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Pakistan’s Duplicity on Religion and Rights Exposed by Activists at UN

The everyday experiences of religious minorities in Pakistan, is an unending saga of violence, discrimination and exclusion. They suffer from a lack of access to education, sanitation, transportation and health care, to occupational discrimination and more direct experiences of violence such as abductions and forced conversions, accusations of blasphemy, targeted killings, and frequent attacks on their places of worship …. Writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

The Pakistani ambassador’s elicitation of the inauguration of the much-awaited Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at the United Nations received what it deserved, a caustic response. India’s permanent envoy to the world body, Ruchira Kamboj, said that Pakistan, like a ‘broken record’, remains stagnant while the world progresses. In her blistering counter, Ambassador Kamboj declared that Pakistan had a ‘limited and misguided’ perspective on matters related to India. She said, “It is unfortunate indeed to witness this delegation’s limited and misguided perspective on matters relating to my country, the more so when the General Assembly considers a matter that demands wisdom, depth, and a global outlook from the entire membership, perhaps not the forte of this delegation.”

In a highly hypocritical move by Pakistan, its ambassador spoke deprecatingly about the consecration ceremony of Lord Ram temple, while speaking about combating Islamophobia. In her response to the Pakistani delegation’s duplicitous stance on religion, India’s ambassador stressed that India strongly condemns all forms of religiophobia, be it anti-Semitism, Christianophobia, or Islamophobia, as much as it stands against all anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist, and anti-Sikh sentiments.

Pakistan’s perfidious policy of attacking India, is an attempt to distract from its own systematic violation of human, political, and economic rights of the people of Balochistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit Baltistan. The Baloch ethnic group, comprising a third of the population, has faced long-standing marginalisation due to discriminatory policies by the Pakistani government. Balochistan witnesses arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances of political and human rights activists. These actions by state agencies have escalated tensions and violated fundamental human rights.

Furthermore, reports highlight the daily dumping of mutilated bodies of missing persons, enforced disappearances, and inhumane torture of Baloch political activists since 2005. Baloch activists have also criticised Pakistan for exploiting Balochistan’s resources without regard for its citizens’ lives. Amnesty International has expressed concern about human rights violations in Balochistan province, which have escalated in recent months.The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reports have found numerous cases of arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, and ‘disappearances of Baloch people. Victims include women, children, and political activists.

Most recently Pakistani intelligence agencies are behind the enforced disappearance of Sargodha Medical College student Khudadad Siraj. Even as the Pakistani Ambassador was preaching on human rights at the UN, Baloch Students at the  University of Sargodha have been protesting against Siraj’s enforced disappearance, demanding that the Pak state release their fellow student.

A similar situation of discrimination and human rights violations exists in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). Residents are deprived of their fundamental rights, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as the right to development. Peaceful activists, members of civil society, and even religious minorities face targeting by state and law enforcement agencies, often with impunity. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has earlier raised serious concerns about human rights violations in PoK.  There are fears that those subjected to enforced disappearances from PoK may have been detained in military-run internment centres within Pakistan.

There is credible information about enforced disappearances of people from PoK. These include individuals who were held in secret detention, as well as those whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown. Some of the disappeared individuals were associated with Pakistani security forces, and in many cases, victim groups attribute these disappearances to Pakistani intelligence agencies.

A peaceful march led by women human rights defenders in Islamabad, known as “the Baloch Long March,” has aimed to raise awareness about ongoing repression and human rights violations in Balochistan. However, Pakistani authorities have always responded with excessive force, including tear gas and water cannons.


Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), has a region with a complex history of grappling with issues related to legal rights, democratic representation, and the well-being of its population. Local body elections have not been held in GB for the past 14 years, affecting democratic representation and governance. Throughout 2022-23 protests erupted across GB against land grabbing, cuts in subsidised wheat, and long load-shedding hours. The Pakistani state has responded by arresting protestors on false terrorism charges. Journalists like Muhammad Ali Alam and Ali Mujeeb faced intimidation, threats, and even kidnapping attempts by the Pakistani state for highlighting human rights violations.

Recently while speaking at the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Chairman of the United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP), Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, highlighted the issue of the worsening human rights situation in POK and GB. He lamented that in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, “residents are deprived of their fundamental rights, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as the right to development. Peaceful activists and members of civil society are targeted by state and law enforcement agencies, and extremist outfits with impunity.”

Jamil Maqsood, the secretary of foreign affairs for the United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP) highlighted the challenges faced by the people of PoK and GB stating that, instances of restricted political freedoms and limited representation are a symptomatic of Pakistan’s policy in the region and that “despite the region’s strategic significance, there is a pressing need for inclusive development policies that prioritise the well-being of the local population. Socially, the people of these regions deserve equitable access to education, healthcare, and other basic services.”

