The Print – Why disease and xenophobia go hand in hand

The central human fallacy is to assume that if international travel helps spread disease, a perceived “foreign” group is most likely to be carriers.

David Fickling

Op/Ed, 28 March 2020. Pandemics have always been fellow travelers of globalization. A third phenomenon stalks in their shadow: racism.

That’s worrying. The global threat of Covid-19 seems to be leading not to a unified global response, but to an American president who until Tuesday was describing it as a “Chinese virus” while officials in Beijing stirred up conspiracy theories on social media about a USA military origin for the disease.

Already, stories are proliferating of people subject to abuse and attacks for “coughing while Asian,” or being turned away from businesses because of actual or presumed Chinese ethnicity.

Sadly, there’s nothing new in this. As my colleague Pankaj Mishra has written, the current situation parallels events a century ago, when the first interconnected world economy unraveled into the chaos of World War I. It was disease, as much as war and revolution, that drove that collapse.

The age of sail had imposed a natural restraint on both epidemics and migration. It took as long as a month to cross the Atlantic, meaning any infections had already burned themselves out by the time a port was reached.

When typhus spread to North America among Irish emigrants fleeing the potato famine of the 1840s under sail, the onboard outbreaks were so notorious that the boats were nicknamed “coffin ships.”

Steamships changed all that, opening up ocean transport by drastically lowering its cost and cutting the time needed for transatlantic crossings to less than a week. That helped spark the first era of mass migration as millions of Europeans left for the new world, but it also put the length of a transatlantic journey well within the period when diseases could spread unnoticed.

Why disease and xenophobia go hand in hand

Dawn – Uncertain Afghan endgame

Maleeha Lodhi

Islamabad Capital Region – Pakistan, 23 March 2020. The global coronavirus crisis has understandably overshadowed the international endorsement earlier this month of the Doha agreement between the US and the Afghan Taliban.

On 10 March the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution welcoming the US-Taliban agreement as a significant step “towards ending the war and opening the door to intra-Afghan negotiations”.

This marked an important development as it conferred international legitimacy on the agreement signed in Qatar on 29 February. But other developments have been far more consequential for the peace process, already at a standstill following a series of setbacks.

The inability to start intra-Afghan talks slated for 10 March, deadlock over the prisoners’ release issue and the rival inauguration ceremonies of the Afghan president on 09 March, all underline how fraught the post-Doha situation has turned out to be. This raises serious questions about the future of the peace process as envisaged by the Doha accord.

While considering the ramifications of these developments it is important to keep in view the limits of the Doha agreement. This is indicated by its purposely vague nature in some respects and the obvious fact that it excluded the Afghan government with whom Washington signed a separate declaration.

The crux of the Doha agreement is Washington’s commitment to a total but phased withdrawal in return for the Taliban’s commitment to prevent Afghanistan’s soil from being used by terrorists and agreeing to intra-Afghan talks.

The rest consists of aspirational goals and timelines, with the Afghan parties left with the responsibility to negotiate a ceasefire and a political settlement to end the war.

Delay in starting intra-Afghan talks increases the risk of the Doha peace plan being derailed.

The agreement calls for intra-Afghan talks to begin on 10 March and assumes their progress but does not indicate when they are to conclude. It also does not specify when the new Islamic government is to be formed, within the 14-month period committed for the drawdown of US forces or after?

As many analysts have pointed out, for President Donald Trump the agreement to bring troops home ahead of the American presidential election (less than eight months away) is driven by domestic political calculations rather than any strategic thinking.

It enables him to deliver on his pledge to disengage America from an “endless war”.

This implies that his determination to pull out of Afghanistan appears to have priority over whether the negotiating process is able to yield enduring peace. From the Doha agreement and Trump’s statements it seems that the US may even be prepared to contemplate leaving Afghanistan without any meaningful long-term commitment.

