U.S. Commission Censures India’s Proposed New Citizenship Laws

Of note. Haven’t seen much commentary from the Canadian government. As the Liberal government abolished the Office for Religious Freedom, any comment would likely have to come from the Global Affairs’ Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion:

A U.S. federal commission has called for sanctions against India’s home minister and other top leaders if the country passes a controversial bill that will prevent Muslim migrants from neighboring countries from receiving citizenship.

After hours of heated debate, India’s lower house of Parliament early Tuesday morning passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill — the next step in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hardline Hindu nationalist agenda.

The bill needs approval from the upper house — expected to come as early as Wednesday — before it become law. It proposes changes to existing citizenship laws to allow citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who illegally migrated to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Muslims are excluded from these provisions. If passed as expected, the move threatens the secular foundation of the world’s second-most populous nation and its constitution that treats all religions equally.

“If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership,” The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a press statement. “The CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion. The CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction.”

The U.S. commission’s statement was “neither accurate nor warranted,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said. “The Bill provides expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities already in India from certain contiguous countries. It seeks to address their current difficulties and meet their basic human rights,” the ministry’s spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a statement.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission.

‘Discriminatory Laws’

If the bill becomes law, India’s tradition of secularism and pluralism could crumble, said Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Washington-based Wilson Center, who has closely researched India’s politics over the past decade, comparing it with Myanmar’s discriminatory law based on ethnicity introduced in the 1980s.

“What happened in subsequent decades in Myanmar — particularly the horrors of the massacres of the Rohingya — underscore just how destructive these types of discriminatory citizenship laws can be for marginalized communities,” said Kugelman.

The bill has evoked both strident support and sharp censure, sparking protests around India, with lawyers working overtime to help millions at risk of being left stateless in the world’s largest democracy.

The hashtag #CitizenshipAmendmentBill2019 was trending on Twitter in India. On Tuesday morning more than 88,000 people had tweeted about the bill, with many supporting the government and others calling it an attack on the country’s secular traditions.

Source: U.S. Commission Censures India’s Proposed New Citizenship Laws

Akshay Kumar On Canadian Citizenship: Got It When I felt My Career Was Over; Have Applied For Indian Passport

Great example of instrumental citizenship and how it can be discarded when convenient:

One of the most popular stars in Bollywood today is Akshay Kumar. The Khiladi of Bollywood has managed to make a name for himself over the years and has become one of the most bankable superstars. However, time and again, Akshay becomes a target online due to his Canadian citizenship. While the star has always kept mum on the issue, at a recent event, the Good Newwz actor was prodded about it and he shared at length the story behind his Canadian citizenship.

Akshay mentioned that there was a point in his life where he had back to back 14 flops in Bollywood. The Khiladi remembered those days and mentioned that he has thought his career was over and that he wouldn’t get work in the country anymore. Akshay then went onto mention that at that time, his friend from Canada asked him to come there to work with him. The Good Newwz actor stated that it was at that time he applied for his citizenship. Later, Akshay said that his 15th film worked and he never thought about getting his passport changed.

Akshay opened up at great length about his Canadian citizenship and mentioned that it hurts him when he has to prove his love for his country. Akshay said, “I have now applied for the passport. I don’t want to give anyone the chance to question me on it. I am an Indian and it hurts me that I am asked to prove that every time. My wife, my children are Indian. I pay my taxes here and my life is here.” About the process of getting Canadian citizenship, Akshay said, “I started the process to get a Canadian passport because I felt my career was finished and I won’t get more work here. But my 15th film worked and I never looked back. I never thought of changing my passport.”

Meanwhile, the actor is busy with the promotions of his upcoming film, Good Newwz starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani. At the event, Kareena accompanied Akshay and the two stunned in matching black attire. Akshay and Kareena also took the stage and performed on the song, Sauda Khara Khara from Good Newwz. Directed by Raj Mehta, Good Newwz is being produced by Karan Johar. The film is slated to release on December 27, 2019.

Source: Akshay Kumar On Canadian Citizenship: Got It When I felt My Career Was Over; Have Applied For Indian Passport

Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India The Prime Minister’s Hindu-nationalist government has cast two hundred million Muslims as internal enemies.

Good long and disturbing read on the rise and impact of the BJP (excerpts):

On August 11th, two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent soldiers in to pacify the Indian state of Kashmir, a reporter appeared on the news channel Republic TV, riding a motor scooter through the city of Srinagar. She was there to assure viewers that, whatever else they might be hearing, the situation was remarkably calm. “You can see banks here and commercial complexes,” the reporter, Sweta Srivastava, said, as she wound her way past local landmarks. “The situation makes you feel good, because the situation is returning to normal, and the locals are ready to live their lives normally again.” She conducted no interviews; there was no one on the streets to talk to.

Other coverage on Republic TV showed people dancing ecstatically, along with the words “Jubilant Indians celebrate Modi’s Kashmir masterstroke.” A week earlier, Modi’s government had announced that it was suspending Article 370 of the constitution, which grants autonomy to Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. The provision, written to help preserve the state’s religious and ethnic identity, largely prohibits members of India’s Hindu majority from settling there. Modi, who rose to power trailed by allegations of encouraging anti-Muslim bigotry, said that the decision would help Kashmiris, by spurring development and discouraging a long-standing guerrilla insurgency. To insure a smooth reception, Modi had flooded Kashmir with troops and detained hundreds of prominent Muslims—a move that Republic TV described by saying that “the leaders who would have created trouble” had been placed in “government guesthouses.”

The change in Kashmir upended more than half a century of careful politics, but the Indian press reacted with nearly uniform approval. Ever since Modi was first elected Prime Minister, in 2014, he has been recasting the story of India, from that of a secular democracy accommodating a uniquely diverse population to that of a Hindu nation that dominates its minorities, especially the country’s two hundred million Muslims. Modi and his allies have squeezed, bullied, and smothered the press into endorsing what they call the “New India.”

Kashmiris greeted Modi’s decision with protests, claiming that his real goal was to inundate the state with Hindu settlers. After the initial tumult subsided, though, the Times of India and other major newspapers began claiming that a majority of Kashmiris quietly supported Modi—they were just too frightened of militants to say so aloud. Television reporters, newly arrived from Delhi, set up cameras on the picturesque shoreline of Dal Lake and dutifully repeated the government’s line.

…..

To many observers, Modi’s success stemmed from his willingness to play on profound resentments, which for decades had been considered offensive to voice in polite society. Even though India’s Muslims were typically poorer than their fellow-citizens, many Hindus felt that they had been unjustly favored by the central government. In private, Hindus sniped that the Muslims had too many children and that they supported terrorism. The Gandhi-Nehru experiment had made Muslims feel unusually secure in India, and partly as a result there has been very little radicalization, outside Kashmir; still, many Hindus considered them a constant threat. “Modi became a hero for all the Hindus of India,” Nirjhari Sinha, a scientist in Gujarat who investigated the riots, told me. “That is what people tell me, at parties, at dinners. People genuinely feel that Muslims are terrorists—and it is because of Modi that Muslims are finally under control.”

