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Ahead of Punjab Polls, PM Modi’s Office scraps 32-year blacklist of 212 Sikh NRI families

It was the Congress Government who made the blacklist after the Operation Bluestar in 1984 and the 1985 Kanishka bombings

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NEW DELHI, August 17, 2016: An extraordinary move by PM Modi’s Office is sure to make thousands of Sikhs happy. The 32-year old Government blacklist that banned Sikh NRIs from 212 families to visit India has been scrapped and in election-bound Punjab, this move was much appreciated by the community, mentioned a leading news portal.

The blacklist affected most of the non-resident Sikhs who were residents in the UK, US and Canada. It was the Congress Government who made the blacklist after the Operation Bluestar in 1984 and the 1985 Kanishka bombings.

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As known to all, Operation Bluestar was brought into effect under the order of PM Indira Gandhi. The operation took place between June 3- 8 June in 1984 and it was to remove Sikh militants who were accumulating weapons in the Harmandir Sahib Complex (now Golden Temple) in Amritsar, in order to establish control over the place.

Indira Gandhi. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Paper cutting shows PM Indira Gandhi and Bhindranwale. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The blacklist was brought into being as Sikh militants were spreading terror back then. As a result, Sikh militant groups were investigated for the bombing and there were several arrests in Canada. Explosives on the board of a Boeing-747 aircraft, Air India’s Kanishka that was flying the Montreal-New Delhi route resulted in destruction. 329 passengers, who were Canadian-Indians in the majority were killed while it was over Irish airspace.
Sources said the decision of the Government to remove the blacklist is likely to be headed by the additional secretary of the home ministry who had examined the blacklist, and 212 cases of a total of 324 were removed, reported ET Bureau.
Apart from that, remaining cases were examined and removed from the blacklist as well bringing relief to many NRI Sikhs. The officials who were in charge of the decision did not want to be identified.

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Further, the ET bureau reports mentioned that the Intelligence Bureau have opposed the decision of removing the ban. During PM Modi’s visit to UK and Canada, there were several representations from Sikh NRI groups who urged him for the reconsideration of the India travel ban for Sikhs. Therefore Modi’s office delved deep into the matter. As a result, a committee was set up after which members of Intelligence Bureau was asked to reexamine each case minutely.

When detailed case studies were done, it was found that the names that were jotted down in the blacklist were random and that without investigation entire families were included in the list who had no connection to the incident. Apart from that, the surprising part is that the blacklist was never publicly acknowledged. Therefore for all these years, there were numerous visa denials and Sikh NRI communities were barred from visiting India. This led to the rise of thousand of voices who termed the act as systematic discrimination.

– prepared by NewsGram Team

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Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

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1300 applicants after the new rule came in. Wikimedia commons
1300 applicants after the new rule came in. Wikimedia commons

In India, earlier it was mandatory for Muslim women to travel with mahram if they wanted to go for Haj. However, now Muslim women aged above 45 will now be allowed to go for the pilgrimage without ‘mahram’ in a group of at least four.

“1300 Muslim women have applied to perform Haj without ‘mahram’ and women from different parts of the country from Kerala to north India, have expressed their wish to go for the Haj pilgrimage,” said PM Modi on Mann Ki Baat.

A five-member panel

Earlier too, Centre had recommended women above 45 years to embark on haj pilgrimage in a four-member group without a male relative.

A committee was formed by Union ministry of minority affairs to review the existing haj policy and suggest a framework for new rules for 2018-22. It listed several recommendations which included permitting women to go for the pilgrimage without a male relative.

1.4 lakh people from India participate in Haj every year. Pixabay
1.4 lakh people from India participate in Haj every year. Pixabay

Controversy

In his last Mann Ki Baat address of the year on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Muslim women, highlighting his government’s attempt at facilitating women’s travel for Haj pilgrimage without a male companion.

“For decades, injustice was being done to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it. Even in many Islamic countries, this practice does not exist,” the PM said.

“Our Ministry of Minority Affairs issued corrective measures and we eased this restriction by phasing out a tradition that had been in practice for the past 70 years,” Mr. Modi pointed out.

However, many claims that these rules are made by Saudi Arabia, not the Indian Government.

“It is the Saudi Haj authorities that have allowed any Muslim women above 45 years from any country without a Mehram to do Haj. It does not behoove the PM to take credit for what a foreign govt has done,” said AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

Saudi Arabia had updated the rules on haj back in 2015, as their embassy website shows.