The Statesman – Joe Biden seeks restoration of peoples’ rights in Kashmir; disappointed with CAA, NRC

Some Hindu Americans have reached out to the Biden campaign expressing their displeasure over the language used against India and have urged them to reconsider their views.

New Delhi – India, 26 June 2020. The United State’s Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden has expressed disappointment over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the implementation of the NRC in Assam and wants India to take necessary steps to restore rights of all Kashmiris.

“These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy,” according to the policy paper, ‘Joe Biden’s agenda for Muslim American community’ posted recently on his campaign website.

Some Hindu Americans have reached out to the Biden campaign expressing their displeasure over the language used against India and have urged them to reconsider their views. This group has also sought a similar policy paper on Hindu Americans.

The Biden campaign didn’t reply to questions in this regard.

The policy paper clubbed together Kashmir and Assam in India with the forced detention of over a million Uyghur Muslims in western China, and discrimination and atrocities against Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority, observing that Biden understands the pain Muslim-Americans feel towards what is happening in Muslim-majority countries and countries with significant Muslim populations.

“In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights of all the people of Kashmir.

Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weakens democracy,” said the policy paper.

“Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act into law,” it said.

Biden as United States Senator for decades and as vice president under President Barack Obama for eight years has been known as one of the best friends of India and Indian-Americans, reads the policy paper.

Highlighting Biden’s role in India-US ties, the policy paper says that he played a key role in the passage of the India-US civilian nuclear deal, and as vice president, he advocated increasing the bilateral trade to USD 500 billion per annum.

Well connected with the Indian Americans, Biden regularly hosted Diwali at his vice-presidential residence, it said.

“Biden understands the issues impacting India, issues of cross border terrorism, influx of terrorism across borders in Kashmir, issue of Hindu minorities sufferings in Kashmir, issues in Indo Pacific region with China, and the rising role of India as stronger US ally in all areas including economic growth, counter-terrorism, fight for human rights, climate change and global security,” Biden supporter Ajay Jain Bhutoria was quoted by PTI as saying.

“There are groups within various elected officials groups in US pushing language and agenda’s highlighting misinformation and damaging facts on how India handled its own internal matter on Kashmir, Ladakh or immigration reforms related to NRC,” rued Bhutoria, who is also on the National Finance Committee for Biden.

Bhutoria said US recently updated its immigration policy to block the H-1B and other visas for rest of the year to safeguard its own workers, which is completely questionable and will hurt the economy.

India too has a right to define its own Immigration policy to support its population and economy, he said.

“I grew up in Assam, Guwahati and I have seen the influx of people across the border and taking away important jobs, resources from local people in northeastern states,”said Bhutoria.

“The immigration reforms and NRC are welcome steps. Execution of these reforms and strategies need to be improved and India needs to do better in change management and rolling out of reforms,”he added.

The 2020 US presidential election is scheduled for Tuesday 03 November.

The Indian Express – Acknowledging Beijing’s rise, scale of challenge it presents, are first steps in crafting a new China policy

India must also recognise that China, like the great powers before it, wants to redeem its territorial claims, has the ambition to bend the neighbourhood to its will, reshape the global order to suit its interests.

C Raja Mohan

New Delhi – India, 23 June 2020. The brutal Chinese ambush that killed Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh last week will hopefully compel Delhi to confront the enduring tragedy of India’s China policy.

That tragedy is rooted in persistent political fantasies, refusal to learn from past mistakes, and the belief that the US and the West are at the source of India’s problems with China.

This is not about blaming one party or another that ruled Delhi in the last seven decades. There is plenty of blame to go around; and the problem predates independence.

Each generation has compounded the challenge with the reluctance to discard the illusions that India’s China policy has nurtured over the last century.

Let us start with Rabindranath Tagore, who went to China in 1924 with the ambition of developing a shared Asian spiritual civilisation.

Tagore returned deeply disappointed as radical groups, including members of the newly formed Chinese Communist Party, turned on the poet and his hosts for conspiring to divert Chinese attention away from the imperatives of modernisation and, yes, westernisation.

Next was the turn of Jawaharlal Nehru, who approached China as a modernist and nationalist.

He met a delegation of Chinese nationalists at Brussels in 1927 and issued a ringing statement on defeating western imperialism and shaping a new Asian and global order.

But when the Second World War broke out a decade later, the Congress was unwilling to join hands with China in defeating Japanese imperialism.

For all the exalted rhetoric of anti-imperialism, Indian and Chinese nationalists could not come together for they were fighting different imperial powers.

As India’s first PM, Nehru reached out to the Communist rulers of China, campaigned against the western attempt to isolate them, serenaded Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai at the Afro-Asian conference in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955.

