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On the boil, Punjab seeks divine intervention

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Chandigarh: With just over a week to go for the second Progressive Punjab Investors Summit-2015, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is making appeals and even seeking divine intervention for the return of peace and normalcy in the frontier state.

Violent protests, multiple roadblocks across Punjab, youths out on the streets brandishing swords, sticks and other traditional weaponry, shops and establishments being forced to shut down, railway tracks being blocked for days by agitating farmers, rumours being spread through social media to create differences on religious lines and radical elements having a free run – this is certainly not the image that the Punjab government would want the country’s top industrialists and investors to see about the state.

The investors’ summit, which is the brainchild of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who himself is a billionaire businessman with interests in hotels, agriculture, infrastructure, media and some other fields, could take a hit with Punjab being on the boil in the past one month.

First, it was the farmers – the backbone of Punjab’s economy – who blocked railway tracks for several days, affecting nearly 900 trains, demanding higher compensation for their crop loss. The agitation was the outcome of a scam in purchase of spurious pesticide – which led to the loss of the cotton crop.

This was followed by protests and violence after the alleged sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. Radical elements, who had been sidelined over the years after militancy ended in the state in 1995, found a new opening to re-launch themselves. The Badal government, which promised to maintain peace in the state at all costs, was seen faltering and even the elder Badal had to land up at Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, to seek divine intervention for peace and normalcy.

Then, radical elements in the state got pumped by the flip-flop of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion, which first announced its “pardon” for controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was accused of hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs in 2007 when he dressed up like Guru Gobind Singh. The Akal Takht has now, in a complete U-turn, reversed its decision.

The investors’ summit on Oct 28-29, to be held on the campus of the Indian School of Business in Mohali near here, will focus on agro- and food processing, life-sciences, information technology and its enabled services, skill development, health, manufacturing, education, renewable energy, aerospace and defence and tourism sectors.

Big names from the industry are expected to participate this time too. The last summit, in December 2013, saw the likes of Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani, steel tycoon L.N. Mittal, ITC’s Y.C. Deveshwar, Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, L&T’s A. M. Naik, Hero Group’s Sunil Kant Munjal, DLF’s Rajiv Singh, Bharti Airtel’s Sunil Bharti Mittal and many others attending.

Despite claims by Sukhbir Badal, the first summit has hardly made any impact on the ground in terms of big investments in Punjab. This time too it is not going to be any different.

All the happenings in Punjab in the past month are hardly going down well with any prospective investor. The state’s “progressive” image would surely take a hit.

Perhaps because of this, on Tuesday, the chief minister, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee asked the people to orgnaise “akhand paths” (prayers) in towns and villages across Punjab to restore peace in the state.

The question is: Will divine intervention succeed where everything else has failed?

(Jaideep Sarin, IANS)

 

 

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US Hate Groups Increases by 7% in 2 years, Hit Record

US Hate Groups Hit Record Number Last Year Amid Increased Violence.

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US, Hate Groups, Violence
FILE - A neo-Nazi attends a rally in Newnan, Georgia, April 21, 2018. VOA

The white supremacist group Identity Evropa more than doubled the number of its chapters.

The violent neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division grew from one chapter to 27.

The white nationalist group and podcasting site The Right Stuff boasted 34 chapters.

American hate groups had a bumper year in 2018 as a surge in black and white nationalist groups lifted their number to a new record high, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a report issued Wednesday.

The Alabama-based legal advocacy organization recorded 1,020 active hate groups last year, up 7 percent from 2017. The previous record tallied by SPLC was 1,018 in 2011 amid a white extremist backlash against the presidency of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president.

US, hate groups, violence
Number of hate groups in US have increased from 497 to 1020 within two decades. Pixabay

The increase was driven by growth in both black and white nationalist groups, the SPLC said. The number of white nationalist groups jumped from 100 to 148, while the number of black nationalist groups — typically anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ and anti-white — rose from 233 to 264.

The SPLC defines a hate group as “an organization that, based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities, has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

The number of hate groups has grown every year for the past four years, the SPLC said, a 30 percent increase roughly coinciding with President Donald Trump’s election campaign and presidency. The increase followed three years of decline toward the end of the Obama administration.

Hate crimes

Hate crimes have followed a similar trajectory in recent years. After falling for three consecutive years, attacks on blacks, Jews, Muslims and other minorities increased by 30 percent in the three-year period ending in 2017, according to the latest FBI data.

US, hate group, violence
FILE – A man is detained while white supremacist Jason Kessler arrives at the Vienna metro station in Vienna, Va., Aug. 12, 2018. White nationalists are gathering in Washington on the first anniversary of their rally in Charlottesville. VOA

The uptrend continued into last year, with hate crimes in America’s 30 largest cities surging by an additional 10 percent, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

The majority of hate crimes are nonviolent, but some incidents were deadly. White supremacists in the U.S. and Canada killed at least 40 people last year, up from 17 people the year before, according to the SPLC’s tally.

While most bias-motivated offenses are not committed by members of hate groups, the perpetrators of hate crimes draw inspiration from ideas put out by hate groups, said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project and author of the report.

‘Go-ahead’ from Trump

Beirich blamed Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim statements and policies for heightening deep-seated white nationalist fears of an impending white-minority country.

US, hate group, violence
FILE – In this Feb. 19, 2017 file photo, people carry posters during a rally against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, in New York’s Times Square. VOA

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be nonwhite in 2020, while the U.S. population is slated to become majority-minority in 2044.

“Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it with both his rhetoric and his policies,” Beirich said. “In doing so, he’s given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Black nationalist groups, which advocate separate institutions or even a separate nation, made up about a quarter of hate groups tracked in 2018.

But the SPLC said the black extremist groups “lagged far behind the more than 700 groups that adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology,” the report said.

Among white extremist groups, the SPLC counted 112 neo-Nazi groups, 148 white nationalist organizations, 63 racist skinhead groups, 36 neo-Confederate outfits and 17 Christian Identity organizations.

KKK falling

But not all white hate groups thrived last year. The number of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) chapters fell for the third straight year, dropping to 51 in 2018 from 130 in 2016.

US, hate groups, violence
FILE – Members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in cross burnings in rural Paulding County near Cedar Town, Georgia, April 23, 2016. VOA

With its outdated traditions and penchant for white robes, the KKK, the nation’s oldest racist organization, has failed to appeal to young white tech-savvy racists, the SPLC said.

“It may be that the KKK, having somehow endured since 1866, is finally on its last legs,” the report said.

The SPLC started tracking KKK chapters in 1987 and later expanded its list to include other hate groups. In recent years, as it has put new groups on its list, including anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ organizations, conservative groups have accused the SPLC of unfairly labeling them.

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Last month, the Center for Immigration Studies sued the SPLC in federal court in Washington for “falsely designating” it as a hate group in 2016, saying the SPLC has produced no evidence that the group maligns immigrants as a class.

Beirich said the SPLC is standing by its hate group listings. (VOA)