Sikh24.com – French national Pal Singh granted full release from Punjab jail

Sikh24 Editors

Patiala-Panjab-India, 19 August 2017. Prisoner welfare organization, Sikh Relief, have announced that Bhai Pal Singh, a French national, has been granted a full release after being incarcerated for seven years in jail, where he endured much physical and mental pain.

Bhai Pal Singh was arrested when he was conducting humanitarian work in villages across Punjab, trying to raise awareness against drugs and promoting Sikh principles.

With Bhai Pal Singh’s dedicated and determined work, many of Punjab’s youth that he came in contact with gave up drugs. He was dedicated to helping a new generation of Sikhs in Punjab. This reportedly upset the Punjab Government and led to the unwarranted arrest and detainment of Bhai Pal Singh.

The Sikh Relief organization (formerly SOPW – Sikh Organization for Prisoner Welfare), were instrumental in funding Pal Singh’s defense attorneys and fighting his case through court. They made the announcement regarding his release on bail earlier today.

In a press release from Sikh Relief, chairman Balbir Singh Bains said, “It has taken years for the justice system to acknowledge the right to liberty of those who are demonstrably innocent, even if only granting bail, pending an appeal.

The Indian justice system would benefit society greatly if it worked with an organisations like ours and helped heal the mistrust of the Sikh community that feels oppressed by the judiciary and political classes.”

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/19/breaking-french-national-pal-singh-granted-full-release-from-punjab-jail/#.WZpkIdFLfIU

Sikh24.com – Sikhs in Canada host successful leadership event

Balpreet Singh

Ottawa, 18 August 2017. The World Sikh Organization of Canada held its third annual Sikh Youth Leadership Institute (SYLI) in Ottawa this past weekend. After taking part in a rigorous application process, twenty Sikh youth between the ages of 18-25 were selected to take part in the program.

The attendees came from coast to coast, including Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. More than half of this year’s participants were Sikh women.

Participants gathered in Ottawa from August 11-14 to receive leadership training in emotional intelligence, advocacy, community building, and social justice. Attendees also brainstormed social initiatives for their communities, and created plans for their implementation.

On the first day, Puneet Mann, VP of Customer Experience at Scotiabank helped students understand and analyze different leadership styles. Workshops helped students develop their emotional intelligence and grow their self-awareness.

The second day of the program consisted of workshops and panel discussions featuring prominent Sikhs who are leaders in their fields.

The business panel composed of Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind Inc; Karan Walia, the co-founder and CEO of Cluep and Parveen Kaur, consultant for the Public and Professional Affairs Department at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, spoke to students about their experiences as successful Sikhs in the corporate world.

Bhupinder Singh Hundal, media consultant and commentator on Hockey Night in Canada-Punjabi Edition lead a workshop on media engagement.

The Sikh Youth Leadership Institute also hosted a multi-partisan political panel which included MP Ruby Sahota, Brampton City Councilor Gurpreet Dhillon and former Minister of State-Multiculturalism, Honarable Tim Uppal.

The event was concluded by a Sikhi and leadership workshop lead by WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh.

An attendee from Calgary, Simona Kaur said, “I honestly don’t know where to begin. This past week has been nothing short of life changing for me. Huge thank you to the organizers for putting together a seamless agenda for us…

The workshops turned out to be full of insights and wisdom drops and with a wonderful blend of Sikhi in them. Also, thank you for pushing the importance of powerful women in the community.”

WSO President, Mukhbir Singh said, “the Sikh Youth Leadership Institute has been one of our most successful initiatives and has resulted in the empowerment of young Sikhs from across Canada and has helped bring together a network of young activists who are making a difference in their communities.

We are proud of the work of our past years’ graduates and are look forward to the contributions of this years’ cohort.”

The WSO is a charity organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

The donations page for the WSO provides a wonderful way of supporting this high profile Sikh organization that requires much input from the Sikh community.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/18/sikhs-in-canada-host-successful-leadership-event/#.WZfNSdFLfIU

Sikh24.com – India’s mob lynchings provoke international wave of protests

Oppressed groups unite in solidarity against Hindu nationalist attacks

Arvin Valmuci

15 August 2017

From California to Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh to New York, groups impacted by a rising tide of mob lynchings of minorities in India are taking to the streets to protest.

The month of July witnessed a wave of demonstrations by people concerned that India’s ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has inspired a huge increase in mob violence since taking power in 2014.

“All of India’s religious minorities and oppressed classes are suffering attacks by the same Hindu supremacist elements,” said Arvin Valmuci, a communications director for Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI).

Politicization of cow worship is central to the violence. Laws in 21 of India’s 29 states criminalize the slaughter of cattle to one degree or another. Although most of the laws were passed decades ago, the BJP has made “cow protection” a core plank of its political platform.

In July, BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared: “Cow is revered as the mother in our country.” Meanwhile, three BJP-ruled states have enacted draconian penalties on cattle slaughter.

In 2015, Maharashtra made slaughter, possession, or sale of beef punishable by five years imprisonment while Haryana made slaughter punishable by 10 years imprisonment. In March 2017, Gujarat made slaughter punishable by a minimum of 10 years and up to life imprisonment.

Furthermore, in May, the Central Government’s Ministry of Environment imposed a national ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter. In July, India’s Supreme Court suspended the ban.

