– Canada: Palbinder Kaur Shergill is the first turbaned Sikh woman judge of provincial Supreme Court

She has represented the interests of the Canadian Sikh community in many cases, including on the right of Sikh students to wear the kirpan in schools.

Vancouver-British Columbia-Candada, 24 June 2017. Indian-origin Palbinder Kaur Shergill on Friday became the first turbaned Sikh woman judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada. Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould announced the appointment on Friday under a new judicial application process that was introduced in October last year.

Shergill has been appointed with immediate effect, as sitting Justice EA Arnold-Bailey retired on May 31. She has represented the interests of the Canadian Sikh community in many cases, including one dealing with the right of Sikh students to wear the kirpan in schools.

Welcoming the decision, World Sikh Organisation President Mukhbir Singh said, “The appointment of Justice Shergill is another milestone for the Sikh community in Canada. It is a matter of great pride that today we have the first turbaned Sikh appointed to the judiciary in Canada.”

Shergill migrated to Canada with her parents from Rurka Kalan in Jalandhar at the age of four. She grew up in Williams Lake, British Columbia, and received her law degree from the University of Saskatchewan and now lives in Surrey.

A news release by the department of justice, Canada, said that before being appointed Supreme Court justice, Shergill practised as a lawyer and mediator with her law firm. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2012 and is a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Community Service.

Justice Shergill has been involved with many legal and non-legal organisations, including the Cabinet of Canadians, the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, and the Canadian Bar Association, said the news release.

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Scroll.In – After the Manchester attack, this Sikh taxi driver offered free rides to anyone in need

Singh is part of a community that has been offering great support

UK, 25 May 2017. A J Singh, a taxi driver in Manchester, put a “Free Taxi” sign on his car moments after Monday night’s devastating terror attack at the Manchester Arena.

He spent the entire night helping those who were stranded or separated from their loved ones, and drove many to the hospital.

“I just heard the news and thought Manchester needs our help. As a Sikh, we are meant to help the community when it’s needed…I’ve had people who needed to find loved ones, I’ve dropped some off to the hospital.

They’ve not had any money, they’ve been stranded; there’s no transport in Manchester. All the roads are closed, it’s really hard to get around,” he told Channel 4 News.

Shaken by the attack, he is part of a large community that came to the aid of those affected by the bombing in Manchester. Another cab driver, Sam Arshad, told his colleagues at StreetCars Manchester to give free rides to anyone in need.

There were also many gurdwaras offering food and accommodation to people seeking safety. Messages on Twitter were circulated using the hashtag #RoomForManchester by people offering their homes and hotel rooms as well.

The attack left 22 dead and at least 59 injured when a 22-year-old suicide bomber, whos name is believed to be Salman Abedi, allegedly deployed a bomb outside the venue of an Ariana Grande concert. There were about 21,000 people in attendance.

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Published in: on May 25, 2017 at 5:18 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , – A Partition tragedy: Buried in an ancient Lahore graveyard is a Sikh man known as a martyr to love

Boota Singh was a resident of Ludhiana district of Punjab.

My friend and guide, Iqbal Qaiser, and I walked aimlessly around a section of the Miani Sahib graveyard in Lahore looking for one particular burial spot.

It was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Spread over an area of 1,000 kanals (125 acres), this graveyard, the oldest in the city of Lahore, is estimated to contain more than three lakh graves.

We drove within the graveyard, negotiating early Sunday morning traffic and family members who had come to pay homage to their deceased ancestors. Vendors sitting at corners sprinkled fresh water on their rose petals.

Fragrant tendrils of smoke from burning incense sticks scattered in the air. Life moves at its own leisurely pace at Miani Sahib, while Lahore, encroaching upon it from all sides, bursts with energy.

The entire history of the city of Lahore can be narrated through the graves at Miani Sahib. At one end of the graveyard, in an empty plot cut off from the rest, is the mausoleum of Gul Begum, a concubine of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Just at a little distance from there is the grave of Dullah Bhatti, the rebel zamindar of Pindi Bhattian, who revolted against Emperor Akbar. Driving on we found ourselves facing the entrance to the shrine of Ghazi Ilmuddin, a vigilante who murdered the Hindu publisher Mahashe Rajpal in 1929 for publishing a blasphemous book on the Prophet of Islam.

Qaiser remembered that the grave we were looking for was somewhere behind this shrine. We stepped around numerous mud graves, most of them unmarked, trying to look for any signs.

We walked over to a middle-aged man fixing a mud grave. “Do you know where Jamil Ahmad is buried?” asked Qaiser. When the man expressed his ignorance, Qaiser added: “He is also known by the name of Boota Singh.”

Post-Partition repatriation

Boota Singh was a resident of the district of Ludhiana in East Punjab, now in India. During the riots of Partition, when Muslim families were being murdered and chased out of East Punjab, he saved the life of a young girl called Zainab, who had been separated from her family.

He married her and they soon had two daughters, Tanveer and Dilveer Kaur.

Almost a decade after Partition, the Indian and Pakistani governments decided to return the women separated from their families at the time of Partition, who now lived across the border from them.

