The Tribune – Akal Takht extends help to violence-hit people in Delhi

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 26 February 2020. Coming to extend helping hand to violence-hit people of the national capital, Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh on Wednesday asked the Gurdwaras in Delhi to extend all kind of possible help to the victims.

Flaying the violence in Delhi, he said, in a statement, that “the principle of Sikhism is to take care of any victim who comes for help”.

“Violence in Delhi is condemnable. There are reports of deaths and injuries to people. It is principle of Sikhism to take care of any victim who comes for help. The situation in Delhi is serious and so the managements of all Gurdwaras in Delhi should help the victims of violence in this time of grief irrespective of their religion,” he added.

The Tribune – Malerkotla woman’s death brings communities together

Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus organise bhog ceremony after no one from kin came forward

Parvesh Sharma – Tribune News Service

Sangrur – Panjab – India, 23 February 2020. Muslims, with the help of Sikhs and Hindus, organised the “bhog” ceremony of a Sikh woman, Rani (55), in Malerkotla on Sunday. She passed away in her rented accommodation on 15 February. She was a divorcee and worked as a maid. After none turned up for the last rites, Muslims pooled in money cremated the body as per Sikh tenets.

“Rani got divorced 15 years ago. Since then, she had been staying at a colony in Malerkotla in a rented room owned by a Muslim family. With the help of our Sikh and Hindu brothers, we organised the ‘bhog’ and performed the ‘antim ardas’ at Gurdwara Sahib Baba Namdev in Malerkotla as per Sikh rituals,” said Aslam Kala, a Malerkotla resident.

After her death, the landlord, in whose house she was putting up, informed members of her family, but they refused to attend the cremation.

Sapinder Singh, a retired government employee, said: “Our Muslim brothers have made us proud and proved that we are united. But the attitude of Rani’s family has been shocking as they refused to perform her last rites. Her daughter had expressed her desire to come, but her husband did not allow her.”

“Aslam has followed Sikh rituals and we offered him support,” said Karnail Singh, another resident.

The Tribune – Cartiers & Patiala necklace: On trail of a lost marvel

23 years after it wowed the West, ‘the Patiala Necklace’ went missing, only to be rediscovered in bits and pieces

Francesca Cartier Brickell

In the summer of 1925, the head Cartier Paris salesman was summoned to the elegant Hotel Claridge on the Champs-Élysées by a very distinguished client. One of the richest men in the world, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala didn’t do things by halves.

With five wives and a world-renowned appetite for every conceivable type of luxury, from Rolls-Royces to aircraft to diamonds, he personified Eastern splendour. When Jacques had visited him in India fourteen years earlier, the Maharaja had been more interested in selling gems than buying them, but now he had decided to update his heirlooms into a collection that would put his fellow Indian rulers in the shade.

Knowing from experience that the Indian ruler didn’t like to be kept waiting, M Muffat had made his way briskly from 13 Rue de la Paix toward Claridge. On arrival at the enormous royal suite, the salesman was shown through to the sitting room and asked to take a seat at a table by the window.

As he waited for his esteemed client to appear, a large wooden box was carried over and placed in front of him. Several minutes later, the imposing thirty-four-year-old ruler entered the room and gave instructions for the box to be opened.

Muffat peered inside. It was filled with what seemed to be hundreds of crumpled pages of newspaper. As he glanced up, confused, the Maharaja urged him to look closer. Muffat carefully opened one of the sheets of paper, and a large Burmese ruby fell onto the table.

As the ruler nodded his approval, Muffat kept going. The next paper enclosed a diamond as large as his thumbnail. And then another. And another.

There were white diamonds, yellow diamonds, brown diamonds, diamonds with a greenish tint, others with a hint of pink. There were deep red rubies and vivid green emeralds.

There were bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Muffat, a connoisseur of gemstones who had worked at Cartier for more than twenty years, tried hard to hide his awe and assume a professional expression.

The Maharaja of Patiala told Muffat that he was looking for his gems to be reset in a more modern style. He wanted, he explained, to have jewels worthy of a king. Muffat nodded respectfully and took out his notebook and silver pen. “What are you doing?” the Maharaja asked.

