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Demonetisation was single biggest case of total mismanagement, says Chidambaram

New Delhi: Insisting that the Opposition’s concerns on demonetisation have been found correct, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should now make a categorical announcement of an end to all restrictions on cash withdrawals.

P Chidambaram. PTIP Chidambaram. PTI

P Chidambaram. PTI

“When the prime minister addresses the nation, the people expect that he will make a categorical announcement that all restrictions on money have been ended,” Chidambaram told reporters at AICC headquarters on Friday.

The senior Congress leader said that the woes of demonetisation should come to an end by Friday evening as the prime minister had asked for time till 30 December. Noting that Modi had recently said at a rally that “through the note ban, in one stroke, we destroyed the world of terrorism, drug mafia, human trafficking and underworld”, he said that it was therefore, fair to expect that these objectives would be achieved by the end of today.

“It is fair to expect that beginning Monday, 2 January, 2017, all restrictions on money imposed on 8 November, 2016 will be removed and the people will be able to withdraw the money in their bank accounts. It is fair to expect that there will be no queues outside bank branches and ATMs. It is fair to expect that all ATMs will be open round the clock and fully stocked with
currency notes,” he said.

Chidambaram said that the only person who can assure the people on these matters is Modi himself, because the government has “dubbed all of us in the Opposition as supporters of black money hoarders and tax evaders”.

On the government’s claim that people are happy and there have been no incidents of rioting, he said people are patient. “But please don’t mistake patient people for happy people,” he had said.

Seeking to debunk government’s claims on the benefits of demonetisation, he said, “Events of the last 50 days have proved us correct. Hoards of black money in new Rs 2,000 notes have been found.”

He further said that bribes have been given and taken in new Rs 2,000 notes and there is “no guarantee” that black money will not be demanded or generated in future or that bribes will not be given or taken in future in the new currency.

Dubbing the way the demonetisation was announced and implemented as a “single biggest case of total mismanagement”, he regretted the most momentous decision has been taken “without consulting key officials”.

Making a strong pitch for compensating people for the hardships they faced, he lamented that the government has “not uttered a word” about compensating the people for the economic losses heaped upon them by demonetisation.

He also demanded that the agenda note and the minutes of the meeting of the RBI board of directors held on 8 November, 2016, along with the Note for Cabinet on demonetisation placed before the Cabinet on 8 November, 2016, should be made
public.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 20:03 IST

Demonetisation Day 50: Feudal nature of criticising Modi is truly rotten, says NDTV’s Ravish Kumar

While it is true that demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes may not have led to the rosy picture which the central government had been painting till now, some of the criticism against the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is truly rotten. And journalist Ravish Kumar hit the nail on the head in this op-ed piece in NDTV, where he writes about the feudal nature of the punishment which a section of people think the prime minister should face.

There have been a considerable number of cheap posts on social media which directly or indirectly talk about throwing shoes at the prime minister.

Kumar pointed out how wrong it was to use such language against any person by explaining how this was linked with casteism.

Senior journalist Ravish Kumar. Screengrab from YouTube video

Senior journalist Ravish Kumar. Screengrab from YouTube

“Hitting someone with a shoe is in principle anti-Dalit. If you investigate stories about hitting someone with a shoe, you will find that this sort of language was used only by those who were upper-caste. And this was done only against the Dalits or weaker sections of society. Hitting someone with a shoe is the language of hate. I hate the language of hate as much as I hate the politics of hate,” Kumar wrote in the article.

Kumar, the senior executive editor of NDTV India, added that it was also true that the prime minister may have himself encouraged mob mentality when he said that he would “willingly stand at any public square you select, and accept any punishment the country decides to give me…”

Ravish Kumar’s article raises a pertinent point: Criticism, even in its most severe form, is essential for democracy but any criticism which encourages violence, whether against the prime minister or the common man, is uncalled for.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 14:19 IST

Kejriwal says he is not scared of any probe, dares Centre to accept Sahara diaries investigation

Kejriwal says he is not scared of any probe, dares Centre to accept Sahara diaries investigation

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New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday dared the Centre to get all the appointments made by his government probed after the CBI filed an FIR into the appointment of city Health Minister Satyendar Jain’s OSD.

Arvind Kejriwal. Getty Images

Arvind Kejriwal. Getty Images

Asserting that he was not afraid of any probe, the AAP chief also wondered whether the Centre would accept a Delhi government-appointed committee to look into the Sahara Birla papers.

Kejriwal alleged that the CBI has filed “seven FIRs” against Jain and “two” against Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, but did not elaborate.

In fresh trouble for the AAP government, the CBI has filed an FIR into the appointment of Jain’s OSD while the LG office has recommended a probe by the agency into the appointment of his daughter Soumya Jain as a functionary in the Mohalla Clinic project.

“You (Centre) make your committee and get all our appointments probed. And we will form one, and you get the Sahara Birla matter probed with it. Agree?”

“We are not scared of any probe as we have not done any wrong. Then why are you scared of a probe?” Kejriwal tweeted.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 10:59 IST

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Narendra Modi inaugurates NISM campus: Full text of PM’s speech

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a day-long visit to Maharashtra, once again stressed that his government won’t make any decision for “political gains”. The BJP-led government at the Centre has been crticised by opposition parties for its decision to demonetise high value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations, and it has caused a lot of public inconvenience. But, speaking at the inauguration of the National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) campus on Saturday, he stressed upon the need for greater vigilance in the securities and exchange markets. Modi also spoke of the need for markets to work for the benefit of the agriculture sector.

Here’s the full text of his speech:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

It is a pleasure for me to be here today to inaugurate this new campus. This is a time of slowdown in the global economy. Developed countries and emerging markets are both facing slow growth. Against this background, India is being seen as a bright spot. Growth is projected to remain among the highest in the world.

India’s place as the fastest growing large economy has not come about by accident. To see how far we have travelled, we should look back to 2012-13. The fiscal deficit had reached alarming levels. The currency was falling sharply. Inflation was high. The current account deficit was rising. Confidence was low and foreign investors were turning away from India. India was considered the weakest of the BRICS nations.

In less than 3 years, this government has transformed the economy. We have cut the fiscal deficit target every year, and achieved it every year. The current account deficit is low. Even after the redemption of loans taken under the special currency swap in 2013, foreign exchange reserves are high. Inflation is low, running at less than 4 percent compared to double digit inflation under the previous government. Public investment has increased largely, even while the overall fiscal deficit has been cut. A new monetary policy framework has been introduced by law with an inflation target. The Constitutional Amendment on Goods and Services Tax had remained pending for years. It has been passed and the long awaited GST will soon be a reality. We have made progress on improving the ease of doing business.

As a result of all these policies, foreign direct investment has reached record levels. By claiming that demonetisation has stopped a fast moving car, our critics too have acknowledged the speed of our progress.

Let me make one thing very clear: This government will continue to follow sound and prudent economic policies to ensure that India has a bright future in the long run. We will not take decisions for the short term political point scoring. We will not shy away from taking difficult decisions, if those decisions are in the interest of the country. Demonetisation is an example. It has short term pain but will bring long term gain.

Financial markets can play an important role in the modern economy. They help in mobilising savings. They channel the savings towards productive investments.

However, history has shown that financial markets can also do damage, if not properly regulated. It is to ensure good regulation that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) was established by the government. SEBI also has a role to promote the development of healthy securities markets.

Recently, the forward markets commission has been abolished. SEBI has been given the task of regulating commodity derivatives also. This is a big challenge. In the commodity markets, the spot market is not regulated by SEBI. Agricultural markets are regulated by states. And many commodities are purchased directly by the poor and the needy, not by investors. Hence the economic and social impact of commodity derivatives is more sensitive.

For financial markets to function successfully, participants need to be well-informed. I am happy to note that the National Institute of Securities Markets is performing the role of educating various participants and providing skill certification. Today, our mission has to be a ‘Skilled India’. Indian youth should be able to compete with their counterparts in any corner of the world. This institute has a vital role to play in such capacity building. I have been told that around one lakh fifty thousand candidates undertake NISM examinations every year. More than five lakh candidates have been certified by NISM till date.

India has earned a good name for its well-regulated securities markets. The spread of electronic means of trading and the use of depositories have made our markets more transparent. SEBI as an institution can also take pride in this.

However, there is still a long way to go for our securities and commodity markets. When I see the financial newspapers, I often read about the success of IPOs and how some smart entrepreneur has suddenly become a billionaire. As you know, my government is very keen to encourage start-ups. Stock markets are essential for the start-up ecosystem. However, it is not enough if the securities markets are considered successful by international investors or financial experts. Wealth creation is good, but for me that is not the main purpose. The real value of our securities markets lies in their contribution:
• to the development of the nation,
• to the improvement of all sectors, and
• to the welfare of the vast majority of citizens.

So, before I can consider financial markets to be fully successful, they have to meet three challenges.

Firstly, the primary aim of our stock market should be to help in raising capital for productive purposes. Derivatives have a use in managing risk. But many people feel derivatives are dominating the markets and the tail is wagging the dog. We should ponder as to how well the capital market is performing its main function of providing capital.

Our markets should show that they are able to successfully raise capital for projects benefiting the vast majority of our population. In particular, I am referring to infrastructure. Today, most of our infrastructure projects are financed by the Government or through banks. The use of capital markets for financing infrastructure is rare. For infrastructure projects to be viable, it is very important that the borrowing should be of long duration. It is said that we do not have a liquid long term bond market. Various reasons are given for this. But surely this is a problem which the financial brains in this room can solve, if you really put your minds to it. My call to you is to find ways to enable the capital markets to provide long term capital for infrastructure. Today, only the Government or external lenders like World Bank or JICA provide long term money for infrastructure. We must move away from that. Bond markets must become a source of long term infrastructure finance.

You are all aware of the huge capital requirements for improving urban infrastructure. This government has launched an ambitious Smart Cities programme. In this context, I am disappointed that even now, we do not have a municipal bond market. There will be problems and difficulties in creating such a market. But the true test of an expert innovation is when it solves a complex problem. Can SEBI and the Department of Economic Affairs ensure that at least 10 cities in India issue municipal bonds within one year?

Secondly, the markets must provide benefits to the largest section of our society — namely our farmers. The true measure of success is the impact in villages, not the impact in Dalal Street or Lutyens’ Delhi. By that yardstick, we have a long way to go. Our stock markets need to raise capital in innovative ways for projects in agriculture. Our commodity markets must become useful to our farmers, not just avenues for speculation. People say that derivatives can be used by farmers for reducing their risks. But in practice, hardly any farmer in India uses derivatives. That is the fact. Unless and until we make the commodity markets directly useful to farmers, they are just a costly ornament in our economy, not a useful tool. This Government has introduced e-NAM – the electronic National Agricultural Market. SEBI should work for closer linkage between spot markets like e-NAM and derivatives markets to benefit farmers.

Thirdly, those who profit from financial markets must make a fair contribution to nation-building through taxes. For various reasons, the contribution of tax from those who make money on the markets has been low. To some extent, it may be due to illegal activities and fraud. To stop this, SEBI has to be extremely vigilant. To some extent, the low contribution of taxes may also be due to the structure of our tax laws. Low or zero tax rate is given to certain types of financial income. I call upon you to think about the contribution of market participants to the exchequer. We should consider methods for increasing it in a fair, efficient and transparent way. Earlier, there was a feeling that some investors were getting an unfair deal by using certain tax treaties. As you know, those treaties have been amended by this government. Now it is time to re-think and come up with a good design which is simple and transparent, but also fair and progressive.

Friends.

I know that financial markets attach a lot of importance to the budget. The budget cycle has an effect on the real economy. In our existing budget calendar, the authorization of expenditure comes with the onset of the monsoon. Government programmes are not active in the productive pre-monsoon months. Hence, this year, we are advancing the date of the budget so that expenditure is authorized by the time the new financial year begins. This will improve productivity and output.

Friends.

My aim is to make India a developed country in one generation. India cannot become a developed country without world class securities and commodity markets. Therefore, I look forward to a growing contribution from all of you in making the financial markets more relevant to this new era. I wish the NISM all success. I also wish everybody a merry Christmas and a very happy new year.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 14:30 IST

This winter Delhi will see a rapid rise in pollution, says executive director of CSE

Public health emergencies of the previous century, such as cholera, malaria and TB have all been tackled with antibiotics and vaccines. But what about the biggest public health emergency of contemporary times? That’s the pollution in the air we breathe which has reached unprecedented life-threatening levels — recall Delhi’s situation post-Diwali — yet we are not prepared to deal with it. It may worsen with the advancing winter.

However, things may change with the notification that the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) is soon going to issue to Delhi-NCR, and subsequently to other states, on implementation of Graded Response Action Plan. That is a system based on the Air Quality Index (AQI), designed to take effective steps to combat public health emergencies due to pollution.

To decode the plan and understand its efficacy, Debobrat Ghose of Firstpost speaks to Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (Research and Advocacy) and head, air pollution and clean transportation programme at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), one of the stakeholders in the planning process.

Firstpost: What’s the Graded Response Action Plan all about?

Answer: Last week, the Supreme Court directed the MoEF to notify the graded response action plan for Delhi-NCR and once it’s notified, the government has to implement it at the earliest. The plan prepared jointly by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), CSE and others, charts a detailed strategy on what kind of action is needed for a certain level of pollution defined by the AQI. There are various categories of pollution — moderate, poor, very poor, severe and above that, the emergency level. The actions listed in the poor category need to be implemented throughout the year. But during months when weather conditions turn more adverse, there is need for greater scrutiny of enforcement. It’s the first-of-its-kind measure to be implemented in India. This will slow down the peaking up of the pollution level.

It’ll also catalyse long-term action because the kind of measures they have listed as per the levels of pollution would help us to get better results. Besides, it’ll also help us put in place more systemic solutions urgently needed to give benefits of sustained quality air throughout the year.

FP: What kind of actions has been recommended in the plan vis-à-vis the levels of pollution?

A: Based on AQI that shows air pollution levels — from moderate to severe — various measures have been recommended like shutting down of brick kilns and coal-based power plants; maximizing generation of power from existing natural gas based plants; mechanized cleaning of roads and sprinkling of water; stopping the use of diesel and kerosene generator sets; stopping construction activities, and entry of truck traffic into Delhi (except essential goods); removing polluting vehicles from the road; putting an end to burning of wastes and garbage, etc.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh SharmaAnumita Roy Chowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh Sharma

Anumita Roychowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh Sharma

FP: Immediately after Diwali, Delhi witnessed an emergency like situation due to high-level of air pollution. But, again with the advent of winter, the air quality has begun to deteriorate.

A: During winter due to calm and cool weather condition, air gets trapped close to ground level and along with it pollution already present in the city also gets trapped. This winter too, we are witnessing this situation of rapid building up of pollution. We are going to see several episodes of smog and this condition will prevail till mid-February. This happens due to this severe anti-cyclone situation. There will be ups and downs, with the pollution level hitting the severe level continuously.

FP: What steps need to be taken to prevent this onslaught of pollution?

A: We should have the winter plan in place where emergency measures should be implemented with absolute stringency. The implementation of graded response action plan will ensure that if weather condition is adverse, pollution in air doesn’t get worse. The measures mentioned in each category need to be strictly followed.

FP: What factors aggravate the pollution level in Delhi-NCR?

A: Vehicular pollution, burning of waste and garbage, construction debris, emissions from coal-based power plants, dust, burning of crop stubble, etc are the major culprits. However, stubble burning is a temporary phenomenon, because it takes place during October and November, before the new crop.

FP: Where have we faulted and what needs to be done?

A: In the area of public transport system, we’ve really slipped a lot, because except Metro rail, no investment has been made in this sector. Now, the priority should be to have an integrated public transport system, where Metro system and highly improved bus system are integrated physically and through a common ticketing system. Simultaneously, a well organized para-transit system needs to be in place, supported by a good walking and cycling infrastructure. Odd-even scheme is an emergency measure and can’t be a permanent solution.

Besides Delhi-NCR, other states too have to follow the same template of the action plan with absolute stringency, because things aren’t happening in a systematic manner. When a plan gets delayed, we lose momentum. We have to be extremely careful – even post-winter — to keep momentum going by adopting all measures—short term, medium term and long term.

FP: Delhi children are being deprived of a carefree childhood due to this pollution…

A:
Very true! There is one death per hour due to air pollution; lungs of every third child are impaired. They are being recommended indoor activity and are discouraged from outdoor activities when pollution is severe.

FP: Delhi’s pollution can’t be seen in isolation. To contain it, active cooperation from states and central agencies is needed. Is there any common authority to deal with inter-state issues and enforcement related to pollution control?

A: No, there is not. Rather it’s not required as MoEF and CPCB are already there as central agencies to supervise the whole process and then the state governments should implement measures. The CPCB has to take the lead as the most legitimate body.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 13:25 IST

Kashmir: On a day Valley remains calm, Yashwant Sinha-led delegation meet separatists for peace

Senior BJP leader and former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said on Tuesday that his civil society group was trying to convince New Delhi to invite separatist leaders from Kashmir for talks and to hold unconditional dialogue with them to resolve the long pending issue of insurgency in the Valley.

“After our first visit, we interacted with people in Delhi and we apprised them about the ground reality in Kashmir through our reports and interactions,” Sinha told Firstpost.

Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty ImagesFormer External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty Images

Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty Images

Sinha, who is leading a civil society delegation — comprising Kashmir observers like Wajahat Habibullah, Sushoba Bharve, and former air vice-marshal Kapil Kak — said that though his group doesn’t enjoy a mandate from the government of India, the two visits did yield a positive outcome.

“Building trust and acceptance on both sides is important to have a meaningful conversation and to search for solutions,” Sinha said. “If our previous visit would have been a non-starter, we wouldn’t have come back for a second time.”

The group is visiting the state at a time when the Valley is witnessing one of longest shutdowns in history. Nearly 100 people have been killed in retaliatory action against protesters by government forces, over 12,000 protesters have been wounded — many of them blinded for life, and around 7,000 are either behind bars or detained in their homes.

“We had to build trust with the people and then start work. It’s not easy because of the mistakes previously committed. And though we don’t have the government’s mandate, we can try to influence the policy makers,” Sinha said.

