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Arunachal strife: PPA says Pario to be CM, BJP claims Khandu has numbers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As a politically tumultuous year in Arunachal Pradesh came to an end, the stage was set for another turmoil in the state assembly.Amidst reports that the ruling People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) had announced that Takam Pario would take over as Chief Minister, the BJP ruled out any change in the top post saying Pema Khandu had the backing of a majority of MLAs.Khandu’s term seemed set to be cut short on Thursday night when his party suspended him, his deputy Chowna Mein and five other MLAs allegedly for anti-party activities. However, uncertainty continued on Friday as fissures within the PPA surfaced.”It was a failed coup by the Takam Pario group. Khandu has the backing of 33 of the 43 MLAs in the 60-member assembly,” BJP state president Tapir Gao told DNA. Besides, the BJP’s 12 MLAs and two independents are also backing Khandu, taking the total to 47.The BJP, which was an ally of the PPA, made it clear that it would support Khandu, and that there would be status quo in Arunachal Pradesh assembly.Government spokeperson Bamang Felix said 35 of the 43 PPA MLAs have reposed faith in Khandu’s leadership. “Everything is going normally as usual and the Chief Minister is still enjoying absolute majority,” he said.However, a section of PPA chose Pario, the richest MLA in the assembly, as its candidate to replace Khandu, who left the Congress in September and joined PPA. Party president Kahfa Bengia said Pario will be the next CM.Bengia said the party will now go to any length to ensure that they are in power. “Khandu and some MLAs were plotting to become turncoats by joining the BJP by January 15. The next few days will be crucial; if Khandu’s faction does something unconstitutional, we will take a legal recourse and revoke them from the party,” Bengia said over the phone from Itanagar.The PPA, the only regional party in the state, is an alliance partner in the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). The state has seen three different chief ministers in 2016.The political turf war began when Congress dissidents revolted against Nabam Tuki when he was chief minister. Congress rebel Kalikho Pul became CM with the support of 11 BJP MLAs. The Congress moved Supreme Court which restored Tuki government, only to be in power for a short term as he did not have the majority. However, MLAs backed Khandu instead of Pul, who committed suicide following which his wife won the election as BJP candidate.

Fresh twist in Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu claims support of 49 MLAs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As a fresh political drama unfolded in Arunachal Pradesh after Chief Minister Pema Khandu was suspended from PPA along with six other MLAs, his government on Friday claimed majority support and the BJP backed him, but the ruling party said there will be change in leadership.The Pema Khandu government claimed support of 49 of the 60 MLAs, including 35 of Peoples Party of Arunachal (PPA) legislators, a day after he was suspended from his own party.Government spokesperson Bamang Felix claimed that 35 out of the 43 PPA MLAs have reposed their faith and allegiance in the leadership of Khandu.”We have support of 49 MLAs including 35 PPA, 12 BJP along with one associate BJP member and one independent,” he claimed at a press conference here.”Everything is going normally as usual and the chief minister is still enjoying absolute majority from PPA, BJP and independent MLAs,” Felix said in response to queries.The PPA, which has total 43 MLAs, had midnight last night temporarily suspended Khandu, deputy chief minister Chhowna Mein and five other MLAs from the primary membership of the party for their alleged “anti-party activities”.Stating that there was no question of change in leadership, Felix said, “We are looking at the legal aspects of the suspension of seven MLAs including Khandu.” “The PPA is not a single man party. Whatever decision was taken by the party’s president Kahfa Bengia was his own.”We are trying to sort out the differences among the party MLAs and our door is open for all,” the spokesman added.Responding to a query on BJP s claim that process is on for the PPA MLAs to join it, Felix said that since PPA is an alliance partner of BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) government “no such question arises”.Bengia on his part said that Takam Pario, PHED minister, is likely to be the next chief minister.”The sudden decision of the PPA is not acceptable to us as they have never discussed with us. In the interest of development of the state and its people, BJP cannot be a party to change of government every six months,” BJP legislature party leader Tamiyo Taga told a press conference.Taga, who is also the Textile and Handicraft Minister, further said that the party has decided to support Khandu on the floor of the assembly if the Governor issues directives for a floor test.Khandu broke away from the Congress along with 42 lawmakers in September this year, managing a coup that suddenly left the party out of power in the state.Arunachal has been battling political instability since December last year when Congress dissidents revolted against former chief minister Nabam Tuki.After a series of dramatic developments, which included a special session held at a hotel to vote out Tuki, Congress rebel Kalikho Pul became chief minister in February with the help of 11 BJP lawmakers.The Congress then moved Supreme Court, which turned the clock back and restored Tuki’s government.But Tuki was out within days as he did not enjoy a majority in the 60-member assembly.Pul, who insisted that he be reinstated as chief minister, was left alone in the last minute when lawmakers supposedly backing him shifted their loyalties to Khandu.Pul committed suicide in August and a month later, Khandu walked out of Congress with 42 lawmakers and joined the PPA.

8 students suspended from JNU for disrupting Academic Council meeting

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The JNU administration has suspended eight students and withdrawn their hostel facilities for allegedly disrupting an Academic Council meeting, a move protested by the students’ union of the university. The meeting was chaired by VC Jagdesh Kumar on Monday. The university administration has also identified two former students who were allegedly involved in the incident.”Eight students who were identified to be involved in disruption of the meeting have been suspended and their hostel facilities have been withdrawn with immediate effect. A proctorial inquiry has also been instituted in the incident,” a JNU official said.The JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) “condemned” the move saying it will “resist” the suspension orders at all costs. “JNUSU condemns the suspension order against students. It will resist at all costs the suspension orders,” said the students’ union.Notices have been sent to the accused students by the proctor, the university official said, adding that action was taken as per preliminary findings and it will remain in effect till the inquiry is completed. A group of students was protesting outside the room where the Council meeting was underway. They allegedly “broke open the latch of the meeting room door” and came inside and “shouted at” the VC, the university said in a statement.The students belonged to Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), Students’ Front for Swaraj (SFS) and United OBC Forum. They were demanding that the Academic Council reconsider its decision to “adopt” a UGC gazette notification, dated May 2016, whereby interviews became the sole criterion of admissions to MPhil and PhD admissions. Earlier, JNU administration had suspended three students including Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Mujeeb Gattoo for their involvement in a February 9 event on the campus where alleged anti-India slogans were raised.

Congo talks near deal for Kabila to step down in 2017 | Reuters

By Aaron Ross

KINSHASA Political rivals in Democratic Republic of Congo neared a deal on Saturday for President Joseph Kabila to leave power in 2017 after dozens of people were killed during protests this week at the end of his mandate.Under the agreement, elections would be held next year and Kabila, who took power in Africa’s fourth most populous country after his father was assassinated in 2001, would agree not to change the constitution to run for a third term. Roman Catholic bishops who have mediated during weeks of talks were upbeat about reaching a deal in time for a planned signing ceremony on Friday, but Congo’s main opposition bloc warned that several “significant” differences remained.”We have finished practically 95 percent of the work,” Catholic Bishops Conference president Marcel Utembi told reporters. “There remains a short way to go.”Divisions persisted over whether the prime minister will come from the main opposition bloc and on the composition of the electoral commission, which the opposition accuses of pro-government bias.

“If the divergences are not bridged, it will be difficult to sign this accord,” opposition leader Jean Marc Kabund told reporters. Kabila, whose representatives participated in the talks, did not comment.At least 40 people were killed this week in a crackdown by security forces against demonstrators who blew whistles and banged pots and pans in protests demanding Kabila leave office, according to the United Nations.

Kabila’s critics accuse him of deliberately postponing the presidential election that was due last month in order to cling to power beyond the end of his constitutional mandate.The government say the delay was due to difficulties registering millions of voters and the constitutional court ruled in May that Kabila could stay in office until his successor is elected.Mineral-rich Congo has not had a peaceful power transition since independence in 1960, and Church negotiators have billed the talks as an attempt to stop the country sliding back into war.

Millions of people died in regional conflicts between 1996 and 2003 and Pope Francis has called for a peaceful solution to the current standoff.The last day of the talks between the ruling coalition and opposition parties began at 11 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) after negotiations went through the night. Remaining issues are to be resolved in small groups with the support of the church’s secretariate while the bishops return to their dioceses for Christmas, Utembi said. (Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Sam Holmes and Helen Popper)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 19:22 IST

Rahul Gandhi to address rally in Dharamshala today

“Prime Minister Modi hasn’t listened to the farmers, but he has forgiven 1.40 lakh crore in loans to 15 rich people but not farmers”, says Rahul Gandhi in his rally in Almora, on Friday. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress vice- president, Rahul Gandhi will address a rally in Dharamshala on Saturday. This is the first visit of Gandhi after the Congress reversal in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. While addressing a rally in Almora on Friday, Gandhi escalated his attack on Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and said that demonetization is economic robbery.”The Congress Party wants to obliterate corruption from India. The Congress will support any step against corruption. But notes ban wasn’t against black money or corruption, it was economic robbery,” Gandhi said.The Congress vice-president also used the occasion to reach out to the farmers and labourers. “Prime Minister Modi hasn’t listened to the farmers, but he has forgiven 1.40 lakh crore in loans to 15 rich people but not farmers,” said Gandhi.
ALSO READ Prime Minister Modi has given a befitting reply to Rahul Gandhi: BJPGandhi alleged that the ‘suit boot ki Sarkar’ was in its bid to help its “rich friends” snatching the rights of the poor. “Under National Democratic Alliance (NDA​), 1% of Indians have 60% of the wealth. 99% Indians don’t have black money. 94% of the black money is in Swiss Bank accounts, gold and land. Just 6% of black money is in cash. I don’t know why Prime Minister Modi has made this 6% black money his target, not the 94%,” said Gandhi.

BJP has surrendered to PDP on the issue of West Pakistan refugees: Ex-minister Pawan Gupta

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former minister and Udhampur ​Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Pawan Gupta on Saturday accused Bharatiya Janata Party​ (BJP) of surrendering before Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (​PDP) on the issue of West Pakistan refugees to stay in power.”BJP’s lust of power led it to surrender before PDP to promote the agenda of separatists, while denying the citizenship rights to West Pakistan refugees despite their domicile in Jammu and Kashmir for the last seven decades,” Gupta claimed.Gupta, who was a minister in the Mufti Mohammed Sayeed- led coalition was dropped from the Cabinet when Mehbooba Mufti took over the reins of the state, alleged BJP has betrayed the people of Jammu region.Gupta also accused BJP of aligning with the separatists and PDP to scuttle the establishment of Kashmiri Pandits’ and Sainik colonies in Kashmir. Gupta said the fundamental right of the West Pakistan refugees has been infringed even after they were promised domicile certificates.”Now BJP has taken a U-turn despite its announcement of issuing domicile certificates to the refugees and ridiculously reducing the same to merely issuance of I-cards, thus depriving them any chance of livelihood,” he said.

Kerala vigilance court orders enquiry against Chandy

Fri, 23 Dec 2016-02:50pm , Trivandrum , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Trivandrum vigilance court on Friday ordered a preliminary enquiry against former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and nine other United Democratic Front (UDF) leaders on charges of appointing close relatives to key posts during their respective tenures.Chandy has also been accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 1.9 crore in the solar scam.The scam involves duping of several persons by the two prime accused – S Saritha Nair and Radhakrishnan – who had promised to install solar power panels for them.Chandy served as chief minister of Kerala twice, first between August 2004 to May 2006 and again between May 2011 to May 2016.

DYFI activist murder: Double life imprisonment for 11 RSS activists

Mon, 19 Dec 2016-01:16pm , Thiruvananthapuram , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Additional Sessions Court in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday announced double life sentence for 11 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists in Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) activist Vishnu’s murder case.One of the accused got life imprisonment and the 15th accused in the case got three years imprisonment for helping the accused to hide after committing the crime.According to the prosecution, the accused armed with swords, iron rods and other weapons attacked Vishnu and killed him at Kaithamukku.Out of the total 16 accused in this case, one died in 2008 and another was acquitted by the court on Friday while one is still absconding.

Maharashtra: Polling on for third phase of local body elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Polling is being held for the third phase of elections in 20 municipal councils and two nagar panchayats in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad, Nanded, Bhandara and Gadchiroli districts.The voting is on in Aurangabad and Nanded, which fall under Marathwada region, and Bhandara and Gadchiroli districts of Vidharbha region.There are 1,623 candidates in fray, including 119 for the posts of president of municipal councils.As per a report of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), there are 90 crorepati candidates in the third phase.The election to the Desaiganj municipal council in Gadchiroli has already attracted a lot of attention.The Maharashtra Election Commission has countermanded the election to one ward of the municipal council after Rashtriya Samaj Paksha president and state Dairy Development Mahadev Jankar allegedlytried to pressurise a poll official and influencing the election process.However, Jankar has denied the allegation.

Black money hunt: Why protect political parties and harass the common man?

On a day the Narendra Modi government laid out the contours of new black money declaration scheme for tax cheats, it also left a big loophole that could potentially cause the entire exercise to fall apart— exempting deposits made by political parties from tax scrutiny and subsequent investigation.

This move is absurd, lacks logic and raises a big question on the very intent of the Modi government to unearth black money in the system at any cost.

Reason: The opaque political funding is the foundation of black money in any economy. It is that evil that feeds and nurtures all other forms of illegal cash in the system. Unless political funds are brought under tax scrutiny, everything else the government does in the name of black money hunt will be seen with suspicion.

PM ModiPM Modi

PM Modi

The government move also show how there is a clear double standard for the common man and political parties when it comes to black money hunt. The aaam aadmi is supposed to bare it all, answer questions, face harassment even if his money is legit but politician enjoys a God-given immunity.

Take a look at what the revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia told reporters.

“If it is a deposit in the account of a political party, they are exempt. But if it is deposited in individual’s account then that information will come into our radar. If the individual is putting money in his own account, then we will get information.”

The Section 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 is what gives immunity for political parties in respect of their income from house property, other sources, capital gains and income by way of voluntary contributions received from any person.

Political parties will merrily use this opportunity to put their black money (money for which there is no real source or income that is not taxed) on the table and would say that they got it all from small donors (cash donations less than Rs 20,000 does not need any source). It is not difficult to make backdated donation receipts. This defeats the entire purpose of black money operation.

Analysis by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch in past few years shows that about 75 percent of the sources of funds to political parties remain unknown. Here is where the real problem lies.

When political parties arte party to accepting black money, how do one expect an honest action from them against the very same black money?

It is not a surprise that none of the opposition parties, including principal opposition party, Congress and its (occasionally) fiery leader Rahul Gandhi hasn’t uttered a word on political black money and hasn’t offered to give an example by daring to give own party’s financial details or declining any law-given immunity. That’s understood because all drinks from the same pot and it taste sweet.

But the larger question is why is it that always the common man suffer and the rich and powerful get away?

Why the double standard?

The ongoing demonetisation exercise, originally launched to counter black money and fake currency, has inflicted maximum pain on the poor, not the rich and powerful. The layman waits for hours in ATM/bank queue, face unemployment and financial loss, commits suicide because he couldn’t find enough cash for his daughter’s wedding amid the black money fight of the government, while the rich smiles all the way to the backdoors of banks.

Even in the post-demonetisation era, they have lavish weddings and joy of seeing bundles of new currency notes in their backyards, while it is a miracle for the aam aadmi even if he get hold of a few pieces of new currency.

PM Modi certainly owes an answer to 125 crore Indians, of which a good number are hard working middle class, on the government’s double standard to the common man and the political parties when it comes to the issue of black money.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 12:53 IST

Sushma Swaraj in Global Thinkers list; PM Modi congratulates her

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday congratulated External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on being named in the Global Thinkers of 2016 list compiled by the Foreign Policy magazine.Swaraj was named in the ‘decision makers’ category along with the Democratic Party nominee for US presidential election Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch among others. “Very proud to see our hardworking EAM @SushmaSwaraj part of the @ForeignPolicy Global Thinkers list 2016! Congrats,” Modi tweeted.External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also tweeted, “MEA proud to be led by EAM @SushmaSwaraj, who receives yet another recognition for her unique brand of diplomacy.”The magazine complimented Swaraj “for fashioning a novel brand of Twitter diplomacy”. “From evacuating Indians from Yemen to helping replace lost passports, Swaraj has earned the nickname ‘the common tweeple’s leader’ for her aggressive use of Twitter,” the magazine noted.