Muffat replied that he was simply writing down each piece of jewellery and every individual gemstone in the box so there would be a record of all the jewels that the ruler was depositing with Cartier. “I don’t need that!” the ruler responded quickly, never doubting for a second that Cartier was to be trusted. “Please just take them!”

It would take Cartier three years to turn the Maharaja’s gems into a collection of jewels that would go down in jewellery history.

There would be head ornaments, anklets, armlets, and traditional Indian jewels from a hathpul (worn on the back of the hand, linking bracelet and finger rings) to a diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire nath (nose ring).

More than two hundred pearls were drilled to make a single bracelet. But the piece de résistance was a necklace of such brilliance that it outshone everything else. Containing a staggering 2,930 diamonds and weighing over a thousand carats, it was mounted in platinum and enhanced by Burmese rubies.

And at its center was the yellow 234.6-carat De Beers diamond, the size of a golf ball and the seventh-largest diamond in the world.

For all its splendour and importance, the Patiala commission didn’t actually end up being financially that attractive for Cartier, primarily because the Maharaja supplied most of his own gemstones.

But it did do wonders for Cartier’s image in the West, where Indian rulers were the personification of untouchable magnificence. When Cartier displayed the Maharaja’s gems in an exhibition on 13 Rue de la Paix, visitors flocked from all over the world to see them.

J P Morgan of The New York Times reported, “was heard to say he had never seen anything like it.” “We are transported into the world of the One Thousand and One Nights,” the French magazine L’Illustration exclaimed. “This is a dream world, the incarnation of a fugitive Oriental dream!

The beauty and significance of this collection surpass the imagination.” If there had been any doubt as to Cartier’s prominence in the jewellery world, this made it crystal clear.

“In America, where we are fond of naming Kings, Cartier would be the King of Precious Stones. If it has not formally received the title, still it exercises its sovereignty. On two sides of the ocean, in the old continent as well as the new, Cartier is the uncontested master of gems.”

The Patiala necklace sparkled under the light of the Indian sun for two generations, a symbol of power, wealth, and exquisite European taste, but in 1948 it sparked controversy when it was reported missing from the Patiala royal treasury.

Nothing was heard of it for a further thirty-four years, at which point the De Beers diamond mysteriously reappeared, without the necklace, at a 1982 Sotheby’s auction (valued at $3 million).

Sixteen years after that, part of the necklace appeared in a small antiques shop in London. Obviously, the De Beers stone was missing, but so were all the other big diamonds.

It was bought by Cartier, who replaced the missing stones with replicas. It is said that if the necklace were in its original form today, complete with all the diamonds, it would be worth at least $30 million.

Excerpted with permission from the publisher

How did the Maharajas amass all this wealth ? Who really paid for it ?
Man in Blue

The Tribune – Will meet HM to push for SGPC polls: Rebel Akalis

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 February 2020. A day prior to holding a rally at Tarn Taran, Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa along with SAD (Taksali) secretary general Sewa Singh Sekhwan and Sikh Federation leader Manjit Singh Bhoma on Thursday visited Bhupinder Singh Khalsa at his residence here.

Bhupinder had recently resigned from the post of SAD (NRI wing) general secretary based at the US while revolting against the top Akali leadership.

The leaders emphasised that in the present scenario, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president as well as Takht Jathedars were left as ‘rubber stamps’ whereas the Badals-led Akali leadership had been misutilising them for political gains.

“We want to free the SGPC from the Badals. Before occupying any political platform, our first move will be to prepare the candidates for the SGPC polls,” Dhindsa said.

He said a delegation would soon meet the Union Home Minister, demanding to hold the SGPC polls that were long overdue. He claimed that a set of people had shown solidarity with their vision of the revival of sanctity of Akal Takht and the SGPC.

The Tribune – Anti-CAA stir gathers momentum

Organisations plan week-long protests across state from 24 February

Tribune News Service

Sangrur – Panjab – India, 16 February 2020. Various organisations of farmers, field laborers, industrial and electricity workers, youth and students today organised a state-level rally against the CAA, NRC and NPR at grain market in Malerkotla. They announced to observe week-long protests across the state from February 24.

