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Sheena Bora murder case: Indrani Mukerjea performs post-death rituals for father

Mumbai: Indrani Mukerjea, prime accused in the Sheena Bora murder case, on Tuesday performed the post-death rituals for her father at Brahman Seva Samiti hall here and returned to the Byculla Women’s prison in the evening.

The special CBI court in Mumbai had last week granted her permission to perform the rituals anywhere in Mumbai. The court, however, had rejected her plea for interim bail to visit her hometown, Guwahati, for the purpose, following her father Upendra Bora’s death on 15 December.

Indrani Mukherjee arrives to attend the post-death rituals of her father in Mulund, Mumbai on Tuesday. A special CBI court had last week granted Indrani the permission to attend the rituals anywhere in Mumbai . PTIIndrani Mukherjee arrives to attend the post-death rituals of her father in Mulund, Mumbai on Tuesday. A special CBI court had last week granted Indrani the permission to attend the rituals anywhere in Mumbai . PTI

Indrani Mukherjee arrives to attend the post-death rituals of her father in Mulund, Mumbai on Tuesday. A special CBI court had last week granted Indrani the permission to attend the rituals anywhere in Mumbai . PTI

Indrani left jail at around 7.30 am today with a police escort for Brahman Seva Samiti hall in Mulund. After
performing rituals there till 4.30 pm, she visited a nearby temple for prayers for an hour, a police officer said.

Judge HS Mahajan had said in his order that she shall not speak to media during the time she was out of the prison.

She shall be brought back to jail by 7 pm, the judge had said.

CBI had opposed Indrani’s request for interim bail to visit Assam. It had produced an e-mail sent by her son
Mikhail, which said he did not want her to visit Guwahati.

Indrani’s intention was to influence prosecution witnesses and there was also a possibility that she would try
to escape, CBI said.

Indrani, her former husband Sanjeev Khanna and her former driver Shyam Rai are accused of killing Sheena, her daughter from an earlier relationship, in April 2012. Her husband and former media baron Peter Mukerjea too has been arrested in the case for being party to the conspiracy.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 22:19 IST

Panchayat polls in Odisha to be held in five phases between 13-21 February

Bhubaneswar: The State Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday announced dates for panchayat polls in Odisha.

The panchayat polls, which has been scheduled in five phases, will begin on 13 February, 2017, and end on 21 February, said a release.

With the announcement of poll dates, the model code of conduct came into effect in the state from Tuesday. It will be in force until the end of the last phase of the poll, it said.

Representative image. PTI

Representative image. PTI

“The aspiring candidates can file nominations between 11 January and 17 January next year. The papers will be scrutinised on January 18 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is 21 January,” said State Election Commissioner R.N. Senapati.

The final list of contesting candidates will be declared on the same day.

The SEC has asked the district collectors to maintain law and order for smooth conduct of elections in their districts.

The elections will be held for the posts of 853 Zilla Parishad members, 6,802 Sarpanches, 6,801 Panchayat Samiti members and 92,052 ward members, in which 2,60,92,507 voters will exercise their franchise.

The state government has reserved 50 percent seats for women candidates in the panchayat elections.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 16:04 IST

Mauni Maharaj’s new mini Kumbh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Invoking the Gods for well being and peace of humanity, Shri Laxmandasji Mauni Maharaj has started the ‘Janakalyan Mahayagya’ also dubbed the ‘Laxmi Narayan Mahayag’, in Kankavali in Sindhudurg. A disciple of Shri Mahant Garibdasji Maharaj, Mauni Maharaj, as he is called, belongs to the Mahatyagi sampraday of the Digambar Akhada and hails from the ashram in Kawdas near Patansavangi village in Savner tehsil of Nagpur district. He does his tapascharya in the Himalayas. He is estimated to be around 45-50 years of age currently, and has been on a vow of silence, or the maun vrat, for the past 21 years.Having met Mauni Maharaj and experienced the huge gathering of spirituality at the Ujjain Kumbh, members of some spiritual groups in Sindhudurg were impressed and invited Mauni Maharaj to the Konkan. When he came to Sindhudurg, he went to Kankavali and began to meditate in a spot known for penance undertaken at the spot by Bhalchandra Maharaj, a spiritual guru from the region. It was then decided that the Mahayag for the sake of humanity be done here.“We felt that convergence of all sants, mahants from the country and yag, pooja and katha will bless the people of this region. With this aim about 15 organisations came together and we registered the Janakalyan Mahayag Samiti with the charity commissioner. The preparations and invitations to all the sant mahants started from August 2016. We feel fortunate that many of them have blessed us with their presence and that people from all corners have come here”, stated Satish Garip, President of the Samiti.The Mahayag began on December 19, 2016 with a huge procession — Kalash Yatra — wherein 3,000 women carried the Kalash with water on their heads. The procession with about 10-15,000 participants was accompanied by traditional drums, music, and the chanting of Ramnam. The procession saw camels, horses and tableaus depicting scenes from the epics.The procession culminated at Murdeshwar maidan at the foot hills of the Murdeshwar (Shiva) temple where elaborate arrangements have been made for yagna, pooja, and archana.Through all seven days of the Mahayag, Rammohandasji Ramani Maharaj from Himachal Pradesh will deliver the Ramkatha discourse. Programmes of Bhakti sangeet with Bhajans have also been planned every evening.“The tapascharya by the Mahatmas is beyond our understanding. They rest themselves in meditation and par the worldly worries or anxieties. Even if common people like us take to spirituality we think of worldly rewards.The Jankalyan Mahayag intends to bring out the essence of worship and prayers, the deeper meaning of mediation and benefit the humanity”, Garip states.The Mahayag will end with the purnahuti on December 25, 2016. The state administration has also pitched in to make safety and crowd control arrangements.

