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Another Bhinderwale in the making ?



Another Bhinderwale in the making

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale may have died 30 years ago, but some Sikhs still remember him with reverence.

In fact in today’s Punjab, Bhindranwale’s cult has not vanished but grown – with many of his followers regarding him as ‘Sant Ji’ (a saint) and proudly sporting accessories and clothes bearing his photo.

The craze for Bhindranwale can be gauged both from sales of his biography, and from songs, films, posters and other merchandise bearing his name. This craze is not just limited to Sikhs but extends to non-Sikhs as well.

Why do Punjabis find Bhindranwale relevant today? The answer perhaps lies in the roots of the circumstances that transformed a simple village boy into a dedicated preacher and then a separatist leader.

Punjab, during the early eighties, was passing through a phase of change. The lure to migrate to Western countries had compelled people to adopt all methods of ‘Kabutarbazi’, leading them to fall prey to greedy travel agents. Unemployment and crop failure were pushing the society towards a state of despair.

This was the time Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale appeared on the horizon. Born on February 12, 1947, at the village of Rode in Faridkot, to Joginder Singh and Nihal Kaur, Jarnail Singh had little formal education but soon became a religious scholar. He remained in his village till the age of 11. He married Pritam Kaur in 1966 and fathered two sons named Ishar Singh and Inderjeet Singh, born in 1971 and 1975, respectively.

On August 25, 1977, Bhindranwale was made the 14th head of Damdami Taksal, the 300-yearold Sikh educational organisation located in Chowk Mehta, 25km from Amritsar. He headed this organisation till he was killed on June 6, 1984.

Jarnail Singh followed the footsteps of previous heads and toured to distant places to promote Sikhism. His Amrit Prachar was a resounding success as he asked people to give up liquor, tobacco and drugs.

To rein in the rampant pornography, Bhindranwale’s followers stormed cinema-houses and rural video parlours and seized obscene films. The result: thousands of Sikhs were reinitiated into their faith, and people returned to gurdwaras in large numbers. People also started spending more time in their fields.

As a result, Jarnail Singh came to be revered by his followers as Baba Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale.

However, even in those early days, Bhindranwale had a penchant for violence. On April 13, 1978, he organised a protest to stop the assembly of Nirankari Mission in Amritsar. Unfortunately the peaceful protest turned out to be a violent one when Nirankari gunmen allegedly killed 13 unarmed Sikh protesters and left 78 injured.

Bhindranwale was made a prime suspect in the assassination of the Nirankari mission head Gurbachan Singh’s which took place on April 24, 1980. He was also accused of the murder of Lala Jagat Narain, killed on September 9, 1981.

Jarnail Singh was arrested on September 20, 1981 but released after 25 days.

These incidents had wider repercussions as they created a rift between Hindus and Sikhs. While Sikhs were dubbed as ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-Hindu’ Jarnail Singh stated the government was discriminating against Sikhs, who according to him were still being treated as ‘slaves.’

The result was the demand for a separate Sikh nation – Khalistan.

Khalistani terrorists started killing Hindus, and the exodus of Hindus from Punjab began as the cracks widened between the two communities.

Interestingly, while many believe Bhindranwale was behind the demand Khalistan, in truth is that he neither supported nor rejected this demand.

Suffice to say the law and order situation in Punjab deteriorated and Jarnail Singh and his entourage moved to the Golden Temple complex (Akal Takht). He allegedly fortified the temple with heavy machine guns.

The Sikh clergy objected, but Jarnail Singh got political patronage from Gurcharan Singh Tohra, the then President of the SGPC. The rest is history.

What does Bhindranwale and the scenario of the 1980s have to do with today’s Punjab? Quite a lot.

Firstly, Bhindranwale is very much alive in the minds of some Sikhs. Radical Sikh singers like K.S. Makhan have sung songs in his praise, and his popularity as a reformer and warrior is not going to go away easily.

Secondly, the Punjab of today is facing many of the problems that gripped the state in the 1980s. Failed crops, poor revenue generation and faulty fiscal planning has derailed the state’s economy, with unemployment at an all time high. Vices like drugs and alcoholism are coming back to haunt the state.

Some here hold the belief that today’s scenario calls for another Bhindranwale.

SAD-BJP alliance in trouble after poll debacle

The SAD-BJP coalition is in danger after Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and state BJP chief Kamal Sharma locked horns over the issue of Akali Dal leaders facing drug smuggling charges.

SAD is under attack from BJP leaders including the in-charge state party affairs, Shanta Kumar and state party chief Kamal sharma on the issue of the SAD-BJP rout in the recent polls.

BJP leaders said the seats have been lost due to the anti-incumbency against Akali Dal leaders, who are facing drug smuggling charges.

Shanta Kumar also said that the poor performance led to the party’s rout in the polls.

Badal on Tuesday had asked Kamal Sharma to submit the list of drug lord politicians to him for taking a strict action against them. Sharma said that preparing the list of tainted politicians was the job of the police but he would reveal the names personally to the chief minister.

“There is no denying that a big drug smuggling network exists in the state which could not exist without the patronage of politicians and the police. We cannot turn a blind eye towards the involvement of politicians in the network,” Kamal Sharma said.

