– Panjabis snub Modi and Captain by giving Justin Trudeau a grand welcome

Rajeev Khanna

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 21 February 2018. Visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was reportedly accorded a cold reception by the Centre and authorities in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh but Punjabis made up for that by giving him a red carpet welcome at Amritsar on Wednesday.

The manner in which ordinary Punjabis welcomed him is actually a slap on the face of those who tried to spread fear by raising the bogey of Khalistan on the eve of his arrival. This includes sections of the media who have been known to play mischief on different occasions.

Trudeau and the Canadian authorities have consistently been saying that they do not support the idea of Khalistan.
Moreover, the issue itself is a dead horse. On Tuesday he had reportedly said that Canada is strongly committed to ‘one united India’ and is serious about cracking down on extremism.

“Canada has been unequivocal – myself, all my ministers and our government – on a policy of one united India. We have, we have been very strong on that and we’ll continue to be,” he said.

He reportedly said that Canada will never support any separatist movement in India or anywhere else in the world.

The warm reception given by Punjabis is also a strong political statement to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who seems to have consciously given cold treatment to Trudeau by not receiving him at the airport or accompanying him to Gujarat.

This is in sharp contrast to the manner in which Modi sat on the swing with Xi Jinping of China and took Japan’s Shinzo Abe for a roadshow in Gujarat.

The welcome by the people of Punjab is also a message for Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh who is seen to be making a complete ‘U’ turn with regards to the present ruling dispensation in Canada.

It needs to be recalled that he had refused to meet Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan last year and had gone to the extent of calling him a ‘Khalistan sympathiser’.

This time a meeting between him and Trudeau was finalised at the eleventh hour as there were doubts that Trudeau may not opt for a tit for tat approach and not meet him which would have caused a lot of embarrassment. As a result, Captain ended up meeting not just Trudeau but also Sajjan, whom he had refused to meet last year.

Observers say that it is a fact that there are elements in Canada and elsewhere who have been supporting the cause of Khalistan and some Canadian politicians do attend events organized by them.

But the question being raised is that why the bogey of Khalistan is raised only in connection with Trudeau and his party who are liberal, and not the others.

Observers also feel that by including visits to prominent places of different faiths in his itinerary, Trudeau has himself sent across a strong message on secularism to India and its politicians. In fact people are also comparing how democracy functions and how minorities are treated in India and Canada.

Wednesday had seen Punjabis taking to the social media in a big way posting messages welcoming Trudeau. There were even advertisements in the local publications by various individuals welcoming him and his family who are on a week-long visit to India.

In common Punjabi parlance, the people these days talk of three Punjabs in the world, the Punjab in Pakistan, the Punjab in India and the Punjab that has come up in Canada. These Punjabs may be divided by political boundaries but there is still much common in terms of ethos.

Trudeau and his family offered prayers at Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar on Wednesday. Clad in Punjabi outfits, Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and two of their three children also performed Sewa.

Earlier they were received at the Amritsar airport by Punjab’s culture and tourism minister Navjot Sidhu and union minister of state for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, who is also a former diplomat.

He was also welcomed by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal and Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president Gobind Singh Longowal.

After the Harmandar Sahib visit, Amarinder met Trudeau and six other members of his team including Sajjan.

The manner in which attempts were made to cold shoulder the Canadian leader’s visit came in for criticism from various corners. The most vocal has been the hardline Dal Khalsa whose spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh said that by cold-shouldering Trudeau, India is undermining its image in the eyes of the world community.

He said diplomacy is a two way street and the Ministry of External Affairs has managed to convince Trudeau to meet Amarinder to save the latter’s face as he has been toeing the line of the Modi dispensation.

Expressing the apprehension of Sikhs, he said they are worried about the under-currents as Trudeau’s visit has been used by the Modi govt to pit majority community against minority.

Another party leader H S Dhami said that Sikhs as a people have political aspirations of nationhood based on their distinct identity, history and legacy.

Exercising their rights in a forceful way does not make it similar to extremism or as some would even label it terrorism. “We expect that Canadian government would continue to honour this distinction,” he remarked.

The Aam Aadmi Party also criticised the Centre for how it has treated Trudeau. Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira said that Punjabis and Sikhs feel deeply hurt at the lack of respect shown by Modi towards Trudeau.