Blow the whistle for Swachhata

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For 75-year-old Athro Tai of Hasanpur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district, the construction of a toilet in her household this past June has become a matter of pride. On the toilet wall, a freshly painted sign in red screams “Izzat Ghar” at passers-by. It also neatly frames her state of mind. For all her life, she had defecated in the open, in the fields. That changed when a five-member team of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) activists visited the village, stayed put for five days, and unleashed a carefully devised five-pronged strategy. “They befriended us, heaped shame on us, and opened our eyes to the risk of disease because of open defecation. I told my son that I, my bahu or my granddaughters will no more defecate in the open and he must get the toilet constructed,” says Tai.The “shaming” that she was subjected to is part of a new strategy being followed in India’s latest campaign to end open defecation, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Behavioral modification and community mobilisation, known as “triggering”, precedes toilet construction in CLTS initiatives. Five-member groups of CLTS workers pitch camp in villages, build rapport and speak in the local language. They then express disgust at open defecation, assemble the villagers and demand to be taken to open defecation sites. Here they crank up the shame factor, wonder aloud at how the village can claim to protect the honour of its women in such surroundings, collect faeces in a bag to bring back to the village, and then demonstrate the risk of illness when faeces come back to the community through flies. Once he was convinced, Hasanpur Gram Panchayat’s (GP) young pradhan, Mohit Kumar, took to motivating the villagers. “Out of 450 families here, 69 did not have toilets. Ultimately, I was able to convince seven families to construct toilets using their own funds, and the GP pitched in for the other 62 households. My task was made easier because of incidents of molestation in nearby villages.” After Hasanpur self-certified itself as an Open Defecation Free (ODF) village, teams were sent from the district and block level for physical verification.But Kumar’s work was not over. The onus of ensuring that the new converts to sanitation did not go back to old ways also lay with him. The new CLTS strategies learn from the mistakes of earlier sanitation drives of the Indian government like the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan and Total Sanitation Campaign. An estimated 9.7 crore toilets were built under these schemes between 2001 and 2014 but failed to wean the beneficiaries off open defecation. Government officials frankly admit that those toilets were either never built or were of poor quality, and were used to stock grain and household implements, even tether goats.So at about 5 am daily, Kumar leads six volunteers ‑— usually two men, two women and two children — into the fields for checks. “A pradhan has to lead from the front. Otherwise, I cannot keep the volunteers motivated,” he says. These volunteers are part of the Nigrani (Surveillance) Samiti, a team of 35 who take turns each dawn to police the village for violators. “We blow a whistle when we see one, and calmly advise him or her to give up the old practice. In a few hours the rest of the village also comes to know that so and so was caught defecating in the open,” says Asa Ram, who proudly flaunts the whistle, a fluorescent orange vest and torch, the kit that the panchayat gives its Nigrani Samiti volunteers. It has been six months now and the Samiti will be wound up in a few weeks. Kumar says they no longer find any violators. In some villages, pradhans have also begun imposing penalties on violators. Raees Ahmed, the head of Doodhli village, collected Rs.7,000 from 12 violators. “I imposed fines of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 and deposited the amount with the Chief Development Officer (CDO) in Bijnor. It is just a month since we have become ODF. But the penalties and the Nigrani Samiti are having the desired effect,” says Ahmed.A wider challengeThe district administration has also not left anything to chance. Every morning, from 4 am onwards, a team of 11 data operators, each dedicated to the 11 blocks in Bijnor district, ring up the pradhans of the 300-odd ODF gram panchayats. “Our job is to make sure they go out every morning. The pradhans also have the responsibility of daily sending photos of the nigrani samiti out on rounds, which we have to verify,” says Chandresh Rai, the 30-year-old supervisor of the ODF War Room that has been set up at the CDO office.Both the “Izzat Ghars” and the “ODF War Room” are CLTS innovations that have been pioneered in Bijnor, claims CDO Indramani Tripathi. “For those who have resisted using toilets, we coined the Izzat Ghar to link it to notions of honour of women, cleanliness, and pride in maintaining the toilet in good condition,” says Tripathi. The ODF War Room helps him monitor the entire range of CLTS activities. They track CLTS teams, verify the list of eligible beneficiaries for toilets dispatched by GP, disburse payments on completion of milestones, analyse photos of toilet construction, and send out officials for physical verification where necessary. But Bijnor district’s bid to declare itself ODF a few months down the line may not be free of controversy. According to the Baseline Survery conducted in 2011-12, Bijnor had an estimated 2,22,000 households without toilets. But under the SBM, the government is not mandated to build toilets for all these households. An official said many of these households were joint families who lived in the same homestead and put down demands for multiple toilets. So, the administration has now set itself a target of 90,000 toilets. It is also expecting a good number to build toilets without any monetary incentive from the government.Uttar Pradesh SBM director Amit Gupta is, however, clear that only the absolutely deserving must get government funding. “The gram panchayat draws the list of beneficiaries to ensure that it remains a bottom-up process. Where panchayats convince beneficiaries to finance their own toilet construction, we are releasing the saved funds for other community incentives,” says Gupta.With 1,128 gram panchayats, the Bijnor administration must build an average of 80 toilets in each village to meet the “compressed demand”. So far, over 300 GPs have been declared ODF, and CDO Tripathi claims that work is on in another 600 GPs. Vigilance is also being mounted from the ODF War Room to ensure that the funds distributed for toilet construction are utilised properly. “We ask the head of the household to first dig a double pit, before the first installment of Rs.5,000 is disbursed. After the toilet seat is installed, we release the next Rs.5,000 so that work on the superstructure can begin. The final Rs.2,000 is released when the work is completed and geo-tagged,” Tripathi says. However, Bijnor may not become the first ODF district in UP. Neighbouring Shamli, a much smaller district, has fewer toilets to build to reach the target. Gupta claims that 35 of UP’s 75 districts are doing well in terms of meeting Swachh targets. “The challenge is to motivate officials, and provide CLTS training to grassroots activists,” he says.Quality concernsThe CLTS training is also taking time because there are very few in India who can provide this training. “It is a very specialised programme that teaches both officials and activists innovative strategies to keep their cool, mix seamlessly with villagers, target their psyche and achieve the necessary behavioural changes,” says Gupta.Deputy Commissioner Arun Kumar Upadhyay concurs about the quality of training. At Shekhpura Alam, a village where triggering activities were completed in early August, a few holdouts remain. One of them is Sajjan Singh, a young farmer who owns 70 bighas (28 acres) of land, but does not have a toilet in his house.Upadhyay quickly summons a crowd around Sajjan. “Look at this man! He owns 70 bighas, is dressed smartly but prefers to do tatti (defecate) in the open,” Upadhyay raises his pitch dramatically. Those assembled break into derisive laughter. Sajjan is visibly embarrassed. “Promise me, here and now, that you will build a toilet, and that too with your own funds.” Sajjan looks around for a moment, and then feebly replies: “I promise.” Upadhyay exhorts the crowd to applaud the man.“I have worked on toilet construction in earlier government campaigns. We just built the toilets and disengaged. But the CLTS training has taught me to approach the issue differently,” says Upadhyay. He claims that officials travel across the district to goad panchayats to meet targets. But villages like Shekhpura Alam also reveal the difficulties that the government is facing.Village pradhan, Savita Devi, is just a figurehead; her father-in-law Devraj Singh exercises the real authority in her name. As many as 105 toilets have to be built in this village of 550 homesteads. As toilet construction has just begun, the Nigrani Samiti, which has just been set up, currently advises people to cover the faeces with soil. “We are facing resistance from the people but we are not abandoning our Gandhigiri,” says Sullu, a member of the Nigrani Samiti. However, she does not appear motivated to continue the voluntary service and wants to be paid. “I tell them that I will go by myself on the morning rounds, even if they don’t come and that has the desired effect,” claims Devraj. But officials are also aware that the war to improve sanitation does not end with declaring a village as ODF. With open drains, and solid and liquid waste piling up within their precincts, ODF villages like Hasanpura have more work to do to go up the “swacchata” index. “The next phase in ODF villages involves mobilising the community to undertake solid and liquid waste management, keeping the surroundings of households clean and tidy, and ensuring that stagnant water does not collect,” says Parameswaran Iyer, secretary, union ministry of drinking water and sanitation.

Giriraj Singh rakes up controversy for insensitive religious comment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union minister Giriraj Singh has raked up a political storm in Bihar following his controversial statement that “Durga idol immersion was done forcibly on Tuesday by threatening the Puja Samiti functionaries” to avoid its clash with the “Tajiyas” taken out during Muharram.While his party men have come out in his support, the ruling Mahagathbandhan has termed his statement inflammatory.It may be mentioned that with Maha Navami, Vijayadashmi and Muharram falling on October 10, 11 and 12 respectively; the administration had issued directives to all Puja Samitis that idol immersion should be performed before Muharram. Singh has protested this move saying Goddess Durga is worshipped as a daughter during Navaratri and her ‘vidai’ is special.”Bihar mein devi pratima ka visarjan dande ki zor pe karwaya gaya hai..Puja Samiti ke adhyaksho ko bhay dikhakar, police se torture karakar (The idol immersions have been forcibly done… by threatening and torturing the organisers),” Singh told media persons.According to sources, the minister said that immersion is not done on a Tuesday as per the traditions and “it is as if we are in Pakistan not Bihar,” the minister was quoted by a source.Countering Singh’s statement, former state minister and JD (U) leader Shyam Rajak said Singh is harbouring bad feelings against his own state and questioned his presence in the Narendra Modi cabinet. Rajak also defended CM Nitish Kumar saying the chief minister has no role in idol immersion and the statement was uncalled for. Ally Congress also stepped in and its state functionaries said such statements are inflammatory and should be avoided.In Singh’s support was BJP MLA Nitin Navin, who said the CM was only concerned for his vote bank whereas the junior union minister had given voice to the public opinion. “Had Vijayadashmi and Muharram coincided, would the administration have stopped idol immersion processions to let Tajiyas pass first? This is an attack on Hindu culture and the government does not have any concern for the majority people of the state,” Navin said.It may be recalled that Giriraj Singh has remained in the eye of the storm for making controversial statements earlier as well.

In search of ‘moksha’, ashes of 160 Pakistani Hindus make their way to Ganga

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hoping to attain ‘moksha’, the ashes of 160 Pakistani Hindus waited at Karachi for more than five years, before finally being immersed in the Holy Ganga last week.Carefully stored at the Panchmukhi Hanuman temple, said to be 1500 year old, the ashes were brought to India by the head priest of Panchmukhi Hanuman temple, Ramnath Maharaj and his nephew Kabir Kumar via the Wagah border with the help of the Indian government. The ashes were immersed with much fanfare, including an entourage of approximate 50 people who followed with a band and the sound of drums, after performing a yagya which lasted almost six hours.The journey of the ashes was, however, not a simple one. The urns of ash or ‘asthi kalash’ from Pakistan were among 6,000 others from India which were immersed in Ganga on September 24 as part of a nation-wide campaign undertaken by a Delhi-based NGO, Shri Devodhan Sewa Samiti (SDSS). The Samiti performs the last rites of immersing the ashes after cremation of those in need or those who don’t have a next of kin. The samiti has so far, performed the immersion ritual in Hindu religion, for more than 1.5 lakh departed souls over the past 12 years. “We collect ashes from cremation grounds in fives states and bring out advertisements in others to bring out others to help the departed souls attain Moksha as per the Hindu rituals. These are mainly unknown people or those who don’t have next to kin,” said Vijay Sharma of the Samiti. Bringing the ashes from Pakistan is, however, a difficult task. The tiresome visa process, adds to the delay in immersing the ashes of Pakistani Hindus in the Ganga, claim the Samiti officials. The growing tension between the two nations, however, meant a longer wait restricted the entry of the delegation carrying the ashes, whereby leaving some souls to wait a little longer. “We could only carry 160 asthi kalash from Karachi as only two out of 10 were granted visas. There are more than 40 other ‘asthi kalash’ waiting at Sondari Shamshan (the cremation ground in Karachi),” said the head priest. This was the second time that the priest had come to India with the ‘asthis’. “My last visit to India was in 2011, then I had arrived with 135 ‘asthi kalash’, some as old as 30 years. The ashes are of those who may have shifted to Pakistan during partition along with their families, but continued to wish for the Holy Ganga to be their final resting place,” Ramnath added.