Within five years, India and China were at each other’s throats and a war broke out in 1962.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee traveled to China in February 1979 to re-engage Beijing. Before he could head home, Beijing had launched a war against a fellow communist regime in Vietnam.

So much for Asian solidarity! Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 sought to normalise relations with China while continuing to negotiate on the boundary dispute.

That defined a template that in the end neither normalised the relationship nor resolved the boundary dispute. To make matters worse, other issues have taken a life of their own, for example, the massive annual trade deficits.

If India thought economic cooperation will improve mutual trust and create conditions for resolving political differences with China, it has been in for a rude shock.

India’s massive trade deficit with China is now a little over half of its total trade deficit.

Worse, India is finding it hard to disentangle the deep economic dependence on imports from China and resurrect its manufacturing sector.

As the Cold War came to a close, India bet that political cooperation with China on global issues will provide the basis for better bilateral relations.

It could not have been more wrong. P V Narasimha Rao and his successors joined China and Russia in promoting a “multipolar world”, the code for limiting America’s power after Washington came out victorious in the Cold War and facilitated the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Nearly a quarter of a century after embarking on a strategy to blunt America’s “unipolar moment”, Delhi is now struggling to cope with the emergence of a “unipolar Asia”, with Beijing as its dominant centre.

China’s rapid rise has also paved the way for the potential emergence of a “bipolar world” dominated by Washington and Beijing.

That brings us to the perennial illusion in Delhi about Asian and anti-Western solidarity with China.

Despite the failure of the repeated efforts to construct such unity with China, in the interwar years, the decade after independence, and the post Cold War years, the Indian elite persists with the myth.

Linked to this is the unyielding claim that the USA is seeking to divide India and China; but for the evil imperialists, the fantasy goes, Delhi and Beijing would be enjoying everlasting peace and friendship.

The fact is, we don’t need America to divide India and China; our respective territorial nationalisms and irreconcilable conflicts of interest do that job rather well.

There are other interesting facts, too. The British imperialists, for example, wanted Indian and Chinese nationalists to unite against Japanese imperialists during the Second World War.

London encouraged Chiang Kai-shek to visit India and meet with Mahatma Gandhi; Gandhi met Chiang but refused to cooperate.

While the Congress opted out of the war, British India, Great Britain and the US embarked on a massive effort to support the beleaguered Chinese government in Chungking.

China never really bought into the Indian ideas of building coalitions against the West. While India never stopped arguing with the West, China developed a sustained engagement with the USA, Europe and Japan.

Mao broke with Communist Russia to join forces with the US in the early 1970s, less than two decades after he fought the American forces in the Korean War.

Deng Xiaoping promoted massive economic cooperation with the US to transform China and lay the foundations for its rise.

While China has leveraged the deep relationship with the West to elevate itself in the international system, Delhi continues to think that staying away from America is the answer for good relations with Beijing.

Beijing sees the world through the lens of power, while Delhi tends to resist that realist prism. India has consistently misread China’s interests and ambitions.

The longer India takes to shed that strategic lassitude, the greater will be its China trouble.

Delhi needs to come to terms with the fact that a gigantic power has risen on its door step.

India must also recognise that China, like the great powers before it, wants to redeem its territorial claims, has the ambition to bend the neighbourhood to its will, reshape the global order to suit its interests.

China has certainly not hidden these goals and interests; but India has refused to see what is in plain sight.

Acknowledging China’s dramatic rise and recognising the scale of the challenge it presents are the first steps for Delhi in crafting a new China policy.

For the Modi government, this should be a valuable opportunity to get back to basics on restoring internal political coherence, accelerating economic modernisation and expanding India’s national power.

This article first appeared in the print edition on June 23, 2020 under the title “End of make-believe”. The writer is Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and contributing editor on international affairs for The Indian Express.

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-china-lac-border-20-armymen-killed-galwan-valley-6471415/

Hindustan Times – Sikh-owned restaurant vandalised in US, racist graffiti written at site

India Palace restaurant, owned by Baljit Singh, in Santa Fe city in the USA state of New Mexico suffers damages worth Rs 75.6 lakh; vandals wrote slogans in support of President Donald Trump and “white power”, and racist remarks such as “go home”.

Santa Fe – New Mexico – USA, 24 June 2020. An Indian restaurant owned by a Sikh in Sante Fe city in the USA state of New Mexico was broken into and vandalised with hate messages scrawled on its walls, according to a media report.

The damage caused to India Palace restaurant is estimated to be worth $100,000 (Rs 75.6 lakh), local Santa Fe Reporter newspaper reported on Tuesday. The attack is being investigated by local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund (SALDEF), a non-profit civil rights organisation, condemned the incident.

