The Statesman – Man attacked, house set on fire in Jharkhand after cow found dead outside

New Delhi. 28 June 2017. A man was severely beaten up and his house was set on fire by a mob on Tuesday after a dead cow was allegedly found outside his place in Jharkhand’s Giridih district.

A frenzy mob attacked the dairy owner Usman Ansari and his house was set on fire after some people spotted a dead cow outside his house.

The police immediately rushed to the site and Ansari was taken to a nearby hospital. “Our men braved the crowd and immediately rescued Ansari and his family members.

When the police tried to take him to hospital, there was resistance from the crowd. There was heavy stone-pelting. We had to open fire in the air,” Jharkhand police spokesperson and ADG (Operations) RK Mullik said.

“About 50 policemen were also injured in the stone pelting,” Mullik added.

Heavy security has been deployed in the village, which is around 200km from Ranchi, to maintain the law and order.

The Statesman – Opposition to meet on Thursday, Meira Kumar likely to be candidate

New Delhi, 21 June 2017. Unfazed by JD-U’s decision to back NDA’s Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, major opposition parties will meet here on Thursday amid indications that former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar could be their nominee for the presidential election.

Meira Kumar met Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Wednesday. Though there was no official word about the meeting, it is widely believed that Meira Kumar could be the opposition’s choice against Kovind.

Like Kovind, Meira Kumar belongs to the Dalit community. She was the first woman speaker of Lok Sabha and also has been a Union Minister.

Ahead of meeting of opposition parties, Communist Party of India leader D Raja said that JD-U was one of the opposition parties which had come together to field a common candidate in the presidential polls and its parting ways will not have any bearing on the stance of other parties.

“It is one party. We are 17 parties who came together on the issue. (Bihar Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar has taken such a position, it is for him. It does not mean all others follow Nitish Kumar,” Raja told IANS.

Gandhi had taken the initiative to talk to opposition parties to evolve a consensus candidate in the presidential election. Nitish Kumar was among the leaders who met her and JD-U leaders took part in all meetings of the grouping.

JD-U leader Sharad Yadav was also a member of the sub-committee formed by opposition parties to decide the presidential candidate.

The Left parties are keen to put up a candidate against Kovind in what they call an “ideological battle”.

Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Wednesday that there would be a “strong candidate” against Kovind.

“The question is of a political battle, whether the basics of our Constitution would be protected or RSS would convert the country into a Hindu Rashtra (nation),” Yechury said.

It remains to be seen if BSP, which has also said that it cannot oppose a Dalit candidate unless the opposition has a more popular Dalit nominee, attends the opposition meeting.

For the record, the Congress said the question whether they would be putting up a candidate against Kovind will be known only after Thursday’s meeting.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, whose father Mulayam Singh Yadav is toeing a different line, said that his party would go with the opposition led by Congress.

“There should be no talk about whether a Dalit should be there (be a President), caste or religion. Whoever would be the protector of the Constitution should be above caste and religion,” he said adding that his party would attend the opposition’s meeting on Thursday.

The other name doing the rounds as possible opposition candidates is of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who also belong to the Dalit community.

The Statesman – Presidential poll: Six file nominations on day one

New Delhi, 14 June 2017. Six candidates filed their papers for the presidential election on the first day of nominations, officials said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the Election Commission issued notification for the presidential poll, setting the ball in motion for the July 17 election to the country’s highest constitutional post.

Those who filed nominations on Wednesday include K Padmarajan from Salem in Tamil Nadu, who has earned the moniker of ‘Election King’ by contesting more than 150 elections.

His name figures in the Limca Book of Records for being the “most unsuccessful candidate”.

Earlier, Padmarajan has contested against political bigwigs like J Jayalalithaa, M Karunanidhi, A K Anthony, P V Narasimha Rao, K R Narayanan, S M Krishna, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (in Rajya Sabha polls) and President Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential election.

Others who filed their nominations were Anand Singh Kushwaha from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, A Bala Raj from Mahbubnagar in Telangana, Saira Bano Patel from Mumbai, Abdul Hamid Patel from Mumbai, and Kondekar Vijayprakash from Pune in Maharashtra.

