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PM defends action on Article 370 at massive joint rally in Houston

On the same page: U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the ‘Howdy Modi!’ event in Houston, Texas, on Sunday. REUTERSREUTERS

In a fierce defence of the government’s actions in Jammu & Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said those criticising the decision to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution were “promoting terrorism”.

Mr. Modi’s comments came during his address, along with U.S. President Donald Trump, at a rally of over 50,000 Indian-Americans at the NRG stadium in Houston. Both leaders announced a joint front on several key issues, but articulated an entirely new script on cooperation on terrorism.

Attack on Pakistan

In a scarcely veiled attack on Pakistan, Mr. Modi said the “whole world knows where the threads from the 9/11 terror attacks to the 26/11 Mumbai lead”.

“It is time to fight a decisive battle against terrorism and all those who promote terrorism,” he added, asking the crowd to give Mr. Trump a standing ovation for his commitment to fighting terrorism.

In a show of support, Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump held hands and walked out of the stadium together, meeting cheering crowds, gathered to see the unprecedented joint rally by the two leaders.

Earlier, Mr. Trump said the two countries were committed to “combatting radical Islamic terrorism”, and linked Indian and U.S. positions on security and terrorism to show that bilateral ties between both countries are closer “than ever before”.

“Both India and the U.S. understand that to keep our communities safe we must protect our borders,” Mr. Trump said in comments that seemed to refer to the government’s resolve to crack down on human trafficking, and also endorsed India’s actions in fighting cross-border terrorism and actions on Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir.

“Border security is vital to the United States and border security is vital to India,” Mr. Trump added, vowing “unprecedented action” on the U.S.’ southern borders against illegal immigration.

Speaking about the withdrawal of Article 370, Mr. Modi said the legislation had “kept the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh away from development and strengthened those promoting terrorism”.

He also asked for a standing ovation for all parliamentarians in India who had passed the new legislation in both Houses with a two-thirds’s majority.

“India’s action within its boundaries are causing discomfort to some people who are unable to manage their own country. These people put their hatred of India at the centre of their political agenda. These are people who support terrorism,” he said, in another reference to Pakistan.

Several workers at the Rangreth facility have been laid off

It’s “no work, no pay” for Omar Yousuf, a computer engineer in . He comes to office every day though.

The future of Yousuf and hundreds of others employed in the IT sector in the Kashmir Valley is in jeopardy due to the prolonged Internet shutdown. Several workers have been handed pink slips.

The sprawling Information Technology (IT) hub at Rangreth in Budgam district, on the outskirts of Srinagar, wears a deserted look.

Since Internet connectivity was snapped on August 5 following the revocation of the special status of the State under Article 370, one of the only IT hubs in the Valley is struggling for survival. There are approximately 1,200 employees who work in the Rangreth complex.

Funds crunch

Some firms that have been operating here for over a decade have had to lay off as much as 60% of their staff as they are unable to bear financial losses as a result of the shutdown. “Internet is oxygen for the IT sector; how can we survive in its absence?” said one of the founders of a firm at Rangreth. He, however, wished to remain anonymous.

The entrepreneur says the Valley has seen several disturbances in the past, including the 2016 unrest after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, but the IT sector was never hit the way it has been this time.

He said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has stringent compliance protocols for IT service providers in the State. The service providers have to maintain a log of each Uniform Resource Locator (URL) accessed by them and their clients through the commercial leased lines and report to the authorities on a daily basis.

“We have to send people to Delhi to check e-mails. In the past one month, we lost two clients and suffered a loss of ₹8-9 crore. We are a small company... 60% employees are serving notice; we have no option but to lay them off. It feels bad — these young men and women have been associated with us for several years,” he said.

“We come here, talk to each other and leave whenever we wish to. There is nothing to do, we did not receive salary for the month of August,” says Khalid Bhat, who works at an IT services and software firm.

Mr. Bhat earned ₹20,000 per month.

