The Times of India – UN Human Rights experts ask India to release the Maoist linked professor Saibaba

U Sudhakar Reddy

Hyderabad – Telangana/Andhra Pradesh – India, 29 June 2018. United Nations Human Rights experts from Geneva on Thursday urged India to release Andhra origin Delhi University Professor Dr G N Saibaba on health grounds.

Maharashtra police arrested the professor, who uses a wheelchair, for his alleged links to Maoists in 2014 and Gadchiroli sessions court sentenced him for life imprisonment in March 2017 on the charges of waging war against the nation.

Recently in March 2018, he wrote a letter from Nagpur jail to his wife on the deterioration of his health condition. His wife Vasantha approached various human rights forums.

A joint statement released in Geneva by Special Rapporteurs on human right defences and rights of persons with disabilities said “human rights defender” Dr G N Saibaba is in wheelchair user with severe disabilities and has been reportedly held in solitary confinement under poor jail conditions and with no facilities for disabled and no staff to handle them.

“We are concerned about reports that Dr Saibaba is suffering from more than 15 different health problems, some of which have potentially fatal consequences. He is now in urgent need of adequate medical treatment.

We would like to remind India that any denial of reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities in detention is not only discriminatory but may well amount to ill-treatment or even torture. In particular, solitary confinement should be prohibited when the conditions of prisoners with disabilities would be made worse by this measure (sic),” the experts said in the statement.

The experts asked India to immediately ensure that the jail professor has continuous and unrestricted access to health care and rehabilitation.

Experts also suggested that Indian government to guarantee that all human rights defenders in the country can conduct their legitimate work without fear of threats or intimidation.

Professor Saibaba faced charges under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and as well Criminal conspiracy. The judgement by Gadchiroli court then said that the profession was in possession of Naxal literature, correspondence, electronic materials which are used to incite violence to cause public disorder.

The sessions judge then commented that though Saibaba is 90 per cent disabled there is no ground to show him leniency as he is mentally fit.


The Times of India – SGPC, PSGPC to discuss events for 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak

Yudhvir Rana

Attari – Panjab – India, 22 June 2018. The Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will hold discussions with the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) about celebration programmes for the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev in 2019.

While talking to TOI before boarding the Sikh pilgrim special train on Thursday, SGPC additional secretary Balwinder Singh Jaura Singha said he would discuss the issue of programmes with the officials of both PSGPC and Pakistan government representatives.

Jaura Singha is leading SGPC jatha (group of pilgrims) to Pakistan for observing 179th death anniversary of Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore on June 29. The Sikh pilgrims would return on June 30. A total of around 300 Sikh pilgrims left for Pakistan via Attari border.

Both SGPC and PSGPC have chalked out series of religious programmes to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev at his birthplace Nankana Sahib.

PSGPC member Bishan Singh said Sikhs from around the world would be converging at Nankana Sahib and both the district administration, as well as PSGPC had started preparations to receive the pilgrims.

Bhai Mardana Yadgaree Kirtan Darbar Society president Harpal Singh Bhullar, who also sent a Sikh jatha to Pakistan under the leadership of Gurmukh Singh Chohla Sahib, said main functions would be held at Nankana Sahib.

“Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) has convened a meeting of leaders representing Sikh groups in India that would send jathas to Pakistan on the occasion of 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November this year to discuss the programmes and arrangements,” said Bhullar.

He said their major concern was boarding and other arrangements for a large number of Sikh devotees at Nankana Sahib.

Earlier, there was proposal of holding joint cerebrations by SGPC and PSGPC. “The proposal will again be discussed during the meeting in November,” said Bishan, adding that many Sikh leaders from the UK, the US and European countries would also participate in the meeting.

The Times of India – Jammu & Kashmir governor calls all-party meeting tomorrow

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 21 June 2018. Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra has called an all-party meeting here on Friday to discuss the situation in the wake of the implementation of governor’s rule in the state, officials said today.

