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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Statesman – Panjab National Bank fraud: CBI examines two SBI officials

New Delhi – India, 12 April 2018. The CBI on Thursday said it is examining two officials of overseas branches of an Indian bank in connection with its ongoing probe into the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case involving diamond jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi of the Gitanjali Group.

Two Deputy General Manager (DGM) rank officials of the State Bank of India (SBI)’s Frankfurt and Mauritius branches were asked to join the investigation at its Mumbai’s Bandra office.

According to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials, the bank had issued buyer’s credit to exporters of Nirav Modi and Choksi firms on the basis of Letters of Undertakings (LoUs).

On Wednesday, the CBI had examined two officials of Canara Bank’s Bahrain Branch and one from Bank of India’s Antwerp (Belgium) Branch over the role of these branches in extending credit facilities on the basis of LoUs issued by the PNB to the firms related to Modi and Choksi.

The CBI on Sunday also questioned an officer who dealt with forex transactions in Allahabad Bank’s Hong Kong Branch.

The agency’s move comes days after a special CBI court here on Sunday issued non-bailable warrants against Modi and Choksi as both diamond traders, who left India in January, refused to join the investigation into the scam.

Modi, a regular on the lists of rich and famous Indians since 2013, along with his group companies, Diamond R US, Stellar Diamond and Solar Exports, uncle and business partner Choksi and others, has been named in the mega scam, admitted by the PNB in February that led to a massive upheaval in the country’s banking system.

Earlier, a lookout notice was issued by the CBI against Modi and Choksi but they and their associates had fled the country. While Modi and his brother Nishal left India on January 1, his wife Ami, a US citizen, and Choksi left on January 6, all before the CBI received a complaint from the PNB on January 29.

The PNB has claimed in different complaints to the CBI that several LoUs, issued by one bank to other banks, based on which foreign branches offer credit to buyers, were fraudulently issued by its officials in connivance with Modi and other accused in the case causing huge losses to the bank.

The Statesman – Restrictions in Srinagar to prevent protests

Geelani and Mirwaiz continue to remain under house arrest while Malik has been lodged at the Srinagar Central Jail

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 06 April 2018. Authorities imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar city and some other places in the Kashmir Valley on Friday to prevent separatist called protests.

The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), a separatist conglomerate headed by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, has called for peaceful protests after Friday’s congregational prayers.

Geelani and Mirwaiz continue to remain under house arrest while Malik has been lodged at the Srinagar Central Jail.

The restrictions have been imposed in Srinagar’s old city areas while sufficient security deployments were made in other sensitive areas, the police said.

After widespread protests by students on Thursday, authorities ordered closure of all schools, colleges and universities in the Valley on Friday.

Exams scheduled for the day have been postponed by the Kashmir University.

Train services between the valley’s Baramulla town and Jammu region’s Bannihal town have been suspended.

The Statesman – Iraq deaths: Signs of Sikhism helped identify Indians in mass grave

Ranjeet Jamwal

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 2 April 2018. Locating the mortal remains of 39 Indians killed in Iraq by the Islamic State terrorists was a Herculean task as staying in Mosul, which remained an ISIS stronghold for long, was still a risky affair due to explosives planted even inside the houses by the terrorist organisation (ISIS).

The city was declared free of ISIS only in December 2017.

Addressing a press conference in Amritsar after bringing the mortal remains of 38 men from Iraq through a special plane at Amritsar, the minister of state for external affairs, General (retired) VK Singh said after the Iraq Army re-captured several ISIS strongholds last year, he first went to the country in search of these 39 men in July 2017. But as the security situation was still not good there, he returned and went to Iraq in October again.

Stepping up the efforts to find out the missing Indians, General Singh then located the private company that had employed all 39 missing Indians. A man who used to provide food to these Indians was also located. A campaign was also launched through local TV and radio for getting information from the public about the missing Indians.

