Chidambaram appeals for restraint over report of US pastor threatening to burn Quran

New Delhi, Sep 9 (ANI): Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday appealed to media to help maintain communal harmony in the wake of reports of a pastor in the United States threatening to burn the holy Quran.

In a statement issued here, Chidambaram said: “There are reports of a pastor in the United States threatening to burn the Quran on September 11, 2010.

“We would appeal to the media in India – both print and visual media – to refrain from telecasting visuals or publishing photographs of the deplorable act,” he said.

“We would also appeal to the media to exercise great restraint over the next couple of days and help in maintaining communal peace and harmony,” he added.

Condemning the action of the pastor, he said: ” It is totally unbecoming of anyone who claims to be a man of religion. It is obviously calculated to increase bitterness and strife between different religious groups.”

“No one who is interested in maintaining harmony and peace among different sections of the people can condone such action,” he added.

He further hope that the US authorities will take strong action to prevent such an outrage being committed. (ANI)

The Jammu and Kashmir situation: The Security Forces

By Salim Haq

New Delhi, Sept.9 (ANI): Of all the pieces in the Kashmiri jigsaw, none has been more criticized than the security forces, whether it is the army, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), or the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Alleged actions by them have triggered off protests time and again and now the protests have snowballed into the phenomenon of stone-pelting. This, in turn, has provoked more firings and more casualties. No end of the cycle of violence seems to be in sight with the separatists providing a weekly calendar of protests and laying down conditions.

While they have been pilloried on a daily basis, it is necessary to dispassionately discuss the role and presence of the security forces who have become an inextricable part of the Kashmir issue.

We are informed everyday about the deadly death count of the protestors, about the heart-rendering stories of the killing of seven-year-old Milad Ahmed Dhar and Sameer Ahmed Khan of Batmaloo. However, there has scarcely been a mention of the over one thousand CRPF and J and K policemen injured by the stone pelters. Some of them have lost eyes, some have been paralysed and almost all of them traumatized. Don’t they have a story, too? Yes, they have the guns but should we fool ourselves into believing that they are deranged humans who take pleasure in killing seven-year-olds?

What is also not highlighted is the kind of pressure that the security forces, especially the J and K police, is under on a day to day basis for doing their job. How many outside the valley know about the posters that call for the social boycott of families of police personnel? How many know about the separatists checking the ID cards of people on buses and soundly thrashing a policeman when found? Or that police personnel have taken to carrying fake ID cards of other departments?

This is not to condone the obvious excesses of the security forces. These obviously have to stop and the security forces have to be made accountable for their actions. But at the same time, the presence of the security forces underlines the human tragedy in Kashmir, and how complex the situation is.

However, in making complex analyses of a complex situation, most observers forget the basic question – why are the security forces present in the first place in the valley? Why have they been present there since 1947? Are they there on their own or have been called for by the elected government?

Though well known, it is worth repeating that the army was sent into Kashmir in October 1947 to defend the territorial integrity and the people of India in the wake of the unprovoked aggression by tribesmen sent in by Pakistan. The army has remained in Kashmir since then because the threat from Pakistan to forcibly seize Kashmir has not diminished an iota. The threat, in fact, has increased manifold over the decades with Pakistan trying every trick in the book culminating in terrorism and now a unique form of agitation. Not surprisingly, therefore, the presence of the Army has been supplemented by para military organizations to face civil threats.

The bottom-line, clearly is that so long as Kashmir continues to face external or internal threats, the security forces, would continue their presence. And wherever security forces are deployed in aid to civil power, there have to be Rules of Engagement or a legal cover. In the instant case, it is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This law was enacted for the North-East but has become equally notorious in Kashmir.

But, so long as the security forces are asked to operate in Kashmir, they will need a legal cover, whether it is called the AFSPA or something else. You can repeal AFPSA or modify it imaginatively but a legal cover will still be needed so long as the conditions are disturbed and the elected government calls for the assistance of central forces.

Having said that, should the presence of the security forces be so heavy handed, so visible, so in your face?