Cauvery row: Section 144 imposed in Bengaluru until September 30

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Reserving his reaction to the Supreme Court’s fresh direction to the state to release 6,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for three days, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday said he would consult legal experts and maintained that drinking water is a priority. Meanwhile, the Bengaluru Police imposed Section 144 in Bengaluru until September 30.”I’m yet to speak to legal experts, I don’t know about the order. I will speak to our advocates and react later,” he told reporters in Bidar in north Karnataka.To a question on Tamil Nadu’s arguments against utilising Cauvery river water for Bengaluru, he said, “Drinking water is a priority. It is a priority according to our water policy also. If they (Tamil Nadu) say don’t give water, it will not become a law or an order.”The Chief Minister has convened a meeting of floor leaders of both the Houses, MPs and legislators and district in charge ministers from the Cauvery basin tomorrow morning to take stock of the fresh development, official sources said.According to official sources, the cabinet meeting which is scheduled for tomorrow, will discuss the Supreme Court directions and the future course of action. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit today directed Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs water to Tamil Nadu for three days, despite the resolution passed by the state legislature last week to use the water only for drinking purpose. The state legislature had signalled its inability to implement the court’s earlier direction to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from September 21 till today.A special session of the legislature had on Friday adopted a unanimous resolution to use the water only to meet drinking water needs and not to provide it for any other purpose. Following the apex court’s fresh directions, sporadic protests erupted in Mandya, Mysuru and nearby areas.Mandya Zilla Raitha Hitharakshana Samiti (MZRHS), at the forefront of Cauvery agitation, said there was no change in its stand that water should not be released to Tamil Nadu. Samiti president Made Gowda said, “Water should not be released at any cost … they (Tamil Nadu) have enough water for their crops, they are doing vendetta politics.”Sec 144 imposed in Bengaluru until Sept 30Police, as a precautionary measure, have made elaborate security arrangements in Cauvery basin areas, especially Mandya and Bengaluru. Bengaluru city has been placed under prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC.Calling the Supreme Court’s direction to Karnataka to release 18,000 cusecs of water for three days as “grossly unfair” and “unfortunate”, state BJP president B S Yeddyurappa said the party will stand by any decision taken by the Siddaramaiah government in the interest of the farmers and the people.Alleging that the Congress leaders continue to indulge in “cheap politicking” on the issue by dragging the Centre in it, he said they have “misinterpreted” and “twisted” one of the comments of the judges.”The apex court asked the Attorney General whether it is possible for the intervention of the Union government in this issue. The AG sought time to reply to this question. At no point in time, the apex court mentioned about the intervention of the Prime Minister,” he added.

TRS MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha bats for Vidarbha statehood, says Telangana understands the ‘pain’

Hyderabad: TRS MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha has come out in support of the statehood demand for the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, citing its cultural and geographical differences with rest of the state.

MNS leader Raj Thackeray stands against demand for statehood of Vidarbha. PTIMNS leader Raj Thackeray stands against demand for statehood of Vidarbha. PTI

MNS leader Raj Thackeray stands against demand of statehood of Vidarbha. PTI

“Certainly there is a case for separate Vidarbha because it is recommended by first SRC (State Reorganisation Committee) if I am not wrong, based on cultural identity and based on different geography,” she said.

“Since we (Telangana Rashtra Samiti, which was in the forefront of movement for separate statehood for Telangana) come from that background, we understand the pain of those people and we will certainly support separate statehood movement,” Kavitha told PTI in Hyderabad.

TRS would certainly support separate statehood in cases recommended by SRC, Kavitha, the Nizamabad MP and daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, said.

“There are certain other statehood movements in the case of states where international border is there, that is a different case. But in mainland India, if there is a demand for separate state, people are culturally different from rest of the state, I think it should be considered positively. At the end of the day this is a democracy and people’s will should prevail, that’s what I feel,” she said.

Kavitha said “backwardness” of the region and less availability of water there compared to rest of Maharashtra and “continuous movement that is happening in Vidarbha for a long time” are the things that should be considered.

She quoted some people telling her that dialect-wise there is difference between Vidarbha Marathi and the one spoken in rest of the state, as also cultural aspects but hastened to add that she is not very sure about it.

Kavitha also noted that “not many” political parties within Maharashtra are supporting the statehood demand.

Activists of Raj Thackeray-led MNS have strongly opposed any division of Maharashtra and allegedly disrupted a press conference on 13 September called by “Vidarbha Rajya Andolan Samiti” in Mumbai seeking statehood for Vidarbha region.

The Samiti is among a handful of organisations leading a movement for decades demanding statehood for Vidarbha, a cotton-rich region in eastern Maharashtra.

In a first, Kolhapur’s Mahalaxmi prasad being made by prison inmates

Daily routine at a prison is not something which an inmate serving life term looks forward to or loves to talk about. However, Tuesday was something different at Kalamba Central Jail, Kolhapur, which houses 1,600 inmates of whom 75% are serving life term.Reason: Thirty of the inmates were tasked with a unique job, starting Tuesday, and this was to prepare laddus that are to be distributed as prasad for devotees of Kolhapur’s historical temple of Goddess Mahalaxmi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Most of them, 15 men and 15 women, are serving life term and were getting involved in such a ‘sacred’ activity for the first time. “They agreed readily for the work as they believed the work as service towards God. It was difficult to shortlist 30 people as there were too many aspirants,” Kalamba jail superintendent Sharad Shelke told dna.Toiling for eight hours – from 8 am to 4 pm – in a heavily guarded room of 60/40 square feet, the inmates churned out 3,000 laddus, which were then beautifully packaged and delivered to the temple on Wednesday morning. Another consignment of 3,000 laddus was ready by Wednesday evening to be delivered next day. Earlier, they were trained for a month to prepare quality laddus, sticking to the prescribed norms of taste, size and weight in a hygienic manner.The room where laddus are made has been divided into two compartments. “Men in one compartment prepare boondi, take it out, remove oil, prepare sugar chashni and soak the boondi in chashni. The material is then sent to women’s area who then make laddus and pack them,” explains Shelke.It was Kolhapur collector Amit Saini – also the ex-officio head of Pashchim Maharashtra Devsthan Samiti, which runs the Mahalaxmi temple – who floated the idea two months back. The Home department readily agreed to the proposal.Right wing groups such as Hindu Janjagruti Samiti raised strong opposition to the move though.“Prasad is regarded sacred and must be prepared by those who have faith in God and with noble intentions. How can we ask murder and rape convicts to prepare them, that too on the jail premises which are infamous for all illegal activities including use of drugs,” asks Arvind Pansare, HJS state spokesperson. He also said that it could hurt the sentiments of the believers.Saini, however, is moving ahead with the plan. “We had received several complaints regarding poor qaulity and underweight laddoos supplied by the contractors. We were helpless. As per government rules, we had to give the work to the lowest bidder. The supplier used to quote Rs 3.5 per laddoo of 50 grams. It is impossible to maintain the quality at this cost unless you use poor quality ingredients,” Saini told dna justifying his move. “Hence, we toyed with the idea to rope in jail inmates so that good quality prasad can be prepared, maintaining hygiene and quality and under strict supervision,” Saini said.As per the rules, inmates are paid Rs40-50 per day for the job depending upon the skill type of the work. “The pilot project would be implemented for three months. We will see the feedback as well as the quality. If everything is good, the contract will be continued,” said Saini.The members of Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti (PMDS) which governs the temple said they visited the jail premises to check their system of production and hygiene. “Their system is good and meet the hygiene norms. We will procure the sweets from them at Rs 7 and distribute them at Rs 8,” an official said.

