The Tribune – High-stakes battle for Punjab

Captain needs to ensure big win to retain position, Sukhbir to revive SAD

Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. It’s a direct fight between the Congress and SAD-BJP in 12 of the 13 constituencies in Punjab, which go the polls on Sunday. The Congress is grappling with anti-incumbency and the Akalis sacrilege ‘taint’, even as the voter is unusually quiet.

This Lok Sabha election is a litmus test for both Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. For Captain Amarinder, an impressive tally will help him retain his position as the undisputed leader of the Punjab Congress, especially when his minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and former PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa are pointing a finger at him.

For Sukhbir, a creditable performance is necessary to revive his party that suffered an ignominious defeat in the 2017 Assembly elections. He and his wife Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal are contesting from Ferozepur and Bathinda.

Sangrur is the only seat where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in the reckoning. Here AAP state chief Bhagwant Mann is locked in a triangular fight with Congress’ Kewal Singh Dhillon and SAD’s Parminder Singh Dhindsa.

Gurdaspur, Patiala, Bathinda and Ferozepur seats are expected to see a keen contest. The fight in Anandpur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib will be interesting too.

This has been a campaign high on rhetoric and optics with Congress and BJP top guns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Union Minister Rajnath Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi – holding impressive rallies in support of party candidates.

What was unique in these elections was assertive voters posing uncomfortable questions to candidates, demanding greater development and more jobs. On the back foot initially over the 2015 sacrilege incidents, especially in Malwa, the Akalis managed to bounce back by raking up the anti-Sikh riots, making it a 1984 versus Bargari contest.

Observers fear that a ‘disconnect’ between voters and candidates could mean only dedicated cadres of each party reaching the polling booths with fence-sitters choosing to abstain.

The Hindu – Panthic issues rule Bathinda campaign

It’s a tough test for Harsimrat Kaur

Vikas Vasudeva

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 02 May 2019. The campaign for the Lok Sabha election has gained pace in Punjab’s Bathinda, the stronghold of the Badal family of the Shiromani Akali Dal, with “Panthic” (Sikh) issues dominating the discourse.

The ruling Congress is attacking the Akali Dal by raising the pardon granted to the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a blasphemy case and the Kotkapura-Behbal Kalan police firing in 2015, which followed the Bargari sacrilege.

The sitting MP and Union Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, of the Akali Dal is raking up the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

At Bathinda recently, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh raised the issue of “sacrilege” when the Akali Dal and the BJP ruled the State.

People would punish Ms Badal for her “arrogance” and the cases of “sacrilege”, he said.

“People have not forgotten Bargari or Kotkapura, which were a brazen attempt by the Badals to create communal tensions,” he said.

For Ms Badal, the two-time MP, the election is a litmus test. She highlights her work for the State and the Sikh community, and the “anti-incumbency” factor against the ruling Congress. “I have taken up issues of Punjab as well as the Sikh community.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always reacted positively to my demands,” she said after filing her nomination earlier this week. Ms Badal said Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had delayed the AIIMS and Ladhowal mega food park projects.

Ms Badal accused the Congress of weakening the case of the Sikh community by defending the accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. On the other hand, she said, the NDA government had established a SIT to probe the cases and had reopened some cases to deliver justice.

The Congress has fielded Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, the MLA for Gidderbaha.

The Asian Age – Determination necessary to solve Kashmir issue with India: Imran Khan

Imran Khan said political leaders, army, all are on one page and wish to move forward for civilised relationship with India.

Kartarpur – Pakistan/New Delhi – India, 28 November 2018. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said Pakistan wants a “strong” and “civilised” relationship with India and the two countries can resolve all issues, including Kashmir, with determination as he laid the foundation stone for a historic corridor linking two revered gurdwaras on both sides of the border.

The much-awaited corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur.

Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established in 1522 by Guru Nanak Dev who is believed to have spent 18 years here.

The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built in Kartarpur, where Guru Nanak is said to have died.

“We want to move forward in our relations with India,” Imran Khan said while addressing the ceremony which was attended by Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, government officials, Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri and foreign diplomats.

“If France and Germany who fought several wars can live in peace, why can’t India and Pakistan,” Imran Khan said.

He said Pakistan and India cannot understand the opportunities God has given to them.

Imran Khan said whenever he visited India, he was told that politicians are united, but the Army won’t allow the friendship between the two sides.