Jayalalithaa & Hillary Clinton: On grief, glass ceilings and fighting back

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Grief is the emotion that defines the last five weeks for some of us. Watching the US Presidential election results threw thousands into a depression— across the board because of what it said about how Americans really felt about issues that were thought to be history, but for many of us, because Hillary Clinton came so very close to shattering the last glass ceiling in her country’s political system. This week, many of us felt an unanticipated sense of loss when J Jayalalithaa’s death was officially announced. Whether we agreed with her politically (I mostly did not) and whether we had ever voted for her (I had only done so this year), a great sadness was pervasive. Nothing changes that reality. Supporters grieve Jayalalithaa’s demise. (AFP)“Margaret, are you grievingOver Goldengrove unleaving?” Gerard Manley Hopkins asks a young child in a poem I read in Class 10 and have carried in my heart ever since. Why did we react to these two events with such sadness? Why did I?I belong to a generation that could have never predicted the possibility that an African-American could become the American President. It happened. Twice. When Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination in July, we gave ourselves permission to hope that girls in the US too would be able to aspire to this office. Clinton’s feminism falls short by the yardsticks now held up, especially by younger women, but now the once-impossible was close enough to touch. Never mind that the road to Election Day was paved with the most misogynistic baiting— not just by the other candidate but by the media as well. Clinton held her own, with tenacity, grace and focus, and still she lost. That you could give your whole adult life to public service, that you could work so hard, that you could bear with so much, that you could come so very close and still not be considered good enough for a job that went to someone with a negligible fraction of what you brought to the table— that said that women were simply not entitled to ambition or reward. We were disappointed that Clinton did not win, but what we mourned most of all was that betrayal. It was not that merit, focus and effort were not enough. The message was clear— women were not enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not anything enough to make it to the top. Embed from Getty ImagesJayalalithaa’s story is almost the opposite. In a society where all indicators suggest that women cannot succeed, her sustained ascendancy requires us to recast our assumptions. Someone commented that gender was irrelevant to her story. Gender was completely relevant to her story—her objectification in cinema, her vilification in politics—but her success lay in making them seem irrelevant. Notwithstanding her welfare measures, Jayalalithaa’s politics were gender-blind. Jayalalithaa also belied any essentialist argument for women in power— that they will bring nurture and gender sensitivity to their work. Like any other politician, she has left behind a conventional, mixed track record on the “women’s empowerment” score. Many of us are sad to think of the journey that brought her to this pre-eminence— the price she paid at every turn breaks our heart because we know that is the price every woman politician pays in every patriarchal society. Jayalalithaa was an easy target because she came from cinema to politics— even criticism about her policies was tinged with disapproval of her relationships and her appearance. Even when we disagreed with her on most counts, her presence affirmed that women could force the world to take them seriously. When the mutterers and mockers got done, they would find she was still one of the most powerful people in the country.(PTI)“Now no matter, child, the name:Sorrow’s springs are the same… It is Margaret you mourn for.” Hopkins holds a mirror up to our grief, saying that we mourn for who we once were and can never be again, and we mourn also for what we could never become. In Clinton’s loss and Jayalalithaa’s death, we have seen mirrored our own journeys— coming up against speed-bumps, obstacles, landmines and glass ceilings everywhere. Our grief tells us how every barb they faced mirrored one in our own experience.Hillary Clinton giving her concession speech the day after the election. (Reuters)Clinton and Jayalalithaa had much in common— sharp minds, great work ethic, tremendous ambitious, tenacity, resilience, tumultuous personal lives that kept getting dragged into public discourse and both faced unbelievable sexism and body-shaming. We hurt at their loss because it brings back the wounds of every loss and every jibe we ever faced. The accidental-done-on-purpose forgetting to include us in discussions. The so-called compliment that draws attention to our bodies and away from our professional presence. The friendly advice out of fake concern about our health that undermines our confidence. The unspoken quid pro quos—to forget the things people say and do (the everyday sexism) or to overlook the thing they fail to do (like giving you credit)—in order to keep an oppressive peace. The clinging on to the high ground because it’s the right thing to do, though your fingers hurt and your eyes smart. The hurtful jokes that never sound funny. The dismissal of our ideas that precedes their being co-opted as someone else’s original thought. The creation of standards for our success that do not apply to anyone else— must be personable, must be brilliant, must work hard, must not be ambitious, must not want credit, must not upset the apple-cart, must know her place. Clinton’s election loss and Jayalalithaa’s final departure allow us to cry and rant for all the times in our lives that we have kept quiet.It is Margaret we mourn for.The child in the Hopkins poem has no way to change or reverse either autumn or growing older. But, in our hands, lies the ability to make women’s political activism and participation a less hazardous choice. Since it is also the season of year-gone-by reviews and resolutions, here are some thoughts for things we can work on in 2017 so that we do not feel this grief again.In 2017, we expect five Indian states to elect new legislators— Goa, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. This means we need to get started right away on asking the right questions, lobbying for some bare minimum commitments, holding parties accountable to them and monitoring the election closely. This is civil society’s work— and we are all part of civil society to the extent we choose to be pro-active citizens.Political parties go through the ritual of preparing manifestos. A couple of decades ago, because you could not circulate them very widely and because a healthy scepticism then animated our democracy, we saw these as rituals and manifestos as largely interchangeable. We ignored manifestos routinely. Now we analyse them when they are published but forget to hold winning coalitions responsible for keeping their word. Anyway, since we do seem to think manifestos matter, ensuring gender inclusivity in the issues addressed and gender sensitivity in the language and approach would be a place to begin. Who drafts manifestos and who finalises them? These are the people we need to sensitise.The second challenge in an election season is ensuring that there is gender parity in the allocation of election tickets. How many women are being nominated and who are the women being nominated? Apart from petitions and demands, one useful intervention in each state would be to create directories of women that belie the usual excuse: “Where can we find competent women?” Forget pointing out that competence is not a requirement for male nominees; it would be more constructive to simply provide lists of Panchayat and Zilla Parishad women as well as women social workers from villages and district towns. Is this something we can do in each state?Black money is not the only campaign finance issue that needs to be addressed. Access to campaign support is gendered and parties tend to neglect women candidates in their apportionment. For structural reasons, it is much harder for women to raise funds to campaign. Recognising this, a non-profit in the US, EMILY’s List, identifies women candidates who espouse a set of core political values and helps them raise funds. (‘EMILY’ stands for ‘Early Money is Like Yeast.’) India does not have a comparable culture of political giving so an Indian EMILY’s List is two steps away— creating a culture of individual support to political parties and creating a demand for good women candidates such that people will pay to support them. A more immediate goal would be to engender the campaign finance reform conversation, itself only a faint thread in political discourse.Embed from Getty ImagesRelated to money is the on-ground political support for female candidates. Often in my constituency, a major party does nominate a woman. But unless we really research the candidates, we continue to know little about the person. Too many of us in the voter queues read the Election Commission poster and make a random choice on the spur of the moment. Nomination is the beginning of the journey; female candidates also need a share of political workers who can canvass votes, public and media relations support to raise their profile and ground-level support by more prominent party leaders. This is also a good way to judge a party’s commitment to gender equality.Even easier, because outrage is how we talk politics now, is to call out misogynistic speech and signal that it is now unacceptable to us. The election campaigns to come will be bitterly fought and because women leaders will figure prominently, the vitriol will probably be patronising and sexist. The simplest—laziest—thing we can do is to monitor hate speech and communicate our disapproval in a variety of ways— social media posts and reactions to petitions. Can we commit to cleaner, more inclusive and less ad hominem campaigns?In May last year, before the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, Prajnya put together a Gender Equality Election Checklist which may be applied to any election context.Elections place a spotlight on women’s political exclusion, but really, the time to change that is in the years between elections. Off-season, it becomes clearer where the choke points are, and what can be done to remove them. Off-season, it should be easier to approach one’s representatives and local activists and initiate first conversations about local gender concerns. The years between elections are particularly suited to three sets of important interventions.In the years since gender quotas were introduced into local government, a great deal has been invested in training women Panchayat leaders. However, once trained and armed with experience, these women find they have nowhere to go. Doors open to a minuscule percentage of them at the next level. For the women who cross this threshold, the policy issues are relatively different. The election off-season is a great time for creating training processes and access to policy education for women who have been in Panchayats and are either seeking office at other levels or have been elected at other levels.Embed from Getty ImagesIt is also a good time for civil society to build two kinds of relationships. The first is a consultative equation with legislators that can inform Parliamentary debate on specific issues. Ideally, both sides should seek this out, but typically, civil society does so halfheartedly and the platforms acquire a ceremonial rather than substantive cast. The rare MP or MLA that really wants to sit down and learn and talk through issues is the one that must be feted in the ways that matter— not bouquets and panegyric but through letting people know that these are serious people. Let us reward people for their advocacy of gender issues and their willingness to be identified with inclusive ideals.The second is to create, host and facilitate cross-party alliances on key gender issues. Some things are truly above politics— equality should be one of them. Inner-party politics in India, especially at the state level, divests members of autonomy when it comes to any policy or issue engagement. Party members seek permission for the smallest thing and a siege mentality coats every casual conversation on a social issue with the tinge of possible betrayal. This paranoia may serve parties in some obscure way but it serves us not at all. Can we start to tinker with this thinking in small ways and to build the alliances that will foster true, substantive debate?Where will the women emerge from in nomination season if we have not made them visible in the off-season? I address both civil society and media here. The rosters and directories I spoke of earlier cannot be assembled overnight. The networking opportunities take time to create. Civil society and media are uniquely positioned to sift through false claims and to create openings for sustained, deep social engagement for women who seek a political career. Making women in public life visible is also a way of protecting them from violence and of supporting Women Human Rights Defenders. Moreover, despite how we think of politicians, many women political activists lack simple media and communication skills. How to organise and deliver a speech, how to canvass, the art of writing a pamphlet or a press release, how to use the internet— these are skills anyone can learn and these are skills we can teach each other as a form of support. This is the time to invest in building that kind of capacity.The death of Jayalalithaa this week and Hillary Clinton’s electoral loss a few weeks ago should move us towards action. The sense of purpose we universally admire in them must now inform our choices in 2017. The glass ceiling does not need to shatter; it can systematically be lifted off by our collective resolve and effort. I will make that effort; will you?Swarna Rajagopalan is a political scientist by training and the founder of Prajnya, whose work is largely focused on gender equality.

Sabarimala showdown: Bhumata Brigade, temple authorities in high-stakes game of who blinks first

Bhumata Brigade founder Trupti Desai has kicked the hornet’s nest by insisting she will go forward with her plans of taking a group of menstruating women to the Sabarimala hill shrine in Kerala next month.

Sabarimala is one of the most visited holy sites in the world, with an estimated 50-60 million devotees from all over the country undertaking the pilgrimage between 16 November and 14 January. Even this year, despite the hardships caused by the government’s demonetisation drive, there hasn’t been a dip in the arrival of pilgrims and offerings.

However, the shrine, run by government-controlled Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), restricts entry of women in the reproductive age (10 to 50 years) from entering the temple, claiming that Swami Ayyappa, the main deity of the temple, is a celibate. It’s this clause that the Pune-based gender rights activist Trupti Desai wants to correct. She has called for a protest march demanding women of all ages be allowed entry into the temple, which is located on a hilltop surrounded by mountains and dense forests in Pathanamthitta district.

Trupti Desai. PTI file imageTrupti Desai. PTI file image

Bhumata Brigade founder Trupti Desai. PTI file image

Though the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government backs Desai’s demand, it has asked her to wait until the Supreme Court takes a final decision on the plea pending before it. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), however, has warned of bloodshed if the activists try to enter the temple during the season.

Trupti told Firstpost that the Bhumata Brigade will enter the temple before the season ends on 14 January. She said she was waiting for confirmation of women joining the mission to finalise their travel plans. The activist said she expects between 50 and 100 women to join in, and that they will go to Kerala by 10 January.

However, TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said they will not allow the gender activists to get past Pathanamthjitta, the district headquarters, if they come to Kerala with the intention of entering the temple.

“I haven’t been maintaining good relations with the government after LDF came to power. I have been silent in order to avoid controversy on issues concerning the temple. But this will not stop me from acting in case there is a threat to the temple or the devotees,” Gopalakrishnan said.

He said he was still hopeful the government would stop the women. “Devotees will step in if the state government doesn’t,” he said, adding there could be serious law and order problems if this happens.

Gopalakrishnan said he was appointed by the previous Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government to run the temple in accordance with all customs and traditions followed by it. He said that he considered it his duty to maintain the sanctity of the temple at all costs. “I will not spare any effort in fulfilling my duty. Nobody will be allowed to break the rules at Sabarimala as long as I am in this post. I don’t even mind losing my position for the sake of the temple,” the TDB chief said.

Various Ayyappa devotee organisations have also warned of action if the activists tried to enter the temple forcibly. The Akhila Bharatiya Ayyaappa Seva Sanghom, an all-India body of Sabarimala pilgrims, has asked Desai to desist from undertaking the visit to Sabarimala considering the sentiments of the devotees.

Rahul Eashwar, a member of the Sabarimala tantric family, said several organisations representing women devotees themselves had come forward to prevent women from going ahead with their plans. He said the members of these organisations will form a human chain to prevent Trupti and her supporters from crossing Pampa, the main halting point on the way to Sabarimala.

Eashwar said members of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena and other groups campaigning against women’s entry will position themselves against the Bhumata Brigade’s attempts to defy the ban on menstruating women. Rahul, grandson of the chief priest of the temple, pointed out that the current campaign for entry for women into Sabarimala did not have any support from women in Kerala. He said a majority of the women in the state were against diluting the divinity of the temple.

A group claiming to represent women devotees from the state has even moved the Supreme Court against the petition seeking entry for women into Sabarimala. The organisation called ‘People for Dharma’ has sought to implead in the pending case, saying they were ready to wait till menopause to enter the shrine.

The Chennai-based organisation had earlier run an online campaign mustering support against the feminists. The campaign, titled ‘Ready to Wait’, was a counter to the ‘Right to Bleed’ and ‘Right to Pray’ movements, both seeking equal rights for women at Sabarimala.

Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran has also asserted that the government will not allow anybody to enter Sabarimala in defiance of the rules. He said that the Pune-based organisation had not approached the government with their plans so far. “We are against gender discrimination in places of worship. We have stated our position clearly before the Supreme Court. But this does not mean that we defy practices and customs in place,” he added.

Public works minister G Sudhakaran, who had backed the feminists’ demand in the apex court when he had held the Devaswom portfolio during the last term of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, also said attempts by the Bhumata Brigade to forcibly enter the temple will create a serious law and order problems.

He advised the organisation to avoid such a situation and wait for the Supreme Court order on the petition filed by the Indian Young Lawyers Association in 2006. The apex court had questioned the legality of the practice followed at the Sabarimala shrine many times during the hearing.

Desai, who led successful campaigns for entry of women in Maharashtra — the Shani Shignapur temple in Ahmednagar and Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai — rejected the suggestion, saying that their demand was in accordance with their Constitutional rights.

“We don’t find any point in waiting for the final decision of the court to start our campaign. The court proceedings will go on. We are fighting for our Constitutional rights. Let both continue,” says Trupti.

She said that she and her supporters will go to Sabarimala by observing all rules that a devotee is supposed to follow. The custom at Sabarimala requires devotees to follow austerity for 41 days before the pilgrimage. Desai also said they will ensure the women will not be bleeding while trekking the hill.