The Tribune – Manjit Singh GK takes on CM over ‘clean chit’ to Rajiv Gandhi in ’84 riots

Tribune News Service

New Delhi-India, 12 February 2018. A day after CM Amarinder Singh claimed that Rajiv Gandhi was in West Bengal when the 1984 riots broke out, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh Greater Kailash today asked the CM to examine the facts before giving the “clean chit” to the former Prime Minister.

The CM had yesterday accused SAD leaders of resorting to desperate measures to malign Rajiv.

The DSGMC chief said Amarinder Singh either did not want to speak the truth or had been directed by the Gandhi family to issue a wrong statement.

He said former President Pranab Mukherjee’s book ‘The Turbulent Years’ had given details of Rajiv’s whereabouts on October 31, 1984. Manjit Singh GK said Rajiv was informed through a police wireless message at 9:30 am about the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when he was in Contai (West Bengal).

At that time, Cabinet Ministers Pranab Mukherjee and Ghani Khan Chaudhary were with Rajiv. Mukherjee wrote that he had directed senior police officers to bring a special aircraft from New Delhi.

Rajiv, Mukherjee and Ghani Khan reached Kolghat, covering a distance of 100 km by road, from where they departed for Kolkata in a chopper. About 1 pm, Rajiv and his colleagues had left for Delhi in a special aircraft of Indian Airlines, Manjit Singh GK said, quoting the book.

Then President Giani Zail Singh, who was on an official tour to Oman, had returned by 4 pm that day, the SAD leader said.

Manjit Singh GK stated that after being elevated as Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi and ministers Mukherjee, P Shivshankar, P V Narasimha Rao and Buta Singh had called a meeting and directed that Indira’s body would be kept for three days at Teen Murti Bhawan.

The DSGMC chief asked Amarinder Singh to wait for the truth to surface before questioning the SAD’s demand for an inquiry into the Gandhi family’s alleged involvement in the riots.

The Times of India – Radical Sikh groups hope to meet Trudeau during his Amritsar visit

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 09 February 2018. Sikh radical groups hope to be able to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his India visit from February 17 to 23. This comes in the backdrop of Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh expressing reservations in meeting some of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers for their alleged leaning towards Khalistan.

While welcoming the visit of the Canadian PM, Jarnail Singh Sakhira, general secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), a pro-Khalistan group, said they would give a memorandum to Trudeau reminding him of Sikhs’ genocide in India.

While stating that Khalistan was very much on the party’s agenda, he said they had no plans to raise separatist slogans during Trudeau’s visit.

On his state visit to India, Trudeau is scheduled to visit Amritsar, Agra, New Delhi, Ahmadabad, and Mumabi. SAD (Amritsar) leaders and workers had raised slogans in praise of Khalistan during Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan’s Amritsar visit last year. However, even Sajjan had not met them.

Party’s office secretary Harbir Singh Sandhu said, “We have a peaceful programme to welcome Trudeau and meet him but if we are stopped from meeting him then we will see.”

Amarinder had refused to meet Sajjan during his visit in April 2017, accusing him of being a Khalistani sympathizer.

Canada is among other countries including the UK and the US where radical Sikh groups are still pursuing the Khalistan agenda by not only trying to provoke the Sikh youths in India but also instigating the gangsters to fight for the “cause of Panth”.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, legal adviser of Sikhs For Justice, in an e-mail message, said that they had written to Trudeau to defend Canadian Sikhs’ freedom of expression on Khalistan during his visit to India.

“Mr Prime Minister, since you are about to visit India, we are writing to apprise you about the pressing concerns of the Canadian Sikhs with regard to India’s policy of denying Sikhs’ rights to self-determination; labeling Sikh separatists as terrorists and policy of using torture as tool to suppress dissenting political opinion,” reads his letter. – Dal Khalsa: Clubbing the Khalistan issue with visiting Canadian PM is aimed to undermine indigenous character of Sikh freedom struggle

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 10 February 2018. Dal Khalsa believes that the raking up of the Khalistan issue coinciding with the trip of Canadian premier to India, including Amritsar, is aimed to embarrass Mr Justin Trudeau.