The organisation included BKU Ekta Ugrahan, BKU ( Ekta Dakaunda), Textile Hosiery Union, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, Punjab Students Union (Shaheed Randhawa), PSU (Lalkar), Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendar, Moulder and Steel Worker Union, Karkhana Mazdoor Union, Naujwan Bharat Sabha (Lalkar), Naujwan Bharat Sabha and Inquilabi Naujwan Vidyarthi Manch.

Their activists pledged to continue the campaign to counter the spread of alleged communal agenda of the BJP-led Union Government.

Different delegations from Shaheen Bagh, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi, and Karvan-e-Mohabbat also participated in the rally.

“We have pledged that we would not allow the BJP government to divide the country on caste lines. We will further intensify our agitation in the coming days,” said Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president, BKU, Ugrahan.

The protesters alleged that under the garb of the CAA, NRC and NPR, the Modi government had been trying to promote its “communal politics”. They alleged that only the Muslim community was being targeted.

“The Centre must repeal the CAA and withdraw its plans to launch NRC and NPR. After observing the protest week, we will launch more protests,” said Lachhman Singh Sevewala, general Secretary, Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union.

The Tribune – It’s Panjab next, claims Bhagwant Singh

Says only development will matter in next Assembly elections

Ruchika M Khanna – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 February 2020. The pitch for battleground Punjab has been set, the players are ready and the match with the Congress is all set to begin.

We don’t even consider the Akali Dal to be in the field, as the audience (voters) have already rejected them, says Bhagwant Mann, president of AAP state unit, as he basks in the party’s success at the hustings in Delhi.

The people of Punjab are with us. They have seen how good governance in Delhi can change the face of the state. All democratic means will be used to raise public issues and force the government to act. The first issue we will take up is that of high power tariff [Bhagwant Singh Mann – Sangrur MP].

Mann, who came to Punjab after aggressively campaigning for his party in Delhi for almost a month, says the party’s entire concentration will now be on Punjab. The central leadership is all set to build (political) inroads, treading a more cautious and mature path, and present itself as a formidable force in the state.

“The people of Punjab are already with us. They have seen how good governance in Delhi can change the face of the state,” he tells The Tribune. In the coming days, says the Sangrur MP, the state unit will get more aggressive and organise protests to make the incumbent Congress government rise from its political “reverie”.

“All democratic means will be used to raise public issues and force the government to act. The first issue we will take up is that of high power tariff. People of Punjab are unable to bear it and are forced to cut down on consumption.

The power intensive industry is also hit, which has adversely affected the economy,” he says, adding that this issue will be raised by the party in the Budget session of Vidhan Sabha.

On reports of the party’s central leadership playing a bigger role in Punjab unit affairs, post win in Delhi, with probability of structural changes in the party, Mann says the central leadership has always remained involved in the state unit.

“Now that we have won Delhi, the leadership will concentrate entirely on strategising party’s win in Punjab in 2022, but in consultation with the state leadership. Our focus will now be on strengthening the party cadre.

We will showcase the Delhi model of governance and promise what all we could do to improve things for the voters, who feel let down by the Congress, and by the SAD-BJP. We will only talk about development to counter those who rake communal or Panthic issues to get votes,” he says.

On the speculation that AAP might depend on three regional party leaders, rather than just one incharge of the entire state unit, Mann says he is unaware of such a move.

Mann, however, remains non-committal on efforts aimed at unification of rebel and dissenting MLAs and leaders and those who deserted the party.

On attempts by political strategist Prashant Kishor, who recently came on board AAP, to end differences between warring leaders and even bring splinter political groups on board, Mann says the effort is good and needed to strengthen AAP.

The Tribune – Witnesses in sacrilege cases face threat to life

Jupinderjit Singh – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 February 2020. In the wee hours of 04 November 2015, two persons on a two-wheeler rode past ex-serviceman Sewak Singh while he was on his way to his village gurdwara in Malke, Moga district. When he reached the shrine, he saw ‘ang (parts)’ of Guru Granth Sahib strewn outside.

