The Asian Age – No restrictions imposed on pilgrims travelling to Pakistan, India clarifies

New Delhi-India, 17 February 2018.India on Friday said it has not imposed any restrictions on pilgrims travelling to Pakistan amid heightened tensions between the two nations following a string of terror attacks in the Kashmir Valley.

“Of course not,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said when asked if India had imposed any restriction on pilgrims.

The clarification comes after Pakistan reportedly blamed India for withdrawing visa applications of pilgrims from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/170218/no-restrictions-imposed-on-pilgrims-travelling-to-pak-india-clarifies.html

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The Hindustan Times – Amritsar boy who saved 15 kids to get National Bravery Award

The teen, who was also in the bus and injured, showed great courage and helped other children to come out of the water-filled bus.

HT Correspondent

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 18 January 2018. Seventeen-year-old Karanbeer Singh from Amritsar, who rescued 15 children from a school bus that had plunged into a drain, will be among the 18 children to receive the National Bravery Awards this year.

Singh, who was also in the bus and injured, showed great courage and helped other children to come out of the water-filled bus.

“He (driver) was driving rashly. I had warned him about the narrow bridge ahead that doesn’t have railings but he didn’t listen. Suddenly the front tyres were in the air and we landed in the drain,” said Karanbir.

He added that doors were jammed and he had to smash a window glass to come out and rescue the students.

A rashly driven school-van had fallen into a drain from a bridge at Muhawa village, 35 km from Amritsar, killing seven children on 20 September 2016. The van was taking students back home from DAV Public School, Neshta, when the accident took place five km from the school.

The awards, divided into five categories, Bharat Award, Geeta Chopra Award, Sanjay Chopra Award, Bapu Gaidhani Award, and General National Bravery Awards, will be given away by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 24. Karanbeer will receive the Sanjay Chopra award.

President Ramnath Kovind will host a reception for the awardees, seven girls and 11 boys, who will also be participating in the Republic Day parade on January 26.

18-year-old Nazia from Uttar Pradesh, who helped local police capture perpetrators of an illegal business of gambling and betting will be given the most coveted Bharat Award.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/amritsar-boy-who-saved-15-kids-to-get-national-bravery-award/story-rVZPQjRfDARGP0cwPLrFCM.html

Scroll.in – Why Hindus cannot be seen as a religious minority in Kashmir (or anywhere else in India)

Population is not the only criterion.

Op/Ed, 24 December 2017. The Supreme Court this month heard a petition asking for a minorities commission to be set up in Jammu and Kashmir.

The plea, filed by Ankur Sharma, a lawyer in Jammu, contended that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians were unable to access benefits meant for minorities in the state where 68.3% of the population is Muslim.

Sharma’s plea came after a lawyer-leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay, petitioned the apex court to direct the central government to confer minority status on Hindus in seven states, including Jammu and Kashmir, and a Union Territory.

On the advice of a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Upadhyay later withdrew his petition and approached the National Commission for Minorities, which is reportedly considering the matter. Central to both cases is this question: can the majority community be seen as a religious minority in any part of the country?

A community’s minority status is relevant mainly for accessing specific welfare schemes. This should not be a bone of contention: the Supreme Court has already ruled that such schemes launched by the Centre are for national-level minorities while local schemes would cover the state-level minorities.

In Jammu and Kashmir, Sharma argued that in the absence of a minority commission in Jammu and Kashmir, “crores worth aid are being given away to a certain community, which is the majority Muslim community, in an illegal and arbitrary manner”.

No matter how they are designated in the state, Muslims, as a national minority, would continue to be beneficiaries of central minority welfare schemes.

As for directing the state government to establish a minorities commission, the court pointed out that it does not have the power to do so.

Since Jammu and Kashmir does not fall within the purview of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, a state minorities commission must be set up through legislation by the Assembly or an administrative order by the government.

Hindus as a minority

Upadhyay’s petition directly asks for recognising Hindus as a religious minority in certain states. If the petitioner’s idea has his party’s support it is intriguing.

Two decades ago, as chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, I personally prepared a special report titled “Hindu Minorities in India”, written after visiting the states concerned and hearing local Hindu leaders.

