The Hindu – Open-ended USA presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan on notice, bigger role for India: Trump’s South Asia policy

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations,” Mr Trump said.

Varghese K George

Washington, 22 August 2017. Unveiling a new strategy for South Asia on Monday that has many elements of continuity from the past, President Donald Trump said the USA troops would stay in Afghanistan for an open-ended period of time and America would no longer tolerate Pakistan’s policy of harbouring terrorists.

Mr Trump said America’s strategic partnership with India will deepen in South Asia and the Indo-Pacfic and demanded that India make more financial contribution for the stabilisation of Afghanistan. The President linked this demand to India’s trade surplus with America saying, India makes “billions and billions of dollars” in trade.

In agreeing to continue with American engagement in Afghanistan, Mr. Trump deferred to the advise of conventional military planners in his administration. “My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” the President said, adding that once he studied the Afghanistan situation, he changed his mind.

He did not announce any increase in troops, but said the military will have more operational autonomy to pursue terrorists, and commanders have been given authority to attack whenever they chose to.

“…we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.

These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American arms,” the President said, indicating willingness for a new wave of American offensive against Islamist groups in South Asia.

The Hindu – No communication from Pakistan on ad-hoc judge for Jadhav case: MEA

New Delhi, 19 August 2017. The External Affairs Ministry on Friday said it has not received any communication from Pakistan about launch of a consultation process by it to nominate an ad-hoc judge for the Kulbhushan Jadhav case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“We have seen reports in the media about the issue. We have not been informed officially about this process by relevant authorities,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters, replying to a question on the issue.

According to a Pakistani media report, Islamabad has begun consultations over the nomination of an ad-hoc judge for the Jadhav case and that an ex-attorney general and a former Jordanian premier have emerged as the top contenders.

India had moved the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the death penalty handed down to Jadhav by a Pakistani military court. The ICJ had on May 18 restrained Pakistan from executing the death sentence.

During the tenure of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former Supreme Court judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday was approached, but he declined the nomination, the report by Express Tribune said.

Sources were quoted by the daily as saying that the Attorney General for Pakistan’s (AGP) office has recommended the names of senior lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan and former Jordanian prime minister Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Khasawneh served as an ICJ judge for over a decade, while Khan, a former Attorney General who is seen as the favourite for the job, also has experience in international arbitration cases, having represented eight different countries in international courts.

The Hindu – President Ram Nath Kovind to visit Leh on Monday

The President’s visit will come amid the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam

Sandeep Phukan

New Delhi, 17 August 2017. President Ram Nath Kovind will make a day-long trip to Leh next Monday to honour the 14 Corps of the Army headquartered in Ladakh, amid the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam and just days after they clashed in the Ladakh region.

Mr Kovind will present the Presidential Colours, a rare military honour, to the infantry unit of the 14 Corps in recognition of its exceptional service. But the importance of the Supreme Commander addressing the troops in the border region will not be lost. However, sources in the Rashtrapati Bhavan said the visit was a pre-scheduled one.

Ladakh shares an open border with both Pakistan and China. In recent times, the relations between Indian and Chinese troops have hit a rough patch here too, because of the stand-off at Doklam in the Sikkim sector.

Senior officers of the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army met at Chushul (Leh) met on Wednesday to ease the tensions after the troops were engaged in a scuffle and stone-throwing.

On August 15, Indian troops claimed that the Chinese troops along the Pangong Lake tried to cross over twice. They were stopped by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police before a skirmish started. One-third of the 135-km-long Pangong Lake is on the Indian side and the rest on the Chinese side.

Against this backdrop, a presidential visit assumes significance, though the Rashtrapati Bhavan sources told The Hindu that “too much” should not be read into it.

The last time a President visited Ladakh was in September 2010, when Pratibha Patil travelled to the strategic region after a cloudburst caused large-scale devastation.

The Hindu – Girl raped in Chandigarh on her way to school to celebrate Independence Day

Special Correspondent

Chandigarh, 15 August 2017. A minor girl was kidnapped and raped by an unidentified man in Chandigarh on Tuesday when she was on her way to school to celebrate Independence Day.

The victim, a Class VIII student of the government senior secondary school here was raped allegedly by a middle-aged man at the children’s traffic park, situated in the heart of the city, while she was going to her school enroute the park.

The police said a case of rape and kidnapping has been registered following a complaint by the victim that she was sexually assaulted by a man, who fled the spot after committing the crime.

Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Eish Singhal said the ‘incident’ took place at around 8:15 in the morning on Tuesday. “The girl was going to school and entered the park (children’s traffic park) from the back gate.
A FIR has been registered under section 363, 376 of the Indian Penal Code, besides relevant sections of Protection Of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act,” he said.

