The Hindu – Tension grips Haryana village as demonstrators tell residents to oust Kashmiri students

Ashok Kumar

Gurugram – Haryana – India, 16 February 2019. Tension gripped Mullana village in Haryana’s Ambala on Saturday after some demonstrators told the villagers to oust Kashmiri students who were staying on rent there.

The students are pursuing courses at the Maharishi Markandeshwar University. The demonstrators are said to have told the villagers that the students’ activities were “suspicious”.

They threatened to hold demonstrations outside the houses of villagers who did not send the students away within 24 hours. Announcements were made on loudspeaker too. A video of the situation in Mullana began to circulate on social media.

Police have requested the university authorities to accommodate the students in a hostel on campus.

Ambala Superintendent of Police Astha Modi told The Hindu over phone that the comments in the video were “misdirected” but the situation on the ground was “perfectly normal”. She said that security had been stepped up at the village and around the campus.

“We are speaking to the sarpanches to ensure that no more provocative videos are shot and no one indulges in this kind of activity. We are looking into the security of these students,” said Ms. Modi, adding that there was no formal complaint registered against the shooting of the video.

Sultan Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, said “We have supplied our phone numbers to students and asked them to get in touch if they face any harassment.”

J K Sharma, the university’s dean of students welfare, said around a hundred off-campus students have now been accommodated in the hostel. He said the university had adequate security arrangements and it was safe inside the campus.

Two police personnel were also deployed at the Technology Education and Research Integrated Institutions campus in Kurukshetra in Haryana. M.P. Gupta, adviser to the trust running the institutions, said there were around 15 Kashmiri students in the hostel.


The Hindu – Bhima-Koregaon case: Supreme Court sets aside High Court order refusing police 90-day time to file charge sheet against Gadling, others

Lawyer Surendra Gadling will not be eligible for default bail now.

Krishnadas Rajagopal

New Delhi – India, 13 February 2019. The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside a Bombay High Court order refusing the Maharashtra police a 90-day extension to complete the investigation and file charge sheet against lawyer Surendra Gadling and others accused of Maoist links in the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence.

Mr. Gadling will not be eligible for default bail now. The High Court order on October 24 had opened the window for Mr. Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, activists Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson to seek default bail.

They were arrested on June 6 by the Pune Police and a case was registered against them under the various provisions of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the Indian Penal Code.

“The police started the investigation but could not complete the same. On September 3, 90 days were completed since the date of arrest of the respondents,” the Maharashtra government petition filed through State counsel Nishant Katneshwarkar said.

The petition argued that under Section 43-D (2) of the UAPA Act, the trial court may, on the report of the public prosecutor, extend the detention of the accused for another 90 days.

On September 2, the trial court had allowed an extension of 90 days, following which Mr. Gadling and the others moved the High Court, which set aside the trial court order. The HC however stayed its order till November 1 to give the State time to appeal the Supreme Court.

The State government argued that the HC resorted to a “pedantic view rather than resorting to a pragmatic view”. The HC concluded that the report for the 90-day extension of detention was filed before the Sessions Judge by the case investigating officer instead of the public prosecutor as required by law.

“The public prosecutor, by way of abundant precaution, took signature of the investigating officer. But the High Court was carried away by the fact of signature of the investigating officer and arrived at a conclusion that the report/application was not by the public prosecutor,” the State government contended in the special leave petition.

The State submitted the HC was “carried away” by a reference made by the Sessions Judge that the application for extension was “filed by investigating officer”.

“It appears that more the State took precaution to file the report/application for extension of time to complete the investigation, the more the High Court considered it as improper and thereby passed the impugned order,” the State had complained to the Supreme Court.

The Hindu – NSA for cow slaughter: Congress ‘will not interfere’ in Madhya Pradesh

Backs Kamal Nath on imposing NSA

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 09 February 2019. The Congress on Saturday said it would not “unwarrantedly interfere” in the functioning of the Madhya Pradesh government on the issue of the imposition of the National Security Act (NSA) against persons accused of cow slaughter and cattle smuggling.

The party described Chief Minister Kamal Nath as a “seasoned administrator.” The party said law and order is the domain of the Chief Minister and the police.

The Congress’s position on the issue comes just a day after former Union Minister P Chidambaram called the use of the NSA in this case “a mistake, and wrong.”

“Kamal Nathji has categorically said the law will take its own course. Nobody innocent will be persecuted or punished in any manner, and nobody guilty will be spared,” said the Congress’ communication chief Randeep Surjewala.