Jammu and Kashmir was placed under governor’s rule on Wednesday, a day after the PDP-BJP government collapsed as the BJP snapped its three-year-old alliance with the regional party citing “larger national interest” and “deteriorating security situation”.

The governor also placed the legislative assembly in suspended animation till the proclamation of governor’s rule is revoked or varied by a subsequent proclamation, according to a gazette notification. The six-year term of the current assembly ends in March, 2021.

According to the officials, the governor has called a meeting of all party heads, including the heads of the state units of the national parties, tomorrow to discuss the situation in the state.

They said the meeting will take place on Friday evening.

The Times of India – Fearing targeted killings, Sikh families flee Peshawar

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 15 June 2018. Afraid of targeted killings, Sikh families from Peshawar city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan are reportedly fleeing to safety after the gunning down of a local community leader Charanjit Singh recently.

A prominent Sikh of Peshawar, Radesh Singh Tony, told TOI over phone on Tuesday that as many as 40-45 families had migrated to Sikh majority areas of Hassanabdal – Panja Sahib, Nankana Sahib and Lahore in the past about two weeks.

“No doubt, we are continuously living in fear and the recent killing of Charanjit has only triggered a fresh wave of migration of Sikhs to safety,” said Radesh. Charanjit, a grocery shop owner, was killed on May 29 in Peshawar while he was in his shop.

Online media reports published on Tuesday mention that Sikhs in Peshawar were not only cutting their hair to conceal their identities, they were also fleeing to Sikh-majority areas in Pakistan. However, the incidents of cutting of hair by Sikhs in Peshawar was not confirmed by Radesh, who is also president of Khalsa Peace and Justice Foundation of Pakistan.

He stated that there were a total of around 1,000 to 1,400 Sikh families living in Peshawar, adding that many families had migrated to the city from restive frontier areas of Pakistan.

Another Sikh leader from Panja Sahib, Hasanabdal, who didn’t want to reveal his name for fear of being singled out, said that more than 50 families which had migrated from Peshawar were staying in Gurdwara Panja Sahib.

“Their future appears to be bleak. They can’t return fearing being targeted by Taliban or fundamental Islamist groups, who extort money and force them to embrace Islam. If they are refused, they kill Sikhs and forcibly abduct their daughters,” he said. Hasanabdal didn’t rule out the possibility of cutting of hair by many Sikhs for security reasons.

Confirming the migration of Sikh families from Peshawar, president of Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society, Harpal Singh Bhullar said Sikhs in Peshawar were scared after targeted attacks on them. A Sikh jatha under the aegis of Mardana society is in Pakistan to observe the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev.

Meanwhile, Gopal Singh Chawla, the controversial general secretary of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) and a close aide of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, has uploaded a video message denying migration of Sikhs from Peshawar.

He claimed that there were certain ‘forces’ who didn’t want to see Sikhs living in prosperity in Pakistan and were spreading canards. He spoke about the targeted killing of Charanjit in Peshawar and its aftermath.

Intelligence sources here said they were keeping an eye on the turnout of events in Peshawar and migration of Sikhs, which could also lead to the community members’ exodus from Pakistan to India.

“Chawla’s statement can’t be trusted since he is a voice of the ISI, which gives direct command to the Evacuee Trust Property Board and PSGPC to toe its anti-India agenda,” said sources.

The Times of India – Panjab: Sikhs, Hindus make Iftar feast special for Muslims

Shariq Majeed

Galib Ransingh (Jagraon) – Panjab – India, 08 June 2018. Iftar during Ramzan has always been special for members of the Muslim community at two villages in Jagraon as Sikh and Hindu villagers are the ones who get them eatables during these days to break the fast.

Members of these communities at Galib Ransingh and Nathowal villages say they don’t do anything special, but just try to live up to the spirit of Punjabiyat.