Lok Sabha Secretary General Anoop Mishra, the Returning Officer for the election, issued the notification that the nomination papers may be delivered by a candidate or any of their proposers/seconders not later than 28 June.

Voting will take place from 10 am. to 5 pm on July 17 at places fixed under the rules.

The vote count will be on July 20, four days before incumbent Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends on July 24. The new President is set to assume office the following day.

The Statesman – Pakistan visit row: SGPC to take up issue with Sushma Swaraj

Pankaj Dhiman

Chandigarh, 10 June 2017. A day after Pakistan accused India of preventing 66 Sikh pilgrims from travelling to the country for the annual ‘Jor Mela’ in Lahore, the Shromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) on Saturday said it will take up the issue with the Union government.

Eighty Sikh pilgrims had visas to travel to Pakistan, but 66 did not reach Lahore as Pakistan authorities alleged “India stopped them at Attari railway station, citing technical reasons”.

As per the reports, the Samjhauta Express train left from Pakistan for Attari on Thursday to bring 80 Sikhs for the ‘Jor Mela’ but when it reached there its staff was told by Indian authorities that the Sikh pilgrims could not board it as their visa only allow them to go to Pakistan on a special train.

The SGPC president, Kirpal Singh Badungar was not available for comment, but his chief secretary Harcharan Singh told The Statesman that the apex Sikh body will write to the Union Minister of External Affairs(MEA), Sushma Swaraj to express their resentment over the denial of permission to travel to Pakistan for the 10-day festival, which is also called ‘Shaheedi Jor Mela’ and will be held at Panja Sahib and Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.

Terming the move a ‘dishonour’ of religious sentiments, Singh said as many pilgrims from Pakistan visit India every year, there was no reason for the Indian authorities to stop Sikh pilgrims from going to Pakistan.

“We fail to understand the denial of entry to Sikh pilgrims at Attari border as the visas were issued after following the proper procedure. The technical reasons should have been addressed in advance to avoid inconvenience to pilgrims.
We are in process to ascertain the ‘technical reasons’ cited by the Indian government. We strongly condemn the Indian government’s move,” he said.

‘Jor Mela’ is observed to mark the death anniversary of fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev. The 10-day festival, which is also called Shaheedi Jor Mela, will be held at Panja Sahib and Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore. The 14 pilgrims were taken to Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal.

The Statesman – Presidential poll on 17 July

The President shall be elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament; and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the States.
Article 54 of the Indian Constitution

New Delhi, 7 June 2017. The presidential poll will be held on 17 July, the Election Commission of India announced on Wednesday. Counting of votes if necessary will be taken up on 20 July, it stated.

Announcing the schedule, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said the notification for the election would be announced on 14 June, the last date for nominations is 28 June, and candidates can withdraw their nomination on or before 1 July, the CEC said.

On 17 July, voting will begin at 10 am and continue till 5 pm. On 20 July, counting will begin at 11 am and the results will be announced by the Commission on its completion.

The term of the present incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee will end on 24 July.

The voting will be through secret ballot, the CEC said. For marking the vote, the commission will supply particular pens. This pen will be given to the electors in the polling station by the designated official when the ballot paper is handed over.

“Electors have to mark the ballot only with this particular pen and not with any other pen. Voting by using any other pen may lead to invalidation of the vote at the time of counting,” Zaidi said. “A ballot paper would also be termed invalid ‘if any mark is made by which the elector may afterwards be identified,” he said.

The CEC said no political party can issue a whip to its MPs and MLAs in the matter of voting in the Presidential election, but the EC would make sure that no offence of ‘bribery’ or undue influence’ takes place during the poll.

“It is also clarified that as per Section 18 of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952, the offence of ‘bribery’ or ‘undue influence’ as defined in Sections 171B and 171C of IPC, by the returned candidate or any person with the consent of the returned candidate are among the grounds on which the election can be declared void by the Supreme Court in an election petition,” the CEC said.

“Counting of votes will be held in New Delhi under the supervision of the Returning Officer. On completion of counting, Return of Election will be signed and issued by the Returning Officer declaring the candidate who secures the quota elected. Formal announcement of election of the President will be made by the Commission,” the CEC added.

The Statesman – Centre appoints 5 members to minorities panel

New Delhi, 24 May 2017. Facing flak from opposition over vacancies in the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), the Centre has appointed five members to the panel.