It was around this time that state authorities picked up Zainab along with her younger daughter, Dilveer, to be returned to Pakistan. Her family had settled at a small village called Nurpur, near the border, on the outskirts of Lahore. This is where Zainab was repatriated.

Taking his older daughter with him, Boota Singh went to Delhi where he tried to get the authorities to bring back his wife and child. When he was unsuccessful, and without many other options, he decided to convert to Islam and enter Pakistan to get his wife and daughter back.

That is how he became Jamil Ahmad. Crossing the border illegally, he reached Nurpur. Here, however, Zainab’s family members beat him up and handed him over to the state authorities.

Legal hearings followed in which Boota Singh claimed that he had come for his wife and if she could appear in court once, she would testify in his favour. Eventually the Lahore High Court summoned Zainab.

The case had caught the attention of the public by now. There was much interest about what Zainab was going to say. Zainab arrived at the High Court, surrounded by her family members, and wearing a burqa.

Not only did she refuse to go back to Boota Singh, she also requested the court to take away her younger daughter who had been living with her. There is much speculation as to why Zainab testified the way she did, the most popular one being that she was under pressure from her family members.

The romantics who later made movies and wrote books about their love story simply could not imagine any other option.

‘Leave now’

Before my visit to Boota Singh’s grave, I had decided to visit the village of Nurpur and see if anyone there remembered the story. On a hot sunny afternoon, Qaiser and I walked into a barber’s shop.

A ceiling fan creaked as it rotated. An old man sat next to us reading the newspaper, while the barber was busy trimming the beard of a younger man.

“Have you heard about the incident of Zainab and Boota Singh?” asked Iqbal Qaiser. The barber stopped his work. The old man put down his newspaper, while the man sitting on the barber’s chair turned around to see us.

“Why are you asking?” asked the barber.

“We are journalists,” said Qaiser. “We were hoping to meet someone from Zainab’s family and find out about their side of the story. Much has been said about them especially in Indian Punjab. We want to find out if they have anything to say about the whole episode.”

The barber said: “You are our guests so we cannot be rude to you but I have to warn you. Please don’t repeat this story in front of anyone from the village. Zainab’s family still lives here and is sensitive about the issue.

If they find out that both of you are sniffing around God knows what they will do to you. It is my suggestion that you kindly leave the village without asking any more questions.”

We listened to his advice.

However, I did not give up the attempt to connect with someone from Zainab’s village. For months I looked for someone from Nurpur. I did find a few, some who even agreed to help me contact someone from Zainab’s family.

However all of them eventually backed out after getting in touch with her family. The family was completely averse to talking about the matter even almost seven decades after the incident.

Dejected, Boota Singh jumped in front of a train and killed himself. His last wish was to be buried in Nurpur, the village of his beloved, but that was not to be. Zainab’s family would not allow such a breach of their honour. Boota Singh was buried at Miani Sahib. His legend however was only beginning to grow.

His grave became a shrine for young lovers. He was called Shaheed-e-Mohabbat. Fresh flowers were brought to his grave every day. His followers wanted to solidify his mud grave and construct a brick shrine around it. However there were others who were vehemently opposed to any such glorification of a Sikh.

They would come in the night and destroy his grave. Boota Singh’s supporters would construct the grave again in the morning. For many days after Boota Singh’s death this tussle continued before it eventually died a natural death. Boota Singh’s grave remained a mud grave and no shrine was constructed over it.

“Perhaps the grave has been razed to make way for new graves,” said the custodian of the graves at Miani Sahib. “As you can see there is a dearth of space here.”

Qaiser asked, “What is the average life of a grave here?”

The custodian replied: “For a mud grave about 50 years to 60 years. It really depends. Graves only remain alive till the point visitors come to it. They die when the visitors stop coming.”

Haroon Khalid is the author of three books – Walking with Nanak, In Search of Shiva and A White Trail – ‘Death holds no fear for us’: A Sikh soldier’s insights into the horrors of World War I

Jangnamah, a genre of poetic writing, can also be a rich historical resource, as a work from WWI reveals

Published 10 April 2017

Nand Singh, an Indian poet and soldier who witnessed World War I fighting under the British in Aden, opens his Jangnamah Europe verse with the assassination of the Shehzada of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by the Serbians.

His poem then goes on to talk about the events which led to the German invasion of Belgium and how “the compassionate British Government, stood with Belgium and France against the arrogant Germany who broke all the agreements”.

Nand Singh’s work and other Jangnamahs of the British period in Punjab are valuable literary and historical narratives providing rare subaltern perspectives about the colonial wars and conflicts.

Even prior to World War I, Punjabi soldiers had fought under British in the Second Anglo-Afghan war, Anglo-Egyptian war, Second Opium war, Boxer Rebellion in China and multiple campaigns in the North West Frontier.

There was very little documentation of this period “from below”, and of this limited historiography Jangnamah poetry holds a vital but largely forgotten position. Nand Singh finished Jangnamah Europe on June 7, 1919, and is arguably the first work in Punjabi discussing the European and Middle Eastern people, empires and politics.

Jangnamah, a genre of historical poetic writing which documented the events of a war, entered Punjab in the late 16th century as a literary response to the Persian epics.