“Since my childhood, I have seen Sikhs and Hindus in the village getting eatables for Muslim brothers for Iftar. In fact many of us have been joining the Muslim brothers for breaking the fast during Ramzan.

Our Sikh and Hindu brothers bring fruits like bananas, mangoes, water melon and pakoras, samosas and sherbet. We feel proud of our values which give equal importance to every human being irrespective of their religion,” said Navjot Singh of Galib Ransingh village, who is into vehicle business and has many Muslim friends.

He said Muslims also participate in festivals of other communities with equal warmth and vigour.

The Muslim community members say that they feel touched by this gesture by the members of other communities.

“Out of 40 to 50 persons who attend Iftar at Hazrat Abu Bakkar Masjid, around 20 are from Sikh community and 10 are Hindus. Not only they bring fruits, pakoras for the Iftar, they also have those with us.

I have been seeing this happening since I was a kid and I really feel proud of it,” said Muhammad Rafi, who owns a marriage palace. “Children from other communities even come to see us during Tarawi (Ramzan prayers) and feel happy and blessed,” he added. Galib Ransingh village has 125 Muslims and Hindus each and 1,500 Sikhs.

Similar is the case in Nathowal village, around 30 kms from this village, where Sikhs and Hindus had come forward for repair and renovate the mosque some years back.

“It is in our village culture that we celebrate festivals of various religions together. During Ramzan, villagers irrespective of their religion bring dates, fruits, cooked vegetables, kheer, sherbet, lassi for Muslims and we have those at Iftar.

The scene at that time is worth seeing as Sikh and Hindu brothers sit with us and have eatables,” said 47-year-old Mansa Khan, who owns a welding shop in Raikot.

“We also cook biryani on many days during Ramzan and our Sikh and Hindu brothers help us cook the same.” He added that these gestures of our brothers ensure that our bond stays stronger.

Nathowal has a population of 5,000 of which around 350 people belong to Muslim community, 50 are Hindus while the rest are Sikhs.

The Times of India – Akal Takht jathedar appeals to maintain peace on June 6

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 02 June 2018. Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has appealed to the Sikh masses to peacefully observe ‘Ghallughara Diwas’ on June 6. While talking to newspersons here on Friday, the jathedar said no one would be allowed to create nuisance or disturb the scheduled programme at the Akal Takht.

He said the sangat (community) should come to Akal Takht in large numbers and listen to gurbani on the occasion. The jathedar also asked the Amritsar district administration to make arrangements to maintain law and order in the city.

“If any untoward incident happens, the district administration will be responsible for it,” he said, adding that no one would be allowed to violate maryada (religious code).

Gurbachan Singh also directed the sangat to not raise any slogans in presence of Guru Granth Sahib. In reply to a question about Narain Das, who had allegedly made objectionable utterings against Sikh gurus, the jathedar said Narain couldn’t be pardoned.

He asked the Sikh bodies to send suggestions to prevent such incidents in future. The jathedar said that the Akal Takht secretariat had only received an e-mail from Narain seeking apology.

Meanwhile, informal Sarbat Khalsa-appointed jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, Baljit Singh Daduwal, said that the parallel jathedar of Akal Takht, Dhian Singh Mand, could give message to the Panth from Bargari where they had laid a ‘morcha’ against the persons responsible for desecration and theft of saroop of Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari and Burj Jawahar Singh Wala respectively.

In wake of any untoward incident during the ‘Ghallughara week,’ the Amritsar deputy commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha has invoked Section 144 (banning assmebly of five or more persons) of CrPC in the district. He has directed people not to carry any licenced weapons, explosive, sharp-edged weapons. The directions would remain in force from June 1 till further orders.

The Times of India – Eco-Sikh launches compostable bags to tackle rising pollution

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 27 May 2018. In a crucial step to spread awareness about the use of eco-friendly plastic bags, members of Eco-Sikh, a US-based environment organization, on Saturday launched compostable bags made out of potato and corn/bio-based starch, to control rising pollution levels aggravated by the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags across India.