In June, however, minorities in India endured several horrific attacks by mobs of vigilantes who accused them of eating beef or slaughtering cattle. Among the victims of reported incidents were two Muslims who were lynched, two Muslims who were brutally beaten, and a group of six state government employees who were also beaten.

On June 6, near Dhanbad, Jharkhand, Ainul Ansari was stopped by a mob of 20 people who accused him of carrying beef and began beating him. Police arrived, stopped the beating, seized the meat, and sent it to a laboratory for identification. Ansari was hospitalized.

“We planned to hold an Iftar party at our house,” said the victim’s wife. “Ansari was bringing mutton for the event, but the villagers mistook it for beef.”

On June 12, near Barmer, Rajasthan, a veterinarian and his five assistants (all employees of Tamil Nadu’s Animal Husbandry Department) were stopped by a mob of 50 people who accused them of smuggling cattle and began beating them.
Three of the state employees were described as “severely injured in the attack.” According to The Hindu, seven police officers were disciplined “for dereliction of duty and reaching the spot late.”

On June 22, near Delhi, Junaid Khan was murdered while traveling on a train with friends and family. The 15-year-old Junaid and his brothers were confronted by a mob of 20 to 25 people who began harassing them.

“They flung our skull caps, pulled my brother’s beard, slapped us, and taunted us about eating cow meat,” said Shaquir. His brother, Hashim, said: “When Junaid and I asked why they were pushing, they pointed to the skull cap on my head. They said we are Muslims, anti-nationals, Pakistanis, that we eat beef.

Then they pulled my cap, threw it down, and they also tried to pull my beard.” According to Shaquir: “They took out knives.” The mob stabbed all three brothers, killing Junaid.

“They killed him in cold blood,” said Hashim. When the train stopped, the killers threw Shaquir, Hashim, and Junaid’s body off. Police later arrested several people for the murder, including two Delhi government employees.

On June 27, near Dumka, Jharkhand, Usman Ansari was assaulted by a mob of 1,000 people who accused him of slaughter a cow after someone discovered the headless carcass of a cow near his house. The mob began beating Ansari and set fire to his house.

“The police struggled for more than two hours to rescue Ansari and his family members,” said Jharkhand Additional Director General of Police R. K. Mullik. “When the police tried to take him to hospital, there was resistance from the crowd.”

On June 29, near Ramgarh, Jharkhand, Alimuddin Ansari was murdered when a mob of 100 people stopped his vehicle, accused him of transporting beef, set his car on fire, and beat him to death. Police arrived, seized the meat, and sent it to a laboratory for identification.

The victim’s wife, Mariam Khatoon, blamed the attack on a Hindu nationalist group affiliated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). “They were rogues owing allegiance to Bajrang Dal,” said Mariam.

Her sister, Abida Khatoon, said: “They are targeting and killing Muslims while police are deliberately looking the other way.” Among those arrested was local BJP leader Nityanand Mahato.

Such lynchings are an ongoing problem throughout India.

Summarizing the situation in 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently reported: “There have been reports in the media of cow protectors allegedly assaulting Muslim men and women in trains and railway stations in Madhya Pradesh, stripping and beating Dalit men in Gujarat, force feeding cow dung and urine to two men in Haryana, raiding a Muslim hotel in Jaipur, aiding police in checking roadside food stalls and restaurants for beef in Haryana ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid, and an alleged gang rape and murder in Haryana of people the attackers claimed were eating beef at home.”

“The RSS is the parent of the BJP,” explained Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian Affairs. “In other words, the BJP is the political wing of the RSS.” He pointed to the BJP’s website, which states: “The Bharatiya Janata Party is… nurtured by the Rashtria Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS).”

An infographic on the BJP’s “About the Party” page traces its origins to the founding of the RSS in 1925. “The BJP’s website prominently praises RSS leader Golwalkar for carrying on the ‘heroic tradition’ of nationalism,” said Friedrich.

“What they don’t mention is Golwalkar’s blunt admiration for the genocidal policies of the Nazis.” He pointed to M S Golwalkar’s 1939 manifesto in which the RSS leader wrote:

“To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic Races, the Jews.

Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

Friedrich continued: “While the RSS and its affiliates are lynching minorities in the streets, Modi’s party is legislating people’s diets all across India. So-called ‘cow protection’ is a cover for a policy of anti-humanism which seeks to control society and institute totalitarianism.

We must remember that when Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat, as revealed by members of his own administration, he architected the 2002 genocide which left thousands of innocent Muslims dead.

It is tragically surreal but, in modern India, you can go to prison for eating a hamburger and become Prime Minister for committing genocide. That is why it’s so encouraging to see an international wave of protests against the pattern of violence perpetrated by Hindu nationalists.”

On July 9, Muslims joined Dalits (those historically considered “outcastes” by the Hindu caste system) for a protest in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. At the protest, Dalit activist Dr Jayanti Makadia warned that Dalits are also being victimized by gau rakshak (cow protection) vigilantes.

“This is not the issue of a particular community but a question of ensuring justice to everybody,” said Makadia. Explaining the importance of solidarity among affected communities, Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri stated: “Today, Muslims are being targeted.

Perhaps some other community will be targeted another day…. Efforts are being made to trigger clashes between various communities in the name of caste, creed, community and now also in the name of cow.”

On July 14, the Muslim community in Mau, Uttar Pradesh staged a demonstration which attracted several thousand people.

