World Sikh News – Sikhs celebrate Guru Nanak 550 birth anniversary at Australian Parliament

Published 3 weeks ago Kamaljeet Singh

As Australia opens its heart to Sikhs, amidst members of Parliament, with participation of various Sikh bodies, Sikh scholars from across the globe and activists from Australia, the Australian Federal Parliament reverberated with the Shabads of Guru Nanak sung on Sikh musical instruments and shared His universal message on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of the founder of Sikh faith, beautifully organised in Sikh style and tradition by the Australian Sikh Coun­cil in the evening of 22 October.

The first-ever investiture of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scripture and the eternal Guru of the Sikhs at the Australian Parliament House, with scores of Sikhs and friends of Sikhs was a historic occasion which will be remembered for years to come by the Sikh community, not only in Australia but across the Sikh world.

Setting the tone for the evening, Sikh music vocalist Bimal Singh of the Gurmat Sangeet Academy Melbourne performed a beautiful melody of traditional Sikh music on classical instruments Taus and Rabab with Dayabir Singh and Himmat Singh joining him to play Shabads of Guru Nanak from Guru Granth Sahib, enthralling the audience.

Guru Nanak Sahib Parkash Purab in the Australian Parliament

Dwelling on the need for a paradigm for life as created by Guru Nanak to address the issues of political paralysis, social justice, and rising extremism, keynote speaker Harinder Singh, of US-based Sikh Research Institute said, ‘Guru Nanak proclaims the biggest weapon you can carry with you is knowledge,’ In the same vein he applauded Aus­tralia for its Numero Uno ranking in the United Na­tions Education Index and emphasized how it sets an example for Sikhs and other countries to follow.

The leader of the Labor party Anthony Albanese said that ‘Sikh values are Labor values.’ Parliamentarians Adam Bandt, Warren Entsch and Bob Katter shared personal anecdotes from their interaction with members of the Sikh community and all seemed thrilled to be in the company of Sikhs.

They were particularly impressed by the contribution of Sikhs to Australian society and were enamoured of the Sikh values of freedom, equality, compassion and hard work.

Parliamentarians AM Ben Morton, Julian Leeser, Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen, Julian Hill, Tim Watts, Tony Zappia, Anne Aly, Joanne Ryan, Dean Smith and others also joined the Sikhs in the celebrations.

Tracing the history and contribution of Sikhs in Australia, Tarunpreet Singh of Australian Sikh Heritage covered the 180 years of Sikh presence through his immaculate presentation.

“Guru Nanak’s revolutionary and progressive ideas of gener equality and women’s empowerment were way ahead of the times,” said Jatinder Kaur, Director of JK Diversity Consultants.

Guru Nanak Sahib Parkash Purab in the Australian Parliament

The Australian Sikh Council, which initiated this program expressed gratitude to Akalpurakh for the unprecedented public and political outreach made possible through this function and have announced its commitment to continue its Sikh advocacy work across Australia which has witnessed a huge growth of Sikh population in the last decade and is now the third destination for Sikhs, after the USA and Canada.

Sikhs celebrate Guru Nanak 550 birth anniversary at Australian Parliament

World Sikh News – What will happen as RSS challenges the Idea of India

Ajaypal Singh Brar

Published 2 weeks ago: In the back­drop of the views on India by two Italian travel writers, author-commentator Ajaypal Singh Brar decries the attempts to foist majoritarianism-based unity culture by the RSS and advocates that the minorities have no choice but to fight back, tooth and nail.

In the backdrop of the views on India by two Italian travel writers, author-commentator Ajaypal Singh Brar decries the attempts to foist majoritarianism-based unity culture by the RSS and advocates that the minorities have no choice but to fight back, tooth and nail.

Once upon a time, two Italian writers go on vacation together in India, and each writes a book about his travels. One sees in India only what is different and the other only what is the same.

Once upon a time, two Italian writers go on vacation together in India, and each writes a book about his travels. One sees in India only what is different and the other only what is the same.

The one writer, Alberto Moravia, titles his book An Idea of India (Un’idea del­l’India) and tries to explain how different India is, but he is frustrated that he can grasp it only in the most abstract, meta­physical terms and through a series of tautologies.

The experience teaches him why Europeans are Europeans and Indians are Indians, but that is so hard to capture in words. The differ­ence of religion, he thinks, will help him put his finger on it.

India is the land of religion par excellence, he explains. Not only are its religions different than ours but also in India religion envelops all of life. The religious idea completely permeates the experience.

It is time the fascist forces in this land realise that the land and its people can­not be turned into a monolithic society adhering to their narrow version of Hindutva but the recognition of an open network of singularities that links together on the basis of the common they share and the common they produce can make harmonious coexistence possible, workable and enjoyable.