The NCM, which has the responsibility of protecting interests of the minority communities, was left with no member in March this year.

All its seven members, appointed by previous Congress-led UPA-II government, had retired between September 9, 2015 and March 9 this year.

According to sources in the Union Minority Affairs Ministry, social activist from Uttar Pradesh Gayarul Hasan will be the chairperson of the Commission.

Activist and BJP leader from from Kerala George Kurian, former Maharashtra minister Sulekha Kumbhare, Jain representative from Gujarat Sunil Singhi and Vada Dasturji Khurshed, chief priest of Udvada Athornan Anjuman, are the other members of the panel.

The process to appoint two more members of the panel, which is expected to be functional in a day or two, “is on”, the sources added.

This is for the first time that a Jain member will be part of the panel after the community was notified as ‘minority’ in January 2014.

“So far the tradition was that the Commission had a retired judge or bureaucrat as its chairperson or member.

“It is perhaps for the first time that all the members are social activists who know the ground realities,” the sources said.

When asked, Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi confirmed the development.

“These are very capable people. We hope they will do justice to the issues relating to minorities,” Naqvi added.

The alleged delay in filling the vacancies in the Commission was raised by the opposition to attack the government during the last Parliament session.

The NCM was set up under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 to look into complaints from members of five religious communities: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis).

The panel has seven members, including its chairperson and vice chairperson.

Besides NCM, 15 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Assam, which are home to sizeable minority populace, have set up commissions at their respective levels.

Aggrieved persons belonging to these communities may approach the state minorities commissions concerned for redressal of their grievances or send their representations to the NCM after exhausting all avenues of remedies available.

The functions of the state commissions, inter-alia, are to safeguard and protect the interests of minorities provided in the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament and state legislatures.

The Statesman – India, Belgium hold talks on Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty

New Delhi, 18 May 2017. India and Belgium here on Thursday conducted negotiations on the proposed Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) on criminal matters, an official said.

The Belgium delegation was led by Steven Limbourg, General Counsellor and Head of the Directorate-III Criminal Law of the Directorate General Legislation, fundamental rights and freedoms, while the Indian delegation was led by Bipin Mallick, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said a Home Ministry statement.

“The meeting was held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere,” the statement said.

MLAT is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public or criminal laws.

I always worry about this type of talks with India, which is still seen by many as the world’s biggest democracy. Big it is, but a democracy ?  No respect for religious and ethnic minorities, no respect for Dalits. Mass killings of Sikhs and Muslims, without the perpetrators being punished, and people peacefully campaigning for greater autonomy or independence of parts of India branded as terrorists.  And this does not only affect people living in India, even some Belgian citizens of Indian origin are on India’s blacklist.
Man in Blue

The Statesman – Sour secularism

Op/Ed, New Delhi, 12 May 2017. It was more likely an example of typical journalistic overdoing of the reading between the lines, and less any sort of “official” projection.

Still, it was disturbing that media reports should highlight as “unique” the composition of the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India examining the “triple talaq” issue as comprising representatives of five faiths: Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and Christian.

And that was hailed as a shining example of Indian secularism. The disgust was further enhanced when one report found it prudent to clarify that judges drew conclusions on the basis of merit only, and the sole yardstick was the Constitution.

The unstated reasoning being that in normal course personal religious beliefs and practices did influence the judicial processes.

Whether intentional or inadvertent is immaterial, great dishonour and disservice had been done to their Lordships, they have been dragged to a new low, particularly since the government has been insisting (not that everyone accepts it) that the core issue is gender equality, not any underhand tinkering with Muslim personal law.

Whether the court chooses to take cognizance of such reports and dispels possible misconceptions is left for their Lordships to take a call on: ideally such matters could be ignored, but silence could also be perceived as endorsement.

The unhealthy “development” is actually a realistic reflection on how society has been divided so that everyone’s bona fides are now suspect, and members of minority communities are constantly required to re-prove their national credentials.

It is no longer deemed embarrassing to perceive polls prospects on caste and communal lines, and “strategies” are drawn up to exploit those divisions. The same holds true in matters of selection and appointments, and people, judges included, now claim to be victimised when they belong to less favoured castes.

