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‘1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial’ in US removed after India protests

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1984 Sikh Riot

Norwich (Connecticut, US), Oct 20 (IANS) About three months after a ‘1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial’ to the Sikh victims of the 1984 riots in India was installed at Otis Library here, the memorial was removed – in part following the urging of the Indian government.

The memorial, that featured a prominent photo of Khalistani leader Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, accused the Indian government of genocide.

“Otis Library and the Norwich Monuments Committee jointly agreed to remove the plaque, flags and portrait,” Nicholas Fortson, president of the library Board of Trustees, told the Norwich bulletin.

It was removed about two weeks ago, he said.

Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, the city’s Sikh community leader and a local business owner, donated the memorial and lobbied to have it put up.

He said he opposes the library trusteesa¿ decision. “It’s not Indian-held territory,” Khalsa said. “The (Sikh) community was very upset,” he claimed.

The city’s Plaques and Monuments Committee, whose members are Alderwoman Stacy Gould, Alderman Joe DeLucia and Council President Pro Tem Bill Nash, agreed to the library’s request to remove the memorial, Gould said.

“They just decided this was not good for the mission of the library,” Gould said.

After the memorial was unveiled in June, the library received “harsh criticism as well as support,” Fortson said.

Among the critics was the Indian government.

An official from the consulate in New York telephoned Otis Library Executive Director Bob Farwell about the memorial, Fortson said.

A call to the Indian Consulate in New York seeking a comment was not returned, the newspaper said.

The memorial upset some local Hindus, Gould said. “The library doesn’t want to get involved in some controversy.”

“The library is a nonpolitical organization,” Fortson said, and neither endorses products nor partisan political causes. “We want to make sure our visitors are in a safe atmosphere.”

The “1984 Sikh Genocide Memoriala was placed on a wall of the library’s main lobby. An unveiling ceremony was held in June, with many Sikhs present as well as several city officials and community leaders.

The memorial was the only one of its kind in the United States.

“As a community space, we welcomed the opportunity and encourage the public to view the memorial and learn more about the Sikh community and its history,” Farwell told a Bulletin reporter in advance of the unveiling. “We are a venue that attracts a diverse body of patrons, which certainly helps broaden public awareness.”

On September 16, the library received the Norwich Rotary Community Diversity Award. The award presentation said it was given partly because of the Sikh memorial.

The Sikh memorial featured flags and a plaque honoring Sikh soldiers who fought to protect places of worship beneath a portrait of Bhindrawale, who was killed during Operation Bluestar – the army operation to flush out separatist Khalistani militants from the Golden Temple, in Amritsar, Punjab.

The temple fight later led to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Her death sparked riots in November 1984 in which around 3,000 Sikhs were killed in riots, mainly in the Indian capital.

The US government, although saying that acegrave human rights violations” occurred, has always refused to term the killings genocide, the paper said.

The plaque, however, called the November killings “a state sponsored genocidal campaign against Sikhs all across India.”

According to Khalsa, the memorial was a rare chance to present the “Sikh narrative” of what happened in 1984, which he said the Indian government has tried to suppress ever since.

The plaque, flags and portrait have been returned to Khalsa. He said the memorial could be moved to City Hall instead.

“I still hope we will be able to resolve it,” he said.

He is planning an event on November 9 outside City Hall. “We should still continue with our narrative,” Khalsa said.

According to Religion News, the Indian consul general in New York had written to Connecticut state Sen. Cathy Osten, who requested that Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day be included in a bill designating commemorative days. In the letter, the Indian official said that Sikhs do not face persecution in India and referred to Khalsa and other local Sikhs’ efforts as “vociferous, pernicious and divisive.”

Connecticut has a small Sikh community – five gurdwaras and around 400 families. However, thanks to Khalsa’s efforts last year, Connecticut became the first US state to recognize the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as a genocide when it passed Senate Bill 489 to name Nov. 30 Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day. The state has also designated June 1 as Sikh Memorial Day and April 14 as National Sikh Day. Khalsa, who received awards from the FBI for his work coordinating the area’s many Sikh awareness campaigns and political engagement initiatives, was also involved in the city of Norwich’s recognition of November as Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month, says Religion News.

World

Prince Andrew ‘categorically’ denies sex claim

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Prince Andrew

New Delhi, Nov 17 : Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, has “categorically” denied any sexual contact with an American woman, who alleged that she was forced to have sex with him at the age of 17, a media report said on Sunday.

Answering questions during a BBC interview about his links to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II said the alleged incidents “never happened”.

Virginia Giuffre, then called Virginia Roberts, has said that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew between 2001 — when she was 17 — and 2002 in London, New York and Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands. Giuffre is one of Epstein’s accusers.

Andrew maintained that he was home with his children on one of the alleged occasions.

Andrew, who is the Queen’s third child, has been facing questions for several months over his ties with Epstein, an American financier who, at the age of 66, took his own life while awaiting a trial on sex-trafficking charges.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, Andrew said: “It didn’t happen. I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”

He said Giuffre’s account of him “profusely sweating” and “pouring with perspiration” when they danced at the club on the night in 2001 when she says they first had sex was impossible, because he had a medical condition preventing him from perspiring.

