You can subscribe to get latest updates on the site through email in the toolbar at the bottom!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Latest Breaking News from Punjab: Monday 25th June 2007

Khalsa march held amid tight security

Moga, Several Sikhs under the banner of the Khalsa Action Committee took out a procession here today demanding the arrest of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for his ‘blasphemous act’ of appearing in an attire akin to that of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
Several Sikh organisations, both hardliners as well as moderates, participated in the procession from Gurdwara Zafar Nama, Dina Sahib to Damdami Sahib in Bathinda’s Talwandi Sabo.
Jasbir Singh Rode, former jathedar of Akal Takht, said: “Thousands of protestors participated in the march from Gurudwara Dina Sahib to Talwandi Sahib. The world should know that Sikhs will not allow anyone to hurt their religious sentiments. No one should ever think of coming at par with the Sikh Gurus. This is a peaceful march to expresses our grievances”.
Tight security arrangements were made along the procession route passing through Kangar, Bhai Roopa, Rampura Phul, Mandi Kalan and Ram Nagar, besides Punjab’s largest camp of Dera sect in Salabatpura.
The procession organisers had appealed to the participants to maintain peace and not raise slogans.
The organisers went against the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh’s appeal to defer plans till the SGPC took a decision over Dera chief’s apology.
Clashes between Sikhs and the Dera sect erupted after the publication of an advertisement showing sect leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh dressed up in clothes similar to those worn by Guru Gobind Singh.
The Sikhs took offence and termed it as ‘blasphemous’. Skirmishes between rival groups flared into mob violence when the Akal Takht — the top body of Sikh clergies — urged the community to boycott the sect.
The sect leader denied any wrongdoing and tendered an apology, saying he had absolutely no intention to imitate or replicate the Sikh guru. The Sikh clergy however, rejected the apology.

Chetna march held amid tight security

Bathinda, Hundreds of Sikh activists today reached here, after traversing about 120 km with great enthusiasm amid tight security, to press their demand for the arrest of Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for allegedly hurting Sikh religious sentiments.
The much-publicised Khalsa Chetna March from Gurdwara Zafar Nama Dina Sahib in Moga to Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo here passed off peacefully, without any untoward incident, SSP Bathinda Naunihal Singh said.
The organisers, Khalsa Action Committee, later resolved to participate in the July 27 meeting of the Sikh Sangat at Shri Akal Takht in Amritsar where action on the new apology letter from the dera chief would be taken.
However, the organisers, also declared that if they were not satisfied with the decision of the June 27 meeting, they would hold their own meeting at Jalandhar on June 29 and chart their own course of action against the dera and its chief, the SSP said.
The committee had, however, accepted the administration’s appeal today to avoid marching close to Salabatpura, the main Dera Sacha Sauda centre in Punjab, and took a slight detour from the scheduled route.
According to sources, the organisers also agreed to call the march Khalsa Chetna March instead of Khalsa march on the request of the administration and urged the participants not to raise slogans or carry arms at the march.

Processionists refuse ‘siropas’ from Nandgarh

Bathinda, Sikh radicals, who led the march here, refused to accept ‘siropas’ from Takht Damdama Sahib chief Balwant Singh Nandgarh because he appealed to them to defer the protest till Wednesday.
As soon as the march entered the gurdwara, the Jathedar of Gurdwara Damdama Sahib (one of five Sikh temporal seats) tried to honour the Sikh radicals with ‘siropas’ but the precisionists refused to accept these and, instead, raised slogans against him.

Sikh groups march for Dera chief's arrest

Ignoring an appeal by SGPC to defer their march, several Sikh organisations and around 50, 000 sikhs took out a procession on Sunday, demanding arrest of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, charged with hurting religioussentiments of the community.
The Sikhs under the aegis of Khalsa Action Committee began the march from the historic Gurdwara Zafar Nama, Dina Sahib to Damdami Sahib in Bathinda's Talwandi Sabo as tight security arrangements were made along its route.
The procession, which included both hardliners and moderates of the community, would pass through Salabatpura,which houses the largest Dera of Sacha Sauda in Punjab.
Earlier, the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee chief Avtar Singh had appealed to the organisers to defertheir proposed march till Monday. But the Khalsa Action Committee - comprising leaders of various Sikh religiousgroups - decided to go ahead with its programme.
Those leading the march, including Jasbir Singh Rode, Daljit Singh Bittu, co-convenor of the Committee and BhaiMohkam Singh, spokesman of Damdami Taksal, have appealed to the participants to maintain peace and not to raise any kind of slogans.
The protestors were scheduled to pass through Kangar, Salabatpura, Bhai Roopa, Rampura Phul, Mandi Kalan and Ram Nagar before reaching Talwandi Sabo, a temporal seat of the Sikhs.

