Protests at Kashmir leader's killing
Protesters have taken to the streets in various parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, angry at the killing of a pro-independence Kashmiri leader.
Sardar Arif Shahid was shot dead by unidentified men near his home in Rawalpindi on Monday night.
It is the first time that a pro-independence Kashmiri leader has been targeted in this way in Pakistan.
Mr Shahid led the All Parties National Alliance (APNA), which advocates independence from India and Pakistan.
Both countries claim the region, which is divided between them across a ceasefire line known as the Line of Control.
Demonstrations were also held in other cities and towns in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Witnesses told the BBC at least five people had been injured in Mr Shahid’s native town of Hajira, which is close to the border, when police fired teargas shells and baton-charged protesters.
Protesters carried banners with slogans against the Pakistani army and the ISI intelligence service, which they blamed for the killing.
‘Pool of blood’
Mr Shahid’s driver, Rizwan Khan, told the BBC he saw a man running from the scene of Monday night’s shooting with a gun in his hand.
“I drove Mr Shahid home last night, and got out of the car to open the gate of his house. That’s when I heard the shooting.
“I ran towards the car, and found him lying in a pool of blood,” he said.
The politician was taken to a military hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Mr Shahid was a vocal critic of Pakistan’s alleged role in sending militants to fight a “proxy war” against India in Indian-administered Kashmir. He also criticised Pakistan’s policy of treating Kashmir as its “colony”.
The Ministry of Interior told a court in December 2012 that his documents had been confiscated due to his “anti-state activities and on the recommendation of the director-general of the ISI intelligence service”.
The Pakistani government banned him from travelling abroad in 2009, and later confiscated his passport and other identification documents.
Three months ago, police in Rawalpindi registered a case against him for publishing a monthly magazine which it is alleged contained anti-Pakistan material.
He was given pre-arrest bail by the court in that case.
A spokesman for the APNA, MA Khalique, told the BBC that Mr Shahid was “the victim of targeted killing by some state actors”.
6:05 am • 17 May 2013 • 5 notes
What a waste
How India is throwing away the world’s biggest economic opportunity
IN THE past 35 years, hundreds of millions of Chinese have found productive, if often exhausting, work in the country’s growing cities. This extraordinary mobilisation of labour is the biggest economic event of the past half-century. The world has seen nothing on such scale before. Will it see anything like it again? The answer lies across the Himalayas in India.
India is an ancient civilisation but a youthful country. Its working-age population is rising by about 12m people a year, even as China’s shrank last year by 3m. Within a decade India will have the biggest potential workforce in the world.
Optimists look forward to a bumper “demographic dividend”, the result of more workers per dependant and more saving out of income. This combination accounted for perhaps a third of the East Asian miracle. India “has time on its side, literally,” boasted one prominent politician, Kamal Nath, in a 2008 book entitled “India’s Century”.
Reasons to be cheerless
But although India’s dreamers have faith in its youth, the country’s youngsters have growing reason to doubt India. The economy raised aspirations that it has subsequently failed to meet. From 2005 to 2007 it grew by about 9% a year. In 2010 it even grew faster than China (if the two economies are measured consistently). But growth has since halved. India’s impressive savings rate, the other side of the demographic dividend, has also slipped. Worryingly, a growing share of household saving is bypassing the financial system altogether, seeking refuge from inflation in gold, bricks and mortar.
The last time a Congress-led government liberalised the economy in earnest—in 1991—over 40% of today’s Indians had yet to be born. Their anxieties must seem remote to India’s elderly politicians. The average age of cabinet ministers is 65. The country has never had a prime minister born in independent India. One man who might buck that trend, Rahul Gandhi, is the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers. India is run by gerontocrats and epigones: grey hairs and groomed heirs. The apparent indifference of the police to the way young women in particular are treated has underlined the way that old India fails to protect new India.
3:16 pm • 10 May 2013 • 7 notes
Pakistan elections create unlikely alliance in Lahore
At first glance, the sight of flags with black and white stripes fluttering atop several Christian homes in the run-down Joseph Colony neighbourhood of Lahore seems highly incongruous.
The flags are those of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Pakistan’s largest Islamic religious party, which is often described as being close to the Taliban. The JUI-F and the Christian community are definitely not natural bedfellows.
The flags seem all the more out of place when one considers that this neighbourhood was attacked by a Muslim mob in March on the pretext that one of its residents blasphemed against Islam. More than 50 houses were destroyed and hundreds were left homeless.
So why should the JUI-F be supported here of all places ahead of general elections on 11 May?
For Joseph Colony’s Christian residents, the answer is straightforward.
“JUI-F leaders were the only ones who approached us after the carnage and offered us both moral and material support,” says Daniel, 30, a local resident.
“The only other party to do the same was [another Islamist party] the Jamaat-e-Islami. None of the others came to ask how we were managing under the open sky during those hard days.”
4:39 am • 10 May 2013 • 2 notes
The Art and Culture of the Diaspora | Happy 542nd Birthday!
This week millions of Sikhs and their friends around the world are celebrating Gurpurab, but few outside India know the significance of this day or its history.
It’s the 542nd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith and one of the greatest symbols of pluralism and tolerance in the world.