….

As Modi began his run for Prime Minister, in the fall of 2013, he sold himself not as a crusading nationalist but as a master manager, the visionary who had presided over an economic boom in Gujarat. His campaign’s slogan was “The good days are coming.” A close look at the data showed that Gujarat’s economy had grown no faster under his administration than under previous ones—the accelerated growth was “a fantastically crafted fiction,” according to Prasad, the former editor. Even so, many of India’s largest businesses flooded his campaign with contributions.

Modi was helped by an overwhelming public perception that the Congress Party, which had been in power for most of the past half century, had grown arrogant and corrupt. Its complacency was personified by the Gandhi family, whose members dominated the Party but appeared diffident and out of touch. Rahul Gandhi, the head of the Party (and Nehru’s great-grandson), was dubbed the “reluctant prince” by the Indian media.

By contrast, Modi and his team were disciplined, focussed, and responsive. “The Gandhis would keep chief ministers, who had travelled across the country to see them, waiting for days—they didn’t care,” an Indian political commentator who has met the Gandhis as well as Modi told me. “With Modi’s people, you got right in.” While the Congress leaders often behaved as if they were entitled to rule, the B.J.P.’s leaders presented themselves as ascetic, committed, and incorruptible. Modi, who is said to do several hours of yoga every day, typically wore simple kurtas, and members of his immediate family worked in modest jobs and were conspicuously absent from senior government positions; whatever other allegations floated around him, he could not be accused of material greed.

The B.J.P. won a plurality of the popular vote, placing Modi at the head of a governing coalition. As Prime Minister, he surprised many Indians by challenging people to confront problems that had gone unaddressed. One was public defecation, a major cause of disease throughout India. At an early speech in Delhi, he announced a nationwide program to build public toilets in every school—a prosaic improvement that gratified many Indians, even those who could afford indoor plumbing. Modi also addressed a series of widely publicized gang rapes by speaking in bracingly modern terms. “Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions,” he said. “But have any dared to ask their sons where they are going?”

The address set the tone for Modi’s premiership, or at least for part of it. As a young pracharak, he had taken a vow of celibacy, and he gave no public sign of breaking it. Unburdened by family commitments, he worked constantly. People who saw him said he exuded a vitality that seemed to compensate for his otherwise solitary existence. “When you have that kind of power, that kind of adoration, you don’t need romance,” the Indian political commentator told me. In Gujarat, Modi had focussed on big-ticket projects, wooing car manufacturers and bringing electricity to villages; as Prime Minister, he introduced a sweeping reform of bankruptcy laws and embarked on a multibillion-dollar campaign of road construction.

Modi’s effort to transform his image succeeded in the West, as well. In the United States, newspaper columnists welcomed his emphasis on markets and efficiency. In addition, Modi called on a vast network of Indian-Americans, who cheered his success at putting India on the world stage. The Obama Administration quietly dropped the visa ban. When Modi met Obama, not long after taking office, the two visited the memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., a man Modi claimed to admire. During his stay, Modi had a dinner meeting with Obama, but he presented White House chefs with a dilemma: he was fasting for Navaratri, a Hindu festival. At the meeting, he consumed only water.

The Indian political commentator, who met with Modi during his first term, told me that in person he was intense and inquisitive but not restless; he joked about the monkeys that were marauding his garden, and happily discussed the arcana of projects that were occupying his attention. The main one was water: India’s groundwater reserves were declining quickly (they’ve gone down by sixty-one per cent in the past decade), and Modi was trying to prepare for a future in which the country could run dry. During the meeting, he also displayed a detailed list of nations that were in need of various professionals—lawyers, engineers, doctors—of the very kind that India, with its huge population of graduates, could provide. “He is smart, extremely focussed,” the commentator said. “And, yes, a bit puritanical.”

In 2016, after four years of trying to find a publisher for her book, Ayyub decided to publish it herself. To pay for it, she sold the gold jewelry that her mother had been saving for her wedding. “I wasn’t getting married anytime soon anyway,” she told me, laughing. She found a printer willing to reproduce the manuscript without reading it first, and cut a deal with a book distributor to share any profits. She persuaded an artist friend to design an appropriately ominous cover. Ayyub was protected by the fact that, as an English-language book, it would be read only by India’s élite, too small a group toconcern the B.J.P. That May, the book went on sale on Amazon and in bookstores around the country. She called it “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up.”

“Gujarat Files” relates the highlights of the discussions Ayyub had with senior officials as she tried to figure out what happened during Modi’s and Shah’s time presiding over the state. It is not a polished work; it reads like a pamphlet for political insiders, rushed into publication by someone with no time to check punctuation or spell out abbreviations or delve into the historical background of the cases discussed. “I didn’t have the resources to think about all that,” Ayyub told me. “I just wanted to get the story out.” The virtue of the book is that it feels like being present at a cocktail party of Hindu nationalists, speaking frankly about long-suppressed secrets. “Here is the thing,” Ayyub said. “Everybody has heard the truth—but you can’t be sure. With my book, you can hear it from the horse’s mouth.”

Among those whom Ayyub “stung” was Ashok Narayan, who had been Gujarat’s Home Secretary during the riots. According to Ayyub, Narayan said that Modi had decided to allow the Hindu nationalists to parade the bodies of the victims of the train attack. Narayan said that he had warned Modi, “Things will go out of hand,” but to no avail. When he resisted, Modi went around him. “Bringing the bodies to Ahmedabad flared up the whole thing, but he is the one who took the decision,” he said.

As Modi consolidated his hold on the government, he used its power to silence mainstream outlets. In 2016, his administration began moving to crush the television news network NDTV. Since it went on the air, in 1988, the station has been one of the liveliest and most credible news channels; this spring, as votes were tallied in the general election, its Web site received 16.5 billion hits in a single day. According to two people familiar with the situation, Modi’s administration has pulled nearly all government advertising from the network—one of its primary sources of revenue—and members of his Cabinet have pressured private companies to stop buying ads. NDTV recently laid off some four hundred employees, a quarter of its staff. The journalists who remain say that they don’t know how long they can persist. “These are dark times,” one told me.

That year, Karan Thapar, the journalist who had asked Modi whether he wanted to express remorse for the Gujarat riots, found that no one from the B.J.P. would appear on his nightly show any longer. Thapar, perhaps the country’s most prominent television journalist, was suddenly unable to meaningfully cover politics. Then he discovered that Modi’s Cabinet members were pushing his bosses to take him off the air. “They make you toxic,” Thapar told me. “These are not things that are put in writing. They’re conversations—‘We think it’s not a good idea to have him around.’ ” (His network, India Today, denies being influenced by “external pressures.”) In 2017, his employers expressed reluctance to renew his contract, so he left the network.

