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Let Them Take My Name, Have Nothing To Hide: Sonia Gandhi On AgustaWestland

As BJP’s new entrant to Rajya Sabha, Subramanian Swamy, puts Sonia Gandhi on notice over the controversial AgustaWestland deal, the congress chief decides to retaliate with equal aggression.

“Let them take my name, I am not afraid, have nothing to hide,” furious Gandhi told reporters after holding strategy meet with Congress law makers on Wednesday.

“I have done nothing wrong. This government has been in power for two years, why didn’t it move earlier?” asked Sonia Gandhi after the scandal topped Parliament’s agenda today.

Juicing up the political controversy, the Congress has gone on the offensive by asking for a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the AgustaWestland deal that was arranged when the party led the previous government.

The issue came to fore again after documents related to the negotiations and reviewed by the Italian court refer to “Signora Gandhi” as “the driving force” in seeking the new helicopters and her advisors including then then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The BJP says this proves that Congress Chief, and the party’s top leaders, were involved in kickbacks.

An Italian court investigated the contract because Agusta’s parent company is Finmeccanica, an Italian defence manufacturer, and decided that vast amounts of bribes were routed to India by company executives to land the deal for 12 VVIP helicopters for about Rs. 3,600 crore. The deal was cancelled by India in 2014 after the Italians began investigating it, a point the Congress is flashing in its defence along with the fact that AgustaWestland has not been banned by the new government from bidding for new defence deals.

The BJP yesterday asked for a discussion on the AgustaWestland deal in both houses of parliament. The bite in that has been somewhat diminished with Congressman Pramod Tiwari asking for the same in the Rajya Sabha to prove that the Congress has nothing to hide.

India’s U-Turn After China Protest, Cancels Visa To Uyghur Leader Dolkun Isa

Chinese dissident Dolkun Isa blames China for sudden cancellation of its Indian Visa on Monday, a day after Indian clears him to meet Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.

“China may have pressured India to cancel my visa,” Isa told media adding “On April 23, I got a very short note by the Indian side that my visa is cancelled. There was no explanation,”.

Germany-based Isa, a leader of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) was coming to India to attend a conference on democracy in Dharamsala, which will be held later this month.

China considers Isa and some other WUC members terrorists who are fomenting separatism in its volatile Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province.

China on Sunday lodged strong protest against India for issuing visa to ‘terrorist Isa” and said it should be immediately revoked.

However India said Isa’s visa was cancelled because there’s an Interpol’s red corner notice against him. A red corner notice is a request from one country to another, to arrest and deport a particular wanted individual.

Isa added that he’s disappointed and further surmised that the wide publicity given to his visit might also be the reason for the cancellation.

“India had granted me a tourist e-visa, but it was cancelled after my visit was widely reported in the Indian press,” Isa said, according to ANI.

India’s decision to allow WUC leaders to visit was seen as a tit for tat move after Beijing blocked efforts at the UN for sanctions against Pathankot terror attacks mastermind and Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar

Sushma Swaraj Raises Masood Azhar Issue With Chinese Counterpart

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday raised the issue of blockade of including Pathankot terror attack mastermind and Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar in UN Terror list by China.

Sushma Swaraj, who reached Russia on Monday to attend the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral meeting of their foreign ministers meets with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the conference.

Official sources said the issue was raised by Swaraj besides deliberations on a range of other issues.

Earlier this month, China stopped UN sanctions committee from designating Azhar as terrorist, maintaining that the case “did not meet the requirements” of the Security Council.

This is not the first time China has blocked India’s bid to get Pakistan-based militant groups and leaders proscribed by the UN.

The UN had banned the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in 2001 but India’s efforts for slapping sanctions on Azhar after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks also did not fructify as China, that has veto powers, did not allow it apparently at the behest of Pakistan.

Second Phase Of Odd-Even Scheme Starts In Delhi

Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government’s second phase of odd-even scheme aimed at controlling pollution in national Capital started on Friday.

“Odd even starts today. Lets all join hands and resolve to make it a success,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.

As per the already publicized rules, cars with odd numbers will ply on roads today, and anyone violating the rule will be fined Rs 2,000. However CNG cars will ply as usual irrespective of any restrictions.