However, the group’s visit has been clouded by the unceremonious binning of the report prepared by the three-member Kashmir interlocutor group headed by Dilip Padgaonkar, which was sent by the UPA government to provide a roadmap following the civilian uprising in 2010. It also meant there wasn’t much hope from the new delegation, other than providing the members an opportunity to meet with society.

In a curt six-page report, the group has written to the central government that the people of Kashmir believe that “Indian politics has taken such a turn (today) that there is no willingness to listen to even demands for autonomy. In terms of the agenda of alliance (between PDP and BJP), a dialogue process must be initiated with all stakeholders so that peace can be restored,” the report says.

Sinha had said that it is true that such processes had failed in the past, but they have started the process once again with a hope that any positive outcome will be yielded, due to which they chose to visit the Valley a second time. “The dialogue we have had from three days with people from different shade of opinion was fruitful,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 21:45 IST

Kiren Rijiju dismisses hydro project scam allegations, says conspirators ‘will be beaten by shoes’

The Chief Vigilance Officer of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) has alleged that the Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju, his cousin Goboi Rijiju — a contractor in Arunachal Pradesh — and several top officials of NEEPCO are involved in a multi-crore scam in the construction of two dams for 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project, one of the biggest hydro-electric projects in Arunachal Pradesh.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju. PTI

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju. PTI

According to The Indian Express, in a 129-page report, CVO Satish Verma alleged an “elaborate conspiracy” involving contractors, NEEPCO officials and the West Kameng district administration to defraud NEEPCO and the government of funds that “may extend up to Rs 450 crore.” Rijiju had written a letter to Ministry of Power to release funds to the contractor and his cousin Goboi Rijiju, News18 reported.

Chief Vigilance Officer Satish Verma, a Gujarat IPS officer, was pulled up by NEEPCO for “unauthorised absence,” and transferred to the CRPF in Tripura soon after his report. The Indian Express quoted him as attributing the “absence” to his investigation.

Meanwhile, Rijiju said that those who “planted” the news that he has been named along with a few others in a vigilance report on corruption at NEEPCO will get beaten up with shoes if they come to Arunachal Pradesh. “Jhoothe khayenge hamare yahan,” ANI quoted him as saying reacting to the report that appeared in The Indian Express on Tuesday. According to the paper, Verma’s report alleges many fake and “inflated bills” by contractors to embezzle money “in the name of transporting rocks”.

Reacting to the news, a Congress member of Arunachal Pradesh said.

Rijiju represents Arunachal Pradesh in the Lok Sabha. CVO Verma is a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer who assisted on the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, and in a petition to the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) alleged that his role as a CVO was curtailed since he flagged off the multi-crore scam. “In the affidavit, Mr. Verma said that all his outstation visits were accounted for and were done to investigate the fraudulent activities,” The Hindu reported.

Speaking to The Hindu, Rijiju, however, said, “He (Goboi) is a distant cousin. Be it anyone, whether distant cousins or friends, will not tolerate if my name is used to get their works done. Anyway I will always ensure that my people don’t face hardship.”

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 13:54 IST

Right-wing bodies welcome triple talaq verdict, say personal law board not above Constitution

After the Allahabad High Court’s judgment against triple talaq said the practice was unconstitutional and “violated the rights of Muslim women”, several right-wing bodies in the country have reacted encouragingly. In a landmark verdict on Wednesday, the court held that no personal law board was above the Constitution.

Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), a body affiliated with Rashtryia Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that works for the cause of Indian Muslims, said the intention of the central government on triple talaq issue was clear: It won’t have a showdown as in the Shah Bano case during Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s regime.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“It’s a welcome move and we strongly condemn the concept of triple talaq. We may have been late on having a ban on triple talaq, but it is finally in place. As per our Constitution, Indian Muslim women must be treated at par with other citizens. The Modi government has made its intentions clear on this issue. Unlike the Shah Bano case, where the Rajiv Gandhi government took to appeasement for the sake of vote bank politics, the Centre has now made its stand clear through an affidavit submitted before the apex court on this issue,” said Girish Juyal, national organising convener, MRM.

Citing a historical precedent, Juyal added, “A case of triple talaq came before the Umar Hazrat (583-644 CE), one of the most powerful and influential Muslim caliphs in history. He gave his ruling in favour of the woman and ordered public flogging of the person who had asked for triple talaq. The Quran and the Hadith consider divorce a crime and there’s no mention of ‘triple talaq’ in them. Moreover, other practices like Halala and Musa also ought to be stopped, because they are also demeaning for Indian women.”

However, while the experts laud the Centre for its efforts to empower Muslim women, they also feel a new law needs to be enacted to repeal the Shariyat Act, in order to abolish the existing practice of triple talaq. “Though the court has sent a strong message through its order, that the 7th century Islamic Shariat law needs to be changed, the issue of triple talaq won’t settle unless a new law is made. The SC has to first quash the 1937 Shariat Act,” said Tufail Ahmad, executive director of Open Source Institute, a Delhi-based think tank.

“It’s high time that Islamic clerics understand the importance of the rights granted by the Indian Constitution to all citizens. Triple talaq violates the Constitution. The AIMPLB, or other Muslim organisations like All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, are essentially unconstitutional from the beginning, because they were established with the objective of working against the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” Ahmad, a former journalist with BBC World Service, emphasised.

Ahmad recently proposed a draft Uniform Civil Code — the first-ever attempt to bring specific issues before the public for a wider discussion. “Unless the government repeals the Shariat Law of 1937 and 1939, and brings a new law in compliance with the 21st century ensuring protection of the rights of Muslim women, nothing practical is possible,” he said.

What the Shariat Act, 1937 and 1939 is about?

  • Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937: Indian Muslims can contract marriages and effect divorce through various informal ways deemed correct by local Islamic clerics. A Muslim husband must divorce under this law, which means he cannot go to a court for divorce. He is forced to effect his own divorce through a letter, phone call, video or internet. There are two ways to effect divorce: Utter the word talaq three times, unilaterally, thereby ending the marriage. Or, deliver the talaq in three monthly installments — a three-month period during which reconciliation can occur.
  • Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939: This law was written to empower the Muslim women to take, not to give, divorce. Under this law, a Muslim woman can get divorce in two ways: Either she gets the dissolution of her marriage by approaching Islamic clerics; or she can get one by going to a court against her husband.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), while condemning the approach of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) towards Indian Muslim women, also hailed the central government’s approach towards triple talaq. It feels that the high court order will finally be upheld by the apex court as well.

“This case of triple talaq won’t be like Shah Bano case, because the then Rajiv Gandhi government had taken a U-turn and the judgment was reversed. We’re confident that in the Supreme Court will also uphold the high court’s order. The Modi government has made its stand clear through an affidavit submitted before the apex court on this issue,” said VHP’s joint international general secretary Dr Surendra Jain.

“The AIMPLB has always condemned any move against triple talaq and has shown severe disregard towards our Constitution and human values. The board even gave death threats to Muslim women. This board can’t be above the Constitution. Moreover, it doesn’t represent the entire Indian Muslim population. This can’t be acceptable in a civilised society. Now, Indian Muslim women want to come out of medieval, barbaric traditions and be liberated,” he added.

The Muslim women’s wing of MRM hailed the HC order as a success, and said 5,000 Muslim women had garnered courage for a signature campaign. “AIMPLB failed to ensure rights to Muslim women. I had questioned the board on why triple talaq hasn’t been discontinued even after more than six decades of Independence. Pakistan doesn’t have triple talaq, but secular India has it, which is a shame. There’s no mention of this concept in the Quran or the Hadis. A hapless Muslim women are thrown out of their houses by husbands by saying, ‘Talaq-talaq-talaq’,” said Reshma Husain, national convener, women’s wing, MRM.

Condemning the vote-bank politics of previous governments, she added, “The previous Congress government used the Muslim community as a vote bank. They failed to separate religion from our Constitution, when it came to provide rights to women. It’s a victory for these 5,000 Muslim sisters who went for a signature campaign to seek deletion of triple talaq. We too have simultaneously undertaken a signature campaign across the country and we expect to get 10 lakh signatures from Muslim women supporting a ban.”

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 21:13 IST

Manohar Parrikar says he is ‘not a coward’, but insists India is all for peace

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday said India is all for peace, adding that peace can be ensured only by a strong country. He also said that he had never used the Army for political gains.

File image of Manohar Parrikar. PTIFile image of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File image of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Speaking at the ‘Agenda Aaj Tak 2016’ conclave, the minister said bilateral relations with China are improving, and that ceasefire violations along the border areas have come down.

“Peace is the best thing; war is not the preferred option. We are for peace,” Parrikar said, adding that India had never initiated a war in the past.

On China, he said, “Our relations with China are improving. Those who compromise due to fear of war are called cowards. I don’t intend to call myself a coward. Peace is established by a strong country. You should be able to decide when to use power,” he said. “In order to have peace, you will have to increase your power and show it sometimes.”

Commenting on the situation along the India-Pakistan border, Parrikar said, “There is peace right now. At this moment, cross-border firing is not that much.”

He said he had never tried to use the Indian Army for political benefits. “We are not politicising the army. West Bengal chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) did it. I felt it was wrong, so I spoke in Parliament,” Parrikar said. “Let the army do its work; they are not part of politics.”

Claiming that the concept of surgical strike had become a brand, Parrikar said the success of the September strikes had made others jealous. “I never used the army on a political platform. All I have said is that we took a decision. You can call it good or bad. Surgical strike took place, the status quo of not crossing the LoC (Line of Control) was rejected. Only the forces can cross the border, not political leadership. But this decision, whether good or bad, the marks should be given to political leadership,” Parrikar said.

“Had something gone wrong, I don’t think anyone would have said anything but that it was an ill-managed operation, political leadership was not prepared, there was a shortage of bulletproof helmets or jackets,” he said.

“There are many fathers of success and few of failure. There was success, so everyone was jealous that the government would get credit,” the minister said.

Parrikar said during the surgical strikes — across the LoC in September, and one earlier along the Myanmar border — he could not sleep all night. “I didn’t sleep the whole night when the eastern operation was underway. The pressure of decision-making was definitely on me,” he said.

The minister said the government “introduced unpredictability on the Kashmir border for the first time”.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 22:12 IST

Kashmir unrest: Omar Abdullah lets Pakistan off, says ‘historic blunders’ by India to blame

Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the unrest in Kashmir cannot be blamed on Pakistan, but was a result of “mistakes” made by the Indian government of not engaging with the people of the state. “Do not be under this false impression that the fire you see in Kashmir has been ignited by Pakistan. It is a result of our mistakes,” Omar said, addressing a function of his National Conference in Baramulla.

Omar Abdullah. PTIOmar Abdullah. PTI

Omar Abdullah. PTI

“To blame Pakistan alone for the political situation or the current unrest in the Valley is a distortion of the truth. The people of J&K have espoused a political sentiment, even when there was no external interference and this political sentiment forms the basis of the state’s special status that has since been eroded by extra-constitutional machinations,” Omar said.

He said the political issue in Kashmir is a result of “historic blunders and broken promises by successive dispensations” in New Delhi. “The situation today stands compounded because of the present central government’s refusal to even acknowledge that
a problem exists in Kashmir,” Omar said.

The National Conference’s working president alleged the ruling PDP’s charade of seeking confidence building measures and political initiatives could not conceal the party’s brazen abandonment of its own ideology and vision document in a bargain to attain power.

There is a stark difference between the Mehbooba Mufti of the opposition and the Mehbooba Mufti of the ruling PDP-BJP
government. It has now become evident that the Mehbooba of opposition was just an elaborate facade to pave way for Mehbooba Mufti’s ascent to the Chief Minister’s chair.

“Her theatrical performances as an opposition leader might have served her well but when people compare her present avatar to her previous posturing she stands exposed. Every single promise made by the PDP to seek votes in the previous elections has been broken with utter contempt shown towards the people of the state,” he added.

Omar alleged that the PDP-BJP alliance has “wreaked havoc” with the state. “The government has ceased to exist on the ground and its mere presence is exhibited solely through indiscriminate arrests and imposition of Public Safety Acts against the youth. The loss of nearly a hundred innocent young lives in the current unrest and the unimaginable and indiscriminate repression of our youth has been the most noticeable hallmark of the PDP-BJP alliance and Mehbooba Mufti s refusal to acknowledge her failure has only compounded the misery of the people,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 20:36 IST

Pakistan should introspect why relations are tense, says Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Blaming Pakistan for having an uneasy relationship with India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said it is for Islamabad to introspect as to why there are tensions between the two neighbours.

“It is a serious situation. Right from the day this government had been formed and even prior to that, India has taken one step after another honestly trying to improve relations with Pakistan,” he said at HT Leadership Summit in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a lot of initiatives, including unconventional ones but then the response was Pathankot or Uri attack, prompted by Pakistan, he said.

“This cannot be normal as far as Indo-Pak relationships are concerned. If there are tensions, it’s for the Pakistan to introspect really why there are tensions,” he said.

Asked about the impact of the change in regime in the US, Jaitley said the relationship between the two countries is expected to strengthen further.

“I have not the least doubt that India’s relations with the United States would continue to be on the same plank as it was, probably growing and maturing almost by the day,” he said.

“This was an unusual election as far as the US was concerned. When one of the world’s most powerful democracies through a fair electoral process takes a decision, we have to accept the decision,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 16:13 IST

Army deployment in West Bengal echoes in Parliament: TMC alleges dictatorship; BJP says routine exercise

New Delhi: The row over army taking over road toll plazas in West Bengal on Friday echoed in Parliament with Trinamool Congress (TMC) seeing “sinister” designs behind the move and the government vehemently denying the charge, saying it was a routine exercise conducted in full knowledge of the local authorities.

The issue was raised in both Houses of Parliament with main opposition Congress too seeking clarification on the army deployment at 19 toll plazas in West Bengal. In Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar termed it a “routine exercise not unique to West Bengal” and saying that similar operations to collect information on heavy vehicle movement that can be used during national emergencies had last month being conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Along with West Bengal, similar exercise was carried out in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghlaya and Mizoram, he said while responding to TMC and Congress MPs. He also stated that originally the exercise was planned for 28-30 November but was shifted to 1 and 2 December at the request of Kolkata police as those dates were clashing with the protests against demonetisation.

“It is shocking that a chief minister is saying this. The Army’s deployment was part of routine exercise which has been going on for last 15-20 years. Even last year it was held on 19 to 21 November,” Parrikar said.

Manohar-Parrikar_PTIManohar-Parrikar_PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The minister said Army’s Eastern Command has been carrying out the exercise in West Bengal, Assam and other North Eastern states and a similar exercise has already been carried out in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.  “Concerned officials were informed in West Bengal. The original date was fixed for 28 to 30 November but due to Bharat Bandh the local police had advised the army to shift it to 1 and 2 December,” he said. “Due to traffic congestion, the exercise is being done with the help of local police.”

TMC leaders in both Houses alleged that neither the state government, nor local administration including police were taken into confidence on the exercise or their permission sought. Congress and BSP too wanted to know from the government how such an unprecedented move to carry out an army exercise without taking state government into confidence was done.

“It was very unfortunate that army has been dragged into an unnecessary controversy,” Parrikar said. “It was political frustration rather than projection of correct situation.”

As soon as Lok Sabha assembled this morning, TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay raised the issue of army deployment at 19 places in West Bengal, claiming that the move was a challenge to the federal structure of the country and completely politically motivated.

He said army personnel were deployed at these places, including near the state secretariat, “without informing anyone in the state secretariat”. “It is a fantastic situation. Army today said that it was a routine exercise being carried out in the North Eastern states. But West Bengal does not come under the territorial jurisdiction of the Northeast,” he said.

Bandyopadhyay said the people of the country have great faith in the Army but if indeed such an exercise was scheduled, the Centre should have communicated to the state government. He said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been staging a ‘dharna’ in the Secretariat demanding withdrawal of the Army. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar asked the TMC not to drag Army into politics and added that the defence personnel have been protecting the country as well as democracy.

“Whatever the army has done was part of a routine exercise. It is completely wrong to drag army into politics,” he said. Raising the issue in Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said army is India’s pride as it has upheld its unity and integrity beside protecting the borders. It has also come to the rescue during emergency situtions like flood and riots, he said adding that army is requisitioned at the request of a state government.

But in West Bengal, the chief secretary, administration and Director General of Police had no information of army taking over toll plazas at 19 locations in the state, he said. “This is probably the first time that the chief minister of West Bengal has lodged this kind of protest where she stayed put for the night in the State Secretariat and is still there,” he said. “This is a strange thing happening. Without asking state government, chief secretary or DGP, toll plazas of state government are taken over.”

Azad said it is being said that Army was collecting information on truck movements but such an exercise is not even done in Jammu and Kashmir. All such information is available with National Highways Authority of India or road transport departments. “This is an issue of grave concern.” Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) said what happened in West Bengal has never been witnessed in the state’s history. Army seized toll plazas and started putting stickers on vehicles.

“I will not drag the army in any controversy. We are very proud of the army,” he said wanting to know under what provisions of law and Constitution was such a deployment carried out and alleging “sinister design” to “defame the leader opposing demonetisation” and creating “fear psychosis”.

Mayawati, BSP supremo and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh said the move to deploy army without the state government’s permission was an attack on the federal structure of the country. Terming the statements as factually incorrect, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said such exercises have been carried out in coordination with the local police.

Earlier the exercise was planned for 28 November but was shifted on specific request by Kolkata Police in view of the Bharat Bandh, he said, adding that the exercise was to ascertain availability of vehicles during national emergency. The annual exercise are carried out for collection of data and similar exercises were also carried out in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, he said, adding that letters were written to the Police Commissioner as well as District Magistrates for conducting it.

At this point, slogan-shouting TMC and Congress members contested the minister’s statement and trooped into the Well. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien had a tough time controlling the situation and even had an angry spat with Congress members including Pramod Tiwari as they continued to shout even when he stood up to control the noisy scenes.

“If you don’t know the basic rule of not disturbing the Chair, you are not deserving to be a member,” he angrily remarked without naming any member. “Mr Tiwari, I will take action against you.    This is unheard of that the Chair will not be allowed to say,” he said as members piped down and returned to their places.