The organization feels by continuously questioning the credentials of Mr Justin Trudeau and his cabinet colleagues, a section of media and Punjab chief minister Captain Amrinder Singh has offended the political sensibilities of Canada, a Commonwealth friend of India, and started a fresh tirade against the Sikh Diaspora which as part of the Sikh nation has been making the right move on Canadian soil, raising human rights concerns and endorsing the call for the right to self-determination.

Party leader Kanwar Pal Singh said in its criticism against the Canadian government, India has failed to understand that if Canada allows the right to self-determination to the people of the Quebec, it cannot deny the same to anyone else for that matter.

He said by portraying the Sikh struggle for right to self determination as foreign sponsored move, there has been a well-planned, well-thought propaganda by the Indian establishment and its media to undermine the sovereign character of the Sikh people and their aspirations for independence.

He said the latest target of India and the media is the Sikh Diaspora residing in UK, Europe and Canada. Unfortunately, the Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh with his new-found love for neo-Nationalism (read Hindutva) and Narendra Modi have corroborated these accusations.

On Canada’s Defence Minister declaring that he doesn’t espoused Khalistani cause, another party leader H S Dhami said Harjit Singh Sajjan was never Khalistani and added that it was Captain Amrinder Singh, who labelled him out of egoistical reasons.

‘Sajjan is a Canadian Sikh and a minister owing allegiance to Canadian constitution’. He said Captain has his own axe to grind against the present Canadian government. On his U-turn, Dhami said Captain faced flak on his earlier stance of not meeting “guest” so to avoid further criticism he wasted no time to welcome Sajjan’s statement.

The Sikhs settled in Canada, UK and Europe need no certification or clearance to stand up for the rights of the Sikhs in Punjab, said he. He said to defame all Diaspora Sikhs supporting right to self-determination, the Indian state and media has labelled them as agents of their respective countries, out to create mischief in India.

Contrary to Indian perception, the reality is that they are Punjabi-born Sikhs, who have migrated to foreign countries and who want to see their homeland Punjab free from exploitation, human rights abuses and India’s political stranglehold.

Appreciating Canada for its open, mature and vibrant democracy, he said while in India the right to freedom of expression and to hold independent thoughts are only on paper, in countries like Canada it is being practised in letter and spirit.

The Indian Express – Will not allow Amarinder Singh’s smooth participation in Harvard conference: SFJ

“Amarinder’s government is following in the footsteps of the Badals whose government also filed frivolous criminal charges against SFJ campaigners in 2016. The Punjab CM will not have a smooth participation in Harvard conference, we can assure that,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Legal Advisor of SFJ.

Man Aman Singh Chhina

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 5 January 2018. Hardliner group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) has announced that it is gearing up to mount a legal challenge against Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who will be visiting the United States of America in February to participate in Harvard University’s annual India conference.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Legal Advisor of SFJ, said that the organisation will hold protests on February 10 and 11 when Amarinder comes to the Harvard University to take part in the conference.
“Captain Amarinder’s government is responsible for torture and persecution of Sikh nationalists who are campaigning for referendum in the state of Punjab,” he said.

Pannun said that SFJ will campaign in the coming days to portray Captain Amarinder as “Hitler of Punjab” and will initiate a letter writing campaign to Harvard University faculty to apprise them about the Punjab government’s action against those who are campaigning for referendum.

“Amarinder’s government is following in the footsteps of the Badals whose government also filed frivolous criminal charges against SFJ campaigners in 2016. The Punjab CM will not have a smooth participation in Harvard conference, we can assure that,” said Pannun.

Pannun said SFJ will also look into the ways and means of serving a Canadian court’s summons on Amarinder over a defamation case which has been filed by SFJ against him.

Will not allow Amarinder Singh’s smooth participation in Harvard conference: SFJ

The Indian Express – Allegations against Punjab minister: J S Narang panel submits report to Captain Amarinder Singh

The Chief Minister had constituted the commission on May 29 after allotment of sand mines in Nawanshahar were alleged to be linked to two former employees of the minister.

Chandigarh, 11 August 2017. More than two months after the Punjab government set up the Justice J S Narang (retd) commission to probe allegations of irregularities in auction of sand mines involving Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, the one-man commission submitted its report to the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Thursday.