My report, recommending state-level minority status for Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Punjab, was endorsed by the Commission and submitted to the central government, then led by the BJP. But it was pooh-poohed by the party’s stalwarts and cold-shouldered by the government.

In the Constitution, Article 29 proclaims that “any section of citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have a right to conserve the same”.
Article 30 recognises the right of a religious or linguistic minority to establish and administer educational institutions. Read together, the two provisions may be taken as the constitutional charter for religious and linguistic minorities at all levels.

The Constitution does not specify a mechanism for identifying groups of citizens covered by either of these provisions. The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, confined in application to religious minorities, does not list them either; it only states that for the purposes of the Act the word “minorities” means communities “notified as such” by the central government.

A notification issued under this provision in 1993 proclaimed Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis as minorities.

The Jains protested against their exclusion and, on taking over as the Commission’s chairman, I took the position that since the Constitution and the laws bracket Jains with Buddhists and Sikhs, the government had two options: either drop Buddhists and Sikhs from the list or to extend it to Jains.

Fifteen years later, the government went for the second option – on the persistent demand of some Jain leaders, the 1993 notification was modified to include their community among the minorities.

Population not the only criterion

If population is to be the sole yardstick to accord minority status at state level, Hindus are a minority in Christian-dominated Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland; Sikh-dominated Punjab; Muslim-dominated Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep as I pointed out in my report of 1998.

Upadhyay, in his petition, additionally counted Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur among Hindu-minority states, which is questionable. Hindu are less than 50% in these states but so are all other communities, and the difference in population between Hindus and Christians is miniscule.

Population, however, is not the only criterion for a religious community to be seen as a minority.

A 1977 report of the United Nations Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities defined minority as “a group numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a state, in a non-dominant position, whose members – being nationals of the State – possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics differing from those of the rest of the population and show, if not implicitly, a sense of solidarity directed towards preserving their culture, traditions, religion or language”.

If each of these criteria is to be meticulously applied, Hindus, the national majority, would not be seen as a minority anywhere in India.

The legal position is that the National Commission for Minorities too has no power to declare any community to be a minority; it can only make a recommendation in this regard to the government.

My 1998 report remains on record and, considering it, the Centre or a state government may take whatever action they deem fit in respect of state-level Hindu minorities. No well-wisher of the community needs to go to the apex court or the minorities commission for this purpose.

Tahir Mahmood is a professor of law, former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities and ex-member of the Law Commission of India.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.

https://scroll.in/article/862345/why-hindus-cannot-be-seen-as-a-religious-minority-in-kashmir-or-anywhere-else-in-india

The Independent – Scottish Sikh ‘faces further torture’ after being taken back into police custody in India, campaigners say

Jagtar Singh Johal tells lawyers he has been tortured with electricity

Lucinda Cameron, Hilary Duncanson

London, UK, 19 November 2017. A British Sikh man arrested in India and allegedly tortured by police has been returned to police custody, campaigners have claimed.

Jagtar Singh Johal was moved to judicial custody after appearing in court in Punjab on Friday, sparking hopes the “physical torture” will come to an end, the Sikh Federation UK said .

However, the federation said he was later returned to police custody for the next two days without charge after he was taken to an area magistrate by police from another district.

His legal team are said to be concerned this period will be used to try and “falsely link him” to unsolved cases in the area.

Mr Johal, from Dumbarton in West Dunbartonshire, was detained in Jalandhar in the state of Punjab on 4 November.

The federation says no official charges have been brought against him, but local media reported Mr Johal’s arrest was linked to the killing of Hindu leaders in Punjab.

Mr Johal, 30, who got married in India last month, has told lawyers he has been tortured with “body separation techniques and electrocution to body parts”.

The Sikh Federation said that following his court appearance in Punjab, he was sent to jail until 30 November, when he will reappear in court.

It said he has had a brief meeting with his in-laws and a UK official, but business cards from his lawyers and the British High Commission representative were later taken off him.

He is also being denied fresh warm clothing, it is claimed.

His lawyers are said to have applied for an independent medical examination of Mr Johal.

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation UK, said: “Many are asking why Jagtar was not allowed the business cards for his two lawyers or for the British High Commission representative or allowed to accept clothes from his family.