“We have rounded up few suspect and investigation is underway. The girl is stable, though she has been traumatised by the incident,” said Mr. Singhal.

Police said the girl narrated the incident to her family, following which police was informed. The accused had dragged her into the ‘nullah’ (seasonal watercourse) that flows through the park, and sexually assaulted her, said Police sources.

The police later took the victim to the government hospital in Sector 16 for a medical examination, which confirmed sexual assault.

Replying to query that the victim was raped on a knife point, Mr. Singhal said ‘it’s being investigated’.

The Hindu – Chandigarh stalking accused sent to judicial custody till August 25

Special Correspondent

Chandigarh, 12 August 2017. Vikas Barala, son of Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala, and his friend, Ashish Kumar, both facing charges of allegedly stalking and an attempted abduction of a 29-year-old young woman, were on Saturday sent to judicial custody till August 25 by a local court.

The duo had been earlier remanded in police custody for two days till August 12. The Chandigarh police produced the accused before the duty magistrate here and sought their judicial custody. The court remanded both the accused in judicial custody.

Both the accused were re-arrested on Wednesday as they were charged with Sections 365 and 511 for attempt to abduct of the IPC in the already registered FIR against them for allegedly stalking and harassing the woman.

Vikas and Ashish were earlier been arrested on August 5 on the complaint of the victim, daughter of an IAS officer, who had accused them of chasing her car and trying to kidnap her. But they were released later on bail.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people from different walks of life participated in the ‘Bekhauf Aazaadi’ march held on Friday night here, to bring public attention to violence against women in the backdrop of the Chandigarh ‘stalking’ episode.

The march started at 10 PM from city’s Rose Garden and culminated at the government Arts College in Sector 10 at midnight.

The demands such as fair investigation in Varnika’s case, no curfews timings for girls and working women hostels, making more female cops available at night, gender sensitization of Police officials, strict and concrete action against drunk driving were raised during the march.

The Hindu – Chandigarh to march for women’s rights to public spaces

‘Bekhauf Aazaadi March’ aims to bring to attention crimes against women, sexual minorities and address patriarchy

Special Correspondent

Chandigarh, 11 August 2017. In the backdrop of the recent ‘stalking episode’ in Chandigarh, the city is preparing for the ‘Bekhauf Aazaadi’ march on Friday night to provide a platform for asserting women’s rights to public spaces.

The organisers of the march, led by poet and activist Amy Singh, have created a Facebook page ‘Bekhauf Aazaadi March/Reclaiming the Streets’, asking people to join the march against patriarchy, binaries, oppression and crimes against women which also extend to sexual minorities.

“This isn’t the first time a woman has been harassed on the streets and it won’t be the last if we don’t reclaim the streets.

It’s about time we smash down the patriarchal norms which restrict the women behind closed doors and set the culprits out loose to wreck havoc,” says the page, pointing out that what happened with the victim of the Chandigarh stalking episode has left the city in jitters.

Ms Singh, in her post, said that the march seeks, in a peaceful manner, to address and bring public attention to violence against women.

“We believe that women and other sexual minorities in India deserve to be able to live in society free from violence. We believe in their right to speedy justice and their right to demand accountability from the justice system,” she said.

The proposed march would start at 10 PM on August 11 from Rose garden and end at the Government Arts College at Sector 10 by midnight.

The Hindu – Kashmir is a political problem: Hamid Ansari

The fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought

New Delhi, 10 August 2017. Outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari spoke to television anchor Karan Thapar on a range of issues. The interview will be aired on Rajya Sabha television on Thursday. Excerpts:

Question: One of the things that attracted enormous attention was in 2015 when senior BJP leader Ram Madhav tweeted criticising your behaviour as Vice-President. I know Mr. Madhav apologised and deleted the tweets but never before has the general secretary of a ruling party publicly questioned, leave aside criticise, the Vice-President. Were you surprised and taken aback by that?

Answer: Surprised, yes, because the facts were well known and very clear and there were my colleagues in office who put the public wise to it very quickly. There was no ambiguity, there was no confusion.

Q. Hardly a day goes by without us reading about cow vigilante attacks. Earlier, we read about lynchings, we have read about beef bans. People who refuse to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ have been told they should leave the country. There have been accusations of Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi campaigns and even killings of rationalists. How do you view all of this?

A. Breakdown of Indian values, breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and overall the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.