Modi’s government has targeted enterprising editors as well. Last year, Bobby Ghosh, the editor of the Hindustan Times, one of the country’s most respected newspapers, ran a series tracking violence against Muslims. Modi met privately with the Times’ owner, and the next day Ghosh was asked to leave. In 2016, Outlook ran a disturbing investigation by Neha Dixit, revealing that the R.S.S. had offered schooling to dozens of disadvantaged children in the state of Assam, and then sent them to be indoctrinated in Hindu-nationalist camps on the other side of the country. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Outlook’s owners—one of India’s wealthiest families, whose businesses depended on government approvals—came under pressure from Modi’s administration. “They were going to ruin their empire,” the person said. Not long after, Krishna Prasad, Outlook’s longtime editor, resigned.

The lack of journalistic scrutiny has given Modi immense freedom to control the narrative. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the months leading up to his reëlection, in 2019. Backed by his allies in business, Modi ran a campaign that was said to cost some five billion dollars. (Its exact cost is unknown, owing to weak campaign-finance laws.) As the vote approached, though, Modi was losing momentum, hampered by an underperforming economy. On February 14th, a suicide bomber crashed a car laden with explosives into an Indian military convoy in Kashmir, killing forty soldiers. The attack energized Modi: he gave a series of bellicose speeches, insisting, “The blood of the people is boiling!” He blamed the attack on Pakistan, India’s archrival, and sent thousands of troops into Kashmir. The B.J.P.’s supporters launched a social-media blitz, attacking Pakistan and hailing Modi as “a tiger.” One viral social-media post contained a telephone recording of Modi consoling a widow; it turned out that the recording had been made in 2013.

On February 26th, Modi ordered air strikes against what he claimed was a training camp for militants in the town of Balakot. Sympathetic outlets described a momentous victory: they pumped out images of a devastated landscape, and, citing official sources, claimed that three hundred militants had been killed. But Western reporters visiting the site found no evidence of any deaths; there were only a handful of craters, a slightly damaged house, and some fallen trees. Many of the pro-Modi posts turned out to be crude fabrications. Pratik Sinha, of Alt News, pointed out that photos claiming to depict dead Pakistani militants actually showed victims of a heat wave; other images, ostensibly of the strikes, were cribbed from a video game called Arma 2.

But, in a country where hundreds of millions of people are illiterate or nearly so, the big idea got through. Modi rose in the polls and coasted to victory. The B.J.P. won a majority in the lower house of parliament, making Modi the most powerful Prime Minister in decades. Amit Shah, Modi’s deputy, told a group of election workers that the Party’s social-media networks were an unstoppable force. “Do you understand what I’m saying?” he said. “We are capable of delivering any message we want to the public—whether sweet or sour, true or fake.”

For many, Modi’s reëlection suggested that he had uncovered a terrible secret at the heart of Indian society: by deploying vicious sectarian rhetoric, the country’s leader could persuade Hindus to give him nearly unchecked power. In the following months, Modi’s government introduced a series of extraordinary initiatives meant to solidify Hindu dominance. The most notable of them, along with revoking the special status of Kashmir, was a measure designed to strip citizenship from as many as two million residents of the state of Assam, many of whom had crossed the border from the Muslim nation of Bangladesh decades before. In September, the government began constructing detention centers for residents who had become illegal overnight.

Huge pro-India fake news network includes Canadian sites, links to Canadian think tanks

Of interest:

A huge international network of fake local news sites that push a pro-Indian government position internationally has a deep Canadian connection, CBC News has learned.

According to the EU DisinfoLab, a Brussels-based non-profit group whose goal is identifying disinformation targeting the European Union, the network includes at least 265 sites in more than 65 countries.

At least 12 of those sites pose as Canadian news outlets and use names that either mimic current media publications or old media outlets that have folded, such as The Toronto Evening Telegram. CBC has also found evidence of a further 16 sites designed to look like local Canadian news websites, all registered by the Srivastava Group.

Some of the sites have either been taken down in the last week, since some of the EU DisinfoLab’s findings have been reported, or never had content uploaded to them in the first place.

All of the sites are tied to the Srivastava Group, an Indian corporation run by Ankit Srivastava, a self-described entrepreneur based in New Delhi. CBC was able to determine using website data analysis tool DomainTools. Some of the websites were registered to a bungalow in Edmonton.

The network of sites publishes content that is critical of Pakistan.

News sites with Canadian names but little activity

The purported Canadian news sites run by the network have names like the Toronto Mail, the Quebec Telegraph and the Times of New Brunswick. Many borrow the names of defunct Canadian newspapers. In all cases, the “about” section claims that the websites are local Canadian media outlets.

Most of the Canadian websites in the network have generated very little activity on social media, garnering almost no likes and shares, according to social media analytics tool BuzzSumo. Unlike many fake news networks, the sites don’t seem to make money through advertising since they don’t carry ads.

Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of the EU DisinfoLab, notes that parts of this network have been active since 2010. “It’s a network that has been operating for a very long time on these questions, promoting India or denigrating Pakistan,” he said. “It’s not only fake media sites. They have think-tanks, NGOs and so on. It’s very organized. It shows that this is something that is planned.”

Controversial visit to Kashmir

The Srivastava Group was also linked to a controversial visit by right-wing members of European Parliament to Kashmir in late October, which included a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The visit to Kashmir took place even though access to the region is extremely restricted by the Indian government, and journalists and NGOs are barred. In August, the Indian government revoked part of the constitution granting the Jammu and Kashmir state special status, instituted a curfew and cut internet and phone connections. The area has been under lockdown for more than 100 days.

According to Julian Schofield, an associate professor at Concordia University in Montreal whose studies focus on South Asia, the visit might be a way for India to promote its handling of the situation in Kashmir and make it look better when compared to its main rival, Pakistan.

“Bringing the Europeans over is saying, ‘Look, we’re a functioning democracy, just like you, we have the same issues as you, and essentially, we’re liberal. We’re multi-ethnic, multi-identity, just like you, not like Pakistan. Come visit Kashmir, we’re doing our best,'” he said.

According to Indian media, that visit was financed and organized by two NGOs with connections to Srivastava: the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS) and Women’s Economic and Social Think-Tank (WESTT).

IINS was founded by Srivastava and shares a physical New Delhi address with the Srivastava group. WESTT’s website was registered by M. Srivastava. The director of WESTT, Madi Sharma, is also described as the EU correspondent for the New Delhi Times — an obscure newspaper whose editor-in-chief is Ankit Srivastava.