Former MLA Imtiyaz Ahmad, who officiated the event, said: “This massive protest is conducted to draw government’s attention towards growing intolerance and mob lynchings carried out by some extremist outfits and individuals.

Only within a week after Modi assumed the power, engineer Mohsin Sheikh from Pune was lynched by a mob. Since then, it was unstoppable…. Junaid was lynched while boarding in train.”

Other protests in July outside of India united Buddhists, Christians, Dalits, Muslims, and Sikhs. In the United States, a wide range of groups stood in solidarity, including Alliance for Justice and Accountability, Dalit American Council, Indian American Muslim Council, Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, Sikh Information Centre, Organization of Minorities from India, TwoCircles.net, and South Asian Solidarity Initiative.

On July 16, many of these groups participated in simultaneous protests in three U.S. cities, San Diego, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. Explaining his reasons for protesting, Sikh community leader Sandeep Singh said: “Today, we have gathered in San Jose against the RSS who have carried out the killings of innocent people, including the Dalits, Muslims, and Christians in India.”

Suhail Syed, who helped organize the DC protest, said: “The reign of terror unleashed by Hindu supremacist cow vigilantes is clearly targeted at browbeating the nation’s religious minorities into the status of second class citizens.”

Demonstrators bore signs with slogans such as “Beef Ban is Cultural Fascism,” “Shed Hate, Not Blood,” and “India: Hostage to Hindutva?” They also displayed pictures of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student who committed suicide in 2016 after being suspended from the University of Hyderabad for his political activities.

On July 23, another protest was staged in New York City. As one of the New York organizers, San Uddin, asked: “How can the government of India respond so casually to the mob lynchings of Muslims and Dalits?”

Indian legislation against cattle slaughter traces back to 1950. When the Indian Constitution took effect, it included Article 48, which says: “The State shall… take steps for… prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”

While the Central Government has not passed any national law, 10 states in the 1950s (Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand) all passed laws criminalizing cattle slaughter.

In 1966, a gau rakshak committee led a mob of hundreds of thousands in an unsuccessful attempt to storm the Indian Parliament and demand passage of a national cattle slaughter ban.

Subsequently, in February 1982, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of the Indian National Congress wrote a letter to the Chief Ministers of 14 states which had banned cattle slaughter. Praising the legislation, her letter demanded that “the ban be enforced in letter and spirit.”

According to India’s Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying, & Fisheries, “Kerala is the only major State, apart from some of the North Eastern States, which does not have an Act with regard to slaughter of cattle.”

Laws in 13 of India’s 29 states completely ban the slaughter of all cattle, they are, according to data collected by The Hindu: Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana,
Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.

Five states ban cow slaughter but allow slaughter of other cattle with a special government certificate. Three states allow slaughter of all cattle with a certificate.

All states requiring certificates to slaughter, however, restrict the age of slaughtered animals to anywhere from 10 to 20 years, far past the point of viable food use. Only eight states in India have no restrictions on cattle slaughter.

Furthermore, laws in at least eight of the states which ban all cattle slaughter place the burden of proof on the accused, thus making them guilty until proven innocent. Laws in at least seven states deny bail to the accused.

Violence related to cow protection has been a feature of Indian society for a long time, but the country has undergone a massive spike in incidents since 2014.

Journalism website IndiaSpend, which conducted the first statistical analysis of cow-related attacks and lynchings, documented and analyzed all reported incidents since 2010. “Of 63 attacks recorded since 2010, 61 took place under Mr. Modi’s government,” reported IndiaSpend.

Further data analysis reveals several shocking trends. Of 28 people killed, 24 were Muslim. Out of 63 attacks, 32 victims were Muslim, five were Dalit, and one was Christian. In 13 of 63 attacks, police pressed charges against the victims.

In 23 of 63 attacks, the attackers were identified as members of Hindu nationalist groups. Of 63 attacks, 32 occurred in states governed by the BJP. Finally, 2017 has seen a 75% increase in attacks versus the same period in 2016.

Before his election as Prime Minister in May 2014, Modi vigorously focused the attentions of his voter base on the issue of cow protection.

In April 2014, during a campaign speech, he denounced “people who proudly massacre animals.” As he claimed: “Across the countryside, our animals are getting slaughtered.

Our livestock is getting stolen from our villages and taken to Bangladesh. Across India too, there are massive slaughterhouses in operation.” Furthermore, he warned against “people who slaughter cows, who slaughter animals, who are destroying our rivers of milk.”

In previous years, Modi took a more militant tone. In May 2012, he spoke on the birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap, a 16th-century Hindu king.

“Rana Pratap dedicated his life to gau raksha,” stated Modi. “He fought wars and sacrificed young men to protect the cow…. To make money, plans are being made to slaughter gaye maa [the mother cow], and it is at moments like this that you remember Rana Pratap.”

Modi’s political allies have imitated his militant stance. In April 2017, for instance, Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh bragged: “Not a single incident of cow slaughter has taken place in the last 15 years.”

He then promised: “Anyone who does so will be hanged.” Later that same month, while addressing a joint conference of RSS and BJP members, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath stated: “Just by raising the slogan of ‘gau mata ki jai’ [victory to mother cow], cows cannot be protected.

