MAY 8, Wednesday

Delhi Edition

* Front Page

SC turns down Opposition plea for increased VVPAT verification





SC turns down Opposition plea for increased VVPAT verification

CJI declines to review April 8 order on VVPAT counting per Assembly segment

Krishnadas Rajagopal
New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea by 21 Opposition parties, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, to review its judgment rejecting 50% random physical verification of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) using Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

On April 8, a Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase physical counting of VVPAT slips to five random EVMs in each Assembly segment/constituency. Before this April verdict, ECI Guideline 16.6 required physical counting of only one EVM in every Assembly segment/constituency.

In its April verdict, the court had assured the petitioners that it would ensure a ‘fool-proof’ Lok Sabha poll.

“How much counting do you want now?” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, representing the Opposition in the review.

“We asked for 50%, but we can settle for 33% or 25% verification. My Lords had agreed with our plea in principle, but increased the counting from one VVPAT to only five. My Lords had said 50% was not ‘viable’ at this point of time during the Lok Sabha elections,” Mr. Singhvi submitted.

Hearing this, Chief Justice Gogoi straightaway responded, “We decline to review our order”. The court dismissed the review plea.




Have right to copy of Bobde panel report: complainant





Have right to copy of Bobde panel report: complainant

If CJI was given a copy, so should I, says former SC staff

Legal Correspondent

Dissent note: Women protesting outside the SC seeking CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s resignation on Tuesday. Sushil Kumar Verma

NEW DELHI

“If Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is given a copy of the ‘confidential’ inquiry report, I should be provided with one too,” the former Supreme Court staffer wrote to the in-house panel, which found “no substance” in her sexual harassment allegations against the CJI.

“I have a right to know how, why and on what basis have your Lordships found my complaint to have ‘no substance’,” the complainant urged the Justice S.A. Bobde-led in-house committee on Tuesday.

“If a copy of the report is being given to the CJI directly or indirectly, I am entitled to a copy thereof in any case,” the woman appealed to the committee. The complainant conveyed her shock to the three judges on the committee about how they found no substance in her allegations against the CJI despite filing a detailed affidavit with ample corroborative evidence.

Copies of the report have been provided to Chief Justice Gogoi and Justice Arun Mishra, the fourth senior most judge in the Supreme Court.

She said it was “rather strange that the complainant in a case of sexual harassment is not to be provided with a copy of the report which finds her complaint to be without substance”.

She said the committee has found her allegations to be of no substance without bothering to let her know the reasons for their decision.

“The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, in Section 13 provides that both parties have a right to receive a copy of the report,” her letter said.



Odisha’s wildlife sanctuaries ravaged by Fani





Odisha’s wildlife sanctuaries ravaged by Fani

Loss of habitat has forced hundreds of monkeys into residential areas in Bhubaneswar’s periphery

Battered home: Trees uprooted by cyclone Fani near the Balukhand forest in Odisha.Biswaranjan Rout

Severe Cyclone Fani rendered not only several thousand people homeless as it tore along India’s east coast last week, but also dealt a body blow to wildlife and forest resources in the region.

The scenic stretch along the tree-lined Marine Drive that bisects the Balukhand Wildlife Sanctuary adjacent to the Bay of Bengal between Puri and Konark, is now a wasteland with hardly any tree left untouched, wildlife officials said.

“As per eye estimate, the cyclone damaged nearly 55 lakh trees, mostly casuarinas,” said Harsabardhan Udgatta, Divisional Forest Officer of Puri (wildlife) division. “As many as 20% of the trees were uprooted, while the rest were found snapped and broken. The devastation has left around 400 spotted deer homeless,” he said.

Apart from deer, the sanctuary, spread over an area of 87 sq km, was home to wild boar, jackals, striped hyenas, wolves and mongooses. While the DFO asserted that no carcasses of spotted deer had been sighted, it was hard to imagine that the animals had actually escaped the cyclone’s fury.

Nandankanan closed

In Bhubaneswar, the cyclone had uprooted decades-old trees inside the Nandankanan Zoological Park. Several animal enclosures too have been affected forcing authorities to shut down the zoo for an indefinite period. The Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary, which is close by, has also been impacted with thousands of trees uprooted. Authorities are attempting to assess the extent of damage.

As a result, hundreds of displaced monkeys have now entered residential colonies in the periphery of Bhubaneswar. Residents have reported cases of the simians iattacking people after loss of habitat and food sources.


* Nation

SC transfers Kotkhai custodial death case





SC transfers Kotkhai custodial death case

To a competent CBI court in Chandigarh, says Bench

Press Trust of India

New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Tuesday transferred a case related to alleged custodial death of an accused in the gang rape and murder of a minor schoolgirl in Himachal Pradesh’s Kotkhai in 2017, from Shimla to Chandigarh.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi transferred the case to Chandigarh after the CBI and the accused said they have no objection if the case was transferred from Shimla.

“We order transfer of the case to a competent CBI court in Chandigarh,” the Bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said.

The counsel appearing for the CBI informed the Bench that chargesheet has been filed in the case against several police officers ranging from constable to former Inspector General of Police.

The apex court had last month granted bail to former Himachal Pradesh IGP Zahur Haider Zaidi, an accused in the case, and said that it would later deal with the aspect of transferring the trial from a court in Himachal Pradesh.

Sought responses

The top court had in November last year sought responses from Zaidi, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Theog) Manoj Joshi and six other Himachal Pradesh policemen as to why the trial against them be not transferred from Shimla.

The CBI had earlier told the court that though the chargesheet has been filed, the trial in the case “has not seen the light of the day” and hence the matter be transferred to other court for expeditious disposal.

Zaidi and seven others were arrested in the custodial death of Suraj, who was found dead at the Kotkhai police station on July 18, 2017.

A 16-year-old girl had gone missing in Kotkhai on July 4, 2017, and her body was found from the Halaila forests two days later. The post-mortem had confirmed rape and murder and a case was registered. Amid a huge public outcry, a SIT headed by Zaidi was constituted by the then Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government. The SIT arrested six persons, and after the custodial death of Suraj, the High Court had handed over the investigations of both the cases to the CBI. The CBI had arrested Zaidi, DCP Joshi and other policemen in connection with the custodial death.



‘Karnataka has no right to utilise Pennaiyar water’





‘Karnataka has no right to utilise Pennaiyar water’

T.N. objects to neighbour’s projects

Legal Correspondent,
NEW DELHI

Tamil Nadu has told the Supreme Court that Karnataka has no right to utilise the waters of the Pennaiyar river to the detriment of the people of Tamil Nadu.

