Tolo News – Britain to almost double troops in Afghanistan

Theresa May made the announcement on the eve of NATO’s heads of state summit in Brussels, where a meeting on Afghanistan will be held.

London UK, 11 July 2018. The British government is planning to almost double the number of its troops in Afghanistan after a request from US President Donald Trump for reinforcements to help tackle the fragile security situation.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced her government will send an extra 440 troops, which would bring Britain’s total to about 1,100, to help Afghan troops fighting Taliban and Daesh insurgents.

The extra troops will be taking part in NATO-led Resolute Support, to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. They will be based in Kabul.

The announcement comes the day before a NATO summit in Belgium that could turn contentious over US President Donald Trump’s insistence that allies pay more for their defense.

Trump, who announced the United States would send thousands more troops to Afghanistan last year, has asked Britain and other NATO countries to send more reinforcements to the country.

“In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan we have underlined once again that when NATO calls the UK is among the first to answer,” May said.

“NATO is as vital today as it ever has been and our commitment to it remains steadfast. The Alliance can rely on the UK to lead by example.”

The increase in British troops comes ahead of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in October.

The extra British troops will initially come from the Welsh Guards, with around half arriving in August and the rest in February next year.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed and wounded in attacks in Kabul this year. At least 57 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a voter registration booth in April and about 100 people were killed in January by a bomb in an ambulance.

Thousands more US troops have been sent to Afghanistan to help train the army, and commanders have been given greater authority to carry out air strikes against the militants in a major reversal of the previous policy of phased withdrawal of American forces.

May’s announcement came on the eve of NATO’s two-day heads of state summit in Brussels.

Speaking ahead of the start of the summit on Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference that NATO would close the summit with a meeting on Afghanistan, joined by Resolute Support partners.

“We will continue our presence in Afghanistan to put pressure on Taliban so they join the peace process.”

“Our presence in Afghanistan is vital to ensuring the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.

“And Allies are increasing their commitment, both in forces and funding. We have added around 3,000 more trainers to our mission,” he said.

Stoltenberg also said: “I expect we will also agree to extend funding for the Afghan forces beyond 2020. And we’ll express our full support for President Ghani’s bold peace initiative. And his government’s reforms.”

Advertisements – SGPC asks US Gurdwara Committees to help Oregon Sikh Detainees

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 23 June 2018. The SGPC president S. Gobind Singh Longowal has directed the Gurdwara Committees to help the Sikhs being detained at the detention centre of Sheridan in Oregon state. Notably, 123 illegal immigrants, including 52 Indians (mostly Sikhs) were detained by the US police earlier this week.

In a press note shared with Sikh24, Longowal has said that the SGPC will contact the Indian Foreign Minister Mrs Sushma Swaraj in this concern.

Pained over the inhuman torture being endured by the detained immigrants, Longowal has said that no country in this world holds any right to subject detainees to inhuman treatment. He added that it was very unfortunate that the Sikh immigrants are being kept confined in a small cell for 22 hours.

Meanwhile, the SGPC has appealed the Sikh masses to refrain from adopting illegal tactics to immigrate into developed countries. – Fifth Annual ‘March for Freedom’ draws thousands of Sikhs from all over California

Sikh24 Editors

San Francisco – California – USA, 11 June 2018. Sikh community of California marched on June 10th to commemorate the 34th anniversary of attack on the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple), the most sacred Sikh shrine in Amritsar, by the Indian government in 1984.

The march started from 2nd Street and ended at Civic Centre Plaza of San Francisco downtown. An estimated gathering of 10,000 Sikhs walked on Market Street and covered one mile of every inch.

Sikh gathering reached at Civic Centre Plaza at 1:50PM and spent 3 hours on presentations, recorded speech of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and eye witnesses of attack followed by prominent speakers of Sikh community such as Bibi Navkiran Kaur Khalra, Bhai Ram Singh, Bhai Sandeep Singh Barnala, Bhai Jatinder Singh Grewal and Dr. Amarjit Singh.

All speakers insisted on having a separate state known as Khalistan.

In June 1984, more than 150,000 Indian army troops, equipped with helicopter gunships and tanks, were sent to the northern Indian state of Punjab where the Indian army unleashed an attack on its own citizens unprecedented in post-independence India. Various other Sikh shrines were simultaneously attacked.

In November 1984 thousands of Sikhs faced genocide in India. This was followed by a decade in which Government of India commenced a sweeping crackdown on Sikhs across Punjab.

Sikh males, particularly youth, were rounded up, taken away and murdered extra-judicially. Three decades later, justice continues to elude those whose lives were affected by the violence.