Its website has 1.2 million followers on Facebook, but almost no interactions with its content, which is extremely unusual given that followers tend to interact with content, and suggests the followers may be fake. Sharma was reported by Indian media to have extended the invitation to the MPs to visit India, and accompanied those MPs during their time in Kashmir.

Several Indian journalists from fact-checking outlets contacted by CBC/Radio-Canada said they had never heard of the New Delhi Times before the controversy over the Kashmir visit erupted.

Schofield said that India’s rivalry with Pakistan is at the centre of its foreign policy and the visit was part of its propaganda effort. “It is viable as a technique against Pakistan. If Pakistan wasn’t there, India would dominate the sub-continent.”

Srivastava has also republished columns from Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah, who describes the two as friends, and also has links to former Liberal MP Mario Silva; the IP address used to register the website of a think-tank that was chaired by Silva is the same as that of the Srivastava group, and the site is hosted on a server administered by Srivastava.

CBC News reached out to Srivastava at multiple phone numbers, and in all cases, the person who answered the phone referred inquiries to an email address. Srivastava did not respond to multiple email inquiries.

Over the past week, Twitter has suspended several accounts linked to the network, including the accounts for EP Today, a purported news magazine centred on the European Parliament, and 4news Agency, a newswire service which served to boost the network’s content. Both these sites were used to push pro-India news items.

Since EU DisinfoLab’s report, all of the articles were also removed from EP Today. All that remains on the site is an apology by the owners for publishing articles from the Russian outlet RT.

Think tank website hosted by Srivastava

One of the Canadians linked to Ankit Srivastava is former Liberal MP Mario Silva.

Silva chaired a group called IFFRAS, the International Forum for Rights and Security, which describes itself as a “non-profit international think-tank” with headquarters in Toronto, Brussels, Geneva and Washington. Silva was the Liberal member of Parliament for the downtown Toronto riding of Davenport from 2004 to 2011, and is currently a distinguished visiting professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University and a board member at Toronto Hydro.

Using DomainTools, CBC found that the website shares the same IP address as the Srivastava Group and EP Today, and that website for the think tank is hosted on Srivastava’s server. The email address used to register the server is a Hotmail address for Srivastava.

Silva has given interviews to Times of Geneva, the New Delhi Times and 4News Agency, some of which were critical of Pakistan.

A YouTube video shows Silva sitting next to Fatah as Fatah gives a talk on Balochistan in Geneva in March of 2014.

A number listed on the IFFRAS.org website is not in service, and another number used by Silva previously in his registration of the site was also not in service.

When contacted by email, Silva said he does not “condone, participate in or support any organization that promotes inaccurate or misleading information and would never be part of any group that acts in such a manner.”

Silva said that IFFRAS, the think-tank, has been inactive for a number of years, and his involvement “was limited solely to advocacy for human rights in a broad sense, fully consistent with my long-standing commitment to the promotion of human rights and equality for all persons across the world.”

Silva further added he was unaware of any connections between Srivastava and the websites and newspapers that CBC had inquired about, and that he “emphatically” does not have “any connection with any group or organization you have referenced.”

Toronto writer’s columns reprinted on site

In an interview with CBC News, Fatah said that he was aware his columns were being republished in the New Delhi Times and said Srivastava paid him a small fee for it, though he declined to specify how much.

“Mr. Fatah is a freelance opinion columnist. Freelancers can generally resell their work after its publication in the Sun to non-competing markets, subject to the terms of their agreements with us,” said Phyllise Gelfand, the vice-president of communications for Postmedia, in an email.

Fatah was also listed as the executive director of an NGO called Baluchistan (sic) House, described as a think-tank focusing on the Balochistan province of Pakistan. The region has seen ongoing insurgencies against the Pakistani government by Baloch groups seeking independence.

The now-defunct Baluchistan House website was registered by Ankit Srivastava, as were other sites seemingly built for Fatah, such as whatthefatah.com and whatthefatah.net, which never published any content.

According to Fatah, the What the Fatah project is a proposed video series featuring him that he’s working on with Srivastava, while the Baluchistan House website registration may have come from an exiled Baloch leader living in London.

“I was merely involved and it never really took off, the Baluchistan House forum,” he said.

Fatah’s Baluchistan House organized a panel in 2017 in Geneva, where he appeared alongside Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki  to discuss Balochistan’s economic situation. Czarnecki, a conservative politician critical of Pakistan and supportive of India, was amongst the MEPs who visited Kashmir in October.

Fatah said he was not involved with the visit and did not help facilitate it. He also said that while he had met Czarnecki a few times in UN meetings, he didn’t speak or meet with Czarnecki outside of that.

Fatah said he was not aware that Srivastava was running a network of fake news sites.

“Why would he do that?” said Fatah, adding it must be “some ridiculous Indian bureaucrat’s idea of propaganda.”

Concordia’s Schofield said the network’s promotion of Baloch interests clearly marks it as serving the Indian government’s interests. He says that India has been supporting Balochistan independence as a way to put pressure on Pakistan.

“This is definitely political. It’s basically an open secret that the Indians have been helping the Baloch,” he said. “If [Ankit Srivastava] is doing this type of thing, that’s what you’d call a siren alert,” that he’s in line with the government’s policies.

Fatah said he wasn’t worried about his columns being used to promote pro-India views.

“Oh, I am unashamedly pro-India. If somebody uses my writing to be pro-India, hallelujah. India is the only place that will save this universe. You can quote me on that,” he said.

Source: Huge pro-India fake news network includes Canadian sites, links to Canadian think tanks

India’s Supreme Court awards disputed religious site to Hindus in landmark ruling

Will be seen as another manifestation of Modi’s Hindu bias:

India’s Supreme Court on Saturday awarded a bitterly disputed religious site to Hindus, dealing a defeat to Muslims who also claim the land that has sparked some of the bloodiest riots in the history of independent India.

The ruling in the dispute between Hindu and Muslim groups paves the way for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site in the northern town of Ayodhya, a proposal long supported by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party.

Representatives of the Muslim group involved in the case criticized the judgment as unfair and said it was likely to seek a review of the verdict.

In 1992 a Hindu mob destroyed the 16th-century Babri Mosque on the site, triggering riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed across the country.Court battles over the ownership of the site followed.

Jubilant Hindus, who have long campaigned for a temple to be built on the ruins of the mosque, set off fire crackers in celebration in Ayodhya after the court decision was announced.

Thousands of paramilitary force members and police were deployed in Ayodhya and other sensitive areas across India. There were no immediate reports of unrest.

“This verdict shouldn’t be seen as a win or loss for anybody,” Modi said on Twitter.

“May peace and harmony prevail!”

Still, the verdict is likely to be viewed as win for Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its backers.It comes months after Modi’s government stripped the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir region of its special status as a state, delivering on yet another election promise to its largely Hindu support base.