Indians go about their daily lives living their religions in countless strange and incomprehensible rituals. But this notion of a living religious idea, he finds, does not really capture the difference either. The difference of India is much more than that.

In fact, this extreme difficulty of expressing it proves to him that the differ­ence of India is ineffable. “My fellow Italians, I cannot describe India to you. You must go there and experience its enigma yourself. All I can say is, India is India,” he concludes.

Pier Paolo Pasolini titles his book ‘The Scent of India’ (L’odore dell’India) and tries to explain how similar India is. He walks the crowded streets at night in Bombay, and the air is filled with odours that remind him of home: the rotting vegetables left­over from the day’s market, the hot oil of a vendor cooking food on the city’s sidewalks, and the faint smell of sewage.

The writer comes upon a family conducting an elaborate ritual on the river­bank, making offerings of fruit, rice, and flowers. This is not new to him either. The peasants back home in Friuli have similar customs, ancient pagan rituals that have survived for ages. And then, of course, there are the boys. The writer talks play­fully in broken English with groups of boys who congregate on street corners.

Eventually, in Cochin (Kochi) he befriends Ravi, a poor, laughing orphan who is continually tormented and robbed by older boys. Before leaving the town the writer convinces a Catholic priest with the promise of sending money from Italy to take the boy in and protect him, just as he would have done back home.

All of these boys, the writer finds, are just like the boys in every poor neigh­bour­hood of Rome or Naples. “My fellow Italians, Indians are just the same as us,” he concludes. In his eyes, in fact, all the differ­ences of India melt away and all that remains is another Italy.

It makes you wonder if the travel companions even saw the same country. In fact, although polar opposites, their two responses fit together perfectly as a fable of the two faces of Eurocentrism: “They are utterly different from us” and “They are just the same as us.”

The truth, you might say, lies somewhere between the two, they are somewhat like us and also a little different, but really that compromise only clouds the problem.

Neither of the two Italian writ­ers can escape the need to use European identity as a universal standard, the measure of all sameness and difference. India, however, is not merely different from Europe. India (and every local reality within India) is singular, not different from any universal standard but different in itself.

If the first Italian writer Al­berto Moravia could free himself of Europe as a standard, The Scent of India he could grasp this singularity. This singularity does not mean, however, that the world is merely a collection of in­communicable localities. Once we recognize singularity, the common begins to emerge.

Singularities do communicate, and they are able to do so because of the common they share. We share bodies with two eyes, ten fingers, ten toes; we share life on this earth; we share capitalist regimes of production and exploitation; we share common dreams of a better future.

Our communication, collaboration, and cooperation, furthermore, not only are based on the common that exists but also, in turn, produce the common. We make and remake the common we share every day.

Today’s world is a paradox! While, the recently concluded elections in Canada has shown us how a nation with vast swathes of immigrants from diverse nationalities could grasp this dynamic relationship of the common, our own homegrown organizations such as the RSS, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its off­shoots advocate the turning of the entire land into one monolithic singularity in the name of Hindutva, thus destroying the garden full of myriad cultures, nationalities and religious ideologies that has been celebrated as the Idea of India or perhaps as the second Italian author Pier Paolo Pasolini puts it, the Scent of India.

It is time the fascist forces in this land realise that the land and its people cannot be turned into a monolithic society adhering to their narrow version of Hindutva but the recognition of an open network of singularities that links together on the basis of the common they share and the common they produce can make harmonious coexistence possible, workable and enjoyable.

It is not easy for those who stand for the Idea of India, which is diverse and vibrant to challenge the brute bulldozer of Hindutva forces, yet despite the attempts to crush under its momentum and weight the dynamism of diversity, challenge they must. What will happen if the Idea of India dies?

World Sikh News – Delhi Police forces family to allow autopsy of Professor S A R Geelani

Published 5 days ago – WSN News Bureau

Rubbing salt on the wounds of the family, already struggling to come to terms with the sad demise of their illustrious member Professor S A R Geelani who died of a massive heartattack, the Delhi police, apparently with ‘instructions from above’ was at their heartless best by forcing the family to give permission for an autopsy on his body before being taken to his ancestral home in Kashmir.

While it may be a technical requirement to conduct a post-mortem prior to airlifting of a dead body, the Delhi police and the Delhi administration and the hospital authorities should have shown more preparedness and sensitivity while handling the case of Professor S A R Geelani.

The trauma that the family went through on the roads, with the police pocketing the keys of the ambulance is shameful, to say the least. All pleadings by the family members did not yield anything. The police personnel kept on passing the buck from one officer to another.

When will Indian administration arrange to teach hospital and police personnel how to handle the dead with dignity?