The flowing water of an inter-State river is a national asset and no single State can claim exclusive ownership of its waters, Tamil Nadu said in an original suit filed against Karnataka’s ‘work on check dams and diversion’ structures on the river.

It said the 1892 agreement is ‘valid and binding’ on the party States. Tamil Nadu said Karnataka “without furnishing the details of its new diversions or new schemes or projects, and obtaining the consent of the lower riparian State should not suo motu proceed to construct check dams/pump directly from the river or from the tanks draining into river, which would clearly amount to an infringement of the rights of the inhabitants of the Plaintiff State [Tamil Nadu].”

Tamil Nadu said a river even includes the stream, tributaries and other streams contributing water directly or indirectly into it.

Stand untenable

“Thus, the major tributary, Markandeyanadhi, which has its catchment area both in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, cannot be considered to be out of the purview of the Agreement, and hence any new construction obstructing the flow of Markandeya river is governed and controlled by 1892 Agreement,” Tamil Nadu argued.

Tamil Nadu said Karnataka’s stand that it is free to construct any diversion structure or large dams across Markandeya river is wholly untenable.



Parking not a perk at Infosys campus in Hyderabad





Parking not a perk at Infosys campus in Hyderabad

Deduction for facility leaves techies fuming

Staff Reporter

Maintenance matters: A view of the Infosys campus in Hyderabad. File PhotoP_V_SIVAKUMAR

HYDERABAD

It was a open secret for sometime now but resentment against tech giant Infosys’ levy of parking fees from its employees has bubbled out in the open.

Those in the know, including employees, confirmed to The Hindu that the company has been deducting ₹250 per month for two-wheelers, and ₹500 per month for cars, from employees’ salaries.

“I live 20 km from the office and I use my four-wheeler. It is true that they have been deducting money from salary accounts. We have spoken about it in our internal communications and have raised the issue privately. But so far, there has been no headway,” said an employee, requesting anonymity.

Another employee said, “I am relatively new. I was told that this was not the case a few years ago. But now, they are deducting money which, they said, goes into a welfare trust or fund,” he said.

The issue was brought to the attention of activist Vijay Gopal from The Forum Against Corruption, who has liaised with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Labour Department of the Telangana government.

“As it is, the company is given a lot of concessions by being in a Special Economic Zone. There are other perks as well. I was shocked when I found out about this. I hope that the SEZ authorities take a note of this activity,” Mr. Gopal said, and claimed that the campus is governed by the Shops and Establishments Act. The activist also citied GO 63, which specifies how parking fee should be collected. However, an Infosys spokesperson forwarded to The Hindu a letter which stated that GO 63 not inapplicable to the software major as it does not use its ‘parking facility as a commercial activity’ — the facility is used exclusively for its employees.

“The charges collected from the employees as a deduction from salary, is accounted as a fund with the Infosys Employees Welfare Trust which utilises the same for maintenance and upkeep of the parking facility,” the letter states.

The sporkesperson said the complaint against the ‘charges’ were ‘motivated’ and ‘frivolous’.



A film on the life and times of Mujibur Rahman





A film on the life and times of Mujibur Rahman

Co-produced by Prasar Bharati, the movie will be directed by Shyam Benegal

Special Correspondent,

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (left) with President Abu Sayeed Chowdhury in 1972.The hindu ArchivesUPI

New Delhi

State broadcaster Prasar Bharati will be co-producing a feature film directed by Shyam Benegal on the life of the founding father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and also a documentary on Bangladesh Liberation War.

Bilateral meet

The decision was taken after a Bangladeshi delegation led by Dr. Gowher Rizvi, adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and including Bangladesh High Commissioner to India, Syed Muazzem Ali, met Information and Broadcasting Secretary Amit Khare here on Tuesday.

The announcement comes in the backdrop of raging debate on the National Register of Citizens in the northeast that seeks to disenfranchise Bangladeshi migrants.

The movie will be directed by Mr. Benegal who, along with scriptwriter Atul Tiwari, was also present during the meeting. The announcement is a culmination of a three-year dialogue between the two countries on the issue.

Liberation War

Co-production of a documentary on the Bangladesh Liberation War was also discussed in the meeting. It was mutually agreed that the director of the documentary would be from Bangladesh who would be assisted by a co-director from India.

A host of other decisions were also inked during the meeting. The Prasar Bharati has agreed to carry Bangladesh TV on its DD Free Dish platform free of cost. The DD Free Dish reaches 30 million households, which is 15% of the total TV households in the country. As a reciprocal gesture, the Bangladesh delegation announced that a Doordarshan channel will be adopted on the soon-to-be launched DTH platform of Bangladesh.

A working agreement on cooperation between All India Radio and Bangladesh Betar was also agreed upon, implementation of which would start from June.



Many flee to Vizag, escape Fani havoc





Many flee to Vizag, escape Fani havoc

People blame slow restoration work

Santosh Patnaik

Passengers waiting for trains at the Bhubaneswar railway station.

VISAKHAPATNAM

It is a virtual repeat of the Hudhud experience for residents of Bhubaneswar, Puri and Cuttack in the aftermath of extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani, which left a trail of destruction in the coastal areas of Odisha.

While the wind speed recorded during Hudhud crossed 200 kmph, Fani triggered wind speeds of up to 190 kmph after making landfall near Puri on Friday. A wind speed of 260 kmph was recorded during the super cyclone of 1999 which caused heavy damage in Odisha.

Just as several hundreds of people, who could afford it, fled to Vijayawada and Hyderabad from Visakhapatnam to escape lack of electricity and water supply in October 2014 post-Hudhud, those with the means have now opted to rush from Odisha to Visakhapatnam and nearby places which remained unaffected by Fani.

Berhampur, which is in South Odisha, is the nearest city, a three-hour drive from Bhubaneswar, and it was relatively unaffected by Fani.

A family of four who shifted to a hotel here, said they wanted to avoid the harrowing experience of living without basic amenities in Odisha. Seeking anonymity, they blamed sluggish restoration efforts. One member said that they were completely relaxed with the luxury of no power disruption and ample availability of water.

A woman entrepreneur, who rushed to her relatives’ home at Berhampur explained that it was just a three-hour journey and that she had all comforts.

“Visakhapatnam is just six-hour drive from Bhubaneswar. After Hudhud, many drove to Vijayawada and Hyderabad. Now we see many taking shelter in hotels and their relatives’ houses in Visakhapatnam,” Sandeep Reddy, general manager of a hotel said.