Neelanjan Sircar, an assistant professor at Ashoka University near New Delhi, said the court ruling would benefit the BJP, which won re-election in May, but a slowing economy would ultimately take centre stage for voters.

“In the short term, there will be a boost for the BJP,” said Sircar. “These things don’t work forever … Ram Temple isn’t going to put food on the table.”

Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and say the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built the Babri mosque there in 1528.

‘Milestone’

The five-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, reached a unanimous judgment to hand over the plot of just 2.77 acres, or about the size of a soccer field, to the Hindu group.

The court also directed that another plot of 5 acres in Ayodhya be provided to the Muslim group that contested the case but that was not enough to mollify some.

“The country is now moving towards becoming a Hindu nation,” Asaduddin Owaisi, an influential Muslim opposition politician, told reporters.

Modi’s party hailed the ruling as a “milestone.”

“I welcome the court decision and appeal to all religious groups to accept the decision,” Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also president of the BJP, said on Twitter.

Appeals for calm

The Sunni Muslim group involved in the case said it would likely file a review petition, which could trigger another protracted legal battle.

“This is not a justice,” said the group’s lawyer, Zafaryab Jilani.

Muslim organizations appealed for calm.

The Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the parent organization of Modi’s party – had already decided against any celebrations to avoid provoking sectarian violence between India’s majority Hindus and Muslims, who constitute 14 per cent of its 1.3 billion people.

Restrictions were placed on gatherings in some places and internet services were suspended. Elsewhere, police monitored social media to curb rumors.

Streets in Ayodhya were largely deserted and security personnel patrolled the main road to Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Ayodhya residents were glued to their televisions and mobile phones for news of the ruling, which delighted Hindus when it came.

“Everyone should come together to ensure that the construction work begins at the site without any delay,” roadside vendor Jitan Singh said over the chants of “Jai Shri Ram” (hail Lord Ram) from fellow shop-keepers.

Source: India’s Supreme Court awards disputed religious site to Hindus in landmark ruling

Explained: The ‘values test’ that immigrants to Quebec, Canada must now pass

Interesting that the test is getting picked up in Indian media:

Quebec, Canada’s largest province, will soon require potential immigrants to take a “values test” as part of a new policy. Quebec is the only province in Canada where French speakers are in a majority.

“Effective January 1, 2020, a new selection condition related to the learning of democratic values and Québec values expressed in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms will come into effect in order to promote better integration of immigrants into Québec society,” a statement issued by Quebec’s immigration department said.

According to Canada statistics, there are over 22,000 (includes non-immigrant, immigrants and non-permanent residents) Indians in Quebec, and as of 2016, there were about 17,800 Indian immigrants (those who have Canadian citizenship) living in Quebec.

What is the values test?

The values test for immigrants was an election promise made by the ruling Coalition Avenir Quebec party. It will apply to immigrants in the “qualified worker” or “economic” category. Coalition Avenir Quebec is a rightwing nationalist and autonomist party that has been in power in the Quebec provincial government since 2018.

On Wednesday, the Montreal Gazette reported that Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette refused to make public the questions that would be asked in the values test, but released a sample of five questions out of a potential pool of about 100 drafted by a private consulting firm that the government has hired.

Candidates will be asked a total of 20 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and will need to secure 75 per cent marks in order to pass. The test will last 90 minutes, and will be unsupervised, which means that candidates can take it remotely even from their homes.

While making the announcement, Jolin-Barrette said that the questions would not be very much tougher than those the immigrants answer to qualify for Canadian citizenship.

Candidates can prepare for the test by taking online tutorials in the language of their choice at no cost.

In case the candidate fails the test, he/she can retake it after a period of two weeks. If the candidate fails twice, he/she will need to take a course prescribed by the Minister in Quebec or take the test a third time and renounce to obtain the learning attestation by participating in the course. The candidate needs to take the test within 60 days following the date of the Minister’s request.

What questions were asked in the released sample?

The sample includes questions such as:

a) In Quebec, women and men have the same rights and this is inscribed in law. True or False

b) Choose the illustration or illustrations that indicate who is allowed to marry in Quebec. The illustrations depict: two men, two women, and one man, two women, a man and a woman, and two men and one woman

c) Identify which situations involved discrimination. A job refused: to a pregnant woman, to a person lacking the required diploma and to a person because of their ethnic background

d) Since March 27, 2019 by virtue of the secularism of state law, all new police officers may not wear religious symbols. True. False.

d) What is the official language of Quebec? French, Spanish, English, French and English.

What is the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms?

The values test is based on the democratic values mentioned in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

As per the charter, “In exercising his fundamental freedoms and rights, a person shall maintain a proper regard for democratic values, state laicity, public order and the general well-being of the citizens of Québec. In this respect, the scope of the freedoms and rights, and limits to their exercise may be fixed by law.”

The Quebec charter was unveiled in 2013, with the aim of creating a secular society.

How has the idea of a values test been received in Canada?

An editorial in Le Journal De Quebec said: “I’m wondering. Here in Quebec, how many would pass this test of values? And how many disagree with the values that are presented as common to all Quebeckers? I am not sure that these values are shared by as many people as we think. I suspect that the results would be surprising, if not disturbing, depending on the language spoken, the religion of age and sex.”

Another editorial in the La Presse took a different line: “Whether we agree with the CAQ’s (Coalition Avenir Quebec) measures of identity or not, one thing remains: immigration is a two-way street. The host society has a responsibility, the newcomer has one too. The attestation of apprenticeship of Quebec values respects this principle.”

Source: Explained: The ‘values test’ that immigrants to Quebec, Canada must now pass

Immigration NZ partnership visa policy labelled ‘racist’ [spouses]

Main issue in Canada appears to overall delays although Canada also faces challenge in determining whether a relationship is “genuine and stable” or just for immigration purposes:

Indian migrants are angry at a sudden, and unexpected, change to the interpretation of immigration rules, which is barring their spouses from moving to New Zealand.

Newsroom has reported extensively on the delays in the processing of partnership category visas. Now, New Zealand residents and citizens, mostly from India and other South Asian countries, are having their visas processed.

But dozens, if not hundreds, of these partnership visa applications are being declined, as they don’t meet Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) new interpretation of the partnership test.

These changes come under a Government that’s now making significant changes in immigration policy, after two years of continued strong migration and residency application that outstripped lowered targets.

But those in the Indian community are angry with the changes, with some being forced to sell up, pack up, quit their jobs and move back to India.

Others talk about hopelessness, financial and mental health issues, as well as stress put on new marriages and relationships.

And one immigration lawyer has labelled the sudden and unexpected change racist.

Change to pragmatic policy

Since 2009, following a ruling from the ombudsman, INZ has taken a somewhat pragmatic approach to granting partnership visas to those from India, who commonly engage in non-resident Indian (NRI) marriages.

These marriages are not the same as a traditional arranged marriage, but usually come about through a conversation between parents, extended families, and the parties looking to marry.