After seeing this article on World Sikh News I decided to refresh my knowledge about Professor Geelani and found the excellent Caravan article that I have published earlier this morning
Man in Blue

Delhi Police forces family to allow autopsy of Prof S A R Geelani

World Sikh News – Will India’s Supreme Court protect Guru Nanak Mutts in Puri?

Published 3 days ago – Jagmohan Singh

Puri – Odisha – India, 17 September 2019. India’s Supreme Court will take up the case of demolition of all Mutts within a radius of 75 metres of the Jagannath Puri Temple today.

Under pressure from Sikh activists world­wide, the Naveen Patnaik government of the Indian state of Odisha has temporarily halted the demolition drive which was to demolish the Mangu Mutt and Panjabi Mutt relating to the visit of Guru Nanak Sahib, though with­out giving an official word about their intentions.

The DSGMC delegation met the Deputy Commissioner and was able to get verbal assurances only while the Orissa Sikh Pratinidhi Board Sikh leadership indulges into doubletalk and squabbles about the historicity of the places.

Thanks to the timely intervention of advocate-activist Sukhvinder Kaur and historian Anil Dhir, the uproar by Sikh Twitterati across the globe, the push provided by the tweet of Panjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, the Puri administration has stalled the demolishing since the last four days.

The Indian Supreme Court will take up a Public Interest petition today filed by InterContinental Association of Lawyers through its chairman Debasis Misra, seeking the quashing of the Odisha government order dated 16 August for the demolition of all structures within 75 meters of the Jagannath Puri Temple.

Though this petition was not specifically for the shrines related to Guru Nanak, all Mutts that the Odisha government proposes to demolish structures ‘for providing facilities to pilgrims’, the decision in this matter is likely to impact the Mangu Mutt and Punjabi Mutt which are so far intact.

Speaking exclusively to The World Sikh News, Sukhvinder Kaur said, “It seems that the importance of the Mutts and its history was not even known to the administration. Apparently, only after a score of media reports and social media intervention, the relevance of the Mutts came to be known to them.”

Senior BJP leader Dillip Mohanty has extensively tweeted to the Odisha government urging immediate stoppage of the demolition campaign.

Reliable sources in Puri have informed WSN that the Puri Collector Balwant Singh Rathore told the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee delegation that “the administration is now considering to preserve four rooms of the Mutt, but the remaining portion of the shrine will be de­molished.

The shrine where the images of Lord Jagannath and Shri Chand Ji, along with the Mahant’s Gadi, his per­sonal room and the Rosaghara (Kitchen) will be allowed to re­main.”

Panjabi Mutt, Puri, clearly, these are time-wasting tactics. WSN fears that the Odisha government which has so far not put out an official word on the subject is probably banking on the judiciary taking a decision which will enable them to complete the demolition.

Shockingly for the Sikhs, the Odisha Sikh Pratinidhi Board has issued a face­book post down­playing the Mango Mutt and its role. They said that the Mutt holds no relevance to the Sikh faith.

Sukhvinder Kaur speaking to WSN said, “It is sad, that while the administration has taken cognizance of the importance of the Mutt, the Pratinidhi Board is in a denial mode.”

Will the Naveen Patnaik government respect Sikh sentiments?

I do not know about these Mutts and their relevance for Sikhi but I am very much against the knocking down of historical buildings
Man in Blue

Will India’s Supreme Court protect Guru Nanak Mutts in Puri?

World Sikh News – Dal Khalsa files complaint to UN panel on rights violations in Kashmir

Published 3 days ago – Kanwarpal Singh

Prior to the United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Dal Khalsa joined the international community and appealed to the United Nations panel for immediate intervention to halt the wave of human rights violations in Kashmir. In its open letter to the Commissioner, Dal Khalsa believes that only with a strong stand, the United Nations can force India to re­spect the fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people.

The admonition by UN Commissioner for Human Rights of India’s continuing abuse of human rights has come as a welcome relief and Dal Khalsa hopes that the body will take this to its logical conclusion.

To Ms Michelle Bachelet Jeria: Notwithstanding the present Indian political leadership’s continuous harping on Kashmir as an internal legislative issue and undermining the aspiations of the people of Kashmir as a law and order issue, it is comforting that, slowly but surely the international community and the OHCHR is making the right observations about the grave human rights situation in Kashmir.

As the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights sets in motion its three-day session, with a primary focus on Kashmir, Dal Khalsa, as the Sikh party concerned about the grave situation in Kashmir, which despite the unsubstantiated utterances of the Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, writes to you seeking immediate intervention.

Clearly, India will not relent from its position and narrative on Kashmir. So far, the response of the international community and the United Nations has been muted, utterly respectul of India’s stance without questioning the policy of the state of India going back on its promise to the people of Kashmir as well as backing out of its legal and moral commitment made to the United Nations through the 1953 UN resolution on Kashmir.