At the declaratory level, Washington will continue to assert that the draw-down is conditions-based until full implementation of the agreement, but President Trump is hardly likely to change his long-held view that Afghanistan is a quagmire from which an exit, not staying on, is the best course.

“Countries,” he said after the Doha deal, “have to take care of themselves. You can only hold someone’s hand for so long.”

Disagreement over the prisoners’ release, which the Taliban insist is a prerequisite for commencement of an intra-Afghan dialogue, has become the immediate obstacle in the peace process.

But a bigger challenge is the political crisis sparked by the clash between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah over the disputed presidential election.

If not expeditiously addressed, the tussle can snowball into a bigger crisis. This would further delay intra-Afghan talks at a time when the US withdrawal is already under way while the Taliban have resumed operations against government forces and vice versa.

Several questions are raised by these developments. Will the start of the US drawdown mount enough pressure on Ghani and Abdullah to reconcile their differences and agree on a common negotiating team for intra-Afghan talks?

How engaged will the US be at this time to press the Afghan parties to compromise, preoccupied as it is, like other countries, with tackling the coronavirus emergency? Will a prolonged hiatus in peace talks unravel efforts to end the war especially if there is a renewal of significant violence?

For now, Ghani seems intent on using the prisoners issue as leverage to strengthen his hand with Washington and press Abdullah to back down and accept him as the legitimate president.

This brinkmanship, against the backdrop of parallel governments and regional leaders lining up with one or other side, risks further destabilising the situation and imperilling the peace process.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, while renewing attacks on government forces, have sought to demonstrate that they are sticking to their deal with the Americans.

On 14 March, the Taliban reiterated their commitment to eliminate the Islamic State (Daesh), which was promptly welcomed by US special representative, Zalmay Khalilzad as a “positive step”.

Nevertheless, the longer the delay in starting intra-Afghan negotiations the greater the risk of the peace plan mapped out at Doha being derailed and the country descending into political chaos. While Covid-19 will impose obvious limits on diplomatic efforts, Khalilzad has used it to press the urgency of resolving the prisoners dispute.

Yet despite his prolonged stay in Kabul, he has been unable so far, to overcome the impasse on both the prisoners issue and parallel governments. Nato, meanwhile, has expressed concern at the political turmoil.

For Pakistan it is imperative to accurately anticipate the likely scenarios that may evolve and be ready with a whole-of-government approach to respond to them. This exercise should neither be guided by wishful nor short-term thinking.

The best-case scenario of course is that the principal parties adhere to the agreement, work to reduce violence and defeat the machinations of domestic and regional spoilers even if the timelines change and stated positions are modified in order to make the arrangement work.

However, the risk of other scenarios materialising may be higher, in which the road map laid out at Doha is upended by the collapse of intra-Afghan negotiations or the failure of talks to resolve core issues even if the dialogue can somehow get going.

This could lead to a resurgence of violence which may in turn compel a reluctant US to slow down its withdrawal with unpredictable consequences. All this serves as a telling reminder that winning the peace is always much harder than waging war.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, UK and UN.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1543047/uncertain-afghan-endgame

The Tribune – Coronavirus: NRIs visiting Punjab stay put, as do those planning to come

Deepkamal Kaur

Jalandhar – Panjab – India, It was supposed to be a spring vacation for travel freak couple Amit Taneja and Monika Taneja and their children as they were to head to New York on March 3.

As the kids’ school session had just got over, the Jalandhar-based Tanejas had planned to take them to a host of tourist sites and catch up with their extended family settled in the USA during the 15-day break. But the entire plan went haywire in the wake of panic over the spread of corona-virus.

“I feel it was a wise decision. There is no point travelling amid so much scare,” says Amit. All his NRI relatives, too, have shelved their plans to come to India, “My Surrey-based uncle, who had his flight booked for 26 March, has got it cancelled.

My Vancouver-based cousin, who was to be here for a wedding, is skipping it. Another friend, who was in Kapurthala and was to leave after construction of his house, advanced his tickets to New York by 22 days.”