Sikh Panth: Arrest Dera chief

Chandigarh, : Khalistani activists within the newly-formed Khalsa Action Committee led more than 2,000 Sikhs in a 65-km protest march in Punjab on Sunday to reiterate their demand for the arrest and prosecution of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, spiritual head of the Dera Sacha Sauda, a multi-religion sect headquartered in Haryana’s Sirsa town.
The hardliners are demanding that the Parkash Singh Badal government in Punjab must immediately move to arrest the Dera chief for hurting Sikh religious feelings by attempting to imitate the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh. Newspaper advertisements on May 14 had depicted the Dera chief as what many Sikhs view a likeness of their guru.
The hardliners, who had issued the call for Sunday’s protest, insisted that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh must be arrested in accordance with a hukumnama (religious edict) issued by the Akal Takht, Sikhism’s highest religious and temporal authority. They pointed out that the jathedar of the Takht had rejected the apology tendered by the Dera chief a fortnight ago, and that the new, reworded apology purportedly tendered by him was yet to be perused by the five high priests.
The march from Deena Kangar near Moga to the historic Sikh shrine of Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo began with repeated chants of pro-"Khalistan" and "Bhindranwale zindabad" slogans despite the presence of scores of heavily-armed Punjab Police personnel. In fact, the entire route of the march was literally lined with khaki — more than 3,500 riot-ready policemen commanded by senior officers, including the zonal inspector general.
But despite the visible anger of the protesters, the march was completely peaceful. No attempt was made to attack or damage Sacha Sauda properties along the route and the Dera premises at Salabatpura, which had witnessed a dangerous standoff between Sacha Sauda followers and Sikhs only last month, was deliberately excluded from the route taken by the protesters on Sunday.
Interestingly, while the demonstrators said they had voluntarily excluded Salabatpura, local police officials claimed to reporters that they had diverted the procession to pre-empt possible violence.
The Punjab government, meanwhile, appears to have adopted a wait-and-watch approach with regard to the renewed controversy surrounding Sacha Sauda and its chief. Though the Bhatinda police had sought permission to execute the non-bailable arrest warrants against Gurmeet Ram Rahim two days ago, the state home department is yet to respond.
The chief minister and his colleagues are understood to be awaiting Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti’s return from his Canadian trip. The jathedar, who is expected to be back in the country on Monday, will give his verdict on the Dera chief’s new apology after a meeting with the other four high priests on Wednesday.
It is widely expected that the Akal Takht will adopt a more conciliatory approach this time.

Khalsa March Successful

Khalsa March was held from Gurudwara Lohgarh (Dina Sahib) to Takht Sri Damdama Sahib on its decided route. Sikh Sangat took part in large number inspite of many hurdels raised by Police, Government and other forces.

Sangat Participated - Socalled Leaders Did Not

Sikh Sangat Participated in Khalsa March in large number but traditional political and religious leadership did not. Badal Dal, Delhi Committee, SGPC and Jathedars did not participated in march. Baba Harnam Singh and Parmjit Singh Sarna too did not participated in March.

Members of Khalsa Action Committee who Paticipated
Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu, S. Kanwarpal SIngh, S. Parmjit Singh Gazi, S. Jasbir Singh Rode, Bhai Mohkam SIngh, S. R.P. Singh, S. Jagdish Singh Jhinda, S. Sukhchain Singh Dharmpura, S. Karnail Singh Panjoli participated in march.