Mahatma Gandhi may epitomize India in the West, but he is just one of the many towering figures of history that have shaped the land, its culture and its religions. Poets such as Tagore and Iqbal immortalized India in verse while emperors like Asoka and Akbar ruled over dazzling domains that stunned the visitor.
Among the great philosophers and thinkers that India gifted to the world are two men who tower above the rest- Buddha and Guru Nanak, the founders of Buddhism and Sikhism. While Buddha is well known in the West as a result of his creed and followers, Guru Nanak, whose birthday we celebrate today is yet to be discovered.
Let this Muslim introduce you to the man who founded the world’s youngest religion, Sikhism and who had a profound role in shaping my Punjabi heritage, alas, one that was torn to shreds by the bloody partition of India in August 1947.
Today, the place where Guru Nanak was born in 1469 is a city that was ethnically cleansed of its entire Sikh population during the bloodbath of 1947. Nankana Sahib, a place where the Guru spent his childhood with Muslim and Hindu friends is a Bethlehem without Christians; a Medina without Muslims.
For a few days the town will bustle with Sikh pilgrims from all over the world, but soon they will depart and nary a turban will be seen until the Sikhs return next year.
The city of Nankana Sahib lies near Lahore, my maternal ancestral home, where my mother and father were born. My mother told me how she as a Muslim girl grew up with Sikh neighbors and how she was part of the Sikh family’s celebrations at the time of Gurpurab and how she would travel with her friend to Nankana Sahib. Decades later she would still recall her lost friend who left Pakistan to seek refuge across the border. Today Nankana Sahib celebrates, but there are no Muslim girls accompanying their Sikh friends. None.
It is sad.
Sad, because Sikhism and Guru Nanak were intertwined with Islam and Muslims. The Guru’s closest companion was a Muslim by the name of Bhai Mardana. It is said when Mardana was dying, the Guru asked him, how would you like to die? As a Muslim? To which the ailing companion replied, “As a human being.”
Five hundred years later, a border divides Muslim and Sikh Punjabis. A border where two nuclear armies and a million men face each other. As a Muslim Punjabi I feel the British in dividing Punjab separated my soul from my body and left the two to survive on their own. Muslim Punjabis lost their neighbours and family friends of generations. Most of all they lost their language that today languishes as a second-class tongue in its own home. We kept Nankana Sahib, but lost the Guru.
However, the tragedy that befell the Sikhs was far more ominous and deserves special mention. For Sikhs, the Punjabi cities of Lahore and Gujranwala, Nankana Sahib and Rawalpindi were their hometowns and had shared a history with their Gurus. With the 1947 Partition, not only was Punjab divided, but the Sikhs were ethnically cleansed from Pakistan’s Punjab.
As a result of the creation of the Islamic State of Pakistan, the Sikhs lost absolute access to the following holy sites: Gurdwara Janam Asthan, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, in Nankana Sahib; Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hasan Abdal; Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore, where the Fifth Guru, Arjan, was martyred; Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Kartarpur, where Guru Nanak died; and, of course, the Memorial to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Emperop of Punjab, in Lahore.
When the killings and cleansing of 1947 ended, not a single Sikh was visible in Lahore. Of course, Muslims too were chased out of the eastern parts of Punjab, but they were not losing their holy places of Mecca or Medina.
Even though we Muslims despair the occupation of Jerusalem, we still have the comfort of knowing that Muslims still live in and around the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
But what about the Sikhs?
To feel their pain, Muslims need to imagine how outraged we would feel if, God forbid, Mecca and Medina were cleansed of all Muslims and fell under the occupation of, say, Ethiopia. How can we Muslims ask for the liberation of Muslim lands while we institutionalize the exclusion and ethnic cleansing of all Sikhs from their holy sites inside an Islamic state? Muslims who cannot empathize with the loss of the Sikhs need to ask themselves why they don’t.
Before 1947, Punjabi Muslims did not consider Sikhism as an adversarial faith. After all, from the Muslim perspective, Sikhism was the combination of the teachings of Sufism, which was rooted in Islamic thought and the Bhakti movement, an organic link to Hindu philosophy. It is true that Moghul emperors had been particularly vicious and cruel to the leaders of the Sikh faith, but these Moghuls were not acting as representatives of Islam. Not only that, the Moghuls inflicted even harsher punishments on their fellow Muslims.
With the creation of Pakistan, the Sikhs lost something even more precious than their holy places: diverse subcultural streams. One such stream flourishing in Thal region (Sind Sagar Doab) in what is now Pakistan, near Punjab’s border with Sind and Baluchistan, was known as the “Sewa Panthis.”
The Sewa Panthi tradition flourished in southwest Punjab for nearly 12 generations until 1947. This sect (variously known as Sewa Panthis, Sewa Dassiey, and Addan Shahis), is best symbolized by Bhai Ghanniyya who, though himself a Sikh, aided wounded Sikh and Muslim soldiers alike during the Tenth Sikh Guru’s wars with the Moghuls. Sewa Panthis wore distinctive white robes.
They introduced a new dimension to the subcontinental religious philosophies. They believed that sewa (helping the needy) was the highest form of spiritual meditation - higher than singing hymns or reciting holy books. The creation of Pakistan dealt a devastating blow to the Sewa Panthis and they never got truly transplanted in the new “East” Punjab.