“The Indian authorities clearly have much to hide and the British and Scottish governments must do much more to secure his release.

“We will be challenging the Foreign Secretary next Tuesday when he appears in the Commons to answer questions from MPs.”

Hundreds of Sikhs held a demonstration outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London in support of Mr Johal on Thursday.

An FCO spokesman said: “Our consular staff in New Delhi have visited a British man who has been detained in Punjab. We have met his family to update them, and have confirmed that he now has access to his lawyer.

“We take all allegations or concerns of torture and mistreatment very seriously and will follow up with action as appropriate.

“When considering how to act, we will avoid any action that might put the individual in question or any other person that may be affected at risk.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/jagtar-singh-johal-british-scottish-sikh-man-tortured-police-india-custody-sikh-federation-uk-a8063906.html

The Times of India – Convince Myanmar to end violence against Rohingyas, Bangla Desh urges India

Indrani Bagchi

New Delhi, 12 September 2017. “India has good relations with Myanmar, we are both members of BIMSTEC. India must emphasize to Myanmar that conditions must be created so that these refugees can return to their country.

India can call for the immediate implementation of the Kofi Annan report,” said Syed Muazzem Ali, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India as Bangladesh grapples with a huge influx of refugees, which now total 6,70,000, in the midst of one of the worst floods in recent years.

The Bangladesh foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali proposed a plan of action to tackle the crisis. This includes asking Myanmar to stop the violence in Rakhine province, create safe zones to protect civilians “irrespective of ethnicity and religion”.

“Myanmar must engage with Bangladesh to ensure repatriation of all of its nationals living in Bangladesh through international joint verification as also proposed by the Kofi Annan Commission,” the Bangla envoy said.

Muazzem Ali conveyed Bangladesh’s concerns regarding what they saw as India’s unhelpful stand on the issue during PM’s visit to Myanmar. “I explained to the foreign secretary that we have no hesitation in decrying the terrorist attack that was launched against the security forces of Mynamar.

We condemned in the strongest possible terms. My prime minister has emphasized that Bangladesh would show zero tolerance to any acts of terrorism and Bangladesh could not be allowed to be used by anyone for any terrorist acts.”

Bangladesh’s response coincides with the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, roundly criticizing Myanmar, calling the ongoing violence “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“The Myanmar government should stop pretending that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages,” saying “another brutal security operation is underway in Rakhine state this time, apparently on a far greater scale.”

Unconfirmed reports also said the biggest militant group, ARSA, has announced a month-long ceasefire for aid agencies to access people in Rakhine.

He said “Bangladesh had offered to Myanmar if necessary joint patrols on our border. But we did not get any response from Myanmar.” In the weeks before the August 25 terror attack, “security agencies of both India and Bangladesh had alerted Myanmar about an impending attack, because we saw some activities in this area, and intercepted some telephone calls.”

India had stood by Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar leadership criticizing the August 25 violence as a terrorist attack, at a time when Suu Kyi has come under widespread international condemnation, including calls to rescind her Nobel peace prize.

But this stand played very badly in Bangladesh, India’s other strategic ally, which has borne the brunt of the Rohingya exodus. India changed its stance on Saturday evening acknowledging Bangladesh’s position on the issue.

“I believe we have seen in the past that the security concerns of this issue must be given due consideration,” Muazzem Ali said. Myanmar, “must distinguish between terrorist suspects and civilian population.

It has led to a mass exodus, 270,000 have taken shelter with us, and I am sure they will go to various other countries as well. I am given to understand by very high officials here that a very large number of them have also entered your country.”

The issue of Rohingya refugees is a problem in BJP-ruled India, but it comes directly in conflict with India’s position as a leading power in the region. India has found some 40,000 Rohingyas who have settled in different parts of India, but worryingly for the government, in Jammu and Kashmir.

Some ministers have spoken of deporting them, but Myanmar does not want them, neither does anyone else. Indian officials say the security implications of this influx cannot be overstated given reports that Rohingyas have been infiltrated and radicalized by terror groups in Pakistan.

The Bangladesh foreign minister also put out a set of proposals for the international community. “The root of the Rohingya crisis lies in Myanmar. Therefore the ultimate solution has to be found in Myanmar,” Ali said.

