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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Communal Violence Bill by year-end: Chidambaram


In the wake of riots in Bareilly and Hyderabad, the government on Wednesday assured the minorities that it was committed to protecting their interests and said that a new law to deal with communal violence will be put in place by the end of this year.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the country has witnessed communal violence at various places on the slightest pretext and some of them can be traced back to trivial and petty quarrels that resulted in trauma, fear and insecurity in minority communities and deepening of divide.

“It is therefore an urgent need to dispel any misgiving on the part of the minority community and assure them that the government of India is committed to preserve, protect and promote secular values and provide equality of opportunity to all religious minorities,” he said addressing a conference of State Minorities Commissions.

Mr. Chidambaram said the Central government was working on a law for prevention, control and rehabilitation of the victims of the communal violence since December 2005 when the bill was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

“Beginning December 2005, it has been a journey of four year or more. It is likely that the journey will come to an end and it is my earnest hope that before the end of the year, we will have a law for the prevention and control of communal violence and rehabilitation of the victims,” he said

Violence spreads to New City

31 Mar 2010

HYDERABAD: Curfew was extended to eight more localities on Tuesday as violence spread to other parts of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

One person was killed and many more were injured in the latest clashes between people belonging to two different communities.

During the day, Old City, which is under curfew, remained peaceful but violence erupted in other areas like Musheerabad, Bholakpur, Kavadiguda and Begum Bazar.

Police were caught off-guard as they didn’t expect the riots to spread beyond the Old City. They had to open 16 rounds of fire into the air at Begam Bazar alone to bring the situation under control.

A 34-year-old Maharashtrian was bludgeoned to death with boulders at Mustaidpura under Tappachabutra limits. A resident of Shivrampally, he was a worker at a garment store in Putlibowli. He was on way to Puranapul along with his relative when he was attacked.

Earlier in the day, the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad took out a massive rally, in which over 5,000 people participated, from a temple in Gowliguda Chaman to mark Hanuman Jayanti. The rally passed off peacefully till Musheerabad.

It is alleged that some from among the crowd pelted stones at a few shops and establishments. Rival groups retaliated instantly and within no time, the two sides were hurling stones at each other. Inadequate number of police forces emboldened the rioters. Additional forces had to be rushed in from the Old City to Musheerabad. But by then, a dozen vehicles were set on fire and a house was torched.

Mischief mongers rained stones on the police too. Similar scenes unfolded in the lanes and bylanes in Bholakpur and Kavadiguda where people from both communities targeted each other forcing the police to lob tear gas shells.

All roads leading to Bholakpur and Musheerabad were sealed off. The saffron brigade then broke up into two groups with one melting into the area and the other marching towards Ranigunj and from there, to the Tadbun Hanuman Temple. Shops and establishments on the stretch downed shutters. At Secunderabad, the mobs targeted a famous biryani joint and damaged its windows besides some vehicles. At the RP Road, they attacked a cafe. A place of worship, coming up in the middle of the road at Secunderabad, also came under attack. The angry mob pulled out and burnt religious flags in front of a battery of policemen. Nearly a dozen people, including two police constables, were also roughed up.

Similar scenes were witnessed at Begum Bazar Chatri during a religious procession. When police stopped it, enraged locals pelted stones on them and set on fire a police vehicle, damaged another and torched a police outpost and a place of worship.

A couple of business establishments were also set on fire forcing the police to lob tear gas shells and use rubber bullets.

Four persons were injured in the incident. ‘‘It was unprovoked.

We were only taking out a peaceful procession but the police tried to stop it,’’ a local, who suffered a head injury, said. The situation was brought under control after Rapid Action Forces (RAF) reached the spot and dispersed the mob.

Late at night, violence was reported from other parts of the city. A 25-year-old was attacked with sharp weapons by two motor-cycle borne miscreants at Malakpet. A car was also set ablaze in the same locality. At Feelkhana, people belonging to two communities fought a pitched battle, reports said.

Repeorts Indian Express

Hyderabad riots: Blame game begins in Congress


Hyderabad: In a major embarrassment for the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, a section of its leaders from Telangana have openly charged their own party colleagues from two other regions of being involved in the communal riots in Hyderabad.

Congress MP from Nizamabad Madhu Yashki Goud has said that the riots were a conspiracy by leaders from Andhra and Rayalaseema regions as those opposing the demand for statehood to Telangana had been warning Muslims that communal tensions would rise in the separate state.

"It is a conspiracy similar to the one against Chenna Reddy's government to remove him from power," said Yashki referring to the 1990 communal riots of Hyderabad. Rivals of former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, both within the Congress and in the opposition, had alleged that he was behind the riots to dislodge Reddy from power.

Senior Congress legislator Shankar Rao has also alleged that those opposing Chief Minister Rosaiah were behind the riots to defame him and his government.

Their allegations evoked sharp reaction from Congress legislators belonging to Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, who demanded disciplinary action against them.

Congress sources said party's state unit president D. Srinivas spoke to Yashki, Rao and another MP V. Hanumantha Rao warning them against making any allegations over riots.