Dabholkar murder accused was in touch with 2009 Goa blast suspect: CBI

Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) leader Dr Virendra Tawde, who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the alleged murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, was reportedly in touch with Sarang Akolkar, the prime accused in the 2009 Goa blast.Tawde, an ENT specialist by profession, is based out of Panvel and was designated as a Sanatan speaker. His arrest comes more than a week after the CBI raided his residence and claimed to have recovered sim cards and mobile phones.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dabholkar, who founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, was murdered on August 20, 2013, in Pune.While CBI sources said that though the exact role played by Tawde in Dabholkar’s murder is not clear, investigators have found out that he was in touch with Akolkar through emails.Akolkar, a member of Sanatan Sanstha, has been absconding for over seven years and is wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). There is also a red-corner notice against him by the Interpol. Two suspected members of the Sanatan Sanstha were killed in the 2009 Goa blast after a bomb they were carrying on a scooter accidentally went off.Agency sources told dna that the arrest was based on a ‘scrutiny of cyber forensic evidence’. He was produced in a city court and remanded in police custody till June 16.”When confronted with the evidence, Tawde was not able to provide proper explanations in multiple questioning sessions, following which he was taken into custody,” said a CBI source.Meanwhile, the HJS maintained Tawde’s innocence and said that it will stand by him.

Sanatan Sanstha member arrested in Narendra Dabholkar murder case

Dr Virendra Tawde, a member of Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagriti Samiti was arrested from Mumbai on Friday in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case. The CBI had conducted raids at his residence earlier this month.Tawde, a former ENT surgeon at JJ Hospital, had been in the CBI’s lookout and was questioned for over an hour at a Panvel farmhouse in December 2015. He has been a Sanstha sadak for more than 15 years.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to the Hindustan Times, Tawde will be brought to the local court in Pune on Saturday. Police have called him a co-conspirator in the case.Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a staunch rationalist and anti-superstition activist, was shot dead by unidentified assailants while on a morning walk in Pune on August 20, 2013.There was no breakthrough for close to three years since the murder, though members of Sanatan Sanstha were being questioned in the case.Dabholkar headed Maharashtra Andh-shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti and had doggedly pursued the enactment of Anti-Superstition and Eradication of Black Magic bill.The bill was opposed by some political parties for being ‘anti-Hindu’. However, four days after Dabholkar’s murder, Maharashtra government brought it into force through an ordinance and the bill was passed by the legislature in December 2013.

Jat agitation resumes today; 48 companies of paramilitary forces deployed

Ahead of the proposed Jat quota agitation from Sunday, security arrangements in Haryana have been tightened with the deployment of 4,800 paramilitary personnel and the administration is on high alert.”Besides adequate deployment of police personnel, as many as 48 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed at various places in the state keeping in view the call for a stir. We have asked for 15 more companies from the Centre,” Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Ram Niwas said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said, “we are not taking any chance,” even though only one group was going ahead with the dharna. He also said that police and paramilitary forces have been deployed to guard the Western Yamuna Canal in Sonipat district.
ALSO READ Sonipat DM bans mobile internet service in the district ahead of Jat agitationProtesters had disrupted water supply to the national capital by damaging the Carrier-Lined Channel (CLC) of Munak Canal during the earlier Jat agitation in February.The administration has specified one spot in each district where people can peacefully hold dharna, officials said.
ALSO READ Jat reservation: Leaders assure government of peaceful protests on June 5However, officials said they were wary of the fact that protesters may attempt to block national highways and rail tracks, like in February, and therefore they have put maximum security to prevent a repeat of the situation.Haryana Police has cancelled leave of all personnel except in emergency cases till further orders. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPc have already been imposed in seven sensitive districts of Haryana barring gathering of five or more persons and paramilitary forces have been conducting flag marches during the past few days.Police are keeping a close watch on anyone trying to spread rumours or make inflammatory statements through social media.”Adequate security measures have been taken. We are fully prepared to deal with the situation,” Additional Director General of Police Mohammad Akil said.”The police stations are stocked adequately equipped to deal with any kind of protest,” he said.While Khap Panchayats have opted out of the proposed agitation and dharnas from June 5, All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) has given a call for the protest.Jat community leaders, however, have assured Haryana government that they will maintain peace during the proposed pro-quota protest.The AIJASS Hisar district president Rambhagat Malik said, “We are committed to holding dharnas in a peaceful manner.” He also said that apart from quota for the Jat community, “We are demanding withdrawal of cases registered against our leaders and youths during the stir in February”.However, the head of Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, Nafe Singh Nain, yesterday said they will not participate in the protest slated for June 5.Meanwhile, Nafe Singh Nain, National President of Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, said they will not participate in the protest slated for June 5. He said, “The government has assured the community of providing reservation and compensation to the families of those killed in the February stir.” “We trust the government and there is no need for agitation now and if someone still protest, we are not with them,” the Jat leader said.

Jat stir: 4,800 paramilitary personnel deployed, administration on high alert

Chandigarh: Ahead of the proposed Jat quota agitation from Sunday, security arrangements in Haryana have been tightened with the deployment of 4,800 paramilitary personnel and the administration is on high alert.

“Besides adequate deployment of police personnel, as many as 48 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed at various places in the state keeping in view the stir call from tomorrow. We have asked for 15 more companies from the Centre,” Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Ram Niwas said on Saturaday.

He said, “we are not taking any chance,” even though only one group was going ahead with the dharna.

He also said that police and paramilitary forces have been deployed to guard the Western Yamuna Canal in Sonipat district.

Protesters had disrupted water supply to the national capital by damaging the Carrier-Lined Channel (CLC) of Munak Canal during the earlier Jat agitation in February.

The administration has specified one spot in each district where people can peacefully hold dharna, officials said.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

However, officials said they were wary of the fact that protesters may attempt to block national highways and rail tracks, like in February, and therefore they have put maximum security to prevent a repeat of the situation.

Haryana Police has cancelled leave of all personnel except in emergency cases till further orders.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPc have already been imposed in seven sensitive districts of Haryana barring gathering of five or more persons and paramilitary forces have been conducting flag marches during the past few days .

Police are keeping a close watch on anyone trying to spread rumours or make inflammatory statements through social media.

“Adequate security measures have been taken. We are fully prepared to deal with the situation,” Additional Director General of Police Mohammad Akil said.

“The police stations are stocked adequately equipped to dead with any kind of protest,” he said.

While Khap Panchayats have opted out of the proposed agitation and dharnas from 5 June, All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) has given a call for the protest.

Jat community leaders, however, have assured Haryana government that they will maintain peace during the proposed pro-quota protest.

The AIJASS Hisar district president Rambhagat Malik said, “We are committed to holding dharnas in a peaceful manner.”

He also said that apart from quota for the Jat community, “We are demanding withdrawal of cases registered against our leaders and youths during the stir in February”.

However, the head of Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, Nafe Singh Nain, yesterday said they will not participate in the protest slated for 5 June.

Thirty people were killed and properties worth hundreds of crores of rupees were destroyed during the February quota agitation by Jats.

CBI finds evidence against two affiliated to right wing groups

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the killing of rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, on Wednesday, said that its investigators had found cyber forensic evidence against two persons belonging to right-wing political groups.While one of the suspects, identified as Sarang Akolkar – believed to be a Sanatan Sanstha activist who has been absconding since his name cropped up in the 2009 Goa blast, the other accused, Virendra Singh Tawde, is the chief coordinator of Hindu Janjagriti Samiti.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The agency also conducted searches at the house of Akolkar in Pune and Tawde in Panvel near Mumbai.Wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a red-corner notice was also issued against Akolkar by the Interpol in connection with the Goa blast, which killed two suspected members of Sanatan Sanstha after a bomb they were carrying on a scooter accidentally went off. According to the agency officials, the bomb was meant for disrupting the Narakasur effigy competition that takes place in Goa on the eve of Diwali.In the same case, six of the accused were acquitted by the Bombay High Court due to a technical error committed by the NIA while filing of the chargesheet, which had named 12, including Akolkar.Hindu right-wing group Sanathan Sanstha came under the scanner of investigative agencies following the murders of Dr. Dabholkar, veteran Communist leader Govind Pansare in Kolhapur district and scholar-thinker MM Kalburgi, who was killed outside his home in Dharwad, Karnataka.Agency officials, elaborating on the nature of evidence gathered against the two, said, “We have collected several mobile phones and SIM cards from the residences of the duo. The two came under our scanner following a thorough analysis of the cyber forensic evidence.” Another official told dna that agency sleuths might be close to finally cracking the case.Members of the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti and Sanathan Sansatha might also be facing questioning by investigators who are now trailing Sarankar. According to a CBI official, Dr Tawde was present at his residence when the searches took place and is likely to be questioned in the coming days.”Certain documents and mobile numbers, e-mails and so on, recovered during searches, are being scrutinised,” said a CBI spokesperson.Dr. Dabholkar, who fought against superstitions, was shot dead during his morning walk on the Omkareshwar Bridge in Pune in August 2013. The Bombay high court had transferred the probe to the CBI on May 9, 2014.