“I am saying today, that our political leaders, our army, and all other institutions are all on one page. We wish to move forward, we want a civilised relationship. We have just one problem, Kashmir. If man can walk on the moon, what problems are there that we cannot resolve?” Imran Khan asked.

“I assure you that we can solve this problem. But determination and big dreams are necessary. Imagine, once trade begins, once our relationship is fixed, how much both nations could benefit,” he said and reiterated that if India takes one step forward, Pakistan will take two steps forward in friendship.

Imran Khan said that there have been “mistakes on both sides” and asserted that the two sides should not live in the past.

“Where Pakistan and India stand today, we have seen such a situation for 70 years now,” Imran Khan said.

“We will stay stuck this way unless we break the shackles of the past and stop blaming each other,” he said, adding that the two neighbours must improve their ties.

He said the citizens of both countries want peace and it is just the leadership which needs to be on same page.

The Pakistan prime minister appreciated the joy on the faces around him.

“The happiness I see in you today, if I were to explain to my Muslim brother and sisters, is that imagine that you are standing 4-km outside Medina (a city in Saudi Arabia where the Prophet is buried) and cannot go in, and you are then given the chance to go. That is the happiness I see here.”

He assured the Sikh community that facilities at Kartarpur Sahib will be even better for 550th birth celebrations for Guru Nanak Dev next year.

“We will keep improving the Kartarpur darbar for you,” Imran Khan told thousand of Sikh pilgrims from both India and Pakistan who were present at the ceremony.

Imran Khan said India and Pakistan need more steps like this (Kartarpur Corridor) for peace in the South Asian region.

The Kartarpur Corridor, which will facilitate the visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, is expected to be completed within six months.

Thousands of Sikh devotees from India visit Pakistan every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

India had proposed the corridor to Pakistan around 20 years back.

Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who also attended the ceremony, said there had been enough violence and that the corridor would be a major opportunity to bring peace to the region.

Harsimrat Kaur, who also spoke on the occasion, said if the Berlin Wall can fall, hatred and mistrust between India and Pakistan can also end.

An emotional Kaur said the corridor will bring joy and peace to both countries.

Last week, Pakistan and India announced that they would develop the corridor on their respective side of the border to help Indian pilgrims visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016.

Pakistan had invited External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who thanked her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi for the invite and said she was unable to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments.

The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Imran Khan as prime minister of that country.

After his return, Sidhu said that Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him that Pakistan may open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.

ANI News – US: Union City police chief’s son held for attack on Sikh man

Union City – California – USA, 10 Aug 2018. Union City Police Chief Darryl McAllister’s estranged son Tyrone Keith McAllister has been arrested for physically assaulting a 71-year-old Sikh man in Manteca here.

Union Minister for Food Processing, Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Wednesday shared CCTV footage on her Twitter handle, in which Tyrone and his accomplice confronted the elderly Sikh man, at what looked like a deserted road near a park.

In a statement, the Union City Police Department said that one of the two perpetrators involved in the assault of an elderly Manteca man on August 6 was the son of Union City Police Chief Darryl McAllister, Tyrone Keith McAllister.

Tyrone, who was believed to be wearing a dark coloured hoodie and jeans kicked the elderly man to the ground in a fit of rage. He then continued kicking the man, yelling something and spit on him, before fleeing the scene.

“Chief McAllister’s status as a law enforcement leader has no bearing or relation to the case whatsoever, but he is devastated by how much the nature of his son’s actions are such a departure from everything he has stood for in his personal life and 37 year career of compassionate, engaging police work,” the statement added.

It continued that Chief McAllister and his wife worked with the Manteca Police Department to help track down and arrest Tyrone.

The statement further said, “Chief McAllister expresses deep concern for the victim and the victim’s family and he remains steadfast that his son, an adult, must be accountable for his actions.”

Harsimrat Kaur, who is a Member of Parliament from Punjab, had raised concern over the rising incidents of alleged racism against Sikhs in the United States and sought External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s help.

Meanwhile, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President, Gobind Singh Longewal requested the central government to take up the incident with US authorities.