The answer is clearly no.

It is the ubiquitous sight of the security forces in every nook and corner of every street in every town in the Valley that is the most visible sign of a region under occupation. It is also most likely to lead to provocations, invite retaliation, lead to human rights violations and the unending cycle of violence.

The basic reason for this in your face and visible saturation deployment of the security forces is that the government, both state and central, haven’t evolved from tackling insurgency to tackling political unrest. The tactics of the separatists, backed by Pakistan, have mutated. Taking advantage of the anger in the people, the tactics have evolved from gun-based insurgency to a pre-dominant political agitation backed by selective use of guns. This did not happen overnight. The waters were tested in 2008 and 2009 and have flowered, so to speak, in 2010.

The tactics of the security establishment, unfortunately, have remained static and unimaginative. The Home Ministry mandarins just haven’t read the evolving signs. The focus continues to be on the insurgents, whether it is checking their infiltration or locating them in the hinterland. Resultantly, political agitations are seen as a law and order problem instead of being seen as the main cause for serious concern today. And the tactics deployed are for tackling a law and order situation despite all evidence to the contrary that the agitation is not a mere law and order issue.

With no change in how the State and the Central Governments are dealing with the evolved situation, is it surprising that the ongoing cycle of protests, retaliatory violence, curfews and strikes doesn’t seem to be coming to an end?

This is not to suggest that insurgency is not a problem or that it should be ignored. But simply that right now, the priority has to be tackling the political agitations that call for a different strategy than tackling insurgency.

By not matching its tactics with the evolving tactics of the separatists, the government has played right into their hands. The security forces face the brunt of this static deployment and the security forces would react in the only manner in which they are trained. Yet, the government instructs the security forces to exercise restraint!

Adopting tough, in your face measures for tackling insurgency can be explained to a civil population. There will be resentment but also understanding. But how can you explain or justify the same measures when there is a political agitation, especially one that consists of women and children? Is it really necessary to stop a peaceful protest march? Is it really necessary to have pickets all over the towns that become tempting targets for stone pelters? Is that not an invitation to continue with the cycle of violence? Is not a basic principle of policing to defuse a public disorder situation rather than provoke it?

Leave aside the ‘big ticket’ issues of political solutions, packages, the question of self-determination, the immediate need of the hour is for the government to reorient tactics to face the political agitation and not treat it as a law and order problem.

Unless this is done, the security forces would continue to be pilloried and seen as being representative of an ugly and undesirable India. In such a scenario, talk of removing the trust deficit, winning the hearts and minds of the people etc, becomes meaningless. Finding that elusive starting point for talks has to begin with such an understanding.

Is the Home Ministry listening? (ANI)

Land acquisition not at cost of fertile land : Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, Sep 9 (ANI): Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Thursday reacting to the verdict of the Supreme Court that endorsed the Mayawati Government””s acquisition of 25 million square metres of land along the six-lane Yamuna Expressway Project connecting New Delhi to Agra and Mathura, said land acquisition should not result in loss of fertile land.

“We must protect the environment to ensure sustainable development. In whatever we do, we should not forget forest and environment. Farmers should be provided adequate compensation,” said Sonia Gandhi.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi had earlier proposed to make the draft land acquisition Bill more effective so that it is well-received by both India Inc and the farmer community.

The apex court bench of Justices VS Sirpurkar and Cyriac Joseph took a leaf from the Allahabad High Court verdict of November 30, 2009 – which dismissed the challenge of 35 landowners against land acquisition – to explain its own judgment on Wednesday.

“The scales of justice must tilt towards the right to development of the millions who will be benefited from the road and the development of the area, as against the human rights of 35 petitioners (landowners) herein,” the apex court bench observed.

The verdict came nine years after the Uttar Pradesh Government decided to construct the 160-km expressway in 2001 at an estimated cost of 350 million dollars. (ANI)

CCS to discuss lifting of Armed Forces Special Powers Act

New Delhi, Sep 9 (ANI): The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) will meet in New Delhi on Friday to discuss the current crisis prevailing in the Kashmir Valley following Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah”s meeting with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh seeking amendments in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or its partial withdrawal from the State.