The Odisha Government has so far struggled to supply essential commodities and restore power and water supply in Bhubaneswar, Puri and Cuttack, the commercial hub of the State.

Utkal Sanskrutika Samaj, a socio-cultural body, said it would mobilise funds for the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.



‘Have right to copy of Bobde panel report’





‘Have right to copy of Bobde panel report’

“Not providing a copy to the complainant while holding her complaint to be unfounded would be a violation of the principles of natural justice and a complete travesty of justice,” she wrote. She said the Supreme Court is relying on a judgment which pre-dates the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005, which mandates the fundamental right to information.

A short statement released by the Secretary General of the SC on Monday referred to its 2003 judgment in Indira Jaising versus Supreme Court of India to justify its decision that in-house procedural rules do not permit the contents of the inquiry report to be made public.

The complainant quoted a full-bench judgment of the Delhi High court in the case of disclosure of assets of judges, saying “the full bench had held that even assets of judges would be accessible under RTI to any citizen”.

She said the committee did not even bother to clarify to her whether the proceedings were in-house or not. “However, the in-house proceeding rules are now being used to deny me and the public a right to the report,” she wrote.

“I have a right to the report, the reasons for the same as well as copies of the depositions of any witnesses, any other persons or any other evidence considered by the Committee,” she said.



Capital contest: AAP slides; BJP, Congress fancy chances






IN Focus: Delhi

Capital contest: AAP slides; BJP, Congress fancy chances

Arvind Kejriwal’s party is a pale shadow of what it was in 2014, and hence the battle is open for the seven seats

Sandeep Phukan
New Delhi

The image of Arvind Kejriwal taking a dip in the Ganga at Varanasi’s Rajghat to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha election announced him as a challenger to status quoist political parties.

He and his newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — that grew out of an anti-corruption movement against the Congress-led UPA government — had earned the reputation of being a giant slayer after it ended the Congress’s uninterrupted 15-year rule in Delhi by ousting the Sheila Dikshit-led government.

Five years later, Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal is struggling to register a strong performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Though the Modi wave had wiped it out even in the 2014 election, the AAP made a stunning comeback in February 2015 by winning 67 of the 70 Assembly seats.

But the mood in May 2019 is a different one. With over four years of running the State government, a sense of anti-incumbency is growing.

Turning down allliances

An alliance with the Congress would have helped consolidate the anti-BJP votes but it did not happen. The past few days have also seen desertion by at least, two lawmakers of the Delhi Assembly.

In Punjab too, where the AAP had won four Lok Sabha seats during 2014, the party has broken up into different splinter groups. Reflecting a sense of cynicism, his one-time colleague and political activist, Yogendra Yadav, who severed his ties with the AAP, suggested that Delhi voters should opt for NOTA [None of the above] during the May 12 polling.

But what perhaps has been the most regular feature of the Delhi government has been the confrontation with the Lieutenant-Governor, who represents the Centre.

From posting officials to notifying Bills passed by the Delhi Assembly, Mr. Kejriwal accused the L-G’s office of being the stumbling block in the functioning of an elected government in Delhi. Accusing the Centre of preventing an elected government from doing its job, the AAP’s manifesto now focusses on attaining full Statehood where the State government can acquire control of law and order and other key Ministries without any interference from the Centre.

The AAP has also focussed on its successes such as improving the quality of education in government schools and impressive mohalla (neighbourhood) clinics.

Key candidates

Though the party has announced candidates to all seven Lok Sabha seats, the focus is likely to be on candidates like Atishi Marlena Singh, the brain behind the revamped Delhi government schools, contesting against cricketer-turned-BJP candidate Gautam Gambhir and the Congress’s Arvinder Singh Lovely from East Delhi.

The other key candidate is the party’s South Delhi contestant, Raghav Chadha, who is locked in a three-cornered fight between outgoing BJP MP Ramesh Bhiduri and boxing champion Vijender Singh, who is now the Congress candidate.

After alliance efforts with the AAP failed, the Congress has fielded senior leaders, including former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit from North East Delhi against Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari and former Union Minister Ajay Maken against the BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi. With the Assembly election in Delhi about eight months away, the Congress has decided to target the AAP on its development record and bring out a report card.

The Congress believes it can win back the voters that it lost to the AAP in Delhi almost five years ago. That also explained why a section of the Delhi Congress, including Ms. Dikshit, was opposed to an alliance with the AAP.

The BJP that had won all seven seats in 2014 would be trying out its familiar faces in five out of seven seats. Apart from Mr. Gambhir, the party has fielded Punjabi singer Hansraj Hans from North West Delhi, the only reserved seat for Schedule Castes.

Fiercely fighting for its space in Delhi, the BJP is banking on Mr. Modi’s “decisive leadership” to win all the seven Lok Sabha seats as the first step in trying to dislodge the AAP from Delhi eight months later.



* Editorial 1

All for one, none for all





All for one, none for all

The marginalisation of Muslims has been appropriated to serve the BJP’s nationalism outreach

AFPISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP

The attitude of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) towards Muslim communities in the last five years is seen in two very different ways. The rhetoric of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas (with everyone, everyone’s progress)’ is often invoked, particularly by pro-BJP commentators, to argue that questions related to Muslim marginalisation/representation should not be raised at all. The government is committed to ‘development of all and appeasement of none’ and it will take care of Muslim concerns as well. This argument is used extensively to justify every form of lawlessness, including the lynching of Muslims in the name of Hindu reaction.

The background

On the other hand, there is an equally straightforward secular narrative of Muslim victimhood, which reminds us that the BJP is a communal Hindutva party controlled by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The landslide victory of the BJP in 2014, the argument goes, has given the RSS an opportunity to target Muslims simply to create a Hindu Rashtra. Establishing a link between violence against Muslims and declining number of Muslim MPs and MLAs, we are told that the Narendra Modi government is primarily anti-Muslim.

No one can deny the fact that we live in a communally polarised environment, in which Hindu victimhood is systematically nurtured by invoking anti-Muslim feelings in the name of nationalism. However, there is a serious need to go beyond this polarisation so as to systematically analyse the contours of the BJP’s nationalism with regard to Muslim communities.

One may unpack the contemporary moment of Hindutva at two levels: the Narendra Modi government’s formal official response towards Muslim backwardness, especially with regard to the Sachar Committee Report; and the nature of the BJP’s informal anti-Muslim discourse, which in a way constitutes the basis for its own version of nationalism.