Kurien said if the members found any part of the statement made by the minister as misleading or incorrect, they can invoke the rule book and give notice. Roy continued to insist that the minister was misleading. “If any member or minister misleads the House, give notice, chairman will consider it,” Kurien said.

As Roy continued to insist that the minister was misleading the House by saying that the state government had been informed, treasury benches joined in to protest. At this point, an angry Kurien snapped at Bhupender Yadav (BJP) saying “shut up… you are not in the Chair.” Roy said the minister was not stating if specific permission was taken for December 1 deployment and comparing
the exercise to national emergency.

I&B Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the reference to emergency was to situations like floods or tsunami and said similar exercises are annually carried out and had happened in West Bengal previously as well. And recently, it has been carried out in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar, and along with West Bengal it was also being carried out in North Eastern states, he said, adding “it
is a sensitive matter. Let us not politise it.”

Kurien told Roy that he can give a notice on any misleading statement being made in the House and he will consider it. Derek O’Brien raised a Point of Order under Rule 249 related to authentication of papers laid by the government on the floor of the House.

He claimed that it is “selective placing of papers” by the government and added that he will place some papers on the floor of the House to prove his point on Monday.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 15:13 IST

Trump’s ignorant talks with Sharif may send wrong message to India: American magazine report

Washington: President-elect Donald Trump’s “ignorant” conversation with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may send India an unwelcome message, a leading American magazine has said.

US President-elect Donald Trump. AP

US President-elect Donald Trump. AP

The Forbes magazine said that Trump’s “flattering” conversation sends a message that he has no awareness of the issues between the US, Pakistan and India.

“His bluster is more likely to be taken as the initial signal of his Administration’s position. When he goes on and on about how wonderful Pakistan is, and how strong is his friendship, it matters. It matters that he uses words like: very good reputation, amazing work…fantastic country, fantastic place, fantastic people,” it said.

“One of the main messages it sends, is that he shows no awareness of the issues between the United States, Pakistan, and India,” it said.

Stating that Trump is not aware about the ground realities in South Asia, it said, his “ignorant” conversation with Sharif may send India an “unwelcome message”.

Meanwhile, a prominent Hindu American group urged Trump to carefully look at the records of Pakistan in particular its fight against terrorism and human rights.

“Diplomacy is necessary in dealing with Pakistan, but President-elect Trump and his Administration will need to proceed with caution and full awareness of the country’s double-dealing track record,” Suhag Shukla, executive director of Hindu American Foundation (HAF) said in a statement expressing concern over the readout issued by Pakistan after a telephonic conversation between Trump and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“If the transcript of the conversation is indeed accurate, we’d urge President-elect Trump to look more carefully at Pakistan’s record within its own borders and with its neighbours before offering praise to a state that according to most observers is failing,” Shukla said.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 14:38 IST

People are free to join or leave the RSS: Mohan Bhagwat

New Delhi: Terming RSS as a unique model of human development in the world, its Chief Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday said people are free to join or leave Sangh at their will and there is no ‘boundation’, but to understand the organisation one should have an open mind.

File image of Mohan Bhagwat. AFP

File image of Mohan Bhagwat. AFP

“It is important to make efforts to understand the RSS. But to understand the RSS one must have an open mind that is free of presumptions, biases and pure curiosity,” he said speaking at an event to mark the 90 years of the organisation.

He termed RSS as addictive, saying those who get used to it, cannot move away.

“This is the reason some might not join the organisation. One is free to join or leave RSS, on his own will. There is no boundation,” Bhagwat said, adding RSS is unique model in the world of human development.

“There is comparable to it. Very rare you came across bunch of people who work for the development of society by taking all sections along with them, he said.

Elaborating RSS’ evolution, he said the organisation was involved in the freedom struggle but we never had the time to talk about it.

He reiterated that whosoever born in India is Hindu and added that ‘Hindu’ and ‘Bharatiya’ are words with same meaning.

However, he said unity in diversity which is keeping the country together and the characteristic of India comes from culture of ancient times.

At the event, founder of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) founder Milind Kamble was also present who said that I was ABVP leader and worked for BJP also. He also welcomed the demonetisation move.

Besides him, Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsh Vardhan were also present at the event.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 09:47 IST

Bengal: Army says it is conducting routine exercise with police coordination

Kolkata: Army on Thursday night said they are conducting routine exercise with full knowledge and coordination with West Bengal police.

“Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge & coord with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect,” a statement by the Eastern command said on Twitter.

File photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

File photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

“Routine exercise in all NE states. In [email protected] places, Arunanchal @13, [email protected], Manip[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], Tripura & [email protected]”, it said.

Kolkata Police, however, said they have raised objection to this Army exercise due to security reasons and traffic problem.

“Army exercise at Toll Plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience,” the city police said in a Twitter message on Thursday night.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Army was deployed at toll plazas in different places in the state without informing the state government and termed it as “unprecedented and a very serious matter”.

She further said, “Whatever reason they are giving is not correct. They are lying. They are changing their reasons time to time. The MHA has the complete data of the vehicles moving in different states in the country.”

Earlier, a defence spokesperson said that the Army conducts biennial exercise throughout the country with the aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency.

“There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders”, Wing Commander SS Birdi said.

The exercise gives an estimate about the number of vehicles passing through a certain area that could be tapped during operations, he said.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 09:16 IST

Maharashtra CM Fadnavis calls for ‘reverse working’ for cashless society for farmers, labourers

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday stressed the need for “reverse working” for a cashless society, like giving priority to the needs of farmers, labourers from unorganised sector and small vendors.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

“Stressed on reverse working for cashless society like considering the needs of farmers, labours from unorganised sector & small vendors first,” Fadnavis said in a tweet after participating in a discussion in the central government committee to promote cashless society via video conferencing.

“Had a good discussion in the video conference meeting of Committee appointed by the GoI on promotion of cashless society,” he said.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is the convenor of this central committee with many Chief Ministers and NITI Aayog Vice President Arvind Panagariya and CEO Amitabh Kant as invitees.

He said he briefed the committee on the remedies and steps taken by Maharashtra government to bring ease to common man in demonetisation process.

“We need to give some more options, instruments and hands on training to move towards cashless/less cash society as appealed by (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi ji,” Fadnavis said.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 07:55 IST

Venkaiah Naidu hails SC decision on national anthem, says it will inculcate patriotism

New Delhi: Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu lauded the Supreme Court’s direction that cinema halls across the country must play the national anthem before screening a film, saying it will inculcate a sense of patriotism among people, particularly the younger generation.

M Venkaiah Naidu. PTI file imageM Venkaiah Naidu. PTI file image

M Venkaiah Naidu. PTI file image

“It’s a very good decision. It will inculcate a sense of patriotism among people particularly the younger generation. I am very happy about it,” Naidu, who also holds the Information and Broadcasting portfolio, said.

The apex court directed cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before screening films and people should stand up as a mark of respect.

The court also directed that the national flag should be shown on screen when the anthem is played. “People must feel this is my country and this is my motherland,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said, while stressing that it is the duty of every citizen of the country to show respect to the national anthem and the flag.

It also said no person should take commercial benefits by playing the anthem and that it should not be dramatised. The apex court said the anthem should not be printed or displayed on undesirable objects, and also barred it from being played on variety shows and its abridged version anywhere.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 16:32 IST

Manohar Parrikar says he was ‘shivering’ on his first day in office as defence minister

Panaji: In a candid admission, Manohar Parrikar on Saturday said he was “shivering” on his first in office as Defence Minister, though he tried to put up a brave face.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“When I went to Delhi, I took experience of that city. I became Defence Minister with the blessings of you all. I did not know anything,” Parrikar said, addressing a ‘Vijay Sankalp’ rally at Sanvordem constituency on Saturday.

“Let me admit, I was shivering on the first day (of taking charge). I put up a brave face banking on my experience, but in reality I didn’t even have knowledge about the rank of military officers,” he said.

Parrikar was chief minister of Goa before his induction into the Union Cabinet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Goa’s brush with the military was during 1961 when Indian Army liberated the state from Portuguese rule. After that, we saw 1965 and 1971 wars. During the Kargil war, I have given slogans but in reality, I was unaware about what is war and what is the preparedness required for that,” he said.

The minister said he realised that “armament stores are empty and government had tied hands of the soldiers. I did nothing much for last two years but told the army that if anyone attacks, you are free to retaliate.”

“You have noticed the impact of this liberty. Whenever there was attack on us, our brave soldiers have retaliated strongly. Whether it be the surgical strike (in PoK) or firing at the line of border, Army has responded strongly, forcing the enemy to plead for peace. During the last four days, there has been no firing on the border.”

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 08:27 IST

Nabha jailbreak: Pakistan could be behind the incident, says Punjab Deputy CM

Chandigarh: Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Sunday voiced apprehension that Pakistan could be behind the sensational Nabha jailbreak, saying the neighbouring country was “desperate to revive terrorism” after Indian army conducted the surgical strike across the LoC.

Rapid Action Force men at Nabha Central Jail, which was stormed by armed men. PTI

Rapid Action Force men at Nabha Central Jail, which was stormed by armed men. PTI

“Pak desperate to revive terror post surgical strike. Could be behind jail break,” Sukhbir, who also spoke to the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval after the incident, tweeted.

The Deputy CM, who also holds Home portfolio, however said that the state government would uncover the conspiracy behind the jail break incident at all cost.

“We will uncover the conspiracy behind terrorist – gangster Nabha jail break at all cost.”

“State police is investigating conspiracy between terrorists and gangsters to disturb peace in Punjab before elections,” Sukhbir tweeted.

Officials said Sukhbir apprised Doval of the details of the incident and updated him on the steps being taken to apprehend six culprits.

In a sensational jailbreak, a group of armed men in police uniform today attacked the high-security Nabha Jail and fled with six prisoners, including Khalistan Liberation Front chief Harminder Mintoo.

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 16:46 IST

Manohar Parrikar says India doesn’t want war, but ‘will gouge out enemy’s eyes if provoked’

Panaji: Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said India did not seek war, but would “gouge out eyes” of the enemy if provoked.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“We don’t itch for a fight, but if someone looks at the country with an evil eye, we will gouge his eyes out and put them back in his hand, we have that much power,” he said, while addressing a rally in Aldona Assembly constituency in Goa. “Goans can tell the world that they had sent a man to the Centre who slapped the enemy across the face.”

“There was no firing on the border for the last three days, because if they (Pakistan) fire once, we fire twice at them. We are giving a tit-for-tat response, and when they realised it, they approached us, seeking to stop it,” Parrikar said, in an apparent referrence to Pakistan’s request for DGMO-level talks three days ago.

Asserting that the armed forces were fully prepared, Parrikar said his mother had taught him that “even if you are going to
hunt a rabbit, be prepared to kill a tiger”.

First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 22:20 IST

Supreme Court failed us during Emergency, says Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

New Delhi: Tensions between the judiciary and the government flared up once again on Saturday, as both sides cautioned each other against crossing the “Lakshman Rekha”, with law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recalling that the Supreme Court had failed while high courts had shown “great courage” during the Emergency.

Differences between the two sides first showed up when Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said at a function that there is a shortage of judges in high courts and tribunals requiring government intervention, a view Prasad strongly disagreed with.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. PTILaw Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. PTI

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. PTI

Later, at another function in the Supreme Court lawns, the CJI cautioned that no organs of government should cross the “Lakshman Rekha” and stressed judiciary has been given the duty to watch that all remain within their limits.

He was responding to attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who in an apparent reference to the Emergency and other political scenarios, said, “The delicate balance of the Constitution was disturbed in 1970s. That balance must be restored.”

Hours later, Rohatgi said at another Law Day function in the presence of the CJI and his likely successor, Justice JS Khehar, “All, including judiciary, must recognise there is a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ and be ready for introspection.”

While the CJI did not respond to it, Justice Khehar said, “Judiciary has always kept to the Lakshman Rekha by upholding the
Constitution. Emergency brought out strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution.”

However, the law minister was very vocal in attacking the judiciary, by saying, “Supreme Court failed us during the Emergency and all high courts showed great courage. Courts may quash the order of the government; courts may set aside a legislation but the governance must remain with those who are elected to govern.”

Prasad also added that issues regarding the Emergency in the ADM Jabalpur case in which the apex court held that even Fundamental Rights can be suspended was a “monumental lapse”. He allayed apprehensions on curtailment of freedom by the
present dispensation, saying he and Prime Minister both suffered during the Emergency and “it will preserve the freedom of all organs of the state”.

Justice Khehar said, “Judiciary is mandated to shield all persons, citizens and non-citizens alike, against discrimination and abuse of state power. Liberty, equality and dignity of citizen have flourished substantially in India due to the pro-active role of judiciary in the country,” he said, adding that “a progressive civil society and a pulsating media have contributed to keep the
constitutional values on track.”

First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 22:09 IST

Demonetisation: Economists, experts back Manmohan Singh’s prediction of GDP slowdown

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has finally broken his silence on the central government’s demonetisation move, criticising his successor Narendra Modi over the decision to discontinue higher value currency notes. During a debate in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Manmohan Singh said, “The GDP of the country will decline by about 2 percent by what has been done. And this is an underestimate and not an overestimate.”

ManmohanSingh_AP_20AugManmohanSingh_AP_20Aug

Experts have agreed with the observations of the former Prime Minister — who is also an economist — and concurred that the decline in GDP could be as high as three or four percent.

“I don’t know on what basis Manmohan Singh has arrived at the figure of 2 percent, but in per my estimates, it’ll be more than that. It’s true that farmers, households, small industries and businesses have started getting adversely affected as transactions have become difficult due to the cash crunch in the market. By scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes in one stroke, which comprise 86 percent of the currency, liquidity has been sucked out of the system. So, how can the economy survive and for how long? I don’t see this crisis getting resolved in 50 days and may even continue for next seven to eight months; production will be hit. This will have an adverse impact on our GDP,” said Prof Arun Kumar, economist and author of The Black Economy in India.

Manmohan Singh took to the floor of the Upper House of Parliament on Thursday and launched a scathing attack on the government. He called the implementation of the demonetisation move a “monumental mismanagement” by the government, and urged Narendra Modi to come up with a slew of constructive proposals to rectify the situation.

Here are the salient features from Manmohan Singh’s speech on demonetisation:

The move may weaken the currency system
It will weaken people’s confidence in the currency and banking system
Small businesses, farming and cooperative banking have suffered the most
The cooperative banking sector isn’t operational
A monumental mismanagement in the implementation of demonetisation
About 60-65 people have even lost their lives

According to reports, ratings agencies have cut their estimates of India’s GDP growth in light of the move by the NDA government. Scrapping of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes, in an attempt to curb black money, has led to a cash deficit, as banks are struggling to replace the demonetised currency.

“The move could also dent consumption growth in Asia’s third-largest economy, which would have otherwise received a boost from a bountiful monsoon. And, in the short term, the consumption that would have been fueled by black money will come to a halt,” Mint mentioned.

“GDP is the measure of total economic activities during the year. Though I can’t comment on the 2 percent figure mentioned by the former PM, it is true that there will be a decline in GDP. As there is no flow of currency in the market, economic activities have gone down, along with a decline in production as well. This will have an obvious impact on the economy,” said Surajit Mazumdar, economist and professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Explaining the mechanism further, Mazumdar said, “Certain things get affected immediately, like the informal credit sector. And once they’re hit, effects can be longer than expected. For instance, if a producer or manufacturer is unable to sell his product and get money, he won’t be able to pay his debts. He won’t be able to set his credit, and it’ll hit him in the long term as well.”

But despite Manmohan Singh painting a gloomy picture, not everybody is convinced about it. Economist and senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Rajiv Kumar, anticipates a 1 to 1.5 percent decline in the third and fourth quarters. “I fail to understand from where Manmohan Singh got 2 percent figure, and why did he say ‘demonetisation is an organised loot’. It’s a political statement. However, my hunch is that 1-1.5 percent decline in GDP in the third and fourth quarters, and by the end I expect GDP growth to be at 6 to 6.5 percent. Due to weakening of demand and transactions, the informal sector and the supply side have been hit. But this is just 30 percent; the other 70 percent is safe. So, we can’t say that it’s all dark,” Kumar added.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 18:09 IST

Farooq Abdullah bats for ‘autonomy to both sides of Kashmir’

Bhaderwah: National Conference president Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday said autonomy to both sides of Jammu and Kashmir was the only viable solution to the nearly seven-decade old problem.

“Borders cannot be changed but these can be made irrelevant and soft for people to people exchange and opening new vistas of trade and commerce for overall economic prosperity of the region.”

“We bat for autonomy to both sides of Kashmir and converting LoC-IB as soft border,” the National Conference President said while addressing a public meeting in Bhaderwah.

Farooq Abdullah. AFP

Farooq Abdullah. AFP

Abdullah said that issues between India and Pakistan cannot be resolved by guns or cannons, which have even been proven by four wars, but these can definitely be deliberated upon for amicable solution through a sustained process of dialogue.

He said the reality of LoC and International Border between the two nations cannot be challenged at the strength of military power and therefore the two parts of the state should be granted maximum autonomy.

In the context of Indo-Pak dialogue, he referred to the speech of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Tanghdar, emphasising that friends can be changed but not the neighbours.

He said the intermittent skirmishes on borders have only aggravated the problems of the two sides of Jammu and Kashmir.

The NC President cautioned New Delhi against delaying the resolution of political issue of Kashmir, saying restoration of the commitments made in the Instrument of Accession is the only way forward in wriggling out the state from prevailing crisis.

He said the state of Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India on three subjects of defence, foreign affairs and communication, which has been re-emphasised by the former Sadr-e-Riyasat, Karan Singh in Parliament recently. He said the genesis of discontent among people in Kashmir was due to breaking of promises and said that mistrust among youth is deep-rooted.

“The alienation is growing among youth, who cannot be won over by brute force or the notes of Rs 500 or Rs 1000,” he said, adding that a meaningful engagement with all the stakeholders had assumed immense significance.

Warning RSS against furthering divisive agenda across the country in general and Jammu and Kashmir in particular, Abdullah said that the state had not acceded to Hindu India but a secular nation, a proud abode for all faiths and communities.