Q. Today, there are many who believe we are becoming an intolerant country. Do you fear that yourself ?

A. Yes, because I interact with fellow citizens and there are great many people from different walks of life who come and talk about it.

Q. The Supreme Court has ruled that ‘Jana Gana Mana’ must be played before every film screening. More recently, the Madras High Court ruled that ‘Vande Mataram’ must be sung at least once a week in Tamil Nadu schools and colleges and at least once a month in government offices and private establishments. Once again, these two rulings have divided public opinion. How do you view them?

A. The courts are a part of society. So what the courts tend to say sometimes is reflective of what the prevailing atmosphere in society is. I call that a sense of insecurity… this propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is unnecessary. I am an Indian and that is it.

Q. An issue that dominated the news in recent months concerning the Muslim community is this debate about triple talaq. I want to ask where you as a Muslim stand on it?

A. Firstly, it is a social aberration, it is not a religious requirement. The religious requirement is crystal clear, emphatic, there are no two views about it but patriarchy, social customs have all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable.

Q. Should the court step in?

You don’t have to, the reform has to come from within the community.

Q, Speaking in Bengaluru on Sunday you said and I am quoting “the political immobility in relation to J&K is disconcerting.” Are you suggesting that the governments in Srinagar and Delhi ought to be taking more initiatives and are not. Is that the immobility that you are talking about?

A. Yes. Yes. The problem is and has always been primarily a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.

Q. And politicians today are ducking it?

A. That’s my impression. And I’m not the only one in the country…Well when young boys and girls come out on to the streets and throw stones day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s something to worry about because they are our children, they are our citizens. Something is obviously going wrong. What exactly, I am not the final word on it, but I think there are enough people in the country who are worried about it. Eminent people belonging to different political persuasions and their worry must be taken on board.

Q. Another issue that is problematic today is the India-China standoff at Doklam. Just 48 hours ago or so, Chinese newspaper, the Global Times, quoted a Chinese expert who said that a small scale military operation is possible may be even likely in two weeks. Are you apprehensive about this situation?

A. Not really. I think we have had these periods of standoffs with China. And there is enough knowledge, enough wisdom still available to be able to retrieve situations.

The Hindu – Chandigarh stalking case: State BJP rules out Barala’s resignation

Chandigarh, 7 August 2017. The opposition has been mounting pressure seeking Mr Subhash Barala’s resignation on the issue.

Senior BJP leader Anil Jain, incharge of the party’s Haryana affairs, today ruled out the resignation of its state unit chief Subhash Barala following the arrest of the latter’s son in a stalking case here.

“Subhash Barala has nothing to with the Vikas Barala case. The law is taking its own course. There is no reason for Subhash Barala’s resignation,” Mr. Jain said in a statement here.

Mr. Jain’s statement ruling out Mr. Subhash’s resignation comes a day after Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also said that the BJP state unit chief had “nothing to do with incident”.

The opposition has been mounting pressure seeking Mr. Subhash’s resignation on the issue.

“Subhash Barala has nothing to do with this incident. It is an individual happening, the accused will face action once found guilty. This is my official stand, this was my stand yesterday and today also this is my stand. After this, on this issue, no question, no answer,” Mr. Khattar had told reporters on Sunday.

Mr. Subhash had earlier said that he respects the law and the “truth” will come out through the judicial process.

The son of Haryana’s ruling BJP chief was arrested along with his friend for allegedly stalking a woman here.

Both the accused, Vikas Barala (23) and Ashish Kumar (27), were released later on bail as they were booked under bailable sections of the IPC and the Motor Vehicles Act, amid a major outcry.

The incident came to light when the woman, around 28 years of age, called up the police on Friday night and complained that two youth were chasing her.

Meanwhile, Haryana Congress Chief Ashok Tanwar on Monday met the victim and her family at her residence here and assured her of support in fighting the case.

A protest march was also taken out here over the incident.

“We appreciate the brave girl for standing up to harassment by two men, one of them belonging to an influential family. The whole of Chandigarh stands by her side,” said a citizen.

A Congress worker also accused the Chandigarh police of acting under pressure in the stalking case to protect the accused.

The Hindu – Doklam: Give up illusion, Beijing tells New Delhi

Says no country should underestimate its forces

Atul Aneja

Beijing, 4 August 2017. China’s defence ministry on Thursday stepped up calls for immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from the Doklam plateau. It asserted that Beijing will “resolutely protect” the country’s territorial sovereignty and security interests.

In a statement released on Thursday night, defence ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang urged the “Indian side to give up the illusion of its delaying tactic, as no country should underestimate the Chinese forces’ confidence and capability to safeguard peace and their resolve and willpower to defend national sovereignty, security and development interests”.

