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Kashmiris living in the Capital say the Centre’s decision has reinforced their feeling of ‘alienation’

Speaking out: Students and others protesting at Parliament Street here on Monday against the Centre’s move to amend Article 370. SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

As Rajya Sabha members debated the amendment to Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and a Bill to divide the State into two Union Territories, several students gathered at Jantar Mantar on Monday to stage a protest against the move.

The group of protesters, including Kashmiris residing here, shouted slogans and waved banners against the government’s decision.

The agitation was carried out under the vigilance of the police and paramilitary forces. Behind the Delhi Police barricades that cordoned off the street, protesters voiced their opinions.

Twenty-four-year-old Sharika from Kashmir expressed her fears of not being able to communicate with her family back home. She wondered whether she would be able to go home for Id.

‘For us, without us’

“What has happened in Kashmir will not be repeated in any other State. We always felt alienated and this decision has reinforced that,” she said. Her brother Haider said: “This is a decision for us, without us.”

Ever since most modes of communication were snapped in the Valley, Kashmiris residing here are worried about their family members back home. “This is a breach of trust and a blatant violation of the Constitution,” said law student Palvi from Himachal Pradesh.

‘Psychological warfare’

She said non-Himachalis too cannot buy land in the State.

“Yet, the government has only tried to reverse this law in Kashmir not even in Ladakh. This makes it evident that this decision is motivated by religion and nothing else. It is psychological warfare,” she added.

Holding up a placard reading: “governance by conspiracy and coup: that is the democracy under Modi-Shah duopoly”, a 27-year-old Kashmiri Sikh said: “The facade of democracy in Kashmir is no more. What was accomplished by underhand tactics has now been institutionalised.”

“I fail to find a voice like Jayaprakash Narayan, who called the forced manner of integration ‘a suicide of India’s soul’, I fear to ask if a moral fabric exists at all,” he added.

Shweta and Malvika from Delhi said the move was a gross violation of human rights. “We see what has happened but there is no news from the Valley. The State recalled tourists and yatris but nothing was communicated to the residents. The bias against the State is clear. Are they not Indians?” they said.

Victim wants legal action against police officers, accused; probe under way

A 21-year-old JNU student, who was allegedly raped by a cab driver in south Delhi, has levelled serious allegations on the conduct of Delhi police officers.

The victim, in her statement to the police, claimed that a female police officer refused to provide her assistance and that she was told to leave the police station at night.

Not carrying cell phone

On Sunday, the Delhi police registered an FIR against a cab driver for raping a woman passenger travelling in his vehicle. The woman was not carrying a mobile phone and the cab was booked by a “stranger” on the request of the woman.

The victim said she had taken a cab from in front of a temple in Mandir Marg on Friday around 8 p.m. It was a black car. During the ride, the driver started harassing her following which she slapped him. The driver stopped the cab and she got out of the vehicle but the driver allegedly followed her.

“He grabbed me by the hair and pushed me on a seat at a bus stop. He tied my eyes and sexually harassed me,” said the victim in her statement to the police.

The cab driver was drunk and dragged her to the car, pushed her inside and raped her, the woman alleged, adding that she kicked him and hit him with a bottle and managed to run away.

“I found a police station on the way where four officers, including two women officers, were present. A male officer asked me if he could drop me somewhere, but I said I am not comfortable with men and wanted the women to drop me,” said the victim in her statement.

“The women police officers refused to drop me and asked me to leave the police station because they work only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” the victim added.

The victim in her statement said she wanted to take legal action against the driver and the police officers. She said she would be able to identity the cab driver.

The statement further stated that she went out of the police station and came across many autorickshaw drivers on the way who were allegedly catcalling to her.

Reached JNU in morning

“I took shelter at a park as it was raining. The security guards there said I would have to leave and I did. I found a place to hide at night and the next morning, I came to the IIT bus stop where I found a guy who offered to drop me. I took his help and reached JNU,” said the victim. She said she then went to the university’s medical centre reported the matter. From there she was taken to Safdurjung Hospital.

