The Tribune – Unconstitutional, divisive CAB will not be implemented in Punjab: Amarinder

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 December 2019. Terming the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) as a direct assault on India’s secular character, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday said his government would not allow the legislation to be implemented in his state.

Asserting his commitment to the protection of the Constitutional ethos of the country, Captain Amarinder said the Congress, which has a majority in the State Assembly, would block the unconstitutional Bill in the House.

His government, on its part, would not let the legislation rip apart the secular fabric of the country, whose strength lies in its diversity, said the Chief Minister a day after the controversial Bill was also passed in the Rajya Sabha.

The Parliament had no authority to pass a law that defiled the Constitution and violated its basic principles and fundamental rights of the people of India, said the Chief Minister, declaring CAB to be ‘null and void’ on account of the fact that it was against the tenets and values contained in the Constitution.

Pointing to the divisive nature of the law, Captain Amarinder said any legislation that seeks to divide the people of the country on religious lines was illegal and unethical, and could not be allowed to sustain.

It was the duty of an elected government to safeguard the cherished values ingrained in the Constitution and not destroy them, said the Chief Minister, making it clear that he would not let such a Constitutional violation take place under his regime.

“How can you leave out a large section of the Indian population from the protection they have been getting since we declared India a “sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty…”, asked Captain Amarinder, pointing out that by linking citizenship with religion, CAB would hit out at the very foundation of the nation.

“What if other countries, where Indians are settled in large numbers and have acquired their citizenship, decide to bring in similar legislations? What will happen to those Indians if the countries of their stay decide to withdraw their citizenship on account of their religious beliefs,” asked the Chief Minister.

The move, Amarinder said, was retrograde and regressive, and sought to take India back from the progressive charter mandated by its Constitution.

Instead of using brute majority in Parliament to push the Bill through, the central government should have discussed the matter with all parties and tried to evolve a consensus, if at all it felt the legislation was in the interest of India and its people, he added.

The Tribune – Sikh activists barred from entering Kashmir

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 09 December 2019. Citing law and order, activists of the Dal Khalsa and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) were today barred from entering Jammu and Kashmir. They were scheduled to go to Srinagar to hold a peaceful sit-in at Lal Chowk to observe Human Rights Day tomorrow.

Acting upon the orders of the Kathua magistrate, the police intercepted them at the Madhopur-Kathua interstate border.

The protesters were carrying placards to convey their message and sought release of political prisoners in Kashmir and Punjab.

Dal Khalsa leader H D Dhami said when Home Minister Amit Shah had announced that everything was normal in Kashmir, why were they not allowed to go there? “This prompts us to say that there is no normalcy in Kashmir and Union Government has been telling lies to hoodwink the world,” he said.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh, while speaking at the sit-in at the border, said, “It is ironical that even on the occasion of Human Rights Day, we were not allowed to talk and uphold human rights.”

The agitating Sikh leaders said it would be brought to the notice of the United Nations Human Rights Council how Kashmiri people had been reeling under state repression since the August 5 lockdown.

The Tribune – In a first, climate-sustainable agriculture on the agenda

Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service

Mohali – Panjab – India, 06 December 2019. For the first time, climate sustainable agriculture was the focus of policy makers, agriculturists, agriculture scientists and the agro industry in Punjab, rather than just value addition or increasing farmers’ incomes.

As all stake holders in the agriculture sector got together during a session on “Agri and Food Processing: Value Addition to Agri Economy” during the second day of Progressive Punjab Investors Summit, they underlined the need to have climate sustainable agriculture as climate change crisis looms large, threatening the production of food.

The summit saw an engaging discussion by experts on traceability of seeds; use of artificial intelligence; reducing use of chemicals and switching to natural farming techniques; and increasing rotational crops.

Vishwajit Khanna, Additional Chief Secretary, Development, Punjab, said that huge ecological and environmental problems are emerging because of stubble burning of paddy and due to extensive use of water for paddy cultivation.

“We need to wean away farmers from water guzzling paddy and introduce farmers to high-value crops while the agro industry too upgrades to utilise the crops they grow,” he said.

“Because of climate change, climate resilient agriculture is the next big challenge and a big business opportunity which the industry can leverage,” said eminent agriculture scientist Prabhakar Rao. He also underlined the need to go in for indigenous seeds that would be more suitable to the states’ climate.

Neel Kingston, executive Vice-President, ITC, said that they too were approaching the climate change challenge head-on by having several interactive sessions with farmers, by showcasing and propagating the use of climate and pest-resilient crop practices.

Other panelists: Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman, Punjab Farmer Commission; Ingio Anton, MD, CN IIFCO; and Prashant Vatkar, CEO, Godrej Tyson; too spoke on the issue.