The eco-friendly starch bags were introduced at an event in Gurdwara Sri Dukhniwaran Sahib on Saturday, where heads of all major religions gathered to send out a message of peace and harmony, and create awareness about the use of eco-friendly products in day-to-day life.

Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) members also shared the stage with Eco-Sikh members and heads of different religious groups.

Eco-Sikh India president Supreet Kaur, while addressing a packed gathering, said: “Eco-friendly plastic bags are the future, as pollution levels are increasing every day with the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags. These bags play a crucial role in controlling pollution levels across the globe”.

They have the capability to decompose naturally in 180 days when exposed to water or sunlight, or disposed of in garbage. Even if they are consumed by animals, they are not harmful to them.

Moreover, the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags in religious places has increased in the recent past.

Because of this, we have started this service from the gurdwara, so that people take this issue seriously, and make an effort to bring these bags into their daily use.

The eco-friendly starch plastic bags were introduced at an event in Gurdwara Sri Dukhniwaran Sahib on Saturday, where heads of all major religions gathered to send out a message of peace and harmony, and create awareness about the use of eco-friendly products in day-to-day life.

Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) members also shared the stage with Eco-Sikh members and heads of different religious groups.

Speaking on the occasion, PPCB chief engineer Pradeep Gupta said: “Next month, India is hosting the World Environment Day on 5 June, under the theme ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.

PPCB will make all efforts to popularize the manufacturing and sale of bio-degradable bags on a large-scale, to overcome rising pollution levels due to the use of plastic bags. We are supporting every effort being taken to save the environment and future of the earth by different organizations.”

Extending his gratitude to PPCB and the religious bodies, including Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib, Gurdwara Sarabha Nagar, Jama Masjid (Field Ganj), Durga Temple, Gyan Sthal, and Sri Krishna Mandir, Eco-Sikh Board member Jaspreet Singh said: “The use of plastic bags has brought Punjab on the top in terms of pollution.

According to past PPCB reports, Punjab produces about 4,300 tonnes of garbage every day, most of which is not recycled and ends up polluting the rivers and our soil. Looking at all statistics, these bags are the need of the an hour. Eco-Sikh has taken up the matter bio-degradable plastic bags, which will conserve nature and preserve our future.”.

The Times of India – ‘Fear drives Peshawar’s minorities to turn cremation ground into graveyard’

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 May 2018. In yet another twist to the Peshawar crematorium issue, the Sanskar Sewak Samiti (SSS), a Peshawar-based organization, has claimed that Hindus and Sikhs, who can’t afford to travel to the nearest crematorium (which is about 90km at Attock), are forced to bury their dead in a five-kanal (2,500 sq yards) cremation ground that has been turned into a graveyard following objections by the locals.

Former SSS president Zahid Kumar told TOI over the phone from Peshawar that after the Partition, they were allotted five-kanal land for a cremation ground, but due to opposition by neighbouring residents and some locals against burning the dead, they started burying them.

“We are peace loving minority communities of Pakistan, so we changed our last rituals so as to not create any bad blood,” said Zahid, adding that they had also got the platforms constructed for burning the dead ones, but they didn’t use them to maintain communal harmony.

He said both Sikhs and Hindus have filed a writ in a court urging it to direct the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government to release Rs 3 crore, which was earmarked by it in 2017-18 budget for a crematorium for the minorities. The writ was filed by Gurpal Singh, a resident of Peshawar, said Zahid.

He said an ambulance charged something between Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,000, while a bus takes Rs 15,000 and Rs 18,000 to ferry a body to Attock for cremation.

“Sometimes when there are many relatives or friends, then there is requirement of two buses which costs anything around Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000,” he said, adding that everyone couldn’t afford the expenses.