You must also make honest efforts from your side for cow protection. Only then would cows survive.” In 2015, while a Member of Parliament, Adityanath launched an initiative to declare the cow as “Rashtra Mata” (Mother of the Nation).

One of the earlier mob lynchings which occurred under Modi’s rule was the September 2015 killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. At night, a mob “wielding sticks, swords and cheap pistols” invaded Akhlaq’s home and accused his family of slaughtering a cow.

The mob dragged the entire family outside and beat Akhlaq and his son. Akhlaq died after he was repeatedly stabbed and beaten with bricks. Speaking about the incident in June 2016, Adityanath said, “All the benefits given to Akhlaq’s family should be withdrawn and they should be charged for keeping cow meat in their house.”

Adityanath has previously courted controversy for other remarks advocating the BJP platform. In 2015, he promised to invade mosques, stating: “If given a chance, we will install statues of goddess Gauri, Ganesh, and Nandi in every mosque.” In a 2009 speech during his campaign for Parliament, he condemned conversion of Hindus to Islam.

According to Outlook India, he then encouraged revenge for any acts of violence against Hindus. Referring to Muslims, he declared: “If they kill one Hindu, there will be 100 that we….” As he paused, the crowd shouted: “Kill!” In 2005, stating his ultimate goal, he said: “I will not stop till I turn Uttar Pradesh and India into a Hindu Rashtra.”

Adityanath is a leading and rising voice in the BJP, but his positions have been denounced by Amnesty International India as “provid[ing] a license for others to abuse human rights.”

In March 2017, the group’s executive director, Aakar Patel, remarked: “Adityanath has been one of Uttar Pradesh’s most polarizing politicians, given to hateful rhetoric that incites discrimination and hostility against minority groups, particularly Muslims.”

“Adityanath exemplifies the totalitarian intentions of India’s ruling elite,” said Bhajan Singh, Founding Director of OFMI. “The elite have politicized the ancient superstition of India, Brahmanism, in order to subjugate and dominate the groaning masses of the country. Lynchings over beef are only a symptom of a much deeper disease.

Today, Muslims and Dalits are being targeted for supposedly disrespecting the cow. But for centuries, the Mulnivasi — the common people of India — have been repressed, enslaved, and constantly lynched with total impunity.

The BJP is the ugliest face of this system which treats the Mulnivasi as subhuman, but the principle of dehumanization is propagated by all of India’s major political parties.”

“Lynching basically is a principle that was used against the Untouchables and the backward classes,” explained Indian politician Prakash Ambedkar in July 2017. The grandson of renowned Dalit civil rights champion, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, he added: “But now, this lynching culture is coming back again.”

Crimes against Dalits remain a fixture of Indian society. In its most recent annual report, the International Dalit Solidarity Network stated: “Reports of brutal violence and atrocities committed by dominant castes against Dalits continued to plague India in 2016. Gang-rapes, rapes, and sexual violence against Dalit women were continuously reported.”

Meanwhile, those who attempt to document caste discrimination consequently suffer persecution. For instance, filmmaker Divya Bharathi recently created “Kakkoos,” a documentary about the widespread practice of manual scavenging — caste-based employment of Dalits to clean human excrement by hand.

Subsequently, she faced nearly 2,000 calls threatening her with rape and death, she was slapped with criminal charges by police, and she remains in hiding.

Violence against all oppressed groups has been increasing at such a rate that large coalitions of prominent Indian individuals are coalescing to speak out in unison.

Among them include 114 military veterans who wrote an open letter to Modi on July 31. On August 4, 101 Christian intellectuals and community leaders also penned an open letter to Modi.

“We are witness to unprecedented attacks on society at large by the relentless vigilantism of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism,” declared the letter by the military veterans, who included high-ranking retired officers from the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy.

“We condemn the targeting of Muslims and Dalits…. We condemn the clampdowns on free speech by attacks on media outlets, civil society groups, universities, journalists and scholars, through a campaign of branding them anti-national.”

The letter by Christian leaders accused the State of working in partnership with those committing violence against minorities. “Official machinery often seems working in tandem with the ‘vigilantes,’” stated the letter.

The authors lamented a rise in “street lynching, victims charged as accused, stage-managed trials; all on the basis of one’s religious and caste identities….

The government… has minimized and dismissed the terror wreaked on the weak and the marginalized by the violent nationalism of the mob. Victims have been Dalits, specially their youth and their women, Tribals and religious minorities.”

In the letter, leaders described a “steady shift we see in our country from a pluralist, secular democracy to a Hindu Rashtra…. Media seems mute, silent in self-censorship, coerced by the state, or leashed by its corporate ownership.”

Voicing similar concerns in April 2017, HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly stated: “Instead of a government that took office on the promise of universal development, it now appears to be one unwilling to protect those most vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, atrocities continue unabated. On July 16, for instance, Christian Pastor Sultan Masih was gunned down outside his church in Punjab. His family alleges the RSS is responsible and says he was previously threatened. On July 27, two Muslim women were assaulted in Madhya Pradesh.

In the presence of police, a mob of vigilantes chanted “gau mata ki jai” as they beat the women on suspicion they were carrying beef. Police arrested the women but, according to news reports, “even after they were arrested, the women were thrashed by the mob for nearly half an hour before police finally took them away.”

And in another tragic incident in Agra, Uttar Pradesh on August 2, a Dalit woman became one of the latest victims of caste violence. Sixty-year-old Maan Devi was assaulted by an upper-caste mob, accused of being a witch, and beaten to death.

