The Statesman – Government, opposition hold talks to resolve impasse over PM’s remarks against Manmohan Singh

New Delhi-India, 20 December 2017. The government and the opposition on Tuesday held meetings to resolve the impasse in Rajya Sabha over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “conspiracy with Pakistan” remark against his predecessor Manmohan Singh during the Gujarat poll campaign, but the stalemate on the issue continued.

Opposition leaders met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar and his deputy Vijay Goel in Parliament and sought a resolution of the issue.

They demanded that the prime minister should clarify his remarks in the Rajya Sabha.

The half-an-hour meeting in Jaitley’s chamber was attended by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, besides opposition leaders Ramgopal Yadav, Satish Misra, D Raja and others.

After the meeting, Jaitley separately met Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Azad in the latter’s chamber.

Earlier, before the House commenced, the Congress leaders had also met Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for the resolution of the issue with the Vice President suggesting that the matter be resolved between the opposition and the government sitting across the table.

Azad also raised the issue in the House after which Naidu suggested that the two sides sit together and resolve the issue. Leader of the House Arun Jaitley agreed to do so and the two meetings with the opposition followed.

“The meeting has been held. Opposition leaders have given their proposition to the government,” Congress leader Anand Sharma told reporters.

“We are still waiting whether the justifiable demand of the opposition is acceptable to the prime minister so that we can bring a closure to the controversy which was painful, which was of his creation and was entirely avoidable,” he said.

Sharma said the prime minister has said something which in their view is a constitutional transgression because he holds the office of the prime minister.

“To say anything that casts aspersions which are insidious on the former prime minister who held his office with distinction for 10 years, former vice president, former Army chief and distinguished diplomats, they all are deeply anguished and they cannot speak for themselves,” he said.

Sharma said the opposition has been asking the government and the prime minister to clarify and restore the dignity of both his office and of the political narrative of the country.

“We can request him, we can demand, but it is up to him whether to redeem what he should believe or not…,” he said.

The Rajya Sabha, however, functioned today after the Chairman said the issue would be resolved.

Opposition members raised slogans and sought an apology.

Azad said the prime minister should come to the House and clarify what he said, as his charges that his predecessor was “conspiring” with Pakistan was “a big issue”.

Azad said allegations are levelled during elections but some are not good for democracy, politics and the country.

“Such allegations are deadly for those against whom they are made,” he said, adding that Manmohan Singh’s integrity and loyalty to the country has been questioned.

“Is he the person who is conspiring against the Indian state? Is the former prime minister, former vice president not loyal to the country? These allegations are made by no less than the prime minister.

“The prime minister of India should come to the House and explain his remarks and if the former prime minister and others are proved wrong, then action should be taken against them,” he told the House amid vociferous protests by Congress members, who raised slogans of “maafi mango” (apologise).

Naidu, while talking about his morning meeting with Congress leaders, said, “My suggestion was (that) it is not good for the country to see that the House is not running properly.”

“All things can be internally discussed…and dignity of Parliament should be maintained,” he said.

Azad said, “It is a matter of privilege. It should also be to the satisfaction of Manmohan Singh.” Azad said.

Earlier, Manmohan Singh had met Naidu and expressed his concerns to him.

“I have talked to him and have understood what he meant.

I have also received a note of what exactly he said and also what was said about the prime minister by others…calling names,” Naidu said, adding that the prime minister is the prime minister of the country and that has to be kept in mind by everybody.

Sharma said, “He is the Prime Minister and we are conscious of dignity of the office of Prime Minister, which we want him to restore.”

“We are waiting in what manner the Prime Minister seeks to address because it is not in the interest of the country or Indian democracy that a serving Prime Minister casts insidious aspersions on his immediate predecessor,” he said.


The Hindu – US has failed to walk the talk on Pakistan: Hamid Karzai

Ex-Afghan President wants India to question Trump policy

Suhasini Haidar

New Delhi, 17 December 2017.  India should rethink its support to USA President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy, said former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a visit to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“India has the right to ask the USA questions on [continuing support to Pakistan], and it must think and rethink its policy in view of changes and developments in Afghanistan,” Mr Karzai told The Hindu in an exclusive interview during the visit.

