The New York Times – In a city of firsts, Hoboken elects a Sikh as Mayor

Sharon Ottermannov

Hoboken-New Jersey-USA, 8 November 2017. Hoboken is a city of firsts, its proud residents like to say. Some historians say the first organized baseball game was played there in 1846. The first zipper was believed to have been invented there, too.

And now the city of some 55,000 people on the Hudson River can boast another first: Councilman Ravi Bhalla on Tuesday became the first Sikh elected mayor in New Jersey, and one of only a few Sikhs to become mayor of an American city.

“I feel exhilarated,” Mr Bhalla, 44, said in an interview on Wednesday. “I didn’t have any expectations one way or another of victory or defeat, I was prepared for both. And I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to serve Hoboken.”

Mayor-elect Bhalla, a 17-year resident of the city, had won elections in 2009 and 2013 to the City Council and twice served as its president. He was endorsed for mayor by the incumbent, Dawn Zimmer, who announced in June that she would not seek re-election. Mr Bhalla and Ms Zimmer are both Democrats, though Hoboken’s mayoral elections are nonpartisan.

But even his deep roots and prior success among the city’s voters did not make Mr. Bhalla immune from racist attacks. On Friday night, doctored campaign fliers appeared on car windows in Hoboken featuring a picture of Mr Bhalla, who wears the turban that is traditional to his faith.

Above his picture was the message: “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our Town!”

The implication was one that is familiar to many Sikhs, who are part of a separate, monotheistic faith that is neither Hinduism nor Islam, but who are often mistaken for being something that they are not.

Particularly after 11 September 2001, Sikhs have found themselves the target of hate crimes that often appear to be based in a belief that they are Muslim.

Mr Bhalla said that the public reaction to the fliers was largely a desire to refute the hate they represented. The police are investigating the matter as a bias incident.

“It is not what Hoboken is about, it is not reflective of our community,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate.”

He went on to win Tuesday, with 34 percent of the vote in a six-way race. Of the 14,000 votes cast, he received 4,781, according to the Hudson County Board of Elections. There are no runoffs so a plurality was enough to win.

“Is there something special about his victory? Without a doubt,” said Chief Kenneth F Ferrante of the Hoboken Police Department. “This is already an exciting city. His victory just gives it more character.”

Mr. Bhalla was stopped by a steady stream of well-wishers in Hoboken on Wednesday. Some said they considered his win a victory for multiculturalism and a rejection of the forces that propelled President Trump to victory a year ago.

Mr. Bhalla, the child of Indian immigrants who was born and raised in New Jersey, said that his victory was because of his stance on the issues: pushing for more open space, holding the line on taxes, and working to solve the flooding problem, particularly after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy five years ago.

It certainly wasn’t because of a Sikh voting block. There is only a tiny Sikh community in Hoboken of about 15-20 families, he said, including his brother, whose family lives next door to Mr Bhalla. (The Bhallas live on the same street where Frank Sinatra grew up as a teenager.)

Mr Bhalla and his wife have two children, ages 5 and 10, who attend a local charter school.

While Mr Bhalla, who is a lawyer, was humble in talking about his victory, it has resonated well behind Hoboken. His campaign was covered by newspapers as far away as India. And his victory brought a surge of joy on social media from some of the approximately 500,000 Sikhs in America.

Sikhs, who largely hail from the Punjab region of modern-day India and Pakistan, have lived in America for about a century. In that time, they have often felt frustrated because they are “constantly perceived as people that they are not,” said Simran Jeet Singh, senior religion fellow at the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization based in New York City.

Still, Sikhs have risen in public life, particularly in Canada, where the current defense minister is a Sikh. In the United States, there have been at least two Sikh mayors in recent years, according to the Sikh Coalition. In 2009, Kashmir Gill was elected mayor of Yuba City, California, but he did not wear a turban.

In 2012 and again in 2014, Satyendra Huja, who wears a turban, was selected by the Charlottesville, Virginia, City Council to be mayor.

But Mr Bhalla’s election felt like a milestone because it is believed to be the first time a turban-wearing Sikh has been directly elected by voters to lead an American city, Mr Singh said.

“This, in many ways for the community, marks a signal shift,” he said, “that now we can maintain our distinct identity, we can practice our faith, and still be seen as part and parcel of the American experience.”