It found patronage in the hands of Punjabi Muslim poets like Maulvi Rukundin, Hamid and Shahjahan Muqbal who honed this craft commemorating the 7th century Islamic wars of Karbala, Badr and Uhud.

Afghan invasions, the crumbling Mughal Empire and rise of the Sikh power in late 18th century created another period of great turmoil and conquest in Punjab. This brought war as a tangible phenomenon to the Punjabi poet and led to a renaissance in the Jangnamah literature.

It shifted from religious metaphorical style to a historically accurate poetic description of war as witnessed by the contemporary poets.

The Magnum Opus of this genre is about the final war of the Sikh empire of Punjab. Jangnamah Hind Punjab, or Singhan Firanghian (Sikhs and British) as it is variously titled, was composed by Shah Muhammad, a Punjabi Muslim from Gurdaspur in the central Punjab.

It chronicles the events which built up to the First Anglo-Sikh war in 1845, from the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the treachery and politics that followed in his court and finally the battle which the Sikhs lost.

In the British Raj, specifically during the mutiny of 1857, defeated Sikh chiefs heralded the British call to “retrieve their characters” by taking service in the British Indian Army. Most of those who signed up subsequently served in the North West Frontier, which remained the constant theatre of war under the British.

The bleak, bloodthirsty passes inspired a great deal of poetry ranging from the romanticised ballads of Rudyard Kipling to the folk Pashto legends of Malalai of Maiwand, who died rallying the Afghan Ghazis to fight the “British infidels” in the battle of Maiwand during the second Anglo-Afghan war.

At least half a dozen Jangnamahs were composed in this period; the most notable are the ones about the siege of Delhi during the Mutiny and the expeditions of Chitral, Tirah and Malakand in the North Western Frontier during the last decade of 19th century.

Havildar Nand Singh, who composed the Janganamah Europe giving an empirical account of the First World War was a Sergeant in the Malay State Guides. His regiment was raised in 1896 with its headquarters in Taiping, Malaysia. It had its origins in the Perak Sikh police force and composed mainly of Punjabi Sikh and Muslim soldiers.

The Guides had offered overseas service multiple times but it was not until World War I that the regiment was baptised by blood in Yemen. On September 26, 1915, they left Taiping to join the Aden Field Force.

Nand Singh talks about the recruitment that how everyone from the weaver, the bard to the teacher, the clerk and even Pundits and Maulvis were drafted into the service and trained in digging bunkers, shooting rifles and saluting the officers.

One distinctive aspect of the work is that the poet repeatedly returns to talk about the misery and longing of the women left behind in their homes.

For them, both local officials and Germans turn villainous, they lament the local police constable who threatened their sons with false accusations to force them to enlist and loathe the Zaildar and village heads who ‘took’ their sons, brothers and husbands away from them.

With the progress of war they start receiving messages of soldier’s deaths from Regimental stations and they moan and wail at Germany for its cruelty, for killing their sons in the unheard lands of France and Basra.

In contrast to most other Jangnamahs of this period his tone is not of flattery, for example he uses word Sahib once only for Lord Kitchener. However, he recurrently stresses “Namak Halali” (loyalty) whether it be of the 14th Sikh Regiment who fought almost to their last man at Gallipoli or as a virtue for new recruits to uphold.

His work thus provides a measured outlook of the war and an insight into what Regimental honour and loyalty meant to the native soldiers.

Adulation is more frequent in British-sponsored works like Qasim Ali’s Zafarnamah-i-Kabul which is considered a rendering of the first Afghan war which favours the British to counter the popular Jangnamahs of this war composed by Hamid Kashmiri and Mohammad Gholam Gholami.

Similarly, the Jangnama of Chitral, in which Subadar Wadhawa Singh of 23rd Sikh Pioneers Regiment sketches the dramatic murder of the ruler of Chitral by his brother Amir-ul-Mulk, the siege of the fort and then finally the relief under Major General Sir Robert Low, also suffers from a British eulogising style.

It was presented by the poet to his Colonel S V Gordon in 1896 and seems to have then been used as an instrument to firm the fidelity of the native troops.

Nand Singh discusses multiple theatres of action ranging from Gallipoli, Kut-al-Amara and Baghdad to the battle of Verdun on Western Front.

He vividly describes his own regiment’s multiple confrontations in and near Aden and their bravery which won a Military Cross, an Indian Order of Merit, eight Indian Distinguished Service Medals and praise and appreciation from Major General J M Stewart, General Officer commanding the Aden Field Force.

Even the war’s end did not bring relief for Nand Singh and his fellow soldiers. When the guns and artillery were silenced they continued to lose their lives as they were struck down by the influenza epidemic which eventually claimed the lives of an estimated 14 million Indians (not just soldiers). Nand Singh writes:

“With the telegraphs of armistice, nemesis changed its face/ The deadly fever spread, it takes a man’s life faster than the bullet’s pace”

In 1914 the Guide had initially refused to mobilise. The reasons have been variously linked to the seditious Ghadarite influence, the Komagata Maru incident, and sympathy of Muslim soldiers with Khalifat Movement.

Although they did eventually renew their offer the British were ever mindful of this reluctance and disbanded the regiment in 1919.

The soldiers were either absorbed into other regiments or returned to Punjab with gratuity and pensions. Nand Singh most probably returned home having proved his ‘Namak Halali’ but ironically with a seditious label.

