The Statesman – Kathua rape-murder: DSP Shwetambari Sharma slams lawyer’s misogynistic remarks

Shwetambri Sharma is the lone woman officer in the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Police that investigated the rape and murder of the eight-year-old.

New Delhi – India, 19 April 2018. Days after defence lawyer Ankur Sharma made a misogynistic remark about her, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Shwetambari Sharma has shot back at the prejudiced comments, saying “the whole nation will comment on it”.

Ankur Sharma, who is the defence lawyer of five accused in the case, while referring to DCP Shwetambari had said, “She is a girl, how intelligent can she be?”

As per a NDTV report, while reacting to Ankur Sharma’s remark, Shwetambari Sharma said: “It hurts when you are targeted and your intelligence is doubted just because you are a woman. What should I comment on such a chauvinist remark, the whole nation is there to comment on it.”

As per media reports, Shwetambari while talking to media highlighted the complexities in investigating the Kathua rape case.

She said, during the agitations, it was very hard to investigate the case. Collecting evidence and statements was very tough as the agitators were campaigning in support of the accused. The agitations led by pro-Hindu groups and lawyers bodies made it very difficult for the SIT to carry out their investigations.

However, DCP Shwetambari Sharma said she has full faith in the judiciary and “judiciary is capable enough to bring justice, don’t doubt it”.

Two FIRs have been lodged in the Kathua rape-murder case. One FIR against the eight accused in the case while the second one has been lodged against the lawyer’s body, which allegedly tried to stop the police from filling a charge sheet against the accused.

Shwetambri Sharma is the lone woman officer in the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Police that investigated the rape and murder of the eight-year-old in Kathua.

The eight accused men are facing chrges of holding an eight-year-old girl captive for a week in the village temple at Rasana in January, during which she was “sedated and sexually assaulted” before being beaten to death.


The Asian Age – Terror emerging again in Punjab, CM warns Centre

New Delhi – India, 20 April 2018. Fearing the re-emergence of militancy in Punjab, chief minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday urged the Centre to put in place an elaborate plan to tackle the emerging threat, with intelligence reports indicating that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was training Sikh youths to revive terror activities in the region.

The issue, particularly some recent targeted killings by ISI-backed operatives, was discussed in detail during a meeting between Captain Singh and Union home minister Rajnath Singh here on Thursday.

The CM also briefed the home minister in detail about the security situation in Punjab and how attempts were being made to disturb the law and order situation through these targeted killings.

Home ministry officials claimed Captain Singh urged the Centre to plan an “all-encompassing” security strategy to deal with the revival of terror in the state.

Captain Singh also stressed the need for further strengthening and sharing of intelligence inputs between the Centre and state agencies, particularly on some terror operatives active in foreign countries like Italy, the United States, Germany, Canada and Britain.

The role of some of these operatives is suspected in recent killings in Punjab, now being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Sources said the home minister assured Captain Singh of all possible help from the Centre in dealing with security issues in the sensitive border state, which had seen a long spell of terror in the past.

The Punjab CM also flagged the issue of how terror elements were using the social media to radicalise youth and the urgent need to counter this. The home ministry had recently told a parliamentary panel that Sikh youths were being trained at ISI facilities in Pakistan to carry out terror activities in India.

Captain Singh appreciated the role of the Central security agencies, particularly the NIA, in handling cases related to the killing of political and religious personalities in the state, which is being seen as a desperate attempt to disturb communal harmony in the region.

The Hindu – Surendra Nihal Singh: the editor who fought the Emergency

Was honoured for opposing Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the dark years

Smita Gupta

New Delhi – India, 16 April 2018. Veteran journalist Surendra Nihal Singh died here on Monday, following a brief illness. Mr Singh, who would have turned 89 later in April, breathed his last at the National Heart Institute.

With Mr Singh’s death, the era of grand, old editors who began their journalistic careers in the years following Independence is winding to a close.

A firm believer in the importance of maintaining a wall between the editorial and business sections of a newspaper and the role of journalists in putting every government under scrutiny, Mr Singh had the distinction of being perhaps the only editor-in-chief who resigned from three newspapers following differences with the proprietors of those organisations.

The papers were The Statesman, The Indian Express and the The Indian Post (of which he was the founding editor). He was awarded the prestigious International Editor of the Year Award in New York for his role in opposing the Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

His last assignment was as Editor of the Khaleej Times of Dubai in 1994. After that, he turned independent columnist.

Mr Singh began as a reporter with The Statesman, covering politics in Delhi as well as abroad, posted at different times in Moscow, London, the USA and Indonesia, years which he was to describe later as the best in his journalistic career, and which made him a foreign affairs expert.