Minority welfare

The BJP’s 2014 poll manifesto recognised Muslim backwardness as an important political issue. It argued that it would take care of Muslim concerns — such as modernisation of madarsas, protection of Urdu and streamlining of the Waqf Boards. Most importantly, it was promised that the party would ‘ensure a peaceful and secure environment, where there is no place for either the perpetrators or exploiters of fear’.

Although there was no mention of the Sachar Report in the 2014 manifesto, the Ministry of Minority Affairs accepted it as an important reference point for all its schemes and programmes. The government also went ahead with the post-Sachar Evaluation Committee and persuaded it to submit its report in September 2014.

The Ministry still recognises the 15 Point Programme introduced by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the welfare of minorities as guiding principles to deal with the exclusion of minorities, including Muslims. In fact, a study was commissioned by the Modi government in 2016 to evaluate the impact of these 15 points on minority communities.

These technical-procedural aspects of governance, however, should not be exaggerated. The ‘Action taken Report’ submitted by the Ministry to Parliament with regard to the implementation of the Sachar Report in 2018 categorically rejects a few crucial and politically sensitive recommendations.

For example, the Action Taken Report does not accept the inclusion of Arzal (Dalit) Muslims into the Scheduled Castes (SC) list. It also refuses to create the proposed all-India cadre of officers for the State Waqf Boards and Central Waqf Council. However, the other ‘non-controversial’ recommendations of the Sachar Report are acknowledged.

This selective treatment of the Sachar Report by the BJP is not surprising. The BJP has never been interested in the Sachar Report, especially on the question of the inclusion of Muslim and Christian Dalits in the SC category. However, despite this highly critical position, the Modi government not only recognised the Sachar Report but also submitted a fully worked-out Action Taken Report.

Does it mean that the Modi government is also involved in what BJP leaders, including Mr. Modi, often call ‘Muslim appeasement’?

Link to nationalism discourse

The government’s delicate position on Muslims as a marginalised/underrepresented community is inextricably linked to the media-driven discourse of nationalism which has been carefully produced in the last five years.

This nationalism has two core elements. First, it aims to recreate a new collective self-perception of Indianness. Evoking the old European-style ‘one-language, one culture, one nation’ framework, it is established that celebrating Hindutva (not Hinduism) in public life must be treated as a precondition for patriotism and Indianness. Since Hindus have been the main addressees of this project, Muslims are nowhere in the picture. However, this strange absence of Muslims is used to create an impression that the patriotism of Muslims needs to be probed.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s three lectures on Hindutva delivered in September 2018 are a good example. Despite claiming that ‘Hindutva without Muslims is meaningless’, he did not deviate from the RSS’s rather known position on Muslims. He relied heavily on the controversial distinction between ‘Indian religions’ and the religions that originated outside to define Indianness in strict Hindu terms.

This inside/outside binary is actually linked to the second core element of contemporary nationalism: ‘territorial security’. The pro-BJP media reconfigured the old rhetoric of ‘foreign enemy’ so as to legitimise its elusive search for internal ‘enemies’. Terms like ‘jihadists’ for Muslims, ‘urban Naxals’ for human rights activists and ‘sickular’ for secularists were employed simply to re-establish the hegemony of the Hindutva version of nationalism.

Use of marginalisation

The demands posed by this exclusionary nationalism for Muslims, however, can also be read rather differently. In the last five years, Hindutva forces have experimented with at least five issues that were directly related to Muslims: ghar wapsi, love jihad, cow protection, triple talaq and a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Despite launching a highly sustained and organised campaign on each of these issues, the Hindutva forces actually failed to provoke Muslim communities into any collective action/ reaction.

This failure has forced the BJP establishment to reorganise itself to produce a Hindutva-centric yet anti-Muslim discourse of nationalism. The Muslim underrepresentation in various fields actually becomes an important point of reference in this schema.

It is important here to remember that the term ‘Muslim’ has emerged as a legitimate political category in the last two decades. This process began in 1993 when the National Commission for Minorities defined Muslims (and other religious minorities) as a national minority. This move, in a way, strengthened the already worked out idea of a ‘Hindu majority’. It had now become easier for the Hindutva essentialists to argue that the minorities, especially Muslims, are appeased and pampered at the national level. This argument evolved as political rhetoric in the mid-1990s to underline Hindu subjugation.

The Modi government, it seems, has rediscovered the idea of Muslim marginalisation for a radically different purpose. Unlike the Congress/United Progressive Alliance, the BJP government does not show any interest in highlighting the achievements of the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Nor does the party overplay the ‘Muslim support’ card. It simply keeps the issue of Muslim underrepresentation alive for three possible political strategies.

First, the party often invokes Muslim marginalisation to legitimise its inclusiveness and accommodating approach. After all, Sabka Saath is still a slogan of the party, which has been recently rephrased as “development with dignity” in the 2019 poll manifesto.

Second, Muslim marginalisation is also appropriated to demonstrate Hindu benevolence and generosity. BJP leaders have used this strategy during the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill debates to make a case for privileging Hindus and other non-Muslim minorities living in the neighbouring country. In a sense, it is a conscious attempt to produce a grand Hindu identity at least in South Asia.

Finally, the relationship between Muslim marginalisation and underrepresentation is exploited to evoke the fear of Muslim separatism. This is exactly what the BJP has been doing with regard to the debates on Article 370. The attempt of the party to polarise the Jammu and Kashmir regions on religious lines is a revealing example.

It would be interesting to observe how this relationship between nationalism and Muslim marginalisation survives after the 2019 general election.

Hilal Ahmed, an Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, is the author of ‘Siyasi Muslims: A story of Political Islams in India’



On the political fringes





On the political fringes

The exclusion of migrants from the electoral process reveals the caste- and class-driven nature of mainstream politics

Getty Images/iStockphotokrupal pethani/Getty Images/iStockphoto

While political commentators have been busy analysing voter preferences in the general election 2019, one segment, namely migrants, continues to be overlooked.

The Election Commission of India (EC), on February 21, clarified that NRI voters cannot cast votes online, and that an NRI who holds an Indian passport can vote in his/her hometown after registering as an overseas voter. But the roughly 60 million people moving across the country as migrant workers find it difficult to cast their votes because their voting rights are mostly at the place from where they migrate. The scale of lost votes due to migration is large. It may not be an exaggeration to say that there seems to be a general agreement to let the votes of domestic migrants go missing in the electoral process. Migrants remain a political issue despite their poverty, vulnerability and insecurity. Yet, we know very little about the way migrants engage with politics, especially in elections. How do migrants ensure that they remain politically relevant in the villages they leave behind? What roles do caste and identity play in their voting preferences?

