The Hindustan Times – Citizenship Bill plunges Assam into political uncertainty ahead of LS polls

As protests rage in Assam against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the BJP insists there is no danger to its government.

Utpal Parashar

Guwahati – Assam – India, 13 January 2019. The Asom Gana Parishad’s (AGP) withdrawal of support BJP-led government in Assam last week in protest against the Bill has triggered political uncertainty and fuelled speculations about new political equations.

The BJP on Sunday played down an offer from the Congress to support Assam chief minister Sarbanabda Sonowal if he forms a breakaway government in the light of a massive public opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The Congress sees an opportunity for a comeback in the current political turbulence and has urged Sonowal to quit the saffron party along with MLAs loyal to him.

“It’s an old offer. Sonowal himself and many BJP MLAs have said in the past that they will never support any cause which is detrimental to Assam or Assamese people.

Since a large section in Assam is opposed to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Sonowal along with his supporters should quit the BJP,” said senior Congress leader Debabrata Saikia.

“We are willing to support a Sonowal-led government, from within or outside, if the chief minister takes up our offer,” Saikia, who is leader of opposition in the Assam assembly, added.

The BJP has 62 seats in the 126-member assembly while coalition partner Bodo Peoples’ Front has 12. The AGP has 14 MLAs, the Congress 24 and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has 13.

The ruling party insists that Sonowal ditching the BJP is unthinkable.

“Saikia’s offer is completely hypothetical. Sonowal is a mass leader who knows that the Bill is going to benefit the people of Assam in the long run. He is not hungry for power and there’s no question of him leaving BJP to join hands with Congress,” said BJP’s Assam unit chief Ranjit Dass.

The Bill which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians, Jains and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, was passed in the Lok Sabha last week and is expected to come up for voting in Rajya Sabha in the next session beginning on January 31.

Fears of threat to indigenous populations from immigrants from Bangladesh due to passage of the Bill has led to protests in all seven states in the region and some BJP allies have threatened to follow the AGP if the amendment is passed in Rajya Sabha.

Amid the turbulence, the AGP on Saturday gave indications of joining hands with the BJP again if the saffron party withdraws the Bill in the interest of Assam.

“It seems highly improbable that the BJP would backtrack on its support to the Bill now. But if they do, we may reconsider our earlier stance. Otherwise there’s no question to supporting them again,” said AGP president Atul Bora.

The former minister in the Sonowal cabinet denied speculations that AGP might form an alliance with the Congress or AIUDF. Bora also refused to comment on whether his party will contest Lok Sabha polls alone or join an alliance.

“We are not thinking on those lines at all at the moment. Our aim now is to join forces with the people of Assam and those groups who are opposing the Bill,” he said.

The BJP said it is open to welcoming AGP if the regional party gives up its opposition to the Bill.

“Both BJP and AGP are united in our opposition to the Congress. Our party is committed to passing the CAB in parliament. But if AGP wants to join us again, without any pre-conditions, we will welcome them,” said Dass.

In another development, opposition by tribal groups in the state to the Centre’s move to grant scheduled tribe (ST) status to six more communities has turned a volatile situation even more fraught.

On Friday, the Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations in Assam (CCTOA) had called a 12-hour shutdown across the state in protest against the Centre’s move to give ST status to Tai Ahoms, Muttocks, Morans, Adivasis, Koch Rajbongshis and Chutias.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is wrong because it is based on the religious or ethnic background of refugees. Hazaras from Balochistan and Afghanistan and Rohingiyas from Myanmar are genuine refugees, just like Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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The Hindustan Times – AGP withdraws support to BJP in Assam over Citizenship Bill

The announcement followed AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta’s statement here that the party would withdraw support to the government in the state if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in passed by Lok Sabha.

Sadiq Naqvi

New Delhi – India, 07 January 2019. The Asom Gana Parishad on Monday pulled out of the BJP-led coalition in Assam against a controversial bill that seeks to give citizenship to minorities of Bangladesh, party chief Atul Bora announced after meeting Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The AGP’s exit, however, does not present any immediate danger to the survival of the Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government. The BJP has 61 MLAs in the 126-member Assembly and enjoys the support of the Bodo People’s Front (BPF) which has 12 MLAs.