“This kind of hate and violence is unacceptable and swift action must be taken to ensure the safety and security of all Americans,” said SALDEF executive director Kiran Kaur Gill.

Smashed, Gutted and Abused

According to the local daily, tables were overturned, glassware was smashed into piles on the floor, wine racks were emptied, a statue of a goddess was beheaded and computers were stolen.

The vandals also turned over and destroyed food warmers, while the front desk area was gutted, plates smashed and the kitchen rendered completely unusable, it said.

“I walked into the kitchen, I saw everything and I was like, hold on, what? What is going on here?” owner Baljit Singh told Santa Fe Reporter.

“White power,” “Trump 2020,” “Go home,” and far worse were spray-painted on walls, doors, counters and any other available surface. “Some phrases contained threats of violence and derogatory racial slurs,” the daily said.

The restaurant had reopened only recently after being closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

“Santa Fe is a peaceful town, and the Sikh community has lived here, beautifully integrated, since the ’60s,” said SALDEF board member Simran Singh, who lives minutes away from the restaurant.

“Tensions have flared recently with the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement and the removal of statues associated with Spanish colonisers of this area, who committed a number of atrocities,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we are seeing an outpouring of love and support around the city and in my experience, our neighbours love and appreciate us, as we love and appreciate them,” he added.

Community comes out in support

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted on Tuesday, “We will not stand for such hatred in New Mexico.” She added that she had spoken to Baljit Singh to “let him know that our community is with him”.

Mayor Alan Webber described the vandalism a “sickening and appalling” hate crime and vowed, “We will find whoever did it and punish them to the full extent of the law.”

He said, “The Singhs are a long-standing Sikh family that has used its own resources to feed homeless Santa Feans through the goodness of their hearts. For them to be attacked this way breaks our hearts.”

The Singh family distributes free packages of food and sanitary products for homeless people in the area and these items were stolen during the attack, according to the Reporter.

The Reporter said that five fundraising campaigns have been launched to help the restaurant.

A GoFundMe campaign by another restaurant, Paper Dosa, had raised more than $35,000 (Rs 26.4 lakh), the New Mexican said.

Mistaken for terror outfit Islamic State

One of the pictures of the graffiti posted on the Reporter’s website was against the terrorist organisation Islamic State.

Because of their turbans, Sikhs are sometimes mistaken for Islamists or Iranian clergy who are represented in the media with turbans and are attacked.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement, “This disturbing hate attack once again demonstrates that growing white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism target every minority community and must be challenged by people of all races, faiths and backgrounds.”

SALDEF said that it has seen an unprecedented rise in hate crimes including the 29 April incident wherein a Sikh American Lakhwant Singh was brutally attacked by a man identified as Eric Breeman in Lakewood, Colorado.

Lakhwant Singh was told to “go back to your country,” while being attacked. No formal hate crime charges have been brought against the attacker.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/sikh-owned-restaurant-vandalised-in-us-racist-graffiti-written-at-site/story-U3YDTjCN59gwJJzA90XyML.html

Pieter Friedrich – Gandhi has got to go

Speech at Davis, CA, USA Gandhi Statue

Yesterday [19 June 2020] marked the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the day celebrating the final liberation of African-Americans from slavery.

The struggle did not end there. It continued for decades as African-Americans faced segregation, discrimination, systemic racism.

It continues even today as our country is still dotted by statues of Confederates, statues of people who fought a war to preserve slavery.

Today, these statues are being torn down, sometimes through legal processes and sometimes by understandably infuriated crowds angry over the ongoing glorification of slave-holders.

These statues should be taken down. But there’s at least one useful thing about these statues. At least they stand for what we expect. They symbolize what they are intended to symbolize.

They represent exactly what we think they represent. There is no confusion. What you see is what you get: a statue of a racist.

In our complex world, however, what you see is not always what you get.

The path we must take in the struggle to free our society from racism is more clearly marked if and when the history we are taught truthfully reveals that yes, this person who is elevated on a pedestal and glorified through a statue was, actually, a racist.

We face a more complicated journey when confronted by statues of people who, we are told, represented justice, equality, and peace and yet, actually and in fact, represented the exact opposite.

As in the case of Mohandas Gandhi.

“Whether it was Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela, the basis of their ideas was Mahatma Gandhi, it was Gandhi’s vision.” That’s what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said last year to commemorate the 150th birthday of the so-called “Mahatma” or “Great Soul.”

Thus, we are told, the struggle for black liberation, from the United States of America to South Africa, owes its very existence to Gandhi.

The “Gandhi” movie was released in 1982. This Hollywood depiction of the Indian icon is the narrative about Gandhi with which most people in the West are familiar.

