The Hindu – With suspect retracting confession, a spy case goes cold

Ramesh Singh is accused of the helping the ISI bug the laptop and tablet of an Indian diplomat in Islamabad

Vijaita Singh

New Delhi – India, 16 July 2018. A suspected ISI agent who was arrested in May for allegedly working for the Pakistani agency while employed as a “cook” in an Indian diplomat’s house in Islamabad has retracted his confessional statement to the police.

The suspect, identified as Ramesh Singh, who was posted in Pakistan from 2015 to 2017, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terror Squad. The police said Singh had confessed to helping bug the laptop and tablet of the diplomat.

Singh’s confession, accessed by The Hindu, says he came into contact with a Pakistani staffer, “Masih”, at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

Singh was posted as a domestic help in the house of the diplomat and gave access to the ISI agents at least on four occasions. “He said that on three occasions, he gave the diplomat’s laptop and tablet to some men waiting in a car outside the house,” a senior police officer said.

The officer said Singh disowned his statement when he was produced before a Lucknow court on July 10 and this would pose difficulty in proving the conspiracy hatched by the ISI.

Aseem Arun, Inspector-General, ATS, confirmed that Singh had denied his statement.

“Masih” got in touch with Singh and initially supplied him pornographic CDs. “He also visited some brothels. He was threatened by the ISI that if he didn’t act on its orders, it would inform the Indian agencies about his acts. The Pakistan agency lured him into a trap and then blackmailed him to do its bidding,” the officer said.

Singh, a resident of Pithoragarh in Uttarkhand, got the job at the diplomat’s house through the reference of a relative who is in the Army.

“The ISI tapped him when he was in Pakistan. He continued to work for it even when he returned to India in September 2017,” the officer said.

An officer said the diplomat was unaware of the espionage activities of Singh till he was arrested. “He never found out that the devices were bugged or that strangers had visited his house,” the officer said.

The police said Singh was found in possession of a list which had the names of officers who were due for promotion and were to be posted in Pakistan.

“Singh was asked to come back to Pakistan as domestic help with any of these officials,” said the officer.
Only evidence

The officer said the list was the only credible evidence found so far from his possession that could link him with the ISI.

“We recovered a Pakistani mobile phone from his house in Uttarakhand but were not able to extract any data from it. The device has been sent to experts to get more details,” the officer said.

The police said Singh’s name surfaced while investigating another espionage racket they busted in May 2017. A Faizabad resident, Aftab Ali, was arrested by the UP police on the basis of information provided by the Military Intelligence. The police said there were common links in both the cases.

“As per our investigation, Singh had conducted reconnaissance of the Air Force Base in Saharanpur and Bareilly. These were smaller tasks given to Singh to check his motivation level. He confessed to the crime within 10 minutes of his arrest,” the officer said.

Advertisements – 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Where was the state machinery, asks Delhi High Court

New Delhi – India, 14 July 2018. The court was hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s plea against the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in one of the cases.

The Delhi High Court on Friday asked what the state machinery was doing when one of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots took place next to the Delhi cantonment area. Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra said the court would not have been hearing these cases if they had been properly dealt with earlier.

“What was the state machinery doing? The incidents happened right next to the Delhi Cantonment,” the judges said.
They made the observation while hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s appeal against Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal. A trial court acquitted Kumar, who was accused of murdering five members of a Sikh family in Raj Nagar on November 1, 1984.

On July 5, the Supreme Court made similar observations. “It is high time cases like this should be tried and adjudicated at the earliest,” Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had said.

During the hearing on Friday, Kumar’s counsel Amit Sibal said the Justice GT Nanavati Commission had not directed authorities to re-investigate the case.

But, CBI counsel DP Singh and senior advocate Harvinder Singh Phoolka, who represented the riot victims, contradicted Sibal and said the Parliament had decided to investigate these cases again.

In May 2013, the trial court sentenced former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired Naval officer Captain Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal to life in prison while former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar got three-year jail terms each.

All of them have challenged their conviction and jail terms. The CBI, on the other hand, has asked the court to increase their sentences. The agency said all of them had engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”.