More than the Indian tourists, it is the NRIs who are affected. Currently at their native places in Doaba region of Punjab, there are many who have chosen to extend their stay here.

Though most of them hail from the US, UK and Canada, they said they were avoiding travel as they were scared of catching the respiratory infection from other tourists at the airport.

Tara Singh Gosal, a Calgary-based NRI, said, “As many as 15 persons from my family are at our native home in Nawanshahr. We were to return on 02 March but we cancelled our flights as everyone advised us to take precaution. Everyone’s work is getting affected, but we have no choice. We will leave only after the virus threat subsides.”

Kulwant Singh Mahal and wife Bhagwinder Kaur, who are currently at their native Kot Fatuhi village of Mahilpur (Hoshiarpur) and were to go back to Milpitas city in California, have deferred their plans to return. “We will now go only after the Covid-19 threat goes off.”

Now that they are stuck here, NRIs are staying away from crowded places and gatherings in Punjab too. Most elderly NRIs have especially chosen to put off their travel for a longer period because they have been warned that aged people with a chronic history of diabetes, heart problems, high BP and compromised immunity are more prone to the infection.

They are also sceptical about quarantine policies upon arrival, which could lead to their isolation and confinement for 14 days at hospitals. There are monetary issues involved as well, as some of them have got refunds from airlines upon cancellation but many have been denied. Also, all direct flights have become very expensive.

Academicians put brakes

Several international conferences are being postponed. Professor Lakhwinder Pal Singh from Dr B R Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, said he had been invited to Dubai for a conference where he was to receive an award, besides presenting a paper and chairing a session.

But he received a communication that the conference had been cancelled and it would now be held on virtual mode. “They sent me the award by mail asking me to send soft copies of Power Point presentations which would be shown in an e-conference.”

Another professor from the same institute who was to go to Bangkok for a conference on chemical engineering too received a cancellation notice. Director, Public Relations from Lovely Professional University, Aman Mittal said he cancelled his Europe trip last week.

Slump in tourism

For tourism and airlines companies, there has been a complete slump. Amir Hussain, director of sales and marketing, Dream Fly Vacation, said, “Our business has fallen badly with most customers either cancelling or postponing their travel plans. Our company was taking two big corporate trips, one of 195 persons to Dubai and another of 90 members to Sri Lanka.

Both have been cancelled. We had made advance payments for hotel bookings and cannot refund the money. Even though April, May and June are peak travel months, there are no fresh queries for advance bookings. People are on a wait-and-watch mode.”

Trade affected, prices up

Traders who had been importing material from China are looking for other possible sources. Amit Sehgal, president of the Phagwara Gate Electrical Goods Market Association, said, “Some dealers would earlier go to China to buy new stuff but no one is now even thinking of travelling.

Supplies from China have been curtailed. There is a spurt in the prices of electrical items as a result. The prices of LED bulbs have already shot up by 10 per cent. The prices of spare parts like pumps used in coolers and fan bearings have gone up by 20-25 per cent.”

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/coronavirus-nris-visiting-punjab-stay-put-as-do-those-planning-to-come-55548

The Hindustan Times – New York Times report on Delhi riots criticised by Indian Police Service Association

WSJ journalist faces another complaint

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 13 March 2020. The Indian Police Service Association has hit out at a report in The New York Times that blamed Delhi’s police force for being a part of the recent violence in the capital, and a senior representative of The Wall Street Journal was at the receiving end of a private complaint for “anti-India behaviour”.

In a statement, the Indian Police Service Association claimed India was governed by the “rule of law” and no one had “immunity from killing anyone”. The association said: “Our heart bleeds for every victim of a riot and the objective is to always minimise the loss and bring the guilty to justice.”