Historically, Sikhs had one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world throughout the 19th century under Maharajah Ranjit Singh. When the British occupied it in 1849 after his death, Sikhs decided to part with India in 1947 when the British offered India independence.

But after the attack of 1984, Sikhs again started fighting for their homeland.

The ‘March for Freedom’ is being organized to urge the international community to accept that the Sikh nation has an impeccable case for self-determination in the form of a sovereign state and that such a state would bring regional peace and stability.

India’s official rejection of the right of self-determination, as enshrined in Article 1 of the 1966 UN Covenant, is an untenable and outlandish position which the international community should see as a direct cause of the conflicts in Punjab.

Sikhs seek right of self-determination so that the conflict and violence may be avoided, and communities are able to live together in peace.

BBC News – The Scot who was the sex guru’s bodyguard

Myles Bonnar & Steven Brocklehurst

BBC Scotland, 04 June 2018. Hugh Milne was a disciple of Indian “sex guru” Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh from his very early days but his dream of an enlightened community based on love and kindness came crashing down in spectacular style.

The popular Netflix series Wild Wild Country documented how the charismatic but controversial Bhagwan Rajneesh relocated from his ashram in India to create a commune for thousands of followers on a 64,000-acre ranch in the US State of Oregon.

Over a five-year period there were legal confrontations and tensions with residents as well as attempted murder, election rigging, arms smuggling and a mass poisoning that still ranks as the largest bio-terror attack in US history.

Hugh Milne, from Edinburgh, spent almost a decade at close quarters with the mystic, who is reckoned to have had 90 Rolls Royces.

Over that period, Bagwhan Rajneesh inspired him, slept with his girlfriend and sent him to do hard labour.

For many years Hugh served as the Bhagwan’s bodyguard, with the main task of stopping his followers touching him.

In the decade that Hugh was with him, Rajneesh presided over the rapid expansion of a movement from “20 followers to 20,000”.

“These are not 20,000 people who are buying a magazine,” Hugh says.

“These are people who have left home, left their families, given up everything and will work 60 to 80 hours a week for no pay and live in dormitories.

“It’s that kind of commitment.”

Hugh, who is now 70, was born in Lanark because it was the only natural child birth centre in Scotland.

He grew up in Edinburgh, where his family were linked to the Kingston Clinic, founded by his grandfather James C Thomson, who promoted natural treatments such as hydrotherapy.

In 1973, after finishing his training as an osteopath, 25-year-old Hugh went to India after hearing the teachings of Bhagwan Rajneesh on audio cassettes.

“When you meet such a remarkable man it has an extraordinary impact on your being,” says Hugh, who in India went by the name of Swami Shivamurti.

“I thought ‘what a wonderful, wise, kind, loving, sentient being this is’.

“I wanted to sit at his feet and learn from him.”

Hugh, who published a book about the Bhagwan called The God That Failed, says he was never a God in the Christian sense.

“I saw him as a highly-evolved human being with extraordinary gifts of perception and understanding,” he says.

He says the Bhagwan, who adopted the name Osho in the years before his death in 1990, was a “chameleon” who became whatever people needed him to be.

Although Hugh says he found his one-to-one meetings with the Bhagwan, known as dharshans, “quite revelatory”, he still struggled with life in India at first.

Within the first 18 months Bhagwan Rajneesh began to sleep with Hugh’s girlfriend and then sent him away to work on a farm in one of the hottest parts of India.

Hugh says Rajneesh, who was in his early 40s at the time, had “special” darshans with female followers at four in the morning.

“He got the soubriquet The Sex Guru in part because he talked a lot about sex and orgasm in his public lectures and partly because it was quite well-known that he slept with his female followers,” Hugh says.

Hugh admits that he was jealous and considered leaving the ashram but he says some part of him thought it would work out for the best.

“I knew he was a sex guru. It was par for the course,” he says.

“We were all sexually liberated. Very few people were monogamous. It was a different context in 1973.”

Hugh says his relationship with his girlfriend had a “new quality” after the special darshans but it was shortlived because the Bhagwan sent him to a farm 400 miles away.

When he came back he became the bodyguard of Ma Yoga Laxmi, Rajneesh’s personal secretary.

She had been violently attacked when a follower, or sannyasin as they are called, had been denied a darshan.

Laxmi told Hugh he needed to guard the Bhagwan as well.

Rajneesh claimed to be uncomfortable with the idea of denying his followers access to him but Hugh says the guru could not stand people touching him or kissing his feet.

“He found it distasteful,” he says.

For the next seven years, Hugh was one of the high-level sannyasins who created a “certain sanctity” around the Bhagwan.