“Nobody has right to undermine the sacrifices of Muslims in independence struggle of India,” he said and asked the BJP to refrain from practicing the British legacy of ‘divide and rule’.

Speaking on the occasion, former Chief Minister and National Conference Working President Omar Abdullah said that the state is facing grave challenge from divisive forces that were working overtime to generate hatred among religious communities and drift between the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

“There are political forces that are engaged in furthering communal and caste politics, which is against the essence of pluralistic state like Jammu and Kashmir”, he said and urged the party cadre to stand against them for safeguarding the single entity and secular foundations of the state.

He said the existence of National Conference is due to its secular credentials and the cherished slogan of Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah “Hindu Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian Unity” will always remain guiding force for the party.

Omar referred to the polarising politics of the PDP and BJP saying while the former contested 2014 elections in Kashmir by instilling fear among people about the Sangh Parivar and later based its electoral plank on getting rid of Abdullah and Mufti dynasties’.

Narendra Modi vowed during electioneering in the state to free J&K from Abdullahs and Muftis but took no time in allying with PDP after the poll results came out”, he said and decried the opportunistic politics of the two parties.

The former Chief Minister expressed anguish over large scale devastation and destruction in Kashmir Valley during over past four months and claimed 90 youngsters got killed, hundreds were blinded and thousands injured.

“And the irony is that some people in the Centre are under the delusion of youngsters getting killed for Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes”, he added.

He questioned the claims of normalcy dawning after demonetisation, saying the people of Kashmir would not sacrifice their sons for Rs 500 or Rs 1000 notes.

“There has been a widespread discontent among the people, which needs to be addressed by solving the political issues of Kashmir”, he maintained.

Omar Abdullah, who is on a three day tour of Chinab Valley along with his father, Farooq Abdullah and several other senior leaders of the party was addressing a public rally at Dak Bungalow Bhaderwah.

“Our accession with Indian state was conditional and was limited only to currency, defense and foreign affairs but gradually they started draining it.

Then they came with the false promises, be it Narsimha Rao’s ‘Sky is the limit’, or Vajpaye’s confession from Lal Qilla on 15 August and now Narinder Modi’s promises,” said Omar Abdullah.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 08:49 IST

Demonetisation: Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis urges private hospitals to accept old notes

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M Balamuralikrishna was a temple of music: Singer Sudha Raghunathan’s tribute to the legend

I did not want to believe what I had heard. So I rushed to his residence and was compelled to accept it as the truth. I stood beside him in stony silence. I doubt I would be able to express all that I would like to say about Padma Vibhushan, Knight Of Legion of Honour, Sangita Kalanidhi Balamuralikrishnaji… about his music and his fame that stood larger than life. A true son of the soil who, through his music, touched millions of hearts, leaving a void that can never be filled.

Having met him recently during his 85th birthday celebrations and singing his compositions before him, I had enjoyed his warmth and affection. During this occasion he spoke about how happy he was to see me and enquired of my family — after all did he not sing at my son Kaushik’s wedding and make all of us indebted to him for his kindness? Little did I know that this would be my last interaction with him! It had been on my mind to always drop by subsequently and enquire, but each day passed by, with me entangled in a web of my commitments. We always take for granted the ones we love assuming they will always be there.

What is he to me — a manseeka guru, a cherished family member, a benefactor, a friend, a guiding light or a genius? Be it at work while we discussed collaborations, or when I simply sat at his feet listening to him reminiscing, or when he blessed me during each of my achievements, or when he gave constant tips… he had a special aura that always drew me to him time and again to see how much more I could imbibe from this maestro.

New Delhi: File photo of Veteran carnatic musician M. Balamuralikrishna who passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. Blamuralikrishna acted as Narada in Telugu movie ''Bhakta Prahalada''. He has rendered some unforgettable playback songs too. He was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 1991. PTI Photo (PTI11_22_2016_000281B)New Delhi: File photo of Veteran carnatic musician M. Balamuralikrishna who passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. Blamuralikrishna acted as Narada in Telugu movie ''Bhakta Prahalada''. He has rendered some unforgettable playback songs too. He was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 1991. PTI Photo (PTI11_22_2016_000281B)

M Balamuralikrishna. PTI

Watching him perform was like a feast for the eyes and ears. The resonant voice would boom at every corner of the auditorium and open up spaces unknown of hitherto. When it came to imagination, the sky was his limit. The highest note would be caressed with masterly ease and he would then dive down to the crevices in the mandhra sthayi with equal élan. At any octave the voice would not lose its magnetic appeal. He could thunder and at the same time soothe. He could soar on his octaves, yet croon lullabies so beautifully that the Lord himself would have gone to sleep smiling. His manodharma flowed like liquid gold studded with the gems of ragams and swarams — his voice simply obeyed each of his commands.

His versatility knew no bounds. Balamuralikrishna was a multi-instrumentalist, an actor, a playback singer with golden hits such as ‘Oru naal podhuma‘. Not even a lifetime is sufficient to sing the paeans of this genius. His fine Telugu diction made his renditions of Tyagaraja, Annamacharya and Bhadrachala Ramadas immortal. The nuances, the highs and lows, the jaarus and gamakams spoke of his own unique style.

Like an eagle he soared high and built his nest on some lofty solitude. He was detached, yet attached. Being lost in his music, exploring, adventuring, creating, recording, teaching and weaving into our hearts silently, he ensured that we got attached to him, not ever wanting to let go.

Wielding a magic wand, he endeared himself to the masses with that twinkle in his eyes and a cherubic smile that lit up his face, belying his age. As he grew older and his frame shrunk, that charismatic face and his bewitching smile, however, remained intact, continuing to draw rasikas from far and near.

Blessed with immense kalpana shakti (power of creativity) his innovations and inventions are endless. His raga delineations, the cascading of swara prastharas, his creations of kritis in melakarta ragams and in rare ragams such as Mahathi, Ganapathi, Lavangi and Sarvashri… these are all treasure troves that stand the test of time. A grand parampara and a flaming trail left behind — so much for us to learn, imbibe and continue his legacy.

An inexplicable loss to the world of Carnatic music, his voice and his music will always remain with us forever. He was a temple of music, an encyclopedia of kritis, a sanctum of ragams and swarams, and a repository of knowledge — a musician who had a soul connect with his rasikas and stole all our hearts with his performances.

काममय एवायं पुरुष इति। स यथाकामो भवति तत्क्रतुर्भवति।
यत्क्रतुर्भवति तत्कर्म कुरुते। यत्कर्म कुरुते तदभिसंपद्यते॥

You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed,. As your deed is, so is your destiny.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 17:00 IST

Demonetisation: Former bureaucrat EAS Sarma writes to PM Modi on black money

EAS Sarma is a retired senior bureaucrat who, among his many postings, has notably served as secretary in the Ministry of Finance (between 1999 and 2000) and as the secretary, Ministry of Power (between 1997 and 1998). On 12 November, he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about approaches that the Union government could adopt to enhance its own credibility. On Wednesday, he wrote another letter detailing the way lavish weddings seem in no way affected by the cash crunch that is being faced by the common man and woman. That letter is reproduced below in its entirety:

To

Narendra Modi,
Prime Minister,
Government of India
Dear Mr Modi,

Subject: Drive against Black Money

I write this in continuation of my recent letter dated 12 November, 2016 on the subject. I enclose a copy of that letter for your ready reference.

I thought that I should bring to your notice a BBC News report (‘Lavish wedding angers cash-strapped Indians‘) that appeared at a time when the common man/woman in the country is asked to join your grand campaign against black money and, therefore, bear the pain and trauma of demonetisation. In case your office has not shown this report, I enclose a copy of that report for your perusal.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

The lavish wedding is that organised by G Janardhana Reddy, a former BJP minister of Karnataka. In the past, one of your present Cabinet ministers took help from him for contesting elections. He continues to enjoy the BJP’s blessings as evident from the fact that several BJP bigwigs in Karnataka have been seen rubbing shoulders with Reddy at the pre-wedding functions.

The cost of the wedding is estimated at more than Rs 500 crore, a figure that not many ordinary Indians can even imagine! The invitation for the wedding was gold-plated fitted with LCD screens, costing crores of rupees. The wedding sari cost Rs 17 crore and the wedding jewellery Rs 90 crore. There are 3,000 “bouncers”, 300-odd policemen, sniffer dogs and bomb squads deployed to maintain “law and order” at the wedding premises. When Indian soldiers are fighting on the border and many losing their lives, this is something that should rouse the conscience of any patriotic Indian.

Despite a CBI investigation going on against this person and despite your grand “surgical strike” against black money, he seems to be at no disadvantage whatsoever in finding mountains of ready cash and resources for all this obscene display of affluence.

Reddy was quoted in the BBC report as saying that “he had mortgaged properties in Bengaluru and Singapore to raise money for the wedding and that all payments were made six months ago when the planning started”. Which are those properties in Bengaluru and Singapore? Have the Enforcement Directorate, CBDT, Serious Fraud Office, CBI etc investigated this? How much of undeclared cash is available for such a lavish wedding? When the Income Tax Department is hounding smaller traders all over the country, why have they remained non-committal in this particular case?

Many persons standing in long queues in front of banks and ATMs are heard expressing surprise and anguish at the likes of Reddy not being seen anywhere in any of the queues, when the ordinary citizen is forced to wait and get tired in the process of drawing his or her own money in the name of fighting the common cause propounded by you in the speeches that were broadcast nationwide during the past few days.

Will the BJP formally announce that all those in its own ranks attending such a lavish wedding, especially at a time when you have subjected the masses to the demonetisation distress, will be asked to quit the party to send a clear message that the party is against black money-holders?

You cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds at the same time. If you wish to flush out black money in real earnest, you have to flush it out from the bigger sharks nearer home, not the petty cash hoarders. If you wish to tell the nation that you mean business, the people of this country wish to see some big fish apprehended, their benami properties confiscated and so, an example is set to deter the others from violating the law of the land.

I had earlier suggested tangible steps for you to consider.

Kindly revoke the retrospective amendment to Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, as the amendment compromises the national interest. Proceed against those chief ministers, ministers and other public functionaries who have illicit offshore accounts. Trace their benami properties and have them attached. Order an independent investigation into both election-funding and election expenditure of all political parties for the last three years. Announce that your party at least will subject itself to the RTI Act. Without these minimal measures, the commendable drive you have displayed in demonetising higher currency notes may lose its momentum.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

EAS Sarma
Former Secretary to GoI
Visakhapatnam
16 November, 2016

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 10:32 IST

Demonetisation: From the stench of old notes to fights, here’s a banker’s view

On 8 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, in order to flush out black money. Thus began the mad scramble for cash. Queues outside ATMs and banks grew as frustrated and anxious citizens made a beeline to exchange or deposit the old notes, or get cash. Banks were directed to extend their working hours and meet the demands. A bank employee shares her experience with Humans of Bombay after the currency ban came into effect:

“I’m the manager at a bank. On 8 November, I was working a bit late when my husband called me and said, ‘how did you not tell me that 500 and 1000 Rupee notes are getting scraped’ and I was shell shocked. None of us had any idea what was going on… we just knew it was huge. So we went into work the next day, preparing for the days to come but no amount of preparation could fully prepare us for what was coming.

Image courtesy: Humans of BombayImage courtesy: Humans of Bombay

Image courtesy: Humans of Bombay

People’s view of the whole situation was limited to the lines they saw outside the bank, but what was happening behind closed doors was entirely different. We became a part of the dirty cycle that runs in this country. On one end there were chaiwallas, istriwallas who are queuing up to deposit their hard earned money but on the other end we’re receiving black money that had been stashed away for years possibly and all this cash smells like rotten leather to the point where every one of our branches has ordered masks for the cashiers — that’s how unbearable the stench became! From fights breaking out and the police intervening to educated people storming our offices and violently asking us for money — we’ve dealt with it all.

Just the other day a builder who’s had an account with us for many years, came forward to finally pay us an amount that he had defaulted on a Non Performing Asset. When we had chased him for months to pay up, he had defaulted but all of a sudden he came forward! He has over 300 crores in black money, but before this he claimed to have none at all — that’s how dirty the business is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about what has happened — it’s a revolutionary move that will only strengthen our country and I completely understand what the common man is going through as well, but what can we possibly do? There’s only so much cash we have, and only so many people who can attend to such a large population.

What’s ridiculous is how people are behaving — they’re treating us so badly. Just 4 hours ago I received a call from a man from a place called Nanded who screamed at me non-stop. He went on yelling, blaming me, cursing in Marathi and I’m sitting there just wondering what I could possibly do and we’ve received dozens of such calls each day. Not just that, but the threats have also come. We get calls from people who are politically endowed and threaten to ‘send media to expose us’ or to ‘create a scene’ if we don’t move money — I mean when will we learn? We’re bankers — there’s only so much we can do! We’ve hardly slept these past few days, we’re not taking any weekends off… in fact most of us haven’t even exchanged our own 500 Rupee notes because we’re trying to help others first.

Our banks are losing money on interest and there’s already enough chaos… do we really need to add to it? We’re all in the same situation, we just need to sit tight and understand that steps are being taken to aid the process — this is for the future of our country and the least we can all do at a time like this is have patience and believe that everything will stabilise soon. And for heaven’s sake, stop trying to use more corrupt methods to get out of an already corrupt situation… we don’t need any more of it!”

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 09:32 IST

Demonetisation ended terror-funding, stone-pelting on security forces in Kashmir: Parrikar

Mumbai: Since the demonetisation of high currency notes, terror funding has come down to zero and there has not been stone-pelting on security forces, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Mumbai on Monday.

He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “daring” move, which, he said, will also help clamp down on the narcotic drugs.

“Earlier, there were rates: Rs 500 for stone pelting (on security forces in Kashmir) and Rs 1,000 for doing something else. PM has brought terror funding to zero,” Parrikar said.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“In the last few days after PM’s daring move there hasn’t been stone pelting on security forces. I congratulate PM for it,” he said, speaking at an event in Mumbai organised by the BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar.

Talking to reporters later, Parrikar said those who sponsor terror will be affected by the demonetisation.

Earlier, at the event, Parrikar said, “Bhatkhalkar did not tell me beforehand that he will felicitate me.”

A citation was presented to Parrikar, which lauded his role in surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. It also thanked him for providing relief to people affected by land development rules in the vicinity of Central Ordnance Depots.

“When I became Defence Minister, I did not think there will be things like this (dealing with COD-land issue). I thought Defence meant bang-bang on the border,” he said.

“Altogether, 17.38 lakh acres of land in the country is under Defence possession. Defence is the largest land owner in India,” Parrikar said. “There was delay in resolving COD issue as there were concerns over security on one hand and people’s concerns on the other,” he said.

“Whether it’s border security or economic security, PM Modi has taken daring decisions,” he said, adding, “whatever is being done, our jawans on border are doing it, I and PM are just supporting it.”

“Problem of new notes circulation will be resolved to a large extent in the next four-five days,” Parrikar said.

In the next Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections, nobody will be left with power to bribe voters, Parrikar said, without naming the ally Shiv Sena which has been critical of demonetisation.

The Defence Minister said an issue should not be made out of his simplicity and his shunning various official perks.

“I came to Mumbai thrice (on personal visits) and police didn’t know,” Parrikar said.

BJP MP Gopal Shetty said he will expose Defence officers who indulged in irregularities while dealing with the COD issue.

Providing relief to people in suburban Kandivli and Malad in Mumbai, Parrikar had earlier this year said the local military authority (LMA) will have to respond within 30 days to applications for no-objection certificate for redevelopment and construction near the defence establishment, failing which the state government and the municipal corporation can take a call.

The move was welcomed by residents of buildings within the 500-meter radius of the Central Ordnance Depot, a defence establishment spanning across 17 acres of Kandivli and Malad.

Two notifications — issued by a cautious government in 2010 in the wake of the Adarsh scam and by the ministry of defence (MoD) in 2011 — had scuttled all redevelopment projects in the highly congested areas of Kandivli and Malad, as they made permission from the LMA mandatory for any construction within 500-meter radius of COD.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 10:11 IST

PM Narendra Modi on demonetisation: ‘Govt has implemented Nehru’s vision’

Amid raging opposition from Congress and Left parties on the issue of demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday invoked Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on his birth anniversary to garner support for the Centre’s move to ban old currency notes.

“Pt. Nehru’s party may curse me all they want, but I have implemented his vision for the poor,” Modi said while addressing a rally in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, adding that the Congress has entirely missed his message.

Rubbishing Congress party’s allegations that the move is anti-poor, Modi said that it was the rich who were spending sleepless nights.

“Poor people are sleeping peacefully, it is the rich who are running from pillar to post to buy sleeping pills,” he said.

PM Narendra Modi. PTIPM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

The Prime Minister was in Ghazipur to flag off the weekly Shabd Bhedi Superfast Express from Ghazipur to Kolkata and inaugurated the newly constructed perishable cargo centre in Ghazipur. He also laid the foundation stone for doubling of the railway track between Ghazipur and Ballia, rail-cum-road bridge on the river Ganga on Mau-Tadighat rail route.

Modi, however, also took the opportunity to justify his move to demonetise higher denomination currency notes in the poll-bound state. “I had no other option to crackdown on black money. This move has brought the rich and poor on the same tangent,” Modi said.

Acknowledging the problems caused to the common man, Modi said, “I feel your pain and I am spending sleepless nights to do all I can to facilitate the situation,” adding that the inconvenience faced by the common man will not go in vain.

Addressing his first public rally in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh post the demonetisation drive, Modi said: “I want to assure you that your inconveniences will not go in vain.” Modi urged people to bear with the “short term inconvenience for a corruption free India.”

Koi bhi kaam karo thodi bohot takleef to hoti hai irada nek hona chahiye. (Every new effort causes a little inconvenience but the intent behind it should be righteous),” the prime minister said.

He also asked a cheering crowd whether he was right in implementing certain “hard measures for the greater good” and whether people were ready to face “slight inconvenience” for this. His appeals were largely greeted with resounding applause.

Modi also played up his “chai-walah” days, stating that his decision to crack down on black money was a little “Kadak (strong)” just like his tea.