He said, “This is a sad incident, an elderly innocent man was a target of racial abuse. I appeal to our government to take up this matter with US authorities and ensure punishment for the culprits.” (ANI)

News 18 – Centre to withdraw petition against compensation to Sikhs arrested during Operation Blue Star

The compensation was to be borne by the Centre and the Punjab government in equal measure, but the central government has been opposing this for long.

Ramlal Kondal

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 19 June 2018. Union Minister for Food Processing Industries, Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Tuesday said that the Centre will withdraw its petition filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against a decision taken by an Amritsar court last year to provide compensation to 40 Sikhs arrested from the Golden Temple complex following Operation Blue Star.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “In 1984, when the Congress attacked the Darbar Sahib, there were many pilgrims who had come to pay obeisance, but the then government arrested them and put them behind bars for five long years. They moved the court, which directed the government to compensate them”.

The compensation was to be borne by the Centre and the Punjab government in equal measure, but the central government has been opposing this for long.

She added, “Now, Rajnath Singh has assured us that the appeal filed against this verdict will be withdrawn and the compensation will be provided to the detenues”.

Claiming that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had hatched a conspiracy to attack the Golden Temple, Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “The de-classified documents regarding Operation Bluestar in the UK reveal that Indira Gandhi was planning to carry out an attack on the Golden Temple for two years.

She had also written a letter to then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Congress had stooped too low to win an election by attacking the Darbar Sahib.”

“We have asked the Union Home Minster to procure those declassified documents from Britain and make them public here in India,” she added.

DNA India – GST on Langar: SGPC writes to Center again for exemption of taxes

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 10 May 2018. The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has revealed that they again wrote to the Centre, demanding exemption of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) being levied on ‘langar’ (community meal) service at Gurdwaras across the country, but received no reply.

“We’ve written letters to the government, but haven’t got any reply. We want the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to be removed from the langar service,” Daljit Singh Bedi, Additional Secretary of SGPC, told ANI.

Earlier, Union Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that the due to GST on ‘langar,’ the money used for feeding more people was going in taxes.

The SGPC spends around Rs 75 crore to purchase desi ghee, sugar and pulses, all used in the preparation of food served at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Citing this, the minister said the committee would have to bear a financial burden of Rs 10 crore on purchases, as they came under the 5 to 18 percent GST bracket.

The Hindu – GST on langar: Congress MP’s colourful protest makes heads turn

New Delhi – India, 04 April 2018. Sporting a kurta imprinted with a demand for the rollback of GST on langar, the free community kitchen at the famed Golden Temple, Congress MP from Amrtisar Gurjeet Singh Aujla stood out in the Lok Sabha on April 4.

Amid the din in the House with AIADMK members demanding immediate constitution of the Cauvery Water Management Board, Mr Aujla made many heads turn with the colourful message printed on his white kurta.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, which is the holiest of all Sikh shrines, runs one of the largest community kitchens in the world feeding freshly cooked food to 50,000 devotees on weekdays and over 1 lakh on weekends and festivals.

The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, which manages all gurdwaras, has been urging the Centre to exempt the free kitchens at the Golden Temple and other Sikh shrines from the purview of the Goods and Services Tax.

Earlier, Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had also urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to exempt all purchases made by the SGPC for the langar service from the GST.

After implementation of the GST, the Golden Temple reportedly shelled out over Rs 2 crore extra in 2017 as GST for purchasing ration for the langar. Under the new GST Act, there is a provision for exemption to institutions and businesses on the recommendation of the GST Council.

The Times of India – Harsimrat urges PM Narendra Modi to take up no-turban law with French President

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 11 March 2018. Union food processing industry minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to talk to France President Emmanuel Macron about Sikhs being made to remove their turbans while being photographed for official identification.

Macron arrived for a four-day visit to India on Friday night.

Harsimrat, in a letter to Modi, said she had received repeated requests from the Sikh community settled in France, as well as the Counseil Representatif des Sikhs de France, that a law which required removal of turbans while being photographed for passport, identity card, health card, transport card, driving license or any other identification issued by the French administration, was causing them severe humiliation.

She said this law was also a violation of Sikh tenets, and the Sikh community was confident that the issue could be addressed by the Prime Minister.

“Nowhere else in the world were Sikhs subjected to this kind of discrimination,” added Harsimrat. She said there was a need to sensitise the French government about Sikh culture, and explain them the sensitivity of the community on this issue, while asserting that the turban was an integral part of the Sikh identity.