“Chinese armed forces will resolutely protect the country’s territorial sovereignty and security interests,” he said.

The statement reiterated the Chinese position that Indian troops in Doklam were being scaled down. It pointed out that as of Thursday “there are still Indian border troops illegally staying in the Chinese territory”.

A 15-page statement by the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday fixed the Indian troop presence at “over 40,” from a peak of 400 and in New Delhi, Liu Jinsong, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Chinese embassy said on Thursday that Indian forces in Doklam numbered 48.

Colonel Ren said that since the incident occurred, “China has shown utmost goodwill and sought to communicate with India through diplomatic channels to resolve the incident.

Chinese armed forces have also shown a high level of restraint with an eye to the general bilateral relations and the regional peace and stability”. But he warned that “goodwill has its principles and restraint has its bottom line”.

Colonel Ren called upon India to “swiftly address the situation in a proper manner to restore peace and tranquillity in the border region”.

The Hindu – Religion tag for Lingayat: Why a plea was set aside earlier

An official, citing various records, had inferred that Veerashaiva/Lingayat is a sect of Hindu

Girish Pattanashetti

Hubballi-Karnataka-India, 4 August 2017. While there is growing demand for separate religion tag for Veerashaiva/Lingayat Dharma, with the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha reiterating it, the body’s earlier efforts on the similar lines had not met with success. Some within the community fear that forwarding the same demand again might meet the same end.

The Veerashaiva Mahasabha, considered a representative body of the community, had approached the High Court of Karnataka seeking separate code for Veerashaiva/Lingayat in the census by filing a writ petition in 1990.

The court had dismissed the petition on the ground that the census instructions to the enumerators allow all religions to be faithfully recorded as reported by the respondents. Thus, all the religions have a fair and equal opportunity to be recorded and providing a code is only an administrative convenience.

What is more interesting is the reply of the Assistant Registrar General of India Pratibha Kumari (dated 14/11/2013) to the letter submitted to the Registrar General of India by the Mahasabha. She recalled the 1990 court order, census reports and works of British writers to argue why the plea of the mahasabha cannot be entertained.

Her objections stem mainly from the data available on the pre-Independence census reports and two works of British authors. In the reply, it is mentioned that the census of pre-Independence period (1891, 1901, 1911, and 1931) reports Lingayats to be “caste Hindu”.

In the reply, it is stated that standard ethnographic literature also substantiate the fact that Lingayat/Veerashaiva is a sect evolved from Hinduism, but it rejects completely the traditional temple cult dominated by Brahmin priest.
“As described by C.B. Brown… Lingayats are anti-Brahminical worshippers of Siva.” Ms. Pratibha Kumari further says that they are disciples of Basavanna whom they regard as a form of God Shiva.

She also quotes from Thurstone’s Castes and Tribes of Southern India (1909: rpt; 1975, Vol IV, page 236) where he says: “Lingayats have been aptly described as a peaceable race of Hindu Puritans. Their religion is a simple one. They acknowledge only one God Siva, and reject the other two persons of the Hindu triad.”

Ms Pratibha Kumari says from the details stated above, that it is inferred that Veerashaiva/Lingayat is a sect of Hindu and not an independent religion.

Interestingly, she has also made an observation regarding people belonging to Scheduled Castes community losing their reservation if the demand is met.

“Over and above, if Veerashaiva/Lingayat is treated as a separate religion by providing separate code other than Hindu, all SCs professing the Veerashaiva/Lingayat sect will lose their constitutional status since SCs can be only from Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh along with their sects,” she said in the letter.

Two views

However, several seers who contend that Lingayat and Veerashaiva are different, feel the term Veerashaiva was the reason for rejection, since it has its roots in Hinduism.

Sanjay Makal, president of Vishwa Lingayata Mahasabha, argues: “What is required now is to understand the reasons for rejection and go with the Lingayat nomenclature for which there is adequate material to support the demand.”

Contesting this, State president of the All-India Veerashaiva Mahasabha. N Thippanna, argued that the 2013 petition had not been fully rejected, but was still pending. “We are going to pursue it after taking everyone into confidence, and we will also seek a recommendation letter from the State government once the differences over Lingayat and Veerashaiva are sorted out,” he said.

Visiting religious heads

On Thursday, the mahasabha began the process of approaching religious heads and scholars in its bid to arrive at a consensus on the nomenclature. It’s national president Shamanur Shivashankarappa and Mr. Thippanna visited Sri Siddalinga Swami of Tontadarya Mutt in Gadag and invited him to participate in a meeting on the issue.