The NYT report said that two-thirds of the “more than 50 people” who were killed and have been identified were Muslim. “More evidence is emerging that the Delhi police, who are under the direct command of Mr Modi’s government and have very few Muslim officers, concertedly moved against Muslims and at times actively helped the Hindu mobs,” the report said.

NYT spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said, “Our story was rigorously reported by staff on the ground in New Delhi, and based on numerous witness statements, videos that are widely available and have been confirmed authentic and information provided by police officials. The facts in our story are not in dispute.”

The Association’s comments drew sharp reactions on social media, with a large number of persons posting videos of security personnel beating up men and forcing them to sing the national anthem.

Journalist Ajai Shukla tweeted, “Of course this is a foreign conspiracy! Don’t we all know what a skilled, incorruptible, professional and apolitical police India has!!”

Sidrah, another Twitter user, said, “There are videos of Delhi Police leading rioters, pelting stones with them; call records of lack of response from helplines; people being humiliated and made to sing the national anthem, Jamia brutalities, Daryaganj?”

Regarding the case of Eric Bellman, South Asia Deputy Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal, the official spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry Raveesh Kumar said the complaint against the senior journalist was filed by a “private individual” which was a “routine matter”.

However, Prasar Bharati News Services, tweeted that the Ministry had asked the Indian Embassy in the USA “to look into the request for immediate deportation of The Wall Street Journal’s South Asia Bureau Chief Eric Bellman for ‘anti-India behaviour”. The tweet was deleted later.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-york-times-and-wall-street-journal-in-governments-focus/article31063113.ece

OFMI – Ro Khanna Calls India’s Proposed National Register of Citizens “Absurd”

Congressman warns about NRC’s potential for “extraordinary discrimination” against Muslims

Santa Clara – California – USA, 11 March 2020. Speaking at a constituent town hall at Santa Clara University, Congressman Ro Khanna denounced India’s proposed National Register of Citizens as “absurd” and warned it could lead to “extraordinary discriminations against Muslims in India.”

“You expressed a commitment towards pluralism and for protecting the rights of religious minorities in the face of rising Hindutva,” a Muslim constituent said to Khanna at the February 21 event.

“I’m wondering if you will show that commitment to your Muslim constituents by condemning the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Registry of Citizens, both of which are an extension of Hindu nationalism.” The congressman responded:

“I have spoken out against both the Citizenship Act and also the National Registry. The National Registry is absurd.

No country should have a national registry where they’re asking for people to give documentation and prove that they’re part of the country. I fear any kind of national registry could lead to extraordinary discrimination against Muslims in India.

I’ve spoken out against the Citizenship Act, just like I’ve spoken out against the ban in our country, and I said, ‘You can’t discriminate people coming into our country based on their religious faith.’ I don’t think India should be discriminating who they’re going to give expedited citizenship [to] based on faith. I think both of those policies are wrong.”

When India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party passed the Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom warned that the law “enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion.”

On 23 February, USCIRF further warned, “There are serious concerns that the CAA serves as a protective measure for non-Muslims in case of exclusion from a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), a proposed list of all Indian citizens.

This purpose is evident from BJP politicians’ rhetoric. With the CAA in place, Muslims would primarily bear the punitive consequences of exclusion from the NRC which could include ‘statelessness, deportation, or prolonged detention,’ according to three United Nations Special Rapporteurs.”

“America needs more people in Congress with the courage and honesty of Ro Khanna,” says Arvin Valmuci of Organization for Minorities of India. “As a Hindu-American politician, his outspokenness against the Hindu nationalist agenda that is bringing misery to so many Indians is truly historic. We urge Congressman Khanna to continue to champion the human rights of all, especially the oppressed people of India.”

Khanna’s remarks came shortly before an anti-Muslim pogrom broke out in Delhi on 23 February. Over 50 people were killed by mobs acting in collaboration with the police. The violence began after a BJP leader threatened to “take to the streets” to clear away sit-in protests against the CAA and the NRC.

