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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.

Disaster

Israel reports 16,757 COVID-19 cases, 281 deaths

Earlier in the day, the Israeli transport ministry announced the full resumption of the state’s railway system on June 8.

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israel coronavirus

Jerusalem, May 26 : The Israeli health ministry has reported 17 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number in the country to 16,757.

After four consecutive days without death cases, the ministry on Monday reported two new fatalities, bringing the death toll from the COVID-19 to 281, Xinhua reported.

The number of patients in serious condition decreased from 44 to 41, out of 115 patients currently hospitalized, the lowest number of hospitalized patients since March 12.

The number of recoveries increased by 154 to 14,457, while the active cases decreased to 2,019.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli transport ministry announced the full resumption of the state’s railway system on June 8.

China and Israel have cooperated on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 11, the Tel Aviv Municipality Hall, a landmark in the Israeli city, was illuminated with the colours of China’s national flag, showing solidarity with China in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

On March 19 and April 1, two video conferences were held between Chinese doctors and Israeli counterparts to share experience in containing the virus’ spread and treatment of the infected patients.

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Politics

UK PM’s approval rating drops by 20 pts after aide scandal

At a press conference on Monday, Johnson admitted he regrets the “confusion and pain” the scandal has caused the British public.

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Boris Johnson

London, May 26 : UK Prime Minister Boris Johnsons approval rating has dropped 20 points to -1 per cent after he refused to sack his chief aide, Dominic Cummings for allegedly breaking coronavirus lockdown rules, it was reported on Tuesday.

According to Savanta, a coronavirus data tracker which looks at how the UK population is responding to the pandemic, the Prime Minister’s rating was previously +19 per cent just four days ago, the Metro newspaper reported.

It stated that the overall government approval rate is now at -2 per cent, having dropped 16 points in a day.

Johnson’s approval rating is now also the lowest of all the individuals examined, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s the second lowest at 4 per cent.

Cummings’ rating has not been tracked.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s approval rating also lifted to 12 per cent on Monday, while Chancellor Rishi Sunak dropped from 35 per cent four days ago to 20 per cent.

Cummings has been accused of breaking lockdown rules he helped make after it emerged he travelled from London to his parents home in Durham when his wife fell ill with suspected coronavirus in March, reports the Metro newspaper.

The Prime Minister’s chief adviser has refused to step down over the allegations, admitting he never considered resigning and he doesn’t regret his actions.

At a press conference on Monday, Johnson admitted he regrets the “confusion and pain” the scandal has caused the British public.

But he said that he believed Cummings acted “legally” and “with integrity”.

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Blog

445 people died from Australia bushfires smoke: Experts

Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra all had periods where they had the worst air quality in the world as a result of the smoke.

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Arogya Setu App

Canberra, May 26 : Smoke from Australia’s devastating 2019-20 bushfires killed at least 445 people, health experts revealed on Tuesday.

Fay Johnston, a public health expert from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania, told the bushfire royal commission on Tuesday that her team estimated that 445 people died as a result of the smoke that blanketed much of the nation’s east coast, reports Xinhua news agency.

It takes the total death toll from the 2019-2020 bushfire season, which has been dubbed the “Black Summer”, to nearly 480 after 34 people lost their lives directly.

According to modelling produced by Johnston and her colleagues, 80 per cent of Australians were affected by the smoke at some point, including 3,340 people who were hospitalized with heart and lung problems.

“We were able to work out a yearly cost of bushfire smoke for each summer season and… our estimates for the last season were A$2 billion in health costs,” Johnston said.

“There’s fluctuation year to year, of course, but that was a major departure from anything we had seen in the previous 20 years.”

Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra all had periods where they had the worst air quality in the world as a result of the smoke.

Commissioners also heard on Tuesday that the increasing frequency of significant bushfire events in Australia meant that survivors no longer feel safe during the recovery phase.

“Disasters are no longer perceived as rare events, they are often seen as climate change, and they’re part of our new reality,” Lisa Gibbs, a child welfare expert from the University of Melbourne, said.

“We don’t know how that is going to affect recovery because the seeds of hope are a really important part of people’s ability to deal with what has happened and to get back on track.”

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