Sikhs of Punjab are geographical neigh­bours of Kashmir and share political boundaries with two nuclear-power countries, India and Pakistan.

The relationship between the two countries, always locking-horns, is at its lowest ebb, as both take diametrically opposite positions on India’s total occupation of Kashmir by revoking the special status, which was giving the people some semblance of their autonomous status, even though, in practice it had huge gaps and loop­holes.

As the tensions escalate, a war-like environment looms large in the region, which is grossly feared by the people of Punjab.

As Kashmir continues to be a concentration camp for all its peoples since the last 40 days, with zero or minimal communication, with food and medical supplies in doubt and no internet, Kashmir, the heaven on earth has been turned into a living hell.

With the entire pro-freedom and other Kashmir leadership in detention, Kashmir is on the precipice of a political and military catastrophe. An an iron curtain separates Kashmir from the rest of the world. India is pursuing a systematic policy of continuation of its gross abuse of human rights and a comlete denial of political rights.

In September 2018, when you assumed the office of this august institution, we wrote to you with hope as you had even then called upon India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir conflict. It is evident now that like at all times, India ignores all international and UN advice and suggestions.

Your office is also credited with issuing the first-ever detailed report on gross abuse of human rights in Kashmir. However, international opprobrium on India’s track record of rights of human rights defenders and its intolerance of dissenting media has had no effect on the psyche, atti­tude or working of the Indian establishment.

India’s Narendra Modi’s regime has pushed Kashmir back in time and reverted it to its pre-1953 status, flagrantly evading India’s international obligations.

The subjugation of Kashmir must stop. Stray voices of concern on Kashmir are not enough. Accepting India’s fraudulent stand on the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution and the Kashmir issue as an internal issue, not even a bilateral one, will further push Kashmir into being another Bosnia-Hercegovina or Rwanda.

The five countries of the Security Council, for reasons of economic interest, have totally overlooked the issue of human rights in Kashmir and other parts of India, granting the whole state apparatus impunity to harass, detain, maim and kill dissenting individuals, groups, regional identities and nations.

Dal Khalsa uambiguously endorses the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir, Punjab and all other struggling peoples who fight for this inalienable and internationlly recognized right safeguarded under the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

It is time to recognize that rights of Kashmiris, the deteriorating geopolitical situation in South Asia, cannot be a bilateral issue. Your office has the ominous task of seizing the situation, holding the mirror to India and ensuring respect for human rights and justice in Kashmir.

It is our humble submission that the UNHRC will be failing in its duty towards a peaceful world, should it not play a proactive role in this crucial hour.

Yours Sincerely

Kanwarpal Singh
Spokesperson, Dal Khalsa

Dal Khalsa files complaint to UN panel on rights violations in Kashmir

World Sikh News – Harvard University launches short term Sikhism studies through scriptures

Published 3 months ago – WSN News Bureau USA

The School of Humanities and South Asian Studies at Harvard University launches short term studies in Sikhism, which will go online on 6 August and will be available online and on iPad and iPhone. Celebrating 550 years of Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of Sikhism, Harvard University is launching an online course on fundamentals of the Sikh way of life.

Sikhism, a monotheistic religious tradition with twenty-five to thirty million adherents across the globe, as one of the six major religions of the world, encomasses a number of religious, social, economic and political institutions, most of which were established and nurtured by Guru Nanak and his nine successors, known as the Sikh Gurus.

For the 4-week free self-paced course in the English language, with the coaching of 5-10 hours per week and verified certificate learners can enrol at https://​​course/​sikhism-through-its-scrip­tures.

The course will teach aspirants:

  • Exploration of a foundational Sikh text, the Japji, which was composed by Guru Nanak and is recited by Sikhs as part of their morning prayers.
  • The place of Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, in Sikh life.
  • Interpretative skills to engage in a nuanced reading of Guru Granth Sahib.
  • Gurmat Sangeet, the Sikh musical tradition, as represented in the Sikh scripture and its cultural context.
  • The aesthetics of Sikhi, including literature, art, and music.
  • The political dimensions of Sikh scripture and its impact on the evolution of Sikhs as a Panth or community.

As per the course details available on the website, the course “examines the Sikh scripture from a doctrinal and historical perspective by providing an overview of Sikh teachings as well as the historical context within which the scripture evolved and became canonized.

It also examines the musical and aesthetic dimensions of the Sikh scripture, as well as ways in which the voluminous text has provided Sikhs with a social, ethical, spiritual and political message to help them respond to and shape the world around them.”

