The Hindu – In a first, USA lawmakers take a step against India on Kashmir

Senate panel adds appeal to end the “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir in its report.

Suhasini Haidar

New Delhi – India, 05 October 2019. In what could become the first step towards legislative action by American lawmakers against India on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has added an appeal to end what it calls a “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir in its report ahead of the annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Chris Van Hollen, who visited Delhi this week as a part of a congressional delegation that discussed the Kashmir situation as well as India-USA bilateral relations, trade ties and defence purchases with key officials.

‘Restore communication’

According to the report, which was submitted to the Senate by Lindsey Graham, senior Senator and key Republican leader known for his close ties to President Donald Trump, the committee on Appropriations “notes with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir and calls on the Government of India to: fully restore telecommunications and Internet services; lift its lockdown and curfew; and release individuals detained pursuant to the Government’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution.”

What makes the report as well as the tough language on Kashmir more startling is that the document was submitted on 26 September, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was still in the US, and came just a few days after his joint address at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event in Houston with Mr. Trump, as well as their bilateral meeting in New York.

Expression of concern

“This amendment, which was accepted unanimously by the bipartisan committee, is a strong expression of concern by the Senate about the situation in Kashmir and sends the signal that we are closely monitoring the human rights situation there, and would like to see the Government of India take those concerns seriously,” Mr. Van Hollen told The Hindu here, adding that he had “hoped to share his concerns privately” with Prime Minister Modi, but had not been able to meet him.

Mr Van Hollen had met with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Washington last week and Senator Bob Menendez, also a part of the delegation, met with Commerce and Industries Minister Piyush Goyal this week in Delhi. Both Senators have made public statements in the last two months on the Kashmir situation.

Denied permission

While it is unclear whether their concerns over Kashmir elicited any responses from the government, The Hindu has learnt that Senator Van Hollen was rebuffed when requested permission to visit Srinagar in an effort to assess the situation on the ground.

When asked, MEA officials said the Ministry of Home Affairs handled such requests. No diplomat or foreign journalist has yet been given clearance to visit Kashmir since the government’s decision on Article 370 on 05 August.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in Delhi on Friday, Mr Jaishankar said many key decision-makers in the USA had been “misinformed by their media” and that he had spent considerable efforts in the past few weeks to clear misconceptions on the government’s decision to drop the “temporary” Article 370.

With inputs from Sriram Lakshman

The Hindu – Delegation of Muslim spiritual leaders to visit Jammu and Kashmir

Jaipur – Rajastan – India, 10 October 2019. The delegation members are from Rajasthan, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Bihar.

A delegation of Sufi leaders and spiritual heads of various shrines across the country will visit Jammu and Kashmir between October 12 and 14 to meet the locals and assess the ground situation there.

The spiritual head of Ajmer dargah, Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, has taken the initiative to send the delegation comprising 18 members that will be led by his son Nasiruddin Chisty.

“Kashmir has been a sufferer of false propaganda which is executed against India from across the border. I felt the necessity that we should interact with Kashmiri people, particularly youths, and work for prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir.

Therefore the decision to send a delegation to J&K was taken,” the Ajmer dargah Deewan said in Ajmer on Thursday.

“We would like to act as a bridge between the Kashmiri (people) and prosperity,” he added.

He said that the Union government and other authorities have been informed about the visit of the delegation, which will leave New Delhi on 12 October.

The delegation members are from Rajasthan, (Ajmer, Jaipur and Jhunjhjunu), Hyderabad, New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Bihar.

Mr Chisty said that the delegation members will be interacting mainly with youngsters in Jammu and Kashmir and will assess the ground reality.

Our aim is to build trust among youths and other people and to bring them into the mainstream,” Mr. Chisty said.

Are they being paid by the Modi government or are they just ignorent and naive ?
Man in Blue

The Hindu – Centre ‘in the dark’ on Jammu and Kashmir detentions, restrictions

To an RTI query, Union Home Ministry says it has no information and directs applicant to the J&K administration.