“On the eve of August 15, the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, we must remember that the country gained independence but not freedom,” said Valmuci. “The time for protesting has only just begun.”

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/15/indias-mob-lynchings-provoke-international-wave-of-protests/#.WZUh7ulLfIU

Sikh24.com – SGPC upset at rumours of low salary SGPC employees

Sikh24 Editors –

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 15 August 2017. Taking strong notice of the rumors being spread about low salary of employees, the SGPC has clarified that rumors being spread were solely focused on defaming the apex Sikh body and don’t have any factual base.

In a press note addressed to media, the SGPC Secretary Dr Roop Singh has said that salary of each employee is fixed as per the grading specified by the Punjab government. He further said that appraisal is also added to the employee’s salary after a specified time period or on promotion.

Denying allegations of paying Rs. 10 / Kilometre to a Principal of an SGPC run school, Dr Roop Singh said that the rumour being spread about was totally baseless. He added that some employees in SGPC were receiving a monthly salary more than Rs. 50,000 as they have been working within the body for a long time.

Dr Roop Singh has said that the SGPC was an institution of Sikh devotees and it had come to existence after long and hard struggle by the Sikh community. He has appealed to Sikh masses to be wary of the rumors being spread to defame the apex Sikh body.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/15/sgpc-upset-at-rumours-of-low-salary-sgpc-employees/#.WZJ5pelLfIU

Sikh24.com – SGPC accepts demands of ‘Pathi’ Singhs

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar Sahib-Panjab-India, 10 August 2017. On August 8, the apex Sikh body Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee announced they would accept the demands of ‘Pathi’ (reciter of sacred texts) Singhs.

The aggrieved group had staged a protest inside the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib on July 9 seeking a hike in wages and facilitation of other services like regular SGPC employees.

Interacting with media on August 8, the SGPC president Professor Kirpal Singh Badungar said that the ‘Pathis’ were a responsible and respectable class of the Sikh community and their demands have been accepted after receiving a nod from executive members.

He stated that the SGPC had appointed a sub-committee in this concern and now the SGPC has implemented the recommendations made by this sub-committee.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/10/sgpc-accepts-demands-of-pathi-singhs/#.WY_XTelLfIU

Sikh24.com – Filmmaker terrorised for exposing caste slavery in Tamil Nadu

Divya Bharathi faces death threats, criminal charges for documentary

Arvin Valmuci

Chennai, 9 August 2017. After releasing a documentary exposing in vivid detail the daily lives of manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu, 26-year-old filmmaker Divya Bharathi has been slapped with criminal charges, including cyber terrorism.

“Kakkoos,” a nearly two-hour documentary, shows how countless sanitation workers remain engaged in the ancient, caste-based practice of removal and disposal of human excrement using bare hands and feet.

The Hindu caste system traditionally relegated the work to those considered “outcastes” and consequently treated them as Untouchables. Bharathi believes more than 200,000 people are currently engaged in manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu alone.

On August 3, Divya Bharathi was charged by Madurai police with violating Indian Penal Codes Section 153A and Section 505 (1)(b) as well as the Information Technology Act (2006) Section 66F.

The first two laws prohibit “promoting enmity between different groups… on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever” and publishing statements “with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.”

The third law prohibits cyber terrorism.

Charges were filed after complaints by Dr Krishnasamy, a wealthy political leader and former member of Tamil Nadu’s Legislative Assembly. “In my documentary, I had listed 10 castes, including Pallar, whose members are involved in manual scavenging,” explained Bharathi.

“It upset K. Krishnasamy of Puthiya Tamilagam, mainly representing the Scheduled Caste (SC) Dalit subgroup Pallar. He was upset that his caste was named. Krishnasamy has moved ahead economically and socially and he thinks it is damaging for this reputation.”

“‘Kakkoos’ reveals the miserable condition of these poor souls who are forced into this life of slavery,” said Bhajan Singh, Founding Director of Organization for Minorities of India.

“Yet instead of being offended by the reality of the suffering of the oppressed, powerful people have taken offense at the documentation of the truth of the ground realities. Divya is a courageous young woman who deserves our praise and our support.”

Bharathi has also endured a wave of abuse. “My phone number was made public on Facebook and other social media,” she said on August 7. “After this public threat, I received around 2000 calls abusing and threatening to rape and kill me.”

She blames the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for instigating both the abuse and the criminal charges, linking Krishnasamy to BJP president Amit Shah.

“[Krishnasamy] emerged as a Dalit leader but now is an ally of BJP,” said Bharathi. “He welcomed the beef ban… and held a meeting welcoming Amit Shah in Madurai. It is a well-organised political attack by the BJP by using Krishnasamy.”

In a video posted to Facebook on August 3, the young filmmaker stated: “Caste system should be annihilated as Ambedkar told…. The BJP, which supports caste, is bringing the fake cases against me…. I request all to raise your voice against these regressive forces.”

“Kakkoos” has faced strong opposition since its release in February 2017. Film screenings in Tamil Nadu have been repeatedly blocked by the state government; according to Bharathi, the government of neighboring Kerala has even acted to prevent screenings as far away as Delhi.

Screenings were cancelled, reported Bharathi, “on grounds that it would become a law and order issue.”

