The New Indian Express – First India-Nepal passenger train on broad gauge likely to begin from December

The train will run from Jayanagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Dhanusa district in Janakpur Zone of south-eastern Nepal, which is a 34 km stretch.

New Delhi – India, 04 November 2018. The first passenger train to run on broad gauge between India and Nepal is likely to run from December this year, sources in the railways have told PTI.

The train will run from Jayanagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Dhanusa district in Janakpur Zone of south-eastern Nepal, which is a 34 km stretch.

An immigration check-post is likely to be established at Jayanagar station manned by either the Bureau of Immigration or the state government.

No visa will be required for Indian and Nepalese nationals crossing the border through this stretch, a source said.

The Nepalese authorities have informed the railways that the section will be opened with four trips and will ply in eight to 16 hour shifts.

While the first train is to be a passenger train, the Nepalese have stated that they want to run both passenger and freight trains on this section.

Nepal will take rolling stock, rakes, coaches and others, on lease from India for the purpose, another source said.

The ministry of external affairs have had several inter-ministerial meetings with the railways, government of Nepal and other stakeholders on this.

More meetings to finalise logistics are likely to take place.

The move is being seen as part of efforts to counter China’s plans to forge rail links with Nepal.

After Beijing decided to extend its railway network up to Kathmandu, New Delhi proposed the construction of new railway links during Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s recent visit to India.

Nepal and India have plans for four cross-border railway links, including one to link Raxaul to Kathmandu.

The Jayanagar-Kurtha rail line was originally built during the British Raj to transport logs from forests at Mahottari to India.

At that time, the line from Jayanagar in Bihar to Bijulpura in Mahottari was 52 km long.

More than 15 years ago, floods swept away the Bighi bridge, disrupting railway services on the 29-km stretch from Janakpur to Jayanagar.

The Rs 5.5-billion (Nepalese Rs 8.8 billion) project is divided into three phases.

The first includes construction of a 34-km segment between Jayanagar and Kurtha, the second comprises construction of an 18-km segment from Kurtha to Bhangaha in Mahottari district, and the third comprises construction of a 17-km segment from Bhangaha to Bardibas.

Of the total length, only three kilometres is in Indian territory.

The sale of tickets, the source said, will be through an unreserved ticketing system and passenger reservation system in Nepal which will be facilitated by the railways.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/nov/04/first-india-nepal-passenger-train-on-broad-gauge-likely-to-begin-from-december-1894204.html

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The Hindu – Tibetan leader cautions India against China’s ‘Doklam plans’

Special Correspondent

New Delhi-India, 18 January 2018. India should be worried about China’s continued military build up in Doklam, said Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration in India.

Dr Sangay made his observations on the Doklam issue while announcing the upcoming events to mark the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Dalai Lama and Tibetans in India.

“India has to be cautious about China’s plans in Doklam. China has traditionally maintained that Tibet is the palm and the five fingers are Bhutan, Nepal, Arunachal [Pradesh], Ladakh and Sikkim. Therefore its actions in the Doklam region should be taken seriously,” Dr Sangay said.

Dr Sangay announced that the Tibetan community in India will hold a major inter-religious event in New Delhi to commemorate March 31, 1959 arrival of the Dalai Lama in India. “We expect a representative of the Indian government to attend the event,” he said.

The Tibetan leader pointed out that Bhutan should also express concern about the Doklam situation. “Going to the UN is definitely one of the options for Bhutan,” he said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tibetan-leader-cautions-india-against-chinas-doklam-plans/article22466290.ece

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Four Nepali Christians imprisoned for ‘witchcraft’ prayer released after 9 months

Stoyan Zaimov

Christian Post, 29 September 2017. Four Nepali Christians who were sentenced for “violence and witchcraft” for praying with a mentally ill woman have been released after nine months in prison.

Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, which led a petition in their name, reported on Wednesday that Lali Pun, Bimkali Budha, Ruplal Pariyar and his wife, Ganga, have all been released after their sentences were reversed.

“International Christian Concern is so pleased that this situation has reached its rightful resolution. However, the imprisonment of these Christians should have never taken place as the facts of their innocence were clear,” said Nate Lance, ICC’s advocacy manager.