Based on the information received from various sources, Indian government found information about a mass grave in Badush, a village northwest of Mosul in Iraq. “We went to Badush with the Iraqi army and found a big heap of soil there. Anyone could make out that it was far from a natural formation.

When it was dug in the presence of Indian ambassador, human remains were found there.”

“We found long hair and karas (a steel or iron bracelet) there. From it, we could make out that those buried there could be Indians,” General Singh said. Twenty-seven of the 39 missing Indian were from Punjab and many of them were Sikhs. Articles of Sikh faith came handy to establish that they were Indians.

The minister said following this, the bodies were exhumed for DNA testing which confirmed the identity of 38 of 39 missing Indians. In one case, DNA has matched only about 70 per cent, so his body has not been brought to India.

On the cause of death, Gen Singh said forensic experts have said that some of 39 Indian died of bullet injuries. “But bullet injuries are not the same about everyone and even forensic experts are not sure about the cause of death of some others. Their bones are broken, it is difficult to say if they were slaughtered or what was the cause of their death,” he said.

Compensation not like distributing biscuits: V K Singh

Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh courted a controversy by saying that “distributing compensation was not like distributing biscuits”. He was replying to a question from the Press regarding announcing compensation to the families of the victims.

The Statesman – Kashmir a political issue

Hurriyat panel says it will pursue its mission of freedom despite ‘repressive and coercive measures’

Jammu – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 29 March 2018. The executive committee of the pro-Pakistan Hurriyat Conference on Wednesday said that Kashmir is a political issue and Hurriyat as a representative forum of people will pursue its mission of freedom and the “repressive and coercive measures will neither dampen our sentiments nor break our resolve”.

Meeting of the executive committee was held at the residence of Syed Alishah Geelani who blamed mainstream parties in Jammu and Kashmir for the “prevailing confusion and chaos” in the state, saying “history stands witness to the fact that right-based movements never fail, however tyrant forces vanish and stand nowhere”.

Spokesman of the Hurriyat said that “the participants reviewed and discussed the prevailing grim situation in the state”.

The executive council urged United Nations to realise the “sacrifices” being made by people in the state for their right to self-determination, and help and mediate in getting this right fulfilled without any more delay and bloodshed.

The meeting also discussed ways to make the Hurriyat Conference more vibrant and active on social and political fronts. Certain important resolutions were accepted and decisions were taken in this regard. The Hurriyat executive council authorised its chairman to re-constitute and re-order the Hurriyat conference and appoint its office bearers.

Geelani asked people to boycott all upcoming elections and urged them to remain faithful to the mission “nourished by sacred blood of our martyrs”.

The meeting was attended by heads and representatives of various organisations: Mohammad Rafiq Owasi (Tehreek-e-Hurriyat), Syed Mohamed Shafi (People’s League), Syed Imtiyaz Shah (Peoples Freedom League), Mohamed Shafi Rishi (DPM), Mohamed Shafi Lone, (Employees Forum), Bilal Sidiqee (Tehreek-e-Mazahmat), Zamrooda Habib (Kashmir Tehreek-e-Khawateen), Feroz Ahmad Khan (Muslim League), Aga Syed Mohd Yusuf (Perwaan-e-Walayat), Mohamed Yasin Ataie (Peoples League), Mohamed Yusuf Naqash, (Islamic Political Party), Hakim Abdul Rashid (Muslim Democratic League), Ghulam Nabi Sumji (Muslim Conference), Ghulam Mohammad Nagu (Anjuman Sher-e-Shiyan), and Ghulam Ahmad Gulzar (Insaf Party).

The Statesman – Iraq deaths: A ‘foreign job’ that brought more than death to families

Most of the victims belonged to the lower middle class of society

Ranjeet Jamwal

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 21 March 2018. Having spent lakhs of rupees for a “foreign job”, family members of Punjab men killed by ISIS in Mosul city of Iraq are facing a bleak future with the main breadwinners of the families gone.