Role for India

Calling the USA and Pakistan “bedfellows,” Mr Karzai said Mr Trump, who announced his new Afghan policy for South Asia in August this year, had failed to back his tough words on Pakistan with action.

The policy, which entailed a larger role in development work for India as well as more pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorist safe havens within its borders, was welcomed by New Delhi at the time.

“We have heard these words over the past 16 years, repeatedly from USA on terror sanctuaries within Pakistan. But we also see the USA talking of Pakistan as an ally, and being protective of Pakistan…,” Mr Karzai said.

“Now too, they pointed fingers at Pakistan and then within months they gave them another 700 million dollars in appreciation of their fight against terrorism,” Mr Karzai said.

He was referring to the Defense authorisation bill that Mr Trump signed into law on Thursday, which provides for up to $700 million to be transferred to Pakistan for coalition support.

While the USA still has to certify Pakistan is acting against the Haqqani network, the USA Congress also dropped a plan to add the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, that target India, to the list of groups Pakistan must be certified on for action taken.

Mr Karzai, who has often criticised Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s government for concessions to the United States, also called for a Loya Jirga [meeting of tribal elders] to decide the future course of the USA presence in Afghanistan, where it still maintains about 10,000 troops.

“They (USA) must negotiate a new compact and terms of engagement for their presence in Afghanistan now. This is why I have been calling for the Loya Jirga to be convened, to re-legitimise the USA presence. The more the USA opposes this Jirga, the more Afghans will turn away from them,” he added.

Mr Karzai said he had discussed developments in the region including “the war against terrorism and extremism” with Prime Minister Modi, who hosted an official dinner in his honour at Hyderabad House. The dinner was attended by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar.

“Delighted to meet my friend [Hamid Karzai] in New Delhi,” tweeted Prime Minister Modi, after the talks on Saturday evening.

However Mr Karzai dismissed speculation that his visit and the ‘red carpet’ treatment he received entailed any special message or a change in Indian policy.

“I go around the world and meet with leaders: I was with President Rouhani in Tehran and was received by President Putin in Russia, and by the Chinese leadership. India is of course more hospitable given my old connection here,” he said.

The Hindu – Narendra Modi, Belgian king hold talks on strengthening ties

New Delhi, 7 November 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Belgium’s King Philippe on Tuesday held talks to strengthen bilateral ties.

Ahead of the meeting with Mr Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on the visiting dignitary, who arrived here on Sunday on a week-long trip, his first state visit to India following his ascension to the throne in 2013.

Mr Modi and the Belgian king, who is accompanied by six ministers and a high powered business delegation comprising CEOs of 86 Belgian companies, held talks in Hyderabad House.

India is Belgium’s second largest export destination and third largest trade partner outside EU, according to official data.

In 2016-17, bilateral trade amounted to USD 13.28 billion. While exports from India to Belgium accounted for USD 5.65 billion, imports from Belgium accounted for USD 6.62 billion.

“Swaraj call on His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium. Engaging conversation on expanding warm and friendly bilateral relations,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

The visit will further strengthen the historical strong ties between the two countries, the ministry had said ahead of the visit.

King Philippe and his wife, Queen Mathilde, were accorded a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The Hindu – Dhinakaran booked, 10 others held for ‘derogatory’ remarks against Modi, Palaniswami

Salem-Tamil Nadu-India, 2 October 2017

Mr Dhinakaran’s loyalists P Vetrivel and V Pugazhenthi have also been named as accused in the case, the police said.

Sidelined AIADMK leader T T V Dhinakaran was on Monday booked and 10 of his supporters were held in connection with distribution of pamphlets allegedly containing defamatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami, in Chennai.

Former MLA Venkatachalam and local AIADMK functionary Saravanan were among the 10 arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by one Vinayakam, alleging that the accused were found distributing the pamphlets among the public outside a hall, where Mr Palaniswami was holding a meeting with senior officials on October 1.

The pamphlets contained “derogatory remarks” against the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister, the police said.

Mr Dhinakaran and his loyalists P Vetrivel, one of the 18 AIADMK MLAs recently disqualified from the Tamil Nadu Assembly under the anti-defection law, and V Pugazhenthi have also been named as accused in the case, the police said.

This is the second case slapped against Mr Dhinakaran, who is engaged in a tussle for power with Mr Palaniswami, by the State police.