He added, “He [Kamal Nathji] is experienced and seasoned enough to see if any officer of the police has made any overreach. We will not unwarrantedly interfere in the functioning of the State Government in any manner.”

His comments are at variance with what Mr Chidambaram had said on Friday with regard to imposing the NSA.

“The use of the NSA in Madhya Pradesh was wrong. If a mistake has been committed, the mistake has been pointed to the government by the leadership,” Mr Chidambaram had said at the formal launch of his new book, Undaunted: Save the Idea of India.

The Hindu – ‘There are no discussions. What Modi says, happens: Kharge

Government not working according to Constitution, says Kharge

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 07 February 2019. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday accused the BJP government of weakening the constitutional institutions everyday and of having no faith in their autonomy.

Replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address, he said the address seemed a compilation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches at rallies. “The Constitution guarantees equal rights to every citizen, but the BJP government doesn’t have faith in the constitutional institutions. Everyday an attempt is made to take away their autonomy,” he said.

Mr. Kharge alleged that the BJP came to power in 2014 by “misleading” the people. He said demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax had affected farmers, workers and small businesses. He demanded a joint parliamentary panel probe into the Rafale jet deal and made a fresh pitch for the passage of the women’s reservation Bill.

“The use of the President’s address for political gains shows how low this government can stoop to save its reputation,” he said.

The day the government introduced the Bill to create 10% reservation for the poor in the general category, a government reply to a question in the Lok Sabha maintained that there was no plan for such a quota.

“This government is not working according to the Constitution. Issues are not being discussed in the Cabinet. Whatever Modiji says, that happens,” Mr. Kharge said.

He listed the achievements of the past Congress governments: reduction in illiteracy and infant mortality; an increase in life expectancy; the Green Revolution; the White Revolution; and an improvement in the living standards.

“At least give us the credit for our work. But you won’t because you are full of hatred. Despite our work, you allege now and then that nothing has happened in the past 60 years,” he said, as his remarks evoked a smile from the Prime Minister.

The Hindu – Punjab seeks debt relief package

‘Recommend graded compensation tapering formula due to revenue loss’

Special Correspondent

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 21 January 2019. Citing tight financial situation faced by the State, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday sought a special debt relief package from the 15th Finance Commission.

The State needs funds to support the government’s efforts to revive fiscal health, along with a one-time package to enable payment of the entire debt of the distressed farmers of Punjab.

At a meeting of the 15th Finance Commission here, Captain Amarinder expressed concern over the permanent loss of revenue suffered by the State after the GST implementation. The compensation from the Centre will also end from July 1, 2022, resulting in a drastic fall in revenue in the range of Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 crore per annum, he pointed out.

An official statement said that in view of the loss, the Chief Minister urged the Commission to recommend a graded compensation tapering formula to the Government of India for States like Punjab beyond June 30, 2022.

The statement added that Captain Amarinder sought a special package for the State due to its special problems such as highest SC population in percentage terms, long and thickly populated border with Pakistan, riverine and sub-mountainous areas and flight of industry due to concessions to neighbouring States.

The Hindu – Ally Akali Dal skips NDA meet citing interference in SGPC

Will forgo alliance if the state of affairs continue, says SAD

Nistula Hebbar

New Delhi – India, 31 January 2019. The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the oldest allies of the BJP and part of the NDA, skipped the customary meeting of alliance partners before the Budget Session of Parliament on Thursday.

According to the Akali Dal’s MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the party was upset over the NDA’s interference in the religious affairs of Sikhs, especially in the Hazoor Sahib Gurdwara in Nanded in Maharashtra and the Patna Sahib Gurdwara.

“We are extremely upset and hurt by what is happening in Hazur Sahib in Nanded. The Rashtriya Sikh Sangat should not interfere in the religious issues related to the Sikhs. We have also been demanding a package for the farmers,” SAD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral said.

The Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, a Sikh body affiliated to the Sangh Parivar, was said to be behind some of these moves.

When asked about the SAD not attending the meeting, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the BJP’s ally had informed in advance that it would not be attending the meeting due to prior engagement.

Sources in the SAD told The Hindu that it was not the first time that the Devendra Fadnavis led Maharashtra government had tried to interfere in the affairs of the Shromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) by foisting its nominees on the Gurdwara boards, and its boycott of the NDA meeting was due to that.

SAD member Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who won a byelection to the Delhi Assembly on BJP ticket in 2017 had in a strongly-worded Facebook post, threatened that the SAD would be willing to forgo its alliance with the BJP, if the state of affairs would continue.