The family of Surjit Mainka, a resident of Churuwali village in Jalandhar, said they had spent Rs 4.5 lakh for sending the 35-year-old to Iraq.

“We go abroad to earn money. So, we didn’t mind borrowing money for sending him (Surjit) to Iraq. As a labourer, he worked there at a company for 10 months before being captured by the ISIS in June 2014. Now, not only have we lost Surjit, but the amount borrowed for him has also gone up to about Rs. 9 lakh.

We really don’t know how to return this money now,” Surjit’s wife Manjit Kaur (36), told The Statesman over the phone.

She said her husband had little apprehension of the tragic end even as the atmosphere was tense in Iraq at that time since the rise of the ISIS. “His employers didn’t give the passports back to let him come back and asked the staff to stay indoors to avoid any mishap. But then one day ISIS kidnapped all of them,” she added.

Family members of another victim, Rakesh, a resident of Qadian in Gurdaspur, had spent over Rs 2 lakh for sending their only son abroad. “He used to work as a construction worker there and earn about Rs 20 thousand a month.

Four months were all he worked before his abduction. I am also a daily wage and we have no land. So, Rs 2 lakh is a big amount for me and I don’t know how will I manage life after this,” said a family member of Rakesh.

Most of the victims’ family members said they were in touch with them until about 15 June 2014 when things took an ugly turn. The father of Parvinder Kumar, Jeet Ram, a resident of Jagatpur village in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district, said his son was promised good work in Mosul.

“He used to work as a welder and we paid Rs 2 lakh to an agent in Hoshiarpur for arranging work visa in Iraq. Initially, he was forced to work as a domestic servant and then sent to Mosul to work in a company,” he said.

Most of the family members of those killed by ISIS in Iraq have been contacted by the district administrations concerned and told to be ready to collect their mortal remains in Amritsar.

The Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed the Parliament on Tuesday that all 39 Indians who went missing in the war-torn Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014 are dead. As many as 24 of these men are from Punjab where foreign jobs are a craze.

The Statesman – Ayodhya dispute: SC to hear Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir case today

New Delhi – India, 14 March 2018. The Supreme Court (SC) will on Wednesday continue hearing the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute case to determine ownership of the 2.77 acre disputed land in Ayodhya.

In the last hearing in February, the apex court had said that it will treat the case as a pure land dispute and refused the appellants’ plea for day to day hearing.

The SC bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer had also asked all parties in the case to file translated copies of the documents before it.

The court was hearing a batch of cross petitions challenging 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict that had divided the disputed Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi site between the Nirmohi Akhara, Lord Ram deity and the Sunni Waqf Board.

The top court was moved challenging the High Court verdict by petitioners M. Siddiqui represented by his legal heirs, the Nirmohi Akhara, the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman, All India Hindu Mahasabha’s Swami Chakrapani, the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, the Akhil Bharatiya Sri Ramjanam Bhoomi Punardhar Samiti and others.

The Statesman – Ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims continue: UN

Nay Pyi Taw

New York – United Nations, 06 March 2018. The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar is continuing in Rakhine state, from where at least 700,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017, the UN said Tuesday.

The UN and human rights organisations have repeatedly criticised the atrocities allegedly committed by the Myanmar military in a campaign against the Rohingya that began in northern Rakhine following a coordinated assault by the Rohingya insurgent movement on August 25, 2017, reports Efe news.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said that while the level of violence had been reduced, murder, rape, torture, abductions as well as forced starvation continued.

“It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists,” Gilmour said in a statement issued after his visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

“The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied blood-letting and mass rape of last year to a lower intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation that seems to be designed to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and into Bangladesh,” he added.

The UN expert also questioned how the Myanmar government could say that it was ready for the return of the Rohingya refugees while atrocities committed against them continued, and argued that “safe, dignified and sustainable returns are of course impossible under current conditions”.