20,000 brave heat and machinations to join Khalsa March

Success of March dims prospects of acceptance of apology

Led by the Panj Piaras, the Sikh Chetna March organized by the Khalsa Action Committee reaches Takht Sri Damdama Sahib in Bathinda on Sunday. The Khalsa March as it began from Gurdwara Dina Kangar early on Sunday after an ardas. The march was aimed at raising awareness about self-styled gurus and babas like Dera Sacha Sauda. Many such babas have been exposed on Indian RV channels often. The Dera head had enraged the Sikh community by imitating the tenth Sikh Guru, something no one had done in over 300 years. Now he is reeling of apology after apology but Sikhs are totally unsatisfied. The dera head, also a murder accused, is counted among top security-requiring people by Indian government.
The Khalsa March continued to pass as the RPF jawans, part of Indian paramilitary forces, looked on, on its way to Talwandi Sabo. The participants seemed in rage, but kept absolute control on the ranks. The march was totally peaceful. -- A WSN Photo
Notwithstanding the appeals made by Sikh clerics and ignoring the fact that the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee president Paramjit Singh Sarna was more involved in 'managing' an apology from the Dera Sauda than preparing to lead the Khalsa March he had himself helped plan, the overwhelming response to the march received from the Sikh sangat on Sunday left no one in doubt that the panth continues to be enraged by the antics of the Dera Sauda irrespective of semantic word play of apologies.

As enthusiastic youth participation surprised even the organizers of the march from Gurdwara Dina Kangar to Takht Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, and crowds of thousands comprised the kilometres long march, indications were clear that Akali Dal president and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will have to do better than what the government has done so far in moving against the Dera Sacha Sauda.

The huge success of the march has also cast a shadow now on the June 27 meeting of the Sikh clergy where the so-called new apology of the Dera Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim, so far in a sealed envelope, is to be considered. It is a different matter that the apology made it to the media hours after Sarna handed it over to SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar.

Akal Takht jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti is cutting short his visit abroad to preside over the June 27 meeting but in the light of the expression of Sikh sentiments through the Sunday's march, accepting the apology has become a very difficult prospect.

Among the key leaders leading the march were Bhai Daljit Singh of Akali Dal (Amritsar), Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa, former Akal Takht jathedar Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal, former ambassador Harinder Singh Norway, Paramjit Singh Gazi, SGPC member Karnail Singh Panjoli etc. The Akali Dal and the SGPC remained away from the march, and by all available accounts, the officialdom is worried about the success of the march.

Some amount of expression of rage was also witnessed in the sloganeering during the march though the leaders, including Bhai Daljit Singh of Akali Dal ( Amritsar) and Bhai Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa ensured total control over the cadres.

The police had put in certain obstacles at Salabatpura where the Dera Sacha Sauda's cult largest premises is located but the marchers flung aside the obstacles and continued with their march in a peaceful fashion. The government had spilled hundreds of jawans of Punjab Police and paramilitary forces like the CRPF and the Rapid Action Force besides the Army.

Police had wanted the Khalsa March to be diverted from village Jalal towards Bhai Roopa village but its plans remained just that. Enraged youth broke down the barriers at Dayalpura village and took to the Dullewal village road which goes perilously close to the Salabatpura dera. At one stage, the police became dumbstruck and the senior officers seemed utterly confounded. Bathinda SSP Naunihal Singh himself led the naka on the Rampura-Salabatpura road.

It was at this stage that the leadership role played by Bhai Daljit Singh, Kanwarpal Singh and Jasbir Singh Rode ensured that the cadre remained under control.

Sangat came out in huge numbers from not only Bathinda but also Moga, Barnala, Mansa and Faridkot apart from other places.

Patiala Range IG M K Tiwari, Faridkot Range DIG Dr Jatinder Jain, Deputy Commissioner Rahul Bhandari, SSP Naunihal Singh, and officers of the paramilitary forces remained present and invariably on tenterhooks.

The marching sangat braved the heat, walking, driving, sitting on tractor-trolleys, cars, jeeps and riding mobikes and scooters, all behind the palanquin carrying Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at the head of the march.

Nearly 800 to 1,000 vehicles comprised the march which was several kilometres long. Chabeels of sweetened water punctuated the entire route of the march from Gurdwara Dina Kangar in Moga to Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo.

The tussle over the route had earlier continued till Saturday late night between the panthic leaders and the administration.

Panthic leaders gave clear indications that the show of strength which was witnessed during the march will be repeated on June 27th at the Akal Takht.
Indications were also clear that if the 'sealed envelope' apology turns out to be the same as published in the newspapers, it won't be accepted.

Leaflets were distributed which talked of making the preaching of Shabad Guru as the main thrust area. These also talked of winning back the misguided Sikhs who have dithered towards the Dera Sacha Sauda and other deras. It also talked of enlarging the struggle's scope by saying not only the Dera Sauda but also rest of the guru-doms and dera-vaadis will be targeted.