“This is a step in the right direction for religious freedom in Nepal, but there is still much work to be done. No one should fear imprisonment for the free expression and practice of their religion.”

The Christians were convicted back in December after the father-in-law of Seti Pariyar, the mentally ill woman, accused them of abuse.

The father-in-law had reportedly brought the woman to a local church in hopes that prayers could heal her.
Pariyar apparently left the prayer service at the time, and was later found in a forest “harming herself and yelling before being taken home.”

Although Pariyar and her husband later testified in District Court that the Christians were not abusive toward her, with the woman even claiming that she had been healed, the four were still found guilty and sentenced to prison.

In August, the minority Christian population in Nepal found itself in fear of a government crackdown after the country’s parliament passed a bill criminalizing religious conversions and the “hurting of religious sentiment,” which critics say aims to restrict evangelism.

The UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide pointed out at the time that certain clauses in the bill are similar to controversial blasphemy laws in other countries, such as Pakistan, which are often used to target Christians and other minorities.

ICC described the wrongful imprisonment of the four Christians and the new anti-conversion laws as “Nepal’s continued backslide on issues of religious freedom.”

C B Gahatraj, general secretary of the Federation of National Christians, Nepal, told The Christian Post in January that believers face a number of challenges in the country, such as a lack of burial land, forcing some to bury relatives hidden away in forests.

“When Christians die in Nepal, they have two pains. One is they suffer, they grieve because of their loved ones who are no more; secondly, they have no place to bury their loved ones,” Gahatraj told CP at the time.

“If Hindus find Christians buried in their area, they force Christians to dig them out from the graveyard, and bury the bodies in another place.”

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Human Rights Without Frontiers – Christians in Nepal sentenced to prison for praying for ill woman are released

Oral appeal hearing in case of Danish Jehovah’s Witness continued to 28 September

Morning Star News, 22 September 2017. Four Christians in Nepal sentenced to five years in prison on false charges of “witchcraft” and “violence” were released today after a high court annulled their convictions, church leaders said.

Lali Pun, Bimkali Budha, Suk Lal Pariyar and Ganga Pariyar had been accused in Salyan District Court on May 19, 2016 for praying for a mentally troubled woman, Seti Pariyar, according to the Federation of National Christian Nepal (FNCN).

On 19 December 2016 they were convicted of witchcraft, violence and holding Seti Pariyar against her will, though the woman testified that she was not mistreated or captive and had been healed by the prayer.

Besides the prison sentences, the Christians had been told to pay a fine of 50,000 Nepalese rupees (US$475), an overwhelming sum in Nepal. A fifth Christian, Rupa Thapa, was arrested with them but was declared not guilty and released in 2016.

“FNCN would like to thank Higher Court, Surkhet for setting free our innocent people,” said FNCN co-general secretary Sagar Baizu in the statement. “We would also like to inform you all that the FNCN has already arranged the shelter and other things for the victimized people and education for their children.”

FNCN representatives had petitioned for the Christians’ release, and on 10 September High Court Surkhet Judges Mahesh Sharma Paudel and Krishna Thapa invalidated the 19 December 2016 convictions by the Salyan District Court, Baizu said.

Relatives of Seti Pariyar, said to be mentally ill, had taken her to the four Christians’ Samuel Church for healing prayer in Kubine-4, Jiamire, Salyan District, on 19 May 2016, according to the FNCN. Accusing her of witchcraft, the relatives had raked her “with stinging nettle and fed her stool” while bringing her to the church, the FNCN reported.

The four Christians were not charged for months after their arrest, according to the FNCN. The umbrella body said accusers intentionally twisted the facts to fabricate a case against the four Christians, and that authorities forced them to sign a document whose contents the accused did not know.

Area church leaders believe the four Christians were set up.

“There is a risk that this type of well-designed plan can happen any time among the Christian community,” an earlier FNCN statement noted, concluding that the Christians were targeted for their faith.

“About the incident, the victims told us face-to-face that what they have done is for the benefit of the sick woman, as she was brought by her relatives for prayer for healing,” the FNCN statement noted.

Seti Pariyar’s husband also testified that she was not mistreated or held against her will.