It was those long years of reporting that made him such a good editor: for those who worked with him, it was also a rich learning experience.

He would encourage his reporters when they needed it; he would depress any pretensions when that was called for, but it was always done with such a light touch and such charm that no one ever felt he was being harsh.

He was born to Gurmukh Nihal Singh, who became Delhi Assembly Speaker, then Chief Minister and Governor of Rajasthan, and Lacchmi Devi in Rawalpindi on April 30, 1929.

The Hindustan Times – Pravin Togadia says he’ll quit VHP after his nominee loses presidential poll

Former Himachal Pradesh governor V S Kokje defeated Togadia’s aide Raghava Reddy by bagging 131 votes to 60

Smriti Kak Ramachandran

New Delhi – India, 14 April 2018. In a setback to its best-known leader Praveen Togadia, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Saturday elected former Himachal Pradesh governor V S Kokje as the international president of the hardline organisation.

While Togadia’s associate and incumbent international president Raghava Reddy polled 60 votes, Kokje walked away with 131 votes in the first election ever to the post.

An upset Togadia announced his departure from the VHP and said he will go on an indefinite hunger strike in Ahmedabad on Tuesday to press his demand for the passage of a law in Parliament for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

VHP, like the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Togadia has shared an uneasy relationship with Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, and the outcome of the election is a setback to him and his followers.

Soon after the election, the central board of trustees of the VHP approved the appointments of Alok Kumar as VHP’s working president, Ashok Rao Chowgule as working president (external), Milind Parande as secretary general, Vinayak Rao Deshpande as organizational general secretary, Champat Rai as a vice-president and Venkata Koteswara Rao as joint general secretary.

Saturday’s election that took place in Gurgaon was necessitated by members failing to reach consensus on who should head the VHP, which has been at the forefront of the Ayodhya Ram Temple movement and more recently spearheaded a campaign against inter-faith marriages.

A meeting of the VHP’s executive board and trustees committee, whose members form the electorate, could not agree at a December meeting in Bhubaneswar on who should be the organisation’s international president, precipitating Saturday’s election.

While one group backed Kokje, who was then the VHP international vice-president, another pitched for giving Reddy another term.

Kokje was appointed a judge of Madhya Pradesh high court in 1990 and served as acting chief justice of Rajasthan high court for 11 months in 2001; he was designated senior advocate of the Supreme Court in September 2002 and in 2003 appointed Himachal Pradesh governor, a post he held until 2008.

Reddy was assisted by outgoing working president Togadia, whose relations with Modi have soured over time. He has periodically questioned the government’s stance on building a Ram temple in Ayodhya. In January, he alleged that “some people” were plotting to kill him to silence his voice on issues such as the Ram temple.

Togadia recently went public with the information that Modi and he have not spoken since 2002 and that despite letters he had written to the latter to bury the hatchet, there had been no response from the PM.

“What was my fault, for 32 years I raised my voice for Hindus, I left my medical profession and my home for the cause. I never bowed to pressure and I will continue to do so,” Togadia said on Saturday soon after the result was declared.

Asserting that he had received calls of support from across the country, Togadia said he had asked his supporters to remain calm, as he sets out to find ways to push his agenda. Quoting Chanakya, he said he is preparing to “win a bigger battle by losing the smaller war.”

“I want loan waivers for farmers, I want jobs for the youth and for Pandits to be settled in Kashmir..,”he said.

The need for an election itself raised eyebrows in the Sangh; a senior functionary not wishing to be named said this was a departure from the practice of members choosing a candidate unanimously.

It was also read as a snub to Togadia, and some within the organisation said the election was being held at the behest of the faction that supports PM Modi, and did not want a representative who “embarrassed the government”.

“Usually the president nominates a working president, who in turn handles the functioning of the organisation. Togadia held the position since December 2011,” the functionary said.

Togadia’s frequent outbursts against the government and his pointed barbs at PM Modi were perceived by many in the Sangh as the reason why some in the organisation pushed for his removal.

Having come to be recognised as the face of the VHP, which took on PM Modi for dubbing cow vigilantes as criminals, Togadia was seen to have breached the code of conduct of the tightly controlled organisation, said the functionary quoted above.

“At the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Nagpur in March, some members wanted the issue discussed, since they felt acrimonious statements made by one affiliate of the Sangh against another were against the ethos and discipline of the organisation. But the issue was left to be sorted through an election,” another functionary said, also requesting anonymity.

Togadia’s hard-line politics and his unwavering position on the issues of Ram Temple and so-called Love Jihad, however, gained him support among the more orthodox.