Notably, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh GK has also appealed to the KPK government to provide land to the minority Sikh and Hindu communities of Peshwar for the cremation ground in the absence of which they were forced to bury their dead ones.

GK had also offered financial assistant for the construction work, which evoked sharp reaction from Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC).

Zahid said SSS provides conveyance expenses, wood and a pandit for the Hindu families who couldn’t afford to travel to Attock for cremation of their dead ones.

The Times of India – Preachers from UK in high demand in Thailand

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 17 May 2018. To help the English-speaking younger Thai Sikh generation imbibe Gurbani (hymns) and teachings of Sikh Gurus, community members of Thailand have started inviting Sikh preachers from the UK instead of India since the former preach both in English and Punjabi.

While talking to TOI on Wednesday, a prominent Thai Sikh activist, Charanjit Singh Kalra, said from this year they had started inviting UK-based Sikh preachers and their groups, including Nirvair Khalsa Jatha, Veer Manpreet Singh, Bhai Satpal Singh, Bibi Avneet Kaur and Bhai Jagjit Singh, to Thailand to deliver sermons, explain Gurbani and preach the teachings of Gurus to the young Sikh generation of Thailand.

“Sikh youths here want to understand Gurbani and know the teachings of Sikh Gurus as enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib, but they want someone to preach and make them understand in English and not in Punjabi since they don’t understand Punjabi very well.

So we have started inviting Sikh preachers from the UK,” said another Sikh Thai national Dalvir Singh Narula.

Thai Sikhs not only have their Sikh names but they have also adopted Thai names for the sake of their Thai identity and keep themselves on official government records. In Thailand, the Sikh population is spread in various parts, including Pattaya, Phuket, Hatyai, Ubo, Udorn, Pattani, Chang Mi and Chiang Rai.

Charanjit whose Thai name is Prasert Sakchiraphong Chan informed that a few Sikh preachers take their fee, which range from Rs 2 lakh-Rs 3 lakh for three to four days, while a few preach the teachings of Sikh Gurus and explain Gurbani in English as ‘sewa’ (voluntary service).

“Sikh preachers from the UK say every line in both English and Punjabi, whereas preachers from Punjab hold discourses only in Punjabi,” he maintained. Charanjit further said there was immense demand of English speaking Sikh preachers in South-East Asia, especially in countries having sizeable Sikh population, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

The Times of India – Hawara acquitted in AK-56 seizure case

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 15 May 2018. The court of chief judicial magistrate Suresh Kumar Goyal acquitted Sikh radical Jagtar Singh Hawara in a 1995 arms recovery case on Monday. Hawara was booked at the then Kotwali police station on December 30, 1995.

Police had claimed in the case that Hawara was caught with an AK-56 assault rifle and 50 cartridges. Hawara has been convicted of the assassination of former chief minister Beant Singh.

On April 9, the court of Varinder Kumar, judicial magistrate first class (JMIC), had convicted Hawara in the arms case. He appealed against the conviction in the court of chief judicial magistrate on April 13.

During the hearing of the case, Hawara’s counsel, Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, informed the court that Hawara had been convicted based on wrong facts. The defence counsel added that Hawara participated in the hearing through video-conferencing from Tihar Jail in Delhi.

The counsel informed the court that Hawara had made a disclosure statement in which he had informed the police about the AK-56 rifle, two magazines of AK-56, and 50 cartridges of AK-56. He had given them information that the firearm and ammunition had been in a rubber tube behind a cremation ground.

A separate disclosure statement of Hawara under section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act to this effect was recorded separately in the presence of witnesses.

The police party proceeded towards the place disclosed by accused in a government vehicle. Led by Hawara, the police party seized the weapon. The defence counsel argued that for sentencing in an arms act, the weapon should be in working condition and must be test-fired.

He added that police did not test-fire or check the weapon. He said the police also didn’t check the 50 cartridges.

He added that there was no seal on the AK 56 to indicate its particulars.