The Delhi police said that on August 4, the Mandir Marg police station received an information from Safdarjung Hospital regarding a woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted. A police team rushed to the hospital and the victim was medically examined. On the basis of her complaint and the medical examination report, an FIR was registered at Mandir Marg police station and an investigation was taken up.

“The incident was reported after two days. During the medical examination, no injury mark was found on the body of the victim,” read a statement issued by the police.

The statement by the police also said that besides the delayed reporting of the incident, there are some other inconsistencies in the version of the victim that are being verified. Teams have been constituted to apprehend the alleged offender and an investigation is under way, it said,

Rajasthan Assembly nod for stringent provisions of punishment and penalties for the offences

CM Ashok Gehlot

The Rajasthan Assembly on Monday passed two separate Bills against mob lynching and honour killing, making stringent provisions of punishment and penalties for these offences that were made cognisable and non-bailable. While honour killing will be punishable with death sentence, those convicted of lynching will be punished with life imprisonment and a fine of up to ₹5 lakh.

With the passage of the Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, Rajasthan has become the second State after Manipur to have a dedicated legislation that criminalises mob lynching as a special offence. The Manipur Assembly had passed a similar Bill in December 2018.

The State has witnessed several incidents of mob lynching since April 2017, when Haryana’s dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was killed allegedly by a mob of cow vigilantes on the Jaipur-Delhi national highway. The Bill was introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal in the Assembly on July 30.

The Bill was passed in the House by a voice vote amid protest by the Opposition BJP, which wanted it to be referred to a select committee for getting public inputs. Speaker C.P. Joshi put the Bill to voice vote thrice on the demand of BJP MLAs that the members supporting and opposing the Bill be counted.

Opposition stand

During the debate on the Bill, Leader of the Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said the Indian Penal Code already had sufficient provisions to penalise the offenders, while the Bill had changed an important definition by describing just two persons as a mob. He alleged that the Bill had been brought to please a particular community.

Other BJP MLAs said the Supreme Court had made a recommendation only to Parliament to enact such a law and it contradicted the related provisions of IPC. BJP legislator and former Jaipur Mayor Ashok Lahoti said the Bill seemed to be “in favour of cow smugglers” and had been brought as a move against the majority community.

Replying to the Opposition’s objections, Mr. Dhariwal said the Bill’s subject was part of the concurrent list and the State government had the power to bring such a legislation. He defended the definition of mob as two or more persons, saying two people had the ability to grievously harm the third person. He also described the Bill as a “progressive law”, which would promote social harmony.

Nodal officer

The Bill provides for appointment of a nodal officer of the rank of Inspector-General of Police to prevent lynchings and establishment of relief camps in safe zones for the victims. It defines lynching as an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation and ethnicity.

The Bill against honour killing, titled the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2019, was passed after making a few amendments on the basis of suggestions given by some MLAs during the discussion.

The Bill has laid down death penalty or life sentence and a fine up to ₹5 lakh for killing a couple or either of them on the basis that their marriage had dishonoured or brought disrepute to the caste, community or family.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had announced enactment of laws against mob lynching and honour killing while replying to the debate on the 2019-20 State budget on July 16.

‘Citizens have a right to know,’ scribes tell NIA court

Pragya Singh Thakur, one of the accused .

A group of journalist have moved an intervention application in the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Monday opposing the move to conduct an in-camera trial in the ongoing hearing of the 2008 Malegaon blasts case.

The move will bar the media from covering the court proceedings and will only allow the lawyers, the accused and the judge to be present at the trial.

On August 2, the NIA in an application to special judge Vinod Padalkar said the case involves facts having direct bearing on “communal harmony, national security and public order”.

The five-page application by NIA said, “it is submitted that allegations against the accused in the case is that they have committed offence to take revenge against Muslim jihadis activities and to create rift between the two communities. As per the prosecution, for causing the bomb blast, Malegaon was chosen, because it is a Muslim-dominated area. Therefore, for maintaining harmony in the society, it is necessary to conduct in-camera hearing and restraint on publication of court proceedings.”