Sporadic incidents in curfew-bound areas of Hyderabad

In the state assembly on Tuesday, Rosaiah had to face embarrassing moments when Opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu referred to the statements made by these Congress leaders and demanded a thorough probe and stern action against those involved.

"We are not saying anything but your own party leaders have made certain statements. A thorough probe should be ordered to find out if your own party people are involved or there are other unidentified elements behind the riots," the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president said amid protests by treasury benches.

Earlier, Rosaiah, in his statement, appealed to people to maintain peace and urged all political parties to rise above political differences to cooperate in restoring normalcy in the state.

Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator Ahmed Pasha Khadri on Tuesday said his party has already given to the government the names of individuals and the party involved in the violence and demanded action against the guilty.

Sify News

Monday, March 29, 2010

Congress practising untouchability with Bachchan: BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sunday accused the Congress of being 'fascist' and 'practising untouchability' with Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan because of his family differences with one 'family of the party'.
In hard-hitting remarks, party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the Congress has increasingly shown signs of frustration 'that each one of its attempts to tarnish opposition leaders was failing.'

'It is unabashed by practising untouchability, which can only come out of a fascist character. The way in which a well-known artist belonging to an eminent and scholarly family is being targeted is revealing. Just because Shri Amitabh Bachchan's family has differences with one Congress family, the entire party and even the governments in states where they are in power are keen not even to be seen on one platform with him,' she said.

Though Sitharaman did not name the Congress family, the reference was to the Gandhi family, with whom the Bachchans were once close.

She said not only had the famous actor been targeted by the Congress but posters of his son Abhishek were removed from an Earth Hour function attended by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. 'The Delhi chief minister called off an invitation extended to the son of the artist,' she alleged.

Seeking to draw comparison's with the Emergency, the spokesperson said: 'the country has not forgotten the way in which eminent playback singer Kishore Kumar was targeted'.

'All India Radio banned his songs for the entire year, during which the dictatorship under the Emergency held sway.'

Referring to Congress expressing reservations over Bachchan's presence at the Mumbai-Worli Sea Link extension inauguration, she said the link belonged to the people of India and not to the Congress party.

Asked about the relationship between the BJP and Bachchan, she said: 'We respect him as an artist'.

On party leader V.K. Malhotra writing a letter to Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi suggesting that Amitabh Bachchan should be made brand ambassador for the commonwealth Games, Sitharaman said the government should take the proposal seriously.

She said Bachchan's appeal cuts across all ages and he will be a very good brand ambassador for the games.

Bachchan was recently embroiled in a controversy when he attended the inauguration of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link's extension. Some Congress leaders protested over his having accepted the offer of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to be the brand ambassador for the state.

The Bollywood star posted scanned copies of the official invite he received for the event on his blog, after Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan denied that he had invited the superstar. Bachchan said he was invited by a minister.

Chavan, who was to attend a Marathi literary conference in Pune, changed his programme and visited it a day earlier reportedly to avoid the actor, Bachchan said in his blog.

Bachchan in his blog Sunday also said that his actor-son, who was appointed brand ambassador by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for Earth Hour, was dropped at the last minute and even his photo was not shown.

Modi comes out in Big B's support, calls his detractors Taliban

Lashing out at those objecting to Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan's presence at a government function in Mumbai, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has dubbed them as 'Talibans of untouchability'.

Writing on his blog, Modi described 67-year-old Bachchan as a great artist with legendary humility and even taller achievements who has chosen to celebrate the glorious heritage of Gujarat even while facing a lot of criticism from many quarters. 'This is inspiring', he said on Sunday.

A controversy erupted over Bachchan attending at a government function in Mumbai where Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was also present. A section of Congress took objection to his presence as he is the brand ambassador for BJP-ruled Gujarat.

The Bachchan-Congress row took a new twist yesterday with the megastar claiming that his son Abhishek's posters were removed from the venue of WWF's Earth Hour event in Delhi on Saturday evening attended by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and saw a 'pattern' behind such acts.

Modi said the anti-Gujarat game plan behind the opposition and the controversy over senior Bachchan stood exposed in broad daylight now.

'These 'Talibans of Untouchability' have lost all their sensibilities in their pursuit of anti-Gujarat attitudes.
'They may well in future tell us not to eat even salt. They may even ban the eating of Amul butter and milk and order our young people not to wear denim jeans! And guess why? Because Gujarat produces these things,' he said.

'Friends, my heart is still unwilling to believe that these Talibans are unaware of the damage they are causing to this nation and to our society,' said Modi.

The Gujarat Chief Minister also wrote about his marathon grilling by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT in connection with a Gujarat riots case.

'I have cooperated with the process of law and accepted its supremacy. I heartily express my thankfulness to the people for their support and prayers in this difficult moment,' his blog entry read.

Modi was grilled for over nine hours on Saturday for his alleged role in the Gulbarg Society massacre in which 69 people including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri were killed.

Day after marathon session with SIT, Modi shares dais with CJI

Mar 28, 2010

Declining to comment on pleas that he stay away from sharing the dais with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan said today: “What can I do if GNLU invited me for the function? I have nothing to say, I don’t want to add to the controversy.”