The Tribune – SAD’s Naresh Gujral differs from party, backs Manmohan Singh on 1984 remark

Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 05 December 2019. Senior Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral today backed Congress veteran Manmohan Singh for his remarks that the 1984 Sikh massacre could have been averted had then Home Minister P V Narasimha Rao heeded late Prime Minister I K Gujral’s advice to call in the Army immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

While the BJP and Akali Dal attacked Singh for the statement made on Wednesday saying he was trying to absolve Rajiv Gandhi of his role in the massacre, MP Gujral hailed the former PM for “speaking the truth”.

Gujral also said there was a “mystery around the level at which the conspiracy to kill the Sikhs was hatched in the Congress”.

“I compliment Dr Manmohan Singh for honestly accepting the truth that then Home Minister Rao and the Congress government of the day were at fault and that the tragedy of 1984 carnage could have been averted had I K Gujral’s advice been heeded.

Rao shirked his responsibility as Home Minister. Otherwise the 1984 Sikh killings would have been 100 per cent averted. Eventually, the killings stopped only after the Army was called in,” Naresh Gujral, son of late PM I K Gujral, said today.

The Rajya Sabha MP said his father accompanied by late Air Force Marshal Arjan Singh and late Kuldip Nayar went to meet President Giani Zail Singh on 31 October 1984, soon after the violence against Sikhs broke out in the capital and urged the President to call in the Army.

“The President told them that he was unable to reach then PM Rajiv Gandhi. Thereafter, Mr Gujral and others drove to the residence of then Home Minister Rao and told him that the violence could escalate unless the Army was called in.

Rao assured them of action, but when no orders were passed until 3 pm that day, Mr Gujral and others again went to see Rao, who was sleeping. They got him to wake up, but he remained non-committal. By then things had gone out of control,” said Gujral.

Terming 1984 killings a “carnage and not a riot”, Gujral said top Congress leaders were involved in mass killings. He, however, added that he didn’t know the level at which the conspiracy to kill the Sikhs was hatched in the Congress.

Gujral’s remarks came when the BJP and Akali Dal directly attacked late PM Rajiv Gandhi for not letting the Army come in to stop the Sikh killings.

“There is a mystery around the level at which the 1984 carnage conspiracy was hatched. It is difficult for me to say. Of course, then Home Minister must have been under orders from someone.

There was a game plan to massacre the Sikhs and play the Sikh card to win elections and the Congress succeeded in that,” Gujral said even as SAD spokesperson Manjinder Singh Sirsa alleged, “Rao deliberately ignored IK Gujral’s advice because he had orders from Rajiv Gandhi to ensure maximum killings of Sikhs.”

Naresh Gujral also said today that the Sikhs were edgy even after Rajiv’s assassination. “Even when Rajiv was assassinated, my father got calls from anxious Sikhs who were wary of the repercussions because nothing was known of the late PM’s killers till then. Mr Gujral immediately spoke to then PM Chandrashekhar who called in the paramilitary and stationed the forces across the capital to avert potential violence,” Gujral said.

He lamented that 35 years after the carnage, victims had not had closure.

It seems simple to me : Narasimha Rao was under orders not to act to protect the Sikhs and although I do not know this, I think that only Rajiv Gandhi was in the position to give such orders.
Man in Blue

The Tribune – SGPC raagis to perform kirtan at Kartarpur

Committee to send them on rotational basis; also to complete their official formalities

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 04 December 2019. In a first, the Indian Sikh ‘raagis’ would recite gurbani kirtan at the Gurdwara located across the border regularly on a rotational basis. The SGPC has prepared a list of ‘raagi’ jathas (group of sacred hymn singers) to be deputed at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

Under the plan, the first ‘raagi’ jatha will leave on December 16 morning through the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak and return after offering their day-long services at the Gurdwara. There has been upsurge in the flow of pilgrims who visit the Gurdwara through the corridor but several shortcomings in arrangements were also observed.

It was felt that more number of ‘raagis’ were required to continue the regular gurbani kirtan at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur.

Sikhs in Pakistan are in micro-minority and consequently there has been shortage of professional ‘raagis’ compared to the number of Sikh Gurdwaras located in the Muslim-dominated country.

SGPC chief secretary Dr Roop Singh said for the day-long continuous flow of gurbani kirtan, the apex body had offered services of its ‘raagis’ at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

For the first day, Bhai Shaukeen Singh-led ‘raagi’ jatha would reach the Gurdwara on 16 December through the dedicated terminal and return the same evening. The following day, Bhai Gurmel Singh would take his jatha.

Though the duties would be designated by the SGPC, these jathas would go like the ordinary pilgrims, after furnishing their antecedents online and paying the service fee of $20 each. All this would be arranged by the SGPC well in advance.

The SGPC had earlier appealed to the Centre to take up the issue at the diplomatic level with its Pakistani counterparts so that special permission could be granted to the SGPC to send its ‘raagi’ jathas and sewadaars under a special category.