It isn’t uncommon for the pair to meet for the first time upon their engagement.

Those familiar with Indian culture, who spoke to Newsroom, said this was common practice, and did not reflect negatively on whether the relationship was genuine, or whether it would last.

However, it did create a difficulty for immigration officers applying the test to determine whether the partnership was “genuine and stable”.

Immigration instructions for partnership applications not only require INZ to determine whether the couple is genuine, and the relationship stable, but that the couple is “living together” in the same home at the time of the application.

This is often impossible for the sponsor partner who is working or studying in New Zealand.

While the New Zealand-based partner will often visit India for a few weeks or months at the time of the marriage and for brief holidays, it is often not possible to live with their new spouse long-term.

In the past, if INZ was not satisfied the couple had enough evidence to meet the relationship test, they would often grant a temporary visitor visa, which allowed the pair to live together in New Zealand, with the view to later apply for a partnership visa.

However, in the past fortnight, those applying for visas, and others working in the sector, say this workaround has been effectively removed as an option.

A stricter interpretation of immigration instructions is stopping those partners from gaining a temporary visitor visa, because they did not meet those specific tests, including having a strong enough incentive to return to their own country and prove their primary reason for travel was as a visitor.

While INZ said general short-term visitor visas would still be looked at on a case-by-case basis, those impacted say the approach from INZ has changed.

They say this more hardline interpretation of the instructions has left many from India, and other countries, with no path to joining their spouse.

While it’s hard to draw a trend from such a recent change in policy interpretation, the percentage of all approved applications for patrons of New Zealand residents or citizens was slightly down last month to 88.7 percent (from an average of 89.8 percent over the previous eight months). For applications where the applicant held an Indian passport, that approval percentage was at 77.4 percent last month (from an average of 91.2 percent over the previous eight months).

Policy ‘racist’, ‘Eurocentric’

Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont said INZ was no longer looking for a pragmatic solution, and was instead strictly applying the policy.

He had written to senior managers at INZ and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, but unless INZ changed its interpretation of how to apply its partnership tests, things weren’t looking good for applicants and their partners.

“I don’t know what to advise my clients either, I don’t know what they can do, apart from quitting their jobs, leaving their homes, selling up and going and living in India with their partner,” he said.

“This is why I’ve said that it is racist, at its core – it’s determining what kind of relationship someone can have. And it’s a European relationship, not an Indian relationship.”

“It’s really almost like saying: there is only one kind of partnership we recognise and that is a European, Kiwi-type marriage, and if you don’t enter into a relationship of that type, you can’t bring your partner to this country.”

The immigration instructions were “completely Eurocentric”, he said, adding that it sent a message that unless someone was married “the white, Kiwi way” they wouldn’t be able to get a visa.

“This is why I’ve said that it is racist, at its core – it’s determining what kind of relationship someone can have. And it’s a European relationship, not an Indian relationship.”

Since the change in policy a couple of weeks ago, McClymont’s practice has dealt with more than two dozen clients affected.

McClymont said while he was speculating, it was convenient the changes came at a time when INZ was under pressure to clear the massive backlog of partnership visa applications.

Last month, Newsroom reported New Zealand residents and their partners were suffering mental health issues, with some returning to India due to lengthy delays in visa processing.

High application volumes, coupled with the closure of offshore processing offices, had led to a massive backlog in the processing of partnership visa applications, particularly those coming from India.

In response, INZ has recruited more staff to its Mumbai and Hamilton offices, with 28 officers processing applications in Mumbai, and 140 in Hamilton working on partnership visa applications alone. INZ planned to expand to 170 in the coming months.

INZ business and specialist visa services national manager Peter Elms said INZ was working to provide certainty to applicants and their partners and was continuing with its recruitment drive.

Average visa processing times for partners of New Zealanders is currently nine months.

An angry community

While McClymont suggested the visa application backlog could be the driving force, National Party MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi said he believed it was an effort by the Government to curb immigration numbers.

While both New Zealand First and Labour campaigned on cutting immigration at the 2017 election, the number of people coming into New Zealand have remained high, and the number of people applying for residency was outstripping the Government’s lowered planning range.

“There is a lot of anger and people are frustrated.”

Bakshi said the Government needed to be upfront about plans to change immigration policy, and consult communities rather than making decisions from their Wellington offices.

The current approach from INZ showed a lack of sympathy, he said.

Bakshi was overseas when he got the call from his parents to tell them they had found him a good match.

The first time he met his wife was on their engagement, and they’ve been happily married for 30 years.

The latest changes to the INZ interpretation of the partnership instructions had caused worry within the Indian community, Bakshi said.

“There is a lot of anger and people are frustrated.”

INZ’s Elms said the department was mindful of cultural complexities and sensitivities when dealing with visa applicants.

“However, INZ must observe immigration policy as set by the Government.

“Immigration officers must consider all applications, regardless of the applicant’s background or country of origin, against the guidelines set out in immigration instructions,” he said.

“An immigration officer must be satisfied the applicant meets these instructions. It is also the responsibility of applicants to satisfy the immigration officer that the requirements of immigration instructions have been met.”

‘Our lives are on hold’

About a dozen people contacted Newsroom to share their experiences, many of whom had waited months to be assigned a case officer, only to have their applications declined within days.

Others had been declined multiple times.

Many of these people received the same reasoning from INZ: “We are not satisfied that you meet immigration instructions V3.10 as you have not demonstrated that you and your partner are living together in a genuine and stable relationship.”

While most who contacted Newsroom were from India, others had partners from Egypt or Thailand.

Ankur Shokeen married his wife in January and she applied for a partnership visa in February. Their case was assigned to an officer early last month, and declined three weeks later.

INZ told the pair while they had been married for 10 months, they had spent just a month together, and therefore did not meet the test.

Gagandeep and Jaspreet (who did not want their surnames used) were married last year and applied for a partnership visa in January, and after almost nine months of waiting to be assigned a case officer, their application was declined on the same day.

They WhatsApp for two hours every day, but have spent a total of five weeks together since their wedding.

Ehsanul (Sunny) Bashar married his wife in May 2016, and has had her visa application declined six times.

They have lived together for four months but that timeframe did not satisfy the requirement, and INZ said their partnership could not be categorised as “genuine and stable”.

Bashar is a New Zealand citizen, living in the country for 24 years, and said he believed this treatment was “unfair and unjust”.

“I wonder do we give up our jobs, our lives, desert our parents in New Zealand, face financial ruin? Is this what Immigration NZ wants?

“If there is a deliberate ploy to reduce numbers (of) migrants why have a policy where we can pay fees and apply for visas multiple times, to get the same negative result?

“Our lives are on hold, pained, traumatised, mentally and emotionally scarred,” he said.

