The Statesman – Sonia calls for fighting communal forces

New Delhi, 15 August 2017. Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday stressed the need for speaking in unison against separatism and terrorism as well as divisive and communal forces and to unite to protect India’s fundamental values.

In her message on the 71st Independence Day, she greeted people on the occasion and said: “My prayer to God is that the country keeps making progress and all of us always have pride as its citizens.”

The Congress chief unfurled the Tricolour at the All India Congress Committee headquarters here, where party Vice- President Rahul Gandhi and senior leaders including Manmohan Singh, A K Antony, Sheila Dikshit and Motilal Vora were present.

The Statesman – Tampering with history not good for nation: Sharad Yadav

New Delhi, 9 August 2017. Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav on Wednesday said the ongoing episodes involving tampering with the history will not be in the interest of the nation.

“Truth of history builds the base for future journey. If you tamper even with a brick of that base, the building on it will collapse. We can see lots of incidents of tampering with history nowadays,” Yadav said in the Rajya Sabha during the special session to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Quit India Movement.

“It is known that if a nation or community tries to tamper with the history, they will be in trouble,” Yadav said.

The JD-U leader said diverse views were part of the democracy.

“How would you call it democracy if there are no diverse views? Mahatma Gandhi said that democracy works on dialogues and not bullets,” he said.

Opposition parties have accused the BJP-led central government of tampering with the history of freedom movement and of rewriting history textbooks, the recent one involving removal of a chapter on Mughals by the Maharashtra Education Board.

The Statesman – Pakistan, India end water talks in Washington

Washington DC-USA, 2 August 2017. Pakistan and India have concluded the much-delayed water talks here “in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation”, raising hopes of avoiding further tensions over an issue with far-reaching consequences.

“The Secretary-level discussions between India and Pakistan on the technical issues on the Indus Waters Treaty took place this week in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation,” the World Bank said in a statement. “The parties have agreed to continue discussions and reconvene in September in Washington,” it added.

In March, India and Pakistan held the annual Indus Waters Treaty talks in Lahore after a gap of two years. The Commission, which is mandated to meet at least once every year, alternately in India and Pakistan, comprises Indus Commissioners from both sides and discusses technical matters related to the implementation of the treaty.

The Secretary of Water and Power, Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, led the Pakistani delegation at the two-day talks which ended on Tuesday at the World Bank headquarters. The Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, Amarjit Singh, headed the Indian delegation. The Indian team also included representatives from the External Affairs Ministry.

Pakistan has been protesting over the design and construction of two projects, the 330 MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project and the 850 MW Ratle hydroelectric project, on the tributaries of the Indus in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 and involves six rivers: the Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. Brokered by the World Bank, the treaty gave the right to use waters of the first three rivers to India and of the other three rivers to Pakistan.

India has said it has the right under the treaty to set up hydropower plants on the tributaries of the rivers flowing through its territory. Pakistan fears this might reduce the water flow of the rivers into its territory.

The treaty came close to being jeopardized following the cross-border terror attack on September 18 last year on an Indian Army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that left 19 Indian soldiers dead.

Blaming the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed for the attack, New Delhi said it would consider revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty, which has withstood three wars and is seen as one of the most successful international agreements.

The Statesman – Junaid lynching: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) notices to Railways, Haryana government, Director General of Police

New Delhi, 26 July 2017. The NHRC has issued notices to the Railways, and the Haryana government and its police chief over the killing of a Muslim youth on a train in Faridabad last month.

According to the order issued by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the notices have been sent to the chairman of the Railway Board, chief secretary of the Haryana government, and the Director General of Police of the state.

“The notices were sent a couple of days back,” a senior official of the rights panel said, on condition of anonymity.
The NHRC has sought a report from them in four weeks.

Seventeen-year-old Junaid was stabbed to death when he, along with his brothers, was returning home to Khandwali village after shopping for Eid in Delhi on June 22.

His body was dumped close to Asaoti village in Faridabad district.

Junaid’s brothers, Hashim and Sakir, were injured by a mob which allegedly also hurled communal slurs against them in Ballabgarh area of Faridabad, while they were travelling on a train from Delhi.

His brothers had claimed the attackers had taunted and repeatedly called them “anti-nationals” and “beef eaters”.

A reward of Rs two lakh had also been announced for information on the identities of those involved in the killing.

The Statesman – UK Defence Chief to visit India this week

Are Mrs May’s values really all that close to those of Mr Modi ?
Man in Blue

New Delhi, 19 July 2017. Britain’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, is visiting India this week and will meet Indian ministers and military officers to further reinforce the bilateral defence and security partnership.

Under the umbrella of the 2015 Defence and International Security Partnership, Stuart will meet Indian ministers and officers, a British High Commission statement said.

His meetings will cover the growing strategic defence relationship through the recently established Capability Partnerships, the threat of terrorism and extremism faced globally, multinational cooperation, upcoming exercises and UN Peacekeeping, the statement said.

