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PM also stresses on Jal Jeevan Mission and pitches for population control

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inspecting the guard of honour during the Independence Day celebration in New Delhi on Thursday. Sandeep Saxena

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Thursday was full of big bang announcements like appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), 20 years after a review committee on the Kargil War had suggested it, and the setting aside of ₹3.5 lakh crore for a Jal Jeevan Mission for water conservation.

The announcements followed a summing up of what his government had accomplished in its first 75 days, a blitzkrieg pace that he said he would keep to in future.

The demand for CDS was raised after a review of the conduct of the Kargil War, during the time of late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government. The appointment of a CDS would have far-reaching ramifications for defence preparedness and co-ordination among the three services.

Seeks people’s support

“Just as I called upon the country to join the Swachchta Mission to make India Open Defecation Free, I ask that you join the Jal Jeevan Mission which cannot succeed unless people participate on a mass level,” he said.

The removal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the reorganisation of the State into two Union Territories, and the passage of the triple talaq legislation were explained by the Prime Minister in great detail, stating that his government believed neither in “creating problems nor prolonging them” rather moving decisively ahead to find solutions.

“India is asking those who supported Article 370, if this was so important and life-changing, why was this Article not made permanent? After all, those people had large mandates and could have removed the temporary status of Article 370.”

He added that the removal of special status to Jammu and Kashmir would ensure justice and development to backward sections of society there and lakhs of migrants who had moved to the region after Partition. “Now we can say with pride, One Nation, One Constitution,” he said.

As for the triple talaq law, he said if social evils like Sati could be proscribed, “Muslim sisters were also deserving of justice by the removal of triple talaq.”

He made a strong pitch for population control terming those practising a small family norm as performing a form of patriotism.

China called for consultations after Pak. letter to Council

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will meet on Friday morning to discuss Kashmir (India’s dilution of special status), Poland’s mission to the UN confirmed to The Hindu. The Presidency of the UNSC is currently with Poland.

The Kashmir discussion would be taken up under the closed consultations format at 10 a.m. local time, press officer Bartłomiej Wybacz said. The consultations on Kashmir were scheduled on a request from China on Wednesday.

Consultations are a way for Security Council members to informally take up an issue and the “closed” refers to the fact that the consultation is not open to the public and no record of statements is kept. The format also precludes Pakistan from participating, a diplomat said.

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi had handed over a letter from the country’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi to the UNSC President and Polish Ambassador to the UN, Joanna Wronecka, requesting that the Council take up the issue. Mr Qureshi also travelled to Beijing last week for consultations just days after India ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the State on August 5.

India’s position has been that the abrogation of special status is an internal matter.

Diplomats here have pointed out that China’s push to bring back Kashmir to the UNSC shows that Beijing remains committed to its ties with Pakistan. Diplomats said the presentation of the Indian case by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar earlier this week has not influenced Beijing’s decision makers.

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Alwar sessions court cited ‘serious lacunae’ in Pehlu Khan case investigation

Dejected family: Pehlu Khan’s wife and son Irshad at their house in Jaysingh village of Mewat, Haryana. MANOJ KUMAR

Two chargesheets leaving out important evidence in the Pehlu Khan lynching case, flaws in the police investigation, failure of the police to get a forensic test of the mobile phone used for shooting a video of the incident and the witnesses not being given an opportunity to identify the culprits during the probe, led to the acquittal of six persons accused of beating the Haryana dairy farmer to death two years ago.

The Alwar sessions court, which let off the six accused on Wednesday, has pointed out “serious lacunae” in the police investigation which created doubts about the involvement of the suspects in the alleged crime, making the prosecution’s theory unreliable. The court gave the benefit of the doubt to the accused and absolved all of them of the offences of murder, rioting and unlawful assembly.

‘Not enough proof’

In her 92-page judgment delivered in a packed courtroom, Additional District & Sessions Judge Sarita Swami ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and neither the evidence of its witnesses nor the material placed on record was sufficient to convict the six persons.

The shortcomings cited included the failure of Investigating Officers to ensure identification of the accused by Khan’s sons and companions, who were also injured in the April 1, 2017 incident. The accused were different from those named by the victim in his statement recorded under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code before death.

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A London-based collector turns in artefacts bought from Subhash Kapoor

The 17th century idol of Krishna from T.N.

With just a week to go for the festival of Krishna Janmashtami, India on Thursday regained possession of a priceless bronze Navaneetha Krishna, thanks to a rare instance of moral courage by an art collector from London. After U.S. authorities charged Indian antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor with possession of stolen property last June, the London-based connoisseur, who had bought a few artefacts from him, came forward to U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), expressing a desire to surrender the pieces. The artefacts were recovered in June this year.

On Thursday, authorities in the U.S. and U.K. formally handed over a limestone relief, originally from Andhra Pradesh, and the bronze Krishna from Tamil Nadu to the Indian High Commissioner in London.

Kapoor is lodged in Tiruchi prison and faces criminal cases for illegally exporting idols and artefacts from temples in Tamil Nadu. He was also charged by the U.S. HSI for operating a massive smuggling ring, allegedly run from his New York gallery.

A preliminary examination has dated the limestone relief to between the first Century BC to first Century AD. The exquisitely crafted Krishna bronze, around six inches tall, is estimated to be from 17th Century. Both items will be subject to further examination to establish their exact period and original location.

The repatriated pieces are just two of the more than 2,600 antiquities that have been recovered around the world. The investigation remains ongoing, the Home Land Security Investigation said in a release.

“The cultural significance of artefacts looted from around the world extends beyond a monetary value. The pieces, like those recovered through this operation, are stolen fragments of history; and it is an honour to return them to their rightful home country,” Peter C. Fitzhugh, of the HSI in New York, said.

S. Vijay Kumar, art enthusiast and founder of India Pride that tracks Indian antiques, said there is strong reason to believe that the relief could be from the Buddhist Vaddamanu site near Guntur. “The theft from the Buddhist site in Andhra Pradesh comes close on the heels of thefts from the Chandavaram site. Very little is known about the Vaddamanu site and to see that robbers have targeted the freshly excavated sites is shocking,” he said.

Supreme Court had turned down Assam’s plea

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday hoped the National Register of Citizens (NRC) “does not include the names of any foreigner”. He was referring to the Supreme Court turning down his government’s plea for reverification of the documents of a section of the 3.29 crore applicants.

The Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the NRC updating exercise since 2013, rejected the reverification pleas twice within a fortnight as it stuck to the August 31 deadline for publishing the citizens’ list.

“We had petitioned the SC for reverification of the NRC only to ensure a pure and error-free document. I reiterate that the Assam government is committed to protecting all genuine Indian citizens residing in the State,” Mr Sonowal said in his 73rd Independence Day speech in Guwahati.

The Chief Minister reminded that his government was formed on the promise to protect jaati (race), maati (land) and bheti (hearth) and ensure a foreigner-free and developed Assam.

“Around 55,000 State government employees have had to take time off development projects to work on updating the NRC under the supervision of the SC.

“We hope that the National Register of Citizens will be a historic document which does not include names of any foreigner and exclude any genuine Indian citizen,” he said.

Mr. Sonowal said the Central government had taken steps to secure constitutional safeguards for the indigenous people of Assam.

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