The scheme is not applicable to women driver, two-wheelers and several categories of VVIP cars.

The odd-even vehicle movement plan for four wheelers will continue till April 30 between 8.00 a.m. and 8.00 p.m. except on Sundays.

Freedom From Caste: Rohith Vemula’s Mother, Brother Embrace Buddhism On Ambedkar Jyanti

Deceased Hyderabad University Research scholar Rohith Vemula’s mother and brother on Thursday embrace Buddhism on the 125th birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, a Dalit icon and the principal architect of the Indian Constitution, at a ceremony in Mumbai.

According to reports, Buddhist Society of India carried out the conversion ceremony in an impressive function at Mumbai’s Ambedkar Bhavan.

Rohith Vemula’s suicide at the Hyderabad Central University in January has rocked India and led to Nationwide protests.

Media reported that Vemuls’s mother and his brother have taken the decision to embrace Buddhism after Rohith’s suicide note, where he mentioned that ‘he would prefer to live in the stars rather than living in this society’.

Indian Express, quoting Prakash Ambedkar, Babasaheb Ambedkar’s grandson and the head of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh reported on Thursday that ‘Rohith used to talk about Buddhism a lot and his last rites were performed according to Buddhist traditions’.

Handwara Killings: CM Mehbooba Wants ‘Exemplary’ Punishment For ‘Killers’

Tawqeer Hussain

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has sought ‘exemplary punishment’ for the soldiers involved in killing of two youths during an alleged firing by soldiers in frontier district of Handwara on Tuesday.

According to reports, Mehbooba meets Union Defence Minister Monahar Parrikar in Delhi and apprised him about the situation in the valley.

“Exemplary punishment should be handed over to accused soldiers and no such incident will be tolerated further,” CM Mehbooba has reportedly said to Union Government.

Expressing grief over the lost of lives in ‘unfortunate incident’, J&K chief minister said such incidents have a “negative impact” on the state government’s efforts to consolidate peace efforts.

Meanwhile Army has launched an inquiry into the incident and are accessing the ground situation.

“Army regrets the unfortunate killing of two youths in Handwara and has launched probe to ascertain the facts,” Lt Gen DS Hooda, heading the strategic Udhampur-based Northern Command said in a statement to local media.

The National Conference (NC), Congress and CPI(M) had on Tuesday demanded action against those involved without delay. NC president Farooq Abdullah and working president Omar Abdullah said the onus was on chief minister Mehbooba to ensure the guilty were brought to book without any delay.

Handwara erupted into protests on Tuesday after youths allege that few army personnels tried to molest a local girl inside a washroom.

Report added that as the news of alleged molestation circulated in the area, people closed their shops and other business establishment and started shouting slogans against the army.

Eyewitnesses reported that as locals try to move towards the main security banker, situated in main chowk, army fired indiscriminately resulting into death of two youths 22-year-old Muhammad Iqbal and 21-year-old Nayeem Bhat, and injuries to three others.

However on Wednesday morning, another injured woman Raja Begum, 54, who had been admitted to the super specialty hospital on Tuesday, succumbed to a critical bullet injury, taking death toll to 3.

Later police resorted to baton charge and tear gas shelling and brought situation in control.

Jammu and Kashmir Separatists have called on shutdown on Wednesday against the ‘cold-blooded” killing of two youths by ‘trigger-happy’ army.

Hurriyat (M) chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Hurriyat (G) chairperson Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik and have called for a shutdown on Wednesday against the killing of two youths in army firing in Handwara.

J&K Separatists Plan Joint Protest on West Pak Refugee Issue

Tawqeer Hussain

Hurriyat Conference in Jammu and Kashmir is evolving a consensus to launch a joint agitation against the ‘settlement’ of West Pak Refugees in Jammu and Kashmir, which they think is aimed at changing the demography of the state.

According to the sources, all factions of the separatist leadership are in touch with each other to form a coordination committee that is aimed at opposing any such move.