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 06 October 2019. The Home Ministry does not have information on any orders passed to block telecommunications and Internet, suspend radio and satellite television services, evacuate tourists and detain political leaders and activists in Jammu and Kashmir in August.

The Ministry says it has no information on the names and locations of the detainees, and directed any queries to the State administration.

In response to a recent Right to Information request to share copies of such orders, directions or advisories, two Central public information officers of the Ministry’s J&K division said the information was not available with them.

The Ministry said, “The information might be available with the State government of J&K.”

However, the RTI application could not be forwarded to the J&K government as the RTI Act, 2005 is not applicable in the State, said the response. According to it, a separate application could be filed under the State’s RTI law. This option is only available to the State’s residents.

A senior official in the J&K government said Central laws, including the RTI Act, 2005, would come into effect in J&K only when it became a Union Territory on October 31.

Venkatesh Nayak, the activist who filed the RTI request, noted that the State of J&K had been under President’s Rule since December 19, 2018 and how was it possible that the Home Ministry did not have information on orders imposing travel and telecom restrictions.

“All powers of the Governor and the State Legislature stand transferred to the President of India. The work of the State Government is being carried out under the guidance of the Central Government through the State’s Governor who has only babus to run the administration,” he said on 06 October.

“Any order imposing curbs on travel and telecommunications will at least be copied to the Union Home Ministry in which the J&K Division is housed, if not actually directed by the MHA. So the CPIOs’ replies that they have no information about the curbs imposed and the arrests and detention of residents of J&K are not based on truth and reality,” he said on 06 October.

Mr Nayak filed his RTI application on August 30, almost a month after the shutdown of the State in preparation for the government’s announcement regarding the amendment of Article 370. Apart from copies of the relevant orders, he asked for the names of the political leaders and activists under detention or custody, the addresses where they are being held, and the law under which they were detained.

Pass the question

The first CPIO, T Sreekanth, said no information was available with them, and passed on the query to the second CPIO. She responded that the “information sought by you is not available with the undersigned CPIO.”

Instead, she directed the RTI applicant to the J&K State government for further queries.

An earlier request by RTI activist Nutan Thakur for a copy of the Ministry’s file on the decision to amend Article 370 had been denied, citing exemptions allowed under the RTI Act without specifying the specific reason for exemption being claimed.

The Hindu – Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren urges India to respect rights of people of Kashmir

The Massachusetts Senator’s statement comes a month after fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders expressed similar concerns.

Washington DC – USA, 05 October 2019. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on 05 October voiced concerns over the restrictions and communication blockade in Kashmir, urging India to respect the rights of the people of Kashmir.

“The US-India partnership has always been rooted in our shared democratic values. I’m concerned about recent events in Kashmir, including a continued communications blackout and other restrictions. The rights of the people of Kashmir must be respected,” Ms. Warren tweeted.

The Massachusetts Senator is the second influential American politician to raise concerns over Kashmir. Her statement comes a month after fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders expressed similar concerns.

Addressing the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America in Houston on 01 September, Mr. Sanders said he was “deeply concerned” about the situation in Kashmir and asked the U.S. government to “speak out boldly” in support of a UN-backed peaceful resolution to resolve the issue.

“I am deeply concerned about the situation in Kashmir…India’s action is unacceptable,” he said while addressing one of the largest Muslim gatherings in the USA.

In an opinion piece in Houston Chronicle, Mr Sanders wrote on 22 September that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and USA President Donald Trump’s joint address at the “Howdy, Modi” event was happening at a time when Kashmir remained under lockdown.

“When President (Donald) Trump meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston, we will hear much about the friendship between the American and Indian peoples. However, there will be a deafening silence when it comes to a human rights crisis unfolding right before our eyes, and that is unacceptable,” he said.

The Hindu – Manmohan Singh to be part of first batch of pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib

President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to participate in 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.

Sandeep Phukan

New Delhi – India, 03 October 2019. President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, while former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has agreed to be a part of the first ‘jatha’ (batch) of pilgrims to the Sikh shrine of Kartarpur Sahib across the border in Pakistan, said an official statement of the Punjab government on Thursday after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh invited them.