Omar Abdullah, who met Dr Manmohan Singh on Thursday, highlighted the need for amendments in the AFSPA to make it more humane and requested him kick start a political dialogue with the separatists at the earliest.

“Yes, I have requested the Prime Minister to take a decision on amending the AFSPA or at best withdrawing it from some areas where it was not required. To begin with we may choose four districts in the state on experimental basis. Some calculated risks have to be taken. Let us see,” said Omar Abdullah after his meeting with Dr Singh, which lasted for around 45-minutes.

“If I am not hopeful, I won”t be here,” he added, when asked whether the ongoing turmoil in the Valley would come to an end.
Earlier talking to a group of editors at his residence on September 6, Dr Manmohan Singh said: “A meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security is being called shortly to discuss the situation in the Kashmir Valley. I cannot promise you that I will produce a rabbit out of my hat, the country must learn to be patient.”

“Also the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir Government are looking out for options to address the concerns of the Kashmiris,” he added pointing out that the Kashmir problem has existed for 63 years and Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had all attempted to tackle it.

Earlier on Monday talking to reporters after holding a public rally at Bhalwal village near Jammu, Abdullah said Jammu and Kashmir problem requires a unique solution, as the accession of the State with India was in different and unique circumstances than that of other States of the country.

“We are trying that all issues be resolved through dialogue. Centre has also brought this on record–both in the Parliament and outside it that dialogue should be initiated in Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir requires a unique solution as the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with rest of the country was in extremely unique circumstances,” said Abdullah.

“India was in different and unique circumstances then that of other states of the country. Geelani has put forth some issues, Give the Centre a chance as they are examining these issues and they will respond accordingly. I am hoping that the response should be of the kind which can improve the situation,” he added.

When asked about his recent statement on revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Abdullah said: “I have not said any such thing. I have said we are thinking on it and we are discussing the issue with Centre. We have got two options with us.

“First is that the harsh side of AFSPA be subdued. Second option with us is that where there is hardly any impact of militancy and where the role of Army is not required from those areas AFSPA can be removed in a phased manner. For which we are working for identifying some districts of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

Meanwhile, curfew continued in Jammu and Kashmir”s Srinagar city for the second day on Thursday, while it was extended to two towns in Anantnag district following violent clashes between protestors and security forces in these areas.

Police has also imposed restrictions on the movement of people in nine districts of the Valley as a precautionary measure. The curfew was lifted in Kashmir Valley on Thursday morning.

It has been reported that four persons were injured in late night clashes between security forces and stone-pelting mobs in Batmaloo, Karan Nagar and Chota Bazaar area of the city.

Over sixty-nine people have been killed in the ongoing unrest in the Valley till date. (ANI)

Sino-Indian ties have gone into limbo: Analysts

New Delhi, Sep 9 (ANI): Analysts say the relationship between India and China has always been a rocky one with little hope of any quick-fix solution to their long simmering tensions, which have flared up, in the recent past with China”s support for India”s arch-enemy Pakistan.

Diplomatic ties between both nations have become increasingly fraught over an unsettled border, the disputed Kashmir region and the competing global aspirations of the world”s most populous nations.

In rare public criticism of his giant neighbour, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said that China was seeking to expand its influence in South Asia at India”s expense.

Dr. Singh”s comments followed repeated diplomatic sparring between the two.

Asian powers in the last two years, reflecting growing friction over their disputed borders and roles as emerging global powers despite bilateral trade that has grown 30-fold since 2000.

China”s support for India”s arch-enemy Pakistan, which backs separatists in disputed Kashmir and also claims the region in full, has not helped to defuse tensions.

Professor Alka Acharya, a Sinologist, said China”s increased closeness with Pakistan in recent years has definitely irked India.