Last week the SGPC had written to Prime Minister Modi himself alleging that the BJP led government of Maharashtra was trying to take control of the board of Hazoor Sahib by amending section 11 of the Takht Shri Hazoor Sahib Board Nanded Act, 1956, which would give the state government the right to appoint the chairman of the board.

“We are also boycotting the meeting as we are anxious that a financial package for farmers be announced in this session,” said a senior source in SAD.

This is not the first time that the SAD has raised this issue, in 2015 too attempts by the Fadnavis government to get people appointed to Gurdwara Boards had forced then Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to speak out against the move.

With the government facing a truculent opposition in the last session before the announcement of General Elections, this is not good news for the BJP.

The Hindu – Pakistan team arrives in India, to visit Chenab basin in Jammu and Kashmir

Since signing of the Indus Water Treaty, a total of 118 such tours on both the sides have been undertaken.

New Delhi – India, 27 January 2019. A Pakistani delegation arrived in India on January 27 to visit the Chenab river basin in Jammu and Kashmir for inspection, as mandated under the Indus Water Treaty, sources said.

Pakistan’s Indus Commissioner Syed Mohammad Mehar Ali Shah arrived in Amritsar along with his two advisers, sources said.

“This tour is an obligation imposed on both the countries by the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 between India and Pakistan. Under the treaty, both the commissioners are mandated to inspect sites and works on both the sides of Indus basin in a block of five years,” a senior official said.

Since signing of the treaty, a total of 118 such tours on both the sides have been undertaken.

The last tours of the commission in Pakistan and India were held in July 2013 and September 2014, respectively. No tour could be held in the current five years block, which ends in March 2020.

This tour will be followed by a visit of India’s Indus Commissioner to Pakistan at a mutually convenient date, the official added.

This tour was originally scheduled in October 2018 but was postponed because of local bodies and panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

Under the Indus Water Treaty, waters flowing in three Indus tributaries, the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi, have been allotted to India, while the Chenab, the Jhelum and the Indus waters have been allotted to Pakistan.

The Hindu – Soon, you can see what Harappans looked like

Experts recreating faces of five skeletal remains; results will be out in 2 months

Ashok Kumar

Gurugram – Haryana – India, 26 January 2019. Have you ever wondered what the people from the Harappan civilisation, more than 8,000 years ago, looked like ? Were they any different from modern day humans in appearance or did they look the same? Interestingly, it may not be long before one can have the answer to these questions.

Koreans roped in

A team led by Professor Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor, Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Deemed University, Pune, is on the brink of recreating the faces of a few skeletal remains, dug up during the excavation of a Harappan site at Haryana’s Rakhigarhi village in Hisar, in collaboration with South Korean scientists.

Dr Shinde told The Hindu that his team was recreating the faces of five skeletal remains and the results would be available within the next two months, soon after the publication of the paper in a journal after its review by experts.

The archaeologist, who along with his 25-member team, comprising experts from different fields, had excavated the site from 2012-16, said they had dug up cemeteries in a targeted excavation to find about 40 human remains.

However, most of the remains were found to be unfit for facial recreation.

“We needed complete skeletal remains in a good condition,” he said. “And we were lucky to find five, three males and two females,” he added.

The skeletal remains were CT scanned and the data fed into a programme developed by the Korean scientists to fill them “layer by layer with blood and flesh to show as to what the Harappan people looked like”, said Dr. Shinde, explaining the forensic facial reconstruction technique.

He added that the tentative results were already available. “We can, therefore, soon answer questions on physical similarities between the modern day population and the Harappan people,” he added.

While the technique in itself is not new, with forensic scientists having helped investigators probe crimes by recreating faces using this technology, it will be the first instance when it will be used in India for the ancient population.

The technique has also been used to recreate faces for the inhabitants of Egyptian and the Mesopotamian civilizations, but never for the Harappan population.

Dr. Shinde also shared that the analyses of the DNA collected from the skeletal remains was at an advanced stage and the findings would be published soon. He rubbished reports that the findings were being delayed due to political pressure, contending that DNA analysis was a lengthy process.

Besides, he added, the samples was very small and the signatures were very weak. “Whatever little we have in terms of DNA data, that needs to be properly authenticated, scientifically analysed and interpreted before it is made public,” contended the professor.

Rakhigarhi is one of the largest sites of the Harappan civilisation and the major objectives behind the excavation there, according to Dr. Shinde, were to trace its beginnings and to study its gradual evolution from 6000 BCE to 2500 BCE, besides protecting it from encroachment by the locals since the village is settled exactly on top of it.