The High Court will take up the matter again on July 19.

BBC News – Child sex crime: Does India have a growing problem?

India feels like it is going through an upsurge of sexual violence against children, with reports dominating the news week after week and prompting public anger.

Divya Arya, BBC Delhi

New Delhi – India, 11 July 2018. In June, hundreds came out on to the streets in central India protesting over the rape of a seven-year-old girl.

Has there been a rise in the sexual abuse of children, defined as anyone under the age of 18, or is it that more cases are coming to light?

It’s partly down to more reporting by India’s rapidly expanding media sector, dominated by television and mobile news providers.

There have also been changes to the legal definition of rape and a new requirement that makes it mandatory for the police to record complaints of sexual assault.

The current debate was sparked in part by the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Indian-administered Kashmir earlier this year.

The trial of the men alleged to be involved started in April and led to a wider discussion about the prevalence of child sexual abuse.

India’s Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, said she was “deeply disturbed” by the Kashmir rape case and other cases that had come to light.

In acknowledgement of growing public concern, the Indian government introduced the death penalty for anyone convicted of raping a child younger than 12.

Legal definition change

Latest data released by the Indian government shows that child rapes reported to the authorities doubled over the five years from 2012 to 2016.

Prior to 2012, there was no single law specifically dealing with children as victims of sexual offences (and rape was strictly defined as penetration).

Some forms of sexual assault – which may be more common with child victims – were not included, while the police faced no sanction for refusing to register complaints by victims.

The landmark Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of November 2012 was India’s first comprehensive law to deal specifically with child sex abuse.

The number of reported cases of child rape rose by nearly 45% the next year.

The new act is gender neutral and includes various forms of sexual assault.

It also makes the failure to report or record a case of child sex abuse punishable with a jail term and fine.

“Doctors and police are not able to turn back complainants by dismissing their complaint as a ‘household matter’ any more as this can land them in jail,” says Audrey D’Mello of the Mumbai-based Majlis Legal Centre, that supports sex abuse victims.

She believes the requirement for the authorities to now register complaints has had a big role in increasing the number of reported cases.

The gang rape of 23-year-old female student Jyoti Singh on a bus in Delhi in December 2012 generated global interest in sexual violence in India, and brought the focus squarely on the role of the police in investigating such crimes.

Soon afterwards, the Indian government broadened the definition of sexual crimes against women by enacting the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 2013.

The effect was very apparent with a rise of more than 35% in reported cases of rape in 2013 compared with 2012.

Tip of the iceberg

There are those who believe that child sexual abuse may be much more prevalent than had been assumed.

In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development conducted a survey that recorded responses from more than 17,000 children across 13 Indian states.

Just over half of the children surveyed (53.2%) reported that they had faced one or more forms of sexual abuse.

For the purposes of this study, various forms of sexual abuse were included, not only rape.

Kumar Shailabh, a lawyer at the Haq Centre of Child Rights, says the study highlights that there has been gross under-reporting of sexual abuse in India.

He also points out that the age of consent was increased from 16 to 18 years in the 2012 act, leading to the criminalising of consensual sexual relationships among young people between those ages.

Difficult legal process

Despite the increase in the number of reported cases of child rape and a comprehensive law, the conviction rate is unchanged since 2012 at 28.2%.

The 2012 act states that a trial in any case of child sex abuse should be completed within one year. But this is rarely followed as the legal process remains slow.

Where the offender is either a family member or someone known to the victim, the pressure to withdraw complaints can be immense.

Families are hesitant to bring complaints against their own members out of concern for “family honour”.

Ms D’Mello says: “Even when complaints are made, there is an unspoken effort to not prosecute the offender, the system works against the complainant and she is often proved to have made a false accusation.” – Jagdish Tytler withdraws plea from Delhi HC, says he will contest defamation charges in trial court

The trial court framed the charges in March 2015 on the basis of a complaint filed by senior advocate H S Phoolka.

New Delhi – India, 12 July 2018. Congress leader Jagdish Tytler on Thursday withdrew from the Delhi High Court his plea challenging the framing of charges against him in a defamation case, PTI reported.