The beauty of the Jangnamah narrative is that it reveals the soldiers’ courage in its most naked form, celebrating their ability brave fear and continue against the odds. Nand Singh sustains this tradition and writes:

“Death holds no fear for us, what honour is it to fall abaft holding the Saber fine?

After raising the Sarkar’s rifle, what honour is it to fright and whine?

Die thyself or kill thy enemy, what honour is it to war without all thy might?

After enlisting on the rolls, what honour is it to fear the death or even its sight?

Seeking to prove the loyalty, what honour is it hold back from the battle field?

Never keep the trader’s heart, what honour is it to blame the fate and yield?”

Raman Singh Chhina is working on an anthology of native histories about the colonial conflicts in the Indian subcontinent. He is a graduate from Delhi Technological University and works as a Credit Risk Analyst. His major interests lie in Public Policy and Socio-Political History. [centre/italics]

This article first appeared on
South Asia@LSE

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Scroll.In – Ontario passes motion describing 1984 anti-Sikh riots as ‘genocide’, India dismisses move

The central government has rejected the ‘misguided’ motion, said MEA Spokesperson Gopal Baglay.

Toronto, 7 April 2017. India on Friday rejected a motion passed by the Ontario Legislative Assembly describing the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “genocide”, reported PTI. The motion, which was moved on Thursday, was passed with 34 Members of Provincial Parliament voting in favour and only five against it.

“We reject this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Gopal Baglay said. The Centre’s views on the motion have been conveyed to the Canadian leadership, he added.

The motion was passed by MPP Harinder Malhi belonging to the ruling Liberal Party of Ontario. The motion said the Legislative Assembly of Ontario should seek to condemn all forms of violence, hatred, prejudice, racism in India and other parts of the world, “including the 1984 Genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs throughout India”.

Several Sikhs, who had gathered in the gallery of the Legislative Assembly, cheered and shouted slogans as the motion was passed, ANI reported.

The riots had broken out on 1 November 1984, after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. During the riots, as many as 2,433 people had died in Delhi alone.

We welcome your comments at – Interview: Sikh-American activist Valerie Kaur is fighting hate with revolutionary love

The founder of the Revolutionary Love Project shot into the spotlight with an inspirational New Year’s Eve speech

On New Year’s Eve, Valarie Kaur, a documentary filmmaker and civil rights activist based in Los Angeles, California, delivered a moving speech at a historic African-American church in Washington DC. In her speech, she spoke of the dark times ahead and how instead of leading to despair, this could be an opportunity for change.

This speech was actually the message of the Revolutionary Love Project, an initiative she launched in autumn of 2016. This movement and her New Year’s Eve speech, Kaur said, arose from her distress about the increase in hate violence during the US presidential election campaign. Kaur wrote in an email to

“Last year, distraught by the rise in hate violence during the election season, I had a moment of personal crisis. I left my job at Stanford Law to reflect on what’s missing in our movement. Through reflection, I realised that what we most need aren’t new policy solutions but a different way of fighting for them.

Political tactics are not enough: No number of policy wins will end what the Southern Poverty Law Center has called the era of “enormous rage”. If anything, conventional organising tends to mirror the kinds of demonisation, suspicion, and distrust that we seek to oppose.

We need new ways of fighting for our values and seeing people who are different from us [racially, religiously, and politically] as sisters and brothers whose destinies are tied with ours. We need a new ethic.

I reflected on the only thing that has ever created change in the communities I have served, it always came down to one question. Is love present here? Whenever hurt people received love from their communities, it emboldened them to respond, in turn, with love.

They would rise up to help heal their family or change the culture of a place, even a policy. But whenever people were left alone with their pain, their isolation bred loathing and more destruction. I began writing and thinking and speaking about love – as a revolutionary force.”

The project has coordinated 100 film screenings and dialogues, and urged people to vote during the elections. After the inauguration of Donald Trump as president in November, it also joined forces with movements such as One Billion Rising, to end violence against women, and the Women’s March on Washington, a worldwide movement for women’s rights and against the Trump presidency that took place on January 21-22.

Kaur is now writing a book about Revolutionary Love. In an email interview, she talks about growing up as a Sikh in America and of her activism.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Question: The story of your grandfather, how he traveled from Punjab to California by steamship 100 years ago, was arrested and jailed for months by immigration officers, and struggled to make a life in America, is incredibly moving. Was this story a part of your life as you were growing up? How did it influence you?

I grew up with stories of my grandparents and ancestors, and these stories made me feel connected to my Sikh faith and American heritage. My grandfather’s story showed me what it meant to be an American, to love our neighbours as ourselves, even in dangerous times. That’s when our love becomes revolutionary.

Question: As a Sikh in America, how has the country changed for you and the people you know in the last few years? Has the nature of the fear begun to shift as well?

The current crisis in hate violence in America is only the latest chapter in an epidemic that began more than 15 years ago in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Since then, a new racial category of the “Muslim terrorist” has become embedded in the American racial landscape.

Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians are part of that racial category. Every time the government targets our communities, it emboldens people to act on their stereotypes against us.