“We made a last-ditch attempt today to convince the Centre not to pass the Bill. But Rajnath Singh told us clearly that it will be passed in Lok Sabha tomorrow. After this, there is no question of remaining in the alliance,” Bora said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday had said his government will try to get the Bill passed in Parliament soon. “It (the Bill) is connected to the emotions and lives of people.

It is not for the benefit of anyone but a penance for the injustices done in the past,” Modi said at a rally in Assam’s Bengali-speaking Barak Valley, where voices demanding the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill are the loudest.

The assurance had riled the AGP which prompted the party’s leadership to reach Delhi to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh. AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta had warned that the party would withdraw support to the state government if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is passed.

In December last year, Bora had written to BJP chief Amit Shah about the AGP’s reservations on the Bill and had said that it will make the Assam Accord “meaningless”.

“Our alliance with the BJP was based on the Assam Accord ansd other issues crucial to the state. The Centre had violated the understanding by introducing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in Parliament,” read the letter.

The AGP chief had urged Shah to intervene and said his party will never support the obnoxious Bill.

The Bill seeks to amend Citizenship Act 1955 to grant Indian nationality to people from minority communities, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don’t possess any proper document.

The Bill has been opposed by a large section of people and organisations in the Northeast. The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI (M) and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion and that it is unconstitutional.

Those that are part of persecuted minorities should be granted political asylum
This bill gives special rights to specific groups fleeing Muslim countries
but denies those rights to Muslims fleeing a Buddhist country
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The Hindustan Times – From today, Gujarat students to answer roll call with Jai Hind, Jai Bharat

The objective of the new practice is to “foster patriotism among students right from childhood,”said a notification issued by the Directorate of Primary Education and Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board

Ahmedabad – Gujarat – India, 010 January 2019. Students of Gujarat schools will answer roll calls with ‘Jai Hind’ or ‘Jai Bharat’ instead of the current ‘yes sir’ and ‘present sir’ from January 1 in order to foster patriotism, a notification issued Monday stated.

The notification, issued by the Directorate of Primary Education and Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB), lays down that students of Class 1-12 in government, grant-in-aid and self-financed schools will have to respond to the attendance call with “Jai Hind” or “Jai Bharat,” starting January 1.

The objective of the new practice is to “foster patriotism among students right from childhood,” it said.

As per the notification, the decision was taken by the state Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama in a review meeting held Monday. Copies of the notification were sent to the district education officials with instructions to implement it from January 1.

Minister Chudasama could not be contacted for comment despite repeated attempts.

The Hindustan Times – 1984 anti-Sikh riots survivors deface Delhi’s Rajiv Chowk signboard, demand its renaming

The protesters demanded renaming Rajiv Chowk, previously known as Connaught Place, after revolutionary leader Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The incident comes a day after a statue of the late prime minister was vandalised in Ludhiana in Punjab by Akali Dal leaders.

New Delhi – India, 26 December 2018. A group of survivors of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots on Wednesday allegedly defaced a “Rajiv Chowk” signboard in Central Delhi and demanded renaming of the area, previously known as Connaught Place, after revolutionary leader Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Raising slogans against former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the protesters garlanded the signboard with shoes and slippers and sprayed black paint on it.

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) approached the police in this regard.

“A case for defacement of public property has been registered on the basis of a complaint filed by the NDMC,” DCP (New Delhi) Madhur Verma said.

The incident comes a day after a statue of the late prime minister was vandalised in Ludhiana in Punjab by Akali Dal leaders.

The Hindustan Times – The road ahead for Kamal Nath won’t be easy

By setting up a 22-member committee for implementing farm loan waiver, the new chief minister has shown that he is earnest. But he will have to go beyond these populist measures if the Congress has to consolidate its gains in Madhya Pradesh.