Senior advocate H S Phoolka, who represents the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, had filed the case against Tytler for allegedly making statements harming his reputation.

Phoolka, in a complaint filed in 2006, had alleged that Tytler had levelled “false and derogatory” allegations against him during a television debate aired in September 2004.

A trial court framed the charges against Tytler on March 2, 2015. The same month, Tytler filed a plea in the High Court against the trial court’s order. The High Court then restrained the trial court from taking any decision in the matter.

The Congress leader’s counsel Arunabh Chowdhury, however, told Justice R K Gauba on Thursday that his client wants to contest the charges in the trial court, which is scheduled to hear the matter for three days starting 17 July.

Tytler’s counsel told the High Court during previous proceedings that the trial court had framed charges in the case on the basis of a video cassette obtained from the channel. The video cassette was not certified as required by Indian Evidence Act and various Supreme Court rulings, his counsel had argued.

However, Phoolka said that witnesses would be able to corroborate his allegations and this was enough to frame the charges against the veteran Congress leader.

Tytler is accused of having a role in the riots that took place in North Delhi’s Gurdwara Pulbangash, where three people were killed on November 1, 1984, a day after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The Asian Age – Congress questions PM Modi’s silence on lynching cases, demands Jayant Sinha quit

Congress leader Pramod Tiwari also demanded a judicial probe into the killing of a gangster inside the high security jail in a UP jail.

New Delhi – India, 09 July 2018, The Congress on Monday questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on incidents of lynching in the country, and demanded the resignation of Union minister Jayant Sinha for garlanding eight convicts in a lynching case after they were released on bail.

Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said the silence of the prime minister and BJP president Amit Shah, and honouring of the convicts by a minister give “a guarantee to” the perpetrators that they have the support and encouragement of the government.

Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party and the government of spreading hatred and violence in society, he said the issue would be raised by the opposition in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament starting July 18.

“When will Prime Minister Modi unequivocally condemn the growing acts of violence which are creating a further divide in the fault lines that exist? Does PM Modi believe that his silence will reap political benefits for the BJP?

Is the tacit support of various BJP leaders to such criminals who incite mob violence a tool to further attack and intimidate the marginalised sections of the society? Is the silence of the prime minister not giving rise to such incidents?” he asked.

Tiwari also asked when Home Minister Rajnath Singh was going to seek a report from various states that were reporting growing incidents of such hate crimes and mob violence.

“Why is Modi government continuing to maintain criminal silence on the growing mob lynching incidents? Is the country, under the BJP rule, turning into a mobocracy, where anarchy prevails?

‘Maun Modi’ (Silent Modi)…‘Kadi Ninda’ (strong condemnation) is the only defence through which the Modi government is giving itself a clean chit,” he told reporters.

The Congress leader asked rhetorically, as to what it indicated when ministers felicitate convicted criminals.

“What is this if not an act of encouragement?” he asked.

Training his guns on Sinha, he said, “Jayant Sinha is a member of Modi’s Council of Ministers and if he garlands those convicted of lynching, he should have no place in council of ministers. If the prime minister does not sack him, at least he should resign of his own.”

He said BJP’s Sinha supported convicted mob lynchers and felicitated them.

“Does this not indicate the nation that Indian government supports lynchers?” he asked.

He noted that the nation does expect a minister who has taken an oath on the Constitution to glorify convicts.

“This is an insult of the Constitution and the judiciary, which has given them punishment,” he said.

Sinha stoked a controversy after he felicitated eight convicts in the Ramgarh lynching case when they came out of prison on bail last week.

Meat trader Alimuddin Ansari was beaten to death on June 29 last year by a mob at the Bazaar Tand area under Ramgarh police station on the suspicion that he was carrying beef in his car.

The Congress leader also demanded a judicial probe into the killing of a gangster inside the high security jail in Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, saying a mere magisterial probe would not suffice.

Attacking the Modi government over the law and order situation in the country, he said it is reflected in a brazen manner in the brutal murder of convict Munna Bajrangi inside Baghpat Jail.

