MAY 2, Thursday

Delhi Edition

* Front Page

UN Security Council designates Masood Azhar as global terrorist





UN Security Council designates Masood Azhar as global terrorist

Reasons for the decision however do not mention the Pulwama attack

Sriram Lakshman/, Suhasini Haidar
Washington/New Delhi

Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar was listed as a designated terrorist by the UN Security Council 1267 Committee on Wednesday. Significantly, the reasons for listing did not mention the Pulwama attack of February 14, for which the JeM had claimed responsibility, and which found mention in the latest (February 27) listing request for Azhar.

Nevertheless, the listing is a victory for India in a decade-old diplomatic battle waged primarily by it and supported by its friends at the UNSC, as it would mean a travel ban, arms embargo and asset freeze on Azhar.

The P-3 or group of three permanent UNSC members, the U.S., the U.K. and France, had co-sponsored a listing request at the Committee on February 27, weeks after the Pulwama attack that killed over 40 security personnel. That request, which The Hindu has access to, reads, “…JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Pulwama”.

However, China placed a hold on the request — which normally lasts for three months — on March 13. This was the fourth such attempt to designate Azhar, over a decade, that had gone awry.

At the end of March, the U.S. circulated a draft resolution (to sanction Azhar) among the UNSC members, i.e., outside the 1267 Committee, presumably to pressure China into either supporting the listing or having to take a stand in open proceedings and risk being seen as supporting terror.

Earlier this week, China had said “some progress” had been made and indicated it was willing to change its decade-long position.

Welcoming the decision, India called it a “step in the right direction.”




15 jawans killed as Maoists trigger IED in Gadchiroli





15 jawans killed as Maoists trigger IED in Gadchiroli

They were on their way to provide security at police station

Sharad Vyas, Mumbai

The mangled remains of the police vehicle blasted by militants. PTIPTI

In one of the worst attacks on the anti-naxal security forces in the last 15 years, Maoist insurgents blew up an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killing 15 jawans and a civilian in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district on Wednesday afternoon.

A unit of the Quick Response Team (QRT) of the Gadchiroli police was on its way to provide reinforcements to the police station in the Kurkheda taluk, nearly 60 km north of Gadchiroli, when the blast was triggered near Lendali Nullah, in Jamburkheda village, six kilometres from the police station.

The police said security had been intensified in the taluk following an attack the previous night in which naxals had torched 36 vehicles meant to assist road construction work in Dadpur village.

The latest ambush seems to be in retaliation for the killing of two senior women cadre of the rebels, Manku Norate and Manu Dasru, by the anti-naxal forces in an encounter in the forests of Etapalli taluk, South Gadchiroli, on April 27.


* Nation

State has emerged as economic engine of India: Governor





State has emerged as economic engine of India: Governor

‘Mumbai’s contribution in making Maharashtra the No.1 State is immense’

Press Trust of India

Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao inspecting the ceremonial parade by Mumbai Police, SRPF, Home Guards and firemen as part of Maharashtra Day celebration at Shivaji Park on Wednesday. Emmanual YoginiEmmanual Yogini

Mumbai

Maharashtra Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao said on Wednesday that the State is the economic engine of the country and has played a significant role in development of its infrastructure.

Mr. Rao appealed to citizens to join hands in building a new and vibrant Maharashtra.

The Governor was addressing a gathering after hoisting the Tricolour and inspecting the ceremonial parade at Shivaji Park in Central Mumbai on the 59th anniversary of the formation of Maharashtra.

Mr. Rao said Maharashtra has traditionally enjoyed geographical advantage in terms of industrial development. The State has maintained its position as one of the most attractive destinations for domestic as well as foreign investment, he said.

“The State is the economic engine of the nation and has played a significant role in the country’s infrastructural development. Maharashtra is also a leading state in the country in terms of agriculture, industrial production, trade and transport,” the Governor said.

“As a result, Maharashtra remains one of the most developed and prosperous States in the country,” he said. The contribution of Mumbai in making Maharashtra the No.1 State cannot be overstated, Mr. Rao said. The metropolis houses the headquarters of most of the banks, corporate and financial institutions and is also home to India’s largest stock exchange, and the film industry, Mr. Rao added.

The Governor said Mumbai, home to India’s most important ports, handles an enormous foreign trade.

Other cities have also emerged as centres of growth and excellence, he said. “It (Mumbai) is a hub of manufacturing, finance and service sector. Pune has emerged as an IT and automobile hub. Nagpur, Kolhapur and Solapur are other dynamic centres of growth,” the Governor added.



BJP hits out at Pawar’s ‘absurd logic’ on EVMs





BJP hits out at Pawar’s ‘absurd logic’ on EVMs

‘If 200 Opposition MPs are elected, then there is no tampering… But if BJP is re-elected, there is manipulation?’

Shoumojit Banerjee

Sharad Pawar Subhav Shukla

pune

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday hit out at Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar for questioning the efficacy of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the election process in general. The party said that this indicated his party’s anticipated defeat in Baramati.

“By pointing a finger to the tampering of EVMs, Mr. Pawar has already started preparing his excuses as he has sensed that not a single member of his family is going to be elected,” said senior BJP leader and State Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil in Jalgaon.

Expressing confidence that the BJP would win not only Baramati but also other western Maharashtra constituencies of Madha, Hatkanangale and Satara, Mr. Patil said that it was only a question of counting the victory-margins now.

Mr. Pawar had expressed his doubts in a recent interview to a Marathi TV channel. “If 200 Opposition [Congress, NCP and their allies] MPs are elected, then there is no EVM tampering… But if the BJP is re-elected, then Mr. Pawar thinks that EVMs have been manipulated. What sort of absurd logic is this?” asked Mr. Patil, who oversaw the BJP’s strategy in the keenly contested seats in western Maharashtra.

Stating that the BJP had no problem in doing away with EVMs, Mr. Patil said, “Who introduced the EVMs? It was the Congress party. We [the BJP] have no problem to supplant it with the ballot system. And why ballots, we are even open to the system where the electorate in each constituency votes by a show of hands.”

In his interview, Mr. Pawar had said: “When persons like Chandrakant Patil, who never contested Assembly or Parliamentary polls, claim with such confidence that BJP will win these seats [like Baramati and Madha Lok Sabha seats], it raises doubts in the minds of many people as to whether EVMs have been manipulated… While I have heard discussions to this effect, I have no authentic information.”

Mr. Pawar’s daughter and sitting MP Supriya Sule, is seeking reelection for the third time from Baramati. Her opponent is Kanchan Kul (BJP-Sena).

Meanwhile, other State unit BJP leaders including Vinod Tawde and Girish Mahajan joined forces in targeting Mr. Pawar. “Sharad Pawar can see defeat staring him in the face. He has received his feedback from the Barmati constituency and perhaps senses that Ms. Sule cannot win. Hence, he has already started blaming the EVMs,” said Mr. Tawde.



Fishermen warned of high waves as ‘Fani’ nears coast





Fishermen warned of high waves as ‘Fani’ nears coast

Odisha directs administration to ensure 100% evacuation in vulnerable areas

Staff Reporter
Hyderabad/Vijayawada/Bhubaneswar

In view of the severe cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ closing in on Odisha, the Ocean State Forecast Operations Centre in Hyderabad on Wednesday issued warnings of high waves to fishermen along Odisha, West Bengal and Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh, according to Balakrishnan Nair, Head, Ocean Information and Forecast Services Group (ISG).

An upward trend in higher waves along the coastline has started registering at Visakhapatnam and Gopalpur.

The nearshore waves are being measured using WAMAN (Wave Monitoring Along Near-shore) buoy network, with real-time communication of the data, deployed at Puducherry, Krishnapatnam, Visakhapatnam, Gopalpur and Digha, Dr. Nair said.

“Higher waves are likely to be experienced along the north Andhra Pradesh coast, Odisha and West Bengal coasts with maximum waves being along the Odisha coast. At Visakhapatnam, maximum wave height of around 5.8 mts is likely during the early hours on May 2; at Gopalpur, around 8.7 mts, early afternoon of May 3 and at Digha around 5.4 mts, early morning of May 4. This is for locations where Wave Rider Buoys have been deployed,” he said.

Caution advised

The system is likely to move northwestwards during the next 12 hours and recurve north-northeastwards and cross Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, to the south of Puri around 3rd May afternoon with maximum sustained wind of speed 175-185 kmph gusting to 205 kmph.

The observations and forecast model outputs are in good agreement in the open ocean and near-shore.

This suggests maximum caution to be exercised by Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal coasts, he maintained.

Meanwhile, during a video conference on the cyclone preparedness in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary L.V. Subrahmanyam told Union Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha that Collectors were alerted and special officers were deployed in all mandals in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts.

He said the impact of ‘Fani’ could be significant on 200 villages and precautionary measures were taken while the cyclone was being tracked by Doppler radars in Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Machilipatnam.

The Odisha government on Wednesday took all possible measures to face ‘Fani’, which is likely to hit the State’s coast in Puri district on Friday evening.

Stating that every life is precious, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who reviewed the cyclone preparedness at a high-level meeting at the State Secretariat, directed the administration to ensure 100% evacuation in the vulnerable areas.

Mr. Patnaik also laid emphasis on early restoration of power, water supply and road communication in the affected areas.

Evacuation and free kitchen start from Thursday.




Chandrayaan-2 gets new launch window in July





Chandrayaan-2 gets new launch window in July

India’s second moon mission has been put off many times

T.K. Rohit

The engineering model of the rover of Chandrayaan-2.K. MURALI KUMARK_MURALI_KUMAR

CHENNAI

India’s much-delayed second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, has got yet another launch window. The mission is now set to be launched any time between July 5 and July 16 this year. The moon landing is likely to be around September 6, 2019, nearly two months after the launch, close to the lunar South Pole, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

Global plans

The lunar South Pole is believed to contain ice and other minerals, and international space expedition plans are hotting up with NASA planning to land astronauts there by 2024, while China reportedly plans to build a scientific research station on the lunar South Pole within the next decade.

The launch of India’s second moon mission, which has been put off multiple times, was scheduled for launch between January 3 and February 16 this year but was again pushed to April. With various tests to be completed and in the final stages, ISRO has now finalised another launch window in July.

3 modules

Chandrayaan-2 is a fully-indigenous mission that comprises three modules — an Orbiter, a Lander named ‘Vikram’, and a Rover named ‘Pragyan’ — and will be launched on board a GSLV-MkIII rocket. The GSLV-MkIII is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle that has been designed to carry four-tonne class satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). The Chandrayaan-1 mission was launched on board a PSLV.

The Chandrayaan-2 weighs around 3,290 kg, according to ISRO. It would orbit around the moon and carry out remote sensing of the moon. “The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice,” says ISRO.

Integrated module

The Orbiter and the Lander will be stacked together as an integrated module, while the Rover will be housed inside the Lander. According to ISRO, once the Orbiter reaches the 100 km lunar orbit, the Lander will separate from it and ISRO will carry out a controlled descent at a specific site and deploy the Rover.

The six-wheeled Rover will “move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands. The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil,” according to ISRO.



Curbs on civilian traffic between Srinagar and Baramulla lifted





Curbs on civilian traffic between Srinagar and Baramulla lifted

Restrictions were imposed after the February 14 Pulwama attack

Press trust of india
Srinagar

Under immense pressure from various quarters, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday announced complete withdrawal of restrictions on civilian traffic movement between and Baramulla.

The restrictions were put in place last month to facilitate movement of convoys of security forces on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway (NH-44).

“There will be no restriction on movement of civilian traffic from tomorrow (Thursday). The civilian traffic movement had been restricted on Wednesday and Sunday to allow movement of security forces’ convoy,” an official spokesman said.

Protests against move

Several politicians, including National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, and Peoples Democratic Party patron Mehbooba Mufti, had staged protests against the State government for imposing the restriction.

Officials in the State administration, on the condition of anonymity, said even Governor Satya Pal Malik was not happy with the decision, which was taken by J&K Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam.

The Central Reserve Police Force and police also felt that movement of convoys cannot be restricted to a particular day. The State administration had imposed restriction on civilian traffic movement after the February 14 Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives when an explosive-laden vehicle hit a bus in their convoy.

The government had ordered that no civilian traffic would be there on Wednesday and Sunday of every week between 4 a.m. to 5 p.m.

However, the restriction between Srinagar and Barmulla was limited to only Sunday from April 22.

“The government has once again reviewed the requirement of security forces. Following the successful conduct of elections in Kulgam and Anantnag districts and as the requirement of security forces is now reducing as they are de-inducted… the restriction on civilian movement between Srinagar and Baramulla on the NH-44 will be completely lifted” from tomorrow (Thursday), he said.



CJI appears before panel probing sexual harassment charge





CJI appears before panel probing sexual harassment charge

Bobde Committee had sent a ‘letter of request’ as is the case with high constitutional office-holders; complainant has declined to attend hearing without lawyer

Krishnadas Rajagopal

Ranjan Gogoi

NEW DELHI

In an unprecedented development, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has appeared before the Justice S.A. Bobde in-house inquiry committee examining sexual harassment allegations levelled against the top judge by a former Supreme Court employee.

A letter of request was issued to the Chief Justice of India and he responded to it and met the panel, a highly-rated source told The Hindu on Wednesday.

High constitutional office-holders like the CJI are not issued summons as is the usual case. They are sent a ‘letter of request’ to participate in the proceedings.

The development has come to light a day after the complainant declined to participate in the in-house proceedings. “She declined to participate following which the committee conveyed to her that the consequences of her decision would be that the committee would have to continue the hearings ex parte. She agreed,” the source said.

Not known

The source however refused to divulge when exactly, what day, the CJI participated in the proceedings.

The committee also comprises Justices Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra as members, while Justice Bobde is the chair.

It has been holding the hearings on a daily basis from Monday. On the third hearing on April 30, the complainant had refused to further participate in the ‘informal’ proceedings.

She had issued a press statement citing that one of the reasons for her withdrawal was that the panel allegedly refused her request to have a lawyer or a support person accompany her during the hearings.

“I was compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings today (April 30) because the committee seemed not to appreciate the fact that this was not an ordinary complaint but a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI,” she had stated in a press release.

The source said that it was a sensitive issue and gave no deadline by which the committee would submit its report. The report, when done, would likely be placed before a Full Court and vetted by all the Supreme Court judges.

The crisis in the Supreme Court began when a clutch of websites published the woman’s allegations against the CJI on Easter Day morning.

Within an hour of the articles coming online on April 20, the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi held an “extraordinary and unusual hearing” in the Supreme Court, during the course of which he claimed the allegations were part of a larger plot to “deactivate the office of the Chief Justice of India.”



‘There is a need for immediate remedial steps to deliver justice to victim’





‘There is a need for immediate remedial steps to deliver justice to victim’

‘‘Supreme Court must heed its own judgments in the CJI sexual harassment hearings; It should also be fair to the judge concerned, and restore public confidence’

Dushyant Dave

Dushyant Dave.

Four centuries ago, Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke during King James I’s reign demolished the theory that “the king can do no wrong”. He held that the “king should be under god and the law”. Thus was established the supremacy of the law or the rule of law.

Yet, the Supreme Court of India appears to think that it is above the law as an institution on its administrative side. It is acting clearly as if the judges and not the law is supreme. The ‘in-house procedure’ committee of three honourable and distinguished judges is proceeding post-haste to complete its task. In the process, it is negating everything that the Supreme Court has stood for on its judicial side. Irrespective of the report it submits, the conduct of the in-house inquiry by the committee raises extremely disturbing and far reaching questions.

‘Constitutional mandate’

The Supreme Court has consistently prided itself as “a court which stands as a ‘sentinel of the qui vive’ over the rights of the people of this country”. In the celebrated Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India in 1992, a Constitution Bench of nine judges held: “therefore, judges who are entrusted with the task of fostering an advance social policy in terms of the constitutional mandates cannot afford to sit in ivory towers keeping Olympian silence unnoticed and uncaring of the storms and stresses that affect the Society”.

It also reminded itself: “When societal conditions and factual situations demand the judges to speak, they, without professing the tradition of judicial lockjaw, must speak out……”

The court unhesitatingly spoke in Visakha against sexual harassment at workplaces and commanded that till the time Parliament enacted the law, its judgment laying down guidelines to prevent sexual harassment and to punish those guilty, must hold the field. Years later, parliament stepped in and enacted the ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013’.

Yet, the Supreme Court has singularly failed to apply that law to itself and prohibit sexual harassment in its own workplace. By excluding the employees and themselves from its purview, the victim’s complaint against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is therefore left at the whims of the judges. In the absence of a defined procedure for redressal, the judges have followed the in-house procedure in a stereotypical fashion.

True, this procedure to inquire against a judge of the Supreme Court provides for constituting ‘a Committee consisting of three judges of the Supreme Court’ while in respect of the judges of the High Court and the Chief Justice of the High Court, the committee comprises ‘two Chief Justices of High Courts other than the High Court to which the judge belongs and one High Court judge’ or ‘a judge of the Supreme Court or two Chief Justices of other High Courts’ respectively.

Fundamentally, the procedure to inquire into a complaint against a judge of the Supreme Court is defective and not free from prejudices and bias. The Supreme Court in Addl. District & Sessions Judge ‘X’ v. High Court of M.P. speaking through Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice Arun Mishra, when they justified the constitution of a committee excluding judges of the same court, stated: “….The exclusion of judges of the same court from the investigative process, was also well thought out. In certain situations it may be true, as pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioner, that judges of the same court being colleagues of the judge concerned, would endeavour to exculpate him from his predicament. It is not as if the position could not be otherwise. Animosity amongst colleagues is not unknown. Reasons of competitiveness, jealousy and the like are known amongst colleague judges, especially from the same High Court…”

While declining to go into the contention of the petitioner that inquiry by the two-judge committee constituted by the Chief Justice of the High Court cannot be expected to arrive at a fair conclusion, the Justices yet went ahead and responded for it being ‘just and proper’ and ‘for future reference’.

“There can be no doubt, that an investigation, would lead to consequences. The judge concerned may be found remiss, or alternatively, he may be exculpated of the charges. Whilst in the former eventuality, the judge concerned against whom the findings are recorded, would be the obvious sufferer, in the latter eventuality, the adverse consequences would be against the complainant, for it would be assumed that she had levelled unfounded allegations. It is therefore imperative that the procedure adopted for the investigative process is absolutely fair for all concerned. The procedure should be such as would ensure, that it would be shorn of favouritism, prejudice or bias. Presence of any one of the above would vitiate the entire investigative process. Recording of statements of individuals, who are subservient to Respondent 3 Justice A, irrespective of whether the statements are recorded on behalf of the complainant or the judge concerned, would most definitely render the investigative process unsustainable in law. The influence of the judge concerned, over the witnesses to be produced, either by the complainant or by the judge concerned himself, will have to be removed. It will be for the complainant to raise a grievance of the nature referred to above.….. And whenever necessary, remedial steps will be taken”.

Accordingly the Supreme Court held “that the Investigative Process under In-House Procedure must take into account the Rights of the Complainant, the judge concerned by adopting a fair procedure and safeguards, the integrity of the Institution”. In that judgment the Supreme Court ordered, “to make the process ‘fair and just’, it is imperative to divest the judge concerned (against whom allegations have been levelled), of his administrative and supervisory authority and control over witnesses”.

Therefore the Supreme Court should have appointed a fiercely independent committee. All this is singularly forgotten by the committee presided by Hon’ble Justice Bobde. The victim’s statement to the press published widely in newspapers demonstrates that the committee’s constitution, its procedure and its functioning are far from being fair and just. The very constitution of the committee raises serious question marks even if it be under the declared procedure. The law declared as above makes this legal position abundantly clear. Justices should have been mindful of their own law.

The Chief Justice, during the fateful hearing on April 20 proclaimed from a judicial dais his innocence, described the victim as a criminal and spoke of a conspiracy against himself and the judiciary. Equally relevant is that following the alleged incidents of sexual harassment on October 11, 2018, the victim has been visited with inhuman treatment beginning with a series of transfers within the court’s precincts from one desk to another, initiation of inquiry, suspension and ultimate dismissal in the most bizarre manner, followed by suspension of her husband and his brother and initiation of departmental enquiries against them, summoning of the victim and the husband by the SHO, Tilak Marg Police Station, registration of FIR on absurd charges, arrest of the victim and her husband and inhuman treatment including hand cuffing, are all serious pointers at a possible conspiracy by the officials of the Supreme Court Registry, the police and those in power to protect the Chief Justice.

In such circumstances, the committee was expected to allow the victim to be represented by a lawyer irrespective of a procedure adopted by them. Lord Denning in Pett vs. Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. made a profound statement on the law as to the representation of a lawyer in a domestic enquiry, “….when a man’s reputation or livelihood is at stake, he not only has a right to speak by his own mouth, he also has a right to speak by counsel or solicitor…even a prisoner can have his friend”. He observed that “a domestic Tribunal is not at liberty to lay down an absolute Rule: “We will never allow a lawyer to appear for him”. The Tribunal must be ready in a proper case to allow it”.

In Port of Bombay Vs Dilip Kumar Nadkarni, the Supreme Court justified representation by a lawyer declaring, “Now examine the approach of the Chairman. While he directed two of his law officers to conduct the enquiry as prosecutor, he simultaneously proceeds to deny such legal representation to the delinquent employee, when he declined the permission to the 1st respondent to appear through a legal practitioner. Does this disclose a fair attitude or fair play in action? Can one imagine how the scales were weighted and thereby tilted in favour of the prosecuting officer…”

Procedural safeguards

Pertinently in Nandlal Bajaj vs State of Punjab, the SC held that “the history of personal liberty is largely the history of procedural safeguards” and held: “Fundamental Right in Article 21 carries with it the inherent right to legal assistance”.

The committee consisted of three of the most respected jurists and judges with vast knowledge and experience in law. Could the victim have got a fair chance before the committee without being represented by a lawyer? She asked for it and the committee declined it.

One aspect must be remembered: the status of women in this country is still not equal to that of men. As a result more often than not sexual harassment victims suffer more than the perpetrators. The committee should have been mindful of realities prevailing in the society. The victim has every reason to demand greater fairness from the committee. Sadly, the committee failed to respond. The victim made the complaint at the end of the road, when she and her family were pushed to the wall. She could have forgotten the incidents of October 11, but successive and continuous acts of oppression against her and her family which are nothing short of sexual harassment compelled her to make the complaint on April 19.

Can she be doubted for this? Let me remind the nation what the Supreme Court itself speaking through Justice Nariman in Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha v. Union of India, to which Justice Ranjan Gogoi was party, has held, “Given the contentions raised specifically with regard to pleas under Articles 21 and 29, of a whole class of people, namely, the tribal and non-tribal citizens of Assam and given the fact that agitations on this score are ongoing, we do not feel that petitions of this kind can be dismissed at the threshold on the ground of delay/laches. Indeed, if we were to do so, we would be guilty of shirking our constitutional duty to protect the lives of our own citizens and their culture. In fact, the time has come to have a relook at the doctrine of laches altogether when it comes to violations of Articles 21 and 29”.

Sceptics must remember right to life includes right to reputation, right to life without fear, right to employment, right to fair treatment and of course right to dignity. Its expansion by the Supreme Court is historical. Let us hope the committee and the justices of the Supreme Court rethink the whole issue and take remedial steps so as to deliver justice to the victim, while being fair to the judge concerned, and restore public confidence and faith.

(The author is a senior advocate and the former President of Supreme Court Bar Association.)



Ambushed jawans ignored protocol





Ambushed jawans ignored protocol

The road recce was not done, nor did they wait for the arrival of anti-landmine vehicle

Sharad Vyas
Mumbai

The Gadchiroli police have come under criticism for their failure to enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs) which would have prevented the killing of 15 men of the Quick Response Team in a Maoist ambush on Wednesday.

The men travelling in a private mini truck were ambushed and killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast.

They were heading out of the Kurkheda police station. Ignoring the protocol of sending an area domination unit to recce the road ahead — which is the usual practice — the QRT unit did not also wait for an anti-landmine vehicle to arrive before deciding to travel in a private vehicle. They were headed to Dadpur village where the naxals had the previous night torched 36 vehicles meant to assist the road construction work, eyewitnesses said.

“This was nothing but hubris and a complete failure of intelligence since the men did not follow the basic protocol. I have seen so many ambushes but fail to understand what was the hurry for them to reach the spot (Dadpur) when such an incident had taken place on Tuesday night,” said Dr. Charanjeet Singh Saluja, who this year received a President’s Medal for his services to the jawans serving in the highly sensitive zone.

The 40-year-old doctor, hailing from Punjab, has participated in crucial encounters in the region including the attack on May 4, 2017 in the Bhamaraghad tehsil.

Locals involved in the torching of vehicles last year at the Etapalli taluka said the naxal attacks were well planned, coordinated and had managed to fox the police.

“This has been in the works for a year and not incidental to any events of the recent past. They (naxals) have been waiting to strike at an opportune moment,” said local activist Manohar Borkar, who had participated in protests against the district administration last year.

Police version

The white-coloured vehicle (MH33T0483) was blown up into pieces in the attack. The blast left a deep hole on the Kurkheda-Korchi road, eyewitnesses said. The police officials denied lapses on the part of the forces. “It is not true. We took all the necessary precautions,” said Additional Superintendent of Police, Gadchiroli, Hari Balaji.




Religious freedom on the decline in India: U.S. panel





Religious freedom on the decline in India: U.S. panel

But Chairman, in dissenting view, says harmony prevails

Tenzin Dorjee

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan, independent federal government commission, has said there is an “overall deterioration of religious freedom conditions in 2018” in India, in its 2019 report released earlier this week. India continues to remain a Tier 2 country, according to the Commission, a list it has been unable to get off of since 2009.

Tier 2 countries are those in which “violations engaged in or tolerated by the government during 2018 are serious and characterised by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ CPC [Country of Particular Concern] standard”.

The CPCs are designated by the State Department and the latest list, from November 2018, contains 10 countries. In these countries the government has tolerated or engaged in “particularly severe religious freedom violations, meaning those are systematic, ongoing, and egregious.

“In countries like India, it is increasingly difficult to separate religion and politics, a tactic that is sometimes intentional by those who seek to discriminate against and restrict the rights of certain religious communities.”

The report says conditions for minorities have deteriorated over the last decade, adding that a “multifaceted campaign by Hindu nationalist groups like the RSS, Sangh Parivar and Vishva Hindu Parishad to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus is a significant contributor to the rise of religious violence and persecution”.

Tenzin Dorjee, Commission Chairperson, dissented with the view that India’s religious freedoms continued to decline in 2018. “India is an open society with a robust democratic and judiciary system,” he writes in the report. “As I commented last year, overall, I believe religious harmony exists in India [sic],” Mr. Dorjee says.



Singur’s never-ending saga of misfortune





Singur’s never-ending saga of misfortune

For farmers, the land returned after Tata Motors exit has become worthless

Indrani Dutta

Green shrubs protrude from amid the mortar and concrete beneath which lies the earth that was once fertile. Subham Dutta

Singur

As the residents of brace for another Lok Sabha election, the overriding emotion is one of despondency. The voters say leaders of all major political parties have forgotten them after having drawn mileage from an epic land battle.

And while the historic Supreme Court verdict of August 31, 2016, may have ensured that Singur’s farmers got back the land acquired for Tata Motors’ Nano car project, a lack of jobs and the difficulty in growing crops on the plots where the factory once stood, point to a growing disenchantment with the Trinamool.

Hooghly district, which includes Singur, goes to the polls on May 6. It was in this rural town that Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee waged a fierce agitation against forcible land acquisition for the Nano project, pushing Tata Motors to exit the State in 2008.

Waning visits

Ms. Banerjee swept to power in 2011, and at her very first press conference promised to ensure the return of land to the farmers in Singur. Over the years, however, the frequency of her visits to Singur has waned, and in the run-up to the election, she had, at least till April 30, only addressed voters in Bhadreswar, about 40 minutes away by road.

Other national leaders too have so far skirted Singur while campaigning.

In the town, the campaign is muted and barring a few flags of the Trinamool, the BJP and the Communist Party of India, there is little sign of poll-related activity. Ratna De (Nag) of the Trinamool, the incumbent two-time MP, will have to defend her seat in an election where unemployment and farm distress, especially over poor procurement prices, have emerged as two major issues. The internal battles within the Trinamool may end up helping the BJP’s Locket Chatterjee, who is contesting the seat for the first time.

“The exit of the Tatas was more a failure of the Left than a success of the Trinamool,” says Udayan Das, whose family had willingly surrendered about 10 acres for the Nano project. “Land has been returned to all, the willing and unwilling farmers. But how much of this land is cultivable,” he asked.

Pradip Saha of the CPI(M), who got 31.5% of the votes to emerge as the first runner-up in 2014, may find it difficult to retain his position, given residents’ displeasure over his lacklustre presence over the past five years.

‘Left to perish’

“Who is interested in Singur any more,” asks Prasenjit Mal, whose father had given up his land for the project. “They have all taken their mileage and now we are left to perish here — either jobless or trying our best to eke out a living.” Ruing the lack of any industrial employment opportunity, Mr. Mal says the land is no longer cultivable despite promises made to that effect by the Trinamool.

The Trinamool’s Singur working president Mahadeb Das acknowledges the problems, and says the party is working to remove the concrete poured over the fields and set up wells for irrigation to make the land cultivable. “There has been development,” Mr. Das says. “We have built roads, provided water, and we made good a promise — to return the land,” he adds.

Following a village path in Joymolla Mouza leads one to the area where the Tata Motors factory once stood, signifying the aspirations of the youth of a State where the lack of major new investments since the 1970s has led to shrinking employment opportunities. Beside the jagged edges of the torn-down boundary wall of the 997-acre project site, patches of green shrubs protrude from amid the mortar and concrete beneath which lies the earth that was once fertile agricultural land.

Much of the vast tract of land that had been given to the Tatas is currently not cultivable, notwithstanding Ms. Banerjee’s ceremonial dispersal of seeds after the 2016 Supreme Court verdict. However, efforts to extricate the concrete and mortar and reclaim the land continue, either with the State’s help or by individual families employing labour.

While the “unwilling” farmers, who had opposed the State government’s efforts to acquire their land for the Nano project, now get a monthly dole of ₹2,000 and 16 kg of rice, the rest, comprising about 3,300 farmers and their families, are left without either their agricultural produce or gainful employment. Some had trained at Tata Motors hoping to get a well-paying job but now work for much less elsewhere. For most politicians, Singur now poses more uncomfortable questions than they would like to contend with.


* Editorial 1

The saviour’s burden





The saviour’s burden

The SP-BSP combine has willy-nilly emerged as the strongest opposition to the BJP

PTIPTI

It’s a wonder of this Lok Sabha election that the most unexpected of alliances, between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh, is holding up against multiple challenges while elsewhere in the country, the national Opposition presents a fragmented picture.

Overcoming the odds

Indeed, the responsibility of shoring up the Opposition against the powerhouse combination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah has come to rest on the shoulders of Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati who helm the SP and the BSP, respectively. History and conventional wisdom suggested that the alliance was an impossibility, and if it happened, it would collapse under the weight of its contradictions. The bitter past between Ms. Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav (Akhilesh Yadav’s father and founder of the SP) aside, the SP and the BSP had also to contend with decades of debilitating hostilities between their core voters, the Yadavs and the Jatavs. That all this baggage was overcome, and a big push for the alliance came surprisingly from the rank and file of the two parties, speaks to the survival imperatives confronting the partners and their cadre. The BJP had driven each party to ruin and they had no choice but to unite against the behemoth.

Though the SP and the BSP teamed up to a collective rhetoric of national interest, the truth was that Ms. Mayawati and Mr. Yadav needed a way out of the existential crisis they faced. Yet today, the rhetoric has got invested with an urgency, a larger meaning beyond the borders of U.P., more so in the context of the Congress irresponsibly wrecking alliance possibilities in other States. With Opposition unity in shameful disarray across the country, the SP-BSP partnership has willy-nilly become the sole stumbling block between the BJP and its ambition to wrest a second term via a bounty of seats in U.P. The SP-BSP combine is a spectacular force capable of inflicting heavy losses on the BJP. And considering 71 of the BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha seat share of 282 came from U.P, the significance of a reversal here cannot be overemphasised.

As the Lok Sabha election enters mid-point in U.P., the alliance looks in no hurry to unravel. On the contrary, the partners have stunned audiences at their joint rallies with a crackling chemistry that might have appeared scripted were it not for the fact that at least one of the actors, the mercurial Mayawati, is too much of her own person to perform to command.

In itself it was a surprise that Ms. Mayawati agreed to campaign for Mulayam Singh Yadav. But she did more. A quarter century of enmity got erased as she shared the stage with him and lavished praise on Yadav senior’s stellar leadership qualities. At another rally, a charming scene between Ms. Mayawati and Dimple Yadav attested to the blossoming of new relationships and the well-being of the alliance. The BSP chief embraced Yadav junior’s wife, also a candidate from Kannauj, and the adopted “daughter-in-law” sealed the deal by touching the senior woman’s feet. There was a time when Ms. Mayawati and Mr. Akhilesh Yadav were bua-bhatija (aunt and nephew) to their opponents who used the term as a taunt, to indicate they were a quarrelsome pair. Surreally, the BSP chief has now not only appropriated the insult but made the Yadav family her own.

Specific challenges

Will the bonhomie last? For all the serial photo-ops by the mint-fresh extended family, the alliance is in fact extremely fragile and stalked at every stage by myriad challenges. On a recent tour of Western U.P, I found that the formidable arithmetic of the alliance wasn’t necessarily making its fight easy. Each seat was hotly contested and the prognosis in local parlance was 50-50 — meaning the BJP and the alliance were equally placed for a victory. Two factors appeared to have complicated what on paper was a walkover. First, the Jats, a community that had voted nearly en masse for the BJP in 2014 and 2017, were not fully on board with the alliance despite its seat-sharing deal with the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). The pitch was queered further by the presence of the Congress, now bolstered by the unexpected induction of Congress general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, into the U.P. campaign.

Undoubtedly piqued by the Congress’s exclusion from the Opposition alliance, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had declared at the time that the Congress wasn’t a pushover and would play on the front foot. This was clearly not an idle boast as could be seen from the Congress choosing to field candidates who could cut into the alliance votes, especially where the party’s candidate was a Muslim, as in Saharanpur, Moradabad, Badaun, Bijnore and so forth. The obvious gainer from this would be the BJP, unless Muslim voters were able to muster extraordinary acumen and decide overwhelmingly in favour of the alliance. Past data shows that a united Muslim vote is a myth. A split Jat vote across western U.P. posed a similar threat to the alliance.

When I travelled in the same parts in February 2017, ahead of the Assembly election, it was to find the community still trapped in the spell cast by Mr. Modi in 2014. The assumption that Jats felt remorse for betraying the RLD and their leader Ajit Singh, was not borne out. Two years on, it was evident that community loyalties had not fully returned. Jat vote consolidation was visible only on the two seats contested by Mr. Singh and his son, Jayant Chowdhary. The vote was split vertically on other seats despite the three-way alliance between the SP, the BSP and the RLD. The Jat attraction to Mr. Modi was strong, and distressingly, most conversations with community leaders and voters, deceptively cordial in the beginning, ended in a tirade against Muslims. This despite an admission that tensions had cooled between Jats and Muslims and the mahoul (atmosphere) had improved considerably from the time of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal conflagration. One often heard refrain was that the RLD had made a political compromise and there had been no real change of heart.

This is a warning sign equally to the SP-BSP pact. The alliance’s future depends upon a lasting understanding between the partners and a seamless transfer of votes between their respective constituencies. The alliance has been helped in this election by a confluence of factors, among them farmer distress across communities, and a feeling, among Muslims and Dalits, of being overrun by the Yogi Adityanath Government. Farmers, both Jats and Muslims, are facing the triple whammy of delayed payment for sugar cane, mounting debt and an inability to dispose of their unproductive cattle. This commonality is one reason for the reduction of Jat-Muslim tensions.

As against this there is the looming Modi factor, and the mesmeric pull of toxic Hindutva, now represented by the likes of terror-accused Pragya Singh Thakur. The alliance has to hold strong, and prove that it is an alliance of substance and not merely a one-off arithmetical wonder. It needs to do this for itself, and even more because failure is not a option. Against all expectations, the SP and the BSP have come to represent the only viable Opposition to the BJP and it is a responsibility that cannot be carried lightly.

Vidya Subrahmaniam is Senior Fellow at The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy. E-mail: vidya.subrahmaniam@

thehinducentre.com



Standing up for Julian Assange





Standing up for Julian Assange

Ensuring his freedom is essential to uphold free speech and media freedom on a global scale

AFPMUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP

The arrest of Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks, in early April in London, is an attack on free speech and media freedom on a global scale. Except for a statement by some prominent Indians condemning his arrest and few other voices of condemnation, reaction in India has been muted.

The near silence could well be the result of the lack of information about Mr. Assange and the kind of journalism WikiLeaks has spearheaded since its inception in 2006. It is equally possible that the Indian public too has fallen prey, hook, line and sinker, to the venomous and disingenuous disinformation campaign unleashed against Mr. Assange even before he was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London seven years ago.

Incisive breaks

Mr. Assange, the latest inmate of Belmarsh Prison (also known as the “British version of Guantánamo Bay”) is, for his supporters, the “first media hero of the 21st Century”. In its daring attempts to hit at the powerful, WikiLeaks has collaborated with some of the best mainstream media organisations across the world on the diplomatic cables. These include The Guardian, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais and The Hindu.

WikiLeaks has thrown light on how war can dehumanise people with the release of footage of the 2007 ‘Collateral Murder’ video that showed U.S. soldiers in Iraq laughing at hapless civilians and journalists from a military helicopter even as they continued raining bullets on their victims. This riled the U.S. administration, as did the other exposés by WikiLeaks, be it with the Iraq or the Afghanistan war logs. These ‘benign’ wars were proven by WikiLeaks to not be so benign after all, and this obviously didn’t go down well in Washington.

But it has not always been about the U.S and the wars. The story on Daniel Arap Moi , former Kenyan President and his family’s corruption was the anti-secrecy website’s first big story, which received international attention when Mr. Assange gave the story to The Guardian.

WikiLeaks also published a cache of emails of the Syrian government and its opponents. The release of emails sent by the top echelons of the government and even its opponents has caused a lot of embarrassment to both warring parties.

The website, in 2016, released almost 300,000 emails of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s and his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, even as Ankara grappled with the aftermath of a failed military coup.

The couple of exposés around the Democratic Party in the U.S. in 2016, as a tranche of emails sent and received by U.S. presidential contender Hillary Clinton, and, then emails of Mrs Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, had a significant impact not only on U.S. domestic politics, but also exposed the faultlines in the Democratic Party’s ruling clique. But some of these exposés which lacked editorial discretion did lead to some erosion of support for Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks around the world.

Multiple attacks

Mr. Assange is a veteran of some bruising battles against organised attacks, institutional, technological and propaganda. That the website has been the target of relentless attacks would not come as a surprise, but it has also weathered boycotts and a denial of service by companies such as PayPal, which refused to allow WikiLeaks to seek donations using the service.

So what is the crime that Mr. Assange has actually committed? His lawyer Barry Pollack says: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source… Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

Closer home, in early March, Attorney General of India K.K. Venugopal told the Supreme Court that the Rafale documents that were published by this newspaper had been “stolen” from the Defence Ministry. Mr. Venugopal had sought an investigation to find out if their publication should be deemed a crime, and a violation of the Official Secrets Act. The Editors Guild, separately, and the Press Club of India, the Indian Women’s Press Corps and the Press Association said his statements had “the potential of sending out a chilling effect to one and all in the media”.

It is precisely this “chilling effect” that the U.S. is hoping to have on every single journalist across the globe by attempting to have Mr. Assange in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison in the U.S. for years. For the exposés that Mr. Assange has spearheaded, the U.S. intends to make him an example, asserting its prosecutorial authority over a person who is not even a U.S. citizen.

Even in Sweden, there is no longer a case against Mr. Assange. The fact is the international arrest warrant over allegations of sexual assault and rape that Sweden had put out against Mr. Assange was suspended by Swedish prosecutors. They suspended the investigation and applied to revoke the European arrest warrant way back in May 2017. Sweden is, however, considering reopening the investigation.

His complex legal issues continue. A British court, on Wednesday, May 1, sentenced Mr. Assange to 50 weeks in jail for jumping bail when he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy. On Thursday, May 2, the U.S. will also begin its attempt to extradite him, which is said to be a protracted process. But it is encouraging that British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has unequivocally said: “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.”

If therefore Mr. Assange should be a free man, there is need to build an international campaign against his continued incarceration. It is after all to ensure that journalism, free, fair and courageous, cannot be allowed to be trampled upon by the U.S. and the U.K., two democracies, which otherwise claim to be the best of the breed.

Subhash Rai is Digital Editor, The India Forum



Power shift





Power shift

Inspired by the ruling on Delhi, the Madras HC bats in favour of elected regime in Puducherry

The Madras High Court verdict that the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry should not interfere in the day-to-day administration of the Union Territory is a serious setback to the incumbent Administrator, Kiran Bedi. She has been locked in a prolonged dispute over the extent of her powers with Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy, who says she has been disregarding the elected regime and seeking to run the Union Territory on her own. The court has laid down that “the decision taken by the Council of Ministers and the Chief Minister is binding on the Secretaries and other officials.” Inspired by the Supreme Court’s appeal to constitutional morality and trust among high dignitaries, the High Court has also reminded the Centre and the Administrator that they should be true to the concept of democratic principles, lest the constitutional scheme based on democracy and republicanism be defeated. The judgment is based mainly on the principles that were laid down in last year’s Constitution Bench decision on the conflict between the elected regime in the National Capital Territory (NCT) and its Lt.Governor. The five-judge Bench had ruled that the L-G has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers, or refer to the President for a decision any matter on which there is a difference with the Ministry, but has no independent decision-making powers. The High Court also says the Administrator is bound by the ‘aid and advice’ clause in matters over which the Assembly is competent to enact laws. The L-G’s power to refer any matter to the President to resolve differences should not mean “every matter”, the court has cautioned.

Justice R. Mahadevan, who delivered the Madras High Court judgment, is conscious of the difference in status between Delhi and Puducherry. The Puducherry legislature is the creation of a parliamentary law, based on an enabling provision in Article 239A of the Constitution, whereas the NCT legislature has been created by the Constitution itself under Article 239AA. The Supreme Court had described the NCT as sui generis. At the same time, the NCT Assembly is limited in the extent of its legislative powers, as it is barred from dealing with the subjects of public order, police and land. However, looking at the Business Rules as well as other statutory provisions on Puducherry, the judge has sought to give greater credence to the concept of a representative government. He has set aside two clarifications issued by the Centre in 2017 to the effect that the L-G enjoys more power than the Governor of a State and can act without aid and advice. In view of the Constitution Bench judgment on Delhi, he has differed with another Madras High Court decision of 2018 in which the LG’s power to act irrespective of the Cabinet’s advice was upheld. In the event that the latest judgment is taken up on appeal, a key question may be how far the decision of the five-judge Bench on the limits of the Delhi L-G’s powers would indeed apply to Puducherry.



The cost of resistance
The cost of resistance
India must brace for the economic shocks from uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance
Even though antimicrobial resistance is acknowledged by policymakers as a major health crisis, few have considered its economic impact. Now, a report from the Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG) puts the financial fall-out in perspective. Titled “No Time to Wait: Securing The Future From Drug Resistant Infections”, it says in about three decades from now uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance will cause global economic shocks on the scale of the 2008-09 financial crisis. With nearly 10 million people estimated to die annually from resistant infections by 2050, health-care costs and the cost of food production will spike, while income inequality will widen. In the worst-case scenario, the world will lose 3.8% of its annual GDP by 2050, while 24 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030. Nations must acknowledge this eventuality, the IACG says, and act to fight it. For high- and mid-income nations, the price of prevention, at $2 per head a year, is extremely affordable. For poorer countries, the price is higher but still modest compared to the costs of an antibiotic apocalypse.
India first published almost nine years ago the broad contours of a plan to fight antimicrobial resistance. The difficulty has been in implementing it, given the twin challenges of antibiotic overuse and underuse. On the one hand, many Indians still die of diseases like sepsis and pneumonia because they don’t get the right drug at the right time. On the other hand, a poorly regulated pharmaceutical industry means that antibiotics are freely available to those who can afford them. The IACG report acknowledges these obstacles, and calls for efforts to overcome them. Some steps can be initiated right away, it says, such as phasing out critical human-use antibiotics in the animal husbandry sector, such as quinolones. But these steps cannot be driven by regulation alone. A multi-stakeholder approach, involving private industry, philanthropic groups and citizen activists is needed. Private pharmaceutical industries must take it upon themselves to distribute drugs in a responsible manner. Philanthropic charities must fund the development of new antibiotics, while citizen activists must drive awareness. These stakeholders must appreciate that the only way to postpone resistance is through improved hygiene and vaccinations. It is a formidable task as India still struggles with low immunisation rates and drinking water contamination. But it must consider the consequences of a failure. While the 2008-09 financial crisis caused global hardships, its effects began to wear off by 2011. Once crucial antibiotics are lost to humankind, they may be lost for decades.

* Editorial 2

The smokescreen of an infiltrator-free India





The smokescreen of an infiltrator-free India

The real aim of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is to segregate non-citizens on the basis of religion

At present, Assam is the only State in the country to have a National Register of Citizens. Villagers whose names were left out in the NRC draft list in their village in Howly block, Barpeta district, Assam in August 2018. Ritu Raj Konwar

The BJP’s poll promise to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in a phased manner in other parts of the country is only a smokescreen to hide its real agenda of using the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to segregate non-citizens on the basis of religion and subjecting only the Muslims among them to anti-immigration laws of the country.

At present, Assam is the only State in the country to have an NRC, which was compiled way back in 1951. The process of updating the 1951 NRC in Assam has been on since 2015 under constant monitoring by the Supreme Court. The complete draft of the updated NRC in Assam published on July 30, 2018 excluded the names of over 40 lakh of the total 3.29 crore applicants. The Supreme Court has fixed July 31 for publication of the final NRC list after disposal of all claims and objections.

No definition of infiltrators

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill incorporates the BJP’s articulated ideological position vis-à-vis undocumented immigrants in respect of three countries — Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ideological position of the ruling party is that undocumented immigrants belonging to Hindu and other religious minority groups in these three countries cannot be treated as “illegal migrants” in India and need to be granted citizenship, while the Muslims among them are “infiltrators” must be identified and driven out.

The BJP introduced the Bill in Parliament in 2016 when the NRC was being updated in Assam. The objective of the Bill is very clear: to remove the “illegal migrant” tag on members of six religious groups — Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis — from these three countries and reduce the requirement of residency in India to six years to make them eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

However, in its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party has dropped Parsis from the list. “Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India,” the manifesto promises.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have been harping on updating the NRC in their election rallies “to identify the infiltrators”, and on the Bill. This is an attempt to manufacture consent of the people on the definition of “infiltrator” according to the ideological lexicon of the saffron party.

The problem of cut-off date

However, the NRC smokescreen has thickened as the BJP has not spelt out in its manifesto the cut-off date for the proposed NRC for the entire country. If the cut-off date is going to be different from that taken for updating the NRC in Assam, what will be the legal status of those included in the updated register in Assam in the rest of the country, and vice versa?

The cut-off date for updating the NRC in Assam is March 24, 1971, which is also the cut-off date in the Assam Accord for implementation of the core clause, Clause 5, which calls for identification, deletion of names and expulsion of “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh, irrespective of their religion. The Accord facilitated acceptance of undocumented migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan who came until this cut-off date as Indian citizens, except in respect of the stream of people who came in 1966-71 and who are to remain disenfranchised for a period of 10 years from the date of their registration as foreigners.

Updating the NRC in Assam on the basis of this core clause led to a broad political consensus in the State that the updated register will be a critical document for implementing this clause and addressing the apprehension of the Assamese and other ethnic communities in the State of losing their linguistic, cultural and ethnic identities due to unabated migration from Bangladesh.

The BJP has been pushing the campaign in Assam that 1951 should have been the cut-off date in the Assam Accord for identification of “infiltrators” from erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh. Though it has not taken any official position on reviewing the Assam Accord for fear of antagonising the Assamese, it has been pushing the campaign in a desperate bid to make them accept religion as the basis in place of language, culture and ethnicity for construction of an Assamese identity.

The Assam government recently informed the Supreme Court that it has submitted a ₹900 crore proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs for sanctioning 1,000 Foreigners Tribunals to decide the cases of those to be excluded from the final NRC list. The State has a hundred Foreigners Tribunals at present.

A legal shield

The BJP, however, needs the Bill to be first enacted as a legal shield for the large number of Bengali Hindus in Assam, in other northeastern States, and in West Bengal, who migrated from erstwhile East Bengal and after the creation of Bangladesh.

The BJP pushed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, notwithstanding widespread protests in the northeastern States and got it passed in the Lok Sabha. But it did not push it in the Rajya Sabha for lack of numbers.

To prevent its poll arithmetic going haywire in the Northeast on account of apprehensions that the Bill would make the NRC infructuous and trigger an influx of more “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh, the BJP in its manifesto promises “to protect the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of Northeast.”

Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah’s promises on the Bill cannot be discounted as mere poll rhetoric as the Ministry of Home Affairs on October 18, 2018 notified the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2018 making it mandatory for a person applying for Indian citizenship to declare her or his religion. However, the smokescreen of an infiltrator-free India without explicitly defining an infiltrator will not be able hide the real threat posed to the country’s secular fabric. If the Bill is made into an Act, it poses the threat of abusing the NRC to divide people on religious lines. The country can ill afford such a divisive agenda.

Sushanta Talukdar is the editor of Nezine, an online magazine focusing on the Northeast



Fighting polio in Pakistan





Fighting polio in Pakistan

Instead of insisting on the oral polio vaccine, using the inactivated polio vaccine along with other vaccines will help

Last month, the polio eradication programme in Pakistan was in the news for all the wrong reasons. On April 22, a government hospital in Mashokhel in Peshawar district was set on fire after many children allegedly fell sick after being given the anti-polio vaccine. On April 23 and 24, in two separate incidents, two police officers guarding vaccinators were shot dead. On April 25, in Chaman, which borders Afghanistan, a polio worker was shot dead and her helper injured. Since December 2012, nearly 90 people have been killed in the country for working to eradicate polio. Due to recurrent threats to workers, the Pakistan government has now suspended the anti-polio drive.

Cases of wild poliovirus type 1

This is the worst time to take this decision. This year alone, eight paralysed children with wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) have been found in Pakistan. Environmental surveillance by testing sewage samples has shown 91 WPV1-positive samples, in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh. In the past week alone, 13 sewage samples were found to be positive for WPV1.

This is a worrying sign. With suspended immunisation activities, WPV1 will spread fast and the number of polio cases could increase and cause an outbreak. If Pakistan cannot eliminate polio, the global eradication programme is sure to stall.

When India eliminated WPV1 in January 2011, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership led by national governments with five partners, did not ask if Pakistan would be able to follow suit; it simply assumed it would. This was unrealistic. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, oral polio vaccine (OPV) coverage of 98-99% was sustained with an average of 15 doses per child from 2003. There was full cooperation from the health workers and the public. The war on polio requires such intensity and coverage and it is unrealistic to expect this in Pakistan, where polio eradication is falsely depicted as a Western agenda with the sinister motive of reducing fertility.

The GPEI has pinned all its hopes on the OPV and has excluded the alternate inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to eradicate WPVs. The OPV is cheap and easy to give to children, but it has to be given to them again and again in pulse campaigns since its efficacy is poor. On the other hand, the IPV is highly efficacious and needs to be given just two-three times as part of routine immunisation.

Risk of polio outbreaks

The OPV has another problem. If coverage declines (as is bound to happen in Pakistan), vaccine viruses will spread to children who are not vaccinated, back-mutate, de-attenuate and become virulent. Such viruses are called circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV). They can cause polio outbreaks. Thus Pakistan will soon be at risk of polio outbreaks by both WPV1 and cVDPV.

It is to avoid the emergence of cVDPV that India strives to maintain high OPV coverage through routine immunisation, Mission Indradhanush and annual national pulse campaigns. In 2018, Papua New Guinea developed a cVDPV polio outbreak as OPV coverage fell to 60%. In 2017, as OPV coverage fell to 53%, Syria had an outbreak of cVDPV polio.

There is yet another problem in Pakistan. With the OPV being identified as the weapon in the war on polio and with some in Pakistan believing that the aim of eradication is to reduce fertility, a vaccine is given only three or four times, not 15-20 times.

Hope is not lost for polio eradication provided that the GPEI relents on its insistence on the OPV and uses the IPV along with other common vaccines. IPV-containing vaccines could be included in the routine immunisation programme and given without attracting the attention of militants. The false propaganda about polio vaccination in Pakistan will then lose its sting. While near-100% coverage with the OPV is necessary, 85-90% coverage with the IPV given in a routine schedule would be sufficient.

If the GPEI insists on the OPV as the only weapon against polio, we have hit the end of the road in Pakistan. But the world cannot afford to lose this war on polio. India could show the way forward by giving the IPV in its universal immunisation programme (at least two doses and preferably three) and then discontinuing the infectious OPV altogether.

T. Jacob John, a retired professor of Clinical Virology, taught at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, and Dhanya Dharmapalan is a Paediatric Infectious Disease Specialist in Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai



Beyond Khalistan





Beyond Khalistan

By focussing only on this issue, New Delhi risks alienating the Sikh diaspora

Tridivesh Singh Maini

India-Canada ties have deteriorated in recent years, especially given the view that the current Justin Trudeau administration is soft on individuals and organisations that support the demand for Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland. Members of Mr. Trudeau’s Cabinet, especially Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, have been accused of having links with Sikh separatists. When Mr. Sajjan visited India in April 2017, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh refused to meet him for this reason. Similarly, Mr. Trudeau received the cold shoulder during his India visit in February 2018. When Mr. Singh met Mr. Trudeau, their discussion was on the Khalistan issue, rather than on areas of mutual cooperation. Recently, Mr. Trudeau drew the ire of the Indian government when a report on terror threats avoided the words ‘Khalistani extremism’.

There is no doubt that some overseas Sikhs support a separate Sikh homeland, and that there is not much appetite for the same in Punjab. However, it is important to not link criticism of India on human rights issues, such as the Sikh pogrom of 1984 and extrajudicial killings in the 1980s and 1990s, with Sikh separatism. The Indian media, the government and even politicians in Punjab need to realise that Sikhs based in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. may have different political views. Similarly, non-violent support for a cause cannot be labelled as a militant activity.

If there is evidence of support for any violent activity, New Delhi and Canada must work together to tackle the problem. By focusing only on the Khalistan issue, New Delhi risks alienating the Sikh diaspora. India should instead reach out to the Sikh diaspora in a year when Sikhs and all other followers of Guru Nanak will be commemorating his 550th birth anniversary.

Critics of the Canadian government must also bear in mind that like all relationships, this is a multi-layered one. While New Delhi may be uncomfortable with the Canadian government’s approach towards the activities of certain Sikh hard-liners, it is important to bear in mind that for the year 2017, Indian students received well over 25% (over 80,000) of the available study permits. In 2017, well over 40% of the 86,022 people who received invitations for permanent residency were Indians. During 2018, this rose by a staggering 13% to 41,000.

It is important to handle ties with Canada with nuance. First, members of the Sikh diaspora and Sikh politicians who are vocal on human rights issues shouldn’t be labelled Khalistani sympathisers. Second, it should be remembered that the New Delhi-Ottawa relationship goes well beyond the Khalistan issue.

The writer is a New Delhi-based policy analyst associated with O.P. Jindal Global University


* Foreign

Assange sentenced to 50 weeks in jail





Assange sentenced to 50 weeks in jail

It was difficult to find a “more serious example” of breach of bail conditions, says British judge

Vidya Ram

Legal tangle: Julian Assange leaving the Southwark Crown Court, London, on Wednesday after being sentenced.REUTERSHENRY NICHOLLS

London

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden over sexual assault charges, has been sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for flouting bail conditions by a court in .

It comes ahead of a hearing due to take place later this week at Westminster Magistrates Court as part of efforts to extradite him to the U.S.

During the sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Deborah Taylor rejected arguments by defence barrister Mark Summers (who led the prosecution team in the Vijay Mallya extradition proceedings) that Mr. Assange had been gripped by a well-founded fear of potential extradition to the U.S. (and thence on to Guantanamo Bay) when he sought refuge in the Embassy in 2012. The U.S. Justice Department has charged Mr. Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning, the former intelligence analyst, to break into a classified government computer by cracking a Department of Defence password.

Judge Taylor told the court that it was difficult to find a “more serious example” of breach of bail conditions. “This was in terms of culpability a deliberate attempt to evade or delay justice.” Mr. Assange had had a “choice” to enter and remain within the Embassy in circumstances that did not amount to prison condition.

“You remained there for nearly seven years, exploiting your privileged position to flout the law and advertise internationally your disdain for the law of this country… You could have left at any time to face due process with the rights and protection which the legal system in this country provides.”

His residence had cost the U.K. tax payer £16 million, while proceedings in Sweden were discontinued because of his action, she concluded. “Even though you did cooperate initially, it was not for you to decide the nature of extent of your cooperation with the investigations,’ she told the court.

Swedish investigation

The defence team had contended that Mr. Assange and his Swedish legal team had been “proactive” in attempting to progress the Swedish investigation, including by facilitating an interview with him in the U.K. They had also argued that as a result of the confinement in the Embassy Mr. Assange had suffered “significant consequences” himself that were “punitive, significant and enduring in their nature”.

Mr. Assange sought and was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 after his appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court was rejected, and a warrant was issued for his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual offending, including rape.