Maha Women’s Commission ask Nashik police to probe ‘virginity test’ episode

The Maharashtra Women’s Commission has asked Nashik police to probe the alleged ‘virginity test’ episode in that district and submit a report. Commission chief Vijaya Rahatkar told PTI that she has asked Nashik police commissioner to make an in-depth inquiry into the alleged incident and submit a report. The women’s panel intervened following reports that a husband decided to divorce his wife after she failed the ‘virginity test’.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Last month, the girl, who hails from Ahmednagar district and is preparing to join police force, married a 25-year-old man from Nashik. This was his second marriage. Both belong to the ‘Kanajarbhat’ community which has two sects —Dera Sachha and Khandpith. The community has its own ‘constitution’ which is followed rigorously.Placing a high value on virginity in women, members of the caste panchayat wait outside after the wedding, while the couple has intercourse on a plain white cloth. This is supposedly a ‘test’ to prove that the woman is a virgin.The husband said that the woman had not bled after intercourse and rejected her as his wife. The marriage was summarily invalidated, despite the girl’s pleas that she was, in fact, a virgin and that her lack of bleeding could be due to the vigorous exercise she went through in preparation for the police force.The next day, she and her mother tried to file a police complaint. But her father intervened, locked them in the house and took away the girl’s mobile phone.Krishna Chandgude, activist of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, said he went to the house and spoke to the girl and her parents and tried to convince her father to file a police complaint, but the latter was afraid of the caste panchayat.Avinash Patil, working president of the Samiti said Maharashtra was the first state to pass a law against social boycott and illogical justice meted out by such panchayats – the Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, which is awaiting the President’s nod.If it is implemented, such rituals will be prohibited, he said. Shiv Sena leader and MLC Neelam Gorhe termed the episode as “mental and physical cruelty” against the woman. “Action can be taken against this even under current laws. We need more awareness to ensure such cases do not occur,” she said. Meanwhile, the husband today claimed that the ‘virginity test’ was conducted at the behest of the girl’s family members. Rahatkar, however, rubbished his claim saying parents of which girl will put their daughter to such an ordeal. “The girl has said that if her husband comes to take her back, she is ready to live with him,” Rahatkar added.

Hardik Patel calls for stir against donations to schools, colleges

Slamming the Gujarat government for “commercialisation of education”, jailed Patel quota stir leader Hardik Patel has called for a peaceful mass movement against schools and colleges demanding donation for admitting the students. In a letter addressed to Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Hardik alleged that the government is ignoring the plight of students and is only interested in organising various festivals to boast about development. “Main reason behind students’ suicides is rampant commercialisation of education in Gujarat. People are becoming victims of the donation practice. I urge PAAS and other organisations to raise their voice against this system” Hardik said in the letter dated May 27. The copies of the letter were distributed to media by PAAS today. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hardik has been lodged at Lajpore jail in Surat since last October under two cases of sedition emerging out of the Patel quota agitation. “This government is not worried about the future of students and youths. What is the meaning of spending crores on various festivals in the name of showcasing development? Time has come to give justice to youths,” he stated.According to Hardik, colleges and schools are having “government’s protection and permission to collect donations, which are in turn given to parties for election campaigns”. “I appeal to all the students and their families to contact PAAS members if any education institute demands donation. Upon receiving such complaints, PAAS members should engage in peaceful protests outside those institutes to highlight the issue,” said Hardik.

Jat quota stir: Sedition case filed against agitation chief for allegedly instigating violence

Jind, Haryana: A sedition case was registered against Jat Sangharsh Samiti chief Yashpal Malik and 125 others on Friday for allegedly threatening peace and communal harmony in Haryana by instigating people to launch a fresh quota agitation.

Malik had organised a meeting at a local Jat Dharamshala on Wednesday where he announced another agitation on 5 June demanding reservation for Jats, withdrawal of cases registered during the previous protests and compensation to those killed during the agitation in February.

Haryana was on the boil in February this year when members of Jat community held protests and indulged in arson seeking reservation in government jobs.

File photo of the Jat agitation. PTI

File photo of the Jat agitation. PTI

Thirty people were killed in the violence and there was extensive damage to property during the stir whose epicentre was Rohtak district.

“A case has been registered against Yashpal Malik and 125 others for instigating people for agitation that can disturb peace and harm communal harmony in the state,” police said.

The case has been registered under Section 124 A (sedition), 153 A (1) and 153 (b) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc) of the IPC.

Malik had threatened to stage protests in other states as well, police said.

The Jat leader and his followers used language which could potentially instigate people to launch violent agitation against Haryana government and create law and order problem in the state, they said

Police said they have launched an investigation in the case, adding they are likely to arrest the persons involved.

Now, a Hindu outfit wants website shut down for featuring Sunny Leone’s pictures

Some women activists of a right-wing group have demanded shutting down of a website, run by a private firm, which features photographs of Bollywood actor Sunny Leone.The activists of Hindu Jana Jagruti Samiti called on the Thane police commissioner yesterday and argued that the site features “objectionable” photographs of the actor.Thane police commissioner Parambir Singh told the activists that the police had earlier written to the company, but received no response.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He assured them that the police would again ask the firm to close the website. A police release said here the organisation had earlier filed a complaint in this regard.

Petrol pump to be named after late police horse Shaktiman

Uttarakhand DGP B S Sidhu on Thursday laid the foundation stone of a petrol pump at the police lines in Dehradun to be named after Shaktiman, the police horse who died recently of injuries sustained during a BJP protest rally in the city last month.Located about 250 metres from the police lines, the petrol pump will be run by Police Jana Kalyan Samiti, a police lines staff said.Shaktiman, a trained horse, who was part of Uttarakhand mounted police for years had been kept at the police lines for over a month after suffering injuries at the protest rally.

Resistance to ‘corporate corridorisation of India’ intensifies

“Overnight, the government declares home and fields of an adivasi or a farmer part of an industrial corridor. Even after days and months no one comes to visit her/his home or village and s/he is left to wonder who is deciding her/his fate, without even seeking consent,” Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) told a two-day national convention against “corporate corridorisation of India”, in Delhi. “This is the experience of so many living within the influence zone of the Delhi-Mumbai or Amritsar-Kolkata industrial corridors,” she said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The convention on the web of industrial corridors in the country and the huge socio-economic and political fallouts of these projects, was joined by activists and experts from 15 states engaged in struggle or study of corridors for more than five years now. It was jointly organised by National Alliance of People’s Movements, Indian Community Activist Network (ICAN), Sarvahara Jan Andolan, Jan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti, Mines, Minerals & People and Delhi Solidarity Group.”How can the fate of people in this country be decided without ever consulting them in the name of larger public good?” Patkar asked. She called the planning of the web of industrial corridors “an undemocratic ploy to take away sovereign rights of people and public institutions.”Ulka Mahajan, of the Sarvhara Jan Andolan, Raigad, pointed out how even though notifications for acquisition of 67,000 acres of land from 78 villages were issued for the development of the Dighi industrial port area, no one had a project plan in hand to share with affected communities. “Despite complete opacity over projects proposed, investments or industries expected, notifications were issued. Under the circumstances, this seems like a ploy to loot land and displace huge populations without any thought for real issues.” Calling out projects like Dighe real estate projects, about which there is no clarity even among planners, she wondered why there was such a hurry to destroy land, water, forests and an entire ecosystem.Others like Anil Chaudhary of Jan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti called it “the financialisation of economy in favour of big corporations, facilitated by the government with active help from the governments of Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, UK, Germany, US or other developed countries who are exploring the possibilities for expansion of their own corporations.”Sagar Rabari of Gujarat Khedut Mazdoor Samaj said: “We have forged alliances with all caste groups and cut across the traditional boundaries of the trade unions and farmers to oppose the corporate loot of the natural resources in name of development, and we have had successes in challenging the Dholera SIR or Mandala Bechara SIR or other projects. Since they are completely undemocratic, anti-people and a real estate project which will destroy the livelihoods of the people, without offering them anything in return. Contrary to the image that land acquisition in Gujarat is easy, we would say that it is one of the most difficult places to acquire land in the country. Likewise, as against the claims of creation of jobs, Gujarat, despite numerous SEZs in the past decade has created the fewest jobs. This exposes how as against displacement of lakhs of people, jobs created are very, very few. Experiences of the state governments changing land laws, labour laws, environmental laws to help corporates were shared by activists who pointed out how this was in complete violation of central laws and constitutionally untenable, saying most of this needs to be challenged in courts.” The development of the corridors, as of now five, including the Vizag–Chennai, Chennai–Bangalore and Mumbai-Bangalore corridors, together have an influence area covering 50% of the land area. Pointing out how together with the Sagarmala, Bharat Mala projects, the industrial corridors are a massive infrastructure plan, activists asked whether the country has natural resources to support this massive development plan and whether any comprehensive social and environmental impact assessment was conducted. “Have we even looked at the fact that what will happen to the millions of people dependent on the natural resources, farmers, adivasis, fishing communities, artisans, pastoralists?” Patkar asked at the convention.These questions along with the accountability of our own elected governments were also discussed. Activists from DMIC and AKIC pointed out how sarpanches, MLAs and often even MPs were in the dark about these projects. “These projects and plans are being prepared by consultants and are to be implemented by Special Purpose Vehicles and Specially Appointed Authorities overriding powers of the Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat or Municipalities and Municipal Corporations. The complete governance structure is being privatised at the moment, in the name of development,” averred Mahajan.The convention has demanded, a parliamentary oversight over the loan agreements signed by the government with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other financial institutions. “Voluntarily all agreements, projects, plans, feasibility studies and every document related to the corridors must be in the public domain, as per Section 4 of the RTI Act,” said a statement released post-convention, which added, “The Parliamentary Standing Committee studying the industrial corridor policy framework must meet and respond to groups who have approached for a hearing. In addition, they must go out and meet the areas demarcated as being part of the industrial corridors.”It was also demanded that “the anti-democratic and unconstitutional changes to labour and land laws brought in by the Rajasthan and Gujarat government be withdrawn and President must not give assent to those.”The convention ended with the formation of a nationwide committee which will undertake the work of reaching out to other groups, conduct researches, workshops, plan actions and inform a wider population about these projects and the impacts it might have. In the next five months, a wide campaigning will be done across the nation under the banner of “Corridor Virodhi Sangharsh Abhiyaan” and will decide about the national platform in the month of October 2016. Towards the end of the year, a nation-wide yatra would be undertaken and this would be preceded by a series of regional meetings.