The organic relationship between philosophies and land, indeed, requires native soil for ideas to bloom. Other such sects and deras (groups) that made up the composite Sikh faith of the 19th and early 20th centuries included Namdharis, Nirankaris, Radha Soamis, Nirmaley, and Sidhs - all were pushed to the margins, or even out of Sikhism, after the partition.
The tragedy of the division of Punjab is best captured in a moving poem by the first prominent woman Sikh/Punjabi poet, novelist, and essayist Amrita Pritam, “Ujj akhaan Waris Shah noo” (An Ode to Waris Shah), which she is said to have written while escaping in a train with her family from Pakistan to India. Pritam wrote:
ujj aakhaN Waris Shah nuuN,
kithoN kabraaN vichchoN bol,
tay ujj kitab-e ishq daa koii aglaa varkaa phol
ik roii sii dhii punjaab dii, tuuN likh likh maare vaen,
ujj lakhaaN dhiiaaN rondiaN,
tainuN Waris Shah nuN kahen
uTh dardmandaaN diaa dardiaa,
uth takk apnaa Punjab
aaj bele lashaaN bichhiaaN te lahu dii bharii Chenab
(Today, I beckon you Waris Shah,
Speak from inside your grave
And to your book of love, add the next page
Once when a single daughter of Punjab wept, you wrote a wailing saga.
Today, a million daughters cry to you, Waris Shah.
Rise, O friend of the grieving; rise and see your own Punjab,
Today, fields lined with corpses, and the Chenab flowing with blood.)
As I celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak I read some profound words of wisdom he left for his Muslim friends. He wrote:
Make mercy your Mosque,
Faith your Prayer Mat,
what is just and lawful your Qu’ran,
Modesty your Circumcision,
and civility your Fast.
So shall you be a Muslim.
Make right conduct your Ka’aba,
Truth your Pir, and
good deeds your Kalma and prayers.
12:53 pm • 4 May 2013 • 25 notes
Sarabjit Singh loses battle for life 6 days after he was attacked in Pak jail - Indian Express
Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh died of cardiac arrest in a Lahore hospital in the wee hours today after being comatose for nearly a week following a brutal assault by other inmates of a high-security jail, officials said.
“I received a call from the doctor on duty (at Jinnah Hospital) at 1 am (1:30 IST) informing me that Sarabjit is no more,” Mahmood Shaukat, the head of a medical board that was supervising Sarabjit’s treatment, told PTI.
Another doctor, who was part of the team treating Sarabjit said he died of cardiac arrest, adding that doctors made several unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate him.
Officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad said they had been informed by officials of Jinnah Hospital about Sarabjit’s death.
Shaukat said authorities were yet to decide on conducting an autopsy on Sarabjit’s body.
Asked whether the autopsy would be done after getting permission from the government, he said: “At the moment I have no idea.”
No decision had been made about handing over the body to Sarabjit’s kin or to Indian authorities, he said.
“These matters will be worked out according to the directions from the government,” he said.
Earlier in the day, official sources in Lahore had said Sarabjit had slipped into a “non-reversible” coma and this could lead to “brain death”.
His measurements on the Glasgow Coma Scale, which indicates the levels of consciousness and damage to a person’s central nervous system, had dropped to a “critical level”, the sources said.
Sarabjit’s heart was beating “but without brain function” because of the extensive head injuries he sustained when he was assaulted on Friday.
He was completely unresponsive and unable to breathe without ventilator support.
Sarabjit, 49, sustained severe injuries, including a fractured skull, when at least six prisoners attacked him in a barrack at Kot Lakhpat Jail on Friday afternoon.
RIP Sarabjit Singh.
4:38 am • 2 May 2013 • 7 notes
Sarabjit Singh case: No action taken against Lahore jail authorities - The Times of India
LAHORE: Reports about the suspension of several Pakistani jail officials after the brutal assault on Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh last week have turned out to be an eyewash as authorities are yet to take action against anyone in Kot Lakhpat Jail.
Immediately after the assault on Sarabjit by other prisoners on Friday, officials had told the media that three or four prison officials, including the assistant superintendent, had been suspended.
However, official sources told PTI that not a single official of the prison has been suspended from service so far.
The caretaker government of Punjab province has only issued notices to seven Kot Lakhpat Jail officials, including superintendent Mohsin Rafiq and additional superintendents Ishtiaq Ahmed Gill and Sawar Sumera, to explain why action should not be taken against them for failing to protect Sarabjit.
To the surprise of many, an inquiry into the incident by deputy inspector general of police (prisons) Malik Mubashir pinpointed several security lapses but did not fix responsibility on any one.
Punjab’s caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi and his administration have been tight-lipped about the incident and no formal statement on the assault has been issued by anyone in the provincial government.
Sethi has neither condemned the incident nor taken action against inspector general of prisons Farooq Nazir for failing to provide protection to Sarabjit though his lawyer Awais Sheikh had warned prison officials of threats to his life in the wake of the hanging in Delhi of Afzal Guru for his role in the 2001 terror attack on the Indian parliament.
After the hanging of Guru, jail officials had told the media that they had put in place “adequate measures” for the security of Sarabjit.
They even claimed they had shifted him to a special cell to avert any untoward incident.
The Punjab government’s reluctance to launch a thorough investigation into the incident has raised many eyebrows, sources said.