He also cited a statement by BJP MP from Kurukshetra, Raj Kumar Saini who has reportedly said that 90 per cent of BJP candidates would lose in the upcoming polls because the Modi government has neither the right intent nor right policies.

Tiwari alleged that under Narendra Modi’s watch, India has seen more than 4.5 times rise in attacks and a two-fold rise in deaths due to mob lynching in 2017. Since January 2018, he said, 61 mob attacks sparked by rumours circulated on social media have been reported and this trend is growing by the day.

“Mob lynching on the basis of rumours has become the norm of the day where people have started believing that they can take law and order in their own hands and dispense instant justice on basis of mere rumours,” he alleged.

The Congress leader said responsibility of maintaining law and order is that of the elected government and these growing incidents of violence show that people have lost their faith in the BJP government.

“PM Modi’s criminal silence on the growing incidents is deafening,” he said. He added that another Union minister, Giriraj Singh, paid a visit in jail to those accused of inciting communal violence and his colleague Mahesh Sharma visited the Dadri mob lynching accused and supported draping of the coffin of one of the accused in a Tricolour.

“Through this tacit support, they are abetting such hooligans to take law and order in their own hands and believe they will be protected by the government of the day.

BJP chief Amit Shah has also refrained from taking any action on any of these ministers and BJP members, who continue to support such hooligans through statements and such acts. Those who stay silent and act as mute spectators, will be considered complicit in these crimes,” he said.

Tiwari said instead of holding themselves responsible and accountable, the government has totally absolved itself through its IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who conveniently blamed the social media platforms for their own misdeeds.

WIO News – Sikh migrants from Afghanistan living in deplorable condition in India: Report

New Delhi – India, 09 July 2018. Many Sikh families who have migrated from war-ravaged Afghanistan to India’s northern state of Punjab are facing many hardships.

Muslim-majority Afghanistan is home to minorities like Hindus and Sikhs who have been known to work for the overall development of the country. But the minorities are often treated as second-class citizens and their numbers have gone down tremendously in the last decade.

A Sikh migrant Shami Singh, who lives in India, said they were treated and looked down upon like sinners. They were tortured and were asked to convert to Islam.

He further said that whenever someone died they were not allowed to perform the last rites and this was not only with the Sikhs but Hindus living in Afghanistan too faced similar situations.

Speaking of the recent blast in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad that killed 19 people including Sikhs and Hindus, Singh said that he would have also been killed if he was still living in the war-torn country.

Another Sikh migrant, Kalwant Kaur, who had move to India after her husband was killed by militants in Afghanistan, said all she wants was the federal government to provide her with a safe haven as well as Indian citizenship.

The 11,000-plus Afghan refugees in India fare better than some other poor communities, but many still live hand to mouth.

The Hindu – India has taken a quantum jump in the wrong direction since 2014: Amartya Sen

Says it is second worst in the region

New Delhi – India, 09 July 2018. Despite being a fastest growing economy, India has taken a “quantum jump in the wrong direction” since 2014, and because of the backward movement, it is now the second worst in the region, eminent economist Amartya Sen has said.

“Things have gone pretty badly wrong… It has taken a quantum jump in the wrong direction since 2014.

We are getting backwards in the fastest-growing economy,” he said at the launch of Bharat Aur Uske Virodhabhas, the Hindi edition of his book, An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradiction, which he co-authored with development economist Jean Dreze.

Twenty years ago, of the six countries, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, India was the second best after Sri Lanka. “Now, it is the second worst. Pakistan has managed to shield us from being the worst.”

He said the government deflected attention from the issues of inequalities and the caste system. The needs of a whole group of people, who cleaned lavatories or sewerage with their hands, were neglected.

The Indian Express – Cow vigilantism unacceptable, onus on states to prevent lynchings: Supreme Court

“Obligation of states to ensure that such incidents do not occur,” the apex court observed.

New Delhi – India, 03 July 2018. Taking a strong exception to the alleged lynchings by cow vigilantes, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said the onus lies on states to ensure that such incidents do not occur.