However, in April — as relations between Mr. Assange and Ecuadorian authorities broke down amid accusations and counter-accusations — the asylum was revoked and Metropolitan Police officers were invited into the Embassy to arrest Mr. Assange on April 11.

The Home Office confirmed the arrest had taken place in relation to the provisional extradition request from the U.S. Later that day, Mr. Assange was convicted of breaking bail conditions relating to the Swedish allegations, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Supporters of Mr. Assange gathered inside and outside the court room to protest the legal proceedings, while WikiLeaks described the sentence as “shocking” and “vindictive”. “We have grave concerns as to whether he will receive a fair extradition hearing in the U.K.,” the whistleblowing organisation said in a statement.

The issue of Mr. Assange’s extradition to the U.S. has become the subject of political debate in the U.K., with Labour expressing its opposition to those effort. In April, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said Mr. Assange was being pursued by the U.S. not to protect U.S. national security but because he had “exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces…” .



Rioting breaks out after Guaidó’s call to Venezuela military to rise





Rioting breaks out after Guaidó’s call to Venezuela military to rise

U.S. prepared for military action to stem the crisis: Pompeo

Agence France-Presse

Supporters of President Nicolás Maduro stand in front of the Presidential Palace in Caracas on Wednesday.AFPYURI CORTEZ

Caracas

Demonstrators clashed with police on the streets of the Venezuelan capital on Tuesday, spurred by Opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s call on the military to rise up against President Nicolás Maduro — who said he had defeated an attempted coup.

An apparently carefully planned attempt by Mr. Guaidó to demonstrate growing military support disintegrated into rioting as palls of black smoke rose over eastern Caracas.

Maduro declares victory

Tuesday evening, Mr. Maduro declared victory over the uprising — congratulating the armed forces for having “defeated this small group that intended to spread violence through putschist skirmishes.”

“This will not go unpunished,” Mr. Maduro said in an address broadcast on television and the radio. “(Prosecutors) will launch criminal prosecutions for the serious crimes that have been committed against the Constitution, the rule of law and the right to peace.”

Mr. Guaidó had been immediately backed by the United States, where President Donald Trump said in a tweet that Washington was standing behind the Venezuelan people and their “freedom.”

Mr. Guaidó rallied his supporters with an early morning video message that showed him — for the first time — with armed troops he said had heeded months of urging to join his campaign to oust Mr. Maduro.

The 35-year-old National Assembly leader was filmed outside the La Carlota air base, where he asked the armed forces inside to join him. The video had the extra shock value of featuring key Opposition figure Leopoldo López at his side, saying soldiers had released him from years of house arrest.

Mr. López later entered the Chilean Embassy with his wife and one of his children to claim asylum, before moving to the Spanish Embassy, Chile’s Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero announced in Santiago.

Soldiers backing Mr. Guaidó wore blue armbands to demonstrate their all egiance to the Opposition leader but there appeared to be few of them.

Brazil said later a number of Venezuelan troops had sought asylum at its Caracas Embassy. Brazilian media put that number at 25.

But Mr. Maduro had called on his forces to show “nerves of steel” and troops in riot gear, backed by armored vehicles and water tankers, lined up against the demonstrators. Several vehicles plowed into the crowd, injuring some of the protesters. Rioters later blocked the highway with a bus and set it on fire. A plume of black smoke rose from an area near a helicopter hangar on the base, where demonstrators who briefly managed to enter were pushed back.

Pompeo’s assertion

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the administration of President Trump was prepared to take military action to stem the crisis in Venezuela.

“The President has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do,” Mr. Pompeo said on Fox Business Network.

Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. would prefer a peaceful transition of power, with President Mr. Maduro leaving and new elections held to choose new leaders.

“But the President has made clear in the event that there comes a moment — and we will all have to make decisions about when that moment is and the President will ultimately have to make that decision — he’s prepared to do that if that’s what’s required.”



Leave my country alone, President Sirisena tells IS





Leave my country alone, President Sirisena tells IS

Reuters, Press Trust of India
Colombo

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said a foreign mastermind may have planned the Easter Sunday bombings, claimed by Islamic State (IS), telling the militant group to “leave my country alone”. Mr. Sirisena also warned it may be possible that IS had launched a “new strategy” by targeting smaller countries, Sky News said on May 1.

A government source said on April 30 that police and other security forces across the country had been ordered to remain on high alert because the militants were expected to try to strike again before the holy month of Ramzan, which starts on May 6.

Mr. Sirisena said authorities were aware of “a small group” of Sri Lankans who had travelled abroad to receive training from the IS over the past decade.

Investigations revealed the bombs used in the Easter attacks were made locally, the President said in the interview. In the Sky News interview, Mr. Sirisena said he had a message for the IS: “Leave my country alone.”

Meanwhile, a three-member investigation committee appointed to look into the terror attacks on Wednesday submitted an interim report to Mr. Sirisena. The special panel will release its full report on May 6 and has recorded statements from several top state authorities, including the former Defence Secretary and the suspended police chief.

Warning to top leaders

Further, a media report said on Wednesday that Sri Lanka’s intelligence agency has warned the country’s top leaders not to travel together during the coming few weeks after information was received of possible terror attacks. Mr. Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa are among the leaders who have received the cautionary advice. The political leaders have also been asked to refrain from attending events, especially held in churches, temples and other religious places, The Daily Mirror reported.

They have been advised to use helicopters to commute to any place where their presence is unavoidable.



Naruhito pledges to be ‘symbol of unity’





Naruhito pledges to be ‘symbol of unity’

New Japanese Emperor ascended the throne in a mid-morning ceremony

Reuters

Son rise: Japanese Emperor Naruhito, accompanied by wife Masako, making his first address on Wednesday.AP

Tokyo

Japanese Emperor Naruhito formally took up his post on Wednesday a day after the abdication of his father, saying he felt a “sense of solemnity” but pledging to work as a symbol of the nation and the unity of its people.

Ex-Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko stepped down after three decades in their roles on Tuesday in a brief and simple ceremony, with Akihito thanking the people of Japan and saying he prayed for peace.

Mid-morning ceremony

Emperor Naruhito, 59, technically succeeded his father just as Tuesday became Wednesday but his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne was formalised in a mid-morning ceremony, the first part of which his wife and other royal women could not attend. Naruhito, the first Emperor born after the Second World War and the first to be raised solely by his parents, expressed gratitude for their work and said he felt solemn at the thought of the burden he is taking on.

“I pledge that I will always think of the people, and while drawing close to them, fulfill my duties as a symbol of the Japanese state and the unity of the Japanese people in accordance with the Constitution,” Emperor Naruhito, wearing a tailcoat and several large medals, said with a smile.

“I sincerely hope for the happiness of the people and further progress of the country, and for world peace,” he said in the Imperial Palace’s “Matsu no Ma,” or Hall of Pine. In the first stage of the ceremony, imperial chamberlains carried state and privy seals into the hall along with two of Japan’s “Three Sacred Treasures” — a sword and a jewel — which together with a mirror are symbols of the throne.

Emperor Naruhito was flanked by his brother and heir, Crown Prince Akishino, during the ceremony, which lasted about five minutes.

His wife, Empress Masako, was not in the room in accordance with custom barring women royals, but for the first time a woman did watch — Satsuki Katayama, who was taking part as a member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.

Given the backgrounds of Emperor Naruhito and his wife, Ms. Masako, 55, a former diplomat — which include extended experience studying and living overseas — hopes are high they may be more international in their outlook and closer to the lives of many Japanese.



U.K. Defense Secretary fired over Huawei leaks





U.K. Defense Secretary fired over Huawei leaks

Accused of ‘unauthorised disclosure’

Associated Press

Gavin Williamson.REUTERSAlkis Konstantinidis

London

British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was summarily fired on Wednesday after an investigation into leaks from a secret government meeting about Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei. In a letter to Mr. Williamson, Prime Minister Theresa May said she “can no longer have full confidence” in Mr. Williamson in the wake of the investigation. In the letter, Ms. May told Mr. Williamson that there was “compelling evidence” suggesting his “responsibility for the unauthorized disclosure” from the National Security Council.

Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, has been appointed as Mr. Williamson’s replacement. She becomes the first woman to hold the post. An investigation was launched last week after newspapers reported that the security council, which meets in private, had agreed to let Huawei participate in some aspects of Britain’s new 5G wireless communications network.

The government insists that no decision has been made about Huawei.


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