Now, the SGPC has decided to offer the service instantly through the ordinary channel. Dr Roop Singh said the plan of providing service of ‘raagis’ was offered in the backdrop of the feedback received from the devotees.

“The devotees who paid obeisance at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib observed the shortage of ‘raagis’ which posed as a hindrance and cumbersome for a handful of Pakistani raagis in continuing with the gurbani kirtan the whole day at the Gurdwara.

We decided to send our jathas on our own through the available channel. They will go like other pilgrims and return after offering their services the same evening,” he said.

Golden Temple’s [Harmandr Sahib] additional manager Rajinder Singh Rubi said at present there were more than 70 ‘raagi’ jathas associated with the shrine. “We plan that the instruments like harmonium, table and other allied items that were required in reciting gurbani kirtan should be donated at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib,” he said.

The Tribune – New SGPC team favours tech to propagate religion

G S Paul Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 01 December 2019. The newly elected SGPC team comprises a majority of academically sound members having progressive approach who advocate propagating religious activities with adoption of modern ways.

The general house held on 27 November has nominated four office-bearers, including the president, senior vice-president, general secretary and junior vice-president, besides the 11-member executive body for the next annual term.

While there are eight members who possess post-graduate degrees, one JBT degree-holder, two have passed higher secondary and three are matriculate.

While president Gobind Singh Longowal and senior vice-president Rajinder Singh Mehta are post-graduates, general secretary Harjinder Singh Dhami is a law graduate. The junior vice-president Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa had passed second year graduation.

Longowal has already prioritised to raise the education standard bar of the SGPC-run institutes, besides propagating religious activities.

Mehta said digital techniques worked wonders if taken in a right perspective. “The dharma parchar goals will have wider reach, especially among the new generation through animated technology. On the lines of the animated film, Char Sahibzaade, which was widely admired and reached globally, encouragement should be given to make more such films of religious episodes,” he said.

Similarly, he said steps need to be initiated to explore the content of udasis (travels) of Guru Nanak. Also, the upkeep of out of state gurdwaras like Gurdwara Gyan Godri, Gurdwara Dangmaar and Jagan Nath Puri which were directly associated with Guru Nanak also need due attention for their upkeep and sanctity.

Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa also said besides raising the education standard, more schools should be built.

The Tribune – Help desks for Kartarpur pilgrims

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 28 November 22019. The SGPC has come forward to help people who want to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan. It will help these people in completing online documentation formalities.

A special centre was set up at the Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] entrance plaza today in addition to dedicated help desks in other gurdwaras.

Apart from this, a free bus service is going to be launched tomorrow to ferry devotees from Dera Baba Nanak to Gurdwara Kartarpur corridor terminal.

SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh said keeping in view the difficulties faced by pilgrims in submitting their forms online, employees who are tech-savvy have been deputed at all help desks.

“Besides at the Golden Temple, a counter has been opened at Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Baba Deep Singh in Amritsar. Similar counters are being established at all gurdwaras run under the SGPC administration. People should get requisite documents along for getting themselves registered online at these counters,” he said.

“For online registration, people should bring coloured photocopies of passport and Aadhaar Card and a passport-size photograph. The rest will be taken care of by SGPC staff,” he said.

The free bus shuttle service will carry them up to the terminal point from Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, approximately 4-km apart, during morning hours and will bring them back in the evening. 

The Tribune – Not just Punjab officials, farmers in firing line too

Agriculture department starts compiling data on erring peasants

Aman Sood – Tribune News Service

Patiala – Panjab – India, 26 November 2019. A day after the Supreme Court came down heavily on Punjab authorities for failing to stop farm fires and asked why they shouldn’t be made to pay compensation to those suffering, it has emerged that the apex court has suggested similar action against erring farmers.

Acting accordingly, the state agriculture department is learnt to have started compiling data of the erring farmers and fines pending to date. The department, said sources, had started analysing the cases of the 2019 season separately. They said a separate list would be compiled of farmers who burnt paddy stubble after the SC banned the practice.

“We also issue notice to the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the farmers as to show cause why the orders of this court have been violated and why the farmers should not be asked to pay compensation, which may be determined by this court, and why the burden should not be fastened upon them also,” said the SC order on Monday.

As many as 201 fire incidents were reported on Monday itself. The residue burning continues despite registration of nearly 1,700 FIRs against farmers for flouting the ban.

“We are compiling the data pertaining to farm fires and only the total farm fires and fines for this season are left to be compiled. We will send the list to the government and if the Supreme Court clears us to collect the fines, necessary action will be taken,” said Punjab Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu.