The journalists, represented through senior counsel Rizwan Merchant and advocate Gayatri Gokhale, said that this move will gag the media from reporting and/or disseminating information which the citizens have a “right to know”. They have urged the court to reject NIA’s application.

The court said on Monday that in the interest of justice and fair hearing, only NIA and not the accused, must respond to the plea, which will be heard on August 6.

On October 30, 2018, the special court had framed charges of murder, abetment and conspiracy for the blast against Bharatiya Janata Party MP Pragya Singh Thakur, Lieutenant Colonel Sameer Kulkarni, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Ajay Rahilkar and Sudhakar Chaturvedi.

The Krishna rises after Maharashtra releases 20 tmcft of water, two washed away

Massive damage: An aerial view of the flood-hit areas of north Karnataka.Special Arrangement

The flood situation in the northern districts of Karnataka continues to be grim with increased outflow from reservoirs in the Krishna basin of Maharashtra, resulting in further inundation of villages, barrage-cum-bridges, and farmlands.

The death toll has risen to two with a youth getting washed away in the flood waters of the Krishna river in Belagavi district on Monday. Maruti Jadhav, 30, was washed away in the Krishna floodwaters at a field near Chikkodi. The police found his body downstream by evening. Three days ago, Shivanand Nayak got washed away in the floodwaters at Adeppa Ankalagi village.

Eight rescued

Eight persons, who were stranded owing to floods in Lingsugur taluk of Raichur district, were rescued by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), police, and local residents.

Officials estimate that water level in the Krishna has increased by at least 4 feet after the release of around 20 tmcft from Maharashtra.

Though rain subsided in Belagavi and surrounding areas, water flow from Maharashtra increased to 3.01 lakh cusecs by Monday morning. By evening, the outflow from Basavasagar reservoir at Narayanpur in Yadgir district stood at 2.92 lakh cusecs and that from Lal Bahadur Shastry dam in Almatti was 3.03 lakh cusecs.

Belagavi district has been the worst affected so far. On Monday, 27 barrage-cum-bridges remained submerged and according to an official estimate, crops on 3,000 hectares have been damaged.

Following the high quantum of outflow from Basavasagar reservoir, six islands remained cut off and two key bridges were submerged in Yadgir district.

While 600 acres of farmland were inundated in Jamkhandi taluk of Bagalkot district, 150 acres of farmland at Nidagundi in Vijayapura district are under water. Alarming water level across the Chikkapadasalagi bridge has resulted in a ban on movement of heavy vehicles. The bridges across river Krishna near Sheelahalli and Hunadagi villages in Raichur district have already submerged, severing road links.

CM’s appeal

Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, who landed in Vijayapura after an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas, told presspersons that he had written to his Maharashtra counterpart to take measures to regulate water discharge from reservoirs in the State.

In all, 69 villages (32 severely and 37 moderately) have been affected in Belagavi where the district administration has set up nine relief centres. The NDRF, State Disaster Relief Force, Maratha Light Infantry Regiment Centre, Fire and Emergency services personnel, home guards and the police are working in the worst-affected villages.

D

Bill to ensure laws to protect couples against exploitation

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 by a voice vote. The Bill, introduced by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, seeks to ban commercial surrogacy and provides for constituting a National Surrogacy Board, State Surrogacy Boards, and the appointment of appropriate authorities for the regulation of the practice and process of surrogacy.

Speaking on the Bill Dr. Vardhan said: “The Bill is aimed at ending the exploitation of women who are lending their womb for surrogacy, and protecting the rights of children born through this. The Bill will also look after the interests of the couple that opt for surrogacy, ensuring that there are laws protecting them against exploitation by clinics that are carrying this out as a business.”

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill regulates altruistic surrogacy and prohibits commercial surrogacy. It defines surrogacy as a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an eligible couple and agrees to hand over the child to them after the birth. The Bill allows altruistic surrogacy, which involves a surrogacy arrangement where the monetary reward only involves medical expenses and insurance coverage for the surrogate mother. Commercial surrogacy is prohibited under the Bill.