“We understand the concerns of the temple authorities about menstrual bleeding. This normally lasts just four days. How anybody can keep away the women on grounds of impurity for the remaining 26 days of a month,” Desai asked, questioning the tradition followed at Sabarimala.

She added that the LDF government in the state will support her campaign, since it has already backed the demand in the apex court. She said they were expecting protection and cooperation from chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his government.

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 21:16 IST

Congress survey predicts party winning 33 out of 70 seats in Uttarakhand

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A pre-poll internal survey conducted by the ruling Congress in Uttarakhand has predicted that the party will win 33 out of 70 seats in the state which goes to polls early next year.”The findings of the survey is highly encouraging for the party, which will now throw all its might to win all the 70 seats in the House,” Uttarakhand Congress chief Kishore Upadhyay said on Thursday. Apart from projecting the party’s victory in 33 seats, the survey also puts it in a formidable position in another 10 seats, he claimed.Interpreting it as an indication that the Congress may win 43 seats, Upadhyay said if it happens it will be the biggest electoral victory for a party in the history of the state. Though he did not clarify the party’s position on its continuing alliance with the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), sources claimed if it does then members of the Front may contest on Congress symbol.Upadhyay also hinted that he would like to contest polls from his home turf, the Tehri Assembly constituency. He was elected MLA from Tehri in 2002 and 2007 but in 2012 he lost by a small margin to PDF’s Dinesh Dhanai.On talk that Chief Minister Harish Rawat is in favour of fielding Dhanai from Tehri, he said, “It is my home constituency from where I have contested elections all my life. How can I give it up?” State Congress vice president Suryakant Dhasmana said the party which was smarting from the setback caused after as many as 10 MLAs deserted it in March has been enthused by the findings of the pre-poll internal survey.

Google, an Obama ally, may face policy setbacks under Trump | Reuters

By David Shepardson, Malathi Nayak and Julia Love

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO Alphabet Inc’s Google faces a tougher regulatory landscape as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration looks poised to reverse Obama administration policies that often favored the internet giant in the company’s battles with telecoms and cable heavyweights, analysts say.Google had close ties with outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, and its employees donated much more to defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than to the Republican Trump.In the most concrete sign yet that the tech policy balance may be tipping in favor of telecom firms ahead of Trump’s presidency, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday halted action on contentious regulatory reform measures opposed by companies such as AT&T Inc and CenturyLink Inc.In addition, the commission is now expected to reject FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s high-profile proposal to open up the $20 billion market for rented pay-TV set-top boxes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That measure would have dealt a big blow to cable companies and created an opening for firms such as Google and Apple Inc.Obama had thrown his support behind the initiative, a move AT&T decried as an improper intervention on behalf of what it called a “Google proposal.””Google has been much more actively involved in this than Apple has,” said Jan Dawson, analyst at Jackdaw Research. “I’m not sure it’s critical to Google’s business at all that it be allowed to provide these next generation set-top boxes, but there was a business opportunity there.”Cable companies have expressed concerns that rivals like Google or Apple could create devices or apps and insert their own content or advertising in cable content.The FCC’s moves came a day after Republican lawmakers urged Wheeler, a Democrat, to avoid any contested regulations in the waning days of the Obama administration, saying new rules would be subject to review by the incoming Republican-led Congress and Trump’s administration and “could create confusion if reversed.””The question is how far will the pendulum swing back” in favor of telecom companies, said Hal Singer, senior fellow at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy. “It has swung in Google’s direction under the FCC and Chairman Wheeler.” Among other regulations, Trump’s Nov. 8 election has increased the chances that Obama’s net neutrality rules, adopted by the FCC in early 2015, could be rolled back, analysts said.

Most Republicans strongly oppose net neutrality, which requires internet service providers to treat all data equally and bars them from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content. The rules were a victory for internet firms like Google and Netflix Inc that have advocated an open internet.Jimmy Schaeffler, telecom industry consultant at the Carmel Group, said that “the bottom line is that things will change and there will be less optimism among and fewer opportunities” for companies like Google that do not own the internet networks.”That’s going to impede their success and those that rely on what they do,” Schaeffler added.Republicans in Congress or at a Republican-controlled FCC under a Trump administration could also pare back new privacy rules adopted in October that subject internet service providers to stricter rules than those faced by Google and other websites.Since Trump’s victory, Alphabet shares have fallen 2.4 percent, Netflix shares have dropped 5.9 percent and Amazon shares are down 2 percent. AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc shares have been relatively unchanged, while Comcast Corp shares have soared 7.7 percent.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.EXTENSIVE TIES
During Obama’s presidency, more than 250 people moved between jobs at Google or related firms and the federal government, national political campaigns and Congress, according to a report this year by the Campaign for Accountability watchdog group’s Google Transparency Project.Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s executive chairman, was seen at Clinton’s Election Night party wearing a staff badge in a widely circulated photo.

In the stolen and leaked emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta disclosed by WikiLeaks, an adviser wrote a memo to Clinton in 2014 that said “working relationships with Google, Facebook, Apple, and other technology companies were important to us in 2012 and should be even more important to you in 2016, given their still-ascendent positions in the culture.””We have begun having discreet conversations with some of these companies to get a sense of their priorities for the coming cycle,” the adviser wrote.Telecoms and cable companies have accused Wheeler of favoring Google at the expense of cable companies. Responding to the criticism, Wheeler said in May: “I hear that allegation, and I scratch my head. I don’t get that charge.””Certainly the sort of cozy relationship that Google enjoyed with the Obama administration is not going to continue with Trump,” Jackdaw Research’s Dawson added.Some analysts and former Google lobbyists noted that the company similarly faced a set of challenging regulatory dynamics when it opened its Washington office in 2005, with Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress and the young tech firm widely perceived to have a liberal bent.”They have a tailwind (in the Obama administration), and that does end now,” a former Google employee at the company’s Washington office said. “But I think in the long run Google is going to be just fine in Washington. In many ways, its whole operation was built just for moments like this.” (Reporting by David Shepardson and Malathi Nayak in Washington and Julia Love in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Will Dunham)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 23:24 IST

War on Black Money: Note ban a bolt from blue in Uttar Pradesh?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes has come at a time when assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are due and parties normally keep aside a substantial amount of unaccounted funds for campaigning.Though the parties are tight-lipped on the issue, the crackdown against black money has left many high and dry as Assembly elections are barely few months away.The role that cash plays in polls can be gauged from the fact that as much as Rs 1,039 crore of the total collections by parties over the past three Lok Sabha polls 2004, 2009 and 2014 was made in cash against Rs 1,299.53 crore by cheques. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which had analysed the I-T returns of political parties, said they declared collecting Rs 2,356 crore during the three parliamentary elections. Of this, 44 per cent or Rs 1,039 crore was in cash and the remaining was by cheque and in kind Rs 1,300 crore by cheque and Rs 17 crore in kind.While cash donations are declared by political parties in line with the Election Commission (EC) guidelines on transparency, seizures during polls indicate that much of the campaign funding is done through black money.For instance, around Rs 330 crore was seized by the EC in cash during the last general elections in 2014. Economist S P Tiwari said the government’s overdrive to root out black money and usher in an era of transparent transactions will remain meaningless as long as it allows political parties to collect donations in cash. “Political parties and elections are major sources of black money transactions,” Tiwari told PTI.With the crucial UP Assembly elections knocking at the door, major parties in the state are already in the process of replenishing their coffers with heavy cash contributions as funding high-voltage campaigns has become a costly affair with hi-tech measures being adopted by bigger parties. Lead players in the poll-bound state are understood to be re-working their strategies on how to manage the campaign with less money with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes becoming illegal tender in one stroke.”Though all paties will be seriously hamstrung, it is going to be a level playing field for all of us,” said a leader, requesting anonymity. An assessment based on income tax filings by parties revealed that during the Lok Sabha elections of 2004, 2009 and 2014, parties collected over Rs 1,000 crore in cash, and the sources of more than 90 per cent of such funds were never disclosed. Majority of all funds collected by parties was from unknown sources. It is not surprising therefore that most of these contributions are made in cash, said another leader.ADR said Assembly elections too see huge collection of cash donations by political parties. “Collectively, during the 71 assembly elections held between 2004 and 2015, political parties declared collecting Rs 2,108 crore in cash (63 per cent of total funds) and Rs 1,245 crore by cheque (37 per cent),” it said.

Indian-American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal organises prayers for Hillary Clinton

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian-American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal on Monday organised a special prayer service in New York seeking blessings for the victory of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the eve crucial elections. Head Sikh priests from the New York area assembled at his luxurious penthouse apartment in Manhattan early on Monday morning and conducted traditional Sikh prayers.Joined by his wife Daman Chatwal and prominent New Yorkers, Chatwal, who is Chairman of the group Indian-Americans for Democrats and Friends of Hillary for President, led the prayer service. The priests chanted hymns and offered prayers in front of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs.Invoking the Almighty, the priests in their prayers said that Clinton is a good friend of the Indian-American community and hoped for victory for her in the elections tomorrow that has her in a tight race with Donald Trump. Chatwal said the prayer service aims to garner blessings for Clinton, who will be the deserving leader of America and is a special friend of the Indian-American community.”Whenever we start something good, we take the blessings of the Almighty. Now 24 hours before the election, we organised the prayer for her so that tomorrow she is assured a sure-shot victory,” he said. He said Clinton is a friend of the Indian-Americans, stressing that she is the leader who will grow the economy further and boost jobs.”She will create more employment, more business opportunities for Americans and will offer durable solutions to tackle problems facing the nation,” he said.Noting that America is a land of immigrants, Chatwal said Clinton will bring in strong policies to deal with the issue of immigration.”We did Ardaas for Clinton’s success. We want that that candidate should win who will be the voice of the Sikh community and will work for the betterment of the American people and humanity. We also pray that she creates history and becomes the first woman President of the US,” said Das Gyani Bhupinder Singh, Head Granthi Gurudwara Sikh Cultural Society New York.

Hindu Sena celebrates Trump ‘victory’ a few days early | Reuters

Hindu Sena celebrates Trump ‘victory’ a few days early | Reuters

Updated: Nov 4, 2016 20:17 IST


NEW DELHI Hindu Sena, an Indian fringe group, on Friday celebrated the “victory” of U.S. presidential contender Donald Trump, hailing his friendship with diaspora Indians and backing his call to ban immigration by Muslims from countries hit by Islamic militancy.With drums banging and speakers blaring, the Hindu Sena, or Hindu Army, gathered at Jantar Mantar – New Delhi’s answer to London’s Speakers’ Corner – to proclaim to a knot of TV crews that Trump had “already won” the Nov. 8 vote.”Trump’s victory is confirmed early, due to his thoughts against Islamic terrorism and love for India and Hindus,” said Vishnu Gupta, the Hindu Sena’s self-styled national president.Trump uttered the memorable phrase “I love Hindu” at a cultural event in New Jersey last month organised by supporters of his candidacy from the Indian diaspora.

That sentiment has not played so well with many diaspora Indians who are secular or belong to other faiths and, as a group, lean more towards supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton.But as far as the Hindu Sena is concerned, the feeling is mutual.

Its celebration at a roadside stall featured posters bearing the slogans, “India Loves Trump” and “Trump Our Only Hope”. One supporter held up a portrait of Trump with a tilak, or religious mark, on his forehead and held a sweet to his mouth.India has not officially endorsed either Trump or Democratic contender Hillary Clinton but has seen a warming in bilateral ties between outgoing President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

WATCH: Facebook Live video of the Hindu Sena celebrating Donald Trump’s “victory” in New DelhiPICTURES: Hindu Sena supports Trump(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

ADHM row: Karan Johar, Raj Thackeray meet CM Fadnavis; film to show tribute to martyrs before screening

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray and filmmakers Karan Johar and Mukesh Bhatt met with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday morning to discuss the row over the release of Johar’s latest film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Johar’s multi- starrer film has been at the centre of a controversy since the Uri terror attack last month. In the aftermath of the terror strike, various sectors demanded a ban on Pakistani artistes from the film industry.The MNS had objected to Indian films featuring Pakistani actors and had threatened to stop the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil which features Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in a cameo.In the meeting with Fadnavis, it was decided that the film industry would not work with any Pakistani artist. Producer Mukesh Bhatt said, “I assured Mr.Fadnavis that the Producer’s Guild has decided that we will not work with Pakistani artists in the future.”Bhatt added, ” Also, Karan Johar has said he will run a slate before the movie starts which honours the martyrs, its a tribute.”Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had extended the Centre’s support to makers of ADHM and assured security to exhibitors amid threats by MNS. Last week, Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association of India announced it would not release movies featuring Pakistani artistes in four states of Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and Karnataka.In response to the controversy and the calls for a ban on his film, Johar had released a video statement earlier this week.In previous meeting, Fadnavis had assured Johar that the Maharashtra government would not allow anyone to disturb law and order. “The state government would like to reaffirm that the government will not allow anyone to disturb law and order and stern action will be taken. Democratic protest is fine but unlawful activity will not be tolerated,” Fadnavis said.Police had also taken strict action against MNS workers on Thursday for protesting and raising slogans outside Metro Cinema in South Mumbai. Twelve activists of the MNS who had gone to Metro theatre to threaten them were arrested and sent to judicial custody till November 4.With agency inputs

dna Morning Must Reads: Third US Presidential debate, latest on Bhubaneswar fire & more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Third US Presidential Debate: Donald Trump refuses to say he will accept election resultsIn the third and final presidential debate with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Republican candidate Donald Trump refused to say on Wednesday that he would accept the outcome of the November 8 US presidential election, leaving open the possibility he would challenge the ultimate outcome. Read in detailBhubaneswar fire: Sum hospital chairman Manoj Nayak surrenders before policeTwo days after the massive blaze at Sum hospital in Odisha’s Bhubaneswar killed 21 people, the hospital’s chairman Manoj Nayak on Thursday morning surrendered before the police, ANI reported. Read reportGST: One tax, many voices; council divided over rate structure, dual controlUnable to cobble together an agreement on two crucial issues of the proposed goods and services tax (GST), rate structure and jurisdiction over tax assessment in different revenue brackets, the three-day GST Council meeting on Wednesday ended inconclusively – a day earlier than scheduled. Read moreJNU missing student: Protest intensifies, VC & other senior officials locked in buildingHours after the brawl between Najeeb Ahmed and ABVP students late on Friday last week, an emergency meeting held by the warden at 12:30 AM pronounced Ahmed guilty and expelled him from the hostel “with immediate effect.” This was revealed in notings of the meeting accessed by DNA that was held between the warden and students immediately after the brawl. Read more Maharashtra, Gujarat leads in murders of RTI activistsDespite directions from the government to protect RTI activists, there is no let up in the attacks on the information seekers across the country. Close on the heels of murder of an RTI activist Bhupendra Vera in Maharashtra on October 15, fresh statistics show that some 311 cases of attacks and harassment cases against RTI activists were reported between October 12, 2005 and October 17, 2016. This also includes murder of 56 information seekers also during the period. Read full report

Kannur violence: SDPI activist hacked to death, third political killing in four days

Within a day of the death of the BJP worker which spurred state-wide protests and bandh, another political slaying was reported from Kerala’s Kannur district, Manorama online reported. Farooq, 45, a Social Democratic Party of India activist was hacked to death in Kannur at around 11 am on Thursday. Farooq was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.

The SDPI has alleged that its core rival, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), is behind the killing and the police have apprehended a local in connection with the murder. This was the third such murder in the city in the past 4 days.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Earlier on Monday, a 52-year-old CPM grassroot leader, K Mohanan, was hacked to death by suspected RSS activists on at Pathiriyad in Kannur district. Following this, on Wednesday, Remith, 25, a Bharatiya Janata Party worker was hacked to death in front of a petrol pump in Pinarayi village, which is also the native place of the state’s chief minister.