“There is a section within the Sangh that feels that the VHP, Bajrang Dal and even the RSS can get subsumed within the larger BJP identity if they are not allowed to pursue their ideology or are expected to fall in line with political compulsions. For this section, Togadia’s stance was a way to assert their independence,” said the second functionary.

Prior to the election, Reddy had alleged that the list of voters itself had been manipulated to ensure his ouster. He was reported to have said that 37 fake voters were added to the original list of 212 members eligible to cast their votes.

The Tribune – Must implement 1974 Protocol on pilgrims: Pakistan envoy

Smita Sharma, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 13 April 2018. Days after India and Pakistan agreed to mutually de-escalate tensions over the diplomats’ row, the Pakistani High Commission said both countries must “faithfully” implement the bilateral protocol of 1974 on pilgrimage.

As Sikh pilgrims from India poured into Pakistan on Baisakhi, which marks the 320th birth anniversary of the Khalsa, Pakistan envoy Sohail Mahmood said: “The Government of Pakistan makes assiduous efforts to preserve the religious sites and facilitate the visits of pilgrims of all faiths.

This latest visit of Sikh yatris to Pakistan is also consistent with the Government’s commitment and is in accordance with the provisions of the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines”.

“The desire of the pilgrims to pay obeisance is sacred, as they wait and prepare for their spiritual journey throughout the year. Both sides must, therefore, ensure faithful implementation of the bilateral Protocol of 1974.”

Pakistan High Commission has issued visas to nearly 2,100 Sikh pilgrims this year from India this year, as opposed to 1,600 pilgrims went last year.

Over 20,000 Sikh pilgrims from across the globe are expected to attend the Baisakhi festival with main celebrations lined up for Saturday in Pakistan’s Punjab province amid high security.

Sikh Jathas will visit various gurdwaras and holy places in Pakistan from April 12-21, including Hasan Abdal’s Panja Sahib Gurudwara and Nankana Sahib.

Relations between India and Pakistan had soured further amid bloodshed at LoC and International Border.

Recently, Pakistani Zaireens (pilgrims) were not allowed visas to participate in the Urs at Ajmer Sharif and Nizamuddin Aulia. Islamabad called it a violation of the 1974 protocol arrangement under which Indian pilgrims visit holy sites like Katas Raj temple and sacred gurdwaras in Pakistan during Guru Nanak Jayanti and Baisakhi.

BBC News – The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 4 April 2018. What are the most common myths and stereotypes about what Indians eat?

The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.

But that’s not the case at all. Past “non-serious” estimates have suggested that more than a third of Indians ate vegetarian food.

If you go by three large-scale government surveys, 23%-37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. By itself this is nothing remarkably revelatory.

But new research by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob, points to a heap of evidence that even these are inflated estimations because of “cultural and political pressures”. So people under-report eating meat, particularly beef, and over-report eating vegetarian food.

Taking all this into account, say the researchers, only about 20% of Indians are actually vegetarian – much lower than common claims and stereotypes suggest.

Hindus, who make up 80% of the Indian population, are major meat-eaters. Even only a third of the privileged, upper-caste Indians are vegetarian.

The government data shows that vegetarian households have higher income and consumption, are more affluent than meat-eating households. The lower castes, Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribes-people are mainly meat eaters.

On the other hand, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob find the extent of beef eating is much higher than claims and stereotypes suggest.

At least 7% of Indians eat beef, according to government surveys.

But there is evidence to show that some of the official data is “considerably” under-reported because beef is “caught in cultural political and group identity struggles in India”.

Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP promotes vegetarianism and believes that the cow should be protected, because the country’s majority Hindu population considers them holy. More than a dozen states have already banned the slaughter of cattle. And during Mr Modi’s rule, vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people transporting cattle.

The truth is millions of Indians, including Dalits, Muslims and Christians, consume beef. Some 70 communities in Kerala, for example, prefer beef to the more expensive goat meat.

Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob conclude that in reality, closer to 15% of Indians, or about 180 million people, eat beef. That’s a whopping 96% more than the official estimates.

And then there are the stereotypes of Indian food.

Delhi, where only a third of residents are thought to be vegetarian, may well deserve its reputation for being India’s butter chicken capital.

But, the stereotype of Chennai as the hub of India’s “south Indian vegetarian meal” is completely misplaced. Reason: only 6% of the city’s residents are vegetarian, one survey suggests.

Many continue to believe that Punjab is “chicken loving” country. But the truth is that 75% of people in the northern state are vegetarian.

So how has the myth that India is a largely vegetarian country been spread so successfully?