“This deadly surge of religious intolerance in India is horrifying,” said Hindu-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal on February 25. “Democracies should not tolerate division and discrimination, or promote laws that undermine religious freedom. The world is watching.”

Last year, Khanna made headlines when he stated, “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist[s], & Christians.” Hindutva is the BJP’s religious nationalist political ideology which treats non-Hindus as foreign to India.

According to India Abroad, Ritesh Tandon, who is challenging Khanna for his seat in Congress, “was motivated to run by Khanna’s alleged anti-Hindutva comments.” Referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh paramilitary, which is the parent group of the BJP, Tandon says his father was “a strong RSS person.”

Tandon has faced accusations that he was recruited and promoted by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the international wing of the RSS. In October 2019, the HSS had organized a protest against Khanna over his statement against Hindutva.

“We want more than lip service from Ro Khanna,” says West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara President Balbir Singh Dhillon.

He recalls his experience being falsely arrested in India in the 1990s. Held for two months, he was tortured in custody and only released after over 50 US congressional representatives signed a letter to the US State Department that pressured India to admit it had no proof he committed any crime.

“The Indian government’s long track record of violating human rights with impunity has escalated into the Delhi Pogrom against Muslims that we saw in late February,” says Dhillon. “The time for denouncing its atrocities without acting to prevent them passed long ago. We want Khanna to act to get the US government to sanction individuals like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.”

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.[centre/italics]

www.OFMI.org

Tolo News – Abdullah: High Level Talks About Crisis Ongoing

Reuters has reported that the United States has asked Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to defer his second-term inauguration.

Anisa Shaheed

Kabul – Afghanistan, 25 February 2020. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Tuesday said that his recent talks and meetings with some of Afghanistan’s mainstream political leaders, including former president Hamid Karzai, former mujahideen leader Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, and the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalamy Khalilzad, were focused on the election crisis.

Abdullah, speaking to media after meeting with tribal elders in Kabul, once again rejected the announcement of the presidential election results by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) as ‘illegitimate.”

“The illegitimate announcement of the election led to the crisis, and, so far, no one has accepted the election results,” said Abdullah in a question asked by TOLO news’ reporter Anisa Shaheed about reports that Abdullah had been asked to accept the results.

However, Abdullah refrained from providing any further details about his talks with the political leaders, but said that the talks and meetings will continue.

Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that the United States has asked Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to defer his second-term inauguration over concerns it could inflame an election feud with his political rival and jeopardize US-led peacemaking efforts.

The presidential palace so far has not made a comment about the report by Reuters.

Both Abdullah and Ghani previously said that they will be sworn in as president on Thursday.

“Mr Khalilzad told us that the US was not aware of the issue, but I don’t think that the US was unaware of the move by Arg (presidential palace),” said Sayed Eshaq Gailani, head of Nahzat-e-Hambastagi Afghanistan party.

“I want to make one suggestion to our foreign partners, and that is keeping silence over transparency issues in the election process is a sin,” said Anwarul Haq Ahadi, the former Minister of Finance who runs as Chief Executive in Abdullah’s campaign team.

“Today we gathered here to endorse the truthfulness of Dr. Abdullah and to show the support of the Pashtun people to him,” said Haji Din Mohammad, the deputy head of the High Peace Council (HPC).

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/abdullah-high-level-talks-about-crisis-ongoing

The Hindu – Shared values between India-USA are discrimination, bigotry, hostility towards refugees: Amnesty International

Amnesty International hit out at the Indian government over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, saying it legitimises discrimination based on religious grounds

New Delhi- India, 24 February 2020. The shared values between India and the USA are “discrimination, bigotry, and hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers”, Amnesty International USA said in a joint statement with Amnesty International India ahead of USA President Donald Trump’s visit to India on Monday.

Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as senior officials of his administration, landed in Ahmedabad on the first leg of his two-day visit to India.