In Hoboken on Wednesday, Mr Bhalla was stopped by a steady stream of well-wishers. Some said they considered his win a victory for multiculturalism, and a rejection of the forces that propelled President Trump to victory a year ago.

“People are upset, but we now have a medium, the electoral process, to express that,” said John Bredlin, 54, a college professor. “They are rejecting Trump”.

Mr Bhalla said that while he is happy to talk about his faith, he is a mayor for all Hoboken. He has big plans for the city after he officially starts his term on 1 January, particularly to improve its infrastructure and public transportation.

“I didn’t run as the Sikh candidate,” he said. “I ran as the candidate who happened to be Sikh.”

Jeffery C. Mays contributed reporting.


Walking in Gent and Gentbrugge

Walking in Gent and Gentbrugge


Vlaamse Kaai

Cycle and pedestrian route across the locks

This is supposed to be the Schelde,
if it is so the river ain’t flowing !

Bassijnstraat Gentbrugge

Published in: on October 18, 2017 at 6:09 am  Leave a Comment  

ANI – Indian envoy pays respects to Guru Granth Sahib in Birmingham

Birmingham-West Midlands-UK, 16 October 2017.

India’s High Commissioner to the UK, Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, paid his respects to the Guru Granth Sahib at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha in Birmingham as part of the year-long 350th birth anniversary celebrations of the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.

Patna-born Mr Sinha, who was accompanied by his wife, Mrs Girjia Sinha, and the Consul General of India in Birmingham, Dr Aman Puri, amongst others, met with Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Spiritual Leader of GNNSJ and other dignitaries.

The high commissioner, who is the son of former Vice Chief of Army Staff, Late Lt Geneneral S K Sinha, paid tribute to the historic Kar Sewa projects carried out by GNNSJ in India, including the heritage conservation and beautification of the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Takhat Sri Harmandir Ji, Patna Sahib, and added, “It was a great honour and privilege for my wife and I to pray and pay respects here.”

Bhai Sahib Ji added, “The paramount purpose of celebrating Sikh Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s 350th Prakash Ustav is to pay loving tribute to the Saint-Soldier Guru, who not only created the Khalsa fraternity, but also blessed Sikhs with the highest exalted spiritual authority – Guru Granth Sahib Ji.”

The year-long celebrations will culminate on the 25th December, 2017, at the Takhat Sahib in Patna. Dr. Puri is planning a mobile exhibition, in conjunction with GNNSJ, celebrating the life and legacy of the great Guru Ji to launch in Birmingham during November.

Dr Puri had earlier staged a tremendous drama production in Birmingham, as part of the 350th Birth Anniversary celebrations, which was supported by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

The dignitaries later proceeded to ‘Diwali on the Square,’ a celebration hosted by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, before proceeding to the Shree Geeta Bhawan Multi-faith Diwali event. Bandi Chhor Divas, the Sikh celebration of Guru Hargobind Ji’s release and liberation of 52 imprisoned Rajas from Gwalior Fort, is also celebrated at this time. (ANI)

Published in: on October 17, 2017 at 5:14 am  Leave a Comment – Sikh body withdraws award from journalist Kuldip Nayar for remarks against Khalistan leader

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee also condemned the words he used to describe Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in his autobiography.

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 11 October 2017. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on Tuesday withdrew an award it had given to journalist Kuldip Nayar in 2006, The Indian Express reported.

Its decision came after several Sikh groups expressed their disapproval over an article he wrote last month, comparing Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale with Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was convicted of rape in August.

The decision was made at an executive meeting in Fatehpur Sahib. The committee had given Nayar the Shiromani Patrkar Award for his writing.

“There was resentment in the community over the use of foul language against Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in an article written by Kuldip Nayar,” the committee said. “So, we have passed a resolution to withdraw the honour conferred to him in 2006.”

The committee also condemned the use of the word terrorist to describe Bhindranwale in Nayar’s autobiography Beyond The Lines. The body had declared Bhindranwale a martyr in 2003. The Sikh body Damdami Taksal, which was once headed by Bhindranwale, has called for a ban on the book.

Bhindranwale was a major leader of the Khalistan movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which has been demanding a separate homeland for Sikhs in the Punjab region of South Asia.

He was killed during the controversial Operation Blue Star inside the Golden Temple in June 1984.