At the receiving end

Despite it being a significant contribution to the growth and development of cities, migration is perceived as a problematic phenomenon. Poor migrants often find themselves at the receiving end of ‘nativist’ politics. They are projected as a ‘problem’ for the local population around issues of employment and unemployment, use of place and space, identity and political affiliation. The physical threat and verbal abuse that migrants experience can be gauged in the numerous statements of leaders of various political parties. References to migrants often include terms and phrases such as ‘infiltrators’, of those who ‘need to possess a permit for work’ and ‘lacking in values, culture and decency’. Such allusions are in contradiction to the provisions in the Indian Constitution that allow freedom of movement by ensuring the right to reside and settle in any part of India. The process of ‘othering’ of migrants produces heightened anxieties, and this ‘manufactured anxiety’ is deployed for political gains.

In the city

Mostly working in the unorganised sector and drawing meagre wages, migrants often find it difficult to visit their home States to cast their vote. In cities, they find it challenging to make their presence felt during elections. For example, a group of NGOs (Aajeevika Bureau and its partners) found that as one moves from panchayat to Vidhan Sabha to the Lok Sabha elections, the participation rate comes down by 10.5% at each step. Unlike the family and kinship association in a panchayat election, caste and community affiliations are the driving force in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. While candidates or their affiliates mostly meet the travel expenditure for upper caste and other backward caste migrants, Dalit migrants are motivated to travel at their own expense and participate aggressively with the clarity of caste identity and political affiliation.

In a city, migrants rely on support from relatives, friends and fellow migrants for accommodation, employment and to negotiate wages. Through these interactions, migrants build social networks and political connections. Region, religion, village and the caste identity of migrants play a crucial role in these processes. These elements of ‘identity’ contribute to the mobilisation of migrants in the city to tackle hostility as well as participation in politics. For example, migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar form various social organisations, such as the Uttar Bhartiya Mahasangh, the Uttar Bhartiya Mahapanchayat and the Jaiswar Vikas Sangh, to deal with migrant issues. Of these, the Jaiswar Vikas Sangh is exclusively initiated by Dalit migrants and confined mainly to the issues of Dalit migrants in Mumbai.

Key issues

Contrary to received wisdom, migrants seldom bother about civic problems such as water and sanitation. Rather, their primary concern revolves around macro-issues such as employment, inflation and poverty. Dalit migrants are troubled by caste-based discrimination, exclusion, atrocities and reservation, which in turn determine their political choices. They often say, “we shall align with those who speak for us”, which conveys their preference. Many of them are candid about their support for the Bahujan Samaj Party. One has often heard the line, “Yadavs stay with the Samajwadi Party and the Rajput aligns with the BJP; as we are exploited we cannot go with them and hence our place is with the BSP”.

The manifested political articulation of migrants often makes mainstream political parties uncomfortable, which then label them outsiders as obstacles for development and let their votes drop in the electoral process. The exclusion of migrants from the electoral process, in a way, reveals the caste- and class-driven nature of mainstream politics.

Manish K. Jha is Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Ajeet Kumar Pankaj is Assistant Professor at the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh



Prisoner of procedure





Prisoner of procedure

The in-house panel resorted to its power at the cost of fairness to the complainant

It was a test of great import that one of India’s great institutions failed. The main question was whether the Supreme Court would live up to the standards of fairness it expects of all authorities while inquiring into a former woman employee’s complaint of sexual harassment and victimisation against the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. An ad hoc committee, following an informal procedure, has concluded that the allegations have “no substance”, but the findings will not be made public. The report cannot be reviewed judicially. No one else, not even the complainant, knows what evidence was examined and who else testified apart from herself. All that is known is that she was heard, and questioned, at two sittings. She later withdrew from the inquiry, saying she was denied the help of a lawyer or a representative, that she found the questions from a panel of three sitting Supreme Court judges quite intimidating, and that she was not clear how her testimony was being recorded. There is no doubt that the committee remained impervious to the power imbalance in the situation. Perhaps she ought not to have pulled out from the probe, despite these grievances. The panel’s conclusion would have been even starker had she been present to hear how Justice Gogoi defended himself; and who among the court officials, if any, answered her specific and documented charges about the administrative harassment she was put through following the alleged incident of sexual harassment. The most relevant parts of the complaint were the transfer orders and disciplinary inquiry against her, the role of the court administration in dismissing her, and that of the Delhi Police in arresting her on a complaint of alleged bribery and initiating disciplinary action against her husband and his brother, both police personnel. It is not known if any of these officials were examined.

The manner in which the court dealt with the complaint on the administrative side has been less than fair. It is true that the in-house procedure devised in 1999 envisages only a committee of three judges to deal with allegations against serving Supreme Court judges. The fact that a special law to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace is in force since 2013 appears to have made no difference. The court could not bring itself, even in the interest of appearing fair, to adopt a formal procedure or allow the complainant to have legal representation. For all its judicial homilies on fairness, when it comes to dealing with its own the Supreme Court has come across as a prisoner of procedure and displayed an alarming propensity to mix up its institutional reputation with an individual’s interest. “The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power,” wrote Shakespeare. The decision by the ‘in-house committee’ is an egregious instance of a hallowed institution abusing its own greatness by letting its power speak, and not the compassion for which it is renowned.



Now there are two





Now there are two

As the poll process enters the home stretch, desperation and exhaustion are evident

In the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections, just 51 seats across seven States went to the polls, but its outcome could be critical to the fortunes of the BJP. It had won 39 of these seats in 2014, and its allies two. In fact, the BJP’s hopes of retaining power at the Centre, and therefore the Opposition’s hopes of defeating it, hinge a lot on their respective performances in the fifth and the next two phases. As with the previous four phases, the voter turnout was similar to that in 2014; initial estimates were that the cumulative turnout for the 51 seats was 63.26% on Monday, compared to 61.75% in 2014. One of Indian democracy’s big successes has been the high number of registered voters who exercise their franchise; and as turnouts remain healthy, old theories about the incumbency or anti-incumbency potential of such turnouts have crumbled. What, however, continues to be the hallmark of Election 2019 is the sustained attempt by the BJP to prevent the campaign from being about its own record of five years in office. In an unseemly and controversial statement ahead of the fifth phase, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raked up the Bofors controversy with an uncharitable reference to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He followed it up with a challenge to Congress president Rahul Gandhi to debate Rajiv Gandhi’s term in office, three decades ago. Mr. Modi also used the campaigner’s pulpit to liken cross-border military operations undertaken by Indian forces during the Congress regime to “video games”. In turn, the Congress charged Mr. Modi with double standards as he had earlier sought to place the armed forces beyond scrutiny and accused those who raised questions on their performance of being unpatriotic.