Since the current president rose in power, his rhetoric and now policies consistently punish our communities. It’s no surprise that hate crimes against our communities has now skyrocketed.

On February 22, Srinivas Kuchibhotla was murdered by a gunman in Kansas who said “get out of my country” before he opened fire. His murder appears to be the first fatal hate crime since Trump’s inauguration.

I was devastated by the news and flashed back to 15 years ago when Balbir Singh Sodhi became the first person to be murdered in a hate crime after 9/11. Like Balbir Uncle’s murder, Srinivas’ murder is not an isolated incident.

It’s part of a larger climate of fear, hate and vitriol, and foretells more violence to come. My solace is that millions of people are politically awakened now like never before and ready to stand in solidarity with us and other communities in harm’s way.

Question: There is a perception of Indians as the “good minorities” who do not speak up for the rights of other communities in danger. Do you think this is accurate and is it changing now?

When I became an activist 15 years ago, there were few other South Asian Americans who were pursuing this path. For most of my college years at Stanford University, I was the only Sikh undergraduate I knew who was not studying medicine. That’s changed.

In the years since 9/11, we have seen a new generation of South Asian Americans rise up and pursue careers in law, politics, business, media and advocacy. Today I’m proud to be part of coalitions of South Asian Americans who are on the front lines of fighting for social justice.

Question: You had a particularly strong message claiming solidarity across different communities that face discrimination in the United States today. Is there any instance of building solidarity in the recent past that has particularly moved you?

In my 15 years, I have worked with many communities fighting on a wide range of issues, hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detentions, solitary confinement, marriage equality, and internet freedom. In this work, I have discovered that our struggles are interconnected.

We are part of one broad movement for civil rights and human dignity. I believe it’s the old way to fight only for our own communities or causes. The future of our movements calls for deep solidarity.

I have seen this solidarity in the last few years, including at protests for Black Lives Matter, vigils at Standing Rock [by Native Americans against under-construction oil pipelines], and at the Women’s March.

I witnessed this solidarity up close in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Our multi-faith coalition along with Sikh advocates were able to secure lasting policy change on hate crimes.

When we organise together and raise a collective voice for social justice, we can create lasting policy and culture change.

Question: You also spoke of how this period of darkness might be the darkness of a womb, not of a tomb. How are you and others working to, as you say, “push”?

I launched the Revolutionary Love Project in order to support the broader movement. Revolutionary Love is the commitment to extend our will for the flourishing of others, our opponents and ourselves. Love is not a passing feeling but a commitment to action.

When we practise love in the face of fear or rage, then we can transform an encounter, a relationship, a culture, or a country: Our love becomes revolutionary. In this moment of political and moral crisis, millions of people have joined the movement for justice.

We will burn out if we run on fumes; we may even mirror the distress, hate and fear that we are resisting. But the ethic of love can ground our moral resistance and sustain our movement for months and years to come. I believe Revolutionary Love is the call of our times.

Together we drive calls to Congress, organise rallies and marches, and offer avenues for people to ground our activism in the ethic of Revolutionary Love. Today [on March 8] we held a general strike called a Day Without a Woman, where thousands of women went on strike with us.

People can learn more, sign the declaration and take action with us at

We welcome your comments at – 1985 Air India bombings: Canada frees lone Sikh immigrant convict

Although the parole board has allowed Inderjit Singh Reyat to return to a normal life, it has barred him from undertaking any political activity.

The Parole Board of Canada has set free a Sikh immigrant from India who was convicted in the 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people. Inderjit Singh Reyat is the only person convicted in the case.

He was found guilty of making bombs that were stuffed into luggage and planted on two planes departing from Vancouver, and of perjury, reported AFP.

Although Reyat was released from prison a year ago, he was ordered to live in a halfway house. The parole board has now lifted that condition. Board spokesperson Patrick Storey told AFP that Reyat can now lead a normal life, “living in a private residence”. Reyat had been in jail for two decades.

However, his parole officer has already decided with whom he will live so that there is no chance of any “negative influence on him”. The parole board has also barred him from establishing any contact with families of the blasts victims. He cannot undertake any political activity and also has to undergo counselling.

On June 23, 1985, all 329 people aboard Air India Flight 182 were killed when a bomb in it exploded near the Ireland coast. The second bomb killed two baggage handlers in Japan’s Narita airport.

Investigators found out that Reyat had bought dynamite, batteries and detonators when he was working as a mechanic in Canada. Two others, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were also accused of conspiring the explosions.

However, they were acquitted because of lack of evidence. It was believed that the explosions were planned to avenge Operation Blue Star in Amritsar’s Golden Temple.

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Published in: on February 17, 2017 at 6:23 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , – Election Commission orders re-polling at 48 stations in Punjab on 9 February

Several EVMs and Voter-Verified Audit Paper Trail machines had developed a snag on Saturday, when the votes were cast.

Chandigarh, 8 February 2017. The Election Commission on Tuesday ordered repolling at 48 polling stations in Punjab on February 9 due to problems with the Voter-Verified Audit Paper Trail and Electronic Voting Machines on February 4, PTI reported.

The re-elections will be held at 32 polling stations in the Majitha, Muktsar, Sangrur Assembly segments and 16 stations in the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency.