BJP sources say the party office bearers in a meeting held on Wednesday in Chandigarh has spilled the beans on SAD leaders for party’s defeat in the general elections.

Local party leaders, say sources, have also suggested to the high command that the BJP break the alliance with Akali Dal.

BJP leaders have also conveyed to Delhi that the drug smuggling and illegal sand mining allegations against Akali Dal leaders have upset the voters in Punjab.

BJP doesn’t want Haryana tie-up

The Modi wave has strengthened BJP party cadres in the Jatland after the party routed the Congress in the general election.

As the state goes for assembly polls in October this year, state unit leaders have conveyed to the high command that the BJP should contest the elections on its own.

The new development has left the alliance partner Haryana Janhit Congress high and dry as it was looking to partner the saffron party in the assembly elections too.

At present BJP leaders like Anil Vij, who are eyeing the chief minister’s chair, are not keen on an alliance. This has upset the plans of HJC supremo Kuldeep Bishnoi, who has already publically declared himself as Haryana’s future chief minister.

Indian News

COVID-19: Plasma therapy positive result on critical Corona Virus patient: Max Hospitals



COVID-19: Plasma therapy positive result on critical Corona Virus patient: Max Hospitals

New Delhi: The Max Hospital in Saket has administered plasma therapy on a critical coronavirus patient and it’s showing positive results with the patient being taken off ventilator support, the hospital said on Monday.

The 49-year-old man became the first patient to be administered plasma therapy at the Max Hospital (East Wing) here, the hospital said in a statement.

In convalescent plasma therapy, the antibodies of a person who has recovered from the virus are taken and transfused into a sick person (having the virus) to help boost the person’s immune system.

The patient from Delhi had tested positive for Covid-19 on April 4 and was admitted on the same day to the coronavirus facility at the Max Hospital with moderate symptoms and a history of fever and respiratory issues.

“His condition deteriorated during the next few days and he soon required external oxygen to maintain saturation. He also developed pneumonia with Type I respiratory failure and had to be put on ventilator support on April 8,” the hospital said.

When the patient showed no improvement, his family members requested the hospital to administer plasma therapy on compassionate grounds, a first of its kind treatment modality that is being used for the disease in India.

“The family came forward to arrange a donor for extracting plasma. The donor had recovered from the infection (confirmed by two consecutive negative reports) three weeks ago and again tested Covid-19 negative at the time of donation along with other standard tests to rule out infections like Hep B, Hep C and HIV,” the hospital said.

The critically ill patient was administered fresh plasma as a treatment modality as a side-line to the standard treatment protocols on the night of April 14, it said.

“After receiving the treatment, the patient showed progressive improvement and by the fourth day, he was weaned off ventilator support on the morning of April 18 and continued on supplementary oxygen thereafter,” it added.

The hospital said the man has been shifted to a room with round-the-clock monitoring facility.

“He has started taking oral feed since Sunday and is faring well,” it said.

Speaking on the success of the first case administered under plasma therapy at the hospital, Sandeep Budhiraja, Group Medical Director, Max Healthcare, and Senior Director, Institute of Internal Medicine, said the case opened a new treatment opportunity during these challenging times.

“We are delighted that the therapy worked well in his case, opening a new treatment opportunity during these challenging times. But it is important that we also understand that plasma therapy is no magic bullet. During the patient’s treatment at the Max Hospital, other standard treatment protocols were followed and we can say that plasma therapy could have worked as a catalyst in speeding up his recovery,” Budhiraja said.

He also said the recovery cannot be attributed 100 per cent to the therapy.

“We cannot attribute 100 per cent recovery to plasma therapy only, as there are multiple factors which carved his path to recovery,” he said.

He further added that in a country like India, a therapy of such kind has a good potential to help Covid-19 patients who have disease severity, which fits into moderate to severe categories.

“Government regulations should work towards making it more accessible for hospitals across the country to be able to use it. One donor can donate 400 ml of plasma which can save two lives, as 200 ml is sufficient to treat one patient,” Budhiraja said.

So far, 47 people have lost their lives due to coronavirus in Delhi.

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Indian News

This Week In Punjab Was All About Justin Trudeau Visit



For the past few days the visit by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his delegation has been much in the news in the Indian media in general and the Punjabi media in particular.  The main emphasis of this visit has been the close links between the two democracies.

The  progress made by the Indian Diaspora in general and Sikhs in particular in Canada  has been a matter of great pride not only in Canada but also in India. In Canada the proportion of people of Indian origin is 1.4% . This is quite close to the Punjabis in India at 1.9%. The clout of Sikhs in particular in every area in Canada is often the topic of discussion here. This is more so at this time .

It was interesting to note that a prominent Indian journalist Harih Khare wrote a very insightful article in The Tribune as a tribute to Canada  on the eve of the current visit by the Canadian Prime Minister. Titled “Welcome Justin Trudeau”, Khare quoted former governor general David Johnston ‘ s treatise: The Idea of Canada. This is a beautiful illustration of Canadian values. Khare also quoted extensively from Justin Trudeau’s Common Ground: Political Life. Both of these works highlight Canada’s diversity, multiculturalism and inclusiveness. All of this makes Trudeau’s visit more relevant and meaningful for the people of India. Incidentally, Canada has become one of the most popular countries in India in general and Punjab in particular.