The government has not arranged any news briefing to brief media about the assault, the outcome of the official probe and the condition of Sarabjit.
Instead, the provincial government barred officials in the prison and state-run Jinnah Hospital, where Sarabjit has been comatose since Friday, from speaking to the media on the issue.
Sarabjit, 49, sustained several injuries, including a skull fracture, when six prisoners attacked him in Kot Lakhpat Jail on Friday afternoon.
He was hit on the head with bricks and his neck and torso cut with sharp weapons.
Two death row prisoners were charged for the attack. They reportedly told investigators that they planned to attack Sarabjit because of his alleged involvement in bombings in Lahore.
Sarabjit was convicted of alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990.
His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former President Pervez Musharraf.
The outgoing Pakistan People’s Party-led government put off Sarabjit’s execution for an indefinite period in 2008.
Sarabjit’s family says he is the victim of mistaken identity and had inadvertently strayed across the border in an inebriated state.
9:41 am • 1 May 2013 • 2 notes
1984 Sikh riots: Timeline of the Sajjan Kumar case
Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was acquitted for his role in the 1984 Sikh riots today, in a decision that stunned many of the victims families.
The case pertained to the murder of Kehar Singh and Gurpreet Singh, husband and son of main petitioner Jagdish Kaur as well as the murder of Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh, all three brothers of Jagsher Singh. These 5 murders took place on 1st and 2nd November, 1984.
This is a timeline of the case:
· The case was registered on the recommendation of Nanawati Commission on 24th October, 2005 by the CBI;
· Charge sheet was filed against Sajjan Kumar and 7 other accused on 1st February, 2010. The following are the accused:
1. A-1, Sajjan Kumar, the then sitting MP
2. A-2, Balwan Khokkar, ex-counselor
3. A-3, Mahender Yadav, ex-MLA
4. A-4, (Deceased), Late Maha Singh
5. A-5, Capt. Bagmal
6. A-6, (deceased), Late Santosh Rani
7. A-7, Girdhari Lal
8. A-8, Krishan Khokkar
· Presently, 6 accused are alive and facing the trial;
· The Hon’ble Delhi High Court vide order dated 8th February, 2010 appointed Special Public Prosecutor, Mr. R. S. Cheema, Sr. Advocate, to conduct the trial and directed day to day proceedings to be concluded within six months;
· Summons for appearance were issued by the Hon’ble Court to Sajjan Kumar and other accused on 1st February, 2010;
· Anticipatory bail of Sajjan Kumar was rejected by Additional Sessions Judge on 15th February, 2010;
· Non-bailable warrants were issued against Sajjan Kumar on 17th February, 2010;
· Sajjan Kumar remained underground; on 23rd February, 2010, the CBI informed the Court that Sajjan Kumar was underground and non-traceable;
· The Hon’ble Court on 23rd February, 2010 directed the Director of CBI to supervise the arrest of Sajjan Kumar;
· Anticipatory bail was granted by the Hon’ble High Court on 26th February, 2010;
· Charges were framed by the Court of Sunita Gupta, Additional Session Judge against Sajjan Kumar and others on 15th May, 2010 u/s 153A, 295, 302, 395, 427, 436, 339, 505 of IPC and also u/s 109 rwt 147, 148, 149, 153A, 295, 302, 395, 427, 435, 339, 505 IPC. And separate charge was framed against Sajjan Kumar u/s 153A;
· Prosecution evidence started on 1st July, 2010;
· The prosecution produced 17 witnesses;
· 3 witnesses Jagdish Kaur, Jagsher Singh and Nirpreet Kaur identified Sajjan Kumar in the Court and deposed against him;
· Prosecution evidence was concluded on 9th June, 2011;
· Defense evidence started on 1st August, 2011;
· Defense produced 17 witnesses, out of which 6 were police officers from Delhi Police who deposed in favour of Sajjan Kumar;
· Defense evidence was concluded on 9th January 2012;
· In April, 2012- Prosecution concluded its arguments;
· In January, 2013- Defense concluded its arguments.
· Judgment Reserved on 16th April, 2013.
· Judgment to be pronounced on 30th April 2013 at 2 PM.
The official figure of the total number of Sikhs killed in Delhi alone were 2733 during Nov.1984 riots. According to lists prepared by Human Right Groups this number stands at 4000. Number of killings throughout India 7000.
Only 10 murder cases resulted in conviction and 25 people given life imprisonment. Even taking the official figure of 2733, the rate of convictions is less than 1 percent.
10:07 am • 30 April 2013 • 5 notes
Sajjan Kumar acquitted, 5 others convicted in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case : Delhi, News - India Today
A Delhi court on Tuesday acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
District Judge J.R. Aryan convicted the other five accused in the case related to the killing of five people in Delhi Cantonment area following the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.
The Congress leader was facing trial along with Balwan Khokkar, Mahender Yadav, Girdhari Lal, Kishan Khokkar and Captain Bhagmal for allegedly conspiring and inciting a mob against the Sikh community.
The present case deals with the death of five Sikhs— Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh— who were members of the same family and were killed by the mob in Delhi Cant’s Raj Nagar area.
Deceased Kehar and Gurpreet were the husband and son respectively of complainant and eye witness Jagdish Kaur.
Raghuvender, Narender and Kuldeep were the brothers of Kaur and another witness Jagsher Singh.
The case against Kumar was registered in 2005 on a recommendation by Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission. CBI had filed two charge sheets against him and the other accused in January 2010.
The trial court had in May 2010 framed charges against Kumar and the five others under Sections 302 (murder), 395 (dacoity), 427 (mischief to cause damage to property), 153-A (promoting enmity between different communities), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and other provisions of the IPC.
The Delhi Police had earlier probed the riots case and the investigation was handed over to CBI in 2005. CBI had told the court there was a conspiracy of “terrifying proportion” between Kumar and the police during the riots.
The agency had said the police had kept its “eyes closed” to the widespread violence.
While concluding its final arguments, CBI had said that it has limited itself to what each of the witnesses had seen at the time of the incident.
The witnesses had given honest versions of what they all had seen during the riots, CBI had said, alleging that in all the complaints wherever Kumar’s name had cropped up, it was “immediately eliminated” from the Delhi Police records.
Defence counsel had told the court there were material contradictions in statements of the witnesses, including Jagdish Kaur.
The counsel had also said the prosecution witnesses had given two different versions of the same incident, which could not be accepted.
During the arguments, senior advocate H.S. Phoolka, who represented the riots victim in the case, had said that the crime was committed in broad daylight and the victims had been waiting for justice for nearly 29 years.
- with IANS inputs
Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal in 1984 riots case evokes sharp reaction
10:02 am • 30 April 2013 • 5 notes
6 prisoners attacked Sarabjit in Lahore jail; Pak activist says assault 'looks suspicious' - Hindustan Times
Police on Sarturday registered a case of attempted murder against two prisoners for brutally assaulting Indian national Sarabjit Singh, who was in a “deep coma” in a hospital in Lahore.
Official sources told PTI that the FIR against prisoners Amer Aftab and Mudassar was registered following a complaint from assistant superintendent Ishtiaq Ahmed Gill of Kot Lakhpath Jail.
The two men were booked under sections 324 (attempted murder) and 334 (causing severe injuries) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Quoting the FIR, a police official said the two prisoners attacked Sarabjit after opening the gate of his barrack in one of the most secure sections of the jail.
The official said another two prisoners, Ehsanul Haq and Muhammad Safdar, had claimed that they had come to save Sarabjit from the attackers.
Aftab and Mudassar are death row prisoners and have been held at Kot Lakhpat Jail since 2009 and 2005, respectively.
However, sources told PTI that at least six prisoners were involved in the attack on 49-year-old Sarabjit.
The identities of the other prisoners could not immediately be ascertained.
Aftab was sentenced to death after being convicted of murder. He was involved in robberies and other serious crimes.
In a separate development, an inquiry committee headed by deputy inspector general of police Malik Mubashir interrogated all six accused within the jail.
The six prisoners are being held in a special barrack under high security, sources said.
According to the sources, Mubashir will submit his report to provincial and federal authorities later on Saturday.
There has been no official word from the jail’s administration or the caretaker Punjab government on the incident or Sarabjit’s condition.
Doctors at the state-run Jinnah Hospital, where Sarabjit was admitted on Friday, have refused to speak to the media.
Official sources told PTI that Sarabjit was in a “deep coma” and had been put on a ventilator.
Doctors were unable to perform surgery on him on Friday because of extensive internal bleeding caused by a severe head injury.
“No surgery can be performed till his condition stabilises,” a source said.
Two officials of the Indian High Commission got consular access to Sarabjit Singh in the ICU of Jinnah Hospital at about 2 am.
The Indian mission had contacted Pakistan’s Foreign Office last night to seek consular access.
Sarabjit was convicted of alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990.
His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former President Pervez Musharraf.
The outgoing Pakistan Peoples Party-led government put off Sarabjit’s execution for an indefinite period in 2008.
Sarabjit’s family says he is the victim of mistaken identity and had inadvertently strayed across the border in an inebriated state.
‘We want to go to Pakistan’
Sarabjit’s family members in Punjab said on Saturday that they wanted to leave for Pakistan immediately to take care of him.
Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur, who has been spearheading the campaign for his release from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison, and his wife and two daughters, arrived on Saturday morning from their hometown Bhikhiwind, 50 km from Amritsar.
The family members met Raj Kumar Verka, vice chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, to demand that their request for visas to Pakistan be submitted with the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
“We want to be with Sarabjit in this difficult time. He is all alone. We don’t even know what his condition is. We are getting the reports only through news channels and his lawyer,” Dalbir Kaur said.
The family was left shocked on Friday evening after hearing that Sarabjit Singh was critically injured following an attack by 5-6 prisoners in the Lahore prison. A sobbing Dalbir Kaur alleged that Sarabjit was apprehending an attack on himself for some time now as he was receiving threats from other inmates.
“Some prisoners had been threatening him. It was a conspiracy and he was deliberately attacked. Why was he not protected… I want to go to Pakistan immediately,” she said.
“If our government had taken steps, this attack would not have taken place. I had met the home minister (Sushil Kumar Shinde), (minister of state for external affairs) Preneet Kaur and all others with letters mentioning that Sarabjit Singh could be attacked. No one did anything and the attack has taken place,” she added.
Pakistan human rights activist Ansar Burney, who has been pleading for clemency to Sarabjit Singh, also said the attack looked “suspicious”.