Punjab Cabinet Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Bikram Singh Majithia is fighting it out with Aam Aadmi Party candidate Sukhjinder Raj Singh and Congress candidate Himmat Singh Shergill from the Majitha seat.

BJP’s Rajindermohan Singh Chhina, Congress’ G S Aujla and AAP’s Upkar Sandhu have been fielded from Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.

The VVPATs used in the Majitha, Muktsar and Sangrur Assemblies and the EVMs used in the Moga and Sadulgarh constituencies were found to be faulty, Punjab chief electoral officer V K Singh told PTI.

The officer said that VVPATs will be used again in the repoll. “A total of 47 VVPATs will be deployed at the polling stations and sufficient numbers of machines have been kept as reserve,” Singh added.

A VVPAT produces a receipt with which the voter can verify if the vote actually went to the person for whom they voted on the EVM.

These machines are being used for the first time in Punjab at over 6,500 polling stations. However, on the polling day, 187 VVPATs had to be replaced.

The polling hours will be between 8 am and 5pm. The poll panel has ordered paid leave in the constituencies that will undergo a repoll on February 9.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had tweeted: ”Never has any election seen malfunctioning EVMs on such a large scale. Was it mischief done deliberately by or in collusion with EC?”

We welcome your comments at – Sikh man alleges discrimination after Australian school denies his son admission for wearing turban

Authorities at Melbourne’s Melton Christian College said they would not allow any garment that is not part of the uniform

Melbourne, 18 January 2017. A school in Australia denied admission to a 5-year-old Sikh boy on the grounds that his wearing a turban did not conform with the institute’s uniform policy, reported PTI.

“It is disappointing that my son has been forced to abandon his religious practices and identity to access to an education in Melbourne’s Melton Christian College,” the boy’s father, Sagardeep Singh Arora, told SBS TV.

The family has approached the Victoria Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, alleging discrimination against their religious belief. “It is immoral for a school to not allow students to practice their beliefs,” Arora said. Australia is home to more than 72,000 Sikhs.

Melton Christian College, however, stood by its position and said that school authorities will not allow any garment that is not part of the uniform.

“For 30 years, our children have been in classrooms and playgrounds, learning, growing, and playing side by side, wonderfully oblivious to their families’ extensive religious diversities. We acknowledge the disappointment that Sagardeep and his family feel,” said the school in its response to the commission’s notice.

The institute’s rule is in direct contravention of a landmark ruling in 2008, a private school in Brisbane had to revoke its uniform policy after it had forced a Sikh boy to cut his hair and remove his turban.

We welcome your comments at – Lest we forget: What five eminent Sikhs and a former prime minister witnessed during the 1984 riots [pogroms]

As Sikhs were being massacred in Delhi after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Zail Singh stood by helplessly, Home Minister Narasimha Rao played cool.

On November 1, 1992, The Pioneer newspaper, then edited by the legendary Vinod Mehta, published a story that Amit Prakash and this reporter had stitched together.

Titled, 1984: The Price of Inaction Revisited, we based our story on the experiences of an eminent band of five Sikhs, the personal diary of I K Gujral, who was to later become India’s prime minister, accounts of police officers, and reports of inquiry commissions and civil rights groups.

The eminent band of Sikhs included two who are celebrated for their heroics in war, the country’s only Marshal of the Indian Air Force, Arjan Singh, and Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the hero of the 1971 Bangladesh war.

The other three were the noted writer Patwant Singh, diplomat Gurbachan Singh and Brigadier (retd) Sukhjit Singh, a scion of the Kapurthala royal family.

Of them, we spoke at length to Patwant Singh, Lt General Aurora and Arjan Singh, who is still alive. Gujral read out his diary entries to us. The story below is an abridged version of 1984: The Price of Inaction Revisited, written in the spirit which novelist Milan Kundera described as: “The struggle for power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

October 31, 9.18 am: Indira Gandhi is shot

At 10 am, author Patwant Singh heard Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been shot at by her Sikh guards. Despite running a fever, he got onto his feet and asked his secretary to call Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Air Marshal Arjan Singh, diplomat Gurbachan Singh, and Brigadier (retd) Sukhjit Singh, all of them prominent Sikh citizens of Delhi.

To Arjan Singh, Patwant Singh said, “We must make our positions clear: Assassinations can’t and should never be a solution to political problems.” Arjan Singh asked him to prepare a draft statement for the Press.

The five decided to meet at Patwant Singh’s 11, Amrita Shergill Marg residence at 3.30 pm. Their alacrity suggested they had a foreboding of what lay ahead. Arjan Singh said he would try to reach out to I K Gujral and invite him to their meeting.

The Gujrals were not at home. Unknown to Arjan Singh, Gujral and his wife were wending their way to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where Indira Gandhi had been taken after she was sprayed with bullets.

Gujral was once a member of what was referred to as Gandhi’s “Kitchen Cabinet”, but had fallen out of favour after he decided to oppose Sanjay Gandhi’s attempt to censor the Press during the Emergency.

About his visit to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Gujral wrote in his diary:

“Reached AIIMS at 12.30 pm. We were taken to the eight floor where her body had been laid. [Godman] Dhirendra Brahmachari emerged from one of the rooms and whispered to Maneka [Gandhi], ‘She is dead’. Later, at the exit on the ground floor, [Union Minister P] Shiv Shankar confirmed the news.”