“At his meeting with the Prime Minister, Captain Amarinder also urged his personal intervention to facilitate political clearance for allowing a Special All Party Jatha to visit Sri Nankana Sahib, the birth place of the first Guru, now in Pakistan, on the historic occasion.

He requested that a group of 21 persons may be allowed to visit Sri Nankana Sahib to organise a Path on the occasion of the 550th Prakash Purb from 30th Oct to 3rd November, 2019, and bring a Nagar Kirtan to Sultanpur Lodhi via Amritsar (Wagah) later in the day,” read the statement.

Captain Amarinder Singh is expected to lead an all-party ‘jatha’ across the border to Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib.

“Former PM Dr Manmohan Singh accepts @capt_amarinder’s invite to join the 1st Jatha to Sri Kartarpur Gurdwara on 09 November, will also attend the Sultanpur Lodhi main event @550yrsGuruNanak,” tweeted Raveen Thukral, Media Advisor to the Chief Minister.

Kartarpur Sahib is a revered shrine of the Sikh community. It is at this place Guru Nanak Dev, founder of the religion, settled down and lived for 18 years until his death.

Though the shrine is merely 4.7 km away, pilgrims from India have to take a circuitous route through Lahore to reach there.

In November last, India and Pakistan agreed to build a Kartarpur corridor to connect Kartarpur Sahib with Dera Nanak Sahib on the Indian side.

The corridor is expected to be inaugurated on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Last week, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced that their government had extended an invitation to Dr Singh.

Confirming the attendance of President Kovind and Prime Minister Modi, the Punjab government statement said: “the Chief Minister had urged them both, in particular, to participate in the Kartarpur Corridor opening at Dera Baba Nanak and the November 12 main programme at Sultanpur Lodhi”.

The Hindu – Assam’s NRC: law schools launch legal aid clinic for excluded people

Those left out are required to file appeals against their exclusion within 120 days of receiving their rejection order from the NRC authority

Special Correspondent

Guwahati – Assam – India, 01 October 2019. Law schools across India on Tuesday launched a collaborative legal aid clinic for people excluded from the updated National Register Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

More than 19 lakh out of a total of 3.3 crore applicants were left out of the Supreme Court-monitored NRC that was published on 31 August. Those who were left out are required to file appeals against their exclusion within 120 days of receiving their rejection order from the NRC authority.

The clinic, named Parichay (Identity) and to be headquartered in Guwahati, is envisaged to function as a “clearing house of litigation and research assistance for lawyers filing appeals against exclusion from the NRC”.

The institutes include Assam’s National Law University and Judicial Academy (NLUJA), the Kolkata-based West Bengal National University of Juridical Science, Hyderabad’s National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), Delhi’s National Law University and National Law University of Odisha.

Other law schools are also in the process of formalising their collaboration with Parichay, a statement issued by the collaborative said.

“Parichay will assist lawyers in drafting appeals, conduct research on pertinent questions of the law, assist in training lawyers and paralegals, and generate documentation on the functioning of Foreigners’ Tribunals.

Law students will work with lawyers to ensure that they are able to file effective appeals before the Foreigners’ Tribunals. Parichay will also collaborate with civil society to provide legal aid to communities,” the statement said.

‘Unprecedented initiative’

NLUJA Vice-Chancellor J S Patil termed Parichay as an unprecedented collaboration among law schools in the country. “We believe that this is necessary to ensure that no one is deprived of their right to legal representation,” he said.

His NALSAR counterpart Faizan Mustafa said: “After the NRC, absence of effective legal aid would mean that many persons would be rendered Stateless without due process. An innovative collaboration like Parichay is essential to prevent such a humanitarian crisis.”

The founding team of the clinic includes National Law University’s assistant professor Anup Surendranath, Jindal Global Law School’s assistant professor M Mohsin Alam Bhat and Kolkata-based lawyer and research Darshana Mitra.