False charges against Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu Vice President SAD A

On June 2nd, 2007, Daljit Singh Bittu, senior vice-president of the Sikh political party Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), was charged with sedition by police from Fategharh, Farrukhabad District, in the state of utter Pradesh, India.Mr. Bittu has been falsely charged.The events leading to the charge against Mr. Bittu are as follows:On May 31st, Mr. Bittu participated in a march protesting government refusal to curb the criminal activities and religious offenses of the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) organization. The lawful march lasted just one kilometer as participants marched from one gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) to another. Although some passionate participants shouted the slogan “Khalistan Zindabad” in reference to the desired independent Sikh nation, the entire march was peaceful.Two days later, Mr. Bittu was charged with sedition for taking part in the march. He committed no crime. He did not participate in violence, as the entire march was peaceful. He also did not participate in the shouting of pro-Khalistan slogans.The crime of sedition is clearly defined under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This code forbids exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the Indian government, but it also says that "comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful not constitute an offense." In short, it is not seditious to peacefully make comments strongly disapproving of government policies. This is exactly what Mr. Bittu, who has publicly and peacefully criticized government inaction regarding DSS, has done.Even if Mr. Bittu had shouted slogans alongside the other participants, which by all reports he did not, he still would have committed no crime. The Indian Supreme Court ruled in Balwant Singh vs. State of Punjab (1995) that the mere public use of the slogan "Khalistan Zindabad" is not illegal, saying: "It appears to us that the raising some slogans only a couple of times by the two lonesome appellants, which neither evoked any response nor any reaction from any one in the public can neither attract the provisions of Section 124A or of Section 153A IPC."Besides sedition, Mr. Bittu could only be charged with speaking his mind and participating in a public assembly. Yet these are considered rights of the people under Article 19, Clauses (1)(a) and (1)(b) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantee the right "to freedom of speech and expression" and "to assemble peaceably and without arms."The Indian government has a history of harassing Mr. Bittu for peacefully and publicly addressing grievances. In 2006, he protested the seizure of 376 acres of farmland by the government of Punjab and spoke to a group of affected farmers. He was then arrested and charged with sedition, and ultimately released on bail. U.S. congressman Edolphus Towns said of that case: "Mr. Bittu spoke out against the acquisition of the land of poor farmers by Punjab on behalf of private business firms. We have had cases in this country where the government has taken land by eminent domain for private usage, Mr. Speaker, and no one ever gets arrested for speaking out against it." Mr. Bittu has been arrested several other times for protesting government policies and served many years in prison for a variety of false charges, many of which have been dropped for lack of evidence.While Mr. Bittu’s arrest has been stayed until June 25, he has been directed to participate in all investigations and remains charged with sedition.In conclusion, Mr. Bittu has not done anything that can be legitimately considered a crime under U.S., international, or Indian law. In what is just one more incident of Indian government suppression of basic human rights, Mr. Bittu is being harassed solely for his dedication to promoting liberty through peaceful means.We urge the U.S. government to pressure India to drop charges against Mr. Bittu in the interest of the international promotion of democracy and basic human rights, including the rights to freedom of speech and self-determination.

Please contact the following agencies to urge that charges against Mr. Bittu be dropped:Indian EmbassyPhone: (202) 939-7000Fax: (202) 265-43512107 Massachusetts Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20008U.S. EmbassyShantipath, ChanakyapuriPhone: 011-2419-8000Fax: +91-11-2419-0017.

UK scraps plan to raise Sikh regiment

London, Britain has abandoned plans to raise an exclusive regiment of British Sikhs on the ground that it would be seen as a move encouraging racial segregation, a media report said on Sunday.
Despite the British infantry being short of 3,000 soldiers, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) rejected the idea after discussions with Britain's Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), which argued that creating a Sikh regiment would be divisive and amounted to segregation.
"We would not support any policy that seeks to isolate specific groups in the armed forces or wider society," a CRE spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.
“The creation of a separate regiment according to ethnicity would be segregation, which amounts to discrimination under the Race Relations Act. Anything that creates separation between regiments can only have a detrimental effect upon our Armed Forces' operational effectiveness,” the spokesperson added.
Ironically, last year, the armed forces were ordered to meet tough targets to recruit more men and women from ethnic minorities.
The decision on Saturday was criticised by politicians, members of the Sikh community and soldiers, who claimed that the army had fallen victim to political correctness. — IANS

No comments: