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Several senior leaders, students, activists march in the national capital to protest the Central government’s decision to amend Article 370

Protesters gathered at Mandi House and marched towards Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday. Sushil Kumar Verma

As Jammu and Kashmir remains under a communication lockdown, protesters gathered at Mandi House on Wednesday and marched towards Jantar Mantar in protest against the government’s decision to remove the special status of the State and bifurcate it into two Union Territories.

The march was taken out under the eye of the police and paramilitary forces that made a ring around the protesters as a group of counter-protesters waved the national flag and shouted slogans of ‘Vande Matram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ at several locations along the route.

Several senior leaders, including CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D. Raja, Politburo member Brinda Karat, and NFIW general secretary Annie Raja, along with student activists participated in the march.

Mr. Yechury said that what had happened to Jammu and Kashmir was a prelude to the BJP’s plans for India.

“The promise that the same government made three years ago was to consult all the stakeholders before any decision on Jammu and Kashmir. But now the same people have been jailed and cut-off from the rest of the country. All this threatens federalism and the unity and integrity of India,” Mr. Yechury said.

Kashmiri protesters, who have not heard from their families back in the State, are worried. Nasir Husain, a Kashmiri medical student studying in Delhi, shared that it had been three days since he last spoke to his mother who is unwell. “She had an appointment with the doctor the day they announced the abrogation of the Article. There has been a complete blackout since and I do not know if she was able to go. People cannot even access the lawns of their houses there,” Mr. Husain said. He arrived at the protest with his luggage as he was heading back to Srinagar and said he feared for his life in Delhi.

“I think the Centre has given the paramilitary forces a licence to kill. They are ready for the casualties,” he added.

The crowd marching to Jantar Mantar shouted slogans of ‘inquilab zindabad’, ‘goonda gardi nahi chalegi’ and ‘Amit Shah Murdabad’. Avanti Balachandran and Keri Karen Sam, third-year law students at O.P. Jindal University were also part of the protest. They said, “Kashmir has been under siege for 40 years and instead of eradicating that, we have allowed the State to go from having a special status to the lowest one.”

Granddaughters of Kashmiri politician Prem Nath Bazaz were also present at the protest. Seher and Tamanna Bazaz said that they had gathered there because they believed the BJP could do this to other States as well. “The people of Kashmir own Kashmir and they get to decide what they want. The thread of democracy that India shared with Kashmir has been broken. You cannot go lower than this because there is nothing left,” they added.

Echoing this sentiment, Anjali Bhardwaj, a member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, said: “Arresting people, blocking communication, sending troops, and then bringing a Bill in complete secrecy and in a surreptitious manner challenge people’s right to know and participate. Where is the freedom of speech and expression?”

Calling the government’s move “a travesty of democracy,” CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said, “Everyone is talking about buying land in Kashmir as if that is the only thing Kashmir has to offer.”

‘Sushma Swaraj was frank in her communication and was able to maintain a balance between being broad-minded in her thinking and traditional in her conduct’

(Clockwise from top left) Sushma Swaraj being sworn in as the Delhi CM by then L-G Vijai Kapoor at Raj Bhavan on December 10, 1998; with former Delhi Chief Ministers M.L. Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma; with former Prime Ministers I.K. Gujral and Chandrashekhar in May 1998; with BJP president L.K. Advani and Khurana at an election rally on April 5, 1996; with Shobha Vijender, wife of Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta, a few hours before her death on Tuesday. File photos, Special Arrangement-

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the status of laws governing women safety, and doubts about her health were on senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’s mind hours before she died on Tuesday.

According to Shobha Vijender, wife of Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta, Swaraj shared with her the reason for her decision to not contest the Lok Sabha election.

“She attributed her decision to doubts of whether she will be able to connect with people without breaking bread with them, which her health did not permit any longer,” Ms. Vijender said.

She added, “I still can’t believe it. I spoke to her for a good 25 minutes at her daughter’s residence where she kept repeating that she was feeling fine and was okay. I still can’t believe that the photo that we took together was our last.”

Senior Delhi BJP leaders said that Swaraj, who was appointed Chief Minister of Delhi between October and December 1998, was brought in to help the party tide through a tough phase — the Delhi Assembly elections.

A new face

A BJP leader recalled, “The issue of skyrocketing onion prices and lack of cohesion between the two tallest leaders of the party at that time, Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma — both of whom who wanted the CM’s chair — triggered the need for an internal party survey which called for the projection of a new face. Swaraj was that new face.”

Vijay Goel, who served with Swaraj in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet called her a “disciplined party hand and a simple human being”.

Maintained a balance

“She was frank in her communication and was able to maintain a balance between being broad-minded in her thinking and traditional in her being just the way she conducted herself. For example, when she contested against [Congress leader] Sonia Gandhi from Bellary in 1999 she knew it would be an uphill task but she never questioned the party’s decision to field her,” he said.

Recalling her fondness for traditional festival, Mr. Goel said that for Swaraj, festivals like Teej and Karva Chauth were occasions that she celebrated with as many people as she could. BJP national executive member and former Delhi Mayor Arti Mehra recalled how Swaraj would both nurture and scold her as an “elder sister” .

Grateful for guidance

“She was always frank about what she had to say. Both praise and criticism came with the same honesty. She may not have been very active in Delhi’s politics but her guidance on issues related to it was invaluable,” Ms. Mehra said.

As a first-time councillor in 1997, Mr. Gupta remembered with fondness the guidance he received from her as well as her dedication towards the cause of women’s safety in Delhi.

“She was always particular about the precise details of issues as well as party events. She was so dedicated to women’s safety that she would inspect police stations in the middle of the night.” Mr. Gupta said.

Passionate person

Congress leader Haroon Yusuf said, “Swaraj was a very passionate person and while she was CM of Delhi in 1998 for the three months, any work that we, from the Opposition, approached her with, she was always willing to consider and help. We were never considered like Opposition MLAs during her tenure as CM and our suggestions were welcome.”

“She had many plans for Delhi at that time but her tenure was short and lasted only three months before the Congress came to power in the election that followed. The country will miss her,” Mr. Yusuf said offering his condolences.

Congress leader Krishna Tirath who was an MLA in 1998 when Swaraj was the Delhi Chief Minister and was her colleague in Parliament during the UPA government said, Swaraj always worked for the development and empowerment of women and ensured that women were the building blocks of the nation.

“We many have had a difference in ideologies but we were good friends and colleagues in the Delhi Assembly as well as in Parliament,” Ms. Tirath said.

Uttar Pradesh MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar is one of the accused

Accused Kuldeep Sengar

A Delhi court on Wednesday started hearing arguments in the Unnao rape case in which Uttar Pradesh MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar is one of the accused.

Counsel for the CBI submitted before District and Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma that the minor was assaulted by the expelled BJP MLA and his co-accused Shashi Singh helped him in the commission of the crime as she had lured the victim to his residence on the pretext of getting her a job.

When the State police did not take any action on the matter for almost a year after the incident, the victim’s then approached a court there, counsel for the probe agency said.

Counsel for the accused submitted that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) was not attracted against his client as the victim was a major at the time of the alleged assault.

He further said that the fact that the victim had attained adulthood was proved by the school documents and her medical report.

However, victim’s counsel D.K. Mishra claimed that she was a minor as per the school documents as well as the medical report at the time of tha alleged assault on her.

No media bar

Earlier, the court refused to debar media from reporting the proceedings as sought by counsel for the accused and the CBI. It advised the reporters to do balanced reporting without going into the minute details and making an opinion.

The court had on August 5 sent Sengar to judicial custody.

The Supreme Court had on August 1 transferred the rape case and three other cases related to it to the Delhi court. The apex court had also directed that the trial be wrapped within 45 days .

Case relates to recovery of ₹19 lakh from a person last year

BJP MP Mukul RoyFile photo

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday set aside an arrest warrant against BJP leader Mukul Roy in connection with the alleged recovery of unaccounted cash from a person.

Justice Rajasekhar Mantha set aside the warrant issued by a city court on a plea by Kolkata Police to question him in connection with the alleged recovery of ₹19 lakh from a person in Burrabazar area of the city last year.

Original proceedings

The High Court directed that the original proceedings pertaining to the alleged recovery of the sum will continue before the city court.

The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Kolkata, had on July 29 issued the warrant against Mr. Roy on a prayer by the Burrabazar police station, alleging non-cooperation on his part in investigation into the case.

Appearing for Mr. Roy before the High Court, senior counsel Bikash Bhattacharya submitted that since the BJP leader has already been quizzed by the police at his Delhi residence, there is no reason for the warrant to be in force.

Public prosecutor Saswata Mukherjee submitted that the purpose of the arrest warrant has been served since he has already been interrogated, but the main proceedings before the lower court with regard to the recovery of the sum should continue.

The Delhi High Court had on August 1 granted Mr. Roy protection from coercive action for 10 days, on a plea by the BJP leader challenging the notices issued to him by the Kolkata Police to appear before it for questioning in the case.

‘Join the probe’

While granting the relief to him, the Delhi High Court asked Mr. Roy to join the investigation into the case and be available for questioning.

Mr. Roy was quizzed by the officers of the Kolkata Police at his Delhi residence on August 2.

The case pertains to the recovery of ₹19 lakh from a person in Burrabazar area of Kolkata on July 31, 2018, leading to his arrest and a few others.

Mr. Roy’s phone number allegedly featured in one of the arrested persons’ call list.

16 dead in western Maharashtra in one week; CM orders survey of crop damage; Army, Navy, Air Force, NDRF teams engaged in rescue operations; bus services affected

Staying afloat: Locals rescuing an old woman from floodwater at Renuka Mandir road, Kasba Bavada, in Kolhapur on Wednesday. Deepak Kumbhar

Over one lakh people from 20,000 families have been moved to safety as local residents, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and the Armed forces are pulling out all the stops to rescue those stuck in waterlogged areas in Kolhapur and Sangli districts. The districts are experiencing the worst deluge since 2005.

Sixteen people in five districts — Pune, Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli and Solapur — in western Maharashtra have lost their lives over the past week, while 1.32 lakh people from these districts were evacuated till Wednesday, Pune Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar said.

“As many as 51,785 people were moved to safe areas in Kolhapur, while 53,228 were shifted in Sangli district. In addition, 13,336 from Pune, 7,749 from Solapur district, and 6,262 from Satara district have been evacuated,” Mr. Mhaisekar said. A total of 201 medical teams are working in the three most-afflicted districts of Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli.

Chairing an emergency meeting in Mumbai, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said rescuing women, children and patients is the priority, and directed the administration of the flood-hit districts to make alternative arrangements for food, essential items, and drinking water.

“I have directed for an immediate survey of crop damage. We will expand relief operations as and when required. At present, we are trying to mobilise maximum number of NDRF teams and those from the Armed forces. We have brought in NDRF teams from Gujarat and Odisha to focus on Kolhapur district where the situation is critical, while the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard teams are doing their best to rescue those stranded,” Mr. Fadnavis said.

Mr. Mhaisekar said four teams of the Territorial Army are engaged in rescue operations in Kolhapur and one team has reached Sangli. While six NDRF teams are already in action in Kolhapur, six more are on their way by road. One Navy team is in operation in Kolhapur.

“Air connectivity has been established over Kolhapur since Wednesday morning with five more Navy teams to be dispatched via air over the district. In addition, three NDRF teams have reached Sangli while three more are en route. As of now, 29 boats in Kolhapur, 43 in Sangli, and 17 in Satara have been pressed into service to evacuate people,” he said, adding Pune divisional officials are in touch with the administration of the afflicted districts and the neighbouring Karnataka.

The deluge has completely thrown State Transport bus services in Kolhapur and Sangli out of gear. With 89 roads in Kolhapur under water, the district is completely cut off from the rest of Maharashtra.

“We have had to shut down traffic along the Pune-Bengaluru Highway owing to excess flooding in at least three places between Pune and Kolhapur. Likewise, we have lost contact with the Belagavi side owing to the deluge. Bus services to Kolhapur and Sangli have been suspended due to flooding with the bus stand in Sangli submerged,” Mr. Mhaisekar said.

With the Panchganga river touching 54 feet mark and the Krishna waters wreaking havoc in Sangli, residential and government buildings, including commissionerates, collectors’ residences, and jails, are half-submerged.

Rescue operations are under way in urban and the backwater areas of Kolhapur and Sangli.

Video clips of a courageous ambulance driver wading through the floodwater in Kolhapur to rescue a man in need of medical attention went viral, as did one of a boat ferrying some women which capsized near the Venus Corner roundabout in Kolhapur city. There were no casualties in either case.

Dairy business in the region is severely hit while a number of poultry farms have gone under water in some places. With major dairy operators like Gokul, Warana and Chitale being compelled to shut operations, western Maharashtra is expected to face a severe milk shortage in the coming days.

The condition of the livestock is appalling with no fodder for those stranded. However, authorities said a number of farmers, anticipating the crisis and anxious to prevent a repeat of the massive loss of livestock in the 2005 floods, had already begun to shift animals before Kolhapur and Sangli being flooded.

“As per data, 16,633 livestock in Sangli have been moved to safe zones,” Abhijeet Chaudhari , Collector, Sangli, said.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast heavy rain for Kolhapur in the next 48 hours. “From Wednesday night till forenoon of August 9, we expect heavy to very heavy showers to hit the ghat areas, including Kolhapur. The rain over Sangli has relaxed in contrast, with light to moderate rain expected on Thursday,” Anupam Kashyapi, head, weather and air pollution monitoring unit, IMD, said.

Warning for Pune

However, Mr. Kashyapi said Pune district will again witness heavy rain in some parts, especially in the ghat areas from August, and that a high alert has been issued in this regard.

“We expect extremely heavy, record breaking rainfall of 20.5 cm a day, in the ghat areas of Pune district over the next 48 hours. This may prompt a discharge from the dams yet again,” he said, adding the situation will improve from August 11.

Centre told to file affidavit on long-term solution

Red signal: Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have supported the overnight traffic ban in Bandipur.File photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the continuation of the overnight traffic ban on the national highway running through the core area of the Bandipur tiger reserve. A Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman asked the Centre to come up with a permanent solution which would keep the endangered species away from harm by exposing them to highway traffic. Highways do not have a place in the core tiger habitats and their buffer zones, the court said.

“There is a need to strengthen another route. We direct the Union government’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in consultation with the Ministry of Environment and Forest to file an affidavit within four weeks with suggestions on closure of it in the long run,” the Bench said.

The court said it is a necessity to accept the recommendation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority to continue with the overnight traffic ban.

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta said the highway is not a thoroughfare for holidayers. Much-needed essential supplies from Mysuru to Kerala go through it. The ban affected the flow of inter-State trade, commerce and tourism. “This is not a question of pleasure drive. This is essential for movement of goods. The ban was causing widespread unrest in the State,” he submitted.

Senior advocate Basava P. Patil, for Karnataka, submitted that an alternative route is being developed at a cost of approximately over ₹70 crore. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have supported the ban to protect ecology.

Nation has lost an able administrator, says Venkaiah

Silent tribute: Geeta, who accidentally crossed over to Pakistan, breaking down during a condolence meeting for Sushma Swaraj in Indore on Wednesday. Geeta was rescued after being stranded in Pakistan for 15 years, after an intervention by Ms. Swaraj. PTI-

Paying homage to former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said she was like his sister, and always addressed him as Anna (elder brother).

In the House, Mr. Naidu read out an obituary reference saying: “She was a regular at family and cultural events at my residence for a long time. Every year, on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, she used to tie rakhi on my hand. I will be missing this honour this year... I have lost a valuable sister in her demise, which is an irreparable loss to me.”

‘Voice of people’

Mr. Naidu said in her untimely demise, the nation had lost an able administrator, an effective parliamentarian and a true voice of the people.

Ms. Swaraj was a member of the House for three terms between April 1990 and May 2009. She was elected four times to the Lok Sabha — in 1996, 1998, 2009 and 2014.

Mr. Naidu said she had several firsts to her credit: she was the youngest Minister at the age of 25 in the Haryana government, the first woman Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the first woman “Outstanding parliamentarian”, the first woman Chief Minister of Delhi and the first full-time woman External Affairs Minister.

Stating that as a legislator and Union Minister, she remained committed and devoted to the cause of the people and country, he said that in her four decade-long stint in public life, she had emerged as a role model. She was grace, grit, affection, amiability and ability personified. She always dreamt of an India at its highest glory, he said.

“As a Minister of External Affairs, she gave a human touch to the Ministry by being in the forefront of rescuing Indians in distress in several parts of the world. She had come to be known as the most accessible Minister...,” he said, adding that she was also an orator, with command over Hindi and English. Mr. Naidu mentioned her last message on Twitter, thanking Prime Minister on the issue of Article 370, stating that it showed her commitment to “One India, one Constitution”. The members observed silence as a mark of respect to the departed.

‘Original Instrument of Accession was studied before decision was taken’

Officials in the Home Ministry fished out original copies of the “Instrument of the Accession” signed with 562 princely states during the time of Independence to make a legal basis for the amendment to Article 370 taking away the special status of Jammu & Kashmir.

The copies pulled out from the archival records were matched with the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of J&K, with India on October 26, 1947. “We matched the accession document of J&K with that signed with the other princely States, each and every word was the same,” an official said.

According to him, though the legal document was the same, Article 370 was only applied in J&K.

“The accession agreement was never an impediment for the merger of other States with India. This is what made it clear that Article 370 could be removed as it was not part of the original agreement,” he said.

The document was to accede in respect of only the following subjects — Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communications and ancillary that included matters related to courts and electtion.

On April 20, 1951, the Maharaja issued a Proclamation constituting a 75-member Constituent Assembly (CA) for the purposes of framing a Constitution for the State.

Home Minister Amit Shah has said in both the Houses of Parliament that Article 370 was “originally a temporary provision.”

Mr. Shah told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that Article 370(3) provided the President the powers to amend or repeal the Article by issuing a notification, based on a recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of J&K and since it doesn’t exist any more, it would be read as the Legislative Assembly.

He added that since the Legislative Assembly of J&K was dissolved last year, its powers vested in both the Houses of Parliament.

Lawyer for Ram Lalla Virajman submits that references to disputed land are there in the Valmiki Ramayana

“Whether Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem... Has such a question ever arisen in any court,” Justice S.A. Bobde asked senior advocate K. Parasaran, lawyer for Ram Lalla Virajman, the deity in Ayodhya, during the second day of hearing in the Ramjanmabhumi cross-appeals on Wednesday.

The appeals have been filed by Hindus and Muslims contesting each other’s claims of ownership over the 2.77 acres in Ayodhya where Hindus believe Lord Ram was born in Tretha Yuga. The structure, Babri Masjid, which stood on the disputed land was demolished by “Kar Sevaks” on December 6, 1992.

The Allahabad High Court attempted to resolve the decades-old dispute by giving joint possession of the disputed land to both Hindus and Muslims in a three-way partition among the deity, Nirmohi Akahara and the Sunni Waqf Board in September 2010. But the parties responded by filing cross-appeals.

Mr. Parasaran submitted that references of disputed land were there in the Valmiki Ramayana.

He said the usual strict codes of evidence should be relaxed in this case as worshippers believed the spirit of Sri Ram “pervades/resides” in the Asthan. The unshakeable faith of the believers was itself evidence that the Asthan was the birthplace of Rama, he addressed the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi.

Mr. Parasaran argued, “The Asthan has become a personification of the deity. It has by itself become an object of worship for the Hindus.” The suit filed by the deity in 1989 was not hit by limitation as the installation of idols in the Babri mosque on the intervening night of December 22-23 of 1949 was not a “continuous wrong” as an interim injunction order was passed on January 19, 1950, which was again confirmed on March 3, 1951. The appeal against the injunction order was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court in April 1955.

A Hindu deity in law is treated as a juristic person with rights. The Ayodhya deity is an infant form of Lord Ram. The deity is deemed a perpetual minor. The law of limitation does not apply to minors. The Allahabad High Court had admitted the suit filed on behalf of Ram Lalla and appointed the next friend to represent the Lord. The suit in the name of the deity had sought a declaration that the Ramjanmabhumi belonged to the deity. It had also sought a judicial order prohibiting any obstruction in the construction of the new temple building in the disputed area.

The court had asked Mr. Parasaran to commence his arguments after Nirmohi Akhara sought more time to produce oral, historical and documentary evidence to establish their claim over the entire area of the disputed Ramjanmabhumi.

‘Time for evidence’

The court, which is on a tight schedule as the CJI has about 50 working days left before retirement in November, decided to hear the deity and gave the Akhara time to prepare the evidence.

When a lawyer protested the move from the back row of the courtroom, Chief Justice Gogoi gave him a dressing down, saying “the First Court of this country should remain the First Court of this country. Don’t try to make it anything else.”

Earlier, the court did not agree when senior advocate Sushil Kumar Jain, for Nirmohi Akhara, suggested reading the documentary evidence from the judgments of the lower courts in the case.

“These would be just excerpts. We want the original documents,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, on the Bench, reacted.

Mr. Jain said documentary evidence such as revenue records to establish the Akhara’s claim of having managed and controlled the “temple” in the Ramjanmabhumi went missing in a “dacoity” in 1982. But Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer seconded Justice Chandrachud, who asked Mr. Jain at least to present oral evidence, such as testimonies in court, before the Bench.

“Statements here and there will not do. Present us the oral evidence,” Chief Justice Gogoi said.

The hearing will continue on Thursday.

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