“The attack looks suspicious. Someone could be behind this. No bricks or other material can reach the place where Sarabjit had been kept. This must be thoroughly investigated,” Burney told news channels from Karachi.
The Indian High Commission has urged the Pakistani government to provide all necessary medical and other support to him, said officials in New Delhi.
Sarabjit Singh has been on a death row in Pakistan since 1990 after being convicted by Pakistani courts for bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan cities which left 14 people dead. Sarabjit’s family claims that he had inadvertently crossed into Pakistan in August 1990 in an inebriate state and was arrested there.
But police in Pakistan claimed Sarabjit Singh, who is known as Manjit Singh in that country, was involved in acts of terrorism.
A resident of Bhikhiwind township, along the India-Pakistan border, he has been languishing in Pakistani jails since then.
Chamel Singh, said to be in his 60s, was serving a five-year term for espionage and died at the Jinnah Hospital Jan 15. During an autopsy done on March 13 - nearly two months after his death - marks of injury had reportedly been found on the body.
His family alleged he was killed in the prison but no probe was carried out by Pakistani authorities. His body was returned to India last month.
Who is Sarabjit Singh?
4:36 am • 27 April 2013 • 4 notes
A passage to India
In what turned out to be an investigation of what a region without militarized borders would feel like, I crossed the Wagah border on foot and spent a night in India last week. Isn’t that marvelous? The idea of spending a night in India feels wildly subversive, like going to North Korea for Dim Sum. Lahore is closer to India than it is to any other major city in Pakistan, and it always struck me as terribly sad that we live so close and yet so far away from so many Haldiraam stores.
My parents were in India for a wedding, and were due to be in Amritsar for a bit on the tail end of their journey. When they suggested I cross the border in the morning and join them for an afternoon of astrology and thaalis before heading home the next day, I couldn’t resist. I’d been to the Wagah border before to see the changing of the guards (love the fan kicks) or to fetch a friend, but I had never gone through the scary-looking immigration terminal or crossed that ominous-looking gate. Now I arrived at Wagah on a crisp Saturday morning to find I was the only traveller. After showing my visa and passport at the shiny new immigration terminal, I walked about 100 paces to the next security checkpoint.
The guard gave me a smile and a stamp and directed me to the gate to his left. I had barely walked three steps when an Indian soldier jumped out of nowhere and asked for my papers.
“That’s it?” I asked, looking back and spotting the absurdly symbolic thin white line I hadn’t even noticed. “That’s the border?”
“Yes, just that line,” the guard said with a smile. “Welcome to India.”
This was so cool. Facing me was a giant gate repeating the earlier phrase under a huge portrait of Gandhi. I turned around and saw Pakistan had a replica with a portrait of Jinnah. But it’s so close,was all I could think to myself. A bus was waiting for me at the other side to drive me to the Indian customs terminal, which looks like an expensive airport (by comparison, our own looks like a bus station that believes itself to be chic). Again, there was no other passenger and so I found I had the undivided attention of the entirety of Indian border patrol (yay for me). They were kind, if a bit curious. I don’t think that many people cross over for a day, and even fewer ever admit to it. 20 minutes after arriving at Wagah, I was now in India, barely 30 miles from my own house in Lahore. My parents picked me up, and once we’d made a quick pit stop for kaathi rolls ( parathas -meet-wraps) it was on to Hoshiarpur and the Bhrigu Shastra.
Let me explain. The Bhrigu Shastra is an astrological reading done at certain sites in Hoshiarpur, about a 3-hour drive from Amritsar. Legend has it that a kindly sage put down predictions for all those poor souls who have to deal with life in the future, and ambitiously decided to leave a record for everyone who would visit in the future. They claim an ancient lineage, and have an archive of patras (from the sankrit patr, incidentally intact in current Punjabi, meaning ‘tree of life’), which are detailed predictions specific to one person. You tell the astrologers at the Bhrigu Shastra your birthdate, time of birth, and which day you’ll be coming, and they comb through their exhaustive, ancient and now digitized archive to find your personal scroll. The reading of the scroll, many of them centuries old, can take up to three hours. The day you arrive is mentioned on your scroll, so it has to be in your “fate” to see it that day. It’s all very mysterious and celestial.
On the drive over I was glued to the window, watching a parallel dimension of Pakistani Punjab whisk by: the same eucalyptus trees, the same deep yellow fields of mustard and wheat, the same dusty grey sky. And yet all so very, very different. Road signs and shop adverts were in Hindi, little pictures of Krishna and Guru Nanak would peek out from behind pharmacy shop windows, women wore jeans and saris and drove around on Vespa’s (even in thick, congested I’m-gonna-kill-someone-soon traffic) with no big fuss; and there were Sikhs everywhere. Curiously, water tanks in Amritsar are shaped to look like lions or giant birds, which is a nice touch.
Thanks to some white-knuckle driving, we arrived in Hoshiarpur within a few hours. It’s a small town and takes about five minutes to drive through. I imagined the place where the Bhrigu Shastra were done to look like something out of the Lion King: old saffron-robed ancients bent double under a massive banyan tree as they communed with nature and the spirits of the future. In reality, it looked like a house in Model town. The guru met us at the gate, an imposing, tall Punjabi man in his late 30s dressed in white with a clipped beard and fabulous hair that cascaded down to his waist. He really looked the part.