Another of the inner circle was Ma Anand Sheela, who features heavily in the Netflix documentary about the Oregon commune.

Sheela was Indian but went to college in New Jersey and married an American before returning to study with the Bhagwan.

Hugh says he worked alongside Sheela when they were running the canteen of the ashram in Pune, which was growing in size as the Bhagwan attracted more followers.

Hugh says he and Sheela had an intense affair for a month before her husband asked Rajneesh to stop it.

After it ended Sheela’s demeanour to Hugh changed and it caused him problems as she rose up the ashram hierarchy, replacing Laxmi as Rajneesh’s personal secretary.

It was Sheela who was the driving force behind the commune’s move to Oregon.

Rajneesh was attracting controversy in India and he wanted an ideal place to extend and settle a new community with tens of thousands of followers.

Sheela bought the Big Muddy Ranch in Oregon in 1981 with little regard to local laws and set the Sannyasins to work on building a new city based on Rajneeshi beliefs.

“I regard Oregon as a mistake,” says Hugh. “It was a disastrous choice.”

He says they were in contravention of local laws right from the start.

Sheela and a small band of followers did everything they could to be able to continue with their plans.

This involved harassing and intimidating the people of nearby Antelope before moving to larger targets and plotting to kill State government officials.

More than 750 people contracted salmonella when salad bars at local restaurants were poisoned by the Sannyasins in an attempt to rig an election.

The Rajneeshis claimed they were being persecuted by the authorities and the conservative establishment but Hugh says they brought trouble on themselves by having so little care for the rule of law.

By April 1982, Hugh says he was having doubts about the commune.

It was no longer about love and kindness and meditation, he says.

Hugh was working as an osteopath in the health centre on the ranch.

The Sannyasins, who were working 80 to 100 hours a week to build the commune, were “falling apart”.

He says Sheela’s directions on how to treat them when they came to health centre were “inhuman”.

“She said ‘give them an injection and send them back to work’,” Hugh says.

On another occasion, he was forbidden to go looking for a friend who had capsized in his canoe on the river and ordered to go back to work.

“I thought ‘we are becoming a monster’,” he says. “Why am I still here?”

Hugh left Oregon in November 1982.

“For a period I was a basket case,” he says.

“I was so confused and torn apart, I could not handle things.”

He spent six weeks in a psychiatric hospital before trying to rebuild his life.

Hugh says he spent some time working as an osteopath in Edinburgh before he moved to London, Zurich and California, where he has been since 1985.

He says the events depicted in the documentary series Wild Wild Country largely took place after he left and he knew very little about the full extent of what Sheela was doing.

But did Rajneesh know what Sheela and her supporters were up to?

“I have no doubt at all that he knew,” says Hugh. – SGPC Asks India to act immediately to control rising racial attacks on Sikhs

By Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 29 May 2018. Taking strong notice of the rising racial attacks on Sikhs in India as well as abroad, the SGPC president Sardar Gobind Singh Longowal has appealed the Union government of India to immediately pay attention towards it.

He has said that when the Indian government needs to ensure safety of Sikhs all around the world at the same time the Sikhs are being attacked in India.

Strongly condemning the racial attack on a Sikh youth in Karnataka, Longowal has said that it is very unfortunate that the Sikh community is being subjected to racial discrimination despite making more than 80% sacrifices in getting the India liberated from British regime.

Notably, a Sikh youth named Avtar Singh was attacked by a mob of 30-40 people in North Karnataka’s Kalburgi on May 19. Besides thrashing him brutally, the out-of-control mob had also removed his turban.

Longowal has asked the Union government of India to direct Karnataka’s state government to bring responsible culprits to justice at the earliest.

It is pertinent to note here that the incidents of attack on Sikhs in India are continuously coming to fore. Recently, a Sikh man’s turban was removed by three goons in Lucknow following which the victim Sikh man shot dead trio of them on spot.

SGPC president has also condoled the unfortunate death of a Sikh youth Sardar Jaspreet Singh who had fell victim to racial attack in Cincinnati city of USA. He has asked the Indian government to build up pressure on USA government to bring attacker to justice.

The Times of India – Eco-Sikh launches compostable bags to tackle rising pollution

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 27 May 2018. In a crucial step to spread awareness about the use of eco-friendly plastic bags, members of Eco-Sikh, a US-based environment organization, on Saturday launched compostable bags made out of potato and corn/bio-based starch, to control rising pollution levels aggravated by the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags across India.