While on one hand, CPM has alleged that BJP workers were behind the murder of its leader and called for a hartal on Tuesday in Kannur, the BJP on the other hand, accused the CPM-led government of “unleashing a reign of terror over political opponents.”  Last week, two scheduled caste BJP workers were killed in Kannur district of Kerala.

Following the killings, which are suspected to be politically motivated, BJP chief Amit Shah sought a CBI probe and urged political leaders to condemn the killing. “Kannur has been the centre of Marxist violence in Kerala. The continuous violence against people in the native village of the state’s Chief Minister underlines the government’s ideology. We demand that the Kerala government  hand over the probe into the murder to the CBI,” Shah said in a statement. The BJP-led central government has also asked for a report from the Kerala government on the brutal killing of the 25-year-old BJP activist. The Home Ministry has asked the Kerala government to inform it about the steps taken for the security of political workers in the state, official sources said.

According to sources, Remith’s father was also murdered some years ago. TK Devasia in a Firstpost article argues that the killing of CPM leader Mohanan cannot be seen in isolation. It must be viewed in the backdrop of Remith’s father’s murder, who was stabbed to death. What is instructive to note here is that Remith’s death too comes close on the heels of CPM’s accusation that BJP-RSS activists. Clearly, the traditional BJP-Left rivalry remains vitiated and the Kannur region is extremely politically volatile.  Amid this comes a fresh killing of Farooq, the SDPI activist.

The murder of Farooq is the eighth political murder in Kannur after the LDF came to power. Even on the day the votes were being counted (19 May), a 47-year-old CPM activist Raveendran died in a bomb attack on the CPM victory rally. Since then five lives — three CPM and two BJP men — have been lost to the political bloodbath in the region. In addition to this, a BJP worker was killed in an explosion while handling bombs kept in his house near Kadirur in Kannur district.

With inputs from agencies

Kannur violence: CPM, BJP trade charges, Kerala Congress calls it law and order breakdown

Barely two months after the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government assumed office in Kerala, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, state secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) that heads the ruling front, had asked his party men to ensure that those who attack them should not go back as they came.

The murder of a BJP activist two days after a CPM worker was hacked to death in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Dharmadam constituency in the politically-volatile Kannur district on Monday is widely seen as a virtual implementation of the party chief’s advice.

Thirty-year-old Remith was attacked with sharp weapons on Wednesday morning by a group of people at a petrol pump near Pinarayi town. He suffered deep wounds on his head and neck and died before reaching the hospital.

The murder of Remith is seen as an act of retaliation against the murder of CPM worker, Kuzhichal Mohanan, on Monday. Mohanan, 52, a CPM branch secretary, was hacked to death by six unidentified masked men at his shop in a busy market area in Valankichal.

Kochi: BJP activists staging a protest march in Kochi as part of the state wide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against kiiling of Ramit, a BJP worker, was hacked to death by alleged CPM workers in Pinarayi town of Kannur district ln Kerala. PTI Photo(PTI10_13_2016_000031B)Kochi: BJP activists staging a protest march in Kochi as part of the state wide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against kiiling of Ramit, a BJP worker, was hacked to death by alleged CPM workers in Pinarayi town of Kannur district ln Kerala. PTI Photo(PTI10_13_2016_000031B)

BJP activists stage a protest march in Kochi as part of the state-wide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against killing of Ramit, a BJP worker. PTI

Accusing the CPM of murdering their party activist, the state unit of the BJP has called a state-wide hartal on Thursday to register their protest against the political violence in the state. The party had taken out a march to the CPM headquarters in New Delhi on Monday in protest against the alleged encouragement given by the CPM to political violence.

The murder of Mohanan is not viewed as an isolated incident. Political observers in Kannur do not rule out its connection with the murder of the father of Remith, Chodon Uthaman, 14 years ago. Uthaman, a bus driver, was stabbed to death inside the bus he was driving, by a group of assailants at Keezhur, near Pinarayi on 23 May, 2002.

The murder of Remith came soon after the CPM alleged the hands of the BJP and RSS behind the murder of Mohanan. The CPM had claimed that the BJP, which failed to win the state assembly elections, was resorting to such violent attacks as an act of revenge.

The murder of Remith is the seventh political murder in Kannur after the LDF came to power. The murder spree that started with the death of 47-year-old CPM activist Raveendran, in a bomb attack on the CPM victory rally on the counting day on 19 May has claimed five lives — three CPM and two BJP men — so far.

In addition to this, a BJP worker was killed in an explosion while handling bombs kept in his house near Kadirur in Kannur district. There have been several attacks on political workers and activists since the LDF government came to power.

According to official statistics, more than 50 political attacks have taken place in the district so far. However, BJP has claimed a total 400 cases of violence in the first four months of the government. BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi had claimed that 200 BJP workers were assaulted, maimed or killed, and 200 homes burnt during this period.

Political violence was a major poll plank of the BJP for the 16 May Assembly polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched his campaign by presenting a victim of the political violence. S Sadanandan, who lost both his legs in the CPM attack, was the party’s candidate at Koothuparamba in Kannur district, the hot bed of political violence in the state.

The Prime Minister had taken up the political murders as a major issue when Vijayan called on him first time after assuming office. However, the chief minister left the onus on the BJP saying that he was prepared to bring peace to Kannur if the Sangh parivar was ready to eschew violence.

The CPM had claimed that the BJP, which failed to win the state assembly elections, was resorting to such violent attacks as an act of revenge

The BJP, on its part, accused the CPM of continuing the politics of violence. The national council of the party held at Kozhikode last month took the issue to the national level by compiling the lives of the martyrs and asking the media to debate the issue at the national level.

Pinarayi pleaded helplessness in ending the violence stating that they were being committed by people training by some special groups. He said that some of these groups were also controlling certain political parties.

He accused the Sangh parivar of unleashing violence with the help of the party’s government at the Centre. He said that the violence was part of the attempt by the BJP to consolidate its base in the state by creating communal divide.

The opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front has viewed the chief minister’s statement as an admission of his helplessness in ending the political violence. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president VM Sudheeran termed the recent murders as a clear indication of the breakdown of law and order in the state.

He has urged Pinrayi to relinquish the home portfolio. Sudheeran said that the police controlled by Pinrayi had failed to maintain the law and order. The chief minister, who controls the home portfolio, is responsible for the breakdown of the law and order, he said.

Terrorists mouse-trapped in J&K; second attack on EDI in nine months

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A group of heavily armed fidayeens cruised through Jhelum in a boat on Monday, before occupying the seven-storey Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) hostel building to use it as concrete bunker and engage the security forces in a fierce gun battle.An army soldier was injured in the gunfight, which had been continuing since morning. The fidayeens entrenched themselves at vantage points, and used furniture and other goods to block the staircases and corridors.This is the second time in nine months that fidayeens have been holed up in the EDI complex. On February 22, a 48-hour gun battle between militants and the Indian army had ended after three foreign ultras were neutralised in the EDI building. Three elite para-commandos including two captains, two CRPF men and an EDI gardener, were killed and 13 personnel were injured in the three-day operation.Colonel Rajesh Kalia, defence spokesman at Srinagar, told dna, “The operation is still on. An army soldier has been injured. His condition is stable.”Sources said the group of two to three fidayeens crossed the Jhelum in a boat and barged into the EDI complex from the rear side. Situated on a plateau along the banks of Jhelum, the EDI complex comprises the main office building and hostel. The seven-storey hostel complex is being used as a makeshift office for EDI since February, when the main building suffered extensive damage in a fidayeen strike.Militants tried to set the hostel building on fire to confuse the security forces. When the smoke started billowing out, fire tenders were immediately rushed to the spot. The lurking militants, however, opened fire that blew their cover. “Militants entered the building at 6am and tried to set it on fire,” EDI director Mohammad Ismail Parrey told dna.”We are using the first three floors as a makeshift office. Other floors still serve as hostel. Only a cook and a waiter were present at the time of the attack, who escaped unhurt,” Parrey said.Security forces cordoned off the building from all sides while militants kept firing intermittently. The security personnel fired rockets, grenades and used IEDs to neutralise the militants.”Para commandos of the Special Forces have been called in to eliminate the fidayeens. The personnel are working slowly deliberately in a bid to exhaust the fidayeens and prevent any troop fatality,” said an officer.Security forces have been on maximum alert since the army carried out surgical strikes in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Sources suspect fidayeens holed up in the EDI complex might have been planning to enter Srinagar but could not do so due to heightened security on the Srinagar-Jammu highway.”Every day, it’s either militants snatching guns or militants staging attacks. How can the Centre be so blasé about where J&K is headed? All the EDI ever did was train young Kashmiri boys and girls to stand on their own feet and not seek government jobs. Militants don’t like that!” tweeted former chief minister Omar Abdullah.Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said attacking schools and EDI was a thought-out strategy to deprive Kashmiri youth of opportunities for education and work.

A new worry for Clinton – Trump’s struggles may depress Democratic voter turnout | Reuters

By James Oliphant

WASHINGTON Hillary Clinton’s campaign is confronting an emerging risk to her presidential ambitions – if Donald Trump continues to trail her in opinion polls many Democrats may simply stay at home on Election Day.Without enough popular support, Clinton would enter the White House lacking the political capital she would need to drive through her agenda. In the worst-case scenario it could cost her the presidency if Republicans turn out in big numbers on Nov. 8. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has spent much of her campaign sounding the alarm over the prospect of a President Trump. She has struggled to lay out a compelling vision for her presidency and has failed to excite key constituencies, including millennials, minority voters and liberal Democrats.Opinion polls show that many voters are backing Clinton primarily to stop Trump, the Republican nominee, from getting into the White House. If they believe he has no hope of winning, then what would their motivation be to turn up at the polls? In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll about half of all Clinton supporters said they were backing her to keep Trump from winning. By contrast, just 36.5 percent said it was because of Clinton’s policies and just 12.6 percent said it was because they like her personally. “Turnout is correlated with levels of competition,” said Michael McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida. “The higher the competition, the higher the turnout.”The young Americans, blacks, Latinos, and low-income voters who make up much of the Democratic base often need to feel motivated by a particular candidate or issue to turn out, McDonald said, as was the case with President Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008. Clinton’s campaign has long worried about voter complacency and has at every turn pushed the notion that the race is close and that Trump is unfit to be president. With her lead growing, that task grows more difficult.A Reuters/Ipsos 50-state survey (carried out before Friday’s release of a video tape in which Trump makes vulgar remarks about women) gave the Democratic nominee a 95 percent chance of winning the election. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll on Monday showed Clinton with an 11-point lead nationally over Trump.

Low Democratic voter turnout could leave Trump an opening in swing states. And should Clinton win the election, a slim margin of victory could compound the challenge she will face in trying to govern a deeply divided nation. Clinton’s campaign, however, will be able rely on an extensive and well-funded voter mobilization effort, one that is expected to give her an edge over Trump’s smaller organisation. MOVING PAST TRUMP
The Clinton campaign insisted on Monday the race will remain tight. It sent out a new fundraising pitch to supporters, contending that Trump is “an authoritarian threat” for saying at Sunday’s presidential debate that she would be in jail if he was president.

Clinton must also contend with anger among liberal Democrats over leaked excerpts of paid speeches she made to banks and big business. The excerpts appeared to confirm their fears about her support for global trade and tendency to cozy up to Wall Street.Some liberals have also been waiting for Clinton to make a more positive case for her own presidency.“This election cannot be just a referendum on Donald Trump,” said Arun Chaudhury, creative director of Revolution Messaging, a left-leaning consulting firm that oversaw the online media operation of former Clinton rival, Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s central message, he said, has been that “everyone has to step up and stop Donald Trump from being president, not step up and make Hillary Clinton president.” “The best campaign messages are comparative in nature,” said Ben Turchin, a Democratic pollster who worked for Sanders’ campaign. “She can win by a bigger margin by giving a little more of an affirmative case for her presidency.”

While Clinton frequently goes on the attack against Trump, calling him racist, sexist and dangerous, her campaign insists it has been trying to get a positive, policy-oriented message out.“It is hard in this campaign when you’re running against him and he generates so much controversy and therefore headlines,” Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, told Reuters. “It’s hard to break through on any one day, and that’s why we just have to keep at it.”The two candidates’ central campaign slogans reflect their differing appeals to the electorate. Where Trump’s is the change-oriented “Make America Great Again,” Clinton’s is a more stolid “Stronger Together,” which speaks to rallying existing Democratic voters around her candidacy – and is a harder sell. Clinton’s campaign seems to have recognised the need for some adjustments to its message. Since the presidential race intensified last month, Clinton has returned to the style of campaigning that helped her win early states in the Democratic nominating contests, holding smallish events focused on issues of most concern to core Democratic constituencies such as women and young voters. Turchin, the former Sanders pollster, said Clinton’s efforts at fashioning a positive message were improving, although she is still having difficulty attracting the support of 18-to-34 year-old voters, among others. “You’ve got to make the hard case over and over again,” he said. “She’s got to convince people she shares their values.” (Reporting by James Oliphant, Amanda Becker, Chris Kahn, and Emily Stephenson. Written by James Oliphant, editing by Paul Thomasch and Ross Colvin)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

PoK men living in Italy fund Kashmir unrest via separatists, says ED

Firdous Ahmad Shah and Yar Mohammad Khan, Hurriyat separatists, have been charged by the ED for money laundering, raising finance for terror activities, holding proceeds of terrorism. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Enforcement Directorate had sought the details on six men from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) who live in Italy for funding terror activities in Kashmir via the Hurriyat separatists, reports The Times of India. The ED had filed for the information less than three weeks before the Uri attack and given it to the district court on 24 August, 2016 and 30 August, 2016.The report says Hurriyat separatists, Firdous Ahmad Shah and Yar Mohammad Khan used Italian remittance firm, Madina Trading, at Corso Garibaldi to receive money from the men from PoK. The firm is based in Brescia, Italy. The same company was used to make a internet protocol account for 26/11 attackers in 2008 with software firm Callphonex. Shah and Khan have been charged with money laundering, raising finance for terror activities, holding proceeds of terrorism, waging and attempting war against India.Shah is also a member of Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s hardline Hurriyat Conference and chief of Democratic Political Movement.

Arunachal CM Khandu appoints 26 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Sunday appointed 26 MLAs as parliamentary secretary to assist in the smooth functioning of his government. Khandu administered the oath of office and secrecy to the new parliamentary secretaries, including two women, in a simple function in the presence of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma. This is the first time that a large number of MLAs were appointed as parliamentary secretaries in the state.Of the newly appointed parliamentary secretaries, six are former ministers — Phosum Khimhum, Gojen Gadi, Jarkar Gamlin, Phurpa Tsering, Thangwang Wangham and Thirong Aboh. The others are C T Mein, Punji Mara, Jambey Tashi, P D Sona, Bamang Felix, Likha Saaya, Markio Tado, Gum Tayeng, Karya Bagang, Tapuk Taku, Kumsi Sidisow, Nikh Kamin, Techi Kaso, Mutchu Mithi, Pani Taram, Tatung Jamoh, Mama Natung, Nyamar Karbak, Zingnu Namchoom and Dikto Yekar. The portfolios of the parliamentary secretaries would be allocated soon.The development came days after the Congress lost its government in Arunachal Pradesh to BJP-led front NEDA when 43 of its MLAs led by Chief Minister Khandu defected wholesale and merged with the People’s Party of Arunachal, just two months after it had regained power.In a House of 60, the Congress had 44 MLAs with one seat falling vacant after former chief minister Kalikho Pul committed suicide on August 9, while the BJP has 11 members including two Independents.The status of two Congress MLAs is yet to be decided as they put in their papers before the recent series of political developments that led to the first Tuki government falling in January this year, imposition of President’s rule and installation of the late Kalikho Pul government on February 19 for a short span.