“Rather than acknowledging the problem of manual scavenging and working to correct it, the Indian State is focused on concealing it by brushing it under the rug and gagging anyone who talks about it,” said Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian Affairs.

“Divya Bharathi’s experience is a horrifying reminder that not only is caste a very current issue, but that Indian citizens lack protection of other very basic human rights such as freedom of speech. The State should never possess the power to censor a film, especially an offensive film.

Of course, in this case, the only reason the film is offensive is because it shows the truth about how people are being oppressed by the government with total impunity.”

India’s 2011 census documented 794,000 cases of manual scavenging across the country. According to government figures, the practice was most common in Maharashtra, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Karnataka.

Various laws at state and national levels have addressed the ongoing practice of manual scavenging. Most notably, the Indian Parliament passed “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.”
However, implementation of the laws is severely lacking. According to Bharathi: “Neither the central government nor the state government is interested in rehabilitating manual scavengers…. In my film, I have proved that all sanitary workers are manual scavengers.”

In “Kakkoos,” Advocate Saravanan stated: “The 2013 act that bans humans cleaning human shit says that 44 safety tools are to be provided to the workers. Of these 44, do you know what our workers have?”

The film then cuts to a montage of over a dozen workers explaining: “They have given us nothing. Not even gloves.” Earlier in the film, describing his job duties, a worker said: “Last week, we went into the sewage canal, with slime till our neck.

We cleaned with our hands only.” Another worker stated: “Gloves, boots are all there safely in the office. They are not given to us. If we ask, they will dismiss us.”

Interviewed by Bharathi, social activist Padam Narayanan explained the municipal selection process for sanitation workers: “When the Chennai Metro water hires people through contractors… When they come for job selection, first they have to remove all their clothes, with just a loin around the waste.

Then they have to drink alcohol. Then they will be sent inside the sewage ditches by hanging on a rope. When that person is inside, the others outside will count….

Those people who can hold their breath for 3 to 4 minutes will be selected. Others are not qualified…. In no other part of the world, you would have ever seen such recruitment method.”

“Manual scavenging is a scourge on Indian society,” remarked Friedrich as he emphasized the widespread extent of the practice. “This is not an issue of a few people being caught up in an obsolete method of sanitation.

As ‘Kakkoos’ shows, employment of people as manual scavengers is common practice by the sanitation departments of some of the largest cities in Tamil Nadu.

The sanitation methodology is inseparably connected to the belief in the caste system, as workers in the film testify, safety equipment is available and yet denied to them. These oppressed people are intentionally, deliberately kept as so-called ‘Untouchables’ by compelling them to work in dangerous, filthy conditions.”

In a 2014 report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) explained that many people are forced to perform manual scavenging. “Manual scavenging can constitute forced labor because entry into this practice is entirely caste-designated….

Consequences for leaving manual scavenging include community threats of physical violence and displacement — and even threats and harassment by local officials mandated by law to end the practice, who instead withhold wages and threaten eviction from homes,” stated the report.

Furthermore, reported HRW, “Government village councils and municipalities have engaged in caste-based recruitment to clean open defecation areas.” According to HRW’s South Asia Director, Meenakshi Ganguly: “People work as manual scavengers because their caste is expected to fulfill this role, and are typically unable to get any other work.”

“Only if we get rid of the caste from our minds can we think of providing other jobs to these people,” stated Bezwada Wilson in “Kakkoos.” Wilson is a cofounder of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), which describes itself as a movement to eradicate manual scavenging in India.

As reported on SKA’s website: “The caste system dictates that those born into a particular Dalit sub-caste should engage in manual scavenging and should remain doing so throughout their lives, prohibiting them to lead a dignified life in the community….

Apart from being employed by individual households there are many manual scavengers employed by the government for cleaning at the community dry latrines, Railway stations, government hospitals, etc.”

“The caste system retards all progress,” explained Arvin Valmuci, a communications coordinator for OFMI. “Caste retards economic progress, technological progress, social progress. It stifles innovation.

The Hindu scriptures require the downtrodden to perform the filthiest work of society in the most degrading manner for the benefit of the upper castes. Believers in this system have no incentive to improve conditions. The only way to fully eradicate manual scavenging is to utterly reject caste.”

Bhajan Singh demanded all charges against Bharathi be dropped immediately. “The duty of the government of Tamil Nadu is to protect Divya, not charge her,” said Singh.

“Instead of persecuting her to try and silence her, the government should be acting to completely remedy its atrocious caste-based practices. Instead of harassing her, the government should be hailing her as a hero for standing up against oppression.”

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/09/filmmaker-terrorized-for-exposing-caste-slavery-in-tamil-nadu/#.WY001ulLfIU

Sikh24.com – India promises clearance for Sikh jathas visiting Nankana Sahib for November Gurpurab

Sikh24 Editors

Ferozepur-Panjab-India, 8 August 2017. Ending uncertainty surrounding access for pilgrimage to Gurdwara Sri Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, the President of the International Bhai Mardana Kirtan Darbar Society, Sardar Harpal Singh Bhullar has clarified that Sikh Jathas will visit the historical Sikh shrine in November, 2017 to celebrate 548th birth anniversary of the Sikh master, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

He confirmed that the society has established contact with the Foreign Ministry in this concern and the Additional Secretary of Foreign Ministry has ensured them of granting clearance.