“Anti-Muslim sentiment permeates the policies of both the USA and Indian leaders. For decades, the USA-India relationship was anchored by claims of shared values of human rights and human dignity. Now, those shared values are discrimination, bigotry, and hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers, Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA’s executive director, was quoted as saying in the statement.

It was a reference to the anti-CAA protests in India, the internet lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir and the Muslim ban expansion by President Trump affecting Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania, the statement said.

It added that Amnesty International USA’s researchers travelled to Lebanon and Jordan to conduct nearly 50 interviews with refugees that as a result of the previous version of the ban have been stranded in countries where they face restrictive policies, increasingly hostile environments, and lack the same rights as permanent residents or citizens.

The statement also came down hard on the Indian government, hitting out at the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019 and saying it legitimises discrimination based on religious grounds.

It criticised statements such as identify them (the protestors) by their clothes or shoot the traitors by Prime Minister Modi and his party workers. Such remarks “peddled the narrative of fear and division that has fuelled further violence”, it said.

The internet and political lockdown in Kashmir has lasted for months and the enactment of CAA and the crackdown on protests has shown a leadership that is lacking empathy and a willingness to engage.

We call on President Trump and Prime Minister Modi to work with the international community and address our concerns in their bilateral conversations, Avinash Kumar, executive director, Amnesty International India said in the statement.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/shared-values-between-india-us-are-discrimination-bigotry-hostility-towards-refugees-amnesty/article30901690.ece

The Asian Age – Donald Trump to flag CAA, religion

Economic and energy ties as well as cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region will also be discussed, the US said.

Sridhar Kumaraswami

New Delhi – India, 23 February 2020. US President Donald Trump will raise the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and religious freedom issues with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit next week, and he will convey that “the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law”, the US administration said on Saturday.

It added that President Trump “will also encourage bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan” on the Kashmir issue, adding that the US expects Pakistan to crack down on terror outfits operating there.

The US said the “Make in India” campaign raised fears in the US of “protectionist” policies by New Delhi, while pointing to “the failure of the Indian government to provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors”.

Economic and energy ties as well as cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region will also be discussed, the US said.

In response to a question on the CAA, the US administration said, “President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration.

And I think that the President will talk about these issues in his meetings with Mr Modi and note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, respect for religious minorities.”

The US administration added, “Prime Minister Modi, in his first speech after winning the election last year, talked about how he would prioritise being inclusive of India’s religious minorities. And, certainly, the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law.

Of course, it’s in the Indian constitution, religious freedom, respect for religious minorities, and equal treatment of all religions in India. We have great respect for India’s democratic traditions and institutions, and we will continue to encourage India to uphold those traditions.

India is a country rich in religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. In fact, it’s the birthplace of four major world religions.”

On Kashmir and Pakistan, the US said, “What you’ll hear from the President is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences.

We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that.

But I think the President will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the line of control and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region.”

On whether India’s “participation” in the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), that had earlier given India many concessions could be “restored”, the US said, “The concerns that led to the revocation, suspension of India’s GSP access remains a concern for us. We continue to talk to our Indian colleagues about addressing these market access barriers.”

https://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/230220/donald-trump-to-flag-caa-religion.html

The Asian Age – Donald Trump’s visit sparks fear among J&K Sikhs

Trump and First Lady Melania are scheduled to travel to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on 24 and 25 February.

Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 23 February 2020. The US President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit of India has caused fear psychosis and panic among the Sikhs of Kashmir Valley as they are reminded of the ‘horror’ of the night of March 19, 2000 when as many as 35 members of the minority community were massacred by gunmen in Chattisinghpora village of southern Anantnag district during then President Bill Clinton’s official visit of the country.

Stating this, Jagmohan Singh Raina, chairman of All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC), an amalgam of J&K’s Sikh organizations, said that the Sikhs of the Valley have to face such fearful situation whenever a high profile foreign personality, especially, that from USA visits India.