What was not advertised, however, is that the Indian government funded the film.

Nor did anyone want to advertise what the Indian government, while paying to promote Gandhi as a cult figure, was actually doing to people in India.

Five years before the “Gandhi” movie was released, the Indian government was still imposing an “Emergency” on the country.

They suspended elections, imprisoned and tortured journalists and political opponents across the country, and forcibly sterilized millions upon millions of Muslims, Dalits (those formerly known as “Untouchables”), and others.

In 1984, two years after the “Gandhi” movie was released, the Indian government led a genocide against Sikhs in New Delhi, the capital of the country, and other areas, killing thousands upon thousands. Butchering them in the streets.

In the 1990s, the Indian police and army disappeared tens of thousands of Kashmiris and Punjabis, creating widows and orphans en masse, at the same time, the Indian government was paying to install hundreds of statues and busts of Gandhi all around the world.

They were still going at it hard in the early 2000s when violence erupted in Gujarat, Gandhi’s birthplace.

“Erupted” is not exactly the correct term for the organized slaughter. It was a pogrom.

For three days, Modi, who is now prime minister of India, oversaw the systematic extermination of thousands of Muslims by mobs affiliated with his political party and supported by the police.

A few years later, in another state, Modi’s political party, the BJP, massacred Christians.

But what do we hear today?

“The world bows to you, beloved Bapu,” said Modi on Gandhi’s last birthday. Modi called Gandhi “the best teacher to guide us,” said he “epitomized trust among all sections of society,” and insisted that he “envisioned a world where every citizen has dignity and prosperity.”

Two months after Modi bowed to Gandhi as his guide, the BJP passed a new citizenship law that made religion the basis for becoming an Indian citizen.

The law is intended to be combined with a proposed National Register of Citizens. Coupled together, these laws provide a legal route for the BJP to begin cleansing the land of Muslims, and, ultimately, of all non-Hindus.

Two months after that, the BJP, with collaboration from the police, staged an anti-Muslim pogrom in New Delhi.

And yet, the BJP’s Modi tells us: “As long as Gandhiji’s philosophy remains embedded in humanity, he will remain relevant and continue to inspire us.”

Hiding behind the mask of Gandhi as the so-called “Father of India,” the violent and supremacist rulers of that country today use “Gandhiplomacy” or “propaGandhi” as a foreign policy weapon to conceal their atrocities and divert attention from their constant and most egregious violations of human rights.

Yet what if Gandhi is only able to be used to whitewash the BJP’s atrocities because Gandhi himself has been whitewashed?

What will we find if we strip away Gandhi’s mask?

What if Gandhi did not represent what we are told he represented? What if the story we think is really true is actually propaganda?

What if the statues of Gandhi do not symbolize what they are intended to symbolize? What if we’ve been fed poison passed off as sugar? What if Gandhi was actually a champion of racial inequality?

The hard fact of the matter is that Gandhi was, actually, a champion of racial inequality.

Gandhi’s anti-black racism is widely acknowledged today, although rarely closely examined and often quickly excused. According to his grandson, Gandhi was “at times ignorant and prejudiced about South Africa’s blacks.” That’s an understatement.

Gandhi lived in South Africa for 21 years. He spent a huge portion of his professional life there. He didn’t leave until he was 45 years old. And while he was there, yes, he said a lot of racist things. A lot of very racist things.

He called black Africans “savages” and said that they “are very lazy,” “are of no use,” and are “as a rule uncivilized.”

He called Africans “the children of black heathendom and outer darkness” and claimed that an African’s “sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”

Time and time again, Gandhi argued that special taxes, passes, and registrations were necessary for Africans but wrong for Indians because, he said, Indians were hard workers but Africans did not work at all.

Over and over again, Gandhi told the white colonizers it was an “insult” and a “gross injustice” for Indians to be classed with Africans.

Gandhi told the colonizers: “Indians are undoubtedly infinitely superior to the Africans.” Gandhi even told the colonizers that Indians and Europeans belong to the same “stock”, “the Aryan stock.”

While the Africans sweated and bled under the oppression of colonialism, Gandhi was hobnobbing with the colonizers, telling them that he believed in “the purity of race,” that he wanted “the purity of all the races and not one alone,” and that he thought that “the white race in South Africa should be the predominating race.”

And, here’s the important part, Gandhi didn’t just say racist things. He demanded racial segregation. And he joined the white colonizers in a war to exterminate African freedom fighters.

For fifteen years, from 1895 to 1910, Gandhi campaigned, sometimes successfully, for segregating Africans from Indians in neighborhoods, schools, post offices, trains, prisons, and even on footpaths.