Yogesh Vajpeyi

Bhopal – Madhya Pradesh – India. 20 December 2018. The alacrity with which Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Kamal Nath, has announced the new government’s two decisions, farm loans waivers and limiting government incentives to industries that employ 70% locals, has stunned the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which lost its seemingly impregnable strongholds in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan in recent assembly elections.

Jayant Malya, former finance minister in the state’s outgoing BJP government, has dubbed them as decisions taken in haste and without proper homework.

Kamal Nath, a canny political strategist, knows that he has no time to lose as the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are not far away. The newly installed Congress government has to fulfil the two main poll promises the party made to electorates in the three states to retain their support.

Nath also realises that the challenge from the BJP is more formidable in Madhya Pradesh. Despite losing the numbers game, the BJP’s vote share was 0.1 percentage point more than that of the Congress and the party has a strong base across the state.

In as many as 10 seats, the margin of victory was less than 1,000 votes. The Congress won seven of these. Two of the other three seats were decided by margins of less than 350 and 121 votes. The Congress came third in 14 seats in Madhya Pradesh and fared even worse in five seats.

In the current Lok Sabha, only two of the 29 seats are with the Congress, Chindwara. represented by Nath, and Guna, represented by Jyotiraditya Scindia. If the results of the recent assembly elections are extrapolated on the Lok Sabha post-2019 elections, the Congress can snatch at least 10 BJP seats.

Nath’s first test in the coming Lok Sabha elections will be not only to retain this edge but improve upon it, if possible.

This will not be easy. Apart from providing good governance, he will also have to tone up the party organisation in Malwa, Gwalior, Mahakoshal and Vindhya regions of the state. His seniority and acceptability across different factions are an advantage.

An even trickier question for the Congress in the run up to Lok Sabha elections will be to revisit the issue of its alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a move that would have significantly improved its performance in recent elections.

No mention of Kamal Nath’s role in the 1984 anti-Sikh Pogroms
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The Hindustan Times – Rajasthan Assembly Election results 2018: Jats get maximum seats in the house followed by Rajputs

The Rajputs had openly revolted against the BJP, which it traditionally supported. The party fielded 26 Rajputs and the Congress gave tickets to 15. Of the 41 from the community in the fray, 10 won from BJP and seven from the Congress.

Rakesh Goswami

Jaipur – Rajastan – India, 13 December 2018. Jats, who form the biggest caste group in Rajasthan with 9% population, got 37 seats in the 200-member state assembly, election for which was held on December 7.

They are followed by the Rajputs, with 6% of the population, who accounted for 17 seats. The Jat-dominated Marwar and Shekhawati regions with 31 constituencies saw voters sending 25 winners from the community.

The Rajputs had openly revolted against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which it traditionally supported. The party fielded 26 Rajputs and the Congress gave tickets to 15. Of the 41 from the community in the fray, 10 won from BJP and seven from the Congress.

The 2018 assembly elections saw Meenas and Gujjars, two influential communities, who saw their fortunes fluctuate between the BJP and Congress.

Gujjars, who are traditionally BJP supporters, managed to field nine candidates and failed to bag even a single seat. However, the Congress that fielded a dozen from the community, including state party president Sachin Gujjar, managed to win five seats.

The Meenas, who have been Congress supporters, rejected Kirodi Lal Meena, who claims to be the biggest tribal leader in the state. Eighteen Meena legislators have been elected; nine from Congress, five from the BJP, and three independents.

The Congress fielded 32 Jats and 29 candidates from the community fought on BJP tickets. In the results announced on December 11, 18 Jats from the Congress and 12 from the BJP have won the elections.

The Brahmins, who got 19 tickets from the BJP and 22 from the Congress, polarised candidates of the community, overriding the party lines. They elected almost an equal number of MLAS from both parties. The 2018-2023 assembly will have eight Brahmin MLAS from the BJP and nine from the Congress.

Apart from these, the Congress fielded 15 Muslims, out of which seven won. BJP’S lone Muslim candidate, Yunus Khan, lost to Sachin Pilot in Tonk.