The percentage of Hindus in Pakistan has witnessed a persistent decline due to ongoing discrimination and forced conversion. Instances of forced conversions and marriages are rampant in rural and backward areas.  Disturbing cases have emerged where Hindu women are kidnapped, raped, or forcibly converted to Islam. Overt, state-sponsored discrimination persists, depriving Hindus of their fundamental human rights. Authorities often fall short in providing adequate protection and holding perpetrators accountable. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have an oppressive impact on religious minorities. These laws are often misused and lead to severe consequences for those accused.

The gruesome lynching of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot, Punjab province, underscores the danger of state-sanctioned religious hate. Priyantha Kumara, a Christian, was brutally killed by a mob for removing stickers featuring Quranic verses from factory machinery. The incident reveals how far the nation has descended into an abyss.

A flood-affected woman prepares food in Jamshoro district in Pakistan’s Sindh province on Sept. 8, 2022. (Str/Xinhua/IANS)

Pakistan was the first, and so far only country to officially declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim. Subsequent policies have served to reinforce their outsider status. For example, in order to receive a passport, all Pakistani citizens are required to sign a formal declaration of heresy toward Ahmadis, proclaiming the leader of the Ahmadi movement to be an “imposter prophet” and his followers non-Muslim.

Even as spiritual month of Ramzan is being observed around the world, in Pakistan a video now gone viral on the internet shows a mob beating up a #Christian sanitary worker in the city of Gujranwala.

While Islamabad claims its Hindu community is safe, reports of their leaving persist, and many Pakistani Hindus seek refuge in India due to safety concerns. For instance, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, 18 Hindu refugees from Pakistan were granted Indian citizenship during a camp organised by the district collector’s office. Gujarat’s Minister of State for Home, Harsh Sanghavi, conferred citizenship upon these individuals and encouraged them to contribute to India’s development journey. So far, 1,167 Hindu refugees from Pakistan residing in Ahmedabad district have been granted Indian citizenship. The Indian government has relaxed norms for Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities who seek refuge in India.

Enforced disappearance represents a continuing violation of various rights, including the right to life and the prohibition of torture or cruel treatment. The situation in Balochistan, PoK and GB  remains deeply concerning, and efforts to address human rights violations must continue to ensure justice and accountability.

The everyday experiences of religious minorities in Pakistan, is an unending saga of violence, discrimination and exclusion. They suffer from a lack of access to education, sanitation, transportation and health care, to occupational discrimination and more direct experiences of violence such as abductions and forced conversions, accusations of blasphemy, targeted killings, and frequent attacks on their places of worship.

In fact duplicity manifests itself in many forms, which are palpable in Pakistan’s internal and external relationships. While talking about Islamophobia in the UN, the Pakistani government is in reality practising an unannounced ban on international Christian missionaries visiting Pakistan. Furthermore Pakistan never criticises or highlights the brutal way in which Beijing is repressing Uyghur Muslims.

Islamabad’s charade of trying to project itself as the global leader of the anti-Islamophobia crusade begs exposure.

ALSO READ: The Barely Acknowledged Child Abuse Crisis in Pakistan

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Understanding the Legal Foundation and Implications of the CAA

CAA has been a topic of intense debate and contention. The controversy around CAA revolves around its religious selectivity, potential violation of secular principles, and the broader implications for India’s social fabric. Because the CAA excludes Muslims, who form a majority in these countries, it is accused of applying selective religious criteria for fastrack citizenship. Critics argue that this religious exclusion violates the secular ethos of India and undermines the principle of equality, that the act singles out Muslims, leading to concerns about discrimination… writes Kamalesh Kumar

On March 11 the ministry of Home Affairs implemented the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) across India. The CAA was passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019, and was notified on December 12 of the same year, however the rules under this law are only now being implemented. After over four years of amending the act, the union government has recently notified the rules for the CAA, indicating its commitment to implementing the law.

It is unfortunate to see how the matter of protecting minorities from neighbouring countries has has become politicised. Before understanding the modalities and inherent justice of the CAA, it is important to understand what the act is trying to achieve and why it the ongoing national discourse surrounding it.

Refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan stage a protest against Congress over their alleged anti-CAA remarks, near AICC headquarters in New Delhi. (ANI Photo/Amit Sharma)

The Citizenship Amendment Act aims to protect individuals who have sought refuge in India due to religious persecution. It offers them a shield against illegal migration proceedings. To be eligible for citizenship, applicants must have entered India on or before December 31, 2014. CAA provides a path to Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis who migrated from neighbouring Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 31, 2014. It specifically targets individuals who were forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion.  The 39-page Rules notified in the e-gazette recently has prescribed the modalities and procedure for eligible individuals to apply for Indian citizenship. The Rules specify what documents and paperwork are required for putting forward and considering a claim of citizenship.

CAA has been a topic of intense debate and contention. The controversy around CAA revolves around its religious selectivity, potential violation of secular principles, and the broader implications for India’s social fabric. Because the CAA excludes Muslims, who form a majority in these countries, it is accused of applying selective religious criteria for fastrack citizenship. Critics argue that this religious exclusion violates the secular ethos of India and undermines the principle of equality, that the act singles out Muslims, leading to concerns about discrimination.

The United Nations, US government and several other countries have expressed concerns about the alleged discriminatory nature of the CAA. Defending the CAA against its international criticism by certain countries, External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar has stated that it is unfair for Western nations to criticize it when they had implemented similar immigration policies in the past. Refering to riteria followed by USA and various European countries he asked, “Show me a country in the world which says everyone in the world is welcome.”

Defence minister Rajnath Singh has strongly backed the CAA pitching that it protects the rights of migrants, reduces the number of stateless people and does not discriminate against minorities. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asserted that no one can stop the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act as it is the law of the land, that the government’s commitment to implement the CAA. Some state government like the TMC led by Mamata Banerjee has been opposing the CAA. Mr. Shah launched a scathing attack on Ms. Banerjee for misleading people on the issue of CAA, “At times, she tries to mislead the people, the refugees, whether CAA will be at all implemented in the country or not. I want to say this clearly that CAA is the law of the land and no one can stop its implementation. This is the commitment of our party.”

It is crucial to illuminate the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 through the constitution and human rights jurisprudence perspective. There are important humanitarian reasons why immigrants of certain religious communities from neighbouring countries should not be treated as illegal and should be given speedier access to citizenship. They have suffered persecution and require these protections. The CAA provides a legal pathway to citizenship for persecuted minorities from specific countries, aiming to address their plight and protect their rights in India.The 2019 amendment to the CAA further relaxed the residence requirement for naturalisation, reducing it from twelve years to just six years.

In the Indian Constitution, the jurisprudence on “equal protection” in Article 14 characterises this as being at best a case of “under inclusion”. To draw an analogy, if the government wants to solve a problem like malnutrition, it can take some steps without eliminating hunger entirely. Similarly, if it wants to protect migrants from religious persecution, it can do so by protecting some migrants and not all of them.

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML) supporters protest march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, in Patna. (ANI Photo)

Before criticsing CAA on the constitutional merits, it must be noted that Article 15 does not apply to non-citizens. Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. While, under Article 14, laws can rationally differentiate between people on the basis of whether they pay taxes or breach contracts, they can’t differentiate between them merely on the basis of Article 15 characteristics.

If a law is providing for affirmative action why  cannot it take into account historic discrimination? The additional protection provided by provisions like Article 15 forms a key part of equality law around the world, be it through the “protected characteristics” under UK’s Equality Act, 2010 or through the USA’s constitutional safeguards for “suspect classifications”. These structures operate in areas of historic discrimination and ensure that people don’t have to suffer for inherent traits that they did not choose. Thus it is valid to ask if there can be concern about historic discrimination within the country, why can’t the concern extend to a history of persecution in another country?

To draw a reference, in the case of caste, Indian constitutional law shows that valid identification of backward castes has always been backed by evidence. This is similar to the US jurisprudence on suspect classifications – these aren’t entirely prohibited, but the government is placed under “strict scrutiny” by courts and has to show that no less discriminatory alternative is available, or that the job cannot be done in a more equal way. If evidentiary burdens tend to determine legal outcomes, then the petitions challenging the CAA’s constitutionality are no exception!

Referring to the unnecessary discourse surrounding CAA External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar believes that it is a battle of narratives and Anglosphere papers played a prominent part in it, “Take this whole scaremongering that millions of people are going to lose citizenship — you tell people, saying look this was said — one year has passed, two years have passed, where are these people? After all, we are supposed to have a cataclysm in 2020. Even citizenship, when you start reasoning people, ask them–tell me do you not have criteria of citizenship; do you not use language– some people use religion, language, education; some even use income, ethnicity.”