Patel agitation: 39 held for ‘jail bharo’ agitation get bail

Thirty-nine people, who were arrested after the ‘jail bharo’ agitation by Patel community members turned violent last Sunday, have been granted conditional bail by a local court.The bail order was passed by the court of Principal District Judge Geeta Gopi on Saturday. The 39 accused were granted bail on furnishing a bond of Rs 15,000 each. While granting bail, the court observed that nearly half of those arrested did not belong to the Patel community.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The bail was granted on certain conditions, including that the accused will have to present themselves before the court once every month, and they will have to ensure that evidences against them are not tampered with.The accused were arrested on last Sunday under relevant sections of Indian Penal Code for rioting, and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. They were arrested after the ‘jail bharo’ call given by Sardar Patel Group (SPG) and Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) turned violent on Sunday, following which Surat Police detained 435 agitators.Later, 39 people were shown as arrested from different parts of the city, including Amroli, Sarthana, Kapodara, among others, for rioting and causing damage to public property such as CCTV cameras and signboards.

Bihar Panchayat polls: 10-phased elections begin amid tight security

Amid tight security, the first phase of the panchayat polls in Bihar began on Sunday.The State Election Commission has made security arrangements for peaceful, free and fair panchayat polls.Over 61 lakhs voters will exercise their right of franchise to elect 27,925 representatives of Panchayati Raj Institution including members of Zilla Parishad, Mukhia, Sarpanch and Panchayat Samiti members. The 10 phase three-tier panchayat poll is being held to elect a total of 1161 members of zilla parishads, 11496 members of panchayat samitis, mukhiyas and sarpanchs in 8392 gram panchayats and 114733 members each in gram panchayat and gram kutcheries.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 10 phase polling would be held on April 24 and April 28, May 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, 22, 26 and 30. The State Election Commission has established a control room which would be functional on polling days from 6 AM to 10 PM.Altogether 50,000 armed personnel have been reportedly deployed for the first phase of 10-phase Bihar panchayat elections commencing.Ahead of the panchayat elections, Naxals on Saturday blew up part of a school building in Bihar’s Jamui, serving as polling booth. However, no casualty was reported.

Anupam Kher did nothing for us, he only harmed our interests: Kashmiri Pandits organisation

The jury is out in the open with the cropping up of Anupam Kher’s name for the ‘coveted’ membership of the Rajya Sabha. After choosing six names to forward to the President, the BJP is said to be eager to forward ‘loyalist’ Anupam Kher’s name too.Respected for his accomplishments as a character artist, Kher lately has been at the forefront to defend BJP’s stand on intolerance debate – be it the return of awards by intellectuals or making Bharat Mata ki Jai as a symbol of ‘true’ nationalism or patriotism.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The BJP perhaps also thinks that his nomination would ease its position within the Kashmiri Pandit community for which it has hardly been able to deliver what it promised.But Kher’s credentials do not bring the same fervor among many Kashmiri Pundits – both in the valley and outside it – to whom dna spoke to.Sanjay Tickoo, president of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), who resisted exodus and chose to live in Srinagar sees it as ambition politics playing at its worst.”Kher does not deserve it at all. What has he done for the community? There are several other stalwarts who have worked hard for the cause of Pandit community. He has set his eyes for RS seat since last one year or so. But during that period he has done more harm. Spewing venom against any community does not fetch anything.”Tickoo wonders how Kher can contribute to his existence in hostile conditions in the valley.”There are some 6000-7000 Hindus in Kashmir valley how he is going to increase their morale. We have done it alone so far. We rather feel insecure because of his speeches. How Kher can presume that any Indian not holding a tricolor is not a nationalist? Why does not he shift with family to the valley and see? Did he ever visit my home or any other family?” says Tickoo.Eminent lawyer, Ashok Bhan who had to leave Kashmir in 1990 sees remote chance of Kher getting the Rajya Sabha as his wife is already an MP and he recently got Padma award.Bhan also wonders if President would consider his performances as a “clown” worthy of eminence.Bhan also finds Kher guilty of trying to subvert constitutional provisions on the plans of intolerance propaganda.”President nominates eminent people. Does he fit that position of eminence despite trying hard to do so by subverting constitutional provisions? He is trying to masquerade the cause of Kashmiri Pandits to which he is not connected and does not know anything about. True KPs cannot a party to right wing politics as it is not there in their ethos,” says Bhan.For the lawyer, Kher is behaving like an anti-Kashmiri as he often abuses Kashmir in Kashmiri and would a service to the community if he leaves Kashmiri Pandits fate to be determined by them alone.Famous theatre personality, M K Raina feels sad for Kher for doing things that are quite unbecoming of him.”I felt very sad when I saw him lampooning intellectuals. He lampooned great personalities like Krishna Sobti who is 90 years old, a freedom fighter and a stalwart in her field, when they returned the award. Sahitya Academy is the most respected award for any writer and it is not easy to return it but he made a mockery of it. I was very upset, it pained me,” says Raina.Raina says that if Kher has some dignity left he should not accept the Rajya Sabha post.”For his own grace he should refuse it or else he will have to defend the decision all his life,” says Raina.Kher, however, has an admirer in Sunil Shakdhar, former president of Kashmiri Samiti.”He is an India Kaskhmiri Pandit who was born a KP family, eats Kashmiri food speaks Kashmiri. His family migrated during the first onslaught on Kashmiri pundits by the Qabayalis. Many people do not know of that he was the chief guest in first KP world conference held in Siri Fort in 1993-94. He has been espousing Kashmiri cause since then. He has visited Kashmiri camps also. His wife became BJP MP accidentally, it is not his fault,” says Shakdhar in Kher’s defence.Shakdhar believes that Kher will espouse their cause in Rajya Sabha.”If he speaks about us in RS it is good or else we will criticize him. But as his roots are in Kashmir, I am sure he will fight for our cause,” says Shakdhar.

Haryana Cabinet approves Jat reservation bill

Haryana Cabinet on Monday approved the draft Bill to provide reservation to Jats in government jobs and educational institutions.Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (ABJASS), the body that spearheaded the Jat quota stir in February, had on Sunday threatened to resume the agitation if its demands are not met by the end of this month.The BJP-led state government had earlier said it will bring the Bill to give reservation to Jats and four other castes-Jat Sikhs, Bishnois, Tyagis and Rors in the ongoing Budget session which is scheduled to end on March 31.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The community has been demanding reservation in the existing backward classes (BC) category. The Backward Classes quota is bifurcated in two categories–BC-A and BC-B having 16 and 11% reservation respectively.In February, 30 people had lost their lives during the nine-day violent agitation by Jats demanding 10% quota in government jobs and educational institutions.Several districts including Rohtak, the epicentre of Jat agitation, Jhajjar, Kaithal, Jind, Sonipat and Bhiwani had witnessed violence.Jats are also demanding withdrawal of FIRs registered against the protesters, compensation to those killed during the stir and action against BJP MP from Kurukshetra Raj Kumar Saini for his anti-Jat reservation stand.