For one, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob told me, in a “highly diverse society with food habits and cuisines changing every few kilometres and within social groups, any generalisation about large segments of the population is a function of who speaks for the group”.

“This power to represent communities, regions, or even the entire country is what makes the stereotypes.” Also, they say, “the food of the powerful comes to stand in for the food of the people”.

“The term non-vegetarian is a good case in point. It signals the social power of vegetarian classes, including their power to classify foods, to create a ‘food hierarchy’ wherein vegetarian food is the default and is having a higher status than meat.

Thus it is akin to the term ‘non-whites’ coined by ‘whites’ to capture an incredibly diverse population who they colonised.”


Secondly, the researchers say, some of the stereotype is enabled by migration.

So when south Indians migrate to northern and central India, their food comes to stand in for all south Indian cuisine. This is similarly true for north Indians who migrate to other parts of the country.

Finally, some of the stereotypes are perpetuated by the outsider, north Indians stereotype south Indians just by meeting a few of them without thinking about the diversity of the region and vice versa.

The foreign media, say the researchers, is also complicit “as it seeks to identify societies by a few essential characteristics”.

Also, the study shows up the differences in food habits among men and women. More women, for example, say they are vegetarian than men.

The researchers say this could be partly explained by the fact that more men eat outside their homes and with “greater moral impunity than women”, although eating out may not by itself result in eating meat.

Patriarchy and politics might have something to do with it.

“The burden of maintaining a tradition of vegetarianism falls disproportionately on the women,” say Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob.

Couples are meat eaters in about 65% of the surveyed households and vegetarians only in 20%. But in 12% of the cases the husband was a meat eater, while the wife was a vegetarian. Only in 3% cases was the reverse true.

Clearly, the majority of Indians consume some form of meat, chicken and mutton, mainly, regularly or occasionally, and eating vegetarian food is not practiced by the majority.

So why does vegetarianism exert a far greater influence on representations of India and Indians around the world? Does it have to do with “policing” of food choices and perpetuating food stereotypes in a vastly complex and multicultural society?

The Hindu – Maneka Gandhi at loggerheads with her Ministry over nutrient packets

While the Women and Child Development Minister wants “energy-dense, factory-made” nutrient packets as take-home ration, the Ministry is in favour of “sourcing food items… from self-help groups”.

Jagriti Chandra

New Delhi – India, 11 April 2018. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi finds herself at odds with her Ministry officials over the issue of food for anganwadi beneficiaries.

While Ms. Gandhi wants “energy-dense, factory-made” nutrient packets as take-home ration for pregnant women and lactating mothers as well as children between the age of six months and three years, her Ministry is in favour of “sourcing food items such as dalia and khichdi, prepared with locally available ingredients, from self-help groups”, according to a top government official.

As a result, two different draft nutrition guidelines were prepared, one by Ms. Gandhi and another by her Ministry, – ahead of a meeting of the Nutrition Advisory Technical Board at NITI Aayog on January 24.

Before the meeting was convened, Women and Child Development secretary R.K. Shrivastava wrote to Principal Advisor, NITI Aayog, Ratan P. Watal, opposing the guidelines prescribed by Ms. Gandhi and requested that the discussion on nutrient packets be dropped from its agenda.

The differences continue to be played out even as the the newly-constituted National Nutrition Council is slated to hold its first meeting on April 18 and the WCD ministry has to finalise its agenda.

The source who is privy to these events said that complying with Ms. Gandhi’s recommendations would imply a move towards “centralisation and corporatisation of anganwadi food.” “We (need to) follow the Act and rules,” the official said.

Ms. Gandhi told The Hindu, “I want pre-mix made by machines and by state governments. Let us look at giving nutrients in a safe manner. Each state can make its own mash with local ingredients. These can be in powdered form and mixed with regular meals. The take-home ration given today is an ugly, non-nutritious mix.

Let us stop thinking of giving food and instead think of giving nutrition.”

While a pre-mix of micronutrients or ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF), high-energy, micro-nutrient enhanced paste, is sometimes prescribed to treat children under five years who suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the minister has recommended giving nutrient packets to all pregnant and lactating mothers and children from six months to three years.

“Why wait for a child to suffer from SAM?” Ms. Gandhi asked.

The Minister has suggested that 30 packets for a month can be dispatched to a beneficiary through the postal department.

She has also said that the daily allocation of Rs 8 (for children between six months and three years) should be spent on nutrition and not on generating livelihood for women of self-help groups. The Supplementary Nutrition Rules, 2017, mandate engagement of self-help groups.

As per the government’s Supplementary Nutrition Programme under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), take-home ration is distributed to pregnant women and lactating mothers as well as children between the age of six months to three years, while children between three and six years get hot, cooked meals.