The eco-friendly starch bags were introduced at an event in Gurdwara Sri Dukhniwaran Sahib on Saturday, where heads of all major religions gathered to send out a message of peace and harmony, and create awareness about the use of eco-friendly products in day-to-day life.

Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) members also shared the stage with Eco-Sikh members and heads of different religious groups.

Eco-Sikh India president Supreet Kaur, while addressing a packed gathering, said: “Eco-friendly plastic bags are the future, as pollution levels are increasing every day with the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags. These bags play a crucial role in controlling pollution levels across the globe”.

They have the capability to decompose naturally in 180 days when exposed to water or sunlight, or disposed of in garbage. Even if they are consumed by animals, they are not harmful to them.

Moreover, the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags in religious places has increased in the recent past.

Because of this, we have started this service from the gurdwara, so that people take this issue seriously, and make an effort to bring these bags into their daily use.

The eco-friendly starch plastic bags were introduced at an event in Gurdwara Sri Dukhniwaran Sahib on Saturday, where heads of all major religions gathered to send out a message of peace and harmony, and create awareness about the use of eco-friendly products in day-to-day life.

Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) members also shared the stage with Eco-Sikh members and heads of different religious groups.

Speaking on the occasion, PPCB chief engineer Pradeep Gupta said: “Next month, India is hosting the World Environment Day on 5 June, under the theme ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.

PPCB will make all efforts to popularize the manufacturing and sale of bio-degradable bags on a large-scale, to overcome rising pollution levels due to the use of plastic bags. We are supporting every effort being taken to save the environment and future of the earth by different organizations.”

Extending his gratitude to PPCB and the religious bodies, including Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib, Gurdwara Sarabha Nagar, Jama Masjid (Field Ganj), Durga Temple, Gyan Sthal, and Sri Krishna Mandir, Eco-Sikh Board member Jaspreet Singh said: “The use of plastic bags has brought Punjab on the top in terms of pollution.

According to past PPCB reports, Punjab produces about 4,300 tonnes of garbage every day, most of which is not recycled and ends up polluting the rivers and our soil. Looking at all statistics, these bags are the need of the an hour. Eco-Sikh has taken up the matter bio-degradable plastic bags, which will conserve nature and preserve our future.”. – USA – Sikh man shot at in Ohio dies of injuries

The man arrested for the shooting was indicted on felony murder.

Monroe City – Ohio – USA, A Sikh truck driver who was shot at on May 12 in the United States died of his injuries, PTI reported on Sunday. Jaspreet Singh was shot at by Broderick Malik Jones Roberts while sitting in his car in Ohio’s Monroe city, reported local newspaper Journal-News.

On May 14, the Hamilton Ohio police department arrested Roberts on charges of felonious assault. He was initially indicted for aggravated robbery, felonious assault and possessing weapons under disability.

After Singh’s death on Thursday, prosecutors Michael Gmoser re-presented the case to a grand jury, who indicted Roberts on felony murder, reported local newspaper India West.

A judge of the Hamilton Municipal Court set a bond of $1 million (Rs 6.7 crore), substantially increasing it from the initial amount of $ 1,25,000 (Rs 84 lakh). Roberts is scheduled to be back in court on May 31.

Roberts has a criminal history and was sent to prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to trespass, unlawful restraint and assault, reported PTI.

Advocacy group The Sikh Coalition said no evidence has been released to suggest there was any bias involved in the incident. The group’s legal team has been in contact with relevant authorities in Cincinnati and continues to monitor the case.

Singh had been living in the US for about eight years.

Outlook India – NDA government has almost done away with blacklist of overseas Sikhs: Ram Madhav

Washington DC, USA, 21 May 2018. The NDA government has almost done away with the “blacklist” of overseas Sikhs which denied them an Indian visa, a senior BJP leader told Sikh community members in Washington on Monday.

The blacklisted NRI Sikhs are barred from travelling to India due to their alleged ties with Khalistan movement in the 80s and 90s. The list was prepared at different levels by the security agencies.

The names in the list, and denial of India visas to them, of late, has been one of the main reasons of discontent among the Sikh communities in the US.

“We have almost done away with the most inhuman black list, which used to deny the community their right to visit India, the right to visit Harmandr sahib, right to meet with their relatives, near and dear ones,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav told a congregation of Sikhs at one of the oldest Gurdwaras of Maryland in a suburb of Washington DC.

“The (black) list has been almost completely removed. Only a few individuals remain (on the list). Those names will also go,” he said.

Early this year, several Sikh Gurdwaras in the US had announced that they would not let any Indian government official to address their congregation. A large number of Gurdwaras had later denied such a move.