Stuart, the most senior military officer in the UK Defence Forces, last visited India in April 2015 as Britain’s Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.

Ahead of his visit, Stuart said: “I very much look forward to visiting India again.

It is not only our shared history and democratic values that bind us together; but increasingly it is the threats and challenges to these values, that we face in an ever changing global environment, that bring us closer together, making the UK and India truly strategic defence partners.

“Whether standing shoulder to shoulder in countering terrorism and violent extremism, undertaking UN Peacekeeping operations, or forging ahead on developing advanced equipment programmes, the UK-India partnership is an enviable one internationally.

“I intend to ensure that my visit demonstrates further that the UK’s commitment to India and our relationship is undisputed, now and for the future.”

Stuart will visit New Delhi and Kolkata over four days. In addition to official calls and engagements, he will pay his respects to the 74,000 Indians who served and died in the World War I by laying a wreath at India Gate.

UK’s Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon visited New Delhi in April 2017.

Stuart will also touch upon the defence industry and the UK’s support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign.

The Statesman – Supreme Court chides Election Commision for going back on lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers

New Delhi, 12 July 2017. The Supreme Court on Wednesday chided the Election Commission for retracting from its earlier position supporting a plea for lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers from contesting elections.

“It is within the domain of the Election Commission, if you don’t want to be independent, (and remain) constrained by the legislature, (then) say so,” said a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha as counsel for EC told the court it was supporting the cause of the petitioner to decriminalise politics.

“When a citizen comes to the EC seeking lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers, is silence an option? Either you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Can you afford to be silent?” the bench said as it read a paragraph from the response of the EC which supported the plea for lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers on contesting elections.

However, the counsel for the EC told the bench that the said paragraph should not be read in isolation and should be read as a part of the entire response of the Commission.

The court said that the EC wanted the court to read in between the lines, and there was no reason why they should do so.

The court said this in the course of the hearing of a PIL by BJP leader Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay seeking lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers and setting up of special courts for trying lawmakers accused of criminal offences.

The Statesman – Vigilante killings will damage India’s economy: Yashwant Sinha

New Delhi, 5 July 2017. In strong disapproval of the recent spate of lynchings in the name of cow protection, veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha has said the such incidents create a bad image for the country abroad and serve as disincentive for foreign investments.

“My view is that all such incidents, and certainly a clutch of such incidents, create a bad image of the country. Not only within country but also abroad,” Sinha said in an interview.

“I am relating it to economic activities and I am saying that it has an adverse impact on the economic activities. As far as lynching per se is concerned, you know unfortunately in our society, such lynching has been going on. It is not always communal,” he said.

He recalled the December 2012 gang rape of a young woman in Delhi and said while he was giving a talk on the Indian economy in Germany, the first question he was asked was about the horrible rape and murder.

“Similiarly, if people feel that it is mob justice, the governments are not in control, it will be a disincentive for not only foreign investments but all investments of any kind in the country,” the former BJP minister said.

Asked about the pattern of such incidents targeting Muslims and Dalits, Sinha said it was a “question of interpretation” and cited BJP President Amit Shah’s claim that there were more lynchings earlier.

“I am not privy to those, I have not compared the figures. But the point I am making is that it certainly is a very unwelcome trend and should be stopped as quickly as possible.”

Sinha’s remarks came as the incidents of killings, particularly related to beef-eating or cow slaughter or harming the bovine have increased in the last three years since the BJP government came to power in 2014.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address last week condemned the vigilante killings, saying cows must be protected but within limits. “Do we get the right to kill a human being?” he said. “Is this devotion to the cow? Is this cow protection? This cannot be the path of respected Bapuji,” he said, referring to Mahatma Gandhi.

“Today, when I hear that in the name of the cow someone has been killed, I say the law should take its course; human beings have no right to take the law into their hands.”

According to an analysis of IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative, out of 63 cases of mob justice of lynchings recorded since 2010, 61 took place under the BJP government.

Twenty-four out of the 28 people killed in the attacks were Muslims. During the first six months of 2017, there were 20 cow or beef-related attacks.

On June 7, a man was attacked in Dhanbad of Jharkhand on suspicion of transporting beef to an Iftar party. Two cases of lynching over cow slaughter rumors were reported last week.

In May, some traders were thrashed in Malegaon, Maharashtra for allegedly storing beef. Before that, two more men, Abu Hanifa and Riazuddin Ali, were killed for allegedly stealing cattle in Assam.

In March this year, suspected cattle traders Mohammed Majloom and Azad Khan were killed in Latehar in Jharkhand. Days later, Mohammed Shalik, 19, was tied to a pole and beaten to death, reportedly over a romantic relationship with a Hindu girl in the same state.

There were several other incidents in the name of cow, including the murder of Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader, who was killed by cow vigilantes in Rajasthan’s Alwar.

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.