Harpreet Singh of South Asian Studies at the Harvard University and Ravinder Singh and Damanpreet Singh as Teaching Assistants, will be three guides and instructors running the course. The course will be in association with the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

World Sikh News – Modi plunges Kashmir into turmoil, says Simranjit Singh Mann

World Sikh News – Published 2 weeks ago – WSN Panjab Desk

Endorsing the Kashmiris’ unequivocal right to self-determination, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Dal Khalsa said by scrapping article 370 of the constitution, the government of India has plunged the region into further turmoil.

The move will further alienate the people of Kashmir and peace will be a casualty. Both parties give a call to observe 15 August as a black day throughout the state of Panjab.

Abrogation of Article 35A and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that granted special status to J&K is only a façade to continue the tirade of injustice and state-terror against the people of Kashmir, said Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann, while recently addressing the media in Amritsar at the Dal Khalsa head office.

After caging the entire leadership from moderates to pro-freedom leaders, seizing the state with military might and disconnecting Kashmir from the rest of the world, New Delhi has taken this retro­grade step. This is a clear murder of democracy, said Mann.

Trashing Home Minister Amit Shah’s claim that article 370 was the biggest hurdle to normalcy, Mann said contrary to it, after this move of the centre, normalcy and peace in the region will become a distant dream.

Kash­miris have been reeling under state repression since many decades. They won’t let their sacrifices go in vain. Commenting on bifurcating J&K into two UT’s, Mann said nothing on the ground is going to make a difference as earlier, New Delhi was ruling the state through a proxy and now it will only rule directly.

Hitting out at the Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal SAD for being party to the BJP decision on the Kashmir issue, he said by not op­posing the move, the Badals had dumped the Anandpur Sahib resolution that demanded greater autonomy for states.

Dal Khalsa head Harpal Singh Cheema said by revoking article 370, the disputed nature of Kashmir will not change. The struggle for freedom doesn’t rest on such legislations. Narien Singh of Akal Federation was also present to express solidarity with the cause of the Kashmiri people reeling under government’s repression.

Cheema further said the present situation in Kash­mir is reminiscent of the Punjab situation before the army attack in Amritsar in June 1984. With Guru’s blessings, Sikhs fought against Indian aggression. It is evident that the Indian state hasn’t learned any lessons from its blunders and continues with its policy of trampling rights of peoples and political subjugation.

Slamming the Modi dispensation for turning down Donald Trump’s peace mediation offer, Dal Khalsa Spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh said we will be writing to the US president for mediation and intervention as we are geographical neighbours of Kashmir, we share political boundaries with Pakistan and India and we have experienced strain and stress over the last decades because of a climate of unrest and denial of human rights in the country.

Announcing their protests program to mark India’s Independence Day, both the organizations along with United Akali Dal, called upon the people of Punjab to observe August 15 as black day. Mann said the rank and file of their party will stage protests at 15 district head­quarters on 15 August, carrying black flags and placards to lodge their protest.

Slamming the flip-flop stand of the Punjab government on the CBI closure report in the Bargarhi sacrilege case, the leaders said Amarinder and his Attorney General were issuing contradictory statements only to confuse and mislead the people and to hide their failures.

Ironically and sadly, Amarinder Singh is on the same page as Sukhbir Badal in this case, with a shared interest to protect Dera Sirsa Head, who not only engineered sacrilege acts but was also involved in the Maur Bomb blast.

The worst irony is that DGP Prabodh Kumar is writing to CBI for re-investigation making the findings of SIT led by Khatra as its basis, completely ignoring and down­playing the SIT he him­self is heading. They said justice, not in Bargarhi but also in Behbal Kalan firing case eludes the people of Punjab as the top guilty copy S S Saini is still free to obstruct the course of justice.

Modi plunges Kashmir into turmoil, says Simranjit Singh Mann

World Sikh News – Detention of Catalonia leaders seeking self-determination has lessons for all

Catalan flag

Dr Paul Newman

Published 17 August 2019. While nearer home, the people of Kashmir and Punjab are struggling for the right to self-determination against heavy odds and a grossly inhuman approach by the Indian government, it is in order to understand how the world over, governments are maltreating peoples with a separate history and who aspire for nationhood.

This is the current state of the people and leaders of Catalonia, which wants to secede from Spain. WSN publishes this piece by scholar activist Dr Paul New­mann, which will serve the need to highlight the Catalonian cause as well as enable others struggling for the right to self-rule to learn significant lessons in how to tackle rogue states.

The referendum in Catalonia, which is part of Spain was organized on the first of October 2017 and was declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Tribunal and boycotted by those opposed to the independence of the region. Thus far, 12 pre-indepe­dence Catalonian politicians have completed trials under Spanish laws.