Narendra Modi’s talks offer signals end of road for separatists

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In what can be qualified as a significant statement on the ongoing Kashmir crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday expressed “deep concern and pain” at the prevailing situation in state and called for a “dialogue to find a permanent and lasting solution” within the framework of the Constitution.Though PM’s statement goes one step forward than his last utterance on Kashmir at a rally in Madhya Pradesh on August 9 in which he had broken his silence on the unrest by appealing to the youth to hold laptops instead of carrying stones, it indicates end of the road for separatists by sticking to the oft-repeated “within the framework of Constitution”.It backtracks a long way from the position former PM Vajpayee’s took by indicating that he would go beyond the Constitution to settle Kashmir dispute in his famous quote of Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat.Trying to make an emotional connect with the people of the distraught region, the PM said, “those who lost their lives during recent disturbances are part of us, our nation; whether the lives lost are of our youth, security personnel or police, it distresses us.”The PM’s remarks stand in contrast with those of finance minister Arun Jaitley, who, while addressing a rally in Jammu’s Samba region on Sunday, described stone-throwing protesters as “aggressors out to divide the country”.Interestingly, a day earlier, home minister Rajnath Singh in Lucknow had sought to apply healing touch by saying that “I want to tell the people of Kashmir that we not only love the land of Kashmir but also its people. I would like to appeal to the Kashmiris that we do not want to see stones, bricks and firearms in their hands but pen, computers and jobs. We want to see you employed.”Modi’s statement came soon after he met a delegation of the opposition parties from J&K who called on him to apprise about the “dangerous” situation that is spreading beyond the Valley to Pir Panjaal, Chinab valley of Kargil regions and asked him to find a lasting political solution to the vexed issue through dialogue instead of applying piecemeal administrative measures.Former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who was part of the 20-member delegation, said the PM accepted delegation’s memorandum and agreed that development alone is not an answer to the crisis. “The Prime Minister told us in categorical terms that development alone will not resolve this problem,” said Omar.Refusing to draw any conclusions, Omar added, “I am not going to put words into the Prime Minister’s mouth nor am I going to draw further meaning from what he said.”However, in his statement, the PM indicated that the Centre is keen for a political outreach and is looking for a window to begin the process of dialogue, as he emphasized that “there has to be dialogue and we need to find a permanent and lasting solution to the problem within the framework of the Constitution.”Conveying that his government and the nation stands with the State of Jammu & Kashmir, PM urged all political parties to reach out to the people and convey the same and appealed for restoration of normalcy.The delegation on Saturday had met President Pranab Mukherjee and sought his immediate intervention to impress upon the Central government to find a political solution to Kashmir crisis. It now plans to meet mainstream opposition parties to build more pressure on the government.The PMO said the meeting with the delegation comprising of Omar Abdullah of National Conference, Ghulam Ahmed Mir of Congress, Hakeem Mohammad of People’s Democratic Front, M Y Tarigami of CPM and Ghulam Hassan Mir of Democratic Party Nationalist was held in “an atmosphere of free and frank discussion”.Sources in the home ministry said the Centre would soon make an announcement on banning the use of pellet guns and suggest alternate measures of non-lethal nature to control the agitators.

Kashmir unrest: J&K leaders urge President to intervene

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A delegation of Opposition parties from Jammu and Kashmir met President Mukherjee on Saturday seeking his immediate intervention to impress upon the Central government to find a political solution to Kashmir crisis instead of tackling it administratively in a ham-handed manner and worsening the situation.”The root cause of the current agitation lies in politics and solution must be found politically and not through use of force. It will be counter productive,” said former chief minister Omar Abdullah of National Conference after meeting the President.Warning that the current unrest is now “showing signs of spreading beyond the valley to Pir Panjal, Chinab Valley and Kargil region of Ladakh”, Omar said, “The failure of the central government to acknowledge that the issue in Kashmir is largely of a political nature has worsened the already volatile situation. All attempts to crush the agitation by heaping more misery, by imposing further restrictions has driven more people put on the streets.”Omar blamed Pakistan for adding fuel to the fire to the unrest that unfolded after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s encounter death on July 8.Pointing out at BJP-PDP coalition government’s failure to tackle the Kashmir crisis, Abdullah said, “It is very sad that instead of political leadership it is the Army chief of Northern Command that has voiced his concern and spoken about the need of a dialogue with different stakeholders.”The delegation pointed out at non-implementation of recommendations of the Working Groups and blamed the government for not tabling the interlocutor’s report in the Parliament that was constituted to solve the longstanding Kashmir crisis.CPM leader Tarigami said, “The government should not shy away from political outreach and must meet the separatist leadership.”Omar warned that a “continued delay to engage with the people of the state through a comprehensive and sustained political initiative will further deepen the sense of alienation in the Valley and cast a shadow of uncertainty on its future generation”.He said the delegation also requested the President to use his “influence” on the state as well as the Centre “to stop the use of lethal force against civilians in the Valley”.Refuting Kashmiri leader Sajjad Lone’s claim that only 5% of Kashmiri population is part of the unrest, Omar said, “I challenge him to try visiting his home in constituency Handwara let alone carry out a meeting….The unrest has spread to all the rural areas…It is a matter of grave concern.”The delegation consisting of 22 senior leaders from Congress, CPM, Peoples’ Democratic Front (PDF) and Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) met President Mukherjee for nearly one hour.Besides Abdullah, the delegation also included JK Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir, CPM leader M. Y. Tarigami, PDF leader Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen, PDP (Nationalist) Ghulam Hassan Mir and several senior leaders from National Conference and Congress.Sense of alienation will deepen: OmarOmar warned that a “continued delay to engage with the people of the state through a comprehensive and sustained political initiative will further deepen the sense of alienation in the Valley and cast a shadow of uncertainty on its future generation”. The delegation will be meeting mainstream Opposition parties in New Delhi during next to couple of days to convey them about “grave situation” prevailing in J&K to build up more pressure on the central government.

Let’s debate Uniform Civil Code because we’ve long ignored real minorities

In the case against implementation of a Uniform Civil Code in India, it is often argued that since India is a secular, democratic republic and since its Constitution guarantees minorities the right to follow their own religion, culture and customs, implementing a common code of personal laws covering property, marriage, divorce, inheritance and succession would go against India’s secular fabric.

Representational image. Getty ImagesRepresentational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

This argument which opponents of UCC repeatedly fall back on, is specious. In fact, by conveniently conflating several issues, bodies like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) seek to actually undermine democracy’s basic duty, i.e., protecting the rights of minorities, thereby going against the fundamental principle of any constitutional democracy.

If that sounds self-contradictory, it isn’t.

But a word first on the context of the present argument. The Centre has reportedly asked the Law Commission, which has an advisory role on legal reform, to examine the implications of implementing a uniform civil code. Though the BJP has long argued for a national debate on this issue, despite being in power it has so far been unwilling to pick up the topic. This move, as reported by Economic Times on Friday, would therefore be the first time that a government has begun to investigate UCC’s on-ground implications.

According to the article, the law ministry has written to the Law Commission to examine the matter in relation to uniform civil code and submit a report. The ministry has also sent related documents to the Commission, which is currently headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan. The panel will submit a report after discussions with experts and stakeholders.

The Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, M Venkaiah Naidu, had recently favoured a debate on “common civil code” and had said the government would move forward only after a broad consensus and nothing will be thrust upon anyone.

“What is best in every religion, in every society should be taken out. I am of the firm view, marriage, divorce, inheritance and right to property these things should be common. Other things, of course, what is the way of worship, what is the way of other practices should be left to individuals. There is nothing against any religion in common civil code,” he said, adding that he favours the term “common” civil code over “uniform” since “Uniform conveys a different meaning”.

The minister’s statement goes at the heart of the debate over Uniform Civil Code. What bodies like AIMPLB have done is that they have approached the debate as a Hindu-Muslim binary and from there, launched a polemic against the move to have a common set of laws. And parties have latched on to this argument to turn UCC into a political debate with clearly drawn faultlines.

UCC, goes the dominant narrative, is a clever attempt to homogenize minorities — which is largely used to denote the entire Muslim community — and erode their identity. This patently dubious and morally repugnant argument needs to be called out.

In a recent move, resisting the Supreme Court’s suo motu decision to test the legal validity of triple talaq, the AIMPLB has said that the country’s top court has no jurisdiction to undertake the exercise as Muslim personal law is based on the Quran and not on a law enacted by Parliament.

“Muslim personal law is a cultural issue, it is inextricably interwoven with the religion of Islam. Thus, it is the issue of freedom of conscience guaranteed under Articles 25 and 26 read with Article 29 of the Constitution,” it said in an affidavit filed in court in March this year.

To argue that Article 25, which confers right to religion militates against a common civil code is a red herring. It is invalid and a spurious conflation. Right to worship or to practice religion should not be confused with individual rights relating to inheritance, marriage or divorce.

In fact, attempts to keep personal laws out of the ambit of judicial scrutiny all the while subjecting individual rights to its interpretation is doing grave injustice to real minorities within the religion-based divisions of communities.

What the debate over “secularism” often misses is that minority rights cannot be defended by separating it from human rights. The whole concept of minority itself is an artificial construct, because it is relative. In a group of 200, 25 maybe a minority but within this group, 20 is a majority. The 25 who claim minority status in a larger majority, cannot deny human rights to their own internal minorities (5) what they claim as minority rights.

The secularism debate, which reflexively seeks a ban on any debate over Uniform Civil Code, fails to take into account that in the name of protecting Muslims or other minorities’ rights, communal rights have been prioritized over human rights of individual within minority groups.

The defining feature of a functioning democracy is its adherence to the theory and practice of the fundamental principles of equity, justice and inclusion for all. That “all” includes women, men, young, old, able-bodied and disabled alike, and regardless of race, class, religion or sexual orientation.

The most handy example of how vulnerable these groups, for example women, are, within the larger minority groups became clear during the recent raging debate over triple talaq.

Thousands of Muslim women have recently sought support to abolish the “heinous” practice of ‘triple talaq’, which they have termed an “un-Quranic” practice.

A Times of India report says “over 50,000 Muslim women and men have signed a petition seeking a ban on triple talaq. The petition, spearheaded by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), has sought the National Commission for Women’s intervention to end this “un-Quranic practice”.

BMMA co-founder Zakia Soman said a national signature campaign was under way in different states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, MP, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Kerala and UP.

The report quotes a recent BMMA study which found that 92 per cent Muslim women supported an end to this practice where unilateral talaq is being frequently given over phone, text message and even email with women mostly at the receiving end.

Farah Faiz, Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh (RMMS) president, recently gave a speech before a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice A M Khanwilkar on how the AIMPLB and Muslim bodies had started operating sharia’h courts to impose rigid practices on unsuspecting Muslims.

“Women’s rights are equally protected by the Constitution. But these sharia’h courts and qazis do not allow women to enforce their rights. Defiance invites ostracisation. AIMPLB is attempting to give a religious tone to the debate on the validity of ‘triple talaq’ by terming it a practice ordained by Quran,” she said.

The line taken by the AIMPLB isn’t surprising. According to a report carried by Indian Express, the board feels the matter of triple talaq was “not an issue” among Muslims and that it had been brought up to implement a uniform civil code in the country.

“The so-called movement against this law has been started to introduce a uniform civil code in the country. It is more of a media hype… the issue is of no importance among Muslim women and there is no need to bring about any change in the laws.”

When positions are this hard and conflated, the natural reaction is shy away from even moving towards a common set of laws that upholds human rights, as has been the case. But then it is also India’s failure as a democratic republic. The government is right to move towards initiating at least a debate.

US Senator praises NSG after India failed to get membership

A US Senator has praised the NSG for deciding against granting India membership of the grouping immediately, hours after the elite group’s plenary meeting ended in Seoul with no decision on India’s membership in face of strong China-led opposition. “Today, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) reaffirmed its strong support for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by refraining from admitting India,” Junior Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Edward Markey said in a statement.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NSG was founded in response to India’s 1974 nuclear test and it has worked for decades to prevent the sharing of technology that could contribute to the further spread of nuclear weapons, he said yesterday. “If India joined the Nuclear Supplier Group, it would be the only participating government in the organisation that was not a party to the NPT, weakening the NSG’s commitment to the treaty. By refraining from admitting India, the NSG strengthened both the treaty and the broader global nonproliferation regime,” Markey, a known India-basher, said.As a member of the US House of Representative, Markey has unsuccessfully led effort to block passage of civil nuclear deal between India and the US. Last month during a Congressional hearing, Markey had opposed India’s NSG membership application. The NSG yesterday ended its plenary meeting in Seoul with no decision on India’s membership. “The NSG plenary in Seoul earlier in the day decided against granting India membership of the grouping immediately and said it will continue to have discussions on participation of countries which have not signed the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said yesterday.China, which had made no secret of its opposition, succeeded in scuttling India’s bid despite a significant majority backing the Indian case. Thirty-eight countries supported India, according to Indian officials.

Jayalalithaa praises Hillary Clinton for becoming first woman US presidential nominee

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Friday greeted Hillary Clinton for clinching nomination as Democratic Party’s candidate for the upcoming US Presidential election, and vividly recalled the meeting between the two in 2011 in Chennai.”It is a matter of immense pride and satisfaction for all the women in the world and in particular, women in democratic electoral politics that you have become the first woman to be a candidate of one of the two major political parties in the United States for the Presidency,” she said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a letter to Clinton, Jayalalithaa said the former Secretary of State, while “creating history,” had given voice and hope to the cause of women empowerment across the world.”I have fond memories of your visit to Chennai on 20th July, 2011, as the Secretary of State, and our warm and cordial interaction on the occasion on a range of issues of mutual interest.””My best wishes are with you for the further stages of the campaign and for the Presidential Election in November this year. I have no doubt that as your political career peaks, you will continue to be a role model for women across the world,” she told the Presidential hopeful.

dna Morning Must Reads: Hillary close to clinch Democratic nomination; Vijender Singh’s Rio dream; PM Modi in US; and more

1. NSG: Swiss says a big Yes, but China wall aheadEven as Prime Minister Narendra Modi scored a diplomatic victory on Monday, by managing to win the crucial support of Switzerland for India’s entry into the elite 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Chinese wall still stands in India’s way in clinching NSG membership. Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. US elections 2016: Hillary Clinton clinches Democratic presidential nomination, says reportAccording to report, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has reached the 2,383 delegates needed to become presumptive Democratic nominee. Read more here3. US returns 200 cultural artifacts worth US $100 million to IndiaFrom a bronze Ganesh to a Jain figure of Bahubali were returned to India at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Read more here4. Vijender Singh dreams Rio, promoter says noVijender Singh is facing a big dilemma. On the one hand, he has a booming professional boxing career ahead of him but on the other, he may have to forget about representing his country again in the Olympics. Read more here5. I love proving people wrong: Tiger ShroffTiger Shroff talks about hits under his belt and about being the youngest actor to have a franchise to his name. Read more here

BJP hoping to persuade Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK to join NDA alliance in upcoming meeting

While AIADMK will be busy trying to get financial assistance for several of the projects in the state during Jayalalithaa’s visit to New Delhi, BJP is expected to talk only politics and strengthen NDA alliance. According to a report in Deccan Chronicle, June 14 will be the most likely date for the meeting between Jayalalithaa and Narendra Modi. With 49 MPs from AIADMK, BJP will be trying to convince Jayalalithaa to join the National Democratic Alliance. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jayalalithaa will be on a two-day visit to Delhi, said the report quoting sources. Issues such as a financial package for Tamil Nadu, water issues with neighbouring states, and fishermen being arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy are likely to figure in the discussions. The Chief Minister will be seeking ‘generous’ financial assistance from the Central government for the state. Quoting a senior BJP leader, the report said “The Jayalalithaa-Modi meeting is being keenly watched by all parties. BJP wants to formalise the relationship with AIADMK. AIADMK has been on BJP’s side as far as Parliament is concerned and now the time has come for the Dravidian party to be in the alliance.”BJP will be using the cordial relationships of central ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to persuade her to join in the fold of NDA. Mr Venkaiah Naidu had represented PM Modi at Jayalalithaa’s swearing-in as Chief Minister on May 23. The DC report also said that the TDP, one of NDA alliance partners from Andhra Pradesh will also be happy if AIADMK comes on board.