“The whole relationship seems to have gone in a limbo. The pace with which we were hoping for some developments in the border in terms of the negotiations leading to some kind of compromise and solution seems to have been stuck,” said Alka Acharya, Professor of Chinese studies in New Delhi.

“The general perception is that Chinese are now taking a harder position on certain issues on which they had not taken similar positions before. China”s relationship with Pakistan in particular is beginning to now affect Indian interests,” she added.

While trade has grown 30-fold since 2000, the tension highlights how economic ties alone may not be enough to resolve the two countries growing friction.

Distrust between the China and India economic powerhouses dates back to a 1962 border war.

China defeated India in the 1962 conflict, but they still spar over their disputed 3,500 km (2,170 mile) Himalayan border and the presence of exiled Tibetan separatist leader, the Dalai Lama, in India.

“We have had nearly five to seven years in which both the countries have actually explored greater understanding at the global level, at the regional level and you have a relationship which is increasing in intensity in level of exchanges. So I would say that it”s really the persistence of some old issues,” said Acharya.

Media reports say China has mounted tension between the two countries by installing missiles at its border with India and further denying visa to an Indian army top commander in restive Kashmir.

Experts say that China has also been trying to surround Indian Territory by establishing ”string of pearls”, a euphemism for its base camps in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Indian Ocean.

“I think on the politico-strategic front there are serious difficulties. There are, there is significant suspicion and doubts about each other”s ambition, each other”s objectives, so I kind of fail to see a kind of a strategic dialogue that can take place between India and China,” said Rajeswari Rajagopalan, a senior fellow at the think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

“However what we need to do is, in order to avoid certain pitfalls on the border or on other places maybe tomorrow it can happen in Indian Ocean region it needn”t happen on the border but the two ships sailing in the Indian Ocean region they could conflict not on the border but in the Indian Ocean region given the kind of increasing activities by China in the region and they could be potential problems on the sea itself,” she added.

The strategy has also raised Indian fears of encirclement and the worry that Beijing wants to pin down India within South Asia, crushing its global aspirations. Some Indian officials, however, have said some of those fears of expanded Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean are overblown.

“A situation where we have good economic relationship, trade with China is continuously increasing day by day, year by year, but there is some problem like China”s closeness with Pakistan always affects. It”s always a big issue in India. And may be with respect to Kashmir, their (China) support in the UN (United Nations) for Pakistan,” said Mitesh Saini, a student of business studies. (ANI)

Former Goa Minister Pacheco acquired US visas on forged documents

New Delhi, Sep 9 (ANI): Former Goa Tourism Minister Micky Pacheco is in deep trouble with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booking him for allegedly acquiring US visas on forged documents.

The CBI alleged that Pacheco entered into a criminal conspiracy with two persons– Pedro Antonio Joanes and Daniel Raymong Fernandes– along with other unknown people during 2007-2008.

They obtained crew member visas from the US consulate in Mumbai in the names of Joanes and Fernandes, besides other unknown persons on the basis of forged documents and facilitated their travel to the US

The investigation agency has so far come across two such cases, but they suspect that more people were sent using the same modus operandi.

The agency also fears that documentary evidence against Pacheco and his men could have been destroyed after media reports of his involvement in trafficking and money laundering.

Earlier on July 23, the Goa police arrested Pacheco for his role in a forgery case filed against him by his estranged wife Sara.

Sara, had filed four different cases of forgery against Pacheco in January 2009 in which she had accused him of selling her properties by forging her signature. (ANI)

Manmohan Singh to review progress of infrastructure projects today

New Delhi, Sep 9 (ANI): Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh will conduct a first quarter (April-June) review on the progress of five infrastructure sectors in a Cabinet meeting here today.

So far, the Planning Commission set annual targets for infrastructure ministries, which includes road transport and highways, railways, civil aviation and ports, and conducted internal review meetings.

Earlier, the Planning Commission had set up a mechanism for quarterly monitoring of projects in order to facilitate taking corrective steps to expedite implementation.

The important targets for 2010-11 include setting up additional power generation capacity of 20,359 MW, development of 2,500 km of highways and 1,019 km of new rail lines.