Mujhe yaad hai mujhe gareeb log kehte the Modi ji chai jara kadak banana. Gareeb ko jara kadak chai achi lagti hai, magar ameer ka muh bigad jaata hai. (I remember poor people used to ask me to keep their tea a little strong. Well, the poor love their brew on the stronger side but it usually spoils the taste buds of the elite),” Modi said taking on the black money holders, who he said are spending sleepless nights since the crackdown.

Modi said the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency was to target those with unaccounted cash. “But I will not spare those with unaccounted Rs 2.5 crore cash, and those who have stashed money under the bed.”

First Published On : Nov 14, 2016 14:25 IST

‘Black money one of the main sources to fund terrorism’: Afghanistan welcomes India’s decision on demonetisation

New Delhi: Underlining that black money is one of the main sources of funding terror activities, Afghanistan on welcomed India’s decision to demonetise high-denomination currency, saying the move will benefit the region.

Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida Abdali said the move will help curb economic terrorism by foiling the usage of counterfeit currency for terror activities.

“Black money is one of the main sources of funding for activities related to terrorism. And therefore it will help in fighting against it. Terrorism certainly has no boundary and so India’s move will help the region too,” he said on the sidelines of the ‘Heart of Asia’ seminar in New Delhi.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The two-day seminar, organised by International Council for World Affairs (ICWA), is being held in the run-up to the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Amritsar in December, which India will co-chair with Afghanistan. Earlier, speaking at the event, Abdali appreciated the role of ‘Heart of Asia’ in the stabilisation of Afghanistan and the region while pitching for for bold, result-oriented regional leadership.

“The National Unity Government of Afghanistan took unprecedented steps to address the question of terrorism and improve our relations with Pakistan. We have exchanged with Pakistan several delegations, to secure Pakistan’s cooperation in ending war and violence,” he said. “We appreciated the initial gestures of goodwill of the Pakistani government…but we are yet to see tangible steps to be taken towards the peace process,” he said.

He said zero-sum postures must be discarded and win-win strategies adopted to secure Afghanistan against the same threats that undermine the security of every nation in South Asia and Central Asia, and the countries that neighbour these resourceful regions in Asia.

Abdali said a well-defined regional counter-terrorism strategy was a necessity and no longer an option for stabilisation. The seminar is being attended by representative from several member and supporting countries of ‘Heart of Asia’.

There are 13 member countries, which include Afghanistan, India, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Besides, there are 30 supporting countries which include the US, the UK and Germany.

‘Customer feedback platform to assess call drops soon’: Telecom minister warns operators of action

New Delhi: Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha on Tuesday warned operators of action, including penalty, for call drops, and said his ministry will soon set up a platform to enable consumers to offer direct feedback on call failures.

On the interconnection dispute between Reliance Jio and incumbent operators — where TRAI has recommended a hefty penalty of Rs 3,050 crore on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea — he said the ministry will “ensure” that services are provided by those who have been given licences.

“The recommendations (of TRAI) are there… in our purview, if we have given a licence to someone, they should also give service, we will ensure this…In the regulatory framework, ways are found with mutual consultation…and I feel that the path will be found,” he said after meeting with the heads of telecom operators.

On the telecom war between operators over points of interconnect, the minister said that consumers will not suffer.

“Consumers will not be effected, we will ensure it. We have advised them to get solution within the regulatory framework and they will do it,” he said.

Representational image. Image courtesy: Think stock

Representational image. Image courtesy: Think stock

Asked if he was in favour of penalty being imposed for call drops, the minister said, “Call drops should be out of the country, only then I will be satisfied…Not just penalty, if something else is required (to be done), we will do that.”

He expressed satisfaction at the progress made by companies in installing base stations for improving connectivity but said that while TRAI report indicates an improvement in the overall situation, its circle-wise criteria of measuring call drops does not cover “black spots” where call failures occur. “Till consumers say they are free of call drops, I will not accept it…Telecom Ministry is considering making a platform that will take direct feedback from people on call drops…it will be ready in the next one month and that will be the right parameter to gauge the situation,” he said.

Earlier this year, telcos had submitted a 100-day action plan on strategy to address call drops issue. They had committed to set up 60,000 base stations as part of this action plan within 100 days, and one lakh base stations over a one year period.

Sinha said the operators have installed over 61,000 base transceiver stations (BTS). This, however, does not include BTSes put up by Reliance Jio, which started commercial operations recently. The minister said that Jio has put up another 45,000 BTSes during the period.

The meeting was attended by Bharti Airtel Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal, Vodafone MD and CEO Sunil Sood, Idea Cellular MD and CEO Himanshu Kapania and Telenor CEO Sharad Mehrotra.

Earlier on Tuesday, Vittal told PTI the company had done “tremendous” work in the last 100 days on network quality and there has been significant reduction in call drops.

“We have optimised 30,000-35,000 sites. We have rolled out massive pace of sites in the last 100 days. We have also bought spectrum…We have invested in software networks and geospatial tools and technologies. We have divided the country into 1,100 clusters and we look at network quality in each clusters,” Vittal said.

As a result, call drops have come down by roughly 15-30 percent, he added.

Cellular body COAI’s Director General, Rajan Mathews who was also present at the industry’s meeting with the minister, said the operators have installed 1,20,000 base stations, nearly doubling their 100-day commitment.

“The operators have now given their individual targets for the next 90-100 days,” he said.

A COAI statement said the total BTS in the country stood at 13,45,470. In this time, operators have also spent close to Rs 85,000 crore, which is also more than the committed amount, COAI said.

The industry association has emphasised the need for government intervention in helping operators secure cell sites especially post, defence, NDMC and MCD.

“We would request government’s intervention to locate cell sites on government buildings and land, Postal Department facilities and defence properties, as access to these sites still eludes the industry…Greater sensitisation of the MCD and NDMC is still the need of the hour as MCD continues to shut down sites and NDMC is yet to release them to the industry,” COAI said, adding that of the 115 sites applied, no sites have materialised.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil controversy: Pro-RSS journal says Karan Johar ‘conveniently patriotic’

New Delhi: Dubbing Karan Johar as “conveniently patriotic”, a pro-RSS journal has accused the filmmaker of having discovered his latent patriotism ahead of his movie’s release in the face of a big financial loss.

An article in the “Organiser” has come down heavily on Johar for going ahead with his movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan despite a call not to employ such artistes after the Uri attack.

Attacking filmmakers like Johar and actors Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Om Puri, the article says they are living in ivory towers far away from the country’s burning borders who think patriotism is a cumbersome burden to be borne only by men in uniform.

“Karan Johar too has been largely silent against the Uri attacks. He seems to have discovered his latent patriotism only now, on the eve of the release of his movie, in the face of a big financial loss.

Filmmaker Karan Johar. Reuters

Filmmaker Karan Johar. Reuters

“But even in his video statement, there has been a careful and concerted attempt to mention the word ‘ban’, whereas, in reality, there is no official ban on the movie at all,” the article said.

Attacking him and some actors who had joined the intolerance debate in the country, it said, “They start getting concerned only when terrorism threatens their own backyards, as it did on 26/11. On all other days, for them, patriotism is a cumbersome burden to be borne only by our men in uniform.”

The article says Johar’s video statement deliberately attempts to obfuscate the difference between an enforced “ban” and a voluntary economic “boycott” and the “liberal echo chambers” have already started to amplify this view.

It accuses Johar of exploiting the feeling of patriotism for commercial purposes several times in his movies.

“That Karan Johar is aware of the ‘country’s sentiments’ is obvious,” the article says, adding if one observes the music videos and promos of ADHM being aired on TV carefully, you can clearly see that he has minimised Fawad Khan’s presence to a ‘blink and you will miss him’ frame.

It says the movie posters feature only Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai and the songs feature mostly Ranbir.

“Johar is no fool. He knows exactly what the current mood prevalent in the nation is like. Johar knows fully well that the people of India are so outraged against the cowardly Uri attacks and the silence of Pakistani actor Fawad Khan over the incident that they are considering a spontaneous boycott of his film,” the article says.

“Most importantly, Johar knows that spontaneous boycott by the audience hits where it hurts – on the economic front!” it said citing the box office failure of Shah Rukh’s movie “Fan” as movie-goers decided to boycott it spontaneously after Khan’s intolerance comment.

Triple talaq in one sitting is against Quran: Zafar Sareshwala

Hyderabad: Giving ‘triple talaq’ in one sitting is against the principles of Quran, Zafar Sareshwala, a vocal supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday, adding that the issue as well as that of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) can be resolved through dialogue.

“My way would be to sit and talk across the table. Even people from Muslim community can approach the government. When there is no communication, (wrong) perceptions tend to build up. Maybe if you sit (for talks), 70 per cent of things would vanish,” Sareshwala, who is the Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University here, told PTI.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

On triple talaq, he said according to the Holy Quran, talaq (divorce) is a process and nikah (marriage) is an agreement between man and woman.

“Quran has talked in detail about talaq. It is a process. Triple talaq in one sitting, on SMS or on telephone is against the principles of Quran. In fact, the Muslim Personal Law Board also says that,” he said.

“Those who are agitating (for or against Centre’s approach towards triple talaq), they do not know why they are doing so. Common people do not know what they are agitating for. These are not the issues that should be brought on to the streets. We should have a proper discussion,” he said.

Replying to a query on UCC, he said opinions could be expressed only when there was a draft of the Code.

“It is preposterous to discuss this issue. Do we have a draft? Do we have permutations and combinations? What is that Civil Code? Let us have the draft (first),” he added.

On 7 October, the Centre opposed in the Supreme Court the practice of triple talaq, ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy among Muslims and favoured a relook on grounds like gender equality and secularism.

Hindutva debate: Is seeking votes in name of religion a corrupt practice, asks Supreme Court

New Delhi: Religion or caste is a key part of India’s political discourse, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday and asked whether seeking of votes on that basis would amount to “corrupt practice” under the election law.

The apex court asked whether a candidate or a party, seeking votes in the name of religion, caste or tribe by promising that this would help protect and improve the voters’ lot as a community, would be a “corrupt practice”.

The court, which is examining the scope of section 123(3) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act that deals with electoral malpractices amounting to “corrupt practices”, said the issue of prevalent religion and caste-based discrimination was a key part of the political discourse in the country.

“What is wrong if a candidate or a party says that Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are not secure and he asks them to vote en masse for him as he will protect them,” a seven-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said.

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

“Does it amount to corrupt practice if a candidate appeals for votes to a community on the basis of their religion and the aim is to better their lot,” the bench, also comprising Justices M B Lokur, S A Bobde, A K Goel, U U Lalit, D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, asked.

During the day-long hearing, the bench reiterated its Tuesday’s observation that it would not re-visit the famous ‘Hindutva’ verdict holding Hinduism as a ‘way of life’ as the issue did not find mention in the reference made to it by a five-judge bench.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who argued for one of the respondents in the case, referred to various constitutional schemes including fundamental rights and said sooner or later, the apex court will have to re-visit the entire issue to put an end to caste and religion-based politics in the country.

Seeking widening of the scope of Section 123(3) of the RP Act, Sibal said: “In an election, who are being targeted? It is the voters”. Hence, the term — “his religion” — in the provision should not remain confined to the candidates only but should include the faith of the electors as well, he contended.

During the hearing, the bench observed that the heart of politics in the country was discrimination based on caste and religion and the “appeal (for votes) should be in furtherance of the constitutional goals.” Sibal also referred to Section 153A (promoting enimity between classes) of the IPC and said a person is liable for criminal prosecution if he or she promoted hatred among communities.

“But how far is it rational that a candidate, who promotes hatred among communities for seeking votes during election, cannot be accused of resorting to corrupt practices under section 123(3) of the RP Act,” he asked. “Politicians have become hardened and learnt the art of garnering votes on the basis of religion and caste and this practice should must stop,” Sibal said, adding that arousing the passion of a voter in the name of his religion during election process should be held corrupt practise.

“We should not live in the make-believe world as the modes of communications are changing and the term ‘corrupt practice’ should be seen in the context of enduring constitutional ethos and the changing times,” Sibal said. He referred to various provisons of the Constitution dealing with fundamental rights and other aspects and said “these elements of constitutional ethos have to be respected while interpreting Section 123(3) of the RP Act”.

Sibal cited provisions dealing with prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, equality of opportunity in matters of public employment, abolition of untouchability, freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs or religious worship in certain educational institutions.

The “mischief” which the court is seeking to deal with relates to “identity polity” and laws should be interpreted with changing times, he said, adding that now, social media has a vast reach and campaigns were being carried on them.

He also asked the bench to consider whether a candidate could remain insulated from his political party which has some “divisive agenda” in its manifesto.

Kalikho Pul left “explosive secret notes”, says Arunachal Pradesh ex-Governor Rajkhowa

Guwahati: Claiming that Kalikho Pul, who allegedly committed suicide, left “explosive secret notes”, Arunachal Pradesh ex-Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa on Wednesday sought a CBI inquiry into the former chief minister’s death.

“Many eminent people have informed me that Pul has left behind explosive secret notes that can shake Indian politics,” Rajkhowa told PTI here.

Ex-Arunachal Pradesh  Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa. Image courtesy PIB

Ex-Arunachal Pradesh Governor Jyoti Rajkhowa. Image: PIB

Pul’s body was found hanging at his Itanagar chief minister’s bungalow on 9 August.

Asked if he had seen the notes, Rajkhowa, who had demitted office last month, said, “I am not privy to the notes. I have been apprised of some of the things written there, but I wouldn’t like to reveal them at this point in time.”

“No question of me as the Governor then interfering in the administration and calling for the notes,” Rajkhowa said.

“Many people have seen the notes. Pul’s family read them. The contents have been mentioned in the social media, in the local newspapers of Arunachal Pradesh and many renowned people have told me about the contents,” he said.

“That is why I had written to Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu to ask for an independent CBI inquiry.

Khandu was very positive. But after I gave up my Governor’s post, there is no response to that,” he pointed out.

“A CBI enquiry can, of course, be ordered by the Prime Minister or Home Minister,” Rajkhowa said, adding that Pul was a five-time MLA and a very popular leader and he fought against corruption.

Pul died under mysterious circumstances. “It was unthinkable that the investigation was handed over to a sub-inspector of police and not to the CBI,” the former Governor regretted.

“Only a court has to decide whether he committed suicide and not the police,” Rajkhowa said, adding “I have been informed that IGP N Payeng, now investigating the case, has said the notes were sealed and handed over to a magistrate. I don’t know whether to a judicial or executive magistrate,” he said.

He pointed out that Kalikho Pul’s caretaker also had committed suicide two moths later in the same building.

Pul had led a group of dissident Congress MLAs against then chief minister Nabam Tuki before taking over the reins of the state on 19 February.

He had to give up his CM’s post in July following the Supreme Court’s reinstating the government of Nabam Tuki who made way for Pema Khandu as the 10th CM of the state.

Kejriwal attacks Modi govt over repeated extensions to SIT on 1984 riots; calls it ‘anti-army’

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday attacked Narendra Modi-led central government, calling it “anti-army”.

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal. Getty images

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal. Getty images

He also attacked the central government for giving “another” extension to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed to probe 1984 riots.

In a tweet, Kejriwal alleged that the central government is “just using” the army’s sacrifices for political gains.

“Weak OROP, reduction in disability pension and now this. Isn’t Modi government anti-army? They just milch army’s sacrifices for political gains,” he wrote.

Kejriwal’s tweet came in response to a media report, which he quoted in his tweet, saying that the armed forces are upset with a letter issued by the Defence Ministry regarding their rank disparity vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts.

According to the quoted report, the Defence Ministry circular brings the rank of armed forces officers a notch down compared to their earlier status.

One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme aims to grant retired armed forces personnel pension parity with those retiring now.

Indian soldiers receive disability pension equal to their last drawn salary for 100 per cent disability. The government recently turned it into a slab system, which, according to critics, significantly reduced their pension.

The Defence Ministry later asked the Anomaly Committee of the 7th Pay Commission to continue with the old system.

In another tweet, Kejriwal also attacked the central government over the SIT investigating 1984 riots.

“Extension after extension. Zero result till now. Obviously, there is no intention (to bring justice). Intention is to save culprits of 1984 riots,” Kejriwal tweeted, quoting another media report.

The media report said that the SIT set up by the Home Ministry has been given another extension till February 2017.

The panel set up in February 2015 was initially granted six months to file report, but was later given two extensions.

RSS calls for legal hurdles in the path of Ram temple to be removed

Hyderabad: RSS on Tuesday said it is Hindu society’s “desire” that a Ram Temple be built in Ayodhya and called for removing all legal hurdles to fulfil this wish.

“Hindu Samaj desires that there should be a Ram Mandir there (in Ayodhya). Whatever the legal problems are, they need to be sorted out and a Ram temple be constructed…that is what we all desire. The matter is pending before the Supreme Court,” RSS General Secretary Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi said.

A file image of RSS cadres during a Dussehra rally. PTI

A file image of RSS cadres during a Dussehra rally. PTI

Joshi was talking to reporters at the conclusion of a three-day national executive meeting of the pro-Hindutva organisation in Hyderabad.

He said the Ram Mandir issue has been there for the past over 30 years and it would be wrong to link it to the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

“Since 1984 this movement is going on across the country (for constructing Ram Mandir)…there is nothing new. There is some delay due to court cases,” said Joshi.

The RSS leader said after the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement, it is difficult to build any other structure except for a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. (“Lucknow court ke decision ke baad, waha par Ram Mandir ke alava aur kuch bhi hona mushkil hain).”

The Lucknow bench of HC had then ruled the 2.77 acre disputed land in Ayodhya be divided into three parts among Hindus and Muslims. It also held the place where the makeshift temple of Lord Ram currently exists belongs to Hindus.

On ‘gau raksha‘ issue, Joshi said the RSS has been stressing on cow protection since long.

“It is not an emotional issue but associated with the country’s economic growth,” he said, adding “cow protectors” should also be given protection.

The government should take necessary steps to save and develop indigenous cow breeds, Joshi said.

Asked if the meeting discussed the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh and BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate, Joshi said, “We (RSS) don’t have any role in this. It is the work of BJP and they have to decide because it is they who have to win elections.”

