at Delhi University

The Tribune – Khanna SSP shifted, no trace of missing cash yet

Cops probe why ASIs fled to Kerala

Jupinderjit Singh and Deepkamal Kaur, Tribune News Service

Cops probe why ASIs fled to Kerala

Chandigarh/Jalandhar – Panjab – India, 01 May 2019. More than a month after the Khanna police was caught in a controversy over the recovery of Rs 16.5 crore from a Jalandhar-based Christian priest and two ASIs going missing with Rs 6.65 crore of those, the Election Commission (EC) ordered the transfer of Khanna SSP Dhruv Dahiya.

A team of the Punjab Police, led by IG PK Sinha, has reached Kochi in Kerala to take custody of the two ASIs who were arrested by the Kerala Police on Tuesday. Sinha is heading a Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta to probe the entire case, including role of senior officers.

The team is yet to question the two ASIs as the formalities of the custody handover were yet to be completed till the filing of the report. Sources said the two had told the Kerala Police they had reached Kochi two days ago only. They have told the Kerala Police that they reached Kochi from Mumbai, but their claims were subject to verification.

IG Sinha told The Tribune that the whereabouts of the money as well as the places where the two ASIs stayed since they absconded with money on March 29 would be known after their questioning and cross-checking of their claims only.

Advocate Mandeep Singh, who is the counsel for Father Anthony, said, “We are planning to file an application with the SIT asking them to probe the link of their stay in Kochi after the loot.

We suspect that since the case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, too, had been filed via Kerala, it could be the same persons using the police for the raid too. We suspect it to be some nexus working internally within the Diocese from Kerala. Father Anthony is currently away to Mumbai and I have discussed the matter with him on phone already.”

Father Anthony is the closest aide of Bishop Franco, who is facing a rape case lodged by a nun in Kerala. Father Anthony had been running several partnership firms with other priests, including a Rs 40-crore Sahodhaya firm, with the permission of Bishop Franco.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.