Parichay will work with teams of student volunteers across the country. Students will be selected through a selection process to constitute a core team and a pool of volunteers for research and drafting. The core team will work with the programme director to coordinate Parichay’s activities between lawyers and student volunteers, the statement said.

Each collaborating university has appointed a faculty adviser who will coordinate on behalf of the university with Parichay.

“Parichay is an extension of the commitment of the National University of Juridical Sciences to the provision of legal aid, to fulfil the constitutional mandate under Article 39A of the Constitution of India.

While the Assam government has assured that legal aid will be provided to all, an exercise of this scale requires the participation of law schools and civil society,” said N.K. Chakrabarti, Vice-Chancellor of National University of Juridical Sciences.

The Hindu – Centre to release 8 Sikh prisoners in November

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 28 September 2019. Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa said that he met Home Minister Amit Shah and pressed for commuting the death sentence of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh assassination case convict Balwant Singh Rajoana.

Eight Sikh prisoners, lodged in different jails in the country for committing crimes during the militancy in Punjab, will be released by the government as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November.

The central government has taken a decision to grant a special dispensation to nine Sikh prisoners from various jails in the country, an official from the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) added that through a special remission, the death sentence of another Sikh prisoner has been commuted to life imprisonment.

Reprieve for Rajoana

Though the names of the prisoners were not revealed by MHA, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa told The Hindu that he met Home Minister Amit Shah last week and pressed for commuting the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana.

Rajoana, a member of banned terror group Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and convicted for the assassination of former Punjab chief Minister Beant Singh, is the only Sikh prisoner on death row in a militancy related case.

The Akali Dal, a BJP ally, has been demanding the release of Rajoana and other political prisoners. Former Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal led a delegation that met Mr Shah on June 6 and sought Rajoana’s release. The execution of his death sentence was stayed on 28 March 2012 on the intervention of the Badal government.

On Saturday, SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal tweeted, “I’m grateful to PM Sh@narendramodi ji & HM @AmitShah ji for heeding my repeated requests & commuting death sentence of a Sikh prisoner into life term and releasing 8 others prematurely ahead of the #550thparkashpurab. This step will heal wounds inflicted on #Sikhs.”

These individuals were convicted by various courts in the country for the offences committed by them during the militancy period in Punjab, the official added.

The decision was taken by the Central government as a token of goodwill in response to the long-pending demands of the release of Sikh prisoners articulated by various sections of the Sikh community from across the country.

A communication was sent on Saturday to State governments and Union Territories concerned for the release.

The Central government is also planning to release some more prisoners from jails across the country under the scheme for special remission to prisoners to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

So far, 1,424 prisoners have been released by States and UT’s in two phases (02 October2018 and 06 April 2019). The third phase of release is due on 02 October 2019.

The Hindu – Panjab CM condemns killing of Indian-American Sikh police officer in USA.

Sandeep Dhaliwal was the first police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 28 September 2019. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday condemned the killing of an Indian-American-Sikh police officer in the USA State of Texas.

Sikh police officer who got permission to wear turban shot dead in Texas.

Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, who made headlines in the USA when he was allowed to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job, was shot and killed in an “ambush-style” attack in a “ruthless, cold-blooded way”, a senior official of Harris County said on Saturday.

“Deeply anguished to learn the ruthless killing of Deputy Sheriff of Harris County, Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal. He represented the Sikh community with pride and was the first turbaned police officer of America. My condolences to his family. RIP,” the Chief Minister tweeted.

Dhaliwal, who was in his early 40s, was the first police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Dhaliwal, a 10-year veteran of the department, stopped a vehicle with a man and woman inside and one of them got out and shot him “ambush-style” at least twice in a “ruthless, cold-blooded way” on Friday.

The gunman and the woman were taken into custody, officials said.

Dhaliwal was married and a father of three children.

Since 2015, Dhaliwal was the “history-making” police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith. He was allowed to wear the turban and beard while patrolling the streets in order to bolster cultural diversity.

With this policy, one of the largest sheriff’s offices in the USA had affirmed that a person does not have to choose between their faith and a career of service.