The public prosecution in the Supreme Court of Spain has used Spanish police reports to craft a narrative that speaks of “violence”, “rebellion” and “public money laundering”. The Catalonian defence team said their clients merely acted on “the mandate from the people” and never used violent means to declare or propagate independence.

Article 92 of the Spanish constitution has provisions for the King of Spain to permit a referendum. In the modern world, where the monarchy is defunct, a Catalonian cannot become the King, so by its very nature, this provision is flawed.

In the 21st century Europe and across the world, exercising the right to self-determination, either people decide about their own future, or there will be no permanent solution to the problem in various parts of the world including Kashmir and Punjab.

Notwithstanding the pit­falls of democracy, the modern world carries on governance through the ‘will of the people’. An over­whelm­ing 90 per cent of Catalonians, in the referendum, expressed the desire for an independent Catalonia.

Of the 10 per cent, many did not vote fearing state persecution and unleashing of state-sponsored violence on Catalonian civilians, which ultimately happened after the voting and declaring of the results.

In the run-up to the referendum, Spain sent thousands of troops into Catalonia to seize ballot papers and arrest pro-independence officials. Websites informing Catalans about the election were shut down.

Catalan Referendum

On the day of the referendum, the police used rubber bullets and truncheons to control the crowds and keep people out of the streets. Thousands were injured in what the Times described as “one of the gravest tests of Spain’s democracy since the end of the Franco dictatorship.

At the same time, the perpetrators of violence during the referendum polling and the aftermath, in this case, the Spanish police, are being tried at the provincial courts at Barcelona, while those political prisoners are directly sent to the Supreme Court, violating the principle of natural jus­tice.

The only violence that occurred during the referendum on 1 October was committed by the Spanish police or Guardia Civil, and not by the Catalan government.

In the 21st century Europe and across the world, exercising the right to self-determination, either people decide about their own future, or there will be no permanent solution to the problem in various parts of the world including Kashmir and Punjab.

Spain, which had never before invoked Article 155 of its constitution, allowing it to suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy, but it did so in October 2017 to crush the legitimate aspirations of the Catalan people.

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association:

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are enshrined in a number of international and regional human rights instruments, from Article 20(1)) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Similar protections exist in a number of regional human rights instruments as well, including Article 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is the right to gather publicly or privately and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests.

This right includes the right to participate in peaceful assemblies, meetings, protests, strikes, sit-ins, demonstrations and other temporary gatherings for a specific purpose. States not only have an obligation to protect peaceful assemblies but should also to take measures to facilitate them.

Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly. States may not limit this right based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, polit­ical or another opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status.

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is the right to gather publicly or privately and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests.

International law only protects assemblies which are peaceful, and significantly, the peaceful intentions of those assembling should be presumed.

During the referendum in Catalonia, there was sufficient evidence to validate that those people who had assembled at Barcelona were very peaceful and there was no sign of any violence. A good number of women and men, well above the age of 60, participated without any fear and exercised their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The Spanish authorities converted the right to assembly and demonstration, into a crime of rebellion. Spain grossly erred because neither the events of 20 September 2017 nor those of 1 or 3 October 2017, led to the kind of violence mentioned in Article 472 of the Spanish Criminal Code as this required a violent public uprising which never happened.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Particiption rights are inextricably linked to other human rights, such as the rights to peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression and opinion and the rights to education and to information.

The right to, directly and indirectly, participate in political and public life is important in empowering individuals and groups and is one of the core elements of human rights-based approaches aimed at eliminating marginalization and discrimination.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

It is a well-documented fact that the Spanish police fired blank cartridges and rubber bullets, seriously injuring a person and causing him to lose sight in one eye. Easily visible was the brandishing of the baton by the police on women and men who were on the streets.

Many leading human rights groups have alleged excessive use of force by the Spanish police, which was deployed by the central authorities and which ordered to halt the vote, in part by seizing ballot materials, and in others, they used baton-charges against peaceful demonstrators outside polling locations.

Is the Spanish Judiciary independent?

The 12 judges of the Spanish Supreme court who sat on the 20-member General Council of the Judiciary which oversaw the courts were not directly elected by their peers, but appointed through a threefifths vote in the parliament, as with the other eight members.

Supreme Court judges are appointed by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the body elected by the Spanish parliament, in a process which has been challenged due to political interference, which can potentially jeopardize the independence of the high ranks of the judiciary, particularly in politically sensitive cases.

The Council of Europe has criticized that this current provision of the Spanish constitution and experts have rightly argued that this arrangement increases the risk of political influence.

The highly political nature of the ongoing criminal procedure is evidenced by the fact that the far-right political party VOX is taking part in the private prosecution.