Sikh refugees from Pakistan stage a protest outside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over his remarks on CAA, in New Delhi. (ANI Photo)

According to sources, there will be over 30,000 immediate beneficiaries from the CAA once the rules are fully implemented. Critics fail to see that the CAA benefits members of some religions without actually harming anyone else. Every country including USA and in Europe have different citizenship criteria based on context and social criteria. Infact the word ‘minorities’ is not used in the CAA because if other countries change the definition of their minorities in future, India would not be able to give them citizenship based on religious persecution.  The CAA does nothing to anyone’s detriment and is thus not against anyone at all.

ALSO READ: India Dismisses US Criticism of CAA, Calls it Misguided

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Kinari: Breaks Stereotypes with Debut Album ‘Kattar Kinnar

She stressed that ‘gaana’ songs, ballroom beats and ‘mujra’ numbers in her debut album ‘Kattar Kinnar’ are her musical inspirations. Also Khushi Shaikh, who is someone she deeply respects…writes Sukant Deepak

She says everyone always wants her to talk about struggles, about how she might be suffering, and she feels that is what the audience wants to know.

“But for me, it is paramount that my music makes people dance, and celebrate, while also being honest and real,” said Kinari, recipient of the Toto Music Awards 2024, who has emerged as one of the foremost voices for the LGBTQ+ community in Delhi’s rap scene.

She stressed that ‘gaana’ songs, ballroom beats and ‘mujra’ numbers in her debut album ‘Kattar Kinnar’ are her musical inspirations. Also Khushi Shaikh, who is someone she deeply respects.

Kinari said, “Samples from her iconic vlogs and videos feature heavily as part of the sonic landscape of my album. This is why it was so incredible that she danced for my album’s party,” said Kinari.

The opening ‘mujra’ performance by Khushi Shaikh, a trans model and dancer who is quite popular on social media, and samples from Shaikh’s vlogs — a collaboration between ‘mujra’ and rap, both by trans artistes — was the first such commercial gig of its kind in Delhi that happened on March 3.

The album will be officially released in mid-March.

For someone who learnt casio at school, and is self-trained, Kinari said she has always been alive to the local music scene around her, including wedding bands outside her window in Khirki, or ‘gaana’ music playing in her hometown Chennai while growing up.

Listening to hip-hop from a young age, she feels it is the best medium to express herself.

“I cannot even think of choosing any other musical styles. There is much more to hip-hop than song and dance. Let us not forget that across the world, artists of this genre speak about social issues and bring contemporary realities alive with their music. Like MC Altaf says, ‘If you listen to hip-hop, become a good person/become a helping hand to wanderer struggling/do good work before you die’,” asserted this 25-year-old, who is Delhi’s first transgender rapper.

Talking about her debut album, a sonic expression of life in Delhi’s Khirkee Extension that switches fluidly from Hindi to English, she highlighted her heritage by intertwining the beat of wedding bands outside her window with the coruscating pulse of ‘gaana’ songs and cuts of Mari Selvaraj films. The album is an expression of not just the sweet side of being a transgender.

“It is also about some bitter truths. It was written and produced in Delhi. I want to share with people the pleasure and power of Tamil ‘gaana’ and Delhi ‘mujra’ dance throughout the album, which has helped me keep going through the daily harshness of life in the city. My song ‘Baahar’ talks more about this, the dichotomy between my day-to-day life in Khirki Extension as a language teacher, and the nights as the Indian hip-hop scene’s exciting new rapper,” she said.

And did she face any roadblocks owing to her gender identity?

“The main difficulty is not being transgender in the music industry, but being one in Delhi. I make music that I love to make and listen to. I will keep doing this even if the industry does not accept it. I believe in staying close to music and not losing faith,” she said.

Raving about Miss Boogie’s latest album ‘The Breakdown’, she asserted that her inspirations keep changing over time.

“There are so many transgender and marginalised artistes who are making great music today,” concludes Kinari, who after the album’s release will be going on her first multi-city tour this summer.

ALSO READ-Airbnb Celebrates Women’s Role in Inclusive Community

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‘Ram Mandir was already there’

On PM Modi’s poll promise of providing jobs to youths, the TMC MP from Asansol said, “They had said that when they come to power, the youth in the country will be empowered. They had said that they would give two crore jobs every year. Where is the guarantee?”…reports Asian Lite News

Days after Bhojpuri singer Pawan Singh withdrew his candidacy from the Asansol Lok Sabha constituency, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Shatrughan Sinha asserted that the Ram Mandir already existed in Ayodhya, adding that BJP did Pran Pratishtha in an incomplete temple.

“They (BJP) have spent so much money for darshan in the temple. The temple was already there. Was Pran Pratishtha not done earlier? The temple was small. You (PM Modi) have only magnified it and that too, you also did Pran Pratishtha in an incomplete temple,” Sinha said speaking at a public meeting at Asansol on Tuesday.

Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s electoral assurances, the actor-turned-politician at a public gathering in Asansol said, “PM Modi keeps talikng on giving guarantees. First, fulfil whatever guarantees you have given. You used to speak about inflation earlier. Today, inflation has risen to such an extent that it is at a 60-year high. Whether it is price of oil, fruits, vegetables or other edible items.”

On PM Modi’s poll promise of providing jobs to youths, the TMC MP from Asansol said, “They had said that when they come to power, the youth in the country will be empowered. They had said that they would give two crore jobs every year. Where is the guarantee?”

“The young generation is more than 60 per cent of the total demography today and among them, 60 per cent are unemployed. Imagine the frustration among them. Youth are committing suicide. And they are diverting people’s attention from real issues and sticking to temples and mosques,” Sinha said.

Sinha also hit out at the Prime Minister for promising to double farmers income by 2022.

ALSO READ-Karnataka Assembly roiled by Ayodhya Ram Mandir issues

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Mumbai Queer Pride March 2024 Set for February 3rd

The Mumbai Queer Pride March 2024 is scheduled to take place on February 3, organised by Mumbai Queer Pride (MQP), a collective of Queer (LGBTQIA+) individuals and organisations. The march will begin at 3 PM, next to August Kranti Maidan, the historic site of the Quit India movement.

The Mumbai Queer Pride March is:

•             A celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community’s diversity and resilience

•             A call for action on the issues and challenges we face

•             A demand for rights like marriage equality and adoption for queer persons

•             A demand for strong anti-discrimination and anti-violence laws

•             A demand to set up functional Welfare Boards and Councils for protecting & furthering the rights of Transgender persons

•             A demand to end stigma & discrimination against people living with HIV and provide them with access to health care, education, employment, housing, etc. 

•             A call to immediately end discrimination, abuse and violence of all sorts.

The march will feature volunteers, activists, artists, thinkers, movie makers, actors, and allies from various other social movements, as well as parents, teachers, students, and corporate goers supporting the above causes and beyond. The march is preceded by a month-long calendar of events, including workshops for advocacy and education, panel discussions, film screenings, book readings, performances and many more.

The MQP welcomes the participation and solidarity of intersectional movements in the march. The organisers highlight that the upcoming Pride March is for LGBTQIA+ Pride and the Causes that intersect with it, and the attendees’ posters and messages need to reflect that.

ALSO READ-Rainbow Lit Fest Celebrates Queer Inclusivity in New Delhi

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Rainbow Lit Fest Celebrates Queer Inclusivity in New Delhi

The winners of the first-ever Rainbow Awards for Literature and Journalism will be announced and felicitated on Day 2. The Fest will also see queer-run enterprises at work through stalls and pop-ups. In addition, there would be a bookstore run by the ‘queer-friendly’ Kunzum…reports Asian Lite News

The Rainbow Lit Fest – Queer and Inclusive is set to take place on 9th and 10th December 2023 at the Gulmohar Park Club, New Delhi. Bringing together diverse voices from across the nation, the Rainbow Lit Fest seeks to discuss queerness, find common ground and stitch more informed narratives about the LGBTQIA+ community.

This year, over 60 speakers, entertainers and performers will participate in the festival. In about 30 sessions covering a wide variety of topics, they will celebrate queerness and love while encouraging inclusivity. The festival will open with a spotlight session with director Jaydeep Sarkar (maker of the new queer docuseries Rainbow Rishta). There will be more such spotlight sessions with Saurabh Kirpal (senior advocate & author), actor Kalki Koechlin, Seema Anand (London-based mythologist; intimacy columnist) and Hoshang Merchant (modern India’s first openly gay poet).

Other prominent speakers include Alankrita Shrivastava (Director & Writer), actor Mona Ambegaonkar, Jaya Sharma (queer feminist activist), Urvashi Butalia (author and activist), Akhil Katyal (poet and queer activist), Poonam Saxena (senior journalist, translator, author), Rituparna Borah (queer feminist, writer, founder – Nazariya – QFRG), Niladri R Chatterjee (author and translator) and Rohin Bhatt (lawyer and activist).

Exploring themes of love and the law, social hierarchies and identities, the relationship between mythology, literature and culture, the overlap between queer rights and feminism, among other things, the conversations will revolve around the Rainbow Lit Fest’s aim to unravel queer history, acknowledge present realities and work towards a hopeful future. Special ‘Spotlights on History’ include revisiting India’s first Stonewall moment with activist Arif Jafar, and another remembering historian and gay rights activist Saleem Kidwai.