He said that the interested Sikh devotees can submit their passports at society’s office in Ferozepur before August 18. He further informed that the Sikh devotees will also be made to have glimpse of Gurdwara Sacha Sauda, Gurdwara Sri Panja Sahib, Gurdwara Dehra Sahib Lahore, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib (Narowal), Gurdwara Rauri Sahib, Gurdwara Chakki Sahib, Bhai Lalo Di Khuhi at Aimnabad during the journey.

Sardar Harpal Singh Bhullar further informed that the Society has also appealed the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) to raise the quota of visas from 3000 to 4000 on birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, 1000 to 1500 from martyrdom anniversary of Guru Srjan Dev Ji and 500 to 750 on death anniversary of Mahraja Ranjit Singh.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/08/india-promises-clearance-for-sikh-jathas-visiting-nankana-sahib-for-november-gurpurab/#.WYqLO-lLfIU

Sikh 24.com – Killing of Punjabi Pastor Linked to Fascist Hindu Terrorist Group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

“People who killed him were surely monitoring his activities,” says Pastor Sultan Masih’s son

OFMI

Ludhiana-Panjab-India, 1 August 2017. Pastor Sultan Masih, who was gunned down in Ludhiana on July 16 while standing outside his church, had previously been confronted and threatened by members of the violent Hindu nationalist organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

According to reports by a Christian news outlet, fellow pastor Balwinder Kumar said RSS members quarreled with the pastor on several occasions and accused him of converting Hindus to Christianity. Kumar reported the RSS members warned Masih to cancel the anniversary celebration.

“RSS activists accused him that, ‘You Christians get paid for converting people,” said Kumar.

Masih’s son, Alisha Masih, offered further details. In May, he said, the Temple of God Church which Sultan Masih co-founded had celebrated its 25th anniversary. According to Alisha, men approached his father after the celebration and demanded to know how he paid for it. They asked him if they could get money to “convert.”

His father refused to offer anything and said “those who had converted had done so because they had come to believe in Jesus.”

India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, joined the RSS as a child and began working as a full-time volunteer in 1971 at the age of 21. The group, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (PDF link), promotes “an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India.”

Modi proudly confirmed his acceptance shortly before becoming Prime Minister in 2014, stating: “My identity is of a Hindutvawadi.”

The RSS was founded in 1925 to promote an ideology of a “Hindu” India. Its membership is estimated at approximately 6 million, and its members participate in daily, weekly, and bi-weekly at one of approximately 60,000 shakhas (units). Only Hindu males are allowed to join.

The RSS operates as a paramilitary organization, adopting a uniform of brown pants and a white shirt. RSS members drill, exercise, parade, train with weapons, partake of ideological training, and often march in formation through towns in various regions of India.

M S Golwalkar, who was the national leader of the RSS from 1940 to 1973, articulated the group’s ideology when he wrote in 1939: “Non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture.

In a word, they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizens’ rights.”

“RSS is India’s number one terrorist group,” said former Maharashtra inspector general of police S M Mushrif in 2015.

The RSS and its many affiliates have been directly linked to a number of large-scale massacres in the past 35 years. In 1984, for instance, RSS members were implicated in a genocide against Sikhs in Delhi. In 1992, Member of Parliament L K Advani led a mob of RSS members to destroy a disputed mosque in Uttar Pradesh, after which up to 3,000 Muslims were killed in riots.

Again, in 2002, RSS members under the leadership of Gujarat State legislators took to the streets to slaughter approximately 2,000 Muslims.

In 2008, Hindu nationalists were linked to the massacre of 70 Christians in Odisha State. RSS members have also been linked to bombings, including the 2007 Samjhauta Express train bombing, as well as targeted violence against Christians all throughout India.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to which Prime Minister Modi belongs, acts as the political wing of the RSS.

However, according to Mushrif: “It is immaterial which party is in power.” Instead, he blames a deeper root cause — a widespread embrace of the Hindu caste system which advocates a hierarchical order of society with Brahmans, the highest caste, at the top.

As Mushrif said, “It is the system that is working, it’s the Brahmanical system. And when I say Brahmanical, it doesn’t mean the Brahman, it’s the mentality, the attitude to dominate and oppress.”

“Brahmanism will use any means to divide people, whether caste, religion, or race,” said Bhajan Singh, Founding Director of Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI).

“Brahmanist elements have been caught on multiple occasions orchestrating false-flag terror attacks with state-sponsorship, such as in the Chittisinghpura Massacre in 2001. All victims of this oppression should be proactive to expose these methods and deny these supremacists any success.”

Singh added: “Brahmanism denies people the right to make their own free choices. The Brahmanical system despises the ability of free people to choose and change their religion. They have a cynical view of conversion because they falsely believe members of any religion only exist as statistics and bodies to empower the ruling elite.”

Controversies about conversion in India have been ongoing for years.

One particular controversy erupted in Agra, Uttar Pradesh in December 2014 after RSS affiliates forcibly converted 250 Muslims to Hinduism. Offered ration cards and government housing on the condition that they convert, the Muslims attended a Hindu sacrificial ceremony, after which they were told they had become Hindus.

The organizers promoted the event as a ghar wapsi (homecoming) ceremony, indicating that the Muslims were returning to the “home” religion of India. Subsequently, they announced their intentions to “reconvert” all Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.