“This kind of incidents cannot occur. It can’t be accepted in remotest sense. Obligation of states to ensure that such incidents do not occur,” the apex court observed.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said this was a law and order issue and each state has to be responsible.

The bench observed that the instances of vigilantism was actually mob violence, which is a crime. The top court has reserved its order on pleas seeking directions to formulate guidelines to curb such violence.

Last year, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar directed the Centre and states to take strong measures to curb cow vigilantism.

“Who will stop them? Some mechanism has to be there to prevent violence indulged in by these groups. This must stop. Some kind of planned and well-coordinated action is required by the governments so that vigilantism does not grow,“ the bench said.

The apex court had sought response from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments on a plea seeking contempt action for not following its order to take stern steps to stop violence in the name of cow vigilantism, today led the Supreme Court to seek responses from the three states.

The contempt petition has been filed by Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, saying the three states have not complied with the top court order of September 6 last year.

In June this year, a cattle-trader was beaten to death by a mob at a sugarcane field in Hapur’s Pilakhuwa. The family of the victim claimed Qasim, 45, was attacked in connection with a “cow-related matter” while the police insisted that he was victim of a road rage incident. A 65-year-old man, Samiuddin, was also injured in the attack.

The police have arrested two men, identified as Yudhishtir Singh and Rakesh Sisodia, on the charge of murder. The FIR notes that the incident was the result of a scuffle between unidentified bike-borne men and the two victims.

Cow vigilantism unacceptable, onus on states to prevent lynchings: Supreme Court

India Today – Afghan diplomats join Sikhs protesting against Jalalabad attack

Geeta Mohan

New Delhi – India, 03 July 2018. In a gesture of solidarity, Afghan diplomats in New Delhi joined in the protests being held outside the Embassy of Afghanistan to condemn the attack that took place in Jalalabad on Sunday, killing 19 Afghans and wounded 21. Of the 19 killed, 17 were from the minority Sikh and Hindu communities.

Members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on Tuesday staged a protest outside Afghanistan Embassy in Delhi, condemning the Jalalabad attack and demanding protection for the minorities in Afghanistan especially the Afghan Sikhs.

Much to the surprise of the protesters, senior diplomats and officials of the embassy stepped out of the building. They shook hands with the Sikh leaders and then joined them in “condemning” the attack on the community.

The moment was heartening for the members of the Sikh community who met the officials. The diplomats reiterated the fact that they are also victims of cross border terrorism.

Sources in the Afghan Embassy said that it was the idea of the Afghan envoy to join the protests.

India Today reached out to Afghanistan ambassador Shaida Abdali and asked why he thought his staff should join in. He said, “It is a shared pain and therefore a protest for the loss of our Afghan Sikhs is something that should be done by Afghanistan and thus we joined in to condemn the attack and demand justice”.

He added, “It was the pain that the whole nation felt. The Afghan embassy was obliged to protest together with the Afghan Sikhs residing in India who also found support from Sikh brothers of India”.

While Afghan Ambassador Shaida Abdali himself could not be present to join the protesters, he had earlier said, “India, Afghanistan are victims of terror from a common source.”

The Sikh protesters raised the issue of the state of affairs in which the Sikhs live in Afghanistan and continued to demand protection for the Sikhs in Afghanistan. Sunday’s bombing has elicited strong reactions from Sikh community across the world. Special prayers have been organised for the victims in various Gurudwaras.

In India, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh extended help to the victims of the blast. Heading a Sikh dominated state Amarinder Singh called upon the global community to come together to fight against the “barbaric forces of terror”. The Indian Embassy in Afghanistan also condemned the “cowardly” attack.

A tweet from the official handle said, “We strongly condemn the henious and cowardly terrorist attack in #Jalalabad today evening which resulted in the death of 20 innocent Afghans, including 10 members of the Afghan Sikh Community, and injured more than 20 persons”.

A source from the embassy said that after the protests, a few leaders went inside the embassy and met the Afghan Ambassador. Both sides discussed the issue of terrorists and extremists, who are trying to fracture the Afghan society.

At the same time, both sides also discussed mobilising the two nations who are victims of terrorism emanating from a common source.