India, Pakistan officials meet to discuss border opening for Sikh pilgrims

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, had settled in what is now Pakistan’s Kartarpur where the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib shrine is located, above. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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India, Pakistan officials meet to discuss border opening for Sikh pilgrims

  • The two countries plan to give special permits to devotees to access the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib shrine in Pakistan
  • The shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border

NEW DELHI: Officials from India and Pakistan met Thursday amid easing tensions to discuss opening a visa-free border crossing to allow pilgrims to easily visit a Sikh shrine just inside Pakistan.
India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said the talks started after a Pakistani delegation crossed over to the Indian side. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal is heading the Pakistani delegation.
Instead of visas, the two countries plan to give special permits to devotees to access the shrine, the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Narowal border district.
Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, had settled in what is now Pakistan’s Kartarpur, where he spent the last 18 years of his life. The shrine was built after Guru Nanak died in 16th century.
The shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border. Indian Sikhs often gather on bluffs to view the site from the Indian side.
It’s unclear how long the construction of a border corridor would take or when the crossing will actually open.
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared last month after a suicide attack killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. The Indian air force launched an airstrike inside Pakistan, saying it was targeting militants it blamed for the bombing.
Pakistan retaliated and said it shot down two Indian air force planes. One pilot was captured and later released. India says it lost only one plane. Tensions have eased since.


India’s Supreme Court chief justice denies sexually harassing assistant

Updated 20 April 2019
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India’s Supreme Court chief justice denies sexually harassing assistant

  • “This is unbelievable,” Gogoi, India’s most powerful judge said
  • The allegations, dating from October, were carried in full by a number of major Indian online publications

MUMBAI: The chief justice of India’s Supreme Court, Ranjan Gogoi, on Saturday denied allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a junior court assistant who worked in an office at his home and that she was subsequently victimized.
“This is unbelievable,” Gogoi, India’s most powerful judge, told a special hearing of the court he called on Saturday so that the allegations could be addressed. “I should not stoop low even in denying it.”
Gogoi said the events showed that India’s judiciary was under “serious threat” and was being destabilized by a larger conspiracy, without elaborating.
“There is some bigger force behind the woman,” he said.
The allegations, dating from October, were carried in full by a number of major Indian online publications on Saturday.
The 35-year-old woman, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, wrote a letter to all 22 of the Supreme Court judges along with an affidavit detailing her allegations on Friday.
Those included a series of allegations that the woman and her family were victimized by a series of related actions by the authorities, including the termination of her employment, and the suspension of her husband and his brother, who worked in the Delhi police force.
She also says another brother of her husband’s had his Supreme Court job terminated and she also faced a “false and frivolous” bribery complaint, leading to her arrest and subsequent bail.
“Me and my family’s victimization is a consequence of my not agreeing to the sexual advances made by the Chief Justice of India, Justice Rangan Gogoi,” she said in the letter to the judges.
Justice Arun Mishra, who joined Gogoi on the bench for the special hearing, said the allegations were “wild and baseless.”
The court asked the media to show restraint in covering the case to avoid undermining the reputation and independence of the judiciary, though it decided not to issue a gag order.