NDA to get AIADMK into its fold?

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) could have another partner from the south, if J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK decides to join the coalition.While a final word is yet to be said on the proposed alliance, sources said that even if AIADMK came into the NDA fold, it was unlikely to join the government at the Centre.This would mean that the party will not need to be given ministerial berths in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Council of Ministers, but the ruling NDA would be able to muster its strength with the support of AIADMK MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In Lok Sabha, the AIADMK is the third largest party with 37 seats. The AIADMK has 12 MPs in Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA is in a minority with 65 MPs. After its victory in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK could add one more to its tally. Of the six seats that fell vacant from the state, three were from AIADMK, two DMK and one Congress.If the BJP gets the AIADMK on its side, it would give the government more room for legislative manoeuvering in Parliament. It could also help the government in managing numbers for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in Rajya Sabha. So far, Tamil Nadu parties — AIADMK and DMK — have been opposing the bill, besides the 64-member Congress and some other Opposition parties.The government needs the backing of two-third of those present and voting for passage of the Constitution amendment bill. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has the government will try to push GST bill in the monsoon session which begins next month.The BJP’s doors have always been open for the AIADMK, which has been an old partner of the NDA. The BJP failed to get a foothold in Tamil Nadu, where the party does not have a backward leader. Jayalalithaa won a second term in a state where no party returned to power for a second consecutive time.

AIADMK slams Congress over delay in ministry formation in Puducherry

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Puducherry: The opposition AIADMK on Friday appealed to the new Lt Governor Kiran Bedi to come out with a firm measure to ensure that a new government was formed in the Union Territory.

“It is indeed a sad commentary on democracy that despite lapse of more than 15 days since the results of 16 May assembly polls were announced, Congress could not form the Ministry,” AIADMK’s legislature party leader A Anbalagan told reporters.

He urged Lt Governor Kiran Bedi to come out with a firm step to ensure that a new government was formed here.

“She can in the alternative ask the next single largest party to go in for formation of the ministry,” he suggested.

“We are not in a position to do our democratic duties in our constituencies as we are yet to be sworn in as members of the House,” he said.

Anbalagan said he would lead an AIADMK delegation to meet the Lt Governor and seek her intervention to break the deadlock.

Alliance with Congress in West Bengal was out of tune: CPM politburo

New Delhi:The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) politburo on Monday admitted that the electoral strategy in West Bengal “was not in consonance” with the party’s central committee decision.

“With regard to the electoral tactics pursued by the CPM in various states, the electoral tactics evolved in West Bengal was not in consonance with the Central Committee decision based on the political-tactical line of the party which states that there shall be no alliance or understanding with the Congress party,” a statement from the CPM politburo said.

CPM Genral Secretary Sitaram Yechury. PTICPM Genral Secretary Sitaram Yechury. PTI

CPM Genral Secretary Sitaram Yechury. PTI

The statement was issued at the end of a two-day meet of the party’s highest policy-making body.

The statement added that the CPM state committees in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam will “prepare a detailed review” of the party’s performance in the recent assembly elections.

“On the basis of these review reports prepared by the state committees, the Central Committee will conduct its review at its forthcoming meeting from June 18-20,” it said.

The politburo in its statement lashed out at the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal for “unleashing widespread violence against the cadres of the opposition parties”.

“Many CPM cadres have been murdered and over 600 CPM and mass organisation offices have been ransacked and some set on fire,” it said, adding that the attacks specifically focus on constituencies and areas “where Trinamool Congress lost in these elections.”

“Widespread bomb attacks, arson and extortion of huge amounts of money as ransom are being reported. Those who voted against the Trinamool Congress are reportedly coerced into paying a hefty fine for having exercised their democratic choice,” the statement said.

The party called upon the people of West Bengal “to unitedly resist this murder of democracy and civil liberties in the state”.

On Kerala poll outcome which has brought the Left Democratic Front (LDF) back to power, ousting the Congress, the statement said, “The politburo salutes the people of Kerala for reposing faith in the LDF in a resounding manner in these assembly elections.”

“The LDF government has assumed office with a resolve to fulfill the commitments that it made to the people of Kerala during the polls.”

However, it alleged that “the physical attacks by the RSS against the CPM and the LDF continue,” adding that 41 such attacks have already taken place since the election results were declared.

“Two comrades have lost their lives, with Sasikumar, who was seriously injured in an attack at Engandiyoor in Thrissur on 22 May, succumbing to his injuries on 27 May,” it alleged.

“The CPI-M calls upon the RSS/BJP to respect the verdict of the people (of Kerala) and desist from such murderous onslaughts,” it said.

Kerala: The road ahead for Pinarayi Vijayan

After a gap of 17 long years , Pinarayi Vijayan made a comeback to electoral politics in the 2016 state assembly elections and went to become Kerala’s Chief Minister. On Wednesday, May 25, when he took charge as the Chief Minister, the man who does not smile began making significant changes with immediate effect. He asked the elected MLAs to follow a strict code of conduct and introduced austerity measures such as no unwanted expenditure, no renovation of ministers’ residences and no fancy cars. He also promised a government that would stand for justice, security and prosperity for all and declared a zero tolerance for corruption.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Along with VS Achuthanandan, 72-year-old Pinarayi Vijayan had led the campaign for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the election. Their efforts bore fruit when LDF won 91 of the 140 seats in the assembly. Pinarayi won with a huge margin of 36,905 votes from Dharmadam constituency in Kannur district, while Achuthanandan won from Malampuzha.Born in 1944 to a toddy tapper’s family in Kannur, Pinarayi has been elected to the state legislative assembly four times. In 1988, he became a state secretariat member, and CPM state secretary in 1998 after the death of incumbent Chadayan Govindan. It was a post he held for 17 years, until 2015.As CM, in order to reinstate the security and justice system in the state, Pinarayi addressed the rape and murder case of the Dalit law student. On the day he took charge, he announced that the government would set up a new investigating team to nab the culprits. The 31-year-old woman was found murdered in her home near a canal in Perumbavoor, Ernakulam on April 28, 2016. It made headlines five days later and has since been a big topic of discussion and debate in the state.VS Achuthanandan, the 92-year-old party veteran and former CM, has always been a thorn in Pinarayi’s side for almost two decades. Though Pinarayi was offered a seat to contest the polls for the two assembly elections preceding this one, he opted out after Achuthanandan was projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. But the party came together with Pinarayi contesting this year and Achuthanandan even campaigning for him. Even if Pinarayi Vijayan forgets any of his poll promises, one expects Achuthanandan will be watching over his shoulder.Pinarayi’s “courtesy call” to Narendra Modi on May 28 was seen as an important as move, crucial for the party to maintain a rapport with the Central government. If the state government fails to develop a good relationship with the Centre, projects such as ports, airport and other infrastructure development could face obstacles. Newly sworn-in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his ministers with Kerala Governor P Sathasivam at the oath ceremony in Thiruvananthapuram. PTIThe economy has always been a source of worry for Kerala as the entire state has been dependent on remittances from its workers migrating to different countries, especially the Gulf. The state is currently on the brink of a debt crisis. Finance Minister TM Thomans Isaac said that the state has an immediate liability of Rs 5,784 crore while the treasury balance is Rs 700 crore. Firstpost reports that Kerala has a debt of Rs 1,54,000 crore and 60% of it needs to be repaid in then next five years. Tackling this should be one of the main priorities of the new government.Job generation and talent exodus in Kerala is also something the government will need to address. During its campaign, LDF promised to create 25 lakh jobs in the state in the next five years. It remains to be seen how the government will implement thisDespite the challenges, the people in the state hope that Pinarayi Vijayan will steer the ship in the right direction as they have given him a clear mandate in the 2016 elections.

Sun Pharma gets U.S. subpoena over generic drugs pricing | Reuters

MUMBAI The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has subpoenaed India’s largest drugmaker Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd seeking information about the pricing and marketing of the generic drugs it sells in the United States, the company said on Saturday.

The DoJ’s antitrust division has also asked Sun Pharma’s U.S. unit for documents related to employee and corporate records and communications with competitors.

The subpoena comes amid a wider probe by U.S. regulators into steep increases in the prices of generic medicines in recent years.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services started an investigation last year into generic drug prices after prodding from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings.

They specifically cited doxycycline hyclate 100 milligram, an antibiotic for which the price doubled in the year through June 2014. (reut.rs/1UkyIQw)

The DoJ’s antitrust division sent subpoenas last year to two generic drugmakers — Endo International Plc and Mylan — seeking information on their doxycycline products.

Sun Pharma, the world’s fifth-largest maker of generic medicines, is one of several companies selling doxycycline products in the United States. In a statement issued late on Saturday, it did not disclose the products over which the DoJ had sought information.

Other generic drugmakers including India’s Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd and U.S. firm Allergan Plc also received subpoenas from regulators seeking similar information last year, but they did not disclose the names of the products involved.

(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in Mumbai; Editing by Helen Popper)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

PM Modi raises BJP-Left conflict issues in Kerala with CM Pinarayi Vijayan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday raised the issue of violence between members of BJP-RSS and Left in Kerala when its Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan met him here and said he expected him to intervene and end the political clashes there.The Kerela chief minister said he told the Prime Minister that he was ready to take any step to ensure that peace prevailed in his state.Addressing a press conference at Kerala House, Vijayan said the Prime Minister raised the matter during the meeting and expected him to intervene and end political violence in the state. To this, Vijayan replied that both the parties should restrain their workers from engaging in conflicts. He said he also met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who has sought LDF government’s cooperation on implementing the GST.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vijayan said that he would discuss the issue with his Cabinet colleagues and party leaders. He expressed the hope that the central government will help the newly-elected Left Democratic Front for development of the state.On Mullaperiyar dam issue, which has been a bone of contention between Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu, Vijayan said a solution to the problem could be found only through a democratic process.”Conflict cannot solve the issue so democratic process need to be followed for a solution,” he said, adding, his government will go through reports of various commissions before its next step.He also met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and called on President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Fed survey lays bare U.S. economic divide | Reuters

WASHINGTON Almost half of American families say they would struggle to pay for emergency expenses and those with a high school degree or less are most likely to say their well-being has declined, according to a Federal Reserve survey released on Wednesday.

The annual survey, in its third year, takes the pulse on the financial situation of U.S. families, which has been a key issue ahead of this year’s presidential election.

It found that Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher were “by far” most likely to say that they are doing OK financially or living comfortably and report an improvement in their finances over the past year.

Roughly one third of U.S. adults have achieved at least a bachelor’s degree.

Among those with a high school degree or less, about one in five respondents said their well-being had improved over the past year, approximately the same number who responded their situation had declined, the Fed said.

A large swathe of Americans struggling with stagnant wages and fewer middle-class jobs have fueled the presidential campaigns of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

“Despite some signs of improvement overall, 46 percent say they would struggle to meet emergency expenses of $400, and 22 percent of workers say they are juggling two or more jobs,” said Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard in a statement.

Only 23 percent of respondents said they expected their income to be higher in the year after the survey, down from 29 percent at the time of the prior survey.

Lower-income, black and Hispanic families still disproportionately said they faced financial challenges, the survey showed.

The Fed added that while overall the financial well-being of Americans had continued to improve, the “many pockets of consumers who display elevated levels of financial stress and who are at risk for financial disruption in the case of further economic hardships remain a concern.”

Among the positives were fewer Americans reporting going without medical care because they could not afford it.

Eighteen percent of respondents also said they or their families had some form of financial hardship over the past year, a 6 percentage point improvement from 2014.

Definitions of financial hardship included the loss of a job, a cut in work hours, health emergency or foreclosures and evictions.

The survey was taken in October and November last year and tallied up the responses of 5,695 people, the Fed said.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Barack Obama administration defends decision to back India’s NSG membership

The Obama administration has strongly defended its decision to back India’s membership in the NSG, rebutting a known anti-India Senator who opposed the move.”The President (Barack Obama) has reaffirmed that US views that India meets not only the missile technology control regime but also it is ready for NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. She was responding to a question from Senator Ed Markey, who opposed the move of India becoming a member of the NSG, arguing that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT). <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Markey said that the NSG has “agreed to a set of factors that must be taken into account when considering whether to accept a new member. Among those factors is that the State must be a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or an equivalent nonproliferation agreement”. And that it must accept full scope safeguards from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). In other words, Indian membership would require us either to set these factors aside or to revise them. So which of these two options, revising the rules or setting them aside does the administration plan to pursue?” asked Markey, one of the lawmakers who had led the effort opposing the civil nuclear deal during the Bush Administration as a member of the House of Representatives.He interrupted Biswal several times as she tried to explain the Administration’s position and that India meets the criteria to be a member of the NSG. “Is the (US) going to ask for revision of the rules or set the rules aside for India?” he asked multiple times. Biswal said: “I do believe that in our engagement with the NSG, we have made the case that we believe that India has complied with and is consistent with the requirements of the NSG and therefore should be considered for membership.” “So you are saying that you are not exempting India from NSG member guidelines, and they are in compliance with the guidelines. Is that the Administration’s perspective?” the Democratic Senator asked. “Our position is that India is very much consistent with the NSG,” Biswal said. “Are they in compliance with the membership guidelines?” Markey said. “It is our considered opinion that India has met the requirements and therefore should be considered,” Biswal said as she was again interrupted by Markey.”I do not think, any clear reading of the NSG rules could lead to that logical conclusion,” Markey said as he tried to put India and Pakistan on the same boat of nuclear non-proliferation and NSG membership. Markey stressed that India’s membership to NSG should require New Delhi signing comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT), agreeing to halt production of fissile material before pursuing for NSG membership. “And that would be a strong message. Why is that? Well, it is because since 2008 when we also gave them an exemption the country has continued to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons programme, virtually unchecked,” he said. “At that time Pakistan warned us that the deal would increase the chances of a nuclear arms race and since that time, Pakistan has declared its intention to give control over battlefield nuclear weapons to front line military commanders and it has declared its intentions to use nuclear weapons earlier in a conflict with India,” Markey said. “In your view how would granting a State specific exemption to India would affect Pakistan’s choices? It would complicate efforts to get Pakistan refrain from undertaking destabilising actions such as deploying battlefield nuclear weapons,” he asked.Biswal said: “We have a separate and specific dialogue with both countries to address both our concerns. “I do believe that we address the interest of both countries on their own merits. And we have very distinct and robust discussions with both countries.In his remarks, Markey argued that if India joins the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) it would be the only participating government that is not a party to the NPT. He claimed that the Administration’s move is creating an action reaction in South Asia leading to a never ending escalation that ultimately brings these battlefield nuclear weapons closer and closer together. Addressing the lawmakers, Biswal also dwelled on Indo-Pak ties, saying: “We have long encouraged India and Pakistan to engage in dialogues and address some of the many issues that continue in that relationship.” The US, she argued, has a very important relationship with each country and it seeks to advance its ties with each country.”We do not see this as a zero sum,” she said when asked about India-Pakistan relationship. The US does recognise that for India and Pakistan, there are a number of outstanding issues between them that would be benefitted by dialogue, Biswal said.”On the other hand, we do understand that countering and combatting terrorism is an important objective not just for India, for Pakistan and for Afghanistan but for the United States across that area. So these are areas where we try to support conversations across all of our bilateral relationships as well as pushing countries in the region to address it themselves,” she said.”We do believe that increasingly there is a recognition that no kind of terrorist organisation will be acceptable. You can’t differentiate between good terrorists and bad terrorists.”We are starting to get that recognition back in at least the commitment that the countries in the region are making to us. We do need to see more in terms of actions in that space.We continue to push on those issues,” Biswal said in response to a question.