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Bangladesh gas line explosion kills at least 7

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Bangladesh Gas Blast

Dhaka, Nov 18 : At least seven people were killed and 10 injured in a gas line explosion near a port in southern Chittagong city of Bangladesh, police said.

The incident occurred in the Pathorghata area of the city, police deputy commissioner Mehedi Hasan told EFE on Sunday.

“At least 17 people were injured in the incident. Seven of them were declared dead in a hospital. There could be some pedestrians among the victims,” he said.

Mehedi said a part of a five-storied building also collapsed after the explosion.

“We are suspecting that the explosion occurred due to a leak in the gas line,” he said.

Alahuddin Mia, a sub-inspector at the police camp of Chittagong Medical College Hospital, said some of the injured were taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Gas line explosion is not uncommon in Bangladesh, where poor maintenance is often blamed for such accidents.

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After win, Gotabaya says he is President of all Sri Lankans

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Gotabaya Rajapaksa Sri Lanka

Colombo, Nov 18 : Amidst clear divisive vote between the majority and the minority, President-elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Sunday said that he is the President of all Sri Lankans and the leader of not only those elected him but also those voted against him too.

After Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriyya officially announced his election to the country’s top post, Rajapaksa said: “I am well aware that I am bound to serve all Sri Lankans despite their racial or religious barriers. I assure that I would conduct accordingly and I thank my citizens for electing me.”

The newly-elected seventh President of the island nation won the majority Sinahala votes of 6,924,255, or 52.25 per cent, from total valid votes of 13,252,499 cast in the November 16 election.

In a separate Facebook post, Rakapaksa stated: “It’s no overstatement: today we made history together. November 16, 2019 will be remembered as the day when the wounds of the past were healed, and our nation moved forward to embrace the future.”

Rajapaksa, former Defence Secretary in the government of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa – who oversaw victory in the 26-year-long war against rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the North and East in 2009, noted: “Sri Lankans chose hope over fear, unity over conflict, smile over anger. Our vision for a better tomorrow, won the hearts and the minds of the people.”

“From now on, the path to great achievements lies open in front of us and this was our first step together with many other accomplishments to follow. I promise not to stop, until we reach the heights Sri Lankans aspire to,” he added.

Out of 25 administrative districts, Gotabaya won 16: Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Monaragala, Ratnapura, Badulla, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Gampaha, Kandy, Matale, Polonnaruwa, Colombo, Kegalle and Anuradhapura.

However, he was heavily defeated in Tamil and Muslim-majority Northern and Eastern Provinces. The Tamils in all five administrative districts in the Northern province — Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu, Vavuniya, Mannar, and the majority Muslims in three districts in the Eastern Province — Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara — voted against Rajapaksa with lead of 80 percent in most districts.

In the November 16 election, out of nearly 16 million voters, 13,387,951 or 83.72 per cent were polled but 135,452 were marked as invalid by the Election Commission. Out of 13,252,499 valid votes, Rajapaksa’s main opponent Sajith Premadasa won 5,564,239 votes with 42.99 per cent.

Eight out of nine districts won by Premadasa were from the North and the Eastern provinces.

After being elected as the President, Rajapaksa also stated that he would respect the democratic institutions and adhere to the democratic values.

Election Commission Chairman Deshapriya also urged Rajapaksa to ensure democracy and said that through democracy, only proper election could be conducted.

“Though you were elected by your voters, now you are the President of all Sri Lanka. We hope that you will work to fulfil what you promised in your manifesto,” he noted.

Following the end of the ethnic war against Tamil rebels in May 2009, the United Nations has alleged that there were serious human rights violations that could amount to war crimes but the Rajapaksas have denied the allegations.

Ten years after the end of the war against Tamils, Sri Lanka faced the biggest terror attack in its history on Easter Sunday (April 21, 2019) from the local IS suicide bombers. The attacks killed 269 civilians and injured over 400 in three churches and three luxury hotels.

Rajapaksa led the election campaign with national security as the topmost priority and vowed that he would eliminate terrorists and ensure that similar attack would not be repeated.

Conceding defeat before the final result was announced, Premadasa issued a statement congratulating Gotabaya on his victory. He announced that he would step down as Deputy Leader of the ruling United National Party with immediate effect.

“At the conclusion of a hard fought and spirited election campaign, it is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh President of Sri Lanka,” Premadasa noted.

Premadasa, the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa, who served as the President from 1989 until he was assassinated in May 1993 by the LTTE, had pledged to fight for the Muslim and Tamil minorities.

Following Premadasa’s admission of the defeat and resignation from the party, several ministers including Finance Minster Mangala Samaraweera, Sports and Digital Affairs Minister Harin Fernando, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema and Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Minister Ajith P. Perera resigned from their posts.

Sri Lanka’s main Marxist party candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who represented National People’s Party (NPP), emerged third with 418,553 votes and 3.16 per cent while former Army Commander, Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake, who formed a party after he left the army last August, emerged fourth with 49,655 votes.

The swearing-in ceremony of Rajapaksa is to be held in the Buddhist sacred city of Anuradhapura, in the North Central province, 200 km away from capital Colombo.

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