Gandhi was 36 years old when he begged the colonizers to allow Indians to play their part in a war against Zulu rebels, when he raised a special fund and sent care packages to the colonial British soldiers fighting those Zulus, and when he ordered Indians to volunteer for military service to fight Africans because “now is the time when the leading whites want us to take this step.”

Then Gandhi partnered with the colonizers in their war against the Zulus, and afterwards insisted that there was no reason for outrage over the “great atrocities” perpetrated “by the whites” on the Africans.

For a man who is championed as a “Great Soul” and pushed as a saint for the African-American civil rights struggle, Gandhi sure is a strange choice.

Gandhi never changed.

Was it just the “young” and “immature” Gandhi before he evolved? That’s what some suggest to whitewash the racism and demands for segregation that were repeatedly raised by an exceptionally well-educated man in his 30s and 40s.

Gandhi never changed. He never acknowledged his words or his actions. He never apologized for them. And he definitely never took responsibility for them.

Instead, Gandhi moved back to India and switched from promoting racism to promoting casteism, and then he threw being a sexual predator into the mix.

Ranging from “hateful soul” in South Africa to “great asshole” in India, Gandhi was certainly a mixed bag. But he was not a Mahatma.

“Great soul,” after all, is not usually a term that we reserve for men in their 70s who force their teenage relatives to sleep naked with them. “Convict,” maybe. But not Mahatma.

“Gandhi was never tempted by power,” Prime Minister Modi tells us. But Indian feminist Rita Banerji tells a different story.

She says: “I saw Gandhi as a classic example of a sexual predator, a man who uses his position of power to manipulate and sexually exploit the people he directly controls.”

The statue behind me was paid for by the Indian government. It was first installed in 2016. Indian-Americans who protested the installation warned the city government who they were honoring.

“Gandhi was a child molester,” said former Yuba City councillor Tej Maan. “He was a predator on members of his own family, young women,” said Sacramento attorney Amar Singh Shergill.

The City of Davis ignored the truth.

Amar Singh Shergill also said, “If the statue can go up, it can come down.”

That’s what happened to a statue of Gandhi in Ghana that was installed at the same time as the one here in Davis.

Two years after it was installed, it was torn down. Around the world, Gandhi’s statues are being blocked, protested, and even vandalized because of his racist legacy.

Here in America, we are pulling down Confederate statues because they symbolize exactly what they’re intended to symbolize. Racism.

Gandhi, a man whose real legacy is racism, casteism, and sexual abuse, has been falsely projected as a civil rights hero.

He has robbed our true civil rights heroes of their rightful place. The Gandhi statues around the world do not symbolize what we are told they are intended to symbolize.

It’s time to start being honest about history and truthful about what symbols actually symbolize.

History grounded in reality reveals that statues of Gandhi are actually symbols of racism.

Whether it’s for the Africans whose rights he trampled on, or for the Dalits who suffer from his support for the caste system, or for the women he preyed upon, or for the minorities in modern India whose oppression is whitewashed by propaGandhi, one thing is clear: Gandhi has got to go.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent. Discover more by him at pieterfriedrich.net

The Tribune – Punjab Police book SFJ adviser Gurpatwant Pannu for sedition

Accused of instigating people of Punjab through pre-recorded audio messages

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 18 June 2020. Punjab Police on Thursday booked Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, US-based legal adviser of the banned organisation Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), for sedition and unlawful activities.

Instigating youth of Punjab in favour of ‘Referendum 2020’, provoking the secession of Punjab from India and attempt to spread dissatisfaction among the country’s armed forces or abetting mutiny.

He has been instigating people of Punjab through pre-recorded audio message (IVR) from different international numbers mainly from the US for last few months.

Pannu was booked under Sections 124-A (waging war against India), 131 (abetting mutiny) 153-A (promotion disunity and disharmony) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 10(a), 13(1) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The trigger point for registration of the case took place today after Pannu reportedly approached the Chinese government for helping him in his anti-India activities.

Also, a number of pre-recorded calls emanating from Pakistan were also received by number of citizens, including advocates, journalists and police officials. Some callers claimed they were calling from China or were Chinese and supported Pannu.

DGP Dinkar Gupta said the calls from Pakistan proved that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of that country was planning the whole conspiracy.

Also, the attempts to involve China, at a time when a bloody clash has taken place between armed forces of both countries, suggests there is a bigger conspiracy against the country through Pannu.

“It is highly insensitive that when brave Punjab soldiers had achieved martyrdom fighting Chinese army, Pannu and others were carrying their nefarious designs in causing bloodshed and violence in Punjab.

We will never let it happen as Punjabis are living in peace,” said DGP Dinkar Gupta. He said it was also unfortunate that the trouble was being created when each resident of the state was fighting against the spread of deadly coronavirus.