“The international community must pressure Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Commission and help Bangladesh with urgent humanitarian assistance to address the current crisis as well as for temporary relocation of Rohingyas that entered Bangladesh to Bhashan Char.”

The resolution of the Rohingya crisis, Ali said, had to be political. “Otherwise, wittingly or unwittingly we get involved in a security problem, where certain parties, which are interested in destabilizing the region, will set foot in our neighbourhood.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-must-work-to-change-myanmars-approach-to-rohingya-problem-bangladesh/articleshow/60471145.cms

The Asian Age – Cabinet reshuffle: Meet the nine new ministers to be inducted today

Here’s all you need to know about the nine new ministers being inducted in Modi’s Cabinet on Sunday.

New Delhi, 3 September 2017. The nine new members to be inducted in the Union council of ministers include four former senior bureaucrats and also Bharatiya Janata Party (BPP) leaders from the states of Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which go to polls in the near future.

Here are their short profiles:

Ashwini Kumar Choubey

64-year-old Ashwini Kumar Choubey has been the health minister of Bihar. A BJP veteran he was born at Dariyapur in Bhagalpur and did BSc (Hons) in Zoology from the Science College, Patna University. Presently, he represents the Buxar Lok Sabha seat.

Married to Neeta Choubey, he is father to two sons. He was an active part of the JP movement in the 1970s and was taken into custody during the Emergency.

Chaubey is credited with raising the slogan “Ghar-Ghar me ho Shouchalaya ka nirman, Tabhi hoga Ladli Bitiya ka Kanyadaan”, and has helped construct 11,000 toilets for Mahadalit families.

Virendra Kumar

Virendra Kumar, 63, is the Lok Sabha MP from Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh. From the convenor of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), District Sagar in 1977-79 to now being set to become a Union minister in the Modi government, it has been a long journey for Kumar, who was elected for a sixth Lok Sabha term in 2014.

Kumar had participated in the JP movement of the 1970s, and was in jail for 16 months during the Emergency. He hails from the scheduled caste community and hold a masters degree in economics and a PhD in Child Labour.

Shiv Pratap Shukla

65-year-old Shiv Pratap Shukla is a Rajya Sabha MP from the country’s most populous and electorally crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. The lawyer-social worker has earlier been a minister in the government of Uttar Pradesh.

He was appointed a vice president of Uttar Pradesh unit of the BJP in 2012. He is a law graduate from the Gorakhpur University and was imprisoned for 19 months during the Emergency.

Anant Kumar Hegde

Anant Kumar Hegde, 49, was elected to the Lok Sabha a member of the 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th and 16th Lok Sabha, from Uttara Kannada in Karnataka.

He is an agriculturist by profession. At the young age of 28, he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. During his multiple stints in Parliament, he has been a member of multiple Parliamentary Standing Committees like Finance, Home Affairs, Human Resource Development, Commerce, Agriculture and External Affairs.

He has also been a member of the Spices Board of India for 4 terms. He is a practitioner of Tae-kwon-do.

Satya Pal Singh

Satya Pal Singh is a Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh. The 1980 batch, Maharashtra cadre, retired IAS officer is a former Mumbai police chief. He was recognized with medals like the Antrik Suraksha Sewa Padak by the Centre in 2008 and a special service medal for extraordinary work in the Naxalite areas of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in 1990.

Singh has written books, on topics like tribal conflict resolution and Naxalism. Born in Basauli village in Baghpat, Satya Pal Singh has a MSc and MPhil in Chemistry, MBA in Strategic Management from Australia, MA in Public Administration as well as a PhD in Naxalism.

Gajendrasingh Shekhawat

Gajendrasingh Shekhawat (age 49) is the Jodhpur Lok Sabha MP. He also is a national general secretary of the farmers wing of the BJP. A sports enthusiast, Shekhawat has participated at National and All India Inter University level in Basket Ball.

He currently is a Member of the All India Council of Sports and the President of Basketball India Players Association. He has an MPhil and MA in Philosophy from Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur.

Hardeep Singh Puri

Hardeep Singh Puri, 65, is a 1974 batch Indian Foreign Service officer who served as the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013.