We waited around for two hours while they tried to pull out my horoscope. By late afternoon, it seemed unlikely they would find it, so we drove back to Amritsar empty-handed. I was put out because I wanted to find out what I was in my past lives. The only thing I was told was that I am an “old soul”, one that is on its last incarnation and shan’t be coming back for no more, which was mildly depressing but does explain my chronic cynicism. My Indian friends tell me that I should celebrate since I have achieved what the Hindus called Moksha, or salvation, and am now free of the cycle of repetitive birth.
Hotels were all booked up in Amritsar, so we stayed in a place where I think prostitutes were killed recently. I tried not to touch anything. The next morning we had some hours to kill (pun, pun) before crossing the border again, so I went to the Golden Temple, holy of holies for Sikhs. It’s very beautiful (the same can’t be said for Amritsar generally, which is ambitiously unattractive in parts) and also very moist, given all the bathing in the great pool. The whole way into the temple, I wasn’t scanned for explosives or searched once. Living like we do now in Pakistan, it’s a shock when you are reminded that not everyone is under an abstract, free-floating death threat. For your own sanity, you should remind yourself of that regularly.
I crossed the border at noon, and made it back into Pakistan in 15 minutes. On the way there were hundreds of trucks laden with goods waiting for the trade gate to open. Coincidentally, as I approached the white line, I saw an Indian acquaintance crossing the other direction into India. We hugged and air-kissed and for a brief moment made a tableau of world peace. Then both sides asked us for our papers and the daydream came to an end.
9:53 am • 14 April 2013 • 21 notes
Ambedkar jayanti: It’s not enough for parties to just break bread with Dalits
The Delhi unit of the BJP sent out a routine SMS yesterday to a number of journalists in the city, requesting coverage of the party’s celebration of Ambedkar Jayanti. The city state will go to the polls in six months and wooing Dalits makes perfect political sense in an election year.
In Gujarat, for example, the party is observing Ambedkar Jayanti as Samrashtra Divas (Equality Day) and has launched its campaign for by-elections in four parliamentary and two assembly seats in the state. Likewise in Bihar, it is celebrating the occasion over three days with a series of programmes during 13-15 April to impress the 18 percent strong Dalit vote bank in an early build-up to the Assembly polls.
So, it was not surprising that Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel held a press conference last Wednesday and slammed Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for neglecting Dalits. Nobody raised an eyebrow when he made customary promises of providing Dalits with low-cost flats and gas connections, if voted to power. An Ambedkar Jayanti gala in attendance of national leaders such as Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Anant Kumar and Ravi Shankar Prasad this afternoon is an obvious part of that campaign routine.
But what gave away the party’s upper caste snobbery was the language of its SMS media invite: “…BJP national leaders will celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti and have a meal with 10,000 Dalits…” Really? What is it about people “having a meal with” other people? If lunch or dinner is part of a celebration, normally, those who attend eat together. But when top BJP leaders bring themselves to “have a meal” with Dalits, they apparently think it is news worth covering.
9:34 am • 14 April 2013 • 5 notes
Petition to prove Bhagat Singh’s innocence filed in Pakistan court
Eight decades after Bhagat Singh
’s execution by the British, a petition has been filed in a Pakistani court seeking the reopening of the freedom fighter’s case so that he can be declared innocent.
He said Bhagat Singh, who was sentenced to death by the British government and hanged in Lahore in March 1931, was a freedom fighter of the subcontinent.
“Singh was first given life imprisonment but later awarded the death sentence. He was convicted in a fake case,” Qureshi said in his petition.
Singh was respected by Sikhs and Muslims alike and Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah too had paid tribute to the freedom fighter in the erstwhile Central Legislative Assembly, Qureshi said.
“I therefore request the court to reopen the case of Singh and declare him innocent,” Qureshi said in his petition.
Singh and a companion were arrested after they lobbed two bombs inside the Central Legislative Assembly in April 1929. Though no one was killed in the incident, Singh was later convicted of shooting and killing a British police officer and sentenced to death.
The Lahore high court is yet to decide another petition, which has been pending for about three months, regarding the renaming of Shadman Chowk after Bhagat Singh. The roundabout stands at the spot where Singh was hanged.
Hardline and extremist groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah have opposed moves by civil society groups and NGOs to rename the spot after Singh.They have warned the groups not to rename the roundabout after a “Hindu” freedom fighter.
10:43 pm • 13 April 2013 • 8 notes
Sanjay Gandhi-led inner circle was working to capture prime ministership if Indira died
The inner circle around Indira Gandhi, led by her son Sanjay, was positioning itself to capture the prime ministership in the event of her death, according to an assessment by a U.S. Embassy cable a year after Emergency was imposed.
In an analysis of a succession scenario, the cable (1976NEWDE07459_b, secret) also did not write off the possibility that “in these circumstances currently moribund politicians will revive themselves and attempt to out-maneuver the ‘inner circle’ and secure the selection of an alternative candidate.”
But the embassy also informed the State Department that the Prime Minister was hale and hearty: “So far as we know, she is in good health at age 58 and could go on for another generation. As her son Sanjay matures, she may [f]eel he is ready to move in to her position ten years (he will be 40) or more hence, and may consider ‘withdrawing’ in his favor. But the succession could follow a different pattern should s[h]e die sooner — and suddenly.”