In a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office last November, it was reiterated that the policy on take-home ration and hot cooked meals “will continue as prescribed under the existing scheme of ICDS and as mandated by the National Food Security Act.

Take-home rations include wheat, soya and sugar.

The Hindustan Times – Air Force stations in Punjab on Pakistan-based Jaish’s radar, forces on alert

Three separate inputs in as many months indicate Pakistan-based militant outfits have “shown interest in gathering information” about Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji airport in Amritsar and the Raja Sansi Air Force station, also in Amritsar.

Azaan Javaid

New Delhi – India, 08 April 2018. Indian Air force (IAF) Stations and other vital installations in Punjab are once again on the radar of Pakistan-based militant groups, according to fresh inputs received by central intelligence agencies that are especially significant in the context of a statement issued by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant outfit vowing to avenge the killings of 13 militants that took place during three counter-insurgency operations in south Kashmir this week.

Four civilians and three army men also died.

According to a document shared with central and state security agencies, three separate inputs have been received in the last three months that indicate Pakistan-based militant outfits have “shown interest in gathering information” about Sri Guru Ravi Dass ji airport in Amritsar and the Raja Sansi Air Force station, also in Amritsar.

A separate and older document, sent to the agencies in January, states that operatives of the Laskhar-e-Taiba and JeM could smuggle “military hardware into India through Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to execute terrorist attacks”.

Hindustan Times has seen the documents.

Punjab has seen some major fidayeen attacks in recent years. In 2015, a police station in Gurdaspur was attacked resulting in the killing of four policemen and three civilians. The following year an ever bigger attack was carried out in January at the Pathankot airbase, resulting in a four-day gun battle, and eight people, including one civilian, being killed.

A senior CRPF official said on condition of anonymity that the force is doing its “best to be prepared for any intrusion”.

Director general of Jammu and Kashmir police SP Vaid said he wasn’t aware of intelligence regarding Punjab but confirmed the Jaish statement.

Internal security expert Ajai Sahni believes that unless JeM actually executes or attempts to carry out an attack, the statement should be seen as a “political move”.

“After the encounters in Shopian there have been many statements of condemnation issued by various groups and individuals including the Pakistani Prime Minister. JeM statement too is one among the many,” he said.

The Hindu – GST on langar: Congress MP’s colourful protest makes heads turn

New Delhi – India, 04 April 2018. Sporting a kurta imprinted with a demand for the rollback of GST on langar, the free community kitchen at the famed Golden Temple, Congress MP from Amrtisar Gurjeet Singh Aujla stood out in the Lok Sabha on April 4.

Amid the din in the House with AIADMK members demanding immediate constitution of the Cauvery Water Management Board, Mr Aujla made many heads turn with the colourful message printed on his white kurta.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, which is the holiest of all Sikh shrines, runs one of the largest community kitchens in the world feeding freshly cooked food to 50,000 devotees on weekdays and over 1 lakh on weekends and festivals.

The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, which manages all gurdwaras, has been urging the Centre to exempt the free kitchens at the Golden Temple and other Sikh shrines from the purview of the Goods and Services Tax.

Earlier, Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had also urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to exempt all purchases made by the SGPC for the langar service from the GST.

After implementation of the GST, the Golden Temple reportedly shelled out over Rs 2 crore extra in 2017 as GST for purchasing ration for the langar. Under the new GST Act, there is a provision for exemption to institutions and businesses on the recommendation of the GST Council.

The Hindu – Poor success rate in cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 04 April 2018. As many as 47,338 cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were registered across the country in 2016, the Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said as per the information provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 40,774 cases were registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and other sections of law over alleged crimes against SCs and STs in 2016.

Of these, charge-sheets were filed in 78.3% cases, and the conviction rate was 25.8%, he said in reply to a written question.

As many as 6,564 cases were registered over alleged crimes against the Scheduled Tribes in 2016, in which charge-sheets were filed in 81.3% cases where the conviction rate was 20.8%, the Minister said.

Mr Ahir said in 2015, a total of 38,564 cases were registered for alleged crimes against the SCs in which charge sheets were filed in 73.8% cases and the conviction rate was 27.2%. He said altogether 6,275 cases were registered for alleged crimes against STs in 2015 in which charge-sheets were filed in 74.3% cases, and the conviction rate was 19.8%.

The Minister said Rule 3 (v) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 specifies that with a view to prevent atrocities on members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the State government, if deemed necessary, can provide arms licenses to members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

“Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. The responsibilities to maintain law and order rest primarily with the respective state governments,” Mr Ahir added.