On whether the conclave discussed performance of the Modi Government, the RSS leader said, “We do discuss and assess, but one thing is clear that it is up to the government to do assessment of its works.

“At times, we openly express our views (on issues related to governance), but RSS does not have any role in execution…it is the duty of the government. As a responsible social-cultural organisation, we bring important matters to the notice of the government.”

On genetically modified (GM) crops, Joshi said, “A rethinking process is on across the globe on this issue and scientists are divided on it in the world and also India.”

“This is a scientific issue…any policy decision should be taken considering the tradition of Indian agriculture.”

“One should not think only about increasing crop production, but also take note of soil damage. Scientists should think long term and not short term.”

Joshi said the Sangh now has presence in 44,000 villages across the country and has 70,000 working units. This number is expected to surge to 75,000 by March next year.

He called upon society to end discrimination based on caste and create an environment where women feel safe and empowered to determine their own destiny.

Joshi urged people to respond positively to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s call to make India a clean and healthy nation.

Intolerance a curse we are seeing of late, says Ratan Tata

Gwalior: Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, Ratan Tata, has expressed concern over the alleged growing intolerance in the country, dubbing it “a curse we are seeing of late”.

Ratan Tata. AFPRatan Tata. AFP

Ratan Tata. AFP

“I think everybody knows where the intolerance is coming from, what it is. Like many thousands, millions of Indians, one wants to see a country without intolerance,” Tata told reporters late Friday night.

Minutes before, he had spoken against the alleged growing intolerance in his address at the 119th foundation day
function of Scindia School in Gwalior, endorsing Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s views on the issue.

“The Maharaja (Jyotiraditya) talked about intolerance. It is a curse we are seeing of late,” the eminent industrialist said in his address.

“We want to live in an environment where we love our fellow men. We don’t shoot them, we don’t kill them. We don’t hold them hostages but give a bit of ourselves and we give and take,” Tata said.

Before Tata, Scindia in his address to the students said, “We want you to be winners. We also want you to be thinkers… And the hallmark of a civilised society is debate, discussion and disagreement.”

An “environment of intolerance” was prevailing in the country today, the former Union minister said.

“An environment in which each one of us is told what to speak, what to hear, how to dress, what to eat,” Scindia said.

A crackdown on dissent was against the progress of society, the Congress leader said, while hitting out at cow
vigilantes.

Uniform Civil Code debate focuses on Muslim law but ignores other communities: Flavia Agnes

The issue of triple talaq has once again ignited the age-old debate on the desirability of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India. The Law Commission of India sought the views of people on the implementation of UCC. It put out a questionnaire on 7 October, which faced stiff opposition from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and some legal experts as it was alleged that it focuses mainly on the Muslim laws, ignoring discriminatory practices perpetuated by personal laws of other religious communities.

Firstpost in an interview with Flavia Agnes, a prominent legal scholar and director of the Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai, tries to find out the sticking points of the current debate. Agnes provided a detailed legal analysis of the issue.

FP: Do you feel that the debate on UCC and ‘triple talaq’ is progressing in the right manner, given that it is centred on Muslim personal law?

FA: No, I don’t think it is going in the right direction because it is only directed at the Muslim law and the discriminatory aspects of the Hindu law are not coming into focus. It is not just law, we also need to examine the Hindu ethos and cultural practices which are anti-women.

FP: In your article in ‘The Oxford Handbook of The Indian Constitution’ you make a very important observation where you write, “The enforcement of a UCC cannot be viewed in a simplistic manner as outlawing ‘polygamy and triple talaq’ among the Muslims. The issue is far more complex and would require a detailed analysis of the gaps in the existing laws of all communities, from the perspectives of women’s empowerment.” Seemingly, these fine points have been ignored to a great extent in the current debate. What are your views on this?

FA: Yes. Rather than having consultations and trying to understand the issue in depth, the questionnaire framed by the Law Commission reflects a superficial engagement with personal laws.  It also targets the Muslim community.  The current polarisation and the reaction by the AIMPLB are the results of framing the questionnaire in this manner.

Rather than bringing communities closer, it is framed as an attack on minorities. This was totally unwarranted. All along it was stated that the UCC would comprise of best practices of all communities, but the questionnaire does not provide the scope for this.

Flavia Agnes is a prominent legal scholar and the director of the Majlis Legal Centre. Muslim Law Board is contesting UCC.Flavia Agnes is a prominent legal scholar and the director of the Majlis Legal Centre. Muslim Law Board is contesting UCC.

Flavia Agnes is a prominent legal scholar and the director of the Majlis Legal Centre.

FP: In your article, you highlight how personal laws of other communities (apart from Muslims) too have so many discriminatory provisions against women. Why do you think they miss the intensity of scrutiny that the Muslim law attracts?  

FA: This is unfortunate. While the negative aspects of Muslim law are highlighted, the positive rulings and community practices are not given prominence.  One can observe this even within the judiciary. When discriminatory practices within Hindu law and cultural practices are discussed they are not framed as “Hindu” but are discussed in general terms as “women’s problems”.

For instance, the problem of dowry-related violence and dowry deaths. There is no research conducted as to how many women who are murdered for dowry are Hindus. A research done by our organisation about cases which have reached the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court revealed that more than 90 percent were Hindus. Less than 10 percent were Muslims and others.

What do these figures tell us? Take for instance the latest judgement where a husband was granted a divorce on the grounds that the wife refused to stay with his parents. The notion of ‘joint family’ and ‘joint family property’ is a Hindu notion. Such a judgement would not be delivered if the woman was from another community. But we don’t term it as an anti-women ‘Hindu’ cultural norm.

FP: In your article, you dwell on the socio-political circumstances in which personal laws were given some sort of legal sanctity in the colonial era. Why is it that even with the change in the socio-political setup, we have not been able to bring significant reforms?

FA: After the Constitution was enacted, the first set of reforms was for Hindus, which violated the mandate of Article 44. The justification was that the Hindu law is extremely gender unjust compared to laws of other communities and needed immediate reforms. Daughters had no right to inherit property; the right of widows was a limited life estate. Women had no right to divorce and there was no restraint upon men regarding polygamy. Child marriage, abandonment of widows, etc were problems faced by women.

Institutions like mistress and concubinage were recognised. The urgency was to reform Hindu laws. However, though this was the stated objective, there was a political motive to acquire the legislative power over Hindus which until then was in the hands of religious heads of different sects. The aim was also to bring all reform religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism etc within the broad Hindu fold.

Finally, the laws enacted were not even made to be gender sensitive because a common consensus had to be reached by diluting women’s rights. At the same time, the state did not want to get into the realm of a Uniform Civil Code and ruffle minority sentiments soon after the bloodbath of partition.

It was presumed that as time passed, communities would get more integrated. The communal violence in subsequent years pushed communities further apart and today the faith of Muslim communities in the present right-wing government is at very low ebb. Hence the political climate is not conducive to reforming laws of minorities or for bringing in a Uniform Civil Code.

All personal laws discriminate against women but the discrimination is not similar, says Flavia Agnes. ReutersAll personal laws discriminate against women but the discrimination is not similar, says Flavia Agnes. Reuters

All personal laws discriminate against women but the discrimination is not similar, says Flavia Agnes. Reuters

FP: The government has said that triple talaq violates the right to equality of women as well as their dignity and that it “has no place in a secular country.” Your comments on this. 

FA: The entire affidavit filed by the government is a totally redundant and unwanted exercise because the SC in the Shamim Ara ruling in 2002 has already invalidated instant and arbitrary triple talaq and laid down the procedure for dissolving the Muslim marriages.

Even halala is a practice which accompanies only instant divorce and not a divorce over three months. So that too is rendered redundant. Since that landmark ruling did not receive media attention, most people are not aware of it. There have also been important high court judgments on this issue since 1981 and post Shamim Ara, several high courts have upheld this position.

If any woman who has received a talaqnama approaches the court relying upon these judgements, the courts will strike down the talaq and will give her the rights as though she is married. Hence, there was no need to make such comments on an issue on which the SC had already ruled in a noncontroversial manner.

FP: The government has also asked for the re-examination of a 1952 Bombay High Court judgment that held that Article 13 of the Constitution doesn’t cover personal laws? Your views on this.

FA: I have no issue with that but it only acquires a political hue in the present climate. The 1952 judgment is a high court judgment and not binding on the SC. But various SC judgments have upheld this decision and so it is not only the 1952 judgment but also the subsequent SC rulings that one needs to examine.

But at the same time, there are a number of judgments of various high courts and the SC which have examined both Muslim and Christian laws and have struck down certain discriminatory aspects or laid down the correct procedure.

Shamim Ara ruling is an example, and there are many more. The discriminatory aspects of Christian laws were also struck down. While hearing those cases, the issue did not get politicised. But in this case, there is a deliberate attempt to politicise the issue.

FP: Many Muslim scholars and personalities have asserted that triple talaq is being given an ‘un-Islamic’ interpretation and that its practice is being ‘wrongly interpreted’, as the concept of one-time triple talaq does not exist. If this is the case then what is the basis of defending it?

FA: I agree. But once we accept that the Shamim Ara judgment is binding, then this question does not arise at all. Surprisingly, the affidavit filed by AIMPLB has also conceded that Shamim Ara has laid down the law regarding the triple talaq and that is the law of the land today. Later they made contradictory statements, but the fact that they accept Shamim Ara ruling is a positive step.

FP: The Law Commission of India sought a public vote on the implementation of UCC. Do you see this development as a precursor to some significant changes in personal laws in India?

FA: I feel it has opened up a debate, but the manner in which the questionnaire is framed to target the Muslim community was totally unwarranted. The AIMPLB has given a call to boycott this questionnaire. This makes it difficult to have any dialogue.

We should have started with the process of dialogue first and should have got the consensus of minority communities and then prepared a draft and presented it to various stakeholders. I disapprove of the manner in which this entire process has been done.

FP: MPLB’s Hazrat Maulana Wali Rahmani, at a press briefing a few days ago, said, “A uniform civil code is not good for this nation. There’re so many cultures in this nation, (they) have to be respected. India can’t impose a single ideology.” How do you react to such claims?

FA: I agree. My own position is that uniformity of rights is more important and not a uniform law which will not be accepted by minority communities. We need to first see where we have uniformity of rights and strengthen them. And where there is discrimination, bring reforms in small measures.

All personal laws discriminate against women but the discrimination is not similar. Each has to be addressed separately. It has to be a step-by-step approach which will work better for the culturally diverse Indian communities. Even Hindu law is not uniform and takes within its ambit the cultural diversity of the Hindu population and accepts their customs and traditions.

FP: Implementation of UCC means that along with Muslims other minorities, like Christians and Parsis, would also lose their existing right to apply for their own civil code or laws for family matters, including marriage, divorce and inheritance. Yet, the most vehement opposition comes from the MPLB. Why is it so? 

FA: This is because the issue has been polarised along the Hindu-Muslim binaries. Even when issues concerning other communities have come up before the SC, such as the John Vellomatham case or the Sarla Mudgal case, which involved Hindu women who were victims of Hindu polygamy, the SC have made a call for a UCC in the context of Muslim law. The media too has played into this which is indeed tragic.

FP: Arif Mohammed Khan, who took a very strong stand against the discriminatory practices perpetuated by Muslim personal laws, while commenting on UCC and the functioning of MPLB wrote that, “The Imrana case, for that matter many other cases, including the famous Shah Bano case, are merely symptoms of a much deeper malaise – the desire to maintain and perpetuate disparity between the sexes. MLPB, since its inception, has been the votary of this trend.” Do you think that the MPLB will succeed in stifling any attempt of implementing the UCC this time as well?

FA: Since I myself am opposed to the implementation of UCC on an unwilling community or polity, I refrain from answering this question. With due respect to Arif Mohammed Khan, when we address the malaise only within the Muslim community, we are framing the issue in a lopsided manner.

As lawyer defending women’s rights, women of all communities approach our organisation. In court proceedings, we do not find that Muslim women are more discriminated than Hindu women. In fact, the reverse is true. It is very difficult to prove a Hindu marriage when the husband denies it. There is no proof of Hindu marriage except through photographs and witnesses.

When the husband claims a prior marriage, the woman is termed as a ‘mistress’ even by judges. Muslim marriage is a contract and the mehr is an integral part of it, whereas Hindu marriage continues to be viewed as a sacrament and dowry is an integral part of such a marriage. Though banned by law it continues unabated.

The Hindu rituals under Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, such as kanya dan are also discriminatory. Once a girl is married, she is seen as paraya dhan and doors of the natal family are closed on her.

Due to these women, who are facing domestic violence, get depressed and commit suicide. Incidents such as Imrana are not unique to Muslims, they occur within Hindu families as well. The important point about Imrana is that she had the courage to file a complaint and get her father prosecuted.

The fatwa itself was an attempt to politicise the issue by a journalist, as Imrana herself never asked for the same and the positive aspect is that she ignored the fatwa and continued to live with her husband in her natal home. Media never discusses these nuances and the attempt is only to tarnish the Muslim community through these media discussions.

FP: In your article, you write that “another strategy to break the stalemate is to enact specific legislation, which will apply to women uniformly across the country.” Though desirable, is it possible given the hostility towards UCC, especially by the Muslim law board?

FA: It has been done before. We have laws such as the Special Marriage Act of 1954. Anyone can marry under it. But all communities prefer to marry under their own personal laws and the government has done very little to popularise it. The medical termination of pregnancy, the Dowry Prohibition Act, the dowry-related criminal proceedings under IPC such as Section 498A (cruelty to wives) section 304B dowry murders are uniformly applicable.

Similarly, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which was enacted in 2005, applies to Muslims and others alike. This law protects shelter, residence, maintenance, child custody and also compensation for the violence suffered to women during their marriage, in their natal home and even after their divorce.

In my EPW article and in a subsequent article in Scroll, I had explained that Shayara Bano ought to have used these remedies to claim her rights rather than rushing to the SC. As a divorced woman, she is also entitled to a fair and reasonable settlement for her entire life under the Protection of Women upon Divorce Act, 1986 which has been awarded a wide interpretation by the SC in 2001 in the Danial Latifi judgment.

But due to illiteracy, ignorance, and denial of access to justice, most women who are victims of domestic violence are unable to use these beneficial provisions. It is poverty, illiteracy and the lack of resources to approach the court that prevent the women victims from approaching the courts to protect their rights.

FP: In an EPW article published in May 2016, you questioned the positive media coverage of Bano’s petition and maintained the same view in another piece published two weeks ago highlighting the “few positive aspects” in the affidavit filed by AIMPLB. Many people expressed serious disagreement and discontentment on this. Please share your views on this?

FA: No, in the EPW piece I was very critical of the media publicity and the focus upon the domestic violence faced by Shayara Bano as though it is unique to a Muslim woman, and because similar violence suffered by Hindu or other community women would not be highlighted in the same manner.

I explained the various legal remedies she was entitled to and that no one was addressing it. So, I had felt that the media was extremely communal in highlighting this aspect. In the later article, I addressed the positive aspect in the affidavit filed by the AIMPLB which endorsed my views and accepted the ruling of Danial Latifi, which has held that a Muslim woman is entitled to a fair and reasonable provision for her entire life and they also advised that Shayara Bano should have approached the local court regarding the domestic violence she was facing.

This was positive because earlier when we talked to people working with Muslim communities there was a feeling that Muslim women cannot approach the courts and must approach only the Mullahs. So the Board accepting this was indeed positive.

The disagreement and discontentment are from those who have not worked with the law and have never helped Muslim women to access the courts. I do not think many of them even read the Board’s detailed affidavit and have gone by media reports.

I have not engaged with people making these comments because the comments are based on a total misreading of my article. After the Board’s affidavit, we are able to reach out to Muslim women and help them to understand their law better and are also able to tell them that the Board advises them to approach the court. So they feel more comfortable in enforcing their rights in a court of law.

Nobody is above law, say legal experts on Supreme Court notice to Markandey Katju

New Delhi: “Nobody is above law” and a former judge of the Supreme Court is an “ordinary citizen”. This was how some legal experts reacted to the apex court order asking its former judge Markandey Katju to appear personally before it to explain the “fundamental flaws”, as claimed by him in the sensational Soumya rape case.

While welcoming the order, senior advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Dushyant Dave said “powerful signals have been sent to those who bring disrepute to the organisation”.

Its vice president and senior advocate Ajit Kumar Sinha was of the view that it is an “unprecedented” order and Justice Katju, who has become a “common citizen” after his retirement, has to clear his stand on the issue. Senior lawyer Meenakshi Arora termed the order as “undoubtedly unusual” but said “Let’s take it as a positive fact that as a critic of a judgment, the court can ask for his assistance.”

Supreme Court of India. AFP

Supreme Court of India. AFP

However, Sinha said as long as his blog is limited to criticising the judgement there will not be any problem but if he had exceed the limit by criticising the judge or the author of the judgement then it would take a different dimension.

“As long as somebody citicises the judgement, then it’s not the problem. But if someone criticises the judge, then that is not right. The move by the Supreme Court is unprecedented,” Sinha said.

A very respectful senior advocate and a good friend of Justice Katju told PTI on the condition of anonymity, “nobody is above the law” and if somebody scandalises the Supreme Court, it is entitled to ask him to explain.

“A Facebook post is also a public speech. But nobody is above the law. If someone scandalises the Supreme Court, they are entitled to ask him to explain. They have not issued any contempt. This is giving an opportunity to him to mellow down his comments,” the senior lawyer said.

Dave, who was more forthcoming, said “This is a right move and I hope it teaches Justice Katju a lesson for impropriety.”

“This is for the first time that a former Supreme Court judge has been asked to appear in court. I would say this is a welcome move by the Supreme Court. I hope powerful signals are sent to those who bring disrepute to the organisation, irrespective of the fact as to who they are,” he said.

His colleague in the SCBA, Sinha said “After retirement, Justice Katju has also become a common citizen. He has been asked to appear in the court to explain his stand on the comment he made. I think, the bench thought it right that he himself should clear the stand. If he is able to substantiate his stand then the court will review. Else, consequences will follow.