Politicians, dead and living, are legitimate subjects of public scrutiny as much as armed forces and the security establishment, particularly during elections. But such debates must be conducted in a civil tenor and within limits — and in a manner that informs pressing matters of governance. It is unclear whether Mr. Modi’s statements would have helped the Congress in Amethi and Rae Bareli, constituencies from which Mr. Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi, respectively, are contesting and which went to the polls in the fifth phase. Mr. Modi has also tried to create a wedge in the Opposition by repeatedly stating that Bahujan SamajParty chief Mayawati was the victim of a conspiracy between her alliance partner and Samajwadi Party chief, Akhilesh Yadav, and the Congress. The BJP’s resistance to any focus on issues of livelihood and liberty has put the burden on the Opposition parties to pull public discourse back towards policy, something they have managed with varying and often dismal degrees of success.


* Editorial 2

The National Register of Cruelty





The National Register of Cruelty

It is horrific and undemocratic for a nation to be putting the onus on citizens to prove their Indianness

“It is premature to declare the NRC a success in Assam and push for its implementation in other States.” Those whose names were left out of the draft NRC collect ‘claim’ forms in Morigaon district, Assam in 2018. Ritu Raj Konwar

Fear writ large in his eyes, Shaukat Ali knelt suppliantly on the pavement, surrounded by a hostile crowd demanding, “Are you Bangladeshi? Is your name in the NRC [National Register of Citizens]?” Reports said that Ali was beaten up for allegedly selling beef and was forced to eat pork, an act of ultimate humiliation for a Muslim. Fortunately, Mr. Ali escaped relatively unharmed, but when the mob finally went home, he had lost his livelihood of three decades.

That image from the streets of Assam in April was disturbing in itself, but its import for the future of a secular India was even more chilling, as we witness a dangerous new intersection of beef, faith and citizenship on the ruling party’s electoral road map.

An unwise proposal

As if on cue, just one day later, the BJP vowed to implement the NRC all across India. The party has referred contemptuously to illegal immigrants as “termites… eating our grain… and taking our jobs”. Unmindful that such reckless rhetoric is an invitation to street violence, the BJP has added fuel to the fire by promising a path to citizenship to almost all but Muslim illegal immigrants. In short, the party is seeking to weaponise the NRC even before the project has fully played out in Assam — a proposition that has been quickly rebuffed by many in the Northeast.

The ground reality is that the NRC in Assam has only recently entered its most sensitive phase of adjudicating claims and objections, involving thousands of senior government officers and data experts, with numerous companies of Central police keeping peace. More than 90% of the 40 lakh people who were excluded from the final draft have filed ‘claims’ for reconsideration, and 2.65 lakh ‘challenges’ have also been filed, questioning the inclusion of others. The Supreme Court, which is supervising the entire process, has set a hard deadline of July 31 for the final NRC, an uphill task given the sheer scale and complexity of the exercise at hand. Under these circumstances, it is premature to think of the NRC as a success in Assam, and it is unwise to push for its implementation in other States before assessing the fallout in Assam.

What is the endgame?

No one can predict how many claimants will ultimately succeed in getting on to the final NRC, but what we do know for sure is that there is no clear plan for what happens to those who don’t make it. If one were to take the BJP’s manifesto seriously, non-Muslims would get a reprieve, while Muslims, possibly including many Indian citizens who are unable to produce the right documents, would be deemed stateless. Thereafter, they may get a hearing at one of the hundreds of Foreigners Tribunals yet to be constituted, and if they fail, they could be destined for the dozens of detention camps that are yet to be built. To quote Aman Wadud, a Guwahati lawyer: “A foreigner can be deported only when the country of origin accepts them… When Indian citizens are declared as foreigners for hyper-technical reasons (lack of documents), they can never be deported… The result is indefinite detention.”

As per the government’s own admission, the tribunal process has not gone well in the past, prompting the Supreme Court to call the whole process a “joke”. For example, of the 46,000 declared foreigners since 2015, only four were actually deported, and only 2,000 are currently in detention. As for where the other 44,000 went, even the government does not seem to know.

The court is very conscious of this reality and has been urging the government to explore more humane alternatives to prolonged detention. But unfortunately, every suggestion from the court as well as from retired bureaucrats and police officers has been summarily dismissed. That includes proposals to grant them ‘refugee status’, or give them work permits, or release them under sureties, or with ankle bracelets, and so on. All of this, unfortunately, lends a certain amount of credence to sceptics who claim that some of the intractable problems of our times remain unresolved only because of their potency as political wedge issues.

The court, however, seems undeterred in seeking to end what it has called “external aggression”. It has been aggressively questioning the government about what comes next after the final NRC, but as of now, there is little clarity on what the endgame is. So, here is problem one: Officials have been working hard for over three years to create a ‘fair and transparent’ process that is blind to an applicant’s faith, language and ethnicity. They have made lakhs of house-to-house calls and pored over 6.5 crore personal records dealing with birth and marriage, citizenship and refugee status, family trees, land and tenancy, banks and LIC, and so on, often going back to the original issuers to authenticate them. But now, even before their mammoth effort is complete, the BJP has thrown cold water on them by promoting the idea that some illegal immigrants are more welcome than others. That notion corrupts the very spirit of the NRC, and can hardly be deemed a success.

States will push back

Problem two is the assumption that the Assam experience can be readily replicated in other States. But in reality, the NRC in Assam is a direct response to its unique history as a bulwark against illegal migration, which resulted in the promises of the Assam Accord of 1985. Naturally, a majority of Assamese have been more than willing to submit themselves to the rigours of the NRC. But there is no such history nor affinity to the NRC in most other States, which are dealing with many more pressing problems than illegal immigration. In the end, notwithstanding the mandate of the Citizenship Rules of 2003, millions of poor and marginalised communities may simply be unable to comply with the onerous demands of the NRC, triggering a needless humanitarian crisis. As this reality sinks in, States will surely start to weigh the social costs of the NRC against its murky endgame, and they are bound to push back hard.