Her death was not made official, perhaps because her only surviving son, Rajiv Gandhi, was away in West Bengal. President Zail Singh, too, was abroad. There was, after all, the issue of succession to sort out.

At 3.30 pm, the eminent Sikhs began to discuss Patwant Singh’s draft of the statement. There was disagreement only on one count: Should a caveat be entered against the possibility of a backlash against the Sikh community? Aurora’s was the only contrarian voice, he felt there was no sign to fear attacks against Sikhs.

He brought others around to his view. A call was made to The Indian Express editor George Varghese, requesting him to give their statement condemning the assassination of Indira Gandhi a prominent slot.

Perhaps Aurora would not have taken a contrarian position at 11, Amrita Shergill Marg had he known what was happening outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where a crowd had gathered. One man’s turban was snatched and burnt. A Sikh was dragged out of his car and beaten.

Before Rajiv Gandhi returned to Delhi at 4 pm, and Zail Singh an hour later, just about every person in Delhi knew that Indira Gandhi was dead. The rumour mill was India’s social media then.

October 31, dusk: Disturbances spread

When President Zail Singh visited the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, stones were pelted at his cavalcade. It was done, according to police sources, by supporters of a Congress metropolitan councilor who was subsequently assassinated.

This set off a competition among local Congress leaders. Sikhs and Sikh-owned properties in INA Market, Sarojini Nagar Market and South Extension in South Delhi were attacked.

Those at 11, Amrita Shergill Marg were oblivious to what had started unfolding on Delhi’s streets. At 6.30 pm, Arjan Singh’s car backed out of Patwant Singh’s residence and turned left from where Amrita Shergill Marg loops to join Lodhi Road.

At the T-junction, two men rushed to him. One of them warned, “Sardarji, don’t take this route. Danga [rioting] has started.”

Twenty-five minutes later, at 6.55 pm, President Zail Singh administered the oath of office to Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded his mother as Prime Minister.

An hour or two after sunset, Deputy Commissioner (South Delhi) Chandra Prakash felt that the situation in Delhi was teetering out of control. He suggested to Additional Commissioner (New Delhi Range) Gautam Kaul that a curfew be imposed and the Army be called in. In a subsequent memorandum to the Union Home Ministry, Prakash wrote,

“Kaul turned down my recommendation stating that a meeting had already taken place sometime earlier in the Prime Minister’s house, where the Home Minister was also present, and a decision had been taken not to impose curfew and call out the Army at that stage.”

The Home Minister then was P V Narasimha Rao, who was to become Prime Minister seven years later. The Delhi Police reported to him. Chandra Prakash, ironically, was later indicted by inquiry commissions for failing to control the 1984 riots.

At night, the violence spread to North Delhi. A dry fruits shop was broken into and looted. However, the mob was dispersed and a police officer took the cash box into his custody.

Later, a string of timber merchant shops in Pili Kothi area in Central Delhi were set ablaze. The police found local Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders instigating the mob.

November 1, forenoon: Planned carnage

Between 9 am and 11 am, mobs began to raid Delhi’s residential colonies where Sikhs were concentrated. Killings and rapes occurred, as did looting and burning.

The Delhi Police was paralysed. It seemed as if diabolical souls had kept awake the previous night scripting and choreographing the dance of death that Delhi watched helplessly, but also, at places, with cannibalistic ecstasy.

Hearing about the carnage, Gujral placed a call to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Zail Singh promptly came on the line. About their conversation, Gujral wrote in his diary:

“He sounded pathetic and pleaded helplessness. He requested me to visit different parts of Delhi and seek governmental assistance.”

Gujral called Delhi’s Lt Governor, P G Gavai, at 11 am. Gujral’s entry read:

“I suggested the Army should be called in. Gavai says it will cause panic. I replied, ‘You are talking of not causing panic, but the whole city is already burning.’”

However, another version claimed that Gavai had indeed asked for the Army to be summoned the previous evening but was overruled by the Home Ministry.

It corroborates Chandra Prakash’s memorandum, belying the recent claims of those who allege it was the Prime Minister’s Office, not P V Narasimha Rao, who was overseeing the affairs of Delhi in those traumatic hours.

Meanwhile, diplomat Gurbachan Singh had managed to secure a 12.05 pm appointment with Zail Singh. It was decided they would assemble at 11, Amrita Shergill Marg. When Aurora sat in his car at his New Friends Colony residence, his driver cautioned him against venturing out.

But the man who had brought Pakistan to its knees in 1971 was firm in his resolve, unmindful of a mob that had begun to surround a gurdwara there. They took another route out of New Friends Colony, counted among Delhi’s spiffy colonies, and then sped to their destination.

Just 15 km away, a mob had surrounded Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Old Delhi, where hundreds of Sikhs had taken refuge. The mob started to launch sallies from both the Chandni Chowk and Red Fort sides of the gurdwara. The jathedars (community leaders) in the gurdwara, too, got into position.

Separating the assailants from defenders was a small contingent of policemen led by Deputy Commissioner Maxwell Pereira. He ordered his men to fire. The mob dispersed. One person died, hundreds of lives were saved.