After going through the recommendations of the commission, the Chief Minister has forwarded the report to Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh. Justice Narang, who prepared the 92-page report in 72 days, met Amarinder at the latter’s official residence and handed over the report.

The Chief Minister had constituted the commission on May 29 after allotment of sand mines in Nawanshahar were alleged to be linked to two former employees of the minister.

The inquiry commission was mandated to find out whether the sand mining auction linked with minister’s ex-employees had caused any loss to the state exchequer, whether there was any pressure from the minister on the department to allot the mines to his ex-employees and whether any rules were bent by the government.

The commission had questioned officials of the sand mining department and Rana’s employees.

Justice Narang told The Indian Express that he would not say anything about the report as it was confidential. “I will speak only after the Chief Secretary gives his remarks on the action recommended by me.”

However, sources in the government said the commission, after questioning officials of the sand mining department and Rana’s ex-employees, is learnt to have reached a conclusion that no pressure was exerted, no rules were bent and the state exchequer did not face any loss.

The commission, set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, was also asked to inquire whether the minister received any undue financial benefit or gain from the award of such two mines to the bidders and if there has been any loss to the state’s revenue by the award of such two mines to the bidders at the price in question.

Allegations against Punjab minister: J S Narang panel submits report to Captain Amarinder Singh

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Christians in shock after pastor shot dead in ‘safe’ Punjab

World Watch Monitor, 17 July 2017. The Christian community in Ludhiana, the largest city in India’s north-western state of Punjab, is in shock after a pastor was shot dead outside his Pentecostal church on Saturday evening (15 July).

Sultan Masih, 47, who also ran a school for the poor, was gunned down by two people on a motorbike, who shot him at close range outside the Temple of God Church, where he was senior pastor. He suffered multiple wounds to his body and head.

Hundreds of Christians took to the streets on Sunday (16 July), blocking off a major national highway (the road to Jalandhar) for three hours, and only ceasing once they had received assurances from the police that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

“Pastor Sultan Masih was my neighbour and my friend,” fellow pastor Paul Tamizharasan told World Watch Monitor following the funeral today (17 July).

“Family members are grieving and we hope the government will catch the accused. We demand answers and have gone to the Punjab government, but they couldn’t find who did this.

“The state of Punjab is very safe in India for Christians. There are Sikhs living here, they are also a religious minority in India. We are also a minority, but never before have we had any threats. But unfortunately this has happened and we are all shocked about how this is possible. Nobody knows how this can happen.

“Two people came by bike. Every Saturday, the pastor, after finishing his Sunday-service preparations, at 8.30 pm he will come out. As usual, he had been talking with people outside, very casually. Then at 8.45, two people came very near, about 2-3 feet, and they shot his leg, and his face and his chest.”

CCTV cameras recorded footage of the attack, but a police spokesman said it was too dark to make out the attackers’ faces.

Masih had been pastor of the church for 20 years and also ran a school for the poor from inside the church. He is survived by his wife, Sarabjit, and sons, Elisha, 26, and Hanok, 18.

According to The Tribune, the Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, has promised 500,000 rupees (around $8,000) for Masih’s widow and a guaranteed job with the police for one of Masih’s sons. He also promised that the killers would be brought to justice.

Some reports say that Masih had received threats before his death. The police denied this but refused to rule out “terror” as a possible motive.

Meanwhile the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee said the attackers were trying to “disturb the peace” and called on the Christian community to “maintain the peace”.

View this newsletter:

DNA India – Martyrs’ gallery at Golden Temple would foment trouble: Amarinder Singh

Chandigarh, 5 July 2017. With construction of a Martyrs’ Gallery in memory of those killed in Operation Blue Star set to begin at Golden Temple in Amritsar on July 6, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder raised concerns that it could disrupt the communal harmony of the state.

Highlighting that he was against the project since beginning, the CM blamed the previous SAD-led government for fomenting trouble in the otherwise peaceful state.

“I want to ask Parkash Singh Badal (former CM), on what is the logic behind whipping up religious emotions through such steps when out of power. It would serve as an unnecessary provocation,” he said, during his first major media interaction after being elected to power.