The Punjab Remote Sensing Centre has recorded around 2.25 lakh cases of stubble burning after the paddy harvesting season over the past four years. An amount of Rs 38.58 lakh had been recovered as penalty while Rs 2.83 crore was outstanding till the beginning of this year’s paddy season, as per government data.

Penalties worth over Rs 50 lakh have been levied in around 53,000 farm fire cases so far this season. The maximum challans were issued in 2018 and a fine of Rs 1.37 crore levied on defaulters. But only Rs 19 lakh could be collected. A few months ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had barred the state pollution control board from collecting fines from farmers.

An official said erring farmers, backed by politically inclined unions, refused to deposit fine and even took officials hostage when they were approached.

Paddy pain: dual challenge

  • Studies suggest area under paddy increased from 2.27 lakh hectares in 1960 to 30 lakh hectares in 2016
  • Total irrigated area over the period rose from about 38% to 98%, of which 73% is irrigated via tubewells
  • Paddy cultivation is also contributing to depletion of water table, posing a dual challenge for authorities

The Tribune – SGPC election on 27 November, Akalis begin deliberations

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 24 November 2019. In view of the SGPC annual elections for its executive body, the SAD has started conducting meetings with its members. The general house meeting to elect the next president, office-bearers and executive members is scheduled for 27 November.

SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal started holding meetings with SGPC members in Chandigarh today. Members from Haryana, Mohali, Fatehgarh Sahib and Ludhiana also participated. The members apprised Sukhbir of the SGPC working and shared their views over the suitable candidates for the next term.

The SAD has called up its core committee meeting for November 25 to have further discussion over the elections and many SGPC members from Majha and Malwa are expected to attend it.

Besides, another important meeting with individuals would be held at Teja Singh Samundri Hall on 26 November.

SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, “The core committee meeting will be held at the party office in Chandigarh at 5 pm on Monday. The purpose is to get the views from the party’s SGPC members on new chief and other office-bearers before reaching any conclusion.”

In 2011, SAD members had recorded convincing win with over 150 members elected from its side. Since the party enjoys majority in the house, the next president and other office-bearers would be from their side only.

Those in the race for president’s post include the incumbent chief Gobind Singh Longowal, who will complete his second annual term, former SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur, senior vice-president Raghujit Singh Virk and senior leader Jathedar Tota Singh.


190 total number of SGPC members

15 nominated and five high priests of the Takhts do not participate in the voting process

170 members are elected through voting

The Tribune – 90% Sikh heritage sites located in Pakistan, says Indian-origin historian

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 23 November. Indian-origin British historian and author Bobby Singh Bansal, who is considered as an authority on Sikh heritage in Pakistan, has claimed that 90 per cent of the Sikh heritage sites are located in the country, mostly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, as he underlined their potential to promote religious tourism.

Speaking at a guest talk titled ‘From Kartarpur to Khyber Pass’ at the Victoria Memorial Hall of Peshawar Museum on Friday, the UK-born historian took the audience on an interesting journey through a historic landscape dotted with Sikh era monuments, forts, battlefields, shrines, tombs, gurdwaras and havelies.

He said 90 per cent of the Sikh heritage sites are located in Pakistan. The KP province, which has the maximum number of such sites, has the potential to attract the Sikh community from across the globe.

Bansal, who is also a filmmaker, talked about Sikh personalities associated with the KP province, particularly General Hari Singh Nalwa and Akali Phoola Singh. Both died in KP and their tombs are there.

The ‘Jamrud Fort’ in Khyber district is a “goldmine” for attracting Sikh tourists because of the tomb of Nalwa there, he said. Nalwa was the commander-in-chief of the army of the Sikh Empire.

“He is one of the most revered personalities among the Sikhs and people from the community would want to visit his tomb. The love and association for Hari Singh Nalwa by Sikh community could be gauged from the fact that my own car number plate carry his name,” Bansal said.

If Pakistan allows Sikh diaspora to visit the cremation site and tomb of Nalwa, the community members from across the globe will rush to the site, he said.

He also highlighted other Sikh-era monuments, including the tomb of Akali Phoola Singh in Nowshera, the Balahisar Fort, Gor Ghattree, the Shabqadar Fort and the Bhai Biba Singh Gurdwara.

“These places should be on the Sikh tourist map of KP. This topic is of particular interest to the Sikh diaspora from around the world who would like to travel to KP and be part of organised tours to be able to view this shared heritage,” he said at the lecture organised by the KP Directorate of Archeology.

Bansal, who is also the director of the Sikh Heritage Foundation UK, narrated his experiences of visiting the KP province since 1980s and the subsequent research, which led him to visit and document all the Sikh monuments in KP from 2007 to 2019.

Bansal is the man behind Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s life-size statue that was unveiled at the Mai Jindan Haveli in the Lahore Fort on the occasion of 180th death anniversary of the legendary Sikh ruler in June. His father migrated to the UK from India in early 1960s.