Setting aside all other considerations, the very idea that a nation should be putting the onus on every citizen to prove their Indianness 72 years after Independence is at once horrific and undemocratic. This is a proposition that must be vigorously scrutinised and debated before there is any attempt to implement the NRC beyond Assam.

Raju Rajagopal was a volunteer Civil Society Outreach Coordinator for UIDAI. He now shares his time between Berkeley, CA and Chennai



Surveillance wars in space





Surveillance wars in space

Mission Shakti is a giant leap for India, but only a small step in the world of counterspace

The dust and furore kicked up by India’s Anti-Satellite Missile (ASAT) test on March 27 is yet to settle. Critics have not stopped worrying about the potential harm that floating debris may cause to other satellites around that band in the sky. Years after Russia, the U.S., and China (referred to here as the Big Three) made a mark in this area, India too has shown that it can hit back at enemies attacking from space.

Military experts say that possessing the highly difficult capability to conduct such a test is important and essential for ensuring national security in space. Mission Shakti, as it is called, has earned India a place in an exclusive club of ‘space defenders’. However, a peek into counterspace, the world where such dangerous space activities are practised covertly by the Big Three, shows that while Mission Shakti is a giant leap for India, it is only a small step in that world. The new measure of space supremacy lurks in counterspace now, and not so much in planetary excursions and astronauts’ outings. This is why the Big Three have been relentlessly pursuing for decades activities that enable them to rule space militarily, for offence or defence purposes.

Playground for confidential activities

According to academic reports, policymakers and those tracking the military space, for several years now, the space between 600 km and 36,000 km above the earth has been the playground for such secret activities. Most people have no idea about what is happening up there.

Around the time Mission Shakti took place, the Center for Strategic and International Studies based in Washington, D.C. and the Secure World Foundation came out with reports detailing counterspace capabilities that different countries have today and their sense of threat to space assets. The reports document that satellites have been launched to sidle up to other satellites in the same orbit. Satellites with robotic arms or handles have touched or nudged their siblings in orbit. Mother (or nesting) spacecraft have gone up to ‘deliver’ baby spy satellites in orbit. Satellites have sneaked up to high perches to see, overhear and sense all that happens in space and on the ground. The intent of being in counterspace is thus surveillance and espionage. In times of war, the intent could even be to capture or disable a rival’s space assets in orbit.

Some say that the U.S. and Russia have always had some counterspace capabilities in their over 60-year-old space race. But this century, they have reportedly developed deadly armouries that can be either unleashed into or from space.

Loud concerns have been raised over rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in space. The actor countries neither acknowledge nor discuss such activities and give them other names. In an RPO event, one country sends a satellite that clandestinely sits next to one of its own (or another country’s) orbiting satellites. The motive could be to inspect and assess the target’s nature, eavesdrop on it, or even subvert its functions. The fear is that in extreme cases, the target may even be ‘abducted’ or taken control of. Fortunately India is not there — for now.

Loitering in orbit

Satellites of each of the Big Three has been caught loitering in orbit at different times, and the victims have cried foul. In September 2018, French Defence Minister Florence Parly was reported to have charged that Russian satellite Luch-Olymp was lurking too close to — and spying on — a Franco-Italian military communications satellite, Athena-Fidus, in 2017, that is, the previous year.

The U.S. has reportedly had its share of RPOs and other acts. In the foreword to the CSIS report, U.S. policymaker Jim Cooper says, “Every nation’s satellites face increasing threats… The risk of a space Pearl Harbor is growing every day.” He cautions that today countries depend so much on their satellites that “cripple our satellites and you cripple us”.

Countries are also honing non-kinetic, electronics and cyber-based methods to prevent satellites of other countries from spying on their regions. Cyber attacks can destroy, steal or distort other satellites or ground stations. The attacker gains control of the space asset.

“No one will declare that they are pursuing these kind of technologies but all are doing it, all have to do it, specially major players,” says Dinesh Kumar Yadvendra, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies, a Delhi-based think tank of the Ministry of Defence. In times of war no one is spared, and a country must be ready with its counter-security tactics, he says.

What could India’s people in military space have up their sleeve? It is most unlikely that they will tell us.

madhumathi.ds@thehindu.co.in



Belt and Road 2.0





Belt and Road 2.0

With the second Belt and Road Forum, a paradox is now apparent at the heart of the initiative

Dhruva Jaishankar

Six years after it was unveiled, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) assumes another avatar. In its initial form, it was all things to all people, a catch-all for China’s international engagement. But in fact it had multiple, layered objectives. The first concerned domestic economics: exporting surplus industrial capacity and cash reserves overseas to keep China’s economy humming, its industrial output flowing, and its employment levels high. The second concerned domestic politics: a signature foreign initiative to associate with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The third concerned security: stabilising Western provinces and the Eurasian hinterland. And the fourth concerned strategy: leveraging China’s new-found economic heft for political objectives in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and creating new standards and institutions in a bid to challenge U.S. leadership.

But Beijing may have moved too soon and too quickly. As the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) concludes, a paradox has become apparent at the heart of its ambitious initiative. On the one hand, there has been a strong backlash. The economic viability of Chinese projects is now viewed with considerable scrutiny. In capitals around the world, the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka is being described as a warning sign. The BRI’s sustainability is called further into question as Chinese debt, especially that held by state-owned enterprises, mounts. Additionally, security concerns have begun to predominate as far afield as in the European Union, the South Pacific and Canada. The role of China’s state in its business dealings is being deliberated openly. China’s military base at Djibouti has injected an overtly military element to its external engagement. And political pushback to Beijing is also discernible, whether in Zambia, the Maldives or Brazil.

Yet, despite these obvious deficiencies, the allure of the BRI remains strong. Many countries still see China as an attractive alternative to slow-moving democratic bureaucracies and tedious lending institutions. There are also political motivations at play: a minor agreement on the BRI is a useful tool for Italy’s Eurosceptic government to send a strong political message to the EU. Beijing has also become more flexible, the tone of this year’s BRF less triumphalist. Chinese overseas financial flows have slowed since 2017, and the focus has shifted away from massive infrastructure projects to realms such as digital technology.

Given these contrasting trends, the future of the BRI is more uncertain than ever. For India, which boycotted the BRF for the second time on grounds of both sovereignty (the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor traverses Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) and unsustainability (particularly in the Indian Ocean), it means continuing to monitor China’s international engagement closely.