The Hindu – Bargari case: Punjab has no faith in CBI, says Amarinder Singh

The CBI is acting under pressure from Centre at the behest of the Badals, he says

Special Correspondent

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 27 September 2019. A day after the CBI transferred the probe relating to the Bargari sacrilege cases of 2015 to its special investigation team, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday said the State had no faith in the agency as it was acting under pressure from the Central government.

While the State government formally contested, in the special court at Mohali, the CBI’s decision to hand over the investigation to SIT, the Chief Minister said the CBI, clearly acting under pressure from the Central government at the behest of the ‘Badals’ of the Shiromani Akali Dal, was quite obviously trying to stop the probe from going forward.

“The decision to hand over the case to a new SIT three months after the CBI had filed a closure report in court was a clear ploy to delay the probe and stop the State government from taking over,” he said.

He said the State government would continue to oppose the CBI in the court and would also fight, at all levels, for getting the case back to the State. “We will not let anyone get away with cheating the people of Punjab of their due justice.”

The CBI had exposed itself to be totally partisan and unfair in the entire affair, said Captain Amarinder, pointing out that despite repeated pleas and efforts from the State government in the wake of the closure report, the national agency had failed to return the case files to the Punjab police.

The failure was clearly deliberate and mischievous, so that the agency could buy time to divert the case to the new SIT, for its eventual burial, he added.

“The CBI has been acting entirely under the influence of the Badals, which negates any possibility of a fair and thorough probe into the case,” said the Chief Minister, adding that justice could be meted out only if the State police investigated the matter.

“For three years, they [CBI] failed to make any headway despite all the powers and means at their disposal, and then filed a closure report without completing the investigation.

And when we decided to duly take the case back from them, as per the decision of the Vidhan Sabha, they have done a complete U-turn again by reopening the case and handing it over to their own SIT,” said the Chief Minister.

The Hindu – RSS will disown any swayamsewak found involved in lynching, says Bhagwat

Fears of Kashmiris about loss of land and jobs should be allayed, he says

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 24 September 2019. Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat at a meeting on Tuesday with 80 journalists representing 50 organisations from over 30 countries said the RSS was against all forms of violence and in a specific comment on incidents of lynching said the organisation would “disown any swayamsewak found guilty of such an act”.

It was an interaction that lasted over two and a half hours and covered topics ranging from the recent abrogation of the special status of J&K to homosexuality and caste-based reservations.

The interaction was restricted to foreign journalists and Mr Bhagwat was accompanied by RSS second in command Suresh (Bhaiyyaji) Joshi, joint general secretaries Manmohan Vaidya, Krishan Gopal, northern region incharge Bajran Lal Gupt and its Delhi unit head Kulbhushan Ahuja.

“This interaction was part of the continuous process where the ‘Sarsanghchalak’ [chief] engages in constructive dialogue with people from different walks of society,” said an official statement put out by the RSS. While the statement did not go into the content of the discussion, sources present at the meeting said it covered almost all aspects of contemporary discourse.

Mr Bhagwat reportedly told his audience that the abrogation of J&K’s special status would help “integrate” the people with the rest of India, and added that whatever fears they had about loss of land and jobs should be allayed.

He also came out in strong support of the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill saying Hindus had no place of succour other than India. The Bill proposes to grant citizenship to those people hailing from the Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Parsi religions who were fleeing persecution from India’s neighbouring countries.

Mr Bhagwat advised the journalists to “believe in what you see” and not to judge the RSS on the basis of propaganda, adding that the RSS was working everyday to demolish propaganda against itself.

Much of what he spoke of, including that the organisation views homosexuality as a “variation” rather than an abnormality, had been mentioned by Mr Bhagwat in his three- day lecture series at the Vigyan Bhawan last year.

He did however briefly comment on the handling of the economy, albeit after a declaration that he was “no expert” but that there was “no paralysis as under the 10 years of UPA” and that the rest of it was part of a process.

The meeting started with a brief introduction given by Mr Bhagwat followed by a question-and-answer session covering a wide range of issues across the spectrum, according to the statement.