“Another aim was to find out who the Harappan people were. There was a lot of debate whether they had come from West or were locals. We wanted DNA for this and started excavation at burial sites,” said Dr. Shinde.

However, the findings from excavation have now largely substantiated that the Harappans were locals, said Dr. Shinde, explaining that the excavation hinted at the gradual evolution of the Harappans proving that they were locals.

“The structural activity, pottery, jewellery and other crafts seem to have evolved gradually. They did not immediately start with town and villages but started with circular structures to evolve to rectangular ones and then arranged them in a pattern in the third stage before setting up cities in the fourth stage. It substantiates the hypothesis that they were locals and did not come from outside, contrary to the view held by some scholars,” said Dr. Shinde.

He said that Harappans, credited with several present day traditions such as the folded hands greeting or namaste, chicken tandoor, use of the bindi and yoga, also seemed to have started the marriage system.

The Hindu – Panel meeting to decide next CBI chief inconclusive

Sandeep Phukan

New Delhi, 25 January 2019. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led committee to select the next CBI Director will meet again next week as Thursday’s meeting remained inconclusive.

The meeting, held at the Prime Minister’s official residence, was attended by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who represents the Opposition.

“There was discussion on the names. There was no mention of their career details. We [referring to the CJI] have asked them to provide all necessary details. The next meeting will be convened, maybe, by next week,” Mr. Kharge told reporters after the meeting.

Though an official said a list of eligible officers, along with their dossiers, was shared with the panel members, Mr. Kharge is learnt to have said he didn’t have enough background information on the short-listed officers and needed time to go through their details.

According to a source who spoke to The Hindu, nearly 80 names, across four batches of the Indian Police Service (IPS), were short-listed in two annexures that were given to the panel members along with the agenda of the meeting.

The name of Rakesh Asthana of the Gujarat cadre too figured on the list, the source said, adding that there was no discussion on any name.

Mr. Kharge conveyed to the panel his inability to decide on a name until he went through dossiers. The Congress has taken the position that the selection should be based on seniority and merit, two eligibility criteria that are mentioned in the Lokpal Act that now determines the appointment of the CBI director.

The Congress leader, ahead of the meeting, consulted senior party colleagues to formulate the party’s strategy for the meeting. At the meeting, the members also expressed concern over the recent factional fight in the country’s premier investigating agency.

The Opposition leader is said to have told the panel that the spirit of the Vineet Narain judgement of the Supreme Court needed to be followed in the appointment of the new CBI Director.

The post has been lying vacant since January 10 after Alok Verma, involved in a bitter rivalry with Mr. Asthana over corruption charges, was eased out by the selection panel. Mr. Verma’s original tenure was of two years that would have ended on January 31.

However, after his exit, the government appointed M. Nageshwara Rao as interim Director. The Congress, however, took a strong view of the development, describing Mr Rao’s appointment as ‘illegal’.

The Hindu – Modi trying to appoint pliant CBI chief, says Congress

“The process must be transparent and only officers with unblemished record must be considered”

New Delhi – India, 23 January 2019. Ahead of the high-power selection committee meeting on January 24 to decide on the next CBI Director, the Congress on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to appoint a pliant officer.

Deputy leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, told reporters that the process of selecting the CBI chief must be transparent and only officers with unblemished track record should be considered.

“I have said on the 10th of January from this podium that the Prime Minister is desperate to select and appoint a pliant CBI Director to buy future protection for all the acts of omission and commission of his government,” Mr Sharma alleged.

“No officer against whom there is any question mark, any charges during service career, should be considered for empanelment. Otherwise, it would be a gross miscarriage of justice,” he said

On Thursday, the high-power committee, headed by the Prime Minister and including Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, will be meeting to appoint a full time director in place of the former CBI chief Alok Verma.

The country’s premier investigating agency has been in turmoil since October last when the rivalry between Mr Verma and the former number two in the agency, Rakesh Asthana, resulted in a bitter factional feud. On October 23, the government stepped in and sent the former CBI chief on forced leave.

The Supreme Court, after hearing a petition from Mr Verma challenging the manner of his removal, restored his position. However, on January 10, Mr Verma was removed by the high-power committee a second time within 48 hours by a 2:1 majority where the Congress member dissented.

A week later, on January 17, the government transferred out Mr Asthana and has removed several officials to put an end to the factionalism within the CBI.