Source: Immigration NZ partnership visa policy labelled ‘racist’

Opinion: It’s time for India to adopt dual citizenship

An issue, particularly for the highly skilled and mobile:

As Abhijit Banerjee’s Nobel Prize was announced, a reporter in Kolkata asked his mother about his citizenship, pointing out that he became a US citizen in 2017. “He travels a lot,” his mother explained.

The Indian passport ranks a poor 86 as of 2019, down from 77 in 2010. This rank signifies how many countries give visa-free entry or visa-on-arrival to the passport-holder. With a large number of poor people, India is one of the world’s biggest sources of illegal immigrants (311 Indians have just been deported from Mexico). Developed countries are not going to give the Indian passport easy access into their airports anytime soon, no matter how much of a world ‘power’ anyone thinks India has become.

It is for this reason that talented and wealthy Indians who travel frequently and live abroad tend to take foreign citizenship. The act of taking foreign citizenship, for most Indians, is not ‘anti-national’ but a matter of convenience. Anyone who has filled up a US or UK visa form will empathise.

Between 2014 and 2017, 4.5 lakh Indians opted for citizenship of another country. As foreign countries offer easy citizenship in exchange for cash and investments, the trend is only set to grow.

It is plain silly for the Indian government to not offer dual citizenship to such Indians. Eighty-five countries in the world offer dual citizenship. India needs to join this long list to avoid embarrassments such as an Indian winning the Nobel Prize but not beingan Indian citizen.

 

Overseas unCitizen of India

India does offer something called the “Overseas Citizen of India” card. Yet, these “overseas citizens” are not citizens because India doesn’t have the option of dual nationality.

The OCI status amounts to partial citizenship. It removes all barriers to entering, exiting, living and working in India. What it doesn’t allow is the right to vote.

If you don’t like Abhijit Banerjee, think of Akshay Kumar. At some point in his life, the Bollywood actor took Canadian citizenship, probably to enable easy international travel. At another point in his life, he decided to re-brand himself as a great nationalist from an action hero, because that was the flavour of the season. As people questioned how his nationalist credentials could go hand-in-hand with his Canadian citizenship, Akshay Kumar claimed it was an honorary citizenship, a lie that was nailed. 

Had India allowed Akshay Kumar to call himself a dual citizen, vote in elections, have an Indian passport alongside his Canadian passport, what would happen? Would the heavens fall? Would it cause climate change?

It is an emotionally difficult decision for most people to give up their Indian passport, often for easier international travel or to pay lower taxes or benefit from the social security services in countries where they live. For both taxation and national pride, it would help India to let Indians have dual citizenship.

Addressing intricacies

Narendra Modi and Donald Trump recently addressed thousands of Indian Americans in Houston, Texas. Some in the crowd must have had Indian passports and some must have had American passports. For neither Modi nor Trump, there seemed to be any conflict of interest. For both leaders, the crowd could have dual allegiance, to both India and the United States, at the same time.

No wonder a recent survey has shown that Indian Americans are in favour of dual citizenship. However, Vijay Chauthaiwale, head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s foreign cell, has ruled out the possibility of India granting dual citizenship. “There are a lot of intricacies involved (in dual citizenship). So, I don’t see that happening in the near future,” he has reportedly said.

Many countries have found a way around the technical issues involved. Bangladesh requires its citizens to obtain a “dual nationality certificate” so that it can control who gets to take dual citizenship and under what circumstances. Brazilians can acquire another country’s passport but they must enter and exit Brazil only on the Brazilian passport. Canada actually encourages dual citizenship; the US discourages but allows it. If the concern is security, one can look at Pakistan, which allows its citizens to hold dual citizenship of only 16 other countries, doesn’t let dual citizens run for public office or join the military. Signing dual citizenship agreements with other countries helps prevent its misuse.

Blood ties

There are no ‘intricacies’ that can’t be addressed. The main issue, however, is nationalism. Allowing dual citizenship in India seems unthinkable because it would hurt national pride. Our nationalism is monogamous, it demands exclusive love. But the world is increasingly polygamous. One can love two countries, or maybe three — some countries even allow multiple nationalities.

The countries that allow dual citizenship belong to both the developed and the developing world. They do so because they realise it is the wise choice in a globalised world of easy travel. Narendra Modi often tells ‘Overseas Citizens of India’ that blood ties matter more than the colour of the passport.

Exactly. So why not let people have different passports of different colours. If Akshay Kumar can be a Canadian citizen and an icon of hard Indian nationalism, if Abhijit Banerjee can be a US citizen and still make India proud, it is time for India to accept dual nationality.

It might just also make us go easy on our jingoism.

Source: It’s time for India to adopt dual citizenship

As they build India’s first camp for illegals, some workers fear detention there

The ongoing effects of the Modi government’s citizenship registry in Assam, India:

Across a river in a remote part of India’s northeast, laborers have cleared dense forest in an area equivalent to about seven soccer fields and are building the first mass detention center for illegal immigrants.

Shefali Hajong, a labourer whose name is excluded from the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), poses for a picture at the site of an under-construction detention centre for illegal immigrants at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

The camp in the lush, tea-growing state of Assam is intended for at least 3,000 detainees. It will also have a school, a hospital, a recreation area and quarters for security forces – as well as a high boundary wall and watchtowers, according to Reuters interviews with workers and contractors at the site and a review of copies of its layout plans.

Some of the workers building the camp said they were not on a citizenship list Assam released last week as part of a drive to detect illegal immigrants. That means the workers could themselves end up in detention.

Shefali Hajong, a gaunt tribal woman from a nearby village, said she was not on the list and will join nearly two million people who need to prove they are Indian citizens by producing documents such as birth and land ownership certificates dating back decades.

If they fail to do so, they risk being taken to detention camps like the one being built. The government says there are hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in Assam from neighboring Muslim-majority Bangladesh, but Dhaka has refused to accept anyone declared an illegal immigrant in India.

Shefali, who belongs to the indigenous Hajong tribe, said she was tense because of the situation.

“But I need to fill my stomach,” she said in the local Assamese dialect as she used a hoe to feed stones into a concrete mixer. She and other workers make about $4 a day, which is considered a decent wage in the impoverished area.

She said she didn’t know her exact age and believed it was about 26, adding that she did not know why she wasn’t on the citizenship list. “We don’t have birth certificates,” said her mother, Malati Hajong, also working at the site.

The camp, near the town of Goalpara, is the first of at least ten detention centers Assam has planned, according to local media reports.

“People have been coming here every other day from nearby villages asking for work,” said Shafikul Haq, a contractor in charge of building a large cooking area in the camp.

The mammoth Supreme Court-ordered exercise to document Assam’s citizens has been strongly backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government that came to power in New Delhi five years ago. Critics say the campaign is aimed at Muslims, even those who have lived legally in India for decades.