Gujarat: Will support BJP if it declares cow as ‘Rashtra Mata’, says Congress

Congress on Friday sought to corner BJP on the suicide by a cow protection activist seeking ‘Rashtra Mata’ (mother of nation) status to the animal, saying the party will support the government if it goes ahead with such move.However, the BJP remained more or less elusive while refusing to give any commitment to the demand raised by ‘Gau Raksha Ekta Samiti’.Samiti activist Hindabhai Vambadiya (35) allegedly consumed pesticide outside Rajkot Collector office yesterday and died later in civil hospital. He was part of the group of eight men who attempted suicide outside the collectorate seeking ‘Rashtra Mata’ status to cow and beef ban across country. The issue reverberated in the Legislative Assembly today.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior Congressman and the Leader of Opposition Shankersinh Vaghela said that his party supports the demand for declaring cow as “Rashtra Mata (mother of nation)”.”BJP should do introspection as to why someone gave his life. Cow is our mother and the BJP government must declare it as our national mother. If government agrees to do that, the Congress will support that move,” Vaghela told reporters.During the Assembly proceedings earlier in the day, Vaghela asked Speaker Ganpat Vasava to allow discussion in zero hour on the issue after question hour ended. Vaghela told the Speaker that it was a matter of serious concern that someone has ended his life demanding the ‘Rashtra Mata’ status for cow. Vaghela said the BJP is more touchy about the cow “as the saffron party uses cow as a mean to secure votes”.However, Vasava rejected his demand, saying there is no tradition of zero-hour in Gujarat Assembly, following which Vaghela and the Congress MLAs staged a symbolic walkout.After they returned, Health Minister Nitin Patel launched an attack on the Congress, saying the party has no right to speak about cow “as their leaders once supported those who eat beef”.”A Congress MLA in Kerala even hosted a beef party in the past,” he alleged.Senior Congress MLA Shaktisinh Gohil hit back at BJP, claiming that people believed in the BJP’s pre-poll claims that BJP will declare cow as national animal after coming to power at the Centre.”BJP claims to be a party of ‘Gau-Bhakts (cow worshippers). You only promised to do everything possible to protect cows ahead of polls. You only promised to declare it as Rashtra Mata. Since BJP has not done that, a person ended his life after consuming poison in Rajkot” alleged Gohil.Responding to Gohil, Law Minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja said that BJP is a party with a strong conviction and all the party workers believe in protecting cows at any cost. The Samiti has called for Gujarat bandh on Friday on the issue.

Jat agitation: As deadline ends, Haryana govt invites leaders for talks

Haryana braced for a renewed quota agitation on Thursday even as the government made a last ditch attempt to avert it by inviting Jat leaders for talks on Friday with a promise of getting a bill on reservation passed during the ongoing Budget session that ends on March 31.Deadline ends on ThursdayThe Jats, who had issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the government to address their demands by today, said they will take a decision on the future course of action after holding meeting with Haryana Chief Secretary and Director General of Police tomorrow afternoon. Bracing for the stir, the state government deployed paramilitary forces and police in sensitive districts and they carried out Flag Marches in various places to instil confidence among people in the state which witnessed widespread violence during the first phase of the agitation last month that left 30 people dead and caused extensive loss.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Paramilitary forces on alert The Centre has sent 80 companies (about 800 personnel) of paramilitary forces to the state which are being deployed in sensitive areas like Rohtak and Jhajjar districts, which were the worst-affected during the first phase of the agitation last month. To defuse the situation, the state government invited the Jat leaders for talks. “We have been invited by the government for talks tomorrow at Chandigarh,” All India Jat Aarakshan Sanghursh Samiti President Yashpal Malik said.”Our leaders will be meeting Haryana Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) tomorrow afternoon as per the government invitation,” he said. “Till then we will not resume our agitation,” he said, adding that “after meeting the top officials of Haryana next course of action will be taken.” In the evening, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said the Jat reservation bill may be brought during the current assembly session “on any day.”Bill may be passed any dayIn a brief statement, he said, “Jat Reservation Bill is being drafted after consideration of every aspect and discussion with all stakeholders. This Bill may be introduced in the Haryana Vidhan Sabha on any day during the ongoing Budget Session.” Finance Minister Abhimanya earlier said, “We are sure that during this session, this Bill will be passed.” He told reporters that it is taking time to draft the bill as the government wants to make it sure that the new law does not get entangled in a legal quagmire.”The Bill (to give reservation to Jats) is being drafted and we are making efforts to bring and pass such a Bill in the assembly which is in the interest of Haryana people and it does not get entangled in legal quagmire… This is why it is taking time (for introducing Bill in assembly),” he said. He asked Jat organisations to give their suggestions to draft this for their benefit instead of giving ultimatum on resuming agitation.”Instead of giving ultimatum, Jat leaders should give their suggestions for drafting a Bill which will be in the interest of Haryana people. It (ultimatum) will not help the state,” Abhimanyu said. Various Jat organisations had on Monday threatened to resume their quota agitation, which rocked the state last month and claimed 30 lives, if the Manohar Lal Khattar government does not meet their demand by today.Malik demanded that state government must bring a Bill in the ongoing Assembly session to ensure reservation for Jats.Malik said that the Samiti will organize meetings on March 19 and 20 throughout the state and after that, meeting of units of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi will be held at Nangloi in Delhi on March 21 to discuss about their demands. Police said it has made adequate security arrangements. “We have adequate force and we are deploying it accordingly,” said Sanjay Kumar, IGP of Rohtak Range, a region that was the worst affected during last month’s agitation. “We have already got the paramilitary force. The police is on the alert and we are making all arrangements (to maintain law and order),” he said.He said additional police forces had also been arranged from within the state for deployment in the sensitive areas in and around Rohtak. Asked about the situation in Rohtak, Jhajjar and some other areas worst hit by recent unrest, the IG said, “at present the situation is normal.” Reports said that authorities have stepped up security with deployment of additional security personnel in many towns, including Jind and Sonipat.

RSS took hasty stand on women entering temples: Hindu body

Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), a Hindu organisation established in 2002, released a statement on Sunday criticising the RSS for its haste in saying that women should not be banned from entering certain temple premises. HJS said that such decisions should instead be left to Acharya Pitha — a dharma sansad, or ‘parliament of dharma’ as the statement put it — set up by Adya Shankaracharya.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In case any dispute (regarding Hindu tenets) is to arise as time passes, Adya Shankaracharya has given authority to Acharya Pitha, established by him, to take an appropriate decision. Just as political decisions are taken in Parliament by the elected representatives of the people, similar decisions regarding dharma should be taken in the parliament of dharma (dharma sansad),” the statement said. It added: “If such decisions were taken on the platform of organisations instead of the dharma sansad, it would create a lot of confusion in the future.” The statement further said: “Therefore, the stand declared by the RSS over the entry of women in temples may project that the science of dharma is false, which in turn may provide strength to anti-dharma progressive elements. These progressive elements will not restrict themselves to shouting slogans of Bharat’s destruction and celebrating ‘Mahishasur anniversary’ in universities.”HJS was also of the view that the Hindu community would get the wrong message if a devout Hindu body like the RSS backed down when faced with opposition from an ‘anti-dharma’ person such as Trupti Desai, who launched agitations at the Shani Shingnapur and Tryambakeshwar temples in favour of women entering the sanctum sanctorum of these temples.

Gujarat govt holds parleys with Hardik Patel to reach compromise on quota issue

The violent Jat stir seems to have set the alarm bells ringing in Gujarat government which on Tuesday send an emissary to meet jailed Patel quota agitation leader Hardik Patel to explore a compromise on the vexed issue.Prominent Patel leader and BJP MP Vitthal Radadia, who met Hardik in Lajpore jail, claimed that the government may consider withdrawal of cases registered against Patel leaders, including that of sedition against Hardik and others, if the deal is struck.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Vitthalbhai Radadia is the respected leader of our community. I had a detailed discussion with him on the (Patel quota) issue. I will accept the compromise formula if it is for the benefit of my community,” said Hardik, who was taken out of the jail for production in court in Visnagar.Radadia and Hardik held a detailed discussion related to issues raised by the ‘Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti’ (PAAS) leading the agitation for reservation for Patels under OBC category.”Anandiben Patel (Gujarat chief minister) had asked me to meet Hardik on behalf of the state government to find out a possible solution to the ongoing Patel quota agitation,” Radadia told reporters. He met Hardik inside the jail for over an hour.”I had a very detailed discussion with Hardik on all the issues raised by his Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti. I will carry his message to the chief minister and I hope a solution to the problem will be soon arrived at,” Radadia said.The MP said if a compromise is reached between the Patel quota agitators and government, all cases slapped against the members of Patel community, including that of sedition against Hardik and others, will be withdrawn. The cases were registered in the wake of large scale violence last year during the Patel quota agitation in the state.Radadia said his community is hopeful that government will find out some way to provide the reservation benefits to Patels.”If Haryana Government can fulfil the demands of Jat community for reservation after five days of agitation, Central government and state (Gujarat) governments should also do something for the Patel community,” he said.Earlier, a committee comprising leaders of Patel community was formed headed by Jairam Vansjaliya to discuss the quota demand. Patels have been agitating for the last six months for their demand seeking reservation under OBC category in government jobs and education.Hardik recently resorted to hunger strike in the jail on the reservation issue. Three of his close aides – Ketan Patel, Chirag Patel and Dinesh Bambhaniya – who are also behind bars in sedition case, had last week written a letter to the Chief Minister expressing their willingness to hold talks.Following the violent Patel quota agitation, 457 FIRs related to arson, assault and rioting were filed across Gujarat between July 7 and December 3 last year, according to police. Hardik came into limelight with his August 25 mega rally which was followed by violence across Gujarat in which ten people were killed.