The State government is exploring the possibility of using it for medicine

Wanted weed: Cannabis is often grown in extremist-controlled areas. K.R. DeepakThe Hindu

Cannabis legalised for medicinal and industrial use may give Manipur’s start-up dream a high.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government, headed by Chief Minister Nongthom-bam Biren Singh, has been hard-selling its ‘Start-up Manipur’ campaign since August 2018. Round two of the campaign began on September 20.

On Sunday, Mr. Singh told The Hindu from Imphal that his government was planning to legalise cannabis, or marijuana, to enable units of companies using it as an ingredient for medicines or for other industrial purposes to open.

Start-ups would also be considered. “But such companies have to be capable,” he said.

Mr. Singh said he had taken his cue from States such as Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand that have legalised cultivation and harvest of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

“Oil extracted from cannabis is known to be useful in strengthening nerves and treating people suffering from paralysis. Also, legalising cannabis can boost the economy,” he said.

After the first round of ‘Start-up Manipur’, the State government reportedly identified 334 entrepreneurs for financial assistance. Of them, 29 were seen to have high potential.

‘Best weed’

Cannabis competes with opium across large swathes of land in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. Drug enforcement officials say the cannabis grown in remote areas of Manipur is considered the “best weed” across the country.

Agencies such as the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) destroy poppy cultivation but have a tough time checking cannabis grown on a large scale in interior areas. Moreover, many plantations are in areas controlled by extremist groups.

Surveys by the NCB and some private agencies say much of the marijuana in Manipur has been cultivated for at least four decades in Churachandpur, Senapati and Ukhrul districts.

Manipur is on the edge of the Golden Triangle of drug trade, comprising Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China.

Initial probe reveals use of drones to deliver weapons

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has decided to hand over probe to the NIA.

The Punjab police on Sunday said it had busted a terrorist module of the revived Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) that was conspiring to unleash a series of terrorist strikes in Punjab and adjoining States.

The module was backed by the Pakistan-based chief of the KZF, Ranjeet Singh, alias Neeta, and his Germany-based associate, Gurmeet Singh, alias Bagga.

Four persons were arrested and and a huge cache of arms, including five AK-47 rifles, pistols, satellite phones and hand grenades, seized.

The module was planning to carry out multiple terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and other States.

Given the international links and ramifications of the conspiracy, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has decided to hand over the investigation to the National Investigation Agency to ensure that the conspiracy is fully and expeditiously unravelled.

With initial investigations revealing the use of drones to deliver terrorists weapons and communication hardware from across the border, the Chief Minister urged the Union government to direct the Indian Air Force and the Border Security Force to launch counter-measures to check any threat from drones to the border State.

Director-General of Police Dinkar Gupta said the weapons were suspected to have been delivered recently across the border from Pakistan through drones. He said the aim was to scale up terrorism in J&K, Punjab and the Indian hinterland, in the wake of the recent developments in the Valley.

Neeta and Bagga had reorganised their terror group. “With the help of sleeper cells, they had spotted, radicalised and recruited local members, besides arranging funds and sophisticated weapons from across the border,” Mr. Gupta said.

‘Rights violations can break up nation’

Rajnath Singh at the ‘Jan Jagran Sabha’ in Patna on Sunday. Ranjeet Kumar The Hindu

Warning Pakistan not to repeat the “mistakes of 1965 and 1971”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said the neighbouring country could get broken into various parts due to flagrant human rights violations against the Baloch and the Pashtun.

On the government’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, he said the constitutional provision was like a “canker” that bled the State, and asserted that a majority of the population in the State supported the move.

Addressing a ‘Jan Jagran Sabha’ (public awareness meeting) organised by the BJP, where leaders spoke on the decision to strip the State of its special status, Mr. Singh said his party had lived up to its promises.

“As a nationalist party, the BJP never softened its stand on the issue. Article 370 was like nasoor (canker), which left Jammu and Kashmir bleeding. We have now demonstrated that we are an honest and credible party, which fulfils its promises,” he said.

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