The investment in the infrastructure sector during the 11th Plan (2007-12) would be close to the target of 500 billion dollars.

The investment target for the infrastructure sector in the 12th Plan (2012-17) is likely to be fixed at one trillion dollars, with the private sector contributing about 50 percent of the total estimated outlay. (ANI)

US laying foundation for indispensable partnership with India: Clinton

Washington, Sept.9 (ANI): The United States is taking steps to lay the foundation for indispensable partnership with India, said Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations here on Thursday, Clinton described India as the world’s largest democracy, which has a very large convergence of fundamental values and a broad range of both national and regional interests.

“We are laying the foundation for an indispensible partnership. President Obama will use his visit in November to take
our relationship to the next level,” she said.

Clinton, who was addressing the CFR after a year, also said that Washington is keenly interested in deepening engagement with
emerging centers of influence.

“We and our allies, indeed, people everywhere have a stake and they’re playing constructive, regional, and global roles. Because being a 21st century power means having to accept a share of the burden of solving common problems, and of abiding by a set of the rules of the road, so to speak, on everything from intellectual property rights to fundamental freedoms,” she said.

“So through expanded bilateral consultation and within the context of regional and global institutions, we do expect these countries to begin to assume greater responsibility,” she added.

Referring to the recent Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and China, Clinton said that for the first time, development was on the agenda, something that the Chinese are doing in conjunction with their commercial interests.

In this regard, Washington and Beijing are looking at ways to cooperate better cooperate and perhaps share lessons learned about how best to pursue development.

“In one country in Africa, we’re building a hospital, the Chinese are building a road; we thought it was a good idea that the road would actually go to the hospital. It’s that kind of discussion that we think can make a difference for the people that we are both engaged with,” the Secretary of State said.

With Russia, Washington has offered a relationship based on not only mutual respect, but also mutual responsibility, she said.

“In the course of the last 18 months, we have a historic new arms reduction treaty, which the Senate will take up next week; cooperation with China and the UN Security Council on tough new sanctions against both Iran and North Korea; a transit agreement to support our efforts in Afghanistan; a new bilateral presidential commission and civil society exchange that are forging closer people-to-people ties,” she said.

“Our goal is to establish productive relationships that survive the times when we do not agree and that enable us to continue to work together. And, a central element of that is to engage directly with the people of these nations. Technology and the speed of communication, along with the spread of democracy, at least in technology, has empowered people to speak up and demand a say in their own futures. Public opinions and passions matter even in authoritarian states. So in nearly every country I visit, I don’t just meet with government officials,” she said.(ANI)

Kerala hooch death toll rises to 19

Malappuram (Kerala), Sep 7 (ANI): The death toll in the twin hooch tragedy in Kerala”s Malappuram district has risen to 19.

The death toll is likely to go up as more people who had consumed the killer brew.

A preliminary examination of samples taken from two toddy shops shows the presence of methanol in the toddy.

Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had said murder charges would be framed against the culprits if investigations proved that the deaths were caused by hooch.

Meanwhile, excise officials have sealed some toddy shops in the Perassanoor and Kuttipuram areas. (ANI)

Defence Minister Antony orders reprobe into Captain Kohli death

New Delhi, Sep 7 (ANI): Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday assured the family of Shaurya Chakra awardee Captain Sumit Kohli, who died under mysterious circumstances four years ago in Kupwara, of a reprobe into his death.

In a letter sent across to Veena Kohli, Sumit”s mother, Antony said he has directed the defence ministry to conduct a reinvestigation into the case.

However, the family wants an independent and impartial inquiry into the death of Captain Kohli and not have the army involved in the same.

Earlier, Veena Kohli met Antony and appealed him to deliver justice to them, as she believes her son was murdered at the army residential complex in Jammu and Kashmir by his fellow officers.

Captain Sumit Kohli, who was posted with 18 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) battalian in Kupwara, was found dead in his quarters on April 30, 2006. Army authorities claimed that he had killed himself with his service AK-47. (ANI)

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