First in history: Supreme Court summons Markandey Katju over his Facebook post on Soumya rape case

New Delhi: In an unprecedented order, the Supreme Court on Monday summoned one of its former judges, Markandey Katju, to appear in person before it to point out the “fundamental flaws”, as claimed by him in the sensational Soumya rape case.

“He (Justice Katju) is a respected gentleman. We request him to come in person and debate his Facebook post criticising the judgment. Let him come to the court and let’s debate over the fundamental flaws in our verdict,” a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice U U Lalit said and issued a notice to Justice Katju.

Former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju. PTI

Former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju. PTI

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who was assisting the top court in the matter, said “I think it is for the first time that the Supreme Court has asked its former judge to appear in person before it in connection with any matter”. In his Facebook post and also his personal blogpost, Justice Katju had criticised the apex court saying it had grievously erred by “not holding” the convict, Govindachamy, “guilty of murder” in the case.

The bench also kept the review petitions filed by Kerala and Soumya’s mother in abeyance saying it would debate with Justice Katju on his facebook post.

“Though arguments have been elaborate and stands concluded, we do not consider it appropriate to express any opinion on the contentions advanced at this stage. This is so because we are of the view that a connected issue which has arisen needs to be resolved in the first instance,” the bench said referring to the blog of Justice Katju.

“Such a view coming from a retired judge of this Court needs to be treated with greatest of respect and consideration. Office to register a suo motu review petition,” the bench said in its order.

“We issue notice to Justice Markandey Katju, former judge of this Court and request him to appear in Court in person and participate in the proceedings on 11 November… as to whether the judgment and order dated September 15 passed by this Bench…suffers from any fundamental flaw so as to require exercise of the review jurisdiction,” the bench said.

While issuing notice to Justice Katju, the bench also quoted his Facebook post criticising the Soumya case verdict, which said “It is regrettable that the Court has not read Section 300 carefully. The judgment needs to be reviewed in an open court hearing”.

In another post on the same issue, Justice Katju had written “I submit that the Supreme Court has erred in law in not holding the accused guilty of murder, and its judgment needs to be reviewed to this extent”.

Justice Katju, through his Facebook post on September 15, had criticised the verdict commuting to life the death sentence awarded to Govindachamy for raping 23-year-old Soumya on February 1, 2011, after pushing her out of a train in Kerala.

Following the apex court order, the state as well as Soumya’s mother had filed review petitions.

Read Katju’s full post here

China defends Pakistan after PM Narendra Modi’s ‘mothership of terrorism’ remark

Beijing: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Pakistan a “mothership of terrorism”, China on Monday strongly defended its all-weather ally, saying it is against linking any country or religion with terror and asked the world community to acknowledge Pakistan’s “great sacrifices”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping. AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping. AFP

In a sharp reaction to a question about Modi’s characterisation of Pakistan at the Brics Summit in Goa, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying said China is opposed to linking any country to terrorism.

Answering a question on Modi’s criticism of Islamabad in aiding and abetting terror groups opposed to India, she said “on counter-terrorism, China’s position is consistent”.

“It is the same way we oppose linking terrorism with any specific country or religion,” she said.

“We oppose terrorism in all forms and we believe that international concerted efforts are needed to ensure stability and security of all countries,” she said.

“We oppose linking terrorism with any specific ethnicity or religion. This is our long-standing position. China and Pakistan are all-weather friends.”

Noting that India and Pakistan are “all victims of terrorism”, she said Islamabad has made “great sacrifice to combat terrorism and this needs to be recognised by the international community”.

To another question about Modi’s criticism that Pakistan continues to support anti-India terrorist groups giving them arms, financial support and helping them to cross the border to carry out attacks in India and whether it is China’s view that international community should not take a stand on Islamabad’s support to terrorists, Hu said: “I understand your concern.”

“But, as I said on counter-terrorism China’s position is consistent. It is the same way we oppose linking terrorism with specific country or religion,” she said.

“As per the problem between India and Pakistan, both the two countries are close neighbours of China. We truly hope that they can resolve these differences in a peaceful way through dialogue and consultation, so that India and Pakistan relations can develop. This serves the interest of the two countries and the region,” she said.

Indian Army giving befitting reply to ceasefire violations: Manohar Parrikar

Indian Army giving befitting reply to ceasefire violations: Manohar Parrikar

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New Delhi: A day after a jawan was killed in firing by Pakistani troops, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said the Indian Army was giving a befitting reply to such ceasefire violations.

File photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“Ceasefire violations have taken place in hundreds for the last five-six years…Check out the figures. The only difference is that if they do it now, we give a befitting reply,” he said.

An Indian Army jawan was on Sunday killed as Pakistani troops violated ceasefire twice along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district.

Parrikar had earlier equated the Indian Army to ‘Hanuman’ and made a reference to the Ramayana in which the monkey God crossed an ocean in a single stride after he was reminded about his extraordinary powers by Jamwant.

Real threat to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is from its army, not terrorists: Former NSA Menon

Washington: The “real threat” to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is from rogue elements inside its military rather than from the terrorist outfits, India’s former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon has said.

Shivshankar Menon. Reuters

Shivshankar Menon. Reuters

Noting that terrorists have easier and cheaper ways of wreaking havoc, Menon said the nuclear weapons are complex devises that are difficult to manage, use and deliver and require very high level of skills.

“To my mind, the real threat (to Pakistani nukes) is from insiders, from a Pakistani pilot or a brigadier who decides to wage nuclear jihad, with or without orders,” Menon writes in his book titled Choices: Inside the making of India’s Foreign Policy.

“The risk increases as Pakistan builds tactical nuclear weapons for battlefield use, control of which will necessarily be delegated down the command chain,” he said.

Menon says Pakistan is the only nuclear weapon programme in the world that is exclusively under military control.

“There are good reasons why no other country chose to go down this path,” he said.

Menon writes that India has nuclear weapons for the contribution that make to its national security in an uncertain and anarchic world by preventing others from attempting nuclear blackmail and coercion against India.

“Unlike in certain NWS, India’s nuclear weapons are not meant to redress a military balance, or to compensate for some perceived inferiority in conventional military terms, or to serve some tactical or operational military need on the battlefield,” he notes.

While India has a declared policy of no-first use of nuclear weapons, Menon in his book warns that if Pakistan were to use tactical nuclear weapons against India “even against Indian forces in Pakistan,” it would effectively be opening the door to a massive Indian-first strike, having crossed India’s declared red line.

“Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons use would effectively free India to undertake a comprehensive first strike against Pakistan,” he said.

“There are several responses short of war available to a state like India,” he writes.

JeM chief Masood Azhar asks Pakistan to ‘open the path’ for terrorism against India

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief and Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar has asked the Pakistani government “to open the path” for terrorism and jihadist groups so that they can escalate their operations against India.

The Indian Express reported that in an appeal published in the current issue of al-Qalam, the Jaish weekly magazine, Azhar had said that “a lack of decisive decision-making” could rob Pakistan of a “historic opportunity” to take control over Kashmir.

A file photo of Masood Azhar. Reuters

A file photo of Masood Azhar. Reuters

“If nothing else, the government simply has to open the path for the mujahideen. Then, god willing, all the bitter memories of 1971 will be dissolved into the triumphant emotions of 2016,” the report quoted Azhar as saying.

“Consider India before and after the jihad in Kashmir…You will see a dramatic difference. In the course of this journey, which I have been an eyewitness to, I have seen India reduced from a serpent to an earthworm,” Azhar further said in the appeal.

Azhar’s anti-India remarks come after a leading Pakistani daily on Wednesday asked the civilian and military establishment why action against Azhar and JuD’s Hafiz Saeed was “danger” to the country’s national security.

The strong editorial in The Nation, considered close to the government and military establishment, came as a prominent journalist, Cyril Almeida, of Dawn was banned from leaving Pakistan because of his front-page report on a rift between the military and the civilian government over the military’s covert support to militant groups like the Haqqani network, Taliban and the LeT.

The editorial titled ‘How to Lose Friends And Alienate People‘ said the government and the military instead of taking actions against Azhar and Saeed was lecturing the press.

Azhar and Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, roam freely in Pakistan and are belived to have the protection of the military.

The daily said in its editorial that it was a “disturbing day when civilian and military top leadership meet to lecture the media on how to do their job.”

“Apparently, a barrage of online abuse, and three official denials were not enough to assuage tempers riled after Mr Almeida’s exclusive story in Dawn, detailing an unusual exchange between the very same civilian and military top brass that yesterday issued forth a statement on the violation of ‘universally acknowledged principles of reporting on national security issues’,” the editorial said.

“The report by Mr Almeida has been called ‘fabricated’, and ‘speculative reporting’. But the government and military top brass in yesterday’s meeting delivered no explanation for why government MNA’s are protesting the visible presence of banned outfits in Pakistan. Or why possible action against Masood Azhar, or Hafiz Saeed is a danger to ‘national security’. Or why Pakistan faces increasing isolation? We’re all ears.”

“Instead, how dare the government and military top brass lecture the press on how to do their job. How dare they treat a feted reporter like a criminal. And how dare they imply that they have either the right or the ability or the monopoly to declare what Pakistan’s ‘national interest’ is,” it said.

“And for Mr Almeida, nothing but solidarity. More power to you, and to your pen. The press stands with you,” it added.

With inputs from PTI

Una case: Gujarat govt opposes demand for CBI probe, says CID investigation was ‘immaculate’

Ahmedabad: The state government on Wednesday opposed the demand for a CBI probe into the Una Dalit atrocity incident before the Gujarat High Court, saying that the investigation done by the CID was “immaculate”.

Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani. Agencies

Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani. Agencies

In an affidavit filed before the division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice VM Pancholi, the government also said that Thangadh Dalit killing incident of 2012 had “a completely different set of facts that cannot be equated with the facts of the present (Una) case”.

The government’s reply came in response to a public interest litigation seeking a CBI probe in the Una case where some Dalit youths were flogged in public on the suspicion of having killed a cow.

The petition said the probe by state CID may remain inconclusive, as in the case of death of three Dalit youths in police firing at Thangadh in Surendranagar in 2012.

The government’s affidavit said that while in the Thangadh case CID filed a closure summary report (saying there was no evidence), in the Una incident CID had filed a chargesheet against all the accused, including four policemen.

“The (Thangadh) incident has a completely different set of facts….In so far as the present case is concerned, immaculate investigation has been carried out by the team (of CID),” it said.

Witnesses’ statements and reports of the Forensic Science Laboratory and material evidence had made the prosecution’s case strong, the government said.

“The charge sheet has been filed in less than two months against 34 accused and other charge sheets for other accused will be filed in due course,” it said.

Advocate Ratna Vora, the lawyer for petitioner Kantibhai Chavda, today argued that he suspected there was a “larger conspiracy”, which CID had not probed.

The HC asked the petitioner to file a reply by 18 October.

Indian Army giving befitting reply to terrorists: Rajnath Singh

Indian Army giving befitting reply to terrorists: Rajnath Singh

Updated: Oct 3, 2016 18:37 IST

#India #Pakistan #Rajnath Singh #Terrorism #TheySaidIt

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Leh: Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the Indian Army is giving a “befitting reply” to the terrorists as well as to continuous ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC).

“Our soldiers and army are giving a befitting reply,” Singh said in reaction to Sunday night’s attack on a Border Security Force (BSF) camp in Baramulla town of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as continuous ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.

Militants attacked a camp of the counter-insurgency 46 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Janbazpora area of Baramulla on Sunday night. One BSF trooper was killed and another injured in exchange of fire during the attack.

File photo of Rajnath Singh. AFP

File photo of Rajnath Singh. AFP

Rajnath Singh made the remarks after reaching Leh on his two-day visit to Ladakh as part of the central government’s efforts to bring normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.

The visit comes as tension escalated along the Line of Control and the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes at seven terror launch pads on September 29 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Singh also said that he will meet the delegation from Leh and Ladakh people and listen to their problems. “I will try to resolve their problems,” Singh added.

Earlier, 19 soldiers were martyred in the 18 September terror attack at an army camp in Uri town of north Kashmir.

Arvind Kejriwal lauds Modi for surgical strikes, asks him to ‘unmask Pakistan’s false propaganda’

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday in a video message praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian Army for the surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) across the Line of Control (LoC) and warned the PM of “Pakistan’s false propaganda”.

Arvind Kejriwal praised PM Modi and the Indian Army for the surgical strikes. Screenshot from YouTube video.

Arvind Kejriwal praised PM Modi and the Indian Army for the surgical strikes. Screenshot from YouTube video.

“A few days ago, 19 Indian soldiers were martyred at the Indian borders,” Kejriwal said. “Last week, our army took revenge (for the Uri attack) with great bravery and conducted surgical strikes on terror camps across the border,” he added.

“There may be differences between me and the Prime Minister over hundred issues. But I salute the prime minister for the will power which he has shown in this issue,” he said.

The Delhi chief minister then warned Modi that Pakistan was engaging in dirty politics now.

“But since these surgical strikes took place, Pakistan has become very agitated. Pakistan has now resorted to dirty politics,” he said. “For the last two or three days, we have seen that Pakistan has been taking foreign journalists to the border (with India). It has been trying to convince them that the surgical strikes did not take place.”

“Two days ago, the United Nations gave a statement that such activity was not seen at the border. Yesterday, CNN was running a report in which a reporter showed that the Pakistani government had taken foreign journalists in a bus to the border. And they (the Pakistani government) were trying to convince the journalists that nothing had taken place at the spot where India claimed surgical strikes had taken place,” Kejriwal said.

“They were trying to show children playing there and trying to portray a normal life there. They were trying to show that there is no proof of surgical strikes there,” said the Delhi chief minister. “My blood boiled when I saw that report. There were reports being published by BBC and The New York Times questioning whether surgical strikes actually took place,” he further said.

“Pakistan is trying to damage India’s reputation in the international community,” he said.

“I appeal to the prime minister: Unmask Pakistan’s false propaganda like the way you (Modi) and the army taught Pakistan a lesson on the ground,” Kejriwal said. “Unmask Pakistan’s baseless attempt to damage the reputation of India on the global forum.”

“The entire country is with you. We are with you. I also appeal to the people to not fall for Pakistan’s false propaganda,” he said.

Kejriwal ended his message by saying, “Bharat Mata ki jai.”

The Delhi chief minister’s video message came after India carried out surgical strikes on seven terror launch pads across the LoC, with the Army inflicting “significant casualties” on terrorists preparing to infiltrate from PoK, days after Modi warned Uri attack would not go unpunished.

Seven terror launch pads across the LoC were targeted by the Army on the night of 28 September in a nearly five-hour-long operation during which heli-borne and ground forces were deployed.

The announcement of the strikes came 11 days after the attack by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad on an Indian army camp in Uri in Kashmir, after which Modi had said the attackers will not go “unpunished” and that they will not be forgiven.

Watch Arvind Kejriwal‘s full video message here:

With inputs from PTI

Raj Thackeray says his friendship with Salman Khan is not above state and country

Thane: Referring to his friendship with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, MNS chief Raj Thackeray on Sunday said friendship was not above the state and country.

Raj Thackeray. AP

Raj Thackeray. AP

“After Salman’s recent comments about Pakistani artistes, people felt that Raj Thackeray will not comment on the issue (as the two are friends). No one is a friend when it comes to state and nation,” he said addressing a rally in Thane.

Raj also advised Salman that the actor should have spoken with responsibility.

On 30 September, a row broke out over remarks by Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, director Anurag Kashyap and Shyam Benegal that boycotting Pakistani artistes in Bollywood is no solution to terrorism.

Salman said artistes come to Bollywood with proper visa and work permit.

The star’s comments came in the wake of Indian Motion Picture Producers Association’s resolution to ban Pakistani actors from the industry following the terror attack on an army camp in Uri.

Raj had slammed Salman for supporting Pakistani artistes, saying he was only concerned about his movies doing well in that country.

Meanwhile, Raj also said every issue is being raised with an eye on elections.

“But our party is different from others. We don’t take up issues with eye on polls,” he claimed.

China says it is in touch with India and Pakistan to bring down tensions

Beijing: China on Thursday said it is in touch with India and Pakistan through different channels to bring down tensions, asking them to properly deal with their differences and work jointly to maintain peace and security in the region.

Representational image.  AFP

Representational image. AFP

“As for the tension between Pakistan and India, recently Chinese side has been in communication with both sides through different channels,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media briefing in Beijing.

“We hope that Indian and Pakistan can enhance communication and properly deal with difference and work jointly to maintain peace and security of the region,” he said, replying to questions whether the current tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad in the aftermath of Uri attack figured in the first anti-terrorism dialogue held between China and India here earlier this week.

Asked at what level China is in touch with both countries, Geng said China maintains frequent engagement at different levels with both India and Pakistan.

“China is friendly neighbour to India and Pakistan. China hopes that both the countries could properly deal with their differences dialogue and consultant and improve their bilateral relationship, strengthen cooperation in different fields and work jointly for regional peace and development and stability,” he said.

Govt has to decide who will be allowed to work in Bollywood: Saif Ali Khan

Mumbai: Actor Saif Ali Khan has said the Indian film industry is open to talent across the border but it is for the government to decide who will be allowed to work here.

Saif Ali Khan. Reuters

Saif Ali Khan. Reuters

Saif becomes the latest Indian celebrity to speak out on the demand of ban on Pakistani artistes in India by MNS.

In the wake of Uri attack, the party threatened Pakistani artistes like Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan to leave India, saying the shooting of their films would be stalled otherwise.

“This (cross cultural exchange) should definitely be encouraged. The industry is open to world talent, especially from across the border. But the government has to decide these things.”

“We are artistes and we will talk about love and peace.”

“But the government has to take such decisions about law and who is allowed to work here and who isn’t,” the 46-year-old actor said at the GQ Men of the year awards on Tuesday evening in Mumbai.

Bollywood stars like Karan Johar, Hansal Mehta, Anurag Kashyap, Varun Dhawan and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra have earlier expressed their views on the demand of boycott of Pakstani artistes in India.

Message on Jammu and Kashmir should be loud and clear to Pakistan: India

United Nations: The message that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India should be “loud and clear” to Pakistan, India on Monday asserted and asked whether it can clarify how terror safe havens continue to flourish on its soil despite billions of dollars of anti-terrorism aid it gets.