Hitting out at the previous government, he said, “Why the work on this proposed gallery was not undertaken during Badal’s decade-long tenure as CM?”

The portrait gallery will be set up in the Operation Blue Star memorial Gurdwara on the Golden Temple premises and will have pictures of those killed in the Operation, including Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

The permission to the project was given by Sikh apex body Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) after the Punjab Assembly elections, in which Congress made a clean sweep.

Responding to a question on the threat concerns raised by BJP over the posters put up by the Sikh Justice Forum (SJF) across various cities, demanding ‘Referendum 2020’, the CM said, there was nothing to worry about.

“The posters are not worthy of consideration. No such feelings (of support to separatist groups) prevailed among the people of Punjab. Everything is under control,” he said, while flaying the concerns raised by the state unit of BJP, which had appealed the government to act immediately and get the posters removed.

The posters demanding ‘Azaadi-Punjab Independence’, ‘Referendum 2020’ allegedly by Sikh For Justice (SFJ), a Canada-based Sikh organization have sprung up in Patiala, Barnala and other districts.

The Asian Age – Raje must act against beating of Sikhs, says Amarinder Singh

Amarinder said the Rajasthan government needs to fix culpability and ensure that the culprits are punished

Chandigarh, 28 May 2017. After the reported assault on four Sikh men in Ajmer, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday spoke to his Rajasthan counterpart, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, to seek her personal intervention in ensuring a thorough probe into the incident of mob violence and stringent action against the constable alleged to have abetted the crowd.

Captain Amarinder also urged Ms Raje to direct the police to take immediate steps to prevent a recurrence of such an incident.

Describing the incident as unfortunate, Captain Amarinder said the Rajasthan government needed to fix culpability and ensure the culprits were punished.

The chief minister expressed concern over the fact that the incident, which reportedly took place in April, was being given a communal hue in media reports.

He expressed surprise that the incident did not come to the notice of the local police till a video surfaced on social media showing the mob drag the four Sikhs out of a Bolera SUV and thrash them.

Times of India – After CM’s disclosure on militants killed in encounter, Sikh bodies demand justice

Jalandhar, 21 May 2017. After Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s disclosure about the killing of 21 militants whose surrender he arranged after talks with then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, demands for full disclosure, investigation and legal action are being raised.

Rights group Khalra Mission Organization (KMO) and Sikh group Dal Khalsa, in separate statements, said if it was really a burden on his conscience, he should help the truth come out and ensure justice to the families of those killed.

Now that he admitted that 21 militants, whose surrender he facilitated himself, were subsequently eliminated in stage-managed encounters, he should follow it up with action, they said.

“This disclosure is from an incumbent CM and now he should make the names of the 21 and those of the guilty public. He should initiate legal action in the case. The Supreme Court and high court should also take cognisance of the disclosure made by the incumbent CM and initiate legal proceedings,” KMO activists, led by its patron Paramjit Kaur Khalra, Satwinder Singh Palasaur and Haramndeep Singh Sarhali said in a joint statement issued here.

“Amarinder is known for bold admissions and going by his character, he has made public how security forces and state police carried out illegal killings with impunity during the period of militancy. It is an admission that they were killed in fake encounters.

But mere regret on deaths means little to the victims and justice-seekers. Coincidentally, he is in the saddle now and in a position to entrust a probe into the unlawful killings.

If Amarinder has any burden on his conscience, doing justice to the victims can relieve him. A fair and impartial investigation is essential to bring the guilty policemen to book”, said Dal Khalsa members Kanwar Pal Singh, Satnam Singh and Ranbir Singh.

Kanwar Pal said he read the book on Amarinder Singh and there were no detailed references of 21 militants except for Anokh Singh Ubhoke, who approached Amarinder to surrender. According to the book, he was handed over to the IB director in the presence of former PM Chandra Shekhar in 1991. Ukhoke was shown to have been killed in an encounter in December 1992.

Releasing his biography in Delhi on Wednesday evening, Captain Amarinder Singh said he arranged for the surrender of 21 militants but they were killed. “I felt betrayed by then PM Chandra Shekhar after 21 Khalistani militants I arranged to surrender were killed. Never spoke to him after that,” he tweeted.