Besides history and academia, the Fest delves into the sub-continent’s rich culture of folklore and fluidity to bring together an immersive two-day experience. Five films that cover different aspects of queerness will be screened at the festival, including the award-winning My Mother’s Girlfriend and Muhafiz, among others. Mumbai-based Tamasha Theatre is set to perform Be-loved, an intriguing saga exploring love and freedom through a queer lens, for the first time in Delhi. Performances by queer artists feature musician John Oinam and band, drag performer Lush Monsoon, Geetanjali & Katukaleen rendering Kumaoni folk music, trans performer Avatari Devi, and Gayathri Sharma & Bhadra Sinha in a Bharatnatyam production representing the Ardhanarishvara philosophy.

The winners of the first-ever Rainbow Awards for Literature and Journalism will be announced and felicitated on Day 2. The Fest will also see queer-run enterprises at work through stalls and pop-ups. In addition, there would be a bookstore run by the ‘queer-friendly’ Kunzum. 

The festival is being supported by Delhi Queer Spaces, Naz Foundation, Nazariya – QFRG, Keshav Suri Foundation, Official Humans of Queer, The Pink List, The Q-knit, Queering in Chandigarh, Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents and Yes We Exist. Everything from the fest’s location – Gulmohar Park, which saw the early risings of the gay movement at the residence-cum-office of the Naz Foundation back in 2001 – to its belief system – that literature and art should speak for as many as possible, particularly those who aren’t usually heard – sets the Rainbow Lit Fest – Queer & Inclusiveapart.

Festival Director and Founder, Sharif D Rangnekar said, “After the Supreme Court verdict on marriage equality, there is a greater need for the community to come together and voice their views. Conversations around lived experiences are extremely essential in giving the community a sense of space, identity and belonging, while also informing the audience of queerness and the expanse of love and choice.”

ALSO READ-Sahela’: A Film Inspired by Personal Journey of Self-Discovery

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Pope to UAE Sikhs: Faith and service are intimately linked

“Faith and service, as you are aware, are intimately linked.”, said His Holiness Pope Francis

Members of the Sikh Delegation from Guru Nanak Darbar of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates met His Holiness Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican on 11th November 2023.

His Holiness expressed his joy to receive the diverse delegation and to learn about the faith-inspired service they offer the communities in those countries that have become their home and encouraged them to continue their selfless service which leads to God.

Such efforts, the Pope noted, “bear witness to your endeavour to live by faith and to contribute to the good of society,” especially as they seek to integrate themselves but at the same time “remain steadfast to your own specific identity.”

The Pope expressed gratitude for their commitment to building bridges among people, and serving the poor, the needy, and the suffering, noting that, in doing so, they acknowledge the ways their own lives have been blessed and enriched.

Indeed, the true path to God, as your Holy Scripture Guru Granth Sahib – “Sukhmani Sahib”…ang (page) 286 says,” the Pope continued, “lies in the service of our fellow human beings.” The Gospel brings us these words of Jesus: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt. 25:35-36). Selfless service rendered in particular to the least in our midst, and to those on the peripheries of society, besides makes us consciously aware of our own littleness and insufficiency, bring us closer to God.  May service, then, always remain your way of life and may you be a blessing to all whom you serve in promoting the spirit of fraternity, equality, justice and peace.

Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar Dubai has also been instrumental in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding. Through its various initiatives, such as seminars, workshops, and interfaith prayer gatherings, the Gurudwara has facilitated meaningful conversations between different religious communities, promoting respect, harmony, and a shared vision of peaceful coexistence.

Sharing material wealth and largesse is a calling as is service and the cleansing of the soul by engaging in the most menial of tasks which we perform with joy in our hearts even when it is penance for a transgression we may have committed. It is with these priorities that the House of Worship – The Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara was built in the UAE, mentions Surender Singh Kandhari, Chairman Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara Dubai.

The challenges we face in the world today are manifold. We see wars, conflicts, and violence often occurring in the name of religion, and our environment is suffering due to our unsustainable practices. It is in times like these that the importance of unity, compassion and cooperation among people of all faith becomes even more evident. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we, as individuals and as members of various faith communities, join hands to address the pressing global issues of our time. Together, we can strive for a world where the principles of love, compassion, and shared responsibility for our planet prevail over division and conflict. In the spirit of interfaith dialogue and cooperation, we can make a significant difference in creating a more peaceful and sustainable future for all, quotes Mr. Kandhari.

The Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, Vatican City sends you cordial greetings on the occasion of the Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, celebrated worldwide this year on 27 November. May all your festive events bring you joy and peace and help enhance the spirit of unity and solidarity in your families and communities.  As believers with shared convictions and concerns for the wellbeing of all and that of the earth, may we Christians and Sikhs, joining hands with everyone who cares for the welfare of humanity, endeavour to do all we can to bring about a positive change in climatic conditions and become responsible and genuine stewards of creation!

We wish you all a Happy Prakash Diwas of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji!

On this auspicious occasion of the birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, I extend my heartfelt greetings and best wishes to the entire Sikh community at Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara Dubai. As we celebrate this joyous occasion, let us also remember the importance of unity and harmony. In the spirit of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings, let us come together as a community to support one another, regardless of differences, and work towards creating a more compassionate and inclusive society. May we continue to walk the path of righteousness and spread the message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji to all corners of the world, Surender Singh Kandhari, Chairman, Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar Dubai.

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Let’s Talk Lung Cancer

Giant lung roadshow tours England to encourage South Asian community to act on early lung cancer symptoms. The roadshow will travel around the country throughout the month of November – Lung Cancer Awareness Month – as part of the NHS Help Us, Help You campaign. The roadshow aims to begin conversations about the illness and its symptoms

The NHS will visit thousands of people in England’s lung cancer hotspots with giant inflatable lungs this month, to raise awareness of potential cancer symptoms and help catch cancer earlier.

The Let’s Talk Lung Cancer roadshow, run between NHS England and Roy Castle Lung Foundation, kicks off as new survey data reveals that just a third of (33%) South Asian respondents would see their GP if they had a cough for three weeks or more. While more than a quarter (28%) of South Asian individuals surveyed believe that lung cancer only affects smokers.

Over half (55%) of South Asian survey respondents also believed that or were unsure whether lung cancer only affects a small number of people every year in England, when in fact it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths in the UK. 

Nasim Panjwani

Nasim, 65 , is recovering from lung cancer following removal of part of her left lung. She initially went to see her GP as she was losing weight and didn’t know why.

“I have never smoked, so I didn’t ever think it could be lung cancer,” said Nasim. “However, when my friends and family started pointing out that I was looking thin I thought I should get checked out.’ 

Diagnosing lung cancer early dramatically increases people’s chances of survival – those diagnosed at stages one or two are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years or more than those whose cancer is caught at later stages. As such, Nasim wants to encourage more people to come forward if they have symptoms.

Nasim said:The best thing that could come from my diagnosis and treatment would be that others read my story and go and see their GP as a result. If you’ve had a cough for three weeks or more, or something feels not quite right, please get medical advice and give yourself the best chance.”

As part of the roadshow, specialist teams of volunteers will assist the campaign to educate the public and help catch more cancers early. Thousands of people are expected to see the giant inflatable lungs in communities across the country – including supermarkets, shopping centres and local high streets – with the public urged to get checked if they have signs and symptoms.

The inflatable organs allow visitors to observe and learn about typical lung structures, lung health, and the effects of smoking.

Community engagement teams and volunteers will be on hand to talk to members of the public and encourage those with suspected symptoms to visit their GP as soon as possible.

This comes as survey data also shows that just over a third (34%) of South Asian people surveyed would visit their GP if they had a chest infection that kept coming back, and a similar percentage would do the same if they had a loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss (36%), which are lesser-known signs of lung cancer.

Dr. Jyoti Sood said: “Tens of thousands of people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in England, but it’s clear from the survey that many people in our community still think it’s not something that can affect them. This campaign is really important in raising awareness of the symptoms – like a cough lasting for three weeks or more – and encouraging people to get seen by a medical professional as early as possible. We know that early diagnosis gives the best chance of effective treatment and survival.’

Chief Executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Paula Chadwick, said: “It is staggering that so many of those surveyed still do not know how prevalent lung cancer is. We believe this stems from a reluctance, even aversion, to talking about lung cancer, and that is largely because of its links to smoking and associated stigma.

“That’s why these events are so important. They give us the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with people who may not realise they are at risk, who may not recognise potential symptoms or could feel unable to act on them.

“If we can help just one person get diagnosed earlier when lung cancer can be treated more easily, then that is worth doing”.

The roadshow will travel around the country throughout the month of November – Lung Cancer Awareness Month – as part of the NHS Help Us, Help You campaign. The roadshow aims to begin conversations about the illness and its symptoms.

The NHS’s Help Us, Help You lung cancer campaign focuses specifically on raising awareness of the key symptom of lung cancer – a cough that lasts for three weeks or more. While it might seem like nothing serious, if it is cancer, finding it early means it’s more treatable and can save lives. The campaign will encourage those who have this symptom to contact their GP practice and remind the public that the NHS wants to see them.