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The Asian Age – Kapil Mishra questions CM’s absence, marshalled out

The AAP government said that it will urge the Centre to expedite the probe by the special investigation team into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases

New Delhi, 12 August 2017. Amid heated arguments, the four-day long Delhi Assembly session concluded on Friday with the passage of three legislations, which were earlier returned by the Centre, even as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal remained conspicuous by his absence.

The AAP government said that it will urge the Centre to expedite the probe by the special investigation team (SIT) into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases.

Earlier in the day, sacked Delhi minister Kapil Mishra was marshalled out of the Delhi Assembly after the rebel AAP leader held up a banner accusing the chief minister of “bunking off” House proceedings.

As soon the House met on the session’s last day, Mr Mishra stood up with the banner which said “Kejriwal missing, come to the House” written across it.

Speaker Ram Niwas Goel said Mr Mishra’s act was against the rules of the House and called the marshals in. He ordered that Mr Mishra will not be permitted to attend the House for the rest of the day.

“Chief minister Mr Kejriwal has not attended a single sitting of the House over the last four days. I sought to know why was I marshalled out. He bunked off the entire session,” the sacked minister said.

Mr Mishra, who was a Mr Kejriwal loyalist at one point, was stripped off his portfolios of water and tourism and removed as a minister in May after the municipal polls, where the AAP suffered a humiliating defeat.

After that, he made a series of allegations against the AAP supremo, PWD minister Satyendar Jain and other leaders of the party. He was promptly suspended from the party’s primary membership.

The Asian Age – Main accused in Junaid’s lynching arrested from Maharashtra, confesses to killing

The Faridabad police had a sketch of the accused and they received information that he had taken shelter in Dhule

Mumbai, 9 July 2017. Faridabad police on Saturday arrested a man from Dhule, Maharashtra, who allegedly stabbed to death 16-year-old Junaid Khan on a Mathura-bound train on June 22. The police said the accused, who was not named, had confessed to the crime.

The Faridabad police had a sketch of the accused and they received information that he had taken shelter in Dhule. The Dhule police helped the Faridabad police find the accused.

A police official said, “We cannot reveal the accused’s name. He is 32 years old and he was hiding here in Dhule for the past two weeks. We are questioning people in the area where he was hiding. It’s not our investigation. We are just helping the Faridabad police.”

On Thursday, Haryana police had announced a reward of Rs 2 lakh for information that would help nab the people who had attacked Junaid and brothers Hashim and Sakir Khan.

According to the police, the accused confessed to having stabbed Junaid inside the train when the teenager and his brothers were returning to their home in Khandawli village in Ballabgarh after Id shopping in New Delhi.

Going by the police sketch drawn with input from one of Junaid’s brothers, the accused is about five-feet-six-inches tall and muscular.

The accused allegedly called Junaid and his brothers “beef-eaters” and “anti-nationals,” and flung their skullcaps off their heads.

The police had arrested five people after the attack.

BBC News – Why are Indian women wearing cow masks?

Geeta Pandey

New Delhi, 28 June 2017. A photography project which shows women wearing a cow mask and asks the politically explosive question, whether women are less important than cattle in India, has gone viral in the country and earned its 23-year-old photographer the ire of Hindu nationalist trolls.

“I am perturbed by the fact that in my country, cows are considered more important than a woman, that it takes much longer for a woman who is raped or assaulted to get justice than for a cow which many Hindus consider a sacred animal,” Delhi-based photographer Sujatro Ghosh told the BBC.

India is often in the news for crimes against women and, according to government statistics, a rape is reported every 15 minutes.

“These cases go on for years in the courts before the guilty are punished, whereas when a cow is slaughtered, Hindu extremist groups immediately go and kill or beat up whoever they suspect of slaughter.”

The project, he says, is “his way of protesting” against the growing influence of the vigilante cow protection groups that have become emboldened since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power in the summer of 2014.

“I’ve been concerned over the Dadri lynching [when a Muslim man was killed by a Hindu mob over rumours that he consumed and stored beef] and other similar religious attacks on Muslims by cow vigilantes,” Ghosh said.

In recent months, the humble cow has become India’s most polarising animal.

The BJP insists that the animal is holy and should be protected. Cow slaughter is banned in several states, stringent punishment has been introduced for offenders and parliament is considering a bill to bring in the death penalty for the crime.

But beef is a staple for Muslims, Christians and millions of low-caste Dalits (formerly untouchables) who have been at the receiving end of the violence perpetrated by the cow vigilante groups.