The arrest and conviction of the four Christians came at a time when Nepal’s Hindu majority was increasingly influencing authorities to harass Christians.

While Nepal has long outlawed evangelisation, a new constitution in 2015 and the release of implementing laws last month reinforced existing prohibitions against evangelising, and Hindu interests have used them to falsely accuse Christians.

Last year a court dropped charges against eight Christians who had been wrongly arrested for distributing Christian comic books in a Christian school.

Under the implementing laws approved on 8 August 2017, those convicted of converting or undermining “the religion, faith or belief that any caste, ethnic group or community has been observing since eternal times” can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

A conviction for “hurting religious sentiment” can result in up to two years in prison and a fine.

In the harassment of eight Christians last year, seven men and one woman were arrested in Charikot, Dolakha District in June 2016 as part of a crack-down on Christian activities in the fledgling democracy. They were reportedly mistreated in jail before being released on bail.

While the new constitution passed in September 2015 establishes Nepal as a secular and democratic republic, its definition of “secular” appears to protect Hinduism and allows others only to worship in their own faiths. Article 26 forbids anyone to “convert a person of one religion to another religion, or disturb the religion of other people.”

Advocacy groups have recently detected increased enforcement and other anti-Christian efforts as officials seek to placate Hindus incensed that the new constitution did not re-establish a more prominent place for Hinduism.

The eight Christians were acquitted on 6 December 2016 after being charged with trying to convert children to Christianity. They were using the comic booklets as part of a counseling program for children traumatised by earthquakes on April 25, 2015 and May 12, 2015.

The Christians were arrested after Teach Nepal, a Kathmandu-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), organised two trauma counseling sessions at two schools in Charikot.

The earthquake trauma sessions took place at Modern Nepal School and Mount Valley Academy in Charikot, with children receiving a small gift pack that included the 23-page Christian comic book.

A landlocked country between the giants of India and China, Nepal is said to be more than 75 percent Hindu and 16 percent Buddhist. Christians are estimated to make up nearly 3 percent of Nepal’s population, and Muslims 4.4 percent.

In 2009, the Hindu extremist Nepal Defense Army bombed a Catholic Mass at the Assumption Church in the capital city of Kathmandu, killing two women and a schoolgirl.

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The Hindu – Two lynched over suspicion of cow theft in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district

Staff Reporter

Kolkata, 27 August 2017. Two persons were lynched at a village in the Dhupguri block of West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district in the early hours of August 27, 2017 under suspicion of stealing cows. Police has lodged a murder case and no one has been arrested so far.

“Hafizul Sheikh of Dhubri district in Assam and Anwar Hussain of Patlakhawa village of Cooch Behar district were beaten to death by locals at the Dadon II gram panchayat area in Jalpaiguri’s Dhupguri block,” a senior district police official told The Hindu.

He also said the villagers noticed that a pick-up van carrying cows was aimlessly wandering around the area. When challenged by the villagers the van picked up speed and tried to escape, the official said.

“However, the villagers soon captured the van and caught hold of Mr Sheikh and Mr Hussain. The driver fled from the spot. After questioning the two for a while the locals had beaten them to death,” said the police official.

Police reached the spot after sometime and rushed the two to a local hospital where doctors declared them dead. The deceased did not have valid documents to transport cattle, police official said. The investigators are not yet sure whether the deceased were stealing cows.

“But what we could not figure out is why the deceased were wandering in the village so late at night,” the senior district police official said.

Jalpaiguri Superintendent of Police Amitabha Maity said, “Stern action will be taken against those involved in the case.

If they thought that the cows were being transported illegally they should have informed the police instead of taking the law in their own hands.” A large police contingent has been deployed in the area.

“This is the first case of lynching under suspicion of cow theft in Dhupguri in recent years. However, being about 30 km from Bangladesh border, cow smuggling often takes place in Dhupguri,” Jatishwar Bharati, Jalpaiguri district secretary of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights [APDR] said.

In June 2017, three persons were lynched in the Chopra block of the State’s Uttar Dinajpur district for alleged cattle theft.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/two-lynched-over-suspicion-of-cow-theft-in-west-bengals-jalpaiguri-district/article19570965.ece?homepage=true