The Jats, Rajputs, Gujjars, Meenas, Brahmins and Muslims account for 106 legislators in the 2018 Assembly. There are 59 seats reserved for the SC and ST, and on the remaining 35, other backward classes (OBC) candidates and others have won.

Former head of sociology department at University of Rajasthan in Jaipur, Professor Rajiv Gupta, said, “It is unfortunate that caste continues to be a reality in Indian elections.”

“Parties talk about development plank during campaigns, but when it comes to brass talks, they fall back on castes. The list of candidates for 2018 election from both major political parties was no different,” he added.

The Hindustan Times – Dalit MP Savitri Bai Phule quits BJP over ‘ignoring community’s issues’

The youngest Dalit MP in Lok Sabha, 37-year-old Savitri Bai Phule is expected to announce her next political move at a rally in Lucknow’s Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan on 23 December.

Manish Chandra Pandey

Lucknow – Uttar Pradesh – India, 07 December 2018. BJP’s Dalit MP from Uttar Pradesh, Savitri Bai Phule resigned from the party on Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s death anniversary on Thursday after accusing the BJP of ignoring Dalit issues.

Immediately after sending her resignation to BJP chief Amit Shah, she told HT on phone that several other Dalit and OBC MPs from the BJP were in touch with her and might quit soon.

Phule’s letter questioning BJP’s commitment to reservation in April, a charge she repeated on Thursday, had resulted in several other Dalit MPs writing to BJP accusing it of neglecting them and their issues.

The youngest Dalit MP in Lok Sabha, 37-year-old Phule is expected to announce her next political move at a rally in Lucknow’s Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan on 23 December.

“We are expecting two lakh people at the rally,” said Phule’s aide Ranjeet Kumar. A first time lawmaker from Balha in 2012, she had become an MP from Bahraich in 2014 on a BJP ticket. She had previously been in the BSP and some political leaders indicated that she had feelers from the Samajwadi Party.

The BJP reacted cautiously to her resignation. “We have always been championing cause of the Dalits. It’s not for nothing that today we have maximum Dalit MLAs and MPs and our Dalit support is growing,” said UP BJP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak.

He, however, added, “All that I would like to say is several people, including Dalit and OBC leaders from other parties, are also in touch with us.” Soon after sending her resignation, Phule also held a press conference in Lucknow where she attacked the BJP.

Her resignation came in the middle of BJP’s Dalit connect initiatives in UP which have seen the party holding meetings with all Dalit subcastes in the state capital.

“I have been raising Dalit issues in Lok Sabha since 2014, but since I come from a marginalised community, my voice was always ignored. That’s why I have decided to quit the party. I have raised the same issues in the state capital too,” she said.

Two days back Phule had taken on chief minister Yogi Adityanath over his alleged ‘Hanuman a Dalit’ remark saying if Lord Hanuman was indeed a Dalit, then the community should get right over his temples. She had also described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cleanliness campaign or ‘swacchta abhiyaan’ a sham.

The Hindustan Times – Not in Pakistan’s interest to let its soil be used for terrorism: Imran Khan

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was speaking to Indian journalists at the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad.

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 29 November 2018. It is not in Pakistan’s interest to allow anyone to use our soil for terrorism, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday, a day after he underscored unanimity within the country’s civilian and military leadership for better ties with India at the Kartarpur corridor event.

Khan, who spoke to a group of visiting Indian journalists at the Prime Minister’s office, said Pakistan could only try.

“We can try but the rest is up to India. What else can we do,” Imran Khan, who completes 100 days of his government today, said.

India has refused to resume talks with Pakistan, demanding that its neighbour first stop sponsoring terrorism in India.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had this week made it clear that India’s participation at a possible SAARC Summit in Islamabad would also depend on Pakistan’s approach towards terror and the Kartarpur corridor gesture wasn’t enough to resume bilateral dialogue.

In the past, Islamabad has suggested that India’s reluctance on resumption of dialogue was dictated the ruling BJP-led national coalition’s political compulsions ahead of next year’s general elections.