On the national security front there is a convenient yet sinister overlapping of Muslim and Pakistani, even folk in the North-east lament they are not accepted as “truly Indian”.

Woe betide anyone in an Indian stadium who applauds the performance of a Pakistani sportsman, maybe it is “advisable” to ensure that sporting contacts remain suspended, or restricted to neutral venues.

Cultural exchanges are now curtailed, artistes hardly welcomed across the Radcliffe Line: why, even a tour of India by schoolchildren from Pakistan had to be scrapped.

The apprehensions of the Dalit communities are a sordid chapter in itself, another unbecoming reflection of grim realities. All this is what the President has been trying to rectify by his repeated condemnation of an intolerant society.

And now the malaise has spread to the extent of judges of the highest court of the land also being identified on skewed lines. The “colonials” were condemned for divide and rule practices: is present Indian “thinking” any less demeaning?

The Statesman – India, UK hold first Home Affairs Dialogue, discuss extradition issue

New Delhi, 4 May 2017. India and the UK on Thursday held their first Home Affairs Dialogue with the two countries represented by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and UK Home Office Second Permanent Secretary Patsy Wilkinson at the talks.

The meeting was held as a follow-up of the UK Prime Minister’s visit to India in November 2016, and the commitment of the two Prime Ministers for enhanced and strengthened dialogue.

Both sides expressed satisfaction in matters relating to extradition of wanted persons. The process involved in matters of extradition and the need to further improve them were also discussed.

Both sides agreed to address the challenges of illegal migrants. They will work together to ensure smooth return of Indians overstaying in UK subject to nationality verification*.

Regarding criminal data sharing and strengthening cooperation in tackling serious and organised crimes, the two sides expressed their satisfaction in the existing level of cooperation.

They also agreed to enhance and strengthen further the bilateral cooperation and work towards formalising the arrangements.

India raised the issue of visa related difficulties faced by Indian students, skilled professionals and dependents of Indian diplomats. The UK side said this would be looked into.

The UK side mentioned that it has been their constant endeavour to improve the visa process to promote people to people exchanges that exist between the two countries.

The UK side also briefed India about the progress regarding the Registered Travellers Scheme and great club announcements which were made during the UK Prime Minister’s visit in 2016.

Both India and the UK laid emphasis on cooperation over the anti-terrorism mechanism and to strengthen mutual support to check cyber crime. The two countries agreed to formalise these arrangements.

*This verification by India is a slow process, which frustrates the UK authorities.

The Statesman – India hopes Pakistan expedites visas for Jadhav’s parents; seeks his health certificate

Statesman News Service

New Delhi, 27 April 2017. India on Thursday stuck to its position that Kulbhushan Jadhav had been awarded death sentence by a Pakistan military court on ‘baseless’ charges while Islamabad claimed that the former Indian Navy officer had been tried for espionage in a ‘transparent manner’ in accordance with the law of the land.

Amid anxiety in India about the well-being and whereabouts of Jadhav, MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay hoped at a media briefing that Pakistan would grant visas to Jadhav’s parents so that they could go to the neighbouring country and follow with the authorities the petition by his mother seeking the Pakistan Government’s intervention for his release and the appeal to be filed to the appellate court to initiate the process to get his conviction overturned.

The spokesperson said the visa applications of Jadhav’s parents needed to be expedited so that they could take further steps to secure justice for him. In response to a question, he said India awaited Pakistan’s response on his parents’ request.

The petition and the appeal on behalf of Jadhav’s mother were handed over by Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale to Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Islamabad on Wednesday since he has 40 days’ time to go in appeal as per the law of Pakistan.

On Pakistan’s contention that Jadhav’s trial was fair and transparent, the spokesperson said India had not been officially informed anything about it. India was not aware who defended him before the military court or if he was provided a lawyer at all.

Jadhav’s health was causing great concern to the entire country since he had been in the ‘illegal’ custody of the Pakistani authorities for over a year now. India had also sought his medical certificate from the Pakistani authorities.

The spokesperson said the government and Jadhav’s family would explore every option available to secure justice for him.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said the military court’s ruling in Jadhav’s case was based on specific evidence and the trial was conducted in a transparent manner.