Pretrial detention:

The right to personal liberty, in order to be compatible with international standards and the presumption of innocence, pretrial detention must only be applied as a last resort. Pretrial detention constitutes a disproportionate restriction on the fundamental rights to free expression, peaceful assembly and personal liberty.

Catalonia protest

Many international human rights organizations who have examined the Catalonian case thoroughly have concluded that the charges against those detained are unfounded and must, therefore, be dropped.

Ideological Freedom:

Section 16 of the Spanish Constitution states that “Freedom of ideology, religion and worship is guaranteed, to individuals and communities with no other restriction on their expression than may be necessary to maintain public order as protected by law”.

In the case of the detained leaders, it is very clear that all of them stood for ideology, the ideology that represents the freedom to live and exist as a people of the people of Catalonia. They stood for the ideology of upholding the Right to self-determination, enshrined in all human rights statutes, from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Everyone has the inherent right to self-determination; the Spanish authorities are questioning this very basic right and have imprisoned nine Catalonian political leaders as political prisoners. Spain has a conflict of interest in this trial. Spain is the sixth-worst member state in the EU’s judicial independence perception.

The Spanish state forces have so far enjoyed complete impunity and there is no guarantee that it will not be extended. Keeping these events and the past history of the Spanish judiciary in view, it is pertinent that if justice and truth have to prevail, the case has to be shifted to a neutral venue and under an international tribunal.

Spain has obligations to protect freedom of expression, including political expression, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (IC­CPR); and freedom of peaceful assembly and association under Article 11 ECHR and Article 21 and 22 IC­CPR.

Even the allegation of laundering of public money is false. Charging leading politicians, activists and social workers who have a very high reputation in society with sedition and laundering of public money is an absurd charge with complete disrespect for human rights.

Catalan is the tenth most-spoken language of Europe and their unique identity needs to be protected.

Unconditionally the Spanish government must immediately release all political prisoners and suitably compensate them for the period of illegal confinement and detention. Spain must withdraw all frivolous charges and recognize the victory of the majority who exer­cised and won the right to self-determination.

About the Author: Dr Paul Newman is a Professor from Bangalore specialising in conflicts, right to self-determination, refugee studies and human rights issues. He was one of the four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka at Dublin. He attends the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva championing the cause of Nations fighting for Self Determination. In August 2018 he addressed the 1st Yazidi Genocide Conference and is also an International Observer on the Catalonian referendum case which is ongoing in Spain. He has authored several books on the Eelam Tamil struggle for a separate homeland and written many articles on human rights issues.

Detention of Catalonia leaders seeking self-determination has lessons for all

World Sikh News – Panthic bodies seek Sirsa Dera head trial for sacrilege – blasts – protest 15 August

Published 6 days ago – WSN Punjab Desk. Coming together to launch a frontal attack on the injustice and blasphemy of the Sirsa Dera and its chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, three Panthic bodies, Dal Khalsa, Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar and the United Akali Dal have sought trial of the Sirsa Dera head for sacrilege and Maur bomb blasts and have planned a peoples’ protest all around Punjab on 15 August, later this month.

In its resolve to fight against injustices and enslavement, three Panthic organizations, Dal Khalsa, Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar and United Akali Dal will hold protest demonstrations all around Punjab on August 15, coinciding with India’s 72nd Independence day and holding the day as a day of protest.

The protests will focus on continued loot of river waters of Punjab, strong resistance against the draconian legislative amendments to make UAPA more stringent and draconian giving unbridled powers to NIA by infringing state’s rights, misuse of the laws of sedition, release of four police convicts through a state pardon, denial of justice to Sikh detainees and the denial of right to self-determination to the people of Punjab.

Further­more, the closure report by the CBI in the Barghari sacrilege case is yet another cause of concern and anger amongst the Sikh population of Punjab.

At a recent meeting of the three bodies attended among others by Kanwar Pal Singh, Jasbir Singh Khandur, Paramjit Singh Tanda, Prof Mohinder Pal Singh, Jaskaran Singh Kahansingh­wala, Gurdeep Singh Bhatinda, Bahadur Singh Nawanshahr and SYP president Paramjit Singh Mand resolved to take this joint step.

Addressing a press conference, Kanwar Pal Singh said the protests will be a reiteration of our aspirtion to be free and to up­hold the legitimate rights including the right to self-determination of the people of Punjab.

The protest program will be organised in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Sangrur, Bhatinda, Mansa, Ferozpur, Faridkot, Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Chandigarh, Moga, Barnala and Tarn Taran.

Taking a strong view of conflicting and self-contradicting statements by Captain Amarinder Singh and Sukhbir Singh Badal on sacrilege issue and CBI report, Kan­warpal Singh told the media that the chief minister lacks will power to crack the case and ex­pose the real conspirators.