Known for his experience and expertise in foreign policy and national security, he is the president and chairman of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) think tank, and was the Vice President of International Peace Institute, New York.

His four-decade career in diplomacy spanning the multilateral arena, included critical roles of ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Ambassador to Brazil and the United Kingdom and Permanent Representative of India to Geneva.

An alumnus of The Hindu College, Delhi University, Puri was a student leader and active during the JP movement. He briefly taught at St Stephens College before joining the IFS.

Raj Kumar Singh

Raj Kumar Singh, 64, a former IAS officer of 1975 batch Bihar cadre, has been a former Home Secretary of India. He is a member of the 16th Lok Sabha representing Arrah in Bihar. Singh studied English Literature at St Stephens College, New Delhi and got a Bachelors Degree in Law thereafter. He also went on to study at the RVB Delft University in Netherlands.

Alphons Kannanthanam

Alphons Kannanthanam is a former IAS officer of the 1979 batch, Kerala cadre. He is also a practicing advocate. Kannanthanam became famous as Delhi’s ‘Demolition Man’ during his stint at the Delhi Development Authority, having cleared DDA areas of encroachment removing around 15,000 illegal buildings.

Born in a non-electrified Manimala village in Kottayam district to a World War II veteran, he pioneered the literacy movement in India as District Collector of Kottayam by making it the first 100 per cent literate town in India in 1989.

He retired from the IAS to get elected as an Independent Member of Legislative Assembly for Kanjirappally in Kerala from 2006 to 2011. Kannanthanam is a Member of the Committee to prepare the final draft of the National Education Policy 2017. He has authored a book “Making A Difference”.

Really rejuvenating and refreshing the cabinet with two 49 year old and seven 60+ ministers !
Man in Blue

http://www.asianage.com/india/politics/030917/cabinet-reshuffle-meet-the-9-new-ministers-to-be-inducted-today.html

The Hindu – Fourteen BJP legislators face cases of crime against women

Special Correspondent

New Delhi, 31 August 2017. The Bharatiya Janata Party, among the recognised political parties, has the highest number of 14 MLAs and MPs who have declared cases related to crime against women, says a report of the Association for Democratic Reforms and the National Election Watch.

As per the report, Shiv Sena stands second with seven and the Trinamool Congress third with six legislators.

In the past five years, recognised parties gave tickets to 29 candidates who had declared cases related to rape for contesting in the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha and State Assembly elections while 14 independent candidates with rape allegations contested in the polls.

The non-government bodies analysed 4,852 of the 4,896 election affidavits of the MPs and the MLAs. “Of the 1,581 MPs/MLAs analysed with declared criminal cases, 51 have declared cases related to crimes against women,” said the report.

Among these 51 legislators, 48 are MLAs and three are MPs. In all, 334 candidates, who were analysed, were given tickets by recognised political parties. Over 120 independent candidates, whose affidavits were analysed, with declared cases of crimes against women had contested the elections in the past five years.

Of these candidates, 40 were given tickets by parties for the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha elections. “Various recognised parties have given tickets to 294 candidates with cases related to crimes against women for State Assembly elections,” said the report.

In the past five years, 19 independent candidates with such declared cases contested in the Lok Sabha/Rajya elections. Similarly, 103 such independent candidates contested in the State Assembly polls.

Among the States, the report says, Maharashtra has the highest number (12) of such MPs or MLAs, followed by West Bengal with 11 and Odisha with 6 MPs or MLAs.

In the past five years, Maharashtra again had the highest number of candidates (65), followed by Bihar with 62 and West Bengal with 52 such candidates who were given tickets by political parties.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/14-bjp-legislators-face-cases-of-crime-against-women/article19595943.ece

Scroll.in – Partition love story: A Muslim woman finds love with a Sikh man, but there is no happy ending

The tale of Buta Singh and Zainab embodies the tragedy of 1947, and is calling for a Bollywood producer

Zainab and Buta Singh married in 1947 in circumstances about which there is no unanimity. It is said they, nevertheless, grew to love each other. After they sired two children, the couple was forcibly separated.

Their story is emblematic of Partition because their relationship was simultaneously warped, and redemptive, and tragic. Like Partition, it has several versions, of which two will be recounted here.