‘So where is Rahul Gandhi going on vacation this year?’ Twitter trolls Congress VP after election drubbing

Thursday turned out to be a huge day for five states as results were announced for assembly elections in Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry. While the TMC won big in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu saw the return of Amma.Assam saw the BJP win big, while Kerala saw the Left Democratic Front lead. The only silver lining for the Congress was in Puducherry where it won big. Rahul said, “We accept the verdict of the people with humility. My best wishes to the parties that have won the elections.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I take this opportunity to thank every Congress worker and leader and our allies for their effort during these elections. We will work harder till we win the confidence & trust of people,” he said in a post on Twitter. The reaction came soon after election trends in five states suggested that Congress had lost in Kerala and Assam ruled by it and failed to make a dent in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu despite alliances.Twitter however, was in no mood to relent and reserved some dark jokes for Rahul Gandhi. Here are some of the best ones:

Party rancour trails Sanders and Clinton; Trump ignites controversy in White House race | Reuters

WASHINGTON Bitterness over the Democratic nominating process trailed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Wednesday as they headed into the final stretch of their protracted battle to represent the party in November’s White House election.

On the Republican side, presumptive nominee Donald Trump ignited controversy over both domestic and foreign policy. In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Trump outlined a string of controversial proposals including dismantling most of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial regulations, calling for a renegotiation of the Paris climate accord and saying he is willing to meet with North Korea’s leader.

As Trump, who all but secured his party’s nomination when his last two rivals dropped out this month, focussed squarely on the Nov. 8 general election, the Democrats faced a feud over a chaotic state party convention in Nevada at the weekend that included a chair thrown by Sanders supporters.

More Democrats urged Sanders on Wednesday to take a stronger stand against the uprising by his supporters in Nevada and said he did not go far enough in condemning the violence there.

“That was the time to have sent a full-throated message to his followers: that we don’t do this kind of thing,” U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said on CNN.

Democrat Barbara Boxer, the other U.S. senator from California, was at the Nevada convention and expressed her concern to Sanders in a phone call on Tuesday night. “I feared for my safety and had a lot of security around me,” she told CNN. “I’ve never had anything like this happen.”

Sanders said he condemned violence and harassment against individuals but he framed Nevada’s incident as a warning to Democratic leaders to treat his supporters with fairness.

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, is determined to fight on against front-runner Clinton in what has become a longer-than-expected and sometimes acrimonious battle. In contests Tuesday, Clinton narrowly edged out Sanders in Kentucky, a state where she had not been expected to win. Sanders won Oregon, a state that played to his strengths.

Democrats are faced with a delicate balancing act as long as Sanders remains in the primary race, needing to pivot towards Trump without taking Clinton’s nomination for granted and alienating passionate backers of Sanders.

Sparring on Tuesday between the Sanders camp and the Democratic National Committee leader over the Nevada events further threatened party unity less than two months before its national convention in July in Philadelphia.

“Unaddressed, the toxic relationship between DNC @ @SenSanders campaign, so evident last night, could cast dark cloud over Philly convention,” David Axelrod, a former top Obama strategist, said on Twitter.


Despite having an almost unassailable lead in the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination, and with the primary battle heading towards the final contests next month, Clinton will need Sanders supporters on her side in the general election.

According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos survey, what played out in Nevada is just a glimpse into the uphill battle Clinton faces in courting them.

If Clinton wins the nomination, for every six Democrats who support Sanders, one will switch their allegiance to Trump in the general election and two say they would not support either candidate. Only three of every six say they would support Clinton as the party’s nominee.

Sanders’ campaign has long accused party leaders of favoring Clinton, a former U.S. senator and secretary of state, for the presidential nomination in the face of his unexpectedly strong primary challenge.

On Saturday, his supporters in Nevada became angry at the delegate selection process, booing, yelling and hurling insults, and at least one chair, towards the convention leaders.

Nevada Democratic Party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, said she and her family, including a 5-year-old grandson, have received death threats and numerous callers have disrupted her workplace.

On Wednesday, Lange said she wanted Sanders to acknowledge the threats, and apologise.

“His statement was pretty weak,” she said on CNN. “Until you say you’re sorry, until you say what happened in Nevada should not have happened and it was wrong and it was fuelled by your senior campaign staff people, then that’s an apology and then I think there’s some responsibility is taken.”

She defended the state party’s delegate selection process and said Clinton’s campaign was better organized, adding that “he was going to lose the convention no matter what because they didn’t turn out their people.”

Growing uproar this week over the events in Nevada prompted party leaders including DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and senior U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada to call on Sanders to rein in his supporters.

Wasserman Schultz told CNN on Tuesday night that, “Unfortunately, the senator’s response was anything but acceptable. It certainly did not condemn the supporters for the violence and added more fuel to the fire.”

Sanders spokesman Jeff Weaver said on Wednesday that Sanders categorically condemned any kind of threats as unacceptable.

“We can have a long conversation about Debbie Wasserman Schultz just about how she’s been throwing shade on the Sanders campaign from the very beginning,” Weaver told CNN.

(Addition reporting by Alana Wise, Susan Heavey, Megan Cassella in Washington; Chris Kahn in New York; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

India exit polls predict BJP Assam win

PM Narendra Modi’s BJP could win in the north-eastern state of Assam for the first time, exit polls suggest.

Kerala polls: Close to 13 mn people vote, Chandy confident of victory

Thiruvananthapuram: Nearly 13 million people had voted by Monday afternoon in Kerala to pick a new assembly, with both the Congress and the Left insisting they were on the road to victory.

Long queues formed outside polling centres across the state right from 7 am despite rains, with officials saying that 43.88 per cent of the 26 million voters had exercised their franchise by 1 pm.

The balloting, to elect 140 legislators, will end at 6 pm.

As brisk voting continued, both Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and CPI-M veteran V.S. Achuthanandan asserted that their coalitions were set to win the electoral battle.

Chandy said after casting his vote that he was confident the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) would retain its majority in the assembly.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“We are certain the people will give us one more chance,” Chandy told the media at his hometown Puthupally near Kottayam.

Added Congress leader and former chief minister A.K. Antony, “For the first time in the state a ruling party is going to retain power. While the Left will remain in the opposition, the BJP won’t win any seat.”

The main opponent to the UDF is the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

Marxist leader Achuthanandan, contesting from Malampuzha in Palakkad district, met voters one last time before returning to Alappuzha to cast his vote.

“There is a slight rain and this is a good omen,” he said. “There is a huge wave in our favour. We are heading for a landslide victory… People are going to show the exit door to Chandy.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to enter the Kerala assembly for the first time.


State BJP president Kummanem Rajasekheran, contesting in Vatiyoorkavu in the state capital, said things were looking very bright for the BJP.

“There is a strong opposition to both the Left and the Congress. That’s why we are hugely confident this time,” he said.

Kannur, considered a Marxist bastion, recorded 47.61 per cent turnout followed by Kottayam (45.59). Thiruvananthapuram’s polling percentage was put at 36.14.

Kerala has 2,60,19,284 voters. A total of 1,203 contestants, including 109 women, are in the fray.

Congress MLAs eye each other as race for Uttarakhand RS seat begins

The announcement of biennial election for the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Uttarakhand on June 11 has triggered hectic lobbying within the ruling party, with state Congress president Kishore Upadhyay among the aspirants. The Rajya Sabha seat from the state will fall vacant when the six-year term of BJP MP Tarun Vijay comes to an end on July 4.Biennial elections to 57 Rajya Sabha seats were announced by the Election Commission on May 12.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to party sources, the long list of claimants for this seat also includes some MLAs who supported Chief Minister Harish Rawat in the floor test conducted on May 10. The list also includes MLAs like Rajendra Bhandari, Anusuya Prasad Maikhuri and Navpraphat, who have been supporters of former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna and former union minister Satpal Maharaj, now with BJP. However, several Rawat supporters are backing the Chief Minister’s wife Renuka for the seat.Party sources said Uttarakhand PCC president Kishore Upadhyay is also a strong contender.With nine rebel Congress MLAs, who had joined hands with BJP in a bid to topple the Rawat government disqualified, the ruling party candidate will stand a good chance in the RS poll.The assembly has an effective strength of 62. Congress has 27 MLAs besides Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal. The party also entails support of six members of Progressive Democratic Front (PDF). BJP, on the other hand, has the support of only 28 MLAs.

JKLF opposes construction of army colonies in Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik has strongly objected to a government plan to construct colonies for army soldiers and officers in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”Whether the soldier is a resident of Jammu and Kashmir or is a resident of India, we will not accept this colony on any grounds. Tomorrow, you will ask for land to build colonies for CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) and BSF (Border Security Force). Already a lot of land has been given to the army,” Malik told media here on Friday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In April 2015, the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, NN Vohra, approved the establishment of army colony in Srinagar and said that 21.6 acres of land had been identified for the colonies.However, under severe criticism, the state government has denied the allotment of land to army colonies.Malik also claimed that ?atrocities? on native Kashmiris have risen ever since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine came to power in the state last year.He also protested against the creation of separate settlements for Kashmiri Hindus in the state.

Chandy vs Swaraj: Here’s why the Kerala CM is picking frequent fights with BJP

Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy doesn’t resemble the Amitabh Bachchan of 1970s but he is surely the angriest man in Indian politics these days. When not asking for an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is kicking up a storm with External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

Perhaps it is because of the election season since the state goes to polls on Monday but the latest controversy has erupted over an issue which should never have been the subject of a public spar. There is something nauseating over politicians fighting among themselves to claim credit for evacuating Indian citizens trapped in strife-torn regions abroad.

Kerala CM Oommen Chandy with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTIKerala CM Oommen Chandy with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

File photo of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

What makes Chandy’s case worse is that he is picking fights when facts are not on his side. On the Kerala-Somalia issue, for instance, Firstpost pointed out yesterday how Modi wasn’t the first one to compare the condition of tribals in Kerala’s Attapaddy region with sub-Saharan Africa. Police and governance publication EPW had earlier made such an assessment quoting verifiable data. Former Kerala CM VS Achuthanandan, too, had made a similar comparison in 2013.

On the subject of 29 Indians who flew down to Indian shores from battle-scarred Libya, too, the Kerala CM is on a sticky wicket. But before I delve into why Chandy is picking up frequent fights, it would be pertinent to explain the vote share equation in poll-bound Kerala.

The situation in Kerala is not unlike that of West Bengal where the rise of BJP as a key player in some places has upset the equations of a bilateral fight. Though the Left Democratic Front (LDF) is largely expected to return to power, Chandy’s United Democratic Front (UDF) is hoping that BJP’s punching above weight in the southern state may help it to scrape through in a triangular contest.

Towards that end, the UDF must do two things. One, it must search for a pan-Kerala issue to tide over local disgruntlements of anti-incumbency and two, it must project BJP as its main adversary to avoid fracturing of Muslim votes. This, in fact, also led CPIM general secretary Sitaram Yechury to comment that the Congress and RSS are stitching up a fixed match in Kerala to keep the Left out.

This is the reason why Chandy has appeared to be so ‘hurt’ by Modi’s comparison and is now focusing on the Libya evacuation controversy to keep the focus firmly on BJP.

Since coming to power, the NDA government has pulled off a number of rescue missions with some amount of success. Last year, India evacuated 6,688 people from Yemen by air and sea routes. The number included 4,741 Indian citizens and 1,947 nationals of 48 countries under ‘Operation Rahaat’.

First, let’s get one thing straight. Politicians do not rescue people. Foreign office obviously plays a key role but it is diplomats, posted in the troubled zones, who go through the rough and tumble to secure exit.

A report in Firstpost mentions how an Indian ambassador to Libya flew into Tripoli from Djerba in Tunisia, where the Indian mission in Libya relocated last year amid the brutal civil war, met the Libyan foreign ministry’s chief of protocol, and over prolonged talks convinced the government to issue exit visas to the 29 Indians.

“Our embassy has constantly followed up the matter with the hospital as well as with the Ministry of Health of Libya… Our ambassador personally flew down to Tripoli on 28 April and met with the Chief of Protocol on 2 May to resolve the matter,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup was quoted, as saying.

“Thanks to the embassy’s intervention that their salaries were paid and their exit visas were issued and they were able to safely return to India today,” he said.

Even as this was going on, Chandy chose to react to a comment made by Modi on Wednesday during an election rally in Kochi that Centre has rescued families stuck in Libya.

“Our government has saved six families and evacuated 29 people. It gives me immense pleasure and happiness to tell you that they are coming back and will be united with their families soon.”
Not willing to let Modi walk away with the credit for the mission, Chandy jumped in on Thursday, claiming that Kerala government bore the cost of bringing them back.

“Sushma Swaraj paid for the earlier evacuations. This time we have paid for their travel,” Chandy told NDTV. “Ask those who have come back, they will tell you the truth.”

This enraged External Affairs minister Swaraj enough to fire off a series of angry tweets from her hospital bed in AIIMS where she is recuperating from an illness.

Under fire, Chandy then said that the state government will now reimburse the amount.

“The state government had tried to buy them the air tickets but we could not owing to foreign exchange issues. We did not want to delay their return, so we asked them to pay up for the air tickets. We will now fully reimburse their airfare,” he told the media in Kochi.

The ugly spat has further lowered public discourse during this polling season and soon may nosedive below the Arabian sea.

Hawan for Donald Trump: Hindu Sena says he is the only one who can save humanity

Looks like Donald Trump has some ardent followers in India too, some members of Hindu Sena on Wednesday organised a hawan and chanted matras in order to invoke the Hindu deities to help the US Presidential hopeful win the election. Trump has now been declared the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidential race and is likely to be contesting against the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for the presidential seat.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Although, his views and pledges regarding Muslims, migrants and terrorism may have earned him a bad reputation, he however, has earned some fans in regions like India where certain groups resonate with his calls for temporarily banning Muslims from America and his tough stance on terrorism. Founder of the Hindu Sena nationalist group, Vishnu Gupta, said, “The whole world is screaming against Islamic terrorism, and even India is not safe from it. Only Donald Trump can save humanity.”The members of Hindu Sena gathered at Jantar Mantar in new Delhi with picture and idols of Hindu gods and also of Donald Trump along with a banner showed support for Trump, “because he is hope for humanity against Islamic terror,” Hindustan Times reported.

West Bengal Elections 2016: 244 crorepati candidates in fray, TMC tops chart with 114

There are about 244 crorepatis out of 1,961 candidates contesting the ongoing West Bengal Assembly elections, with ruling Trinamool Congress leading the list at 114, a survey said.”Out of 1,961 candidates contesting in this year’s elections, 244 candidates are crorepatis,” an analysis conducted by the West Bengal Election Watch and Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) said. BJP is second on the list with 46 crorepati candidates, while Congress (31), Independent (19), CPIM (13), BSP (4), RSP and AIFB share two each and 11 other political outfits, including RJD, have one crorepati candidates each, the survey said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Among the 1,961 candidates, 81 out of the 245 sitting MLAs are re-contesting in this year’s elections and are crorepatis, it stated.”The growth is about 112 per cent. In 2011, the average assets of those 245 MLAs were Rs 60.11 lakh, while it rose to Rs 1.27 crore in 2016,” the analysis said. In fact, among the highest growth of assets in top three sitting MLAs who are contesting is that of state Minister for Disaster Management, Javed Khan.”The growth of the Kasba MLA’s asset was around 598 per cent. In 2011 his total assets valued to Rs 2.16 crore, which rose to Rs 17.29 crore in 2016,” the survey read. Khan was followed by fellow party MLA Saumen Kumar Mahapatra and Amit Mitra whose assets rose by around 344 and 66 per cent respectively, it said.While Mahapatra, the state Water Investigation and Development minister had a total asset of Rs 1.76 crore in 2011, it increased to Rs 7.83 crore in 2016. “In case of Finance Minister Amit Mitra, it was Rs 7.08 crore in 2011, which is Rs 11.74 crore in 2016,” the analysis said. The ruling party also has the candidate with the highest assets. TMC MLA Asima Patra of Dhaniakhali constituency recorded the highest jump in assets value from 2011 to 2016 in terms of percentage with 3,185 per cent.TMC’s Samir Chakraborty of Taldangra constituency in Bankura district has total assets of Rs 405,923,000 followed by BJP’s Somabrata Mandal of Shyampukur constituency, who is second on the list with an asset value of Rs 286,520,287, the analysis stated.TMC also has the highest number of 86 candidates out of the 354 who have declared criminal cases. There 66 candidates from BJP, 58 from CPIM and 41 from Congress. And of the 294 candidates declared with serious criminal cases, 76 were from TMC, 52 from BJP, 47 from CPI(M) and 31 from Congress, the analysis said, adding, 24 among the 1,961 were booked with murder cases

Kerala Elections 2016: Amit Shah cancels visit to state

BJP President Amit Shah, who was to kickoff his campaign tour of Kerala for the May 16 assembly elections on Sunday, has cancelled his visit following indisposition.Shah was scheduled to arrive at the airport here this morning to attend a meeting of party workers and three public gatherings, but cancelled the trip as he took ill, party sources said. The BJP chief was to address two meetings in Thiruvananthapuram and one in Kollam district’s Kottarakara. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP, which has not yet opened its account in the state assembly, is launching a fierce battle this time to make its presence felt in the state, which has been alternately ruled by Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and CPI(M) headed Left Democratic Front (LDF) for the last 30 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address six public meetings, starting with the first in Palakkad on May 6.The BJP-led NDA’s 10-point vision document for the state was yesterday released by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who said the party has emerged as an alternative to the UDF and LDF. The saffron party has tied up with Bharat Dharma Jana Sangam, a political party floated by Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, an organisation of the backward Ezhava community led by Vellapally Natesan.For the 140 assembly constituencies, BJP has put up 97 candidates, while BDJS has fielded 37, leaving the remaining to smaller parties.