Even the victims of Maur Bomb blast cry for justice but the CM has turned his back on them too because he knows that the conspiracy leads to Sirsa.

The Panthic bodies demanded that the Dera Sirsa Chief should be interrogated and prosecuted in the various cases of sacrilege and the Maur Bomb blast case.

The Chief Minister asking the CBI to re-investigate the sacrilege case goes against the spirit of the Vidhan Sabha that passed the resolution to withdraw the probe from the central agency.

Pointing out the failure of Punjab government to prosecute former DGP S S Saini in the Bebhal Kalan firing, party leaders said the reports clearly indicate that the police hierarchy has arm-twisted the political class to defend their men who ordered unprovoked firing on Sikh Sangat.

Will the faith of the public be restored in rule of law with the government’s dilly-dallying and partisan approach?

Panthic bodies seek Sirsa Dera head trial for sacrilege, blasts, protest 15 August

World Sikh News – Panjab peace needs global conflict resolution, not anti-Sikh accusations

Published 1 week ago, Kanwarpal Singh

Despite being proven a debauch by the judiciary and in spite of overwhelming evidence of his unlawful approach to policing, KPS Gill was a darling of the Indian state and the Indian media. All Indian newspapers, including the Tribune, do not spare a chance to eulogise his monumental contribution towards peace in Punjab.

He was the worst human rights violator of the last century in Punjab. His legacy is being forwarded by his son-in-law Ajay Sahni through his writings, who uses prime space easily provided by The Tribune to float unfounded stories of “Sikh Terrorism”.

In a sharp reaction, Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh rebuts his perverted logic and presents the Sikh nationalist view­point.

Despite being proven a debauch by the judiciary and in spite of overwhelming evidence of his unlawful approach to policing, KPS Gill was a darling of the Indian state and the Indian media. All Indian newspapers, including the Tribune, do not spare a chance to eulogise his ‘monumental contribution’ towards peace in Punjab.

He was the worst human rights violator of the last century in Punjab. His legacy is being forwarded by his son-in-law Ajay Sahni through his writings.

First, they called us Khalistanis. Now they have added the word “Terrorists”. First, they blamed Pakistan for supporting us. Now Canada is also on the list. First, they sought sanctions against Pakistan. Now they propose the same with Canada.

All this is being done to malign the Sikh image world­wide and to portray the Sikhs as mindless and violent persons.

The write-up “Canada’s double game” carried in the columns of The Tribune is a deliberate and willful attempt to portray the Sikh struggle for the right to self-determination as a design of some foreign forces.

The writer of this article, Ajay Sahni, who heads the Institute for Conflict Management, is the son-in-law of former Punjab police chief KPS Gill, notorious as the Butcher of Punjab.

While Gill harmed the Sikhs physically by using extra-judicial violent means, his son-in-law is maligning the image of Sikhs with his pen. The article carried by The Tri­bune on its opinion page has stereo­type allegations against Sikhs in tune with the Punjab policy of the Indian state.

The content of the article is full of hate nurtured by the writer and his mentors against Sikhs. He goes hammer and tongs against Canada with­out any proof what­so­ever, in the same vein as the Chief Minister of Punjab.

Not surprisingly, he has a word of praise for Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who has once again started his anti-Canada diatribe by urging the Modi dispensation to approach the United Nations and seek sanctions against Canada.

By continuously questioning the credentials of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet colleagues, a section of Indian media and the Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh have repeatedly offended the political sensibilities of Canada, a Commonwealth associate of India, and un­leashed a tirade against the Sikh Diaspora which has been making the right moves on Cana­dian soil, raising human rights concerns and endorsing the call for the right to self-determination.

Indian politicians refuse to recognise that Canada is known for its open, mature and vibrant democracy. While in India the right to freedom of expression and to hold independent thoughts is only on paper, in countries like Canada, it is practised in letter and spirit.

The theories and allegations about the Kanishka bombing are oft-repeated and still base­less. Nobody is sure, even after 35 years, who executed the bombing and why.

Let’s be clear: The Sikh strug­gle has a clearly defined agenda. We have our rightful aspirations. We have a political cause to fight for. Punjab belongs to all its citizens, be it Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Dalits or Sikhs. We give respect to all and we expect the same from them.

We don’t believe in senseless and arbitrary violence as like the one perpetrated by the Indian government in Punjab, Kashmir and the North-east.

The Punjab conflict needs a political resolution as per the aspirations of the people, but certainly, not one brokered or suggested by the KPS Gill inspired Institute of Conflict Management.

Sikhs strongly be­lieve that the international community and Indian civil society have a role to play for lasting peace in this region.

Punjab Peace needs global conflict resolution, not anti-Sikh accusations