There is the version that writer and publisher Urvashi Butalia narrates in her magisterial work, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. The other is narrated by eminent Hindi fiction writer Krishna Sobti to Alok Bhalla in Partition Dialogues, a collection of his conversations with writers on their experiences of the 1947 catastrophe.

In Butalia’s version, Zainab was abducted from a kafila or caravan headed to Pakistan. She was presumably passed from one man to another until she was sold to Buta Singh, a Jat Sikh from Amritsar district. Butalia does not give us the name of the village.

Buta Singh married Zainab. Despite the ignominy of being purchased, that too by a member of the community engaged in cleansing East Punjab of Muslims, Buta Singh and Zainab came to love each other. Two girls were born to them. Partition ostensibly seemed to have been symbolically overcome through their relationship.

But the ghosts of Partition had not been put to rest. On December 6, 1947, India and Pakistan signed the Inter-Dominion Treaty, which made it incumbent upon the two nation-states to recover as many abducted women as they could.

To implement the treaty, an ordinance was issued. Under it, a woman was deemed abducted if she had entered into a relationship with a man not belonging to her community after March 1, 1947. Search parties were deployed to track abducted women and return them to their families.

One of these search parties came knocking on the door of Buta Singh’s house. It is said his nephews had snitched on Zainab to the search squad. They thought that once Zainab and her children were packed off to Pakistan, their share in the family property would increase.

Such was the law that Zainab’s opinion on whether she wanted to leave Buta Singh, and India, was not required to be elicited. The entire village turned up to see Zainab off. She came out holding her younger child and a bundle of personal belongings.

On reaching the jeep, she turned to Buta Singh and, pointing to their older daughter, said, “Take care of this girl, and don’t worry. I will be back soon.”

Buta Singh was distraught. His anxiety was compounded when he received a letter from Pakistan. It asked him to hurry over to Pakistan as his wife’s family was pressuring her to marry.

Buta Singh sold his land to raise money and arrived in Delhi, where he converted to Islam and took on the name of Jamil Ahmed. He thought it would be easier for him to travel to Pakistan as a Muslim wishing to become its citizen.

He applied for a Pakistani passport. He waited and waited but his passport did not come. His frequent trips to the Pakistan embassy made him such a familiar figure among Pakistani officials that they granted him a short-term visa for Pakistan.

In Pakistan, Zainab’s life was threatening to take a course she had not anticipated. Both her parents were dead. Since the family had been granted a plot of land in Lyallpur in lieu of the property it owned in East Punjab, its legal heirs were Zainab and her sister.

Adjacent to their land was their uncle’s. Keen to keep all the land within the family, the uncle began to mount pressure on Zainab to marry his son, her cousin.

She resisted. Zainab’s cousin, too, did not wish to marry her, not least because she had been the partner of a Sikh. It was during the days Zainab was resisting this familial pressure that Buta Singh received a letter from Pakistan, written by a neighbour of hers, presumably at her behest.

When Buta Singh reached Pakistan, Zainab had been married to her uncle’s son. Perhaps she thought Buta Singh would never come for her.

In his rush to locate Zainab, Buta Singh forgot to report his arrival to the police within 24 hours of reaching Pakistan, a requirement mandatory even in 2017. He was arrested and produced in court. He narrated his story to the magistrate, who issued summons to Zainab.

Zainab came to the court, ringed by his relatives. She told the magistrate: “I am a married woman. Now I have nothing to do with this man. He can take his second child whom I have brought from his house…”

Hours later, in the night, Buta Singh threw himself before a running train. His body was taken for autopsy to Lahore, where a large crowd of people, some weeping, gathered to witness the man who had defied Partition, and overcome his own warped conception of women, to love – and die.

A suicide note was recovered from his body. It said he wished to be buried in Zainab’s village.

But her relatives did not allow the police to execute Buta Singh’s last wish and he was buried in Lahore. Of their love, Butalia writes:

“It was said that Zainab and Buta Singh were happy, that they were even in love. Yet, the man actually bought her, purchased her like chattel: how then could she have loved him?”

Two versions

Butalia created their story through a piecing together of newspaper accounts, documents and an unpublished memoir. Butalia could not get a glimpse into Zainab’s feelings about the two men she married.