Earlier, the sidelined AIADMK leader, along with Tamil actor and party functionary Senthil, had been booked for allegedly making defamatory remarks against P Kumar, the party MP from Tiruchirappalli.

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had restrained the Tiruchirappalli police from arresting them.

Responding to the latest case against him, Mr Dhinakaran alleged that it was filed since his rival Mr Palaniswami — who holds the Home portfolio — “is the police minister”.

“This government is anyway going to fall. They are doing such these things since he [Palaniswami] is the police Minister… Let them do what they want. The AIADMK supporters and the people are going to send them home,” Mr. Dhinakaran said.

The Asian Age – PM Modi, Shinzo Abe to kickstart bullet train plan on 14 September 2017.

The target for its completion is December 2023, though officials say there are indications that the government may seek an earlier deadline of 2022

New Delhi, 10 September 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will lay the foundation stone for the proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail network, commonly known as the bullet train, on September 14 in the Gujarat city, railway officials said.

The bullet train, which has a capacity to accommodate 750 people, is expected to reduce travel time between the two cities from seven to three hours. A sum of around Rs 1.10 lakh crore will be spent on the project.

The target for its completion is December 2023, though officials say there are indications that the government may seek an earlier deadline of 2022.

The train will stop at each of the 12 railway stations on the route, but only for 165 seconds. A 21-km-long tunnel will be dug between Boisar and BKC in Mumbai, of which seven km will be under water.

After the laying of the foundation stone, an investment summit will also be held between the Indian side and a Japanese delegation comprising representatives from Japan External Trade Organisation and Japan Inter-national Cooperation Agency.

The Hindu – Bali action puts India on other side of the Rohingya debate

Other neighbours call for restraint on Rohingya issue

Suhasini Haidar

New Delhi, 9 September 2017. India’s decision to reject a joint statement by the World Parliamentary Forum in Indonesia, that included references to human rights in Myanmar in its ‘Bali declaration’, was a major show of support for the Suu Kyi government just hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended his bilateral visit there.

The move, however, has put India on the other side of the Rohingya refugee debate from Myanmar’s other neighbours and countries in the region.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were all among countries that joined the Bali declaration at Nusa Dua on Thursday, that India disassociated from, according to Indonesian officials.

In their explanation, the Indian delegation headed by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had said the reference to Myanmar had been “proposed at the eleventh hour” and was unjustified as the Parliamentary forum was meant to focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and not a particular country.

“At the drafting committee India raised its objections, especially after Turkey inserted clauses specific to one country (Myanmar), which Bangladesh supported. But the host country went ahead and adopted the declaration despite our objections,” an MEA official told The Hindu on the telephone from Indonesia.

In two separate paragraphs, the Bali Declaration that was eventually made by 49 countries, expressed concern about the recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the UN says at least 1,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed, and 2,70,000 have fled, mainly to Bangladesh, in the past two weeks.

The statement “called on all parties to contribute to the restoration of stability and security, exercise maximum self-restraint from using violent means, respect the human rights of all people in Rakhine State regardless of their faith and ethnicity,” as “there can be no sustainable development without peace”.

India’s statement followed PM Modi’s visit to Naypyitaw where he expressed his support for the NLD government’s crackdown on terror groups in the Rakhine.

The Statesman – Vigilante killings will damage India’s economy: Yashwant Sinha

New Delhi, 5 July 2017. In strong disapproval of the recent spate of lynchings in the name of cow protection, veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha has said the such incidents create a bad image for the country abroad and serve as disincentive for foreign investments.

“My view is that all such incidents, and certainly a clutch of such incidents, create a bad image of the country. Not only within country but also abroad,” Sinha said in an interview.

“I am relating it to economic activities and I am saying that it has an adverse impact on the economic activities. As far as lynching per se is concerned, you know unfortunately in our society, such lynching has been going on. It is not always communal,” he said.

He recalled the December 2012 gang rape of a young woman in Delhi and said while he was giving a talk on the Indian economy in Germany, the first question he was asked was about the horrible rape and murder.

“Similiarly, if people feel that it is mob justice, the governments are not in control, it will be a disincentive for not only foreign investments but all investments of any kind in the country,” the former BJP minister said.