Amid monetary allurements and threats to withdraw his statement against the two persons he saw that day, Sewak Singh’s life has been a nightmare. He is not the only witness to be living in fear.

Iqbal Singh of Guru Sar Jalal village in Bathinda has faced threats ever since a sacrilege incident was reported in his village gurdwara. “The state has abandoned us. We are left to fend for ourselves,” he told The Tribune over the phone.

Surjit Singh, a witness in the Behbal Kalan police firing incident, who died recently, too had faced harassment at the hands of the accused, provoking Justice Ranjit Singh (retd), who headed a commission to probe sacrilege incidents and the police firing at Behbal Kalan, to write to the Punjab Chief Minister. He wrote that the state, especially the police, had been insensitive to the plight of the witness.

“We will not bend despite the threats and allurement of money,” said Sewak Singh and Iqbal Singh. “But the state is duty-bound to protect all witnesses. My request for police security was turned down,” said Sewak Singh.

Advocate Gagan Pardeep Singh Bal said he had approached the High Court for providing protection to the witnesses.

The Tribune – Jakhar seeks probe into kabaddi team’s visit to Pakistan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 11 February 2020. Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Sunil Jakhar on Monday demanded an inquiry into sending of a Punjabi Kabaddi Association’s team to Pakistan for a world championship.

Jakhar asked how the players had managed to go without any official permission or clearance from the Union Sports Ministry and External Affairs Ministry.

Addressing a press conference, Jakhar alleged Jatinder Singh (Mendu Kheda), who was leading the team, was close to SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. “On one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi warns of teaching a lesson to Pakistan, and on the other, a close contact of the SAD leader took the team to Pakistan,” said Jakhar.

The PPCC chief showed a video of the secretary general of the Pakistan Amateur Circle Kabaddi Federation, Mohammed Sarwar Butt, who said many countries had refused to participate in the event. He said members of the squad from India were to be part of teams of other countries.

Asking Sukhbir to clarify his stand on the controversial visit of the kabaddi players to Pakistan, Jakhar said the entire issue needed to be probed by the National Investigation Agency, as it was a serious issue. Pakistan is indulging in narco-terrorism while 60 Indian players were granted permission to visit the hostile neighbour, he said.

Drawing attention of the NDA government towards denial of permission to a Punjab minister to visit Nankana Sahib in connection with the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, Jakhar said the permission to the 60-player squad raised several questions.

He added the state should also probe the visit of team under the banner of Punjab Kabaddi Association, though it was the issue pertaining to national security.

Congress trying to imitate Sangh Parivar ?
How can a visit from Panjab to Panjab be controversial

Man in Blue

The Tribune – Pakistan considering passport-free entry for Kartarpur corridor pilgrims

Islamabad – Islamabad Capital Territory, 08 February 2020. Pakistan is considering a proposal for allowing Indian pilgrims to enter the Kartarpur corridor without passport in a bid to attract more visitors to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah informed country’s parliament today.

The minister told the National Assembly during the question hour that passport-free entry of pilgrims was currently not allowed in accordance with the pact signed between Pakistan and India. However, a proposal for giving the entry without passport in order to attract more visitors was under consideration, for which detailed input might be sought from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The Tribune – Dhadrianwale must appear before Takht panel: SGPC

Sangrur – Panjab – India, 06 February 2020. A day after Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale asked the Akalt Takht to act fairly, SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal today advised him to follow the directions of the Takht. He also dared Dhadrianwale to prove that he tried to get cancelled his three-day religious event in Gidriani village of the district.

“If Dhadrianwale has any problem, it can be sorted out through discussions only. He must appear before the committee of the Takht, the supreme body of Sikhs, to clarify things. I do not know why he is not ready to meet committee members,” Longowal said after attending a religious function at Kaimbowal Gurudwara Sahib in Longowal town.

“I have nothing against anyone and if Dhadrianwale has any evidence to prove his allegations that I tried to get his event cancelled, he must share it with the ‘sangat’,” Longowal said.

I suspect the hand of Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhuma behind this
I am no fan of Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale, nor am I a of fan of Harnam Singh Dhuma