Given the stigma associated with abduction and rape, did Zainab overcome Buta Singh’s warped notion of love because of the hope he held out to her for rebuilding her life? Was her love for Buta Singh a strategy of survival? Or was it both?

These questions are rendered redundant in the version that Krishna Sobti narrated to Alok Bhalla. Sobti did not claim to have researched the story. Her version was presumably based on hearsay. Yet, it provides a peep into the politics of remembering Partition.

In Sobti’s version, Zainab does not have a name. She is “the Muslim girl”, plain and simple. It was while fleeing a riotous mob that the Muslim girl ran into Buta Singh’s house and hid under a haystack in the courtyard.

In the evening, Buta Singh, a bachelor, returned home and noticed a chunni sticking out of the haystack. He assured the girl, to quote Sobti, “Don’t be afraid, you are safe here. Stay indoors till the riots are over.” The girl came out and began to stay at his house. Though Buta Singh cooked for her for days, they did not speak to each other.

A few days later, a child chanced upon the Muslim girl in Buta Singh’s house. The word was out. In the evening, Buta Singh returned to a clamorous crowd outside his house.

Sobti tells Bhalla:

“He defended her with great courage and warned his neighbours not to harm her. His honesty and courage touched the girl. She continued to stay with him. Soon they fell in love with each other. In any case… she didn’t have many choices.”

The villagers suggested to Buta Singh that he marry the Muslim girl, who, according to Sobti, thought he was “handsome and decent”. They married, but did not have children at the time the search party arrived at their door. We are not told how the search party sniffed her out.

In the search party were her brothers. They insisted on taking the Muslim girl back to Pakistan. Buta Singh beseeched the authorities to allow her to stay with him as she was legally married to him, of her own free will. But it was to no avail.

In Sobti’s version, too, Buta Singh followed her to Pakistan. The matter of their marriage went to court. The Muslim girl was asked whether she had indeed married Buta Singh. But she refused to speak, not even when he told her that he would die without her.

Of her silence, Sobti explains to Bhalla, “Her brothers had obviously threatened her. It wasn’t difficult to imagine her psychological condition. The court decided against him. Buta Singh was so shattered that he committed suicide.”

Politics of remembering Partition

Oral stories from the past often undergo dramatic changes as these are passed from person to person. By the time it reached Sobti, the love story of Zainab and Buta Singh had morphed into a tale extolling the ideas of Sikh valour and honour.

That Buta Singh had purchased Zainab was elided from Sobti’s version. Instead, she is said to have strayed into the house of Buta Singh the bachelor who could have done anything to her but did not. Because of his impeccable conduct, the Muslim girl fell in love with him, his handsomeness a bonus.

Their love was torn asunder because of her brothers, who shifted from India to Pakistan and returned to take their sister away, unmindful of the suffering they inflicted all around. The story of Zainab and Buta Singh in its retelling indicts the Muslims of India for partitioning the country.

This love story of the Partition era is crying out for a Bollywood producer. Though Butalia’s version is undeniably more layered and captures the heartlessness that Partition was, it is very likely that Bollywood will opt for Sobti’s version in these times of Hindutva domination.

No touch of love jihad there. No depiction of Indians being overtaken by their baser passions – rather, they are always honourable in their conduct, for which they almost always pay a heavy price. A Hindu-Muslim love relationship in 1947 had to countenance the partitioning of the country. A Hindu-Muslim love biopic must be conscious of political sensitivities.

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https://scroll.in/article/847568/partition-love-story-a-muslim-woman-finds-love-with-a-sikh-man-but-there-is-no-happy-ending

The Deccan Chronicle – Supreme Court sets up panel to examine 241 shut cases of 1984 riots

On March 24, the court asked the Centre to put before it the files pertaining to 199 anti-Sikh riot cases which the SIT decided to ‘close’.

J Venkatesan

New Delhi, 17 August 2017. The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a supervisory panel comprising two retired judges of the apex court to examine and scrutinise the SIT’s decision to close 241 cases related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

A three-judge bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Amitav Roy and A M Kanwilkar passed this order on petitions seeking a thorough probe and filing of chargesheets in the anti-Sikh riot cases.