Cracks in Opposition seen as BJD, BSP, TDP back scrapping of special status for J&K

Opposition leaders (L-R) Manoj Jha (RJD), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), P. Chidambaram (Congress), Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Derek O’ Brien (TMC ) and others in New Delhi .R.V.Moorthy

Protesting over the manner in which Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the resolution to amend Article 370 in the Lok Sabha on Monday, Congress members Hibi Eden and Ramya Haridas tore up a copy of the resolution on the floor of the House.

Opposition MPs from the Congress, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the Trinamool and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) walked out of the Lok Sabha since the government only placed the resolution nullifying Article 370 that provides for special status to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Deputy leader of the Lok Sabha and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh accused the Opposition of disrespecting the Chair.

Cracks in the Opposition could be seen as parties such as the Biju Janata Dal, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Telugu Desam Party supported the resolution, while others such as the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) did not walk out despite their opposition to the government move. Mr. Shah introduced the presidential resolution soon after the Lok Sabha passed the Surrogacy Bill. Though Congress members protested, Speaker Om Birla allowed the introduction by a voice vote.

However, loud protests began after Mr. Birla started Zero Hour.

T.R. Baalu of the DMK asked the Speaker to give protection to the Opposition members to express themselves, while the AIMIM’s Mr. Owaisi asked why the Speaker allowed a division of votes.

“Whenever the Opposition asked for division, I have allowed division,” Mr. Birla said.

‘In the dark’

National Conference member Hasnain Masoodi, who represents the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in J&K, said the people of the State were in the dark about the development, with all channels of communication cut off and former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah all in detention. “Where is the Bill? This House doesn’t have a tradition of bringing a resolution before a Bill,” said Trinamool’s Saugata Roy.

Responding to the Opposition’s points, the Speaker said all their apprehensions could be answered on Tuesday when the House takes up the debate for passage.

Home Minister had been determined to change the status quo in the State, but U.S. President’s statement added a certain urgency to the matter

The Union government’s move to extend all provisions of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, stripping away certain special privileges of the State and reorganising it into two Union Territories were dictated by domestic and international situations.

According to senior sources in the government, the BJP’s ideological imperative of doing away with Article 370 has been always there, but the impetus for it was provided first by Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s determination to change the status quo in the State and also events in the past two weeks, after U.S. President Donald Trump publicly said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approached him to play mediator for the dispute in the State.

The Union government, of course, denied any such conversation with Mr. Trump, but the realisation in government circles was to do something that would demonstrate that it was irrevocably opposed to U.S. mediation.

“Ever since the BJP withdrew support to the Mehbooba Mufti government and Governor’s Rule and then President’s rule were imposed in the State, the government took many measures to make a change in the status quo, including setting up an Anti-Corruption Bureau and the raids on Jammu and Kashmir Bank. The biggest move was the conduct of the panchayat elections in the State. There was always a thinking that Article 35A needed to be done away with and a delimitation exercise had to be conducted for the State, something that had been done for the rest of the country,” a senior Minister said.

It was, however, Mr. Trump’s statement that added a certain urgency to the matter. Government floor managers were told by Mr. Shah to explore how to get a majority in the Upper House, where the NDA does not otherwise have one. The creeping acquisition of a majority in the Rajya Sabha was under way with the merger of the Telugu Desam parliamentary group in the Rajya Sabha into the BJP (with four out of its six MPs joining the BJP) and the merger of the Indian National Lok Dal group (one MP) and the resignation of two Samajwadi Party MPs, Neeraj Shekhar and Surendra Nagar.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, and Union Ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Piyush Goyal and Rajya Sabha member Bhupendra Yadav then worked the phones in the past four days to persuade parties whose ideological position was close to that of the BJP on the issue. Some were told that the matter was about Jammu and Kashmir. NDA allies were also spoken to and whips issued. The weekend saw Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad getting ready the drafts of the Bills that were passed on Monday. The Bills were carried with a two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha.

“There were credible threats to security as well, which is why everything was kept hush-hush,” a Minister said.

The underlying principle behind all this was to shake the post-Independence status quo.

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