Police had earlier also lodged two FIRs against Gurpatwant Singh Pannu for his anti-India activities.

However, during last 2 months, he continued to send these pre-recorded messages from different numbers regarding which 21 DDR’s has been recorded and total 54 numbers have been blocked.

A police spokesperson added that on 13 and 15 June, one person who introduced himself as Imran made these calls saying “Sikhs for Justice will be starting a voter registration for Referendum 2020 in Punjab.

Today, you have the opportunity to undo the mistake of 1947 by participating in Referendum 2020 and Pakistan will also get a peaceful neighbour”. In this regard, a DDR on June 06 and another one on June 15 were recorded.

On 18 June, another pre-recorded audio message (IVR) was received from different numbers, where the caller claimed that she is from China and supporter of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) and wanted to tell the people of Punjab that voter registration for Punjab ‘Referendum 2020’ will start from 04 July.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/punjab-police-book-sfj-adviser-gurpatwant-pannu-for-sedition-100945

Sojourners – Many Faiths, One Commitment. Radical Love: A Conversation with Valarie Kaur

Sikh American civil rights activist and lawyer Valarie Kaur talks with Rev. Jim Wallis about The Revolutionary Love Project.

Valerie Kaur finds examples of revolutionary love across many faith traditions: “When we think about Jesus has called to love our neighbor as ourself; or Abraham’s decision to open his tent to all; or Buddha to have compassion for all; or Mohammad’s to take in the orphan; or Mirabai in the Hindu tradition to love without limit; when we love without limit, then it is revolutionary, then it becomes a force for interior and political and social and cultural and spiritual change.”

The full conversation can be listened to via the underneath link

https://sojo.net/media/many-faiths-one-commitment-radical-love-conversation-valarie-kaur

The Indian Express – #Sikh hashtag ban lifted, but community still looking for answers

The hashtags have been unblocked after three months, but Sikhs unhappy with explanation given by Instagram and Facebook.

Rahel Philipose

New Delhi – India, 15 June 2020. A week since Instagram and Facebook unblocked the hashtags ‘#Sikh’ and ‘#Sikhism’ after restricting their use for nearly three months, many in the community feel they have been left with more questions than answers.

On Friday, members of Facebook’s policy team met with a number of Sikh groups, including SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund), International NGO Khalsa Aid and the World Sikh Organisation, to address the issue.

SALDEF Executive Director Kiran Kaur Gill believes that while the meeting was a step in the right direction, a lot of their concerns went unaddressed.

“We met with Facebook yesterday, however they did not answer our main questions. We are happy that they opened a dialogue. We just hope that it leads to actual change and that this type of action does not happen again,” she told indianexpress.com.

The ‘accidental’ hashtag ban by Instagram and Facebook was not the only instance of Sikh content being censored in the past few weeks. Multiple Sikh content creators and media outlets claim they have been unable to access their social media profiles this month.

The restrictions were not limited to Instagram and Facebook alone, with the homepages of prominent Sikh news channels KTV Global and Akaal channel being blocked on YouTube.

Earlier this month, like other years, thousands of social media users from across the world were using #NeverForget1984 to mark the 36th anniversary of Operation Blue Star and the anti-Sikh riots.

Around this time, many Instagram and Facebook users complained that when they searched for #Sikh and #Sikhism on the social media platforms, an error message popped up informing them that the hashtags had been temporarily restricted.

Prominent Sikh groups and activists were quick to point out the suspicious timing of the incident.

Following the criticism, Instagram on 03 June issued an apology and announced that the hashtags had been unblocked on both social media platforms.

The Facebook-owned photo sharing app revealed that the restrictions had been ‘mistakenly’ imposed over three months ago after a reported post was inaccurately reviewed by their team.

On reaching out to Instagram, indianexpress.com was told that the company did not want to comment further on the incident.

Why many felt Instagram’s apology wasn’t enough

Soon after Instagram’s PR arm released the statement earlier this month, SALDEF had launched an online petition demanding that Facebook reveal details of their investigation.

“We realised on June 3, 2020 that the hashtag had been blocked. SALDEF feels that Facebook and Instagram could have had a better system in place that would have caught this mistake before the complete block on #Sikh was imposed,” Gill said.

SALDEF urged Facebook to lay out the steps they claim to have adopted to ensure that an incident like this is not repeated.

Of the five tweets that Instagram shared about the incident last week, the company offered a mere two sentence explanation of how the block was accidentally imposed three months ago.

They claim a single reported post was incorrectly reviewed by their team. But social media users were quick to question how one flagged post could lead to such widespread restrictions on Sikh-related content.