The bench said the two-judge panel would see whether there was any justification in the SIT’s decision to close the cases for want of evidence and to recommend reopening of cases if the decision to close the cases was wrong.

The bench said it would notify the names of the two retired judges after getting their consent, and said the panel will submit its report in three months.

The Narendra Modi government at the Centre had set up a committee headed by G P Mathur on December 23, 2014 to examine the anti-Sikh riot cases pending since 1984. The panel had on January 22, 2015 recommended the setting up of an SIT.

The government had formed the Special Investigation Team on February 12, 2015 with IPS officer Pramod Asthana as chairman. The members of the SIT are former district judge Rakesh Kapoor and additional DCP Kumar Gyanesh.

On March 24, the court asked the Centre to put before it the files pertaining to 199 anti-Sikh riot cases which the SIT decided to ‘close’. The anti-Sikh riots that broke out after the October 31, 1984 assassination of then PM Indira Gandhi had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone.

During the resumed hearing Wednesday, senior counsel Arvind P Datar and Phulka submitted that so far chargesheets had been filed in only four cases and there was an inordinate delay in the probe.

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/170817/supreme-court-sets-up-panel-to-examine-241-shut-cases-of-1984-riots.html

BBC News – Why was Mother Teresa’s uniform trademarked?

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi, 12 July 2017. For nearly half a century, Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who worked with the poor in the Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta) wore a simple white sari with three blue stripes on the borders, one thicker than the rest.

Senior nuns who work for Missionaries of Charity, a 67-year-old sisterhood which has more than 3,000 nuns worldwide, continue to wear what has now become the religious uniform of this global order.

On Monday, news washed up that this “famous” sari of the Nobel laureate nun, who died in 1997, has been trademarked to prevent “unfair” use by people for commercial purposes.

India’s government quietly recognised the sari as the intellectual property of the Missionaries of Charity in September last year, when the nun was declared a saint by the Vatican, but the order had decided not to make it public.

Biswajit Sarkar, a Kolkata-based lawyer who works pro-bono for the order, says he had applied for the trademark in 2013.

“It just came to my mind that the colour-identified blue border of the sari had to be protected to prevent any future misuse for commercial purposes,” he told me. “If you want to wear or use the colour pattern in any form, you can write to us and if we are convinced that there is no commercial motive, we will allow it.”

The austere blue-trimmed white sari has long been identified with the nun and her order. The story goes that in 1948, the Albanian nun, with permission from Rome, began wearing it and a small cross across her shoulder.

According to some accounts, the nun chose the blue border as it was associated with purity. For more than three decades, the saris have been woven by leprosy patients living in a home run by the order on the outskirts of Kolkata.

Accordingly, Mr Sarkar helped the order to trademark her name two decades back. Still, nuns of the order have complained that Mother Teresa’s name was being exploited for commercial gain: a school being run in her name in Nepal where teachers complained of not receiving salaries; a priest raising funds in Romania using the order’s name; shops near the order’s headquarters in Kolkata telling customers that proceeds from memorabilia sales were donated to the order; and a cooperative bank in India curiously named after the nun.

“So we decided to do something about it,” says Mr Sarkar. “Through this we are trying to tell the world that her name and reputation should not be misused.”

Owning a trademark on a colour can be a tricky business. In 2013 Nestle won a court battle against confectionery rival Cadbury, over the latter’s attempt to trademark the purple colour, known as Pantone 2865c, of its Dairy Milk bars.

It is also not clear how this trademark on the famous blue striped sari will be enforced. Many online shopping sites already sell variations of “unisex Mother Teresa dress”, blue bordered sari, and a long sleeved blouse.

Also, the move is bound to raise the hackles of the nun’s critics, and she has her fair share of them, who have accused her of glorifying poverty, hobnobbing with dictators, running shambolic care facilities and proselytising.

“How can anybody appropriate a sari, which has been a traditional Indian dress,” one of them asked me, preferring to remain unnamed.

Designers like Anand Bhushan differ. “Some designs of the traditional Indian towel called gamcha, for example, have been trademarked. There’s nothing wrong in trademarking a distinctive and iconic design or pattern like Mother Teresa’s sari. It’s not like anybody is beginning to own the sari.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40566352