Nearly a dozen people have been killed in the past two years in the name of the cow. Targets are often picked based on unsubstantiated rumours and Muslims have been attacked for even transporting cows for milk.

Ghosh, who is from the eastern city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), says he became aware of “this dangerous mix of religion and politics” only after he moved to Delhi a few years ago and that “this project is a silent form of protest that I think can make an impact”.

So earlier this month, during a visit to New York, he bought the cow mask from a party shop and, on his return, began shooting for the series, taking pictures of women in front of tourist hotspots and government buildings, on the streets and in the privacy of their homes, on a boat and in a train, because “women are vulnerable everywhere”.

“I photographed women from every part of society. I started the project from Delhi since the capital city is the hub of everything – politics, religion, even most debates start here.

“I took the first photo in front of the iconic India Gate, one of the most visited tourist places in India. Then I photographed a model in front of the presidential palace, another on a boat in the Hooghly river in Kolkata with the Howrah bridge as the backdrop.”

His models have so far been friends and acquaintances because, he says, “it’s such a sensitive topic, it would have been difficult to approach strangers”.

Two weeks ago when he launched the project on Instagram, the response was “all positive. It went viral within the first week, my well wishers and even people I didn’t know appreciated it.”

But after the Indian press covered it and put out their stories on Facebook and Twitter, the backlash began.

“Some wrote comments threatening me. On Twitter people started trolling me, some said I, along with my models, should be taken to Delhi’s Jama Masjid [mosque] and slaughtered, and that our meat should be fed to a woman journalist and a woman writer the nationalists despise. They said they wanted to see my mother weep over my body.”

Some people also contacted the Delhi police, “accusing me of trying to instigate riots and asking them to arrest me”.

Ghosh is not surprised by the vitriol and admits that his work is an “indirect comment” on the BJP.

“I’m making a political statement because it’s a political topic, but if we go deeper into the things, then we see that Hindu supremacy was always there, it has just come out in the open with this government in the past two years.”

The threats, however, have failed to scare him. “I’m not afraid because I’m working for the greater good,” he says.

A positive fallout of the project going viral has been that he’s got loads of messages from women from across the globe saying they too want to be a part of this campaign.

So the cow, he says, will keep travelling.

To see the pictures :

The Tribune – SGPC for more security to Giani Gurmukh Singh

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 20 June 2017. The SGPC has approached the DGP to ensure the security of former acting Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib Giani Gurmukh Singh.

Giani Gurmukh Singh, who is now serving as head priest [There are no Sikh priests] of Gurdwara Nauwin Patshahi, Dhamtan Sahib in Jind had received a anonymous threatening letter, allegedly from controversial Dera Sirsa supporters, at his ancestral place in Arif Ke village in Ferozepur.

Committee chief KS Badungar said that “I have also written to DGP Suresh Arora that the matter should be thoroughly probed and the guilty brought to book,” he said.

Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh too has echoed similar views.

Meanwhile, SGPC general secretary A S Chawla said that such an instance has raised a question mark on the law and order situation in the state. “Some disgruntled elements want to vitiate peace in the state. It is the liability of the government to nab the culprits”, he said.

Gent Koopvaardijlaan Mashid – Deurle Vierschaar

Gent Koopvaardijlaan Mashid
Islamitische Faculteit
4 March 2017

Entrance to the mashid
Yesterday two pictures of the Islamic Faculty
Today the mashid is ‘in the picture’

Deurle Vierschaar
Fundraising dinner
4 March 2017

Our sevadars

One sevadar took the picture
the others ‘in the picture’

Serving the guest buffet style

The organisers
Some in three-colour suits

Two of the organisers and our guests

All proceeds to the Don Bosco Orphanage in New Delhi

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Tribune – EC tells Punjab, 4 other states to prepare for polls

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 28 December 2016. The Election Commission has shot off a letter to the Cabinet Secretary and the chief secretaries of poll-bound Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Manipur asking them to strictly adhere to the code of conduct, likely to be announced anytime now.

With this, the EC has also indicated that it planned to conduct simultaneous elections in these states.

“Immediate action should be taken for enforcement of the code of conduct after the announcement,” it wrote.

The provisions to be followed include prevention of defacement of property, misuse of public space as well as official vehicles. The EC asked the authorities to remove political advertisements from public property within 48 hours and from private property in 72 hours after the announcement of the poll dates.