Predicting a rather bleak scenario if Mrs Gandhi died, the cable, sent within a year of the imposition of Emergency, forecast splits in the Congress and instability thereafter. “Tensions and pressures from regional politicians could add to a general uncertainty; the ‘inner circle’ could attempt to use their sympathisers in the intelligence and security services and the Delhi administration to establish their claim, and in these circumstances, the role of the President and the Army could be crucial. If the ‘inner circle’ should succeed in capturing the Prime Ministership, the likelihood of sharply enhanced authoritatianism in India would increase substantially,” the cable commented.
“For the foreseeable future, say at least the next year or two, we anticipate no substantial threat other t[h]an personal violence to her position at the helm of Indian politics,” the cable noted.
Describing her approach to running a “country of 600 million” as “adhoc,” “short-term,” and pointing out her flaws, including her “rigid unwillingness to delegate responsibility (except to her son),” the embassy also lists the achievements during Emergency: “Nearly all achievements registered since the Emergency have occurred in areas susceptible to the GOI’s direct application of executive power. The suppression of strikes produced a degree of labor peace unknown since independence. The Center’s arm-twisting of Congress state governments led to a number of long-postponed solutions to a number of inter-state river disputes. The GOI’s increased emphasis on population control has brought political commitment to family planning for the first time. The legal-police offensive against black money has helped lower prices and increase the availability of goods, and has been a major factor in the increase in India’s fo[r]eign exchange reserves in recent months. There have been impressive achievements in slum clearance, urban cleanliness efforts and the law and order situation countrywide.”
But the embassy also foresaw the possibility of an increasingly authoritarian response to the domestic problems faced by the government. “As India’s economic and law-and-order problems continue to worsen, Mrs Gandhi and her government may become progressively less mindful of democratic norms and constitutional deterrents,” says a cable sent on December 19, 1974 (1974NEWDE16910_b, secret).
“Though Indian democracy is still far from dead, the present authoritarianism trend is disquieting. India remains one of the few functioning democracies in Asia. India has so far remained the principal reminder in underdeveloped Asia that political freedoms can survive if the will exists. If [sic] is in the interests of the United States, in the context of a long-term perspective, to see Indian democracy flourish. On balance, however, there is relatively little the US can do to affect India’s political system. The will and capacity to preserve India’s open society and democracy will have to come from within, not from without.”
The embassy was also worried that her unpopularity on account of the Emergency regulations could lead to assassination attempts on both Indira and Sanjay, and alerted Washington of the possibility. “The bureaucracy and security forces might become progressively demoralized and vulnerable to infiltration. The threat of assassination of Mrs Gandhi or her son, Sanjay, might increase,” it said (1976NEWDE02750_b, confidential).
8:34 pm • 12 April 2013 • 4 notes
Sessions court rejects CBI’s clean chit to Jagdish Tytler in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case
Rejecting the clean chit the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) gave to senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, a sessions court here on Wednesday ordered further investigation.
Setting aside a magisterial court order accepting the closure report filed by the CBI, the sessions court directed the agency to record the statements of eyewitnesses to the murder of three Sikhs at Gurdwara Pul Bangash on November 1, 1984. They were burnt alive by a mob that was incited by Mr. Tytler, the witnesses alleged. However, the CBI concluded that Mr. Tytler was present at Teen Murti Bhawan when the riot took place.
Senior advocate H.S. Phoolka, appearing for Lakhvinder Kaur, whose husband Badal Singh was among the three men killed, alleged that the CBI “ignored the fact” that Pul Bangash was hardly 15 minutes drive from Teen Murti Bhawan.
Mr. Phoolka also alleged that the CBI did not record the statements of journalists present at a press conference by the Delhi Police Commissioner, where Mr. Tytler had allegedly stormed into and reportedly said: “You [the Commissioner] are detaining my men.”
Mr. Phoolka alleged that this was an admission by Mr. Tytler that his men were rioting after Indira Gandhi’s assassination.Among the loopholes in the CBI probe that Additional Sessions Judge Anuradha Shukla Bhardwaj pointed out in her order was the agency’s failure to comply with a December 2007 order of a magistrate asking it to examine some persons who claimed to be eyewitnesses and were willing to give a statement.
In his statement, Surender Singh, an eyewitness who has since died, had claimed that three men — Chanchal Singh, Alam Singh and Santosh Singh — were at the spot and were witness to the riot.
The CBI alleged that Surender’s statements were self-contradictory and he had not mentioned the names of these three men in his earlier affidavits and statements before other legal forums. The agency went ahead and recorded statements of other witnesses who contradicted Surender’s version regarding the three men. However, none of these witnesses disputed the presence of Surender at the spot.
The CBI alleged that these three men, and a fourth, Resham Singh, who filed an affidavit in January 2012 claiming he saw Mr. Tytler at the spot were “planted” witnesses introduced at a late stage. Resham and Chanchal had approached the CBI to get their statements recorded but the CBI chose not to do so. Resham had approached the CBI team when it visited the U.S. to record the statements of other witnesses.
Ms. Bhardwaj wondered how the CBI could conclude that Resham and the other three were “planted or false or unreliable” witnesses until it recorded their statements.
1:34 pm • 12 April 2013 • 1 note