JNU sends showcause to Umar Khalid for movie screening last year

A day after JNU had sent show-cause notice to Anirban Bhattacharya for participation in screening of a film on Muzaffarnagar riots last August, the varsity on Friday issued a similar note to Umar Khalid asking him to explain his position.Both Anirban and Umar are already under rustication in connection with the controversial February 9 event against hanging of Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. The fresh notices have been issued to the duo in connection with screening of documentary “Muzaffarngar abhi baqi hai” without permission from the university.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Alleging “targeting” by the administration, the JNU Students Union has planned a screening of the same documentary tonight in protest.”A complaint against you was received in Chief Proctor’s office in August, 2015. It has been alleged that you were involved in participation in screening of a documentary-film ‘Muzaffarnagar abhi baqi hai’ without permission of the administration near Godvari dhaba,” the notice issued to Umar read.”You are directed to appear before the Proctor on May 4 and explain your position in this regard. You may also bring your evidence which you may wish to submit in your defence,” it added.The administration, however, kept mum over the reasons behind initiating this action over nine months after the event took place. Following protests by ABVP, JNU had in last August stopped the screening of a documentary on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots saying no permission was sought for the event. The movie was shown by the Democratic Students’ Federation, however, both Anirban and Umar do not belong to that group.Reacting to the notice Umar said, “I have only one question to ask the JNU administration- it took you 9 months to wake up from your slumber and realise this great ‘indiscipline’ on our part! Is it a simple coincidence that the authorities chose to send this notice to us, when we are already into a movement against witch-hunt of students?”

Priyanka Chopra pips Narendra Modi in Time online poll by 0.1%: Sanders ahead of Hillary

New York: Actor Priyanka Chopra has garnered more votes than Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Time readers’ poll ahead of the annual list of 100 most influential people in the world that the magazine publishes every year.

The magazine said Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders won three times more votes than his rival Hillary Clinton, ahead of President Barack Obama, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

The magazine conducts an online poll ahead of publishing the list of 100 most influential people. The poll, a gauge of popular mood, though not essentially scientific, closed on April 13 midnight. The Time list will come out on April 21.

Actor Priyanka Chopra. Image courtesy: Screengrab

Actor Priyanka Chopra. Image courtesy: Screengrab

Priyanka Chopra, who became famous in the United States for her role in the TV serial “Quantico”, got 0.8 percent of ‘yes’ votes compared to 0.7 per cent for Modi.

Sanders got 3.3 per cent to Clinton’s 1 percent. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential contender obtained 0.6 percent of the votes. South Korean boy band Big Bang stood second in popularity after Sanders. The polls called for votes both in favour and against a person.

Sanders, who has long benefited from digitally active supporters, led the readers’ poll from the beginning. While he badly lagged behind Clinton in winning the delegates needed to capture the presidential nominations, his populist rhetoric and emphasis on income inequality has allowed him to sustain a stronger-than-expected challenge to his rival, the magazine said in a release announcing the results.

Priyanka Chopra was also ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francoise Hollande and David Cameron in popularity among readers and online vote casters.

Kollam temple blaze: Not only fireworks, Kerala is key supplier to bomb-makers

The Kerala temple tragedy has brought into sharp focus a startling fact: Indian Mujahideen (IM) has been procuring a key ingredient in the bomb-making from Kerala for several years.

Mujahideen operatives have been getting vast quantities of ammonium nitrate from Kerala to make the bombs that they have used to carry out several terror attacks across India, officials in Kerala and Karnataka told Firstpost.

“Kerala has a free-for-all kind of situation for all sorts of explosive substances whether they are used in making firecrackers, bombs or used for quarrying,” a state police official said.

The arrest of Yasin Bhatkal, the Karnataka-born founder-leader of IM, in August 2013 and his interrogation later gave the first hints to investigators that Kerala was an important source of explosive substances.

Officials stand by the bodies of those killed in the fireworks incident. AFP

Officials stand by the bodies of those killed in the fireworks incident. AFP

Yasin,who had become the sole India-based leader after his brothers — Iqbal Bhatkal and Riaz Bhatkal escaped to Pakistan in 2008 — was instrumental in carrying out blasts in Hyderabad in 2007, in Ahmedabad in 2008, at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru and German Bakery in Pune in 2010, and at the Delhi High Court and in Mumbai in 2011.

“Kerala is a prime source of ammonium nitrate for Mujahideen,” Gopal Hosur, former Karnataka intelligence chief, confirmed to Firstpost.

Hosur said that the substance is “easily available” in Kerala and the state is teeming with Mujahideen modules. He described Kerala as a “hotbed of terrorism” that the IM used as a launchpad to carry out attacks in other parts of India.

He said if the terrorists were efficient, they just needed a kilogramme of ammonium nitrate to make one lethal bomb.

In fact, the ammonium nitrate that has been seized in the recent post in Kerala and Karnataka from people illegally transporting it amounted to several tonnes. Officials said this was just a tip of the iceberg.

“Huge quantities of the substance — amounting to several tonnes — is reported missing,” admitted an official.

Terrorists are known to either illegally buy it or steal it from those making ammonium nitrate for legitimate uses. One legally permitted use of ammonium nitrate is in the blasting of quarries. But many quarry owners procure more than the quantity they are licensed to buy. They use the additional quantities to either carry out illegal quarrying or divert it to the IM.

On 11 November, 2013, officials seized 6,750 kg of ammonium nitrate at Muthanga on the Kerala-Karnataka border and. Two persons, Hakeem and Ishaq, were arrested. They said they were carrying it to a quarry in Kozhikode district in Kerala.

On 26 March, 2014, the Karnataka police seized around 6,200 kg of ammonium nitrate costing Rs 1.3 crore, 50,350 detonators and 19,250 metres of safety fuse wires from three desolate houses in remote villages in the Udupi district. Police identified Biju of Kerala and Annamalai of Tamil Nadu as the owners of the stock. Biju had a licence to store only 500 kg of ammonium nitrate and supply it to quarries.

Smaller quantities of the substance are periodically seized in not only the southern states, but elsewhere in India.

Asked about it, Sudharshan Kamal, the Chief Controller of Explosives of the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organsation (PESO) said he was unaware of the seizures. He agreed that it was a “serious matter” if ammonium nitrate was falling into the hands of terrorists.

Kamal said that the stringent provisions of the “Ammonium Nitrate Rules” that the Central government had formulated, came into force only in 2013.


‘Anti-nationals’ behind the temple disaster?

While hearing a petition demanding a ban on fireworks displays at places of worship, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday pointed out that Paravur — where 113 people were killed in a fireworks show at a temple on Sunday morning — had the sea on one side and a lake on the other. Considering this, the court said the state government should probe whether ‘anti-nationals’ were involved in the explosion.

Meanwhile, the high court’s directive that rules banning bursting of crackers after sunset must be strictly enforced has put the parties in a fix.

The ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the BJP are against any such restrictions. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has called an all-party meet on Thursday to discuss the issue. The parties are wary of antagonising Hindus and Christians.

Both temples and churches resort to firecracker shows on certain festival days. The court will resume its hearing right after the all-party meet.

Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti to meet Rajnath Singh today

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti will meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled to take place at the MHA on Tuesday evening. This is the first meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief who took oath as the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on April 4.Moreover, this is the first time Mehbooba is holding an administrative post in the state or at the national level, as so far she had limited herself to party work.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government formation has ended the three-month long political crisis in the state which started after the death of former chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed on January 7.The 2014 state elections threw up a hung assembly in which the PDP won 28 seats, mainly from the Kashmir Valley, and the BJP 25, almost all from the Jammu region, leading to a coalition government headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.Mufti took the oath in Jammu along with 17 cabinet ministers and six ministers of state (MoS). Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Nirmal Singh also took oath as deputy chief minister, as per the alliance agreement between the two parties.

With Mehbooba’s arrival, India now has 5 women chief ministers

New Delhi: With Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti taking over as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, the number of women CMs in the country has gone up to five.

The other chief ministers are J. Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Vasundhra Raje (Rajasthan) and Anandiben Patel (Gujarat).

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. ANIJammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. ANI

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. ANI

Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are facing assembly polls and Jayalalithaa and Banerjee are leading the poll effort of their parties in their respective states.

Raje and Patel belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Together, the five women chief ministers constitute less than a sixth of all chief ministers in the country.

The representation of women has been poor in assembly elections. Only 87 of 1,064 candidates in Monday’s first phase of polling in Assam for 65 seats are women.

In the first part of the first phase of West Bengal assembly election on Monday for 18 seats, there are only 11 women among 133 candidates in the fray.

Hope Mehbooba Mufti-led government fulfills Kashmiri people’s dreams: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday congratulated the newly formed government in Jammu and Kashmir.”Congratulations and best wishes to Mehbooba Mufti, Dr. Nirmal Singh and all those who took oath today. May the new Government of J and K leave no stone unturned in fulfilling dreams and aspirations of the people and take J and K to new heights of progress,” Prime Minister Modi said in a tweet.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mehbooba Mufti, chief of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took oath today morning as the first woman Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.Mehbooba succeeds her father Mufti Mohammad Saeed who died in January this year.At least 23 ministers took oath along with Mufti, including members of the BJP.The election the state in December 2014 gave no party a majority in the 70 member J and K assembly.The PDP, with 28 seats and the BJP with 25 had formed government after weeks of hard negotiations last year.

Mehbooba Mufti to be sworn in today as Jammu & Kashmir’s first woman Chief Minister

History is in the making as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti gets set to become the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.The 56-year-old single mother of two daughters will be sworn in along with deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh on Monday, marking the end of almost three months of Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. “With Mehbooba Mufti leading the state a new dawn will herald in Jammu and Kashmir (sic),” the PDP tweeted.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mehbooba’s crown, however, is full of thorns as she is battling growing dissidence in her party after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7. Several of her MLAs were not happy about her blow-hot-blow-cold attitude about government-formation during the last three months.Sources said that Mehbooba hasn’t taken this lightly and might clip the wings of some senior leaders and drop some former ministers of the Mufti cabinet to send across a stern message that no indiscipline would be tolerated.All the top PDP office bearers have already resigned and relinquished their offices with immediate effect. “All the resignations were tendered by them only to pave way for the restructuring of the party. All the leaders have expressed full faith in the leadership of Mehbooba Mufti and pledged support in the interest of the party and people of the state,” said a PDP spokesman.Mehbooba’s decision to don the mantle of chief minister came after a meeting with prime minister Narendra Modi on March 22. Prior to that, she had been playing hard ball to renegotiate the terms of agenda of the PDP-BJP alliance and pressurise the BJP-led Centre to announce some confidence-building measures.To form the government in Jammu and Kashmir, the PDP had been demanding that private land is freed from the occupation of security forces, NHPC-run power projects are handed over to the state government, separatists are engaged in talks and the economic package is renegotiated to give more compensation to flood-hit people.However, there is no word from the PDP or Centre over these demands or any confidence-building measure. Party sources said they have succeeded in striking a bargain with the Centre but are not making it public in view of the Assembly elections in different states.”We do not want to create any problem for the BJP because they are in the midst of electioneering. We will reveal everything at an appropriate time,” said a PDP leader.The PDP has 28 MLAs in the 87-member House while its alliance partner BJP has 25 MLAs. Plus, the coalition has the support of two MLAs from separatist-turned-mainstream leader Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference. Two independent MLAs have also extended support to Mehbooba’s candidature.

GST will be rolled out soon: PM Modi assures Saudi investors

Riyadh: Assuring Saudi and Indian business leaders that his government is working to set up a predictable long-term taxation regime, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the long-awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST) would soon be implemented in India.

“Don’t worry…GST will happen, it will be a reality soon,” Modi said, addressing the gathering at Saudi Arabia’s Chamber of Commerce here.

PM Modi meeting with prominent Saudi business leaders at Saudi Chambers of Commerce in Riyadh. Twitter @PIB

PM Modi meeting with prominent Saudi business leaders at Saudi Chambers of Commerce in Riyadh. Twitter @PIB

“Retrospective tax is a matter of the past. My government will continue to work towards establishment of a predictable long-term taxation regime,” he added in a reference to recent disputes involving Indian tax authorities and multinationals like Cairn and Vodafone.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, to implement a pan-India tax for a complete overhaul of the extant indirect tax regime, has been approved by the Lok Sabha.

It is currently stalled in the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) doesn’t enjoy a majority.

The government hopes the next biennial elections in the Rajya Sabha will give it enough seats in the upper house to pass the GST Bill.

Modi, who is undertaking a three-nation tour, landed in Saudi Arabia on Saturday on the last leg.

He urged the audience to move beyond the traditional bilateral trading relationship.

“Let us move beyond merely the export-import relationship. Joint investment, technology transfers are areas that we should explore,” Modi said.

Listing petroleum, renewable energy, infrastructure, defence and agriculture, as areas ripe for expanding cooperation, the prime minister said: “India and Saudi Arabia should look at working together for building a dynamic global management sector for the cyber world.”

“India and Saudi Arabia are old friends, but we are ready to take bold new steps into a golden future,” he added.

Assam Polls: LDP chief opts ‘Kejriwal style’ for election campaign

Nearing the date of assembly election in Assam, different political parties have launched aggressive campaigns to reach out to maximum voters. Newspaper, TV, Radio and poster banners are flooded with campaign advertisements as they are conventional method of election campaign.However, a unique idea of campaign has been opted by former BJP national executive member Pradyut Bora who has now formed his own party in Assam namely Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Inspired by the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party unique campaign during the Assembly election in 2015, Pradyut Bora has formed a dance troop doing flash dance on streets of Jorhat.The LDP chief said, “I was very surprised when I saw Kejriwal’s AAM Aadmi party workers branded a dance troop called ‘dance for democracy’ during the Delhi Assembly Elections last year. I liked it and hence in this election we are also using the same.”When asked as to what had forced him to opt this idea, Bora said that his party is a new party and can’t afford the conventional method of campaign and hence he wants to use the guerrilla tactics.”We are a new party. We don’t have money like the Congress and the BJP. So this is guerrilla warfare. What BJP, Congress is doing is conventional warfare. They are bombarding everywhere with advertisement. We are ambushing their bombarding by the Guerilla warfare,” he added.

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