Asked about the pattern of such incidents targeting Muslims and Dalits, Sinha said it was a “question of interpretation” and cited BJP President Amit Shah’s claim that there were more lynchings earlier.

“I am not privy to those, I have not compared the figures. But the point I am making is that it certainly is a very unwelcome trend and should be stopped as quickly as possible.”

Sinha’s remarks came as the incidents of killings, particularly related to beef-eating or cow slaughter or harming the bovine have increased in the last three years since the BJP government came to power in 2014.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address last week condemned the vigilante killings, saying cows must be protected but within limits. “Do we get the right to kill a human being?” he said. “Is this devotion to the cow? Is this cow protection? This cannot be the path of respected Bapuji,” he said, referring to Mahatma Gandhi.

“Today, when I hear that in the name of the cow someone has been killed, I say the law should take its course; human beings have no right to take the law into their hands.”

According to an analysis of IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative, out of 63 cases of mob justice of lynchings recorded since 2010, 61 took place under the BJP government.

Twenty-four out of the 28 people killed in the attacks were Muslims. During the first six months of 2017, there were 20 cow or beef-related attacks.

On June 7, a man was attacked in Dhanbad of Jharkhand on suspicion of transporting beef to an Iftar party. Two cases of lynching over cow slaughter rumors were reported last week.

In May, some traders were thrashed in Malegaon, Maharashtra for allegedly storing beef. Before that, two more men, Abu Hanifa and Riazuddin Ali, were killed for allegedly stealing cattle in Assam.

In March this year, suspected cattle traders Mohammed Majloom and Azad Khan were killed in Latehar in Jharkhand. Days later, Mohammed Shalik, 19, was tied to a pole and beaten to death, reportedly over a romantic relationship with a Hindu girl in the same state.

There were several other incidents in the name of cow, including the murder of Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader, who was killed by cow vigilantes in Rajasthan’s Alwar.

BBC News – Why are Indian women wearing cow masks?

Geeta Pandey

New Delhi, 28 June 2017. A photography project which shows women wearing a cow mask and asks the politically explosive question, whether women are less important than cattle in India, has gone viral in the country and earned its 23-year-old photographer the ire of Hindu nationalist trolls.

“I am perturbed by the fact that in my country, cows are considered more important than a woman, that it takes much longer for a woman who is raped or assaulted to get justice than for a cow which many Hindus consider a sacred animal,” Delhi-based photographer Sujatro Ghosh told the BBC.

India is often in the news for crimes against women and, according to government statistics, a rape is reported every 15 minutes.

“These cases go on for years in the courts before the guilty are punished, whereas when a cow is slaughtered, Hindu extremist groups immediately go and kill or beat up whoever they suspect of slaughter.”

The project, he says, is “his way of protesting” against the growing influence of the vigilante cow protection groups that have become emboldened since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power in the summer of 2014.

“I’ve been concerned over the Dadri lynching [when a Muslim man was killed by a Hindu mob over rumours that he consumed and stored beef] and other similar religious attacks on Muslims by cow vigilantes,” Ghosh said.

In recent months, the humble cow has become India’s most polarising animal.

The BJP insists that the animal is holy and should be protected. Cow slaughter is banned in several states, stringent punishment has been introduced for offenders and parliament is considering a bill to bring in the death penalty for the crime.

But beef is a staple for Muslims, Christians and millions of low-caste Dalits (formerly untouchables) who have been at the receiving end of the violence perpetrated by the cow vigilante groups.

Nearly a dozen people have been killed in the past two years in the name of the cow. Targets are often picked based on unsubstantiated rumours and Muslims have been attacked for even transporting cows for milk.

Ghosh, who is from the eastern city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), says he became aware of “this dangerous mix of religion and politics” only after he moved to Delhi a few years ago and that “this project is a silent form of protest that I think can make an impact”.

So earlier this month, during a visit to New York, he bought the cow mask from a party shop and, on his return, began shooting for the series, taking pictures of women in front of tourist hotspots and government buildings, on the streets and in the privacy of their homes, on a boat and in a train, because “women are vulnerable everywhere”.

“I photographed women from every part of society. I started the project from Delhi since the capital city is the hub of everything – politics, religion, even most debates start here.

“I took the first photo in front of the iconic India Gate, one of the most visited tourist places in India. Then I photographed a model in front of the presidential palace, another on a boat in the Hooghly river in Kolkata with the Howrah bridge as the backdrop.”