California-based blogger Rupinder Mohan Singh, who writes about Sikh-American issues on his website AmericanTurban.com, felt Instagram was not transparent about the source of the incident who reported the hashtag in the first place?

“The apology is a basic action, but for it to be meaningful, we need to know what/who exactly they identified as the problem, and what steps the platforms are taking to make sure doesn’t happen again.

I also wonder how attempting to censor an entire faith group can happen with such impunity,” he told indianexpress.com.

“Online bullying, copyright infringement, misleading information and undue influence run rampant on these platforms, and often in sophisticated and automated ways.

These platforms have largely stepped away from the regulating role and as such need to be regulated by a third party and held accountable for what they allow to happen on their platforms, and their performance therein,” Rupinder said.

On 10 June, Sikh-run record label Immortal Productions tweeted that their Facebook page and Instagram account had been disabled without warning.

The devotional music production company claimed that the restrictions, imposed right before their upcoming release, was part of a “coordinated censorship attack” aimed at silencing Sikhs.

In a letter addressed to PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, UK-based Sikh Council accused the government of silencing Sikh media and urged them to reverse the bans imposed on the Akaal Channel and KTV Global online.

Debates about censorship and regulation on social media have been gaining ground in recent times. Earlier this month, Instagram faced intense backlash after users posting about the Black Lives Matter movement complained that they were receiving ‘action blocked’ messages.

The company said the sheer number of posts being shared with the hashtag had activated its automated anti-spam technology, and added that it was working towards resolving the issue.

https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/social/sikh-hashtag-ban-lifted-but-community-still-looking-for-answers-6460117/

Sikh24.com – US report on religious freedom trashes India’s claim of vibrant democracy

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 June 2020. Referring to the annual report submitted by the US Department of State to the US Congress on International Religious Freedom, the Dal Khalsa has said that the US report has categorically denounced the state of religious freedom in India.

The 27-page report has trashed India’s claim of vibrant democratic traditions and practices.

It is noteworthy here that the US administration has given a detailed account of the protests and criticism against the Indian government’s decisions on the Citizenship Amendment Act and Article 370 in its ‘International Religious Freedom Report’ for 2019.

Party spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh said the report is a mirror as to how badly India treats its minority communities. “The report has vindicated our viewpoint that minorities are unsafe in India and that the present dispensation has criminalized the democratic protest and dissent,” he added.

“The young activists and University students from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh, who have taken cudgels against the discriminatory laws, were facing persecution by law enforcement agencies working under the Union Home Ministry,” he further said.

The Dal Khalsa lambasted the Modi dispensation for denying visas to teams of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a non-governmental advisory body to the US Congress.

“If India has nothing to hide, then it should allow the team of USCIRF, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to visit the country to have a first-hand assessment of the ground situation in conflict regions,” said Kanwarpal Singh.

The Dal Khalsa has urged the Trump administration to reprimand India for terrorizing and intimidating minorities by invoking draconian laws against its people.

Hindustan Times – First Sikh woman to graduate from US Military Academy at West Point

Second Lieutenant Anmol Narang, is a second-generation immigrant born and raised in Roswell, Georgia. She did a year of undergraduate study at the Georgia Institute of Technology before transferring to West Point.

Press Trust of India, posted by: Shankhyaneel Sarkar

West Point – New York State – USA, 13 June 2020. The United States Military Academy at West Point will make history Saturday when it graduates the first Sikh woman to successfully complete the path to a four-year degree.

Second Lt. Anmol Narang, is a second-generation immigrant born and raised in Roswell, Georgia.

She did a year of undergraduate study at the Georgia Institute of Technology before transferring to West Point, where she will graduate Saturday with a degree in nuclear engineering.

She hopes to pursue a career in air defense systems.

“I am excited and honored to be fulfilling my dream of graduating from West Point,” Narang said in a news release from the Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit based in New York that works to protect the constitutional right to practice faith without fear.

“The confidence and support of my community back home in Georgia has been deeply meaningful to me, and I am humbled that in reaching this goal, I am showing other Sikh Americans that any career path is possible for anyone willing to rise to the challenge.”

Narang will complete her Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, officials said. Following that, she will then head to her first post in Okinawa, Japan, in January.

Congress passed a law in 1987 that prohibited Sikhs and other religious communities from maintaining their articles of faith while in the military. A Sikh’s visible articles of faith, including turbans and unshorn facial hair, were banned.

Narang required no accommodation for her articles of faith, but the coalition said “her exemplary service to date underscores how diversity and pluralism remain core strengths of the U.S. military and the country as a whole.”

US Army Captain Simratpal Singh, a family friend, said he is proud of Narang who is “breaking a barrier for any Sikh American who wishes to serve.”