Jat agitation: Curfew lifted from Hissar, Hansi

Curfew was lifted from Hissar and Hansi towns of the district in Jat stir-hit Haryana even as road and rail traffic from here to various destinations remained suspended.An official spokesman said that curfew has been lifted in view of the improvement in the situation. Security personnel will keep a vigil till restoration of normalcy, he said.Road traffic on national and state highways from Hissar to various destinations, including Delhi, Chandigarh, Sirsa, Siwani and Bhiwani, however, remained suspended.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Railway services from Hissar to places, including Delhi, Ludhiana, Bhiwani and Sadulpur were also not operational.Spokesman of All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti Ram Bhagat Malik said here that they would hold a meeting later this afternoon and then decide on the future course of action, including lifting of blockades by their supporters.

BJP gives in to Jat quota stir, says will introduce bill on OBC status in next Assembly session

New Delhi: Buckling under pressure from agitating Jats, the BJP on Sunday announced that a bill for giving OBC status to Jats will be brought in the coming Haryana Assembly session and a high-powered committee will be set up to examine the quota demand for the community in central jobs.

BJP general secretary in-charge of Haryana Anil Jail also appealed to the Jats who have been protesting in Haryana to call off their agitation, which has badly hit life in the region, and return to their homes as their demands have been met.

“A bill will be brought in the coming session of the Haryana Assembly for granting OBC status to the Jats in the state,” Jain said after a Jat delegation had an hour-long meeting with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Haryana is ruled by a BJP government headed by M L Khattar.

Security forces at protests by the Jat community. AFPSecurity forces at protests by the Jat community. AFP

Security forces at protests by the Jat community. AFP

Jain said a high-powered committee headed by a senior Union Minister will be set up on Sunday to look into the demand of reservation of jobs in central government for the Jats.

“The composition of the Committee will be announced by the BJP President (Amit Shah),” he said.

Those who attended the meeting with the Home Minister include Jat leaders from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi besides Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Haryana Minister Abhimanyu, BJP MP and former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, former Deputy Chief of Army Lt Gen (Retd) Raj Kandyan etc.

After the meeting with the Home Minister, Jat Sangharsh Samiti leader Jaipal Sing Sangwan said the discussion was very positive and he was confident that the community would accept the decisions.

“We appeal to everyone to call off the agitation,” he said.

However, another leader of the Jat Sangharsh Samiti Rajesh Dahiya said a decision on calling off the agitation would be taken by the community later.

Haryana was on the edge on Sunday as fresh incidents of arson and violence shook the state with a ninth town being brought under curfew as the Jat agitation for quota under OBC entered the eighth day so far claiming 10 lives.

The Jat stir also hit Delhi with the Arvind Kejriwal government announcing closure of schools tomorrow as part of water rationing after supply from Haryana was disrupted. The national capital also witnessed massive traffic jams in some parts.

PTI

Shani temple row: Traditionalists divided over Sri Sri Ravishankar mediation

Proponents of the tradition prohibiting women access to the sanctum of Shani temple in Shingnapur appear divided on proposed mediation of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to break the deadlock arising out of a protest by a women’s outfit seeking end to the gender bias.Opposing the mediation, ‘Shaneshwar Devasthan Bachao Kruti Samiti’ president Sambhajiraje Patil on Thursday said the Samiti and villagers of Shingnapur do not approve such offer as Ravishankar “is not aware of the religious practices and customs…it is a political ploy”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar is not aware of the religious practices and customs. Attempts at mediation is an attempt to keep the local villagers in the dark,” he said.However, ‘Shri Shaneshwar Devsthan Trust’, which manages the affairs of the temple situated in Ahmednagar district, said a decision on the issue of the deadlock will be taken after holding meeting with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on February 7, which is opposed by the ‘Samiti’.The Trust stated that no decision has been taken so far to end the impasse. Both the Trust and the Samiti are based in Shingnapur.In a statement issued, Patil instead requested seers in Ahmednagar district to take the lead and put an end to the controversy. He claimed there was no discrimination between men and women at the shrine, which is the personification of Shani (planet saturn).The temple has no roof and a self-emerged (‘svayambhu’) five-foot-high black stone stands on a ‘chauthra’ or platform.Referring to the recent protest by ‘Ranragini Bhumata Brigade’ led by its president Trupti Desai, Patil said the Samiti won’t tolerate any attempts to “trample upon” age-old practices.”No house in the temple town (Shingnapur) has any doors and everyone is well aware of the legend that no theft is ever reported in the village,” Patil said. He said the women’s body “needlessly” created the controversy on the issue.”Women have been allowed entry to the shrine and they have been making offerings at the Udasi Maharaj Math there. Entry of both men and women has been banned since ages and there is no discrimination in that respect,” Patil added. He referred to a resolution passed by the Shingnapur Gram Sabha condemning the women’s outfit.Over 400 women, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai, had launched a protest against the tradition of not allowing women at the inner platform of the temple last month.

Patel leader seeks meeting between community and Gujarat govt on quota issue

A prominent leader of Patel community, which has been demanding OBC reservation, on Friday sought a meeting between the community members and Gujarat government to sort out the issue through talks.The leader, Jayrambhai Patel, of Sidsar Temple Trust said he and other members of the community met Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel in jail on the reservation issue and also conveyed their demands to the government.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I and other members of Patel community met Hardik in jail two-three times and also met BJP leaders. We have conveyed all the demands of the PAAS and Patel community to the government,” Patel told reporters.”It is desirable that a meeting is held between state government representatives and PAAS leaders along with prominent members of Patel community to bring a solution to the problem,” Patel said.Hardik Patel and his close aides are in jail at present under sedition charges. Patel community has been demanding their inclusion in the OBC category to make them eligible for quotas in education and jobs.The state government has recently withdrawn non-serious cases against Patel youths, who were involved in violence during the agitation. However, cases against Hardik Patel and his aides have not been taken back yet.BJP also suffered a defeat in rural areas of the state in the recently-held local bodies polls, which took place close on the heels of the Patel quota agitation.

Madhya Pradesh: Muslim couple travelling in train assaulted over ‘beef rumours’

A Muslim couple travelling in Kushinagar Express were assaulted by seven members of the Gauraksha Samiti at Khirkiya Railway station in Harda disrict in Madhya Pradesh on suspicion of carrying beef, reports the Indian Express. The couple travelling in the general compartment was abused and beaten up by the Samiti members who say that carried the ‘raid’ based on a tip-off and claim they found a black bag containing beef. The couple and nine locals including at least one relative of the couple were arrested and released on bail as they engaged in a fight with the Samiti members on the railway platform. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The couple says that the they were travelling from Hyderabad to their hometown in Harda. Mohammed Hussain (43) says he and his wife Naseema Bano (38) was standing at the ‘crowded compartment’ and his wife was given a seat by the passengers when the activists came to check the luggage. He says that his wife was pushed by the Samiti members when she objected to their luggages being checked. “When some passengers objected to their luggage being turned upside down, the activists roughed them up before they started searching the bags kept near Naseema. When she objected, they pushed her towards the toilet,” he said. He added that a constable rushed in to save his wife. Hussain says he called up his relative who lived near the station who brought more locals with him and later engaged in a scuffle with the members on the platform. “The samiti members threw several bags on to the platform to inspect their contents before they found the black bag. The owners of that bag were not found,” he said. He said that he abused the members after they misbehaved with his wife and was beaten by them. K Richhariya, Assistant Sub-Inspector (Khirkiya police station) said the meat in the bag was tested in a lab and found to be buffalo meat.Itarsi Railway police DK Joshi said Samiti members Rajput and Santosh have been sent to jail and booked under sections 294 (obscene language), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC and Section 153 of the Railways Act (endangering safety of passengers travelling by railway by willful act or omission). They have launched a search for five more people from the Samiti.Police has booked two unknown people to whom the bag belonged under Section 429 (mischief by killing or maiming cattle.Harda Congress MLA Ramkishore Dogne said that administration had lodged a case against the local relatives of Hussain under pressure from VHP and Bajrang Dal. “First, they were harassed, then a complaint lodged against their relatives,’’ he said.

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