Many Hindus, mostly poor and ill-educated, are also not on the citizenship list released last week.

BRINK OF CRISIS

“Assam is on the brink of a crisis which would not only lead to a loss of nationality and liberty of a large group of people but also erosion of their basic rights – severely affecting the lives of generations to come,” Amnesty said in a statement.

India’s foreign minister has called the citizenship verification exercise an “internal matter”. An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said those not in Assam’s citizenship roster “will not be detained and will continue to enjoy all the rights as before till they have exhausted all the remedies available under the law.”

The federal government and the local Assam government did not respond to questions about the camps.

From Goalpara town, the camp being built is reached by a leafy, narrow road dotted with coconut trees. A shaky wooden bridge takes vehicles across a small river to the site, overlooked by a cluster of rubber trees.

Government guidelines for detention camps released earlier this year include building a boundary wall at least 10 feet (3 meters) high and ringed with barbed wire, local media reports said.

A red-painted boundary wall encircles the new camp at Goalpara, and green fields and mountains are visible beyond two watchtowers and quarters for security forces built behind it.

The camp will have separate living facilities for men and women, according to workers and contractors.

A.K. Rashid, another contractor, said he is building six of what would be around 17 buildings with detention rooms of around 350 square feet (32.5 square meters) each. Each of the buildings he is making will have 24 rooms, he said, adding drains for sewage were being built along the boundary walls of the center.

G. Kishan Reddy, a federal government official, told parliament in July that the government had published guidelines for detention centers which stipulate the construction of basic amenities like electricity, drinking water, hygiene, accommodation with beds, sufficient toilets with running water, communication facilities and kitchens.

“Special attention is to be given to women/nursing mothers, children,” he said. “Children lodged in detention centers are to be provided educational facilities in nearby local schools.”

WORSE THAN PRISONERS

A senior police officer who declined to be named said the camp would initially be used to house the roughly 900 illegal immigrants who are held at detention facilities in Assam jails.

A group from India’s National Human Rights Commission that visited two of those facilities last year said the immigrant detainees there were in some ways “deprived even of the rights of convicted prisoners”.

India’s top court is hearing a petition for their release.

At the camp site, another woman laborer, 35-year-old Sarojini Hajong, said she wasn’t on the citizenship list either and didn’t have a birth certificate.

“Of course we are scared about what will happen,” she said.

“But what can we do? I need the money.”

Source: As they build India’s first camp for illegals, some workers fear detention there

Liberal backbencher accuses his own government of ‘pandering’ to Sikh separatists

By way on context, Brampton Centre has the lowest percentage of Canadian Sikhs of the five Brampton ridings (7.8 percent), with the other ridings ranging from 13 to 33.8 percent). Other significant religious groups include Muslims and Hindus (8.5 and 9.6 percent respectively, all figures from the 2011 NHS:

MP Ramesh Sangha seemed to place the blame on Sikh Canadian cabinet ministers and other MPs, noting that Trudeau supports the status quo in India

South Asia-related politics is again causing turbulence for the Liberal government, as one of its own MPs charges that his party has been “pandering” to Sikh separatists, threatening Canada’s relations with India in the process.

Ramesh Sangha, who represents Ontario’s Brampton Centre riding, delivered the surprising critique of his caucus colleagues during a recent Punjabi-language television interview. His comments revive an issue that has been an irritant for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for more than two years, flaring up during his ill-fated tour of India last year.

Indian officials have previously accused the Liberals of trying to win favour with Canadians pushing for an independent Sikh homeland — known as Khalistan — in the Punjab region of India. Punjab’s state governor even charged that Trudeau’s four Sikh cabinet ministers are Khalistanis. They have strenuously denied the accusation.

It is less expected to hear such complaints from a member of the government itself — two months before a federal election.

“There is no doubt, there cannot be two opinions that the Liberal party is pandering (to) Khalistan supporters,” Sangha said in the interview on 5AAB, a Punjabi-language channel based in Mississauga, Ont. “One thing is for sure, when we raise this issue, it will raise an anti-India slogan or demand the division of India on some ground. In that, ultimately our relations, the Canada-India relationship will certainly develop cracks.”

The interviewer asked if he thought the party had a “soft corner” for Khalistanis. “It does,” he responded.

But Sangha seemed to place the blame on those Sikh Canadian cabinet ministers and other MPs, noting that Trudeau himself has made clear he supports the status quo in India.

“(The prime minister) said in strong words that we don’t want a divided India, we want a united India and we will work for that,” said the MP. “Sikh ministers, MPs of our Sikh brotherhood, these brothers of mine, they have their own … These are their own views and as long as they demand it, it is viewed that they are separatists. When this view surfaces, India also voices its hard view.”

He said his observations were not based on being friends with Capt. Amarinder Singh, the Punjab state governor, but stemmed from his role with a Canada-India parliamentary association.

“I have observed this issue very closely,” Sangha said.

The MP, a lawyer serving his first term in Parliament, could not be reached for further comment Monday.

A statement from Trudeau’s office did not address Sangha’s remarks directly, but firmly denied the government was sympathetic to the Khalistani movement.

“Canada’s position on a united India is unwavering and we are unanimous as a government on this issue,” said the statement. “Canadians have the right to freedom of expression and speech and they have the right to peacefully express their views.”

Sikh-Indian tensions have played an over-sized role in Canadian politics in recent years, thanks in part to the large concentrations of electorally active Sikh-Canadians in several swing ridings in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta. Almost all those constituencies voted Liberal in the 2015 election.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced concern previously about Trudeau and other Liberals appearing at Sikh-community gatherings that also featured tributes to alleged terrorists, and objected to a 2017 resolution passed by the then Liberal-dominated Ontario legislature that declared a 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India a “genocide.”

Singh, the governor of Punjab, fanned the flames further when he alleged the same year that the four Sikh-Canadian cabinet members were Khalistanis, and refused to meet with one of them, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Singh did sit down with Sajjan and Trudeau on the prime minister’s state visit to India in February 2018, voicing satisfaction at their strong rejection of the separatist movement.

But the issue caused the Liberals more trouble on that trip when it came to light that a convicted Sikh terrorist, Jaspal Atwal, had been invited to two official functions, including one where he was photographed with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the prime minister’s wife.

And yet, government attempts to get tough on alleged Sikh extremists have also proven politically tricky for the Liberals.

The latest edition of an annual Public Safety Canada report on terrorism released in December 2018 mentioned Sikh extremism for the first time, sparking outrage among community leaders who felt the citation tarred the religion as a whole. The report’s wording was later changed to talk about unspecified separatist movements in India.

Punjab governor Singh, in turn, criticized that change, and later accused Canada of “covertly and overtly” supporting Sikh extremists, suggesting India might need to pursue sanctions against this country.

Source: Liberal backbencher accuses his own government of ‘pandering’ to Sikh separatists