Five states in India currently have active “anti-conversion” laws which generally require government permission before changing faiths; several other states are considering similar laws and the BJP-controlled Union Government has threatened to pass a national law.

However, according to United Nations official Heiner Bielefeldt: “The laws are… applied in a discriminatory manner in the practice of ‘reconversion.’” Those converting to Hinduism are not subject to the same strictures as those converting to any other faith from Hinduism.

“Mob violence against minorities by the RSS and targeted killings all have the same goal as the anti-conversion laws,” said South Asian Affairs Analyst Pieter Friedrich.

“The goal is to use every possible means of force to compel people to identify as Hindu whether they want to or not. Instead of relying on peaceful persuasion to convince people, these extremist elements are relying on brutal coercion.”

“The people who killed him were surely monitoring his activities because they waited for the time until he was alone,” concluded Alisha Masih. “Our father was a courageous man, and he was never afraid to die for Jesus.”

Punjab’s population is nearly 60% Sikh. The Sikh religion was founded in Punjab in 1499 in direct contradiction to the prevailing Hindu caste system. Its teachings and rejection of caste requirements have provoked the hostility of RSS and similar extremist elements throughout the centuries.

“The state of Punjab is very safe in India for Christians,” said fellow pastor Paul Tamizharasan. Praising the relationship between Christians and Sikhs, he explained: “There are Sikhs living here — they are also a religious minority. We are also a minority.”

Pastor Sultan Masih is survived by his wife, Sarabjit, and four children.

OFMI can be reached at
arvin.v@ofmi.org

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/01/killing-of-punjabi-pastor-linked-to-facist-hindu-terrorist-group-rashtriya-swayamsevak-sangh/#.WYF4gOlLfIU

Sikh 24.com – SGPC announces memorial for Sikh army men who rebelled after 1984 attack

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar-Panjab, 17 July 2017. The SGPC has announced the construction of a memorial, dedicated to martyred Sikh army men who rebelled against the India and left their barracks at protest of the armed attack on the holiest Sikh shrine, Sri Harmandar Sahib in Amritsay, during June of 1984.

Interacting with media on July 16, Professor Badungar stated that the project will be deliberated upon in the executive meeting of SGPC on July 28. He said that the martyred rebel Sikh army men were extremely respectable for the Sikh community and the installation of memorial dedicated to them was needed to pay tribute to their sacrifices.

Criticizing the government of India for imposing GST on Sikh shrines, Professor Badungar said that the SGPC was making efforts for Sikh shrines to be exempted from the GST.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/07/17/sgpc-announces-memorial-for-sikh-army-men-who-rebelled-after-1984-attack/#.WW2JZ-lLfIU

Sikh24.com – India uses agents to interfere with politics in Canada

Sikh24 Editors

Ottawa-Canada, 13 July 2017. There have been reports of members of the Indian community in Canada being approached by men with links to the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, dissuading them from voting or supporting Jagmeet Singh’s leadership race for NDP party.

This appears to show India’s direct interference in the political process in Canada, attempting to work against Sikh members of parliament. The Canadian news outlet The Globe & Mail first published the revelation, and also reported that the Indian high commission refused numerous requests for comment on the matter.

Jagmeet Singh MPP, is currently a strong front runner in the NDP leadership in Canada and is seen as a high profile politician with far reaching success and support across Canada.

Unsurprisingly, however, he has been blacklisted from visiting India due to being a voice for human right’s abuses in India. He has often highlighted the severe persecution that minorities in India have had to suffer.

The plight of Jains, Dalits, Muslims and Christians is similar to the experience of the Sikhs in Punjab, who have faced large scale torture and extra-judicial killings by the Indian government.

Evidence of mass killings of male youth and discriminate policies against the people of Punjab have been widely reported by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, who have documented an exorbitant number of such cases. Ironically, India is sometimes described as the world’s largest democracy.

Jagmeet Singh fondly displays a very large painting of Harmandar Sahib, Amritsar (the Golden Temple), on his office wall in parliament building in Toronto, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

He says he emotionally views the painting daily, as he is currently unable to visit in person due to India’s ban on him travelling there.

India’s dubious accusations against Sikhs

Refusing entry to Sikhs like Jagmeet Singh for simply vocalizing criticism of India’s proven track record of abuse, simply further highlights, to countries like Canada, that India’s assertions against the Sikhs are highly questionable and casts a dark shadow on India’s approach to democratic values.

Strong indications of the Indian governments involvement in the bombing of a Canadian passenger plane in the 80s, which implicated many Sikh activists, was noted and recognized by the Canadian judiciary; so the lengths of India’s dangerous and underhanded deceptions are well known.

India’s efforts to attempt to interfere with Canadian politics against a Sikh MPP points further towards the lengths that India is prepared to go to undermine Sikhs, simply due to Sikhs being a strong voice of criticism against India’s record of abuse.

Only in the last few days, the Indian PM, Narendra Modi himself tried to sway the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, by making accusations against Sikh human rights organizations and activists by describing them as separatists and terrorists.

In the meantime, however, Jagmeet Singh’s popularity and supporter base grows as he receives more and more endorsements from politicians across Canada. He candidly acknowledges that his open minded and highly moralistic approach to politics is underpinned by his upbringing within the values of Sikhism.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/07/13/india-uses-agents-to-interfere-with-politics-in-canada/#.WWhJEulLfIU