Gilmour also praised the humanitarian response of Bangladesh and other international organizations to the Rohingya refugee crisis, but warned that the rainy season could leave “a devastating effect” on the refugee camps.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to start repatriating the Rohingya refugees at the end of January but the deal was suspended at the last minute by the Dhaka government.

The Myanmar military has denied claims of abuses, but in January recognised the extrajudicial killings of Rohingya in September 2017.

Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as its citizens, arguing they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, which has led to continued discrimination against the Rohingya community as well as restrictions on their freedom of movement.

The Statesman – Ram Janmabhumi: We have ‘valid’ ownership papers, says Dharm Das Maharaj

Mathura-Uttar Pradesh-India, 27 February 2018. One of the main plaintiffs of Ram Janmabhumi dispute, Dharm Das Maharaj on Tuesday said he was confident that the Supreme Court would rule in their favour as they had “valid” ownership papers.

Das is also the Mahant of the Akhil Bhartiya Panch Ramanandi Nirmani Ani Akhara.

Since the apex court has clarified that only land dispute would be settled without going through the sentiments, and since we are in possession of valid ownership papers, we are confident that the decision would come in our favour, he said in Govardhan.

Das also said that the title of the land was in favour of Ramlala.

He was here to attend a two-day congregation of seers at the Shankaracharya Ashram for chalking out a strategy for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Das said he would pay obeisance to Goverdhan Maharaj, by performing ‘parikrama’ of the Goverdhan hillock.

The parikrama is for the construction of the temple, he said, adding that a delegation would soon meet the prime minister on the issue.

Shankaracharya Adhokshjanand Tirth Maharaj said the congregation of seers was for constructive approach on the Ram temple issue.

“During my talk with few Muslim leaders, I have been assured the cooperation of the community provided the gesture is reciprocated for the construction of a mosque also, he said.

The Statesman – Tight security in Amritsar ahead of Canadian PM Trudeau visit

Amritsar/Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 20 February 20 2018. Tight security was in place in and around this holy city for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the Golden Temple complex on Wednesday.

Government security agencies and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials were on Tuesday working to ensure the visit to the Sikh shrine goes without hindrance or controversy since radical Sikhs may seek to rake up the issue of a separate Sikh homeland “Khalistan”.

Hundreds of personnel of Punjab Police and other security agencies were stationed at the Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport near here, and on the road from the airport to the Golden Temple complex and other areas, Trudeau is expected to visit.

Trudeau, on an eight-day visit to India, will arrive in Amritsar on Wednesday from Mumbai and offer prayers at the Golden Temple or “Harmandar Sahib” — the holiest Sikh shrine.

The visit holds political and social significance in Canada as that country has a substantial Indian diaspora, a majority of them from Punjab.

Trudeau, according to police sources, has asked local authorities to let him and his family, including three minor children, enjoy the spirituality of the Golden Temple during the visit.

He will be received at the Golden Temple entrance by SGPC President Gobind Singh Longowal.

Radical groups like the Dal Khalsa want to raise the issue of self-determination for the Sikhs during the visit.

Amritsar Police Commissioner S S Srivastava said adequate security arrangements have been made for the Canadian Prime Minister’s visit.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said he will meet Trudeau during his visit to Amritsar.

Amarinder Singh tweeted that he was looking forward to “one-on-one” meeting with the Canadian leader and said he was hopeful the meeting will help strengthen close India-Canadian business ties and people-to-people relations.

There was uncertainty over Amarinder Singh’s meeting with Trudeau as the former had refused to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, the first Sikh Defence Minister of a Western country, during a visit to Punjab in April last year.

Amarinder Singh had labelled Sajjan and other Canadian Ministers of Indian origin as “Khalistani sympathisers”.

Sajjan and three other Canadian federal ministers of Punjab origin are travelling with Trudeau during the visit.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh said his group hopes Trudeau’s visit to the Golden Temple would be a “historic one” in promoting Sikh-Canadian relations.