The writer is a Foreign Policy Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s India Center


* Foreign

Reporters freed from Myanmar prison





Reporters freed from Myanmar prison

The Pulitzer Prize winning journalists were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners

Reuters

Sense of joy: Wa Lone, left, and Kyaw Soe Oo wave as they walk out from the Insein Prison in Yangon on Tuesday.AP

YANGON

Two journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from prison on Tuesday after more than 500 days behind bars.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners. President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month.

It is customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners across the country around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17.

Reuters has said the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release.

Swamped by media and well-wishers as they walked through the gates of Insein Prison, on the outskirts of Yangon, a grinning Wa Lone gave a thumbs up and said he was grateful for the international efforts to secure their freedom.

“I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues. I can’t wait to go to my newsroom,” he said. Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo smiled and waved to reporters.

The two were then driven away by Reuters colleagues and reunited with their wives and children.

Killing of Rohingya

Before their arrest in December 2017, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.

The operation sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to U.N. estimates.

The report the two men authored, featuring testimony from perpetrators, witnesses and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May, adding to a number of accolades received by the pair for their journalism.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said the decision to release the two was made after the families wrote to government leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We took the letters into consideration and released them in the interest of the country,” Mr. Zaw Htay told reporters.

Press freedom

Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler welcomed the news. “We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return,” Mr. Adler said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was relieved to learn of the release, a spokesman said. The United Nations in Myanmar said it saw the release as a sign of the government’s commitment to the transition to democracy.



‘Trump would have been charged were he not President’





‘Trump would have been charged were he not President’

Former prosecutors disagree with A-G Barr’s conclusion

Sriram Lakshman

William Barr

Washington

Hundreds of former federal prosecutors (439 on Monday evening) have signed a statement countering Attorney-General William Barr’s testimony to the U.S. Senate last week that there was not sufficient evidence to say President Donald Trump had obstructed justice with regard to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

The statement by former prosecutors — Democrats and Republicans — says each of the signatories believes that without his Presidential office protecting him Mr. Trump would have faced “multiple felony charges for the obstruction of justice.” It is Department of Justice practice not to indict a sitting President.

Obstruction charge

“The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming,” the statement says.

While the statement does not ask for or recommend a particular course of action, it stresses that Mr. Trump would have been prosecuted if he was not President.

The statement goes on to outline and then describe the incriminating acts.

Incriminating acts

First, an attempt to fire Mr. Mueller and alter the evidence around those attempts. It describes Mr. Trump trying to get his personal counsel Don McGahn to fire Mr. Mueller and write a memo covering it up.

Second, the statement describes Mr. Trump’s attempts to get then Attorney-General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the probe, so he could go back to overseeing it and protecting the President, including by limiting the probe’s scope.

Third, it describes Mr. Trump’s attempts at intimidation and “the dangling of pardons” in the cases of his fixer, Michael Cohen, and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

“We emphasise that these are not matters of close professional judgment. Of course, there are potential defences or arguments that could be raised in response to an indictment of the nature we describe here. In our system, every accused person is presumed innocent and it is always the government’s burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” the prosecutors say.

Critical case

“As former federal prosecutors, we recognise that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction, which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished, puts our whole system of justice at risk,” the statement says.

The statement not only counters Mr. Barr’s position but also comes days after he refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing, on the grounds that he did not agree to the format House Democrats, who control the Committee, had requested.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote to recommend to the House that Mr. Barr be held in contempt of Congress because the Department of Justice, which Mr. Barr heads, missed a subpoena-mandated deadline for handing in an non-redacted version of the Mueller report and underlying evidence.



China marriage market targets Pakistan’s Christian minority





China marriage market targets Pakistan’s Christian minority

Associated Press
GUJRANWALA

Muqadas Ashraf was just 16 when her parents married her off to a Chinese man who had come to Pakistan looking for a bride. Less than five months later, Ms. Ashraf is back in her home country, pregnant and seeking a divorce from a husband she says was abusive.

She is one of hundreds of poor Christian girls who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year, activists say. Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.

Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither, according to several brides, their parents and government officials. Once in China, the girls most often married against their will can find themselves isolated in remote regions, vulnerable to abuse, unable to communicate and reliant on a translation app even for a glass of water.

Turning a blind eye

“This is human smuggling,” said Ijaz Alam Augustine, the Human Rights and Minorities Minister in Pakistan’s Punjab province. “Greed is really responsible for these marriages … I have met with some of these girls and they are very poor.”

Mr. Augustine accused the Chinese government and its embassy in Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the practice by unquestioningly issuing visas and documents.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that, saying China has zero tolerance for illegal transnational marriage agencies.

On Monday, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency arrested eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis in raids in Punjab province in connection with trafficking, Geo TV reported. It said the raids followed an undercover operation that included attending an arranged marriage. The Chinese embassy said last month that China was cooperating with Pakistan to crack down on unlawful matchmaking centers.

In China, demand for foreign brides has mounted, a legacy of the one-child policy that skewed the country’s gender balance toward males. Brides initially came largely from Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. Now men are looking further afield, said Mimi Vu, director of advocacy at Pacific Links, which helps trafficked Vietnamese women. “It’s purely supply and demand,” she said. “It used to be, ‘Is she light-skinned?’ Now it’s like, ‘Is she female?’”



It is safe for tourists to return to Sri Lanka, says Sirisena





It is safe for tourists to return to Sri Lanka, says Sirisena

‘99% of the suspects in the Easter Sunday attacks arrested’

Associated Press

Devotees at Colombo’s St. Anthony’s church on Tuesday when it was partially opened after the April 21 attacks.AP

Colombo

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday said that “99%” of the suspects in the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels have been arrested and their explosive materials seized, and that it is safe for tourists to return to the island nation.

“The country is in a safe position right now,” Mr. Sirisena said. “Our intelligence divisions have identified how many terrorists are there and 99% of them have been arrested. One or two may have been left and they too will be arrested.”

Mr. Sirisena spoke hours after an interim report was submitted by a committee his office formed to examine why Sri Lankan security forces did not heed Indian intelligence information ahead of the attacks that killed more than 250 people.

Mr. Sirisena declined to discuss the report but said that “heads of security divisions have failed to take appropriate measures and failed to inform me too.”

Acting police chief C.D. Wickramaratne had on Monday said that authorities had seized improvised explosive devices and hundreds of swords, $1,40,000 in cash in bank accounts and $40 million in assets connected to the suspects.

Those things weren’t discovered earlier because of “weaknesses” in Sri Lanka’s intelligence divisions, Mr. Sirisena said.

The President added that violence wasn’t a problem specific to Sri Lanka, instead ascribing it to “global terrorism.”


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