By contrast, a strong 500-mob was allowed to go on the rampage in Trilokpuri Resettlement Colony in East Delhi, where the first Sikh victim was a scooterist who was burnt alive.

A college lecturer sought the help of two police constables posted at a gurdwara in Block 36. They walked away. The gurdwara was attacked.

November 1, 12.05 pm: The President shrugs

The eminent group of five Sikhs trooped into Rashtrapati Bhavan for their appointment. They were agitated. They narrated to the President the horrific scenes unfolding on the streets of Delhi. Zail Singh heard them silently. Aurora suggested to the President that he should address the nation on radio and television.

Patwant Singh complained that Doordarshan was allowing the provocative slogans being shouted at Teen Murti House – where the body of Indira Gandhi lay in state, to filter through. The President remained mum.

Aurora suggested, “Why don’t you call the Army?” The President said he did not have the powers to do so. A livid Patwant Singh remarked, “When the nation is burning the President has to intervene.”

Arjan Singh coaxed Zail Singh to speak to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. To their shock, he replied, “He is too busy. When I go to Teen Murti House I will try to talk to him.”

The President suggested that they should speak to Home Minister Rao. A presidential aide was asked to put in a call to him, but was told that Rao was in a meeting.

The Cabinet Secretary was telephoned. An official came on the line. Aurora introduced himself. The official said, “General, it is too dangerous for a Sikh to venture out. I don’t know where the Cabinet Secretary is.”

Angry and disconsolate, they sat there with Zail Singh, wondering what to do next, when at 1.15 pm the President’s press secretary Tarlochan Singh rushed in with the news that the Home Ministry had decided to requisition the Army.

But the mobs were on a killing spree. Residential blocks in Jahangirpuri in North Delhi had already been gutted, hundreds of Sikhs massacred. Posh South Delhi colonies were not spared either. In East Delhi, the mob had moved from Block 36 to Block 32 of Trilokpuri.

Back from Rashtrapati Bhavan, Patwant Singh and Aurora were joined by Gujral at 11, Amrita Shergill Marg. The trio decided to barge in at the 9, Motilal Nehru Marg residence of Home Minister Narasimha Rao.

November 1, afternoon: Rao plays cool [bold]

The trio was amazed at how relaxed Rao looked. He told them, “The Army will be here in the evening.”

Lt General Aurora asked, “How will it be deployed?” An unflappable Rao said, “The [Army] Area commander will meet the Lt Governor for this purpose.”

Aurora shot back angrily, “You have called the Army 30 hours too late.”

He then advised Rao: “Your first task should be to set up a Joint Control Room to coordinate between the police and the Army.” Unflustered, Rao said, “I will look into it.” The meeting ended.

For a man who had been a minister for so long, it does, in hindsight, seem surprising that Rao would not have known the procedure that is followed when the Army is called to assist civilian authority.

Even as Rao played cool, five rows comprising 190 houses in Block 32 of Trilokpuri were reduced to ashes. Only five men survived. The estimated death toll: 450 dead. Women were raped and killed, a few abducted and taken to a nearby village.

In the evening, Army units began moving into Delhi. Unknown to Aurora, two soldiers were positioned at his residence in New Friends Colony by an Army officer who came to know that was where the hero of the Bangladesh war lived.

However, Aurora did not return home, persuaded as he had been by the Gujrals to spend the night at their place. Gujral recorded in his diary:

“Delhi is burning. There are reports of trains arriving with corpses. It is like 1947. Gen Aurora spent the night with us. The hero of 1971 could not sleep in his own house in Delhi.”

November 2, morning: The Army is in control

At the sight of the Army on Delhi’s streets, the marauders did not venture out in South Delhi, though the killing continued in Trilokpuri, Mongolpuri and other trans-Yamuna colonies. Two Indian Express reporters went to Police Control Room to inform them about the massacres in Trilokpuri. They were laughed out of the room.

The relative calm elsewhere in Delhi prompted people to inquire about the well-being of their relatives and friends. Patwant Singh was surprised to find commentator Romesh Thapar and Swedish Charge d’ Affairs Rolf Gauffin at his door. Gauffin said, “Delhi isn’t safe. We have come to evacuate you to the Embassy.” He turned down the offer.

For the next few days, men, women and students began to work in relief camps. Civil rights groups began to document eyewitness accounts to prepare their reports, which eventually named the leaders who spearheaded or incited mobs to attack Sikhs. Thirty-two years later, most of the masterminds of the attacks remain unpunished.


Ten days later, Aurora, Arjan Singh and Gujral requested Congress minister Rajesh Pilot to arrange a meeting with Rajiv Gandhi. After waiting at Pilot’s residence for two hours, they received a message: “If you want to condole with Rajiv Gandhi, the meeting can be held immediately.”

To the messenger, Aurora said, “Obviously, we want to condole. But we also want to tell him about the misery the Sikhs had to undergo and about the necessity of punishing the guilty.”

The meeting was cancelled. The powerful were not willing to listen to the woes of the people. This was also true of the 1992-’93 Mumbai riots, and the 2002 riots in Gujarat.

Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist in Delhi. His novel, The Hour Before Dawn, has as its backdrop the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

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