Madhav said the the government has approached the Supreme Court to cancel anticipatory bails of those who had led the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, that took the lives of more than 3,000 people, so that they can be put behind the bars, he said.

Madhav also addressed a gathering of Indian Americans where he said the BJP wants to be ruling in all the 29 states of India.

“We narrowly missed the 22nd State. It should rightfully belong to us. People voted for Mukti from Congress,” he said and alleged that the Congress-brand politics has made a “back-door entry” to power in Karnataka, even after it lost the recently concluded Assembly elections.

“They have managed to try and enter from the backdoor. Congress is the party of the past. It is (now) ready to be a second fiddle to a local party. They are happy, as long as they are able to keep BJP out (of power) for at least three months.

BJP is the present of India and BJP is going to be the future of India,” Madhav said at the New India event organised by Overseas Friends of BJP to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the NDA government.

He said that the government has decided not to have security operations during the month of Ramadan in Jammu and Kashmir.

But this does not mean that the security forces would be siting ducks for anybody to come and attack.

“If any attack happened, it would be retaliated with full force,” said the BJP leader who is party’s in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Tribune – Government will render justice to 1984 riot victims, says BJP leader in USA

Washington DC – USA, 20 May 2018. The BJP-led NDA government has taken steps and “will do its best” to render justice to each and every family that has suffered from the grave injustice perpetrated against them during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, a senior BJP leader has said.

“I stand before you to assure the community that we will do our best to render justice to each and every family that has suffered during those unfortunate years,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said amidst applause from the few hundred Sikh Americans who had gathered in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC to celebrate Vaisakhi.

He said the NDA government has decided to go to any extent to punish the guilty in the crimes that were perpetrated against the Sikh community during 1984 riots.

Justice Dhingra Commission is actively looking into 186 serious cases of crime against the Sikh community in 1984, he added. A number of FIRs have been filed again.

“In fact, arrest warrants have been issued against the leaders who were in the forefront of this whole crime against the community,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a special message said that observing the Vaisakhi festival abroad is a glowing sign of the traditions and the values that the Sikh community continues to cherish.

“We are proud of the achievements of the Sikh community in North America, which has contributed significantly to the growth and prosperity in its adopted home. It is commendable that the community has also preserved its traditions and ethos, and is a living bridge with India,” he said.

Madhav also said that Indian-Americans are playing a pivotal role in building India’s strategic ties with the US.

“We are not just political, strategic allies, we are natural allies because we are two people who share a very strong bond between us,” he said.

“People of Indian origin who live in this country are an important pivot of this relationship. We value your contribution to strengthen this relationship,” he said. – Gursoach Kaur has become the first female turbaned Sikh auxiliary police officer (APO) in the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Her induction into the NYPD is aimed at motivating other Sikhs to join, and to promote a better understanding of Sikhism in the US, which has seen instances of harassment against Sikhs and their turbans.

Kaur’s induction sees celebration in both home and abroad

Shiladitya Ray

New York – State of New York – USA, 20 May 2018.  Gursoach Kaur’s induction into the NYPD was celebrated by the Sikh community in India and in the US.

The Sikh Officers’ Association, the only association in the US which represents Sikh officers in law enforcement, tweeted that it was “proud” to welcome Kaur among its ranks.

Meanwhile, back at home, housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that he was “delighted”.

Delighted to see a turbaned lady officer in NYPD. Hope this fosters better understanding of Sikhism & Sikhs & corrects perceptions in US so that incident which happened with me in 2010 & recently with @Canada minister @NavdeepSBains do not recur.

Puri was detained despite having diplomatic immunity

Puri was referring to incidents involving harassment of Sikhs.

In 2010, Puri, who was the Indian Ambassador to the UN then, was asked to take off his turban by officials at the Houston airport.

When he refused, he was detained for 30 minutes in a ‘holding room’ till an official resolved the issue.

India had lodged an official complaint with US authorities.

Canadian minister had to pass extra security checks for turban

More recently, in April 2017, the Canadian minister of innovation, science, and economic development, Navdeep Bains, was asked to remove his turban at the Detroit Metro airport.

Bains was on his way back to Canada after meeting with Michigan state leaders, when the incident happened.

Despite having passed all regular security checks, Bains was asked to go through extra checks because of his turban.

The NYPD has been taking steps to include more Sikhs

According to New York’s police commissioner, James O’Neil, the NYPD had around 160 Sikh officers in service as of 2016. Back then, O’Neil had said that he was looking to add more Sikhs to the NYPD’s ranks.

Then, notably, in December 2016, the NYPD revised its uniform policy to allow Sikh officers to wear turbans and keep beards in a bid to promote inclusivity.