The idea of a Coordination Committee was floated by senior Hurriyat Conference (Jk) leader Shabir Shah but was soon hijacked by Hurriyat Conference (M), who have sent missionaries to the other factions to garner support for joint resistance.

“I actually floated the idea of coordination but soon got calls from Hurriyat Mirwaiz group on the same issue, they even sent their two leaders to me to evolve a consensus” said Shabir Shah, Chairman Democratic Freedom Party.

Shabir Shah, who parted his ways with Hurriyat Conference (M) last year along with Nayeem Khan and others, is in close proximity with Hurriyat Conference (G) group said that they will fight tooth and nail against the Joint Parliamentary recommendation on the settlement of West Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir.

“There is no way they (West Pakistan Refugees) will be allowed as citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, this will be strongly opposed” he said. He was categorical, “ I don’t accept the JPC recommendations”.

Meanwhile, sources added that Hurriyat conference (M) has constituted a two member committee on January 15, to met all representatives of the separatist groups and civil society to garner support for the coordination committee.

“The committee has met almost all leaders including Hurriyat (G)’ s Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, JKLF’s Yasin Malik and others and discussed threadbare the need for joint resistance,” a senior Hurriyat leader said.

However all the separatists have not been contacted. “No, I have not been contacted on joint resistance issue, and i believe it is time to join us all once and for all for peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue,” Azam Inqilabi, Chief Patron Jammu Kashmir Mahaz-e-Azadi told The Citizen.

“Resettlement of West Pak Refugees in Kashmir will only add fuel to the fire and will instigate violence besides complicating the Kashmir issue. India should first address the core issue of Kashmir resolution” he added.

Chairman of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the conglomerate will soon finalize modalities for joint resistance against ‘settlement’ of West Pakistan refugees.

“It is encouraging that all pro-freedom groups and people from different walks of life have favored our joint resistance plan on the issue. We will formulate the course of action on the basis of the Committee’s report which comprises suggestions from other pro-freedom groups and civil society members,” Mirwaiz told reporters in Srinagar.

He added that New Delhi is in a mood to polarize the situation and pitch Kashmir against Jammu by settling non-state subjects including West Pakistan refugees.

All separatist groups including Hurriyat (G), Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Hurriyat Conference Jammu and Kashmir have opposed New Delhi’s proposal to ‘settle’ of West Pakistan refugees.

(The story was first published at The Citizen )

Tweets expose Kiran Bedi’s Flip Flop

Tawqeer Hussain

NEW DELHI: A smiling photograph of former cop Kiran Bedi flanked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bhartiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah served to jog media memory with young people on the social media in particular searching and re-circulating her tweets against the BJP.

A defiant Bedi said when asked by reporters about the shift that “people evolve.” Even as she declared,“I joined BJP due to the inspirational leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I wanted to sacrifice my entire life to social work. But he inspired me to join political life.”

Kiran Bedi and active member of the Anti Corruption crusader Anna Hazare led India Against Corruption at one point in time is the undeclared chief ministerial candidate of the BJP. The media has been ‘allowed’ to jump to this conclusion although there has been nothing from the BJP top ranks confirming this. Instead Amit Shah made it clear that a decision will be taken after the elections, and that the party was not going into the Delhi polls with a declared CM candidate.

Within minutes of Bedi’s decision to join the BJP, Twitter was flooded with screenshots of her previous tweets and links which questioned the role of Modi in the 2002 Gujarat carnage.

Controversial actor Kamal R Khan tweeted a screenshot of Kiran Bedi’s tweet which says “One day NaMo will need to respond with clarity about riots massacre. Despite Courts clearing him so far.”

In yet another April 10, 2012 tweet Bedi said,“Mr Modi as per SIT may be passing the legal exam but is yet to pass prevailing perception of serious incident which occurred under his watch.”

However, lately she changed her mind and started praising Modi’s vision and his efforts in promoting good governance. In her series of tweets on March 16, 2013, Bedi started with bashing Modi for his silence on 2002 Gujarat carnage but soon shifted in praise of him.

“NaMo sharing correct ideas of National Development! Totally out of box thinking! Which is generating development already in Guj!” read one of her tweets. She was almost exultant in another tweet, “NaMo says we have more Acts than Action! Hearing him at HT Conclave! Don’t miss!”