In its ‘Right of Reply’, India also rejected the “fanciful and misleading” remarks by the Pakistani envoy to the UN.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi earlier exercised the Right of Reply to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s UNGA address, saying Swaraj’s remarks were a “litany of falsehoods” about Pakistan and a “travesty of facts and history”.

Lodhi said Jammu and Kashmir can never be an integral part of India and is a “disputed territory”, the final status of which has yet to be determined in accordance with several resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Responding to Pakistan’s RoR, India reaffirmed that Kashmir is and always will be an integral part of India.

“…It appears that the distinguished representative of Pakistan did not hear clearly what our Minister of External Affairs stated during her address earlier today,” First Secretary in the Indian Mission to the UN Eenam Gambhir said, exercising India’s Right of Reply to Lodhi’s remarks.

Quoting from Swaraj’s address, Gambhir said Jammu and Kashmir is India’s integral part and will always remain so.

“We hope that the message is loud and clear,” she said.

Gambhir said India rejects “entirely” Lodhi’s “sermons”, calling her remarks “the views of a dysfunctional state which builds atrocity upon atrocity on its own people, preaching about values of tolerance, democracy and human rights.”

Through the RoR, India slammed Pakistan for making a “fanciful and misleading” presentation on the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, saying Lodhi’s remarks aim to divert the attention from Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror and do not answer questions posed by the world community.

“Can the representative of Pakistan clarify how is it that terror sanctuaries and safe havens in her country continue to flourish despite the Pakistan army’s much-vaunted counter terrorism operations, and the billions of dollars of international counter terrorism aid it obtains?”

“Can the representative of Pakistan confirm that they do not use terrorist proxies and export terrorism as a matter of state policy?” Gambhir said, adding that can the Pakistani envoy deny that her country had assured in 2004 that it would not allow its territories, or territories under its control,to be used for terror attacks against India?

“And can the representative of Pakistan deny that it has failed to honour that assurance given at the highest level?” Gambhir said.

She also questioned whether the Pakistani representative will deny the armed forces of her country committed one of the most extensive and heinous genocides in human history in 1971.

“Will the representative of Pakistan deny that its armed forces have used airstrikes and artillery against its own people repeatedly? Will (she) explain why is it that Pakistan’s civil society is being silenced by the plethora of heavily armed militias that go by names such as ‘Jaish’ or Army, ‘Lashkar’ or Army, ‘Sipah’ or Soldiers and ‘Harkat’ or Armed movement?” Gambhir said.

In her Right of Reply, Lodhi said the Uri attacks were “staged” to “divert” attention from the situation in Kashmir.

“The attack on the Indian Army base in Uri, particularly its timing, has all the hallmarks of an operation designed to divert attention” from the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, she said.

She accused India of “utilising” the Uri incident to blame Pakistan for the current Kashmiri uprising.

“India’s government is delusional if it believes that it can ‘isolate’ any country. It is India itself, which because of its war crimes in Kashmir and elsewhere, and because of its warmongering, is likely to be isolated in the international community,” Lodhi said.

The Pakistani envoy said Swaraj’s statement reflects the “deceit and hostility” of the Indian government towards Pakistan.

In a Right of Reply exercised post Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s address to the UNGA, India had accused Islamabad of committing war crimes by using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Lodhi in her Right of Reply said the call for “freedom” of the Kashmiri people has been met with “Indian brutality” and demanded an impartial investigation into the rights violations in Kashmir.

In response to Swaraj’s reference to Pakistani national Bahadur Ali, arrested in Kashmir, Lodhi said the recently captured “Indian spy, an intelligence officer” Kulbhushan Jadhav, has “confessed” to India’s support to such terrorist and subversive activities particularly in Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“Indeed, it was Kulbhushan, who was financing, arming and supporting individuals and entities listed under the UN sanctions regime,” Lodhi said.

She said India’s “policy of interference” in Pakistan and attempt to destabilise Balochistan are now on record. “This is blatant violation of the principles of the UN Charter.”

Lodhi blamed India for suspending talks with Pakistan more than a year ago, saying New Delhi has refused to resume them despite repeated offers from Pakistan and advice from the international community.

“The latest offer was made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan from the rostrum of this very Assembly. But let us be clear, talks are no favour to Pakistan. They are in the interest of both India and Pakistan and the people of our two countries.

“Let me reiterate that Pakistan is ready and willing for serious and result-oriented talks with India, especially to resolve the longstanding core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, which is imperative for durable peace, stability and development in the region.”

In a second Right of Reply, Pakistan reiterated that Kashmir remains an internationally-recognised disputed territory.

Gambhir responded by saying that Pakistan has yet again “chosen to stay silent” on the tough questions.

“This is what we have come to expect from Pakistan – deception, deceit and denial. The world still waits their response,” Gambhir said.

Indus Waters Treaty to stay: At review meet, Modi says blood and water can’t flow together

Amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan after 18 soldiers were killed following a terror attack in north Kashmir’s Uri Sector, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday chaired a high-level meeting in New Delhi to review the Indus Waters Treaty and decided not to cancel the Treaty. However, in a bid to rattle Islamabad, the officials said that India is planning to increase the use of water that flows from India but is controlled by Pakistan.

While meeting with water ministry officials, Modi said, “Blood and water don’t flow together.”

Quoting a source, NDTV said, “The decision is to store water and maximize irrigation area. With this we would be able to irrigate land in Jammu and Kashmir for nearly six lakh hectares,” and added that the decision also addresses the sentiment of people of the state, who believe the treaty isn’t fair to them. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, the water resources secretary, Principal Secretary to the PM Nripendra Misra and senior PMO officials were present at the meeting.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.PTI

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.PTI

Government sources quoted by ANI said that India would use its fullest legal rights in the Treaty. Construction of Tulbul navigation project, which was suspended since 2007, would be reviewed and India would use potential of 18,000 megawatt of power from the western rivers under the Treaty. An inter-ministerial taskforce for India’s rights would also be formed. ANI reported:

ANI quoted water ministry officials and reported:

Since the terror attacks in Uri, there have been consistent calls from different sections and political parties in India that the government scrap the water distribution pact to mount pressure on Pakistan in the aftermath of the terror attack. Under the treaty, which was signed by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Pakistani counterpart Ayub Khan in September 1960, water of six river — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum — were to be shared between the two countries.

Pakistan has been complaining of not receiving enough water and gone for international arbitration in couple of cases.

Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh had said last week that his state will fully support whatever decision is taken by the Union government on the 1960 agreement.

“The treaty has caused huge loss to Jammu and Kashmir” as the people of the state cannot fully utilise the waters of various rivers, particularly Chenab in Jammu, for agricultural and other activities, Singh had said.

“The state government will support whatever decision is taken by the central government on Indus Waters Treaty,” he had said.

India had last week made it clear that “mutual trust and cooperation” was important for such a treaty to work.

According to sources, officials from the Union Water Resources Ministry gave a presentation to the prime minister on the treaty and the projects involved.

“The Ministry Secretary (Shashi Shekhar) made a presentation on the facts and current positions with regard to the treaty before the Prime Minister,” the sources told PTI.

“Any decision regarding the treaty will be taken at the higher level which will be conveyed by the Foreign Office. The Ministry’s role was limited to putting forth facts regarding the treaty,” the sources said.

With inputs from PTI

Maratha protests: Govt committed to resolve issues, says CM Devendra Fadnavis

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday said his government was committed to resolve the issues being raised by the Maratha community, agitating over reservation demand and punishment for culprits of Kopardi rape and murder case.

“Our government is committed to solve the issue. I assure you that amicable solution will be found out with the help of all,” Fadnavis said.

A file photo of Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

A file photo of Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

The chief minister was addressing a gathering of Mathadi workers in Turbe in neighbouring Navi Mumbai on the occasion of the 83rd birth anniversary of Mathadi leader Late Annasaheb Patil.

“Government’s view is that the Maratha community should get reservation. Hence, even when there is a stay by the court, our government has passed an Act (regarding it). Now, even when the matter is subjudice, evidences are being placed before the courts,” he said.

“We have taken a serious note of the silent morchas. All should come together and help in resolving the issue and hold discussions so that effective legal steps can be taken,” he said.

On Kopardi alleged rape and murder case, he said Ujjwal Nikam has been appointed as senior public prosecutor in the case and expressed confidence that victim’s family will get justice.

A 15-year-old girl, belonging to Maratha community, in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district was allegedly raped and brutally murdered by three Dalit men in July.

The Maratha community, which is pre-dominant in state politics, has been taking out silent marches in various towns  in the state over the last one month, following the Kopardi incident.

Also, community leaders have been demanding scrapping of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, saying it is grossly misused, and also reservations for Marathas in educational institutes and government jobs.

“We are trying hard to empower the Maratha community through employment and entrepreneurship. Our plan is to give job opportunities to 5 lakh Maratha youths,” Fadnavis said.

Meanwhile, he said a committee has been appointed to suggest amendment in Maharashtra Mathadi Hammal & other Manual Workers (Regulation of employment & welfare) Act. The committee will submit its report in next three months.

AAP will help make Goa ‘Congress-mukt’ and ensure BJP’s win: Nitin Gadkari

Panaji: Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari on Friday wished the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) well for the upcoming state assembly elections in Goa, claiming that AAP would ensure a “Congress-mukt” Goa, if it campaigns aggressively enough and ensures the BJP’s victory.

File photo of Nitin Gadkari. AFPFile photo of Nitin Gadkari. AFP

File photo of Nitin Gadkari. AFP

Gadkari, addressing a press conference in Panaji after meeting BJP ministers, MLAs, office-bearers and party workers over the last two days, also sounded confident of resolving the differences in the Goa Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ranks, claiming the division would not impact BJP votes.

“I had decided to conduct a detailed survey when I was appointed as the in-charge of the Goa polls. I have got the preliminary report. AAP’s entry is good and useful for us. Out of 10 votes, if they eat away two of our votes, they will claim 10 Congress votes. I wish them well, because they will help us win…it will help us indirectly,” Gadkari said making a tongue-in-cheek remark.

Asked whether the Goa polls would further the BJP’s dream of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, Gadkari sarcastically said that ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ was a dream of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress party was working overtime to fulfill it.

“It is moving in that direction. AAP will bring Congress down. It was Mahatma Gandhi’s dream that Congress should leave politics and India should be Congress-mukt. The Congress appears to be saying, ‘Bapu, we will fulfill your dream and we will start this dream from Goa’… Congress is working towards Bapu’s dream and AAP also appears to be pushing them in that direction with all its vigour,” Gadkari said sarcastically.

Asked if the split in the RSS camp, led by rebel Sangh leader Subhash Velingkar, and the latter’s plan to float a political party with a specific motive to defeat the BJP, worried him, Gadkari said, “Sometimes some Sangh members have taken up such roles in the past, but history says that they eventually stick to the Sangh… I am confident that we will find a solution and that it will not affect the poll prospects.”

Gadkari also expressed confidence of continuing with the current alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), adding that the BJP would on its own win 25 out of the 40 seats in the polls, which are likely to be held in early 2017.

India, Pakistan should resolve Kashmir dispute through dialogue: UN Secy Gen tells Sharif

United Nations: Rejecting Pakistan’s repeated pleas to the UN to resolve the Kashmir dispute, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that Pakistan and India should address their outstanding issues, including Kashmir, through “dialogue”.

File image of Ban Ki-moon. AP

File image of Ban Ki-moon. AP

Ban’s remarks came as Sharif handed over to him a dossier containing evidence of alleged human rights violations by Indian forces in Kashmir.

“The Secretary-General stressed the need for Pakistan and India to address their outstanding issues, including Kashmir, through dialogue, saying it is in the interest of both countries and the region as a whole,” according to a readout of Ban’s meeting with Sharif provided by his spokesperson.

Ban met with Sharif at the United Nations on Wednesday on the margins of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly.

According to a statement by the Pakistan Mission to the UN, Sharif handed over to Ban the dossier containing information and evidence of alleged atrocities and human rights violations against Kashmiris.

He also showed Ban “pictures” of “innocent and defenceless” people in Kashmir “victimised through brutal use of force and atrocities.”

“The Prime Minister also reiterated the imperative of an independent inquiry into the extra judicial killings and a UN fact finding mission to investigate the situation in occupied Kashmir. He emphasised that India must be urged to abide by UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir,” the statement said.

Sharif has been mounting massive efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue, shooting off letters to the UN and Ban as well and raising the issue in all of his bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UNGA.

However, his repeated calls to the UN to help resolve the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan appear to be gaining no traction as Ban made no reference to Kashmir and the situation in the Valley in his final speech to the UNGA as UN Chief.

Ban mentioned a plethora of global issues on the UN agenda, including the situation in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, the tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East but not Kashmir.

He even touched upon the Syrian crisis, the Palestinian issue, the refugee and migrant movements, the South Sudan tensions, violent extremism and its impact on regions from Yemen, Libya Iraq, Afghanistan to the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.

Sharif, in his address to the UN General Assembly, said Pakistan welcomed the offer of good offices by the Secretary-General to help resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Ban’s office has repeatedly said that the UN Chief’s good offices are available on helping resolve the Kashmir dispute only if both India and Pakistan request for it, a clear message that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral one between the two nations and should be solved by them only.

Uri attack: World leaders should declare Pakistan a terrorist state, says Venkaiah Naidu

Uri attack: World leaders should declare Pakistan a terrorist state, says Venkaiah Naidu

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Vijaywada: World leaders should come together to declare Pakistan a terrorist state and stop giving it military and other aid, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday said and pitched for punishing the perpetrators of the brazen assault on the army base in Uri in Kashmir.

India will have to respond and punish the perpetrators of the terrorist attack and “can no more take it lying down”, he said.

Venkaiah Naidu. PTIVenkaiah Naidu. PTI

Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

“The world community should come together to isolate Pakistan, declare it a terrorist state and stop giving it military and all other assistance.

“The UN should take it up in a serious manner as terrorism is the enemy of humanity,” the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister told reporters on the sidelines of an event at Gannavaram near here.

“Pakistan is training, abetting and funding terrorists who want to cripple India’s economy. They want to weaken our country. This is not acceptable at all. India is running out of patience. It was high time we taught a lesson to Pakistan,” he said.

“They (Pakistan) are not walking the talk. Whatever they had promised during the period of Gen Pervez Musharraf…Atal Bihari Vajpayee…they are going back on that. And now you cannot take it lying down.

Uri attack: VK Singh calls for probe into lacunae which led to the assault

New Delhi: Union Minister and former army chief VK Singh on Monday said the “lacunae” which led to the attack at an army base in Uri need to be investigated even as he advised the Indian Army to decide on its response “coolly” with proper planning.

VK Singh. News18

VK Singh. News18

“Having seen the army closely, I feel, it needs to be analysed as to what happened there…It needs to be investigated how the incident took place and what were the lacunae,” the Minister of State for External Affairs said.

“…from the army’s side, alertness is required. The Kashmir situation needs to be thought about. The action has to be taken without getting influenced by emotions, anger. It has to be taken coolly and with proper planning,” Singh said.

He also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have already spoken about the action which will be taken.

“(That action) we will leave it to the government,” he added.

Condemning the Uri terror attack, in which 17 soldiers were killed, Modi had on Sunday said those behind the “despicable” act won’t go unpunished.

Kashmir: Mehbooba Mufti says Uri attack aims at creating war-like situation; pays tribute to dead soldiers

The Uri terror strike is aimed at triggering fresh violence in Jammu and Kashmir and creating a “war-like” situation in the region, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said while strongly condemning the attack on the Army in which 17 jawans were killed. “I strongly condemn the attack which seems to be aimed at triggering fresh violence and creating a war-like situation in the region,” Mehbooba said in a statement in Srinagar on Sunday.

The Chief Minister said the heightened tension in the wake of the Uri attack is set to further vitiate the atmosphere in and around Jammu and Kashmir amid growing strains in Indo-Pak ties. “Unfortunately, people in Jammu and Kashmir, who are already mired in an agonising situation, shall have to bear the maximum brunt of the fresh attempts being made to step up violence and trigger fresh bloodshed in the state,” she said.

She said Jammu and Kashmir has always been the worst victim of Indo-Pak hostility and its people have been paying a colossal price for the same for the past over six decades. Mehbooba said the perpetrators of violence must understand that such methods have yielded nothing in the past nor would they yield anything in future except adding to the miseries of the people.

An army soldier guards the army base which was attacked by suspected rebels in Uri. PTI

An army soldier guards the army base which was attacked by suspected rebels in Uri. PTI

Mehbooba also led senior Army and police officials in paying tributes at the wreath laying ceremony for the 17 soldiers killed in the attack.

“Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti laid wreaths on the coffins of the martyred soldiers at a somber ceremony held at headquarters of the Chinar Corps at Badamibagh,” an Army official said.

He said general officer commanding of the Chinar Corps Lt General Satish Dua and Director General of Police K Rajendra Kumar were among senior security officials who laid wreaths to pay their respects.

The Chief Minister later visited the soldiers, injured in yesterday’s attack, at the 92 Base Hospital of the Army, the official said.

Following directions of Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar, the Army has made arrangements for transporting the mortal remains of all the martyrs directly to their respective hometowns.

While two of the 17 soldiers hail from Jammu and Kashmir, rest of them belong to Uttar Pradesh (four), Bihar (three), Maharashtra (three), West Bengal (two), Jharkhand (two) and Rajasthan (one).

The Chief Minister while expressing anguish over the attack, paid rich tributes to the slain soldiers. She extended heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and also prayed for early recovery of those injured in the attack. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah also condemned the attack. “Terrible news from Uri, 17 soldiers killed & many injured. May their souls rest in peace. Prayers for their families as also for the injured,” Omar wrote on Twitter.

Heavily armed militants stormed a battalion headquarters of the Army in North Kashmir’s Uri town in the wee hours today, killing 17 jawans and injuring 19 other personnel in the terror strike in which four ultras were neutralised.

Rajya Sabha should be abolished, says BJP MP from Haryana

View the original here:  Rajya Sabha should be abolished, says BJP MP from Haryana

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