Imran Khan alluded to this perception on Thursday as well. Pakistan, he said, is willing to wait till after the Indian elections for any gesture from Delhi for resumption of bilateral relations.

Asked about the action taken by Islamabad against 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed, Prime Minister Khan said there were United Nations sanctions against his group.

“There is a clampdown on him,” he said. As for the Mumbai terror attacks case, PM Khan said the case is in court and the matter is sub judice”.

Imran Khan said people in Pakistan want peace with India.

“The mindset of people here has changed,” Khan said, according to news agency PTI.

Imran Khan said he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier and I would be happy to talk to him anytime. He remembers his first conversation with him as a “very good conversation”.

At his Kartarpur corridor event speech, Imran Khan had stressed that a “determined leadership” is needed in both countries to settle the Kashmir issue. The reference to Kashmir had riled New Delhi that hit back, condemning Khan’s effort to politicise “a pious occasion” with his mention of Kashmir.

Imran Khan said India needs to look at Kashmir differently and not as a territorial issue. Military solution and the use of force hasn’t worked in Kashmir, Khan said, adding that if nothing else, “we want the government of India to do something for the people of Kashmir”.×60/0

The Hindustan Times – Centre to build Kartarpur corridor till Pakistan border: Arun Jaitley

New Delhi – India, 22 November 2018. The central government has decided to develop the Kartarpur Sahib corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district till the gurdwara in Pakistan.

This was announced today by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at a press briefing in new Delhi. The decision to build the corridor has been taken keeping in mind the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019.

The government has decided to celebrate the anniversary in a grand way, Jaitley said. He said that the corridor is being built since Guru Nank Dev had spent 18 years of his life there and people throng to the border to pay their homage.

Jaitley said that the corridor will be built with facilities similar to those of an international airport.

The Hindustan Times – Punjab government employees’ accounts frozen, salaries debited after double payment

The accounts were frozen after the Punjab government realised that some employees have been paid double salary following a technical glitch. And if this was not enough, the government debited the salary of some employees who did not even receive the double payment.

Aneesha Sareen Kumar

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 07 November 2018. It was ecstasy, chaos and misery for Punjab government employees in a span of just three days.

On Saturday, some employees found they had been paid double salary for October, thinking that the Punjab government gave them a Diwali gift. But their happiness was short-lived as they could not withdraw their hard-earned money for three days.

Their accounts were frozen after the government realised that some employees have been paid double salary following a technical glitch. And if this was not enough, the government debited the salary of some employees who did not even receive the double payment.

District public relations officer Prabhdeep Singh said he received an SMS on Tuesday evening that his salary has been debited form his account. “I received a single salary and that too has been debited. With Diwali holiday tomorrow, I don’t know what to do,” he said in despair.

Earlier, it was utter chaos at the offices of the Punjab government in Ludhiana district as a number of employees belonging to different departments couldn’t withdraw their salaries, a day ahead of Diwali. To add to this, a number of employees who had not received double salary also found their accounts frozen.

More than Rs 100 crore excess payment was made to government employees across Punjab. In Ludhiana district alone, it was Rs 63 crore and the figure was Rs 50 crore in Amritsar district.

It was on Monday that the employees realised that their accounts have been frozen and started visiting banks as well as the district treasury office.

On Tuesday evening, the administration issued directions to the zonal officers of Cooperative Bank, Union Bank of India and Punjab National Bank to revoke the bank accounts. But some employees, who had not received double salary, were shocked after they received an SMS saying that their October salary has been debited from their account.

Till the filing of this report, the salary of many senior officials in the administration and the police had been debited from their bank accounts sending them into a tizzy.

“The officials are working to resolve the issue and the employees whose salaries have been debited will get the money back soon,” said a senior official in Ludhiana administration, requesting anonymity.

An assistant sub-inspector said he needed money to buy sweets, clothes and gifts for his family but could not withdraw the salary. “I never received double salary, why am I made to suffer? Also, even those who have received double salary have not committed any mistake that they are being deprived of their money.

I am not even able to withdraw the amount that was there before I received the salary,” he said.