Tweets on Twitter are now hotly debating her decision to join the BJP. Many describe her as an opportunist.

“Kiran Bedi fought for Janlokpal, now she is joining a party which will never give a strong lokpal” tweeted one Pritha. Another person Brijesh Kalappa tweeted how time changed the place and position for both Kiran Bedi and BJP President Amit Shah.

“Time was When Bedi was DGP Jails and Amit Shah was an under trial in jail today he is her boss” tweeted Brijesh

Not only youths, even political leaders slammed Bedi for joining the BJP. Congress leader Sanjay Jha in a series of tweets claimed that the BJP had used Bedi, godman Ramdev and former Army chief VK Singh to malign the Congress party.

“Kiran Bedi, VK Singh, Baba Ramdev—all manifestations of how the Anna Hazare agitation was a BJP/RSS political conspiracy to malign congress” Jha tweeted.

In another tweet he wrote “U-turn is the genetic disorder in the BJP. Both Smriti Irani and Kiran Bedi publicly asserted the role of Narendra Modi in Gujarat Riots”.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Yogendra Yadav said that BJP is using Kiran Bedi to save themselves from direct defeat.

“Well done BJP! Saved two birds with one #KiranBedi Saved BJP from Satish Upadhyay disaster Saved Modi from direct blame for Delhi defeat” tweeted AAP leader Yogendra Yadav.

However J&K chief Minister Omar Abdullah cautioned Kiran Bedi to check her “twitter History” before making any political move.

“Note for famous people joining politics- before joining check your twitter/FB archive & delete all posts critical of party you are joining”Abdullah tweeted.

(The story first published in The Citizen )

All BJP Candidates, Except One, Lose Security Deposits in Kashmir Valley

Tawqeer Hussain

The Bharatiya Janata Party has suffered humiliating defeat in the Kashmir Valley with 33 of its 34 Assembly candidates losing their security deposit in the elections.

The party had fielded 34 candidates out of the 46 constituencies in the Valley hoping to give a tough fight to rival candidates, but they failed to secure even their own deposits.

Dr Hina Shafi Bhat, Muslim face of BJP in Kashmir valley also lost her  security deposit
Dr Hina Shafi Bhat, Muslim face of BJP in Kashmir valley also lost her security deposit

Even the party ‘s Muslim face in the Valley, Dr Hina Shafi Bhat, who was given considerable publicity and importance by the BJP failed to save her security desposit. Far from winning the seat, as she was projected to, Bhat got only 1359 votes losing the Amirakadal seat to the Peoples Democratic Party.

Hina, who had sparked a controversy by allegedly slapping an election officer during polling which she denied later, was banking on her father’s clout who was once a legislator with the National Conference. However, she failed to impress the voters.

Moti Koul, the BJP’s candidate from Habba Kadal in Srinagar district, was the only one who managed to save his security deposit. He was contesting from the constituency which recorded only 21 per cent voter turnout.

Koul was also under the threat of losing his security deposit till the migrant votes were counted, which propelled him from seventh position to the runners-up.

He lost to Shamima Firdous of National Conference(NC) by a margin of over 2,000 votes.

The other BJP candidates were way behind in most of the constituencies in the Valley from their nearest rivals, as was evident from the Election Commission data.

It is important to mention here that as per the rules, a candidate loses his deposit if the number of votes he/she gets is less than one-sixth of the total valid votes cast in the constituency.

BJP’s Shopian candidate Javed Ahmad Qadri managed to get over 3,300 votes but lost the security deposit due to the higher voter turnout in the constituency in south Kashmir.

Similarly Masood-ul-Hassan, fighting from Hazratbal constituency, polled 2,635 votes but he too could not save his deposit.

Other Prominent BJP nominees who got over 1,000 votes were Zubair Ahmad Wani from Batmaloo (1,304) and Dharakshan Indrabi from Sonawar (1,100) in terms of number of votes polled.

In another major embarrassment, the BJP candidate from Zadibal Constituency Neelam Gash received only 360 votes, fortifying her deposit.

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