“The whole of India seems to be busy in making preparations for Mr Trump’s visit, but for Sikhs of Kashmir, the visit has brought in fears that the members of community are yet again on the radar.

The Sikhs are feeling insecure and they fear that something untoward might happen on the eve of Donald Trump’s visit,” Mr. Raina said in a statement here on Saturday.

In 2000, on the intervening night of 19 and 20 March, when the then US President Mr. Clinton was in India, 35 Sikhs were shot dead by gunmen in Army uniforms after descending to Chattisinghpora. A local woman had also died of cardiac arrest on seeing piles of bullet-riddled corpses of the victims, raising the toll to 36.

The authorities had blamed the gory incident on separatist militants. Five days after the massacre, Army and J&K police had claimed that five perpetrators were killed in an encounter in Anantnag’s Pathribal area and all of them were foreign terrorists.

But later, it turned out to be a fake encounter and all the five slain men were unarmed civilians, who were picked up by the forces from different areas of the district earlier. Subsequently, at least ten persons were also killed after security forces opened fire on the people protesting against the fake encounter in Anantnag’s Brakapora area.

The CBI had in 2006 chargesheeted Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt. Colonel Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan for killing five civilians.

However, in January 2014, the Army closed the Pathribal fake encounter case, asserting that the evidence recorded couldn’t establish a prime-facie case against any of the accused.

The Army had taken up the case from the civil court in 2012 following the directions of the Supreme Court before which it has earlier challenged the charge-sheet filed by the CBI, which had described the incident as staged encounter and the killing of the civilian as a cold-blooded murder.

Even after the lapse of nearly two decades the people of J&K particularly the Sikhs of the Valley are still waiting for the justice to be delivered. Mr Raina said that the scars inflicted on the Sikhs of the Valley during Mr Clinton’s visit “are yet to be removed even after 20 years as the people who carried out the crime are yet to be identified”.

He said, “It is highly unfortunate that neither the Government of India nor the successive J&K governments have reached to any conclusion with respect to identifying the killers of Sikhs at Chattisinghpora. The people at helm have just been making claims and truth of the matter is killers continue to roam free,” he added.

He said the Sikhs of the Valley were gripped by panic also during the India visit of (former) President Barrack Obama “but, fortunately, nothing untoward happened”. He, however, asked the Sikh living in village of north and south Kashmir “to remain alert and vigilant” during the Trump visit.

http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/230220/donald-trumps-visit-sparks-fear-among-jk-sikhs.html

The Hindu – CAA will adversely impact Muslims in India, says USCIRF

The panel’s report says Act and NRC are based on Hindutva ideology of BJP

Kallol Bhattacharjee

New Delhi – India, 20 February 2020. The new citizenship law of India will adversely impact the Muslim community of the country, a legislative report in the United States has declared.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and the National Register of Citizenship were based on the Hindutva ideoglogy of the BJP and expressed concern that Muslims may become stateless in India.

“With the CAA in place, Muslims would primarily bear the punitive consequences of exclusion from the NRC which could include statelessness, deportation, or prolonged detention,’ said a new factsheet on CAA produced by USCIRF.

The report also highlighted comments from various members of the BJP, who expressed plans to exclude Muslims from India.

The observations are significant as they come three days before the arrival of President Donald Trump and are amplified by similar concerns that were conveyed to the government by USA Congressmen Ami Bera and George Holding, who met Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla on Wednesday.

“Hindutva political rhetoric questions the legitimacy of Muslims’ Indian citizenship and perpetuates the further marginalization of this faith community. The BJP Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath, for example, promised in 2005 to cleanse India of other religions, calling this the ‘century of Hindutva’,” said the USCIRF.

The document also cited extensively from concerns expressed by the UN reports and observations that have described the controversial CAA as biased against the minority Muslim community of India.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/caa-will-adversely-impact-muslims-in-india-says-uscirf/article30868490.ece