In this context it was only natural that Justin and his delegation have received A very warm welcome everywhere. His visit to Taj Mahal in Agra, Hamandar Sahib in Amritsa and every other place like Ahmedabad, Bombay and New Delhi have been great success.  In a sense this has been a memorable milestone in Canada – India relations.

On another front, my family and friends had an opportunity to visit Rajasthan for a few days. This visit included spending a few days in the Pink City of Jaipur. It is a beautiful city . The Amber Fort is just amazing. It is home to the world’s largest cannon. In addition to that it has great artefacts from the past.  Built on  steep hillside it is a marvel of engineering. Jaipur is also home to the impressive Jantar Mantar, Jal Mahal City Palace and much more.

From Jaipur it was on to visit Dhanda Bhagat’s  Gurdwara about two hours drive from Jaipur. This is a very spacious Gurdwara in the memory of Dhanna Bhagat whose 600 th anniversary was celebrated with great deal of enthusiasm last year. From there we moved on to Ajmer, home of a sacred Dargah. After paying our obeisance at the Dargah , we moved on to nearby Pushkar, one of the holiest places for the Hindus. Pushkar is reported to have 326 temples and has the only temple devoted to Lord Brahma. Also, Pushkar had the honour of visits by Guru Nanak Dev ji and Guru Gobind Singh ji. The Gurdwara here is also  very impressive.

After spending a few days in Rajsthan it was time to head home. On our way home we thoroughly enjoyed our visit in Delhi. It was an honour for us to pay our obeisance at the historic Bangla Sahib and Raquab Ganj  Gurdwaras. From Delhi we moved on to another historic place called Paunta  Sahib in Haryana.  There are a number of Gurdwaras here. Guru Gobind Singh ji stayed here for more than four years. Here he successfully turned back the attack by a number of hill chieftains at Bhangani. There are a number of Gurdwaras around here dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh ji ‘s stay in this area.

After taking a short break my family and friends plan to visit a few more places of interest. The weather so far has been great. It is a welcome change from the cold and snow of Metro Vancouver.       -Balwant Sanghera .

Balwant Sanghera  is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.  He is currently on a family vacation in India.


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Walmart In Talks To Buy Large Stake In Flipkart At $20-23 Billion Valuation



NEW DELHI – American retailer Walmart Inc may end up taking a large stake in Flipkart Ltd at a price that could value India’s largest e-commerce firm between $20 billion and $23 billion, three people close to the development said. If it goes through the deal will pit Walmart against Amazon in India, mirroring the fight between the two companies in the US.

Walmart has expressed an interest in buying Flipkart Ltd but a buyout is unlikely to go through as a key Flipkart investor SoftBank Group is opposed to a sale, the three people added on condition of anonymity. “Softbank is not willing to cash out this early as they see themselves as a long term investor in Flipkart,” one of the three people mentioned above said.

The talks are in the early stages and the companies haven’t finalized the final details, the people said. Walmart is expected to invest fresh capital in Flipkart as well as buy shares from existing investors including Accel Partners and Naspers, they added.

Any deal is likely to make Walmart the largest shareholder in Flipkart, they said.

Walmart is not the only suitor pursuing Flipkart. Search giant Google has also offered to invest in the e-retailer at a valuation of $15-$16 billion, said a fourth person close to the development. Flipkart is also talking to other investors, this person said, without naming the investors.

Flipkart’s biggest backer and key board member Lee Fixel of Tiger Global was in Walmart’s headquarters last week helping put together the deal, this person said.

Flipkart and Walmart declined to comment. Google and Softbank did not respond to emails seeking comment.

The Economic Times newspaper reported on 31 January that Walmart is in talks to buy 15-20% of Flipkart.

In August 2017, Flipkart received a commitment of $1.4 billion in fresh capital from Japan’s Softbank Group valuing the company at about $14 billion.

Launched in 2007, Flipkart has thus far raised more than $6 billion.

The current valuation offered by Walmart includes Flipkart’s fashion businesses Myntra and Jabong, ebay India, as well as mobile payments firm PhonePe.

Walmart has eyed India’s retail sector for years but the existing foreign direct investment (FDI) policy does not allow the retailer to serve have a meaningful presence in the country.

It does operate in India’s B2B (business to business) retail and e-retail segment but has stayed away from direct retail. Walmart has stayed away from joining hands with any other Indian retailer since it’s partnership with Bharti Enterprises ended in 2013.

New potential investors are willing to value the company at a much higher price partly because Flipkart has shown that it is holding its own against Amazon, which has been unable to unseat its local rival as the country’s largest online retailer despite outspending Flipkart, say analysts. Additionally, Flipkart is seen as the one of the most attractive assets in the global Internet economy, benefitting from the long-term potential ascribed to India’s internet market by investors.

Walmart and Google held funding talks with Flipkart in late 2016 but those discussions didn’t lead to deals.


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