His models have so far been friends and acquaintances because, he says, “it’s such a sensitive topic, it would have been difficult to approach strangers”.

Two weeks ago when he launched the project on Instagram, the response was “all positive. It went viral within the first week, my well wishers and even people I didn’t know appreciated it.”

But after the Indian press covered it and put out their stories on Facebook and Twitter, the backlash began.

“Some wrote comments threatening me. On Twitter people started trolling me, some said I, along with my models, should be taken to Delhi’s Jama Masjid [mosque] and slaughtered, and that our meat should be fed to a woman journalist and a woman writer the nationalists despise. They said they wanted to see my mother weep over my body.”

Some people also contacted the Delhi police, “accusing me of trying to instigate riots and asking them to arrest me”.

Ghosh is not surprised by the vitriol and admits that his work is an “indirect comment” on the BJP.

“I’m making a political statement because it’s a political topic, but if we go deeper into the things, then we see that Hindu supremacy was always there, it has just come out in the open with this government in the past two years.”

The threats, however, have failed to scare him. “I’m not afraid because I’m working for the greater good,” he says.

A positive fallout of the project going viral has been that he’s got loads of messages from women from across the globe saying they too want to be a part of this campaign.

So the cow, he says, will keep travelling.

To see the pictures : – Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan to pay obeisance at Sri Harmandr Sahib on April 20

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar Sahib-Panjab-India, 14 April 2017. The first Sikh Canadian Defence Minister Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan will pay obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandir Sahib on April 20. He will reach at Sri Amritsar Sahib in the evening of April 19 and will pay obeisance at the central Sikh shrine on April 20.

As per the program shared by Canadian High Commission, Harjit Singh Sajjan will spend April 20 & 21 in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Chandigarh. Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan hails from a village in Hoshiarpur district where he still has some relatives.

He will meet his family members during these two days and will also attend a party being hosted by the Canadian High Commission in Chandigarh. On 22 April he will meet the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, along with Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister of India and Army Chiefs in New Delhi.

Sikh24 has learnt that a team of Canadian security officials have reached Sri Amritsar Sahib where the Apex Sikh body SGPC was making special arrangements for the first visit of Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan after becoming Defence Minister of Canada. The SGPC will also honour the Canadian Defence Minister in a specially organized program.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh has come under fire of Sikh masses for releasing a statement to not attend Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan by terming him a Khalistan sympathizer. Even the Canadian High Commission has criticized Captain Amarinder Singh for releasing such a statement.

Former Deputy Chief Minister of Panjab and President of Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Badal has termed Captain Amarinder Singh’s stand as an irresponsible act. “Captain’s such stand can affect the bilateral ties between Punjab and Canada,” he added.

Pro-freedom Sikh outfit Dal Khalsa has also questioned Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s remark by saying that if Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan was a Khalistani sympathiser, then why has India decided to hold talks with him?

Dal Khalsa President Sardar Harcharanjit Singh Dhami has taunted on the Captain’s remark by saying that it would be really interesting and amazing to see Indian leadership engaging and talking with Khalistani sympathizers officially at the diplomatic level.

The Statesman – Adityanath as Chief Minister a step towards Hindu Rashtra: CPI-M

New Delhi, 23 March 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS have taken “the most audacious step” to usher in a Hindu Rashtra by making Yogi Adityanath as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, the CPI-M has said.

“They have put in place, as Chief Minister of the biggest state of India, a person who has openly challenged the very precepts of the Constitution,” said an editorial in the CPI-M journal “People’s Democracy”.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist said his selection “is a clear signal that the BJP-RSS combine wishes to pursue the line of Hindu consolidation as the basis of its future political strategy”.

The editorial said that since becoming a member of the Lok Sabha from Gorakhpur in 1998, Adityanath became notorious for his record of Muslim bashing and direct incitement of communal violence.

It said his Hindu Yuva Vahini “was nothing but an armed vigilante group” and “in his political campaign and in his election speeches henceforth, he has had only one aim – Muslim bashing”.

“The specialty of the Yuva Vahini under Adityanath’s leadership was to intervene and convert any minor dispute or common place quarrel into a communal riot.

“To make such a person the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh can only be a deliberately thought out decision.”