“The broader acceptance of Sikh service members among all of the service branches, as well as in top tier leadership spaces like West Point, will continue to benefit not just the rights of religious minority individuals, but the strength and diversity of the U.S. military,” he said.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/first-sikh-woman-to-graduate-from-us-military-academy-at-west-point/story-jldZ4T9IiFZEp8tJPuzC9N.html

OFMI Rebukes US Ambassador to India for Endorsing “Racist” Gandhi

Washington – DC Gandhi statue vandalism prompts US apology

Washington DC – USA, 09 June 2020. USA Ambassador to India Ken Juster apologized on 03 June for the “desecration” of a Gandhi statue outside India’s Embassy in Washington, DC after the statue was spray-painted with accusations of “racist” and “rapist” amidst ongoing protests for justice for George Floyd.

As frustrated citizens marched past the Indian Embassy on 02 June, they apparently lashed out against what they perceive to be anti-black propaganda by defacing the nearly nine-foot bronze statue which installed by the Indian government in 2000.

“So sorry to see the desecration of the Gandhi statue,” stated Ambassador Juster.

“Please accept our sincere apologies. We stand against prejudice and discrimination of any type. We will recover and be better.” President Donald Trump followed up on 08 June, stating, “It was a disgrace.”

Gandhi is championed as a symbol of non-violent political resistance after his involvement in resisting Britain’s colonial rule over the Indian subcontinent.

The motive behind the vandalism, however, seems to be resistance to Gandhi’s past record of prejudice and discrimination.

Gandhi statues around the world have faced protests and legal battles for several years by groups alleging he advanced anti-black racism, promoted the caste system, and engaged in sexual abuse of his teenage female relatives.

“It was a disgrace for Ambassador Juster to apologize to the Indian government after protestors against racism vandalized a statue of a racist,” says Arvin Valmuci of Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI).

“While African intellectuals are leading the charge to remove Gandhi statues from their land, Black Lives Matter protestors are toppling statues of slave-owners erected on American soil.

This is a moment to stop, take stock, and apologize for promoting people who advanced doctrines of racism and segregation.”

In 2016, a Gandhi statue was removed from the University of Ghana after lecturers and students petitioned the government to remove the “racist symbol,” which was installed without consultation in a space which offers no statues or symbols of African heroes.

Law student Nana Adoma Asare Adei told the BBC: “Having his statue means that we stand for everything he stands for and if he stands for these things [his alleged racism], I don’t think we should have his statue on campus.”

The petition carefully details his racist identity, as well as citing similar efforts across the globe to remove racist symbols.

At Carleton University in 2018, Kenneth Aliu, president of the Institute of African Studies Student Association (IASSA), led a campaign to remove a statue of Gandhi from his campus. “Gandhi was a racist,” said Aliu.

“He utilized anti-Black racism as a weapon to bargain with the British about the subjugation of Indians living in South Africa.”

Aliu explained that Gandhi “advocated for further segregation between people of color” and “portrayed Africans as savages.”

Gandhi’s morality has also been the subject of growing controversy over recent years.

At a 2016 protest agains a Gandhi statue in Davis, California, The Sacramento Bee reported, “Gandhi was also called a pedophile by many in the crowd for sleeping nude with his teenage grandnieces to test the strength of his vow of chastity.”

Speaking bluntly, former Yuba City councillor Tej Maan said, “Gandhi was a child molester.”

Four police officers have been charged in the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who was killed on May 25 after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The kneeling officer is charged with second-degree murder. Days after the arrests are made, civil unrest continues.

“Though not all of us are participating in riots,” African activist Jada Bernard clarifies, “we do all understand that the catalyst for the riots was not the first rioter, but the last straw.”

Although sympathetic, citing the successful removal of Confederate statues as racist symbols, Bernard contends that the statue should not be defaced, but legally removed.

“We tend to overlook how softly powerful propaganda is. In New Orleans, I walked past a statue of Robert E Lee on Jefferson Davis Parkway.

It’s like the Confederacy won the war or something. Decolonization includes reevaluating all these people who are propagated as heroes.”

“The Indian government ought to be apologizing to the US for defrauding the African-American community by forcing Gandhi down their throats,” remarks former OFMI director Bhajan Singh.

“It’s a double-victimization. First, Gandhi supported apartheid in South Africa. Second, India used propagand him around the world to whitewash its slaughter of India’s minorities.

Where is the apology for passing off a racist, casteist, rapist monster as a global hero of civil rights?

The hypocrisy of the Hindu nationalist government in India knows no ends as they extort an apology from the US for the vandalism of a statue of a monster even while they are pushing their own variety of racism by working to strip Muslims of citizenship with the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.”

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity.

Visit OFMI.org for more information.

www.ofmi.org