In addition to the symptom of a cough for three weeks or more, other symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • chest infections that keep coming back
  • coughing up blood
  • a long-standing cough that gets worse
  • an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • persistent breathlessness
  • persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
Community India News London News

International Conference on Sindh Organised in London

Organised at the University of Westminster Harrow Campus, the day long event had attendees descending in London from different parts of the world.

Robust panel discussions and presentations on the challenges of Sindhi community adorned the 35th International Conference on Sindh by World Sindhi Congress recently. Organised at the University of Westminster Harrow Campus, the day long event had attendees descending in London from different parts of the world.

Starting with the panel on British-Sindhi Diaspora, the topics ranged from Mismanagement of Indus Water to Human Rights and Forced Conversions of Sindhi Hindu girls in Pakistan (video presentations), to Self-determination right and global Sindhi alliances. A welcome message was rendered by Fahmida Khushik and Rukshana Bhutto, and introductory lines about the conference and WSC by Hafeezan Wadhio, followed by panel discussions.

Stellar panels included Shahzado Wadhio (Sindhi Sangat UK), Fahmida Khushik (International Sindhi Women Organisation, UK), Faraz Ahmed Khokhar (Sindhi Youth Club, UK), Imdad Odho (Radio Voice of Sindh, London), Ved Luhana (World Sindhi Congress, UK), Chandru Gidoomal (Sindhi Association of UK), Qambar Baloch (Baloch Human Rights Council, UK), Dr Lakhu Luhana (World Sindhi Congress), Prof. Fiona McConnell (Oxford University), representatives of Baloch Movement, Hassan Dost Baloch, Kim Putheaney (Global Human Rights Defence- GHDR, Netherlands), Prof. Rafiq A Chandio (University of Sindh), Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed (Sweden), Ms Veengas (The Rise News, Sindh), Harris Khalique (Human Rights Commission, Pakistan), Hajan Kalhoro (WSC, Canada), Narayan Bablani (India), Dr Maqbool Halepota (Sindhi Association of America- SANA), and Dr Rubina Shaikh (Chair, WSC). Gul Sanai, Fahmida Khushik, Dr Sagir Shaikh, Farhan Kaghzi, and Dr Hidayat Bhutto have moderated the panels that were thought-provoking.

A minute’s silence was observed to pay respectful tributes to deceased Gul Hassan Kalmati, Raj Kumar Wanjara, Sundar Agnani and Bashir Ahmed Shahani. Poetry for the Soul by Roohi Kalhoro, Harris Khalique & Sami Baloch, and Sindhi Live Music Concert by Pooja Vazirani (India), Alghozo player Nathan Torrence (USA) captivated the attendees. Umed Leghari outlined plans of World Sindhi Congress for the forthcoming year and Fiza Kalhoro presented the conference resolutions.

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Australia Votes in Historic Indigenous Voice Referendum

In order for the constitution to be changed, the “yes” vote must secure a double majority.

Polling booths across Australia opened on Saturday for the country’s first ever referendum in the 21st century, with voters to decide on whether or not to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Millions of Australians will on Saturday vote “yes” or “no” on the proposal to alter the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing the voice, which would advise the federal Parliament on all issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, reports Xinhua news agency.

In order for the constitution to be changed, the “yes” vote must secure a double majority, meaning that more than 50 per cent voters nationally, as well as a majority in at least four out of Australia’s six states, must vote in favor.

In a final pitch to voters on Friday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the referendum was an opportunity for Australia to “do better”.

“We have an opportunity for Australians to do better. To do better to show respect for the first Australians, but to do something for ourselves, as well, because we will feel better. We will feel better about ourselves on Sunday with a Yes vote,” he said at a press conference in South Australia.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) personnel will start counting the votes as they close at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

According to the AEC, voting is mandatory for Australians aged 18 and over who are registered on the electoral roll (about 17.7 million people), while by the close of business on Wednesday, approximately four million people have voted at an early voting centre.  

The Voice to Parliament was recommended by a historic document in 2017 called the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Drafted by more than 250 Indigenous leaders, the statement is considered the best — though not unanimous — call to action for reforms on issues affecting First Nations Australians.

It also lays out a longer process of treaty-making and truth-telling.

The issue, however has been a fierce topic of debate for years as country has not had a successful referendum in almost 50 years.

If approved, the vote would recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country’s constitution, and establish a permanent body for them to give advice on laws.

The composition, functions and powers of the body, whose advice would not be binding, would then be designed and debated by Parliament.

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