Justice Balakrishnan was speaking at the sidelines of the Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) convocation here on Sunday, a day after Modi was questioned by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) for his alleged role in the 2002 Gulberg Society killings.

The children of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri — who was among the 69 killed in Gulberg Society — Nishrin Hussain, Zuber Jafri and Najid Hussain, had, on Saturday, launched an online petition, which got hundreds of signatories within hours, pleading with Justice Balakrishnan and a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, Ahmed Musa Ebrahim, not to share the platform with Modi.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nobody above law, I have answered critics: Modi

28 Mar 2010,

NEW DELHI: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Saturday appeared before Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT) probing the 2002 communal riots in the state. The deposition was a marathon session, with the first leg stretching over five hours and the second part resuming later in the evening after a three-hour break.

Mr Modi had been summoned to depose in connection with a complaint filed by Zakia Jaffery, widow of former Congress MP Eshan Jaffery who was killed in the riot at Gulburg Society in Ahmedabad along with 69 others.

On emerging from the first session with the SIT on Saturday, Mr Modi sought to silence his detractors by declaring that he would fully cooperate with the SIT and would be back for a second session later in the evening. “The questioning is not yet complete although I told them to ask me everything today itself,” he told reporters waiting outside the SIT office.

Stating that no one was above the law, Mr Modi reminded his critics: “I have said earlier that the Constitution and law of the land are supreme and, as a citizen and chief minister, I am bound by the Constitution and law of the land.”

“If people have doubts I would like to clarify that the SIT that has been appointed by the Supreme court has done the questioning. There is no (police) officer of Gujarat in SIT. It is working on directions of Supreme Court,” he said.

“I have said that nobody is above my actions and gesture have answered my critics,” he said. A miscommunication posting March 21 as the date set by SIT for Modi’s “appearance” had led the media to criticise the Gujarat chief minister after he failed to come to the SIT office on the said date. However, it later became clear that the SIT had only asked him to appear before March 27, the date when its notice would expire.

Making sure that he appeared before the SIT within the notice period, Mr Modi drove to the SIT office at the Old Secretariat building in Gandhinagar around noon on Saturday. Clad in a crisp kurta-pyjama, Mr Modi waved to the crowd of waiting mediapersons who had gathered outside the SIT office.

SIT chief R K Raghavan was not present in the office at the time of Mr Modi’s deposition. His second in command, Mr A K Malhotra, is believed to have questioned the chief minister. Mr Modi was not accompanied by his lawyers or aides during the questioning.

Though details of queries put to Mr Modi were not available, the SIT would essentially be looking for answers to the allegations made by Zakia Jaffery. Mr Modi has been named as one of the 63 accused in the petition filed by her. Zakia has alleged that Modi and 62 others conspired during the riots, and that senior ministers ordered bureaucrats and policemen not to respond to calls for help by the riot victims. She has also accused the chief minister of instructing his police officers to go slow againt the rioters at a meeting called by him on February 27, 2002. Speaking to mediapersons even as Mr Modi was being questioned by the SIT, Zakia Jaffery, the murdered MP’s wife said she expected Mr Modi to “speak the truth about the riots.” ET Bureau

Indian army kills suspected militants entering Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India, - Indian troops shot dead nine suspected militants on Saturday including five who were trying to enter Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani side of the disputed state, the army said.

The infiltrating rebels were killed in the northern sector of Keran, army spokesman J.S. Brar told AFP.

"We have foiled a major infiltration bid by killing five militants along the Line of Control," he said, referring to the de facto border that divides Kashmir between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

It was the second such attempt by militants to enter Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani side in four days. Indian troops shot dead three "militant infiltrators" in the same area on Wednesday.

Indian soldiers shot dead four more militants in two gun battles in the southern districts of Rajouri and Kishtwar on Saturday, Brar said.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and funding Kashmiri militants, a charge Islamabad denies.

Rebels continue to sneak in despite a fence erected by the Indian army and a pledge by Islamabad to do its best to prevent militant infiltration into Indian Kashmir.

The 20-year-old Muslim insurgency in Indian Kashmir has claimed more than 47,000 lives, although violence has declined since an India-Pakistan peace dialogue started in 2004.

Pak says tension on border, can’t act against Taliban

NEW DELHI: Flagging the India bogey, Pakistan has moved extra troops to the border with India.

It claimed that the tension on the border with India prevented it from acting against the Taliban on the western border. But the troop numbers have been described as “modest”.

Pakistan’s envoy to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, told the Financial Times that the threat on the border with India was draining his country’s ability to take action against the Taliban. “The government has had to send some troops down there because we don’t want to leave ourselves exposed,” said Mr Hasan, a confidant of the family of President Asif Ali Zardari.

He further claimed India was creating tension by building military cantonments close to the border over the past year. “This is taking away from our defence capabilities on the Afghan border,” Mr Hasan said, adding: “We really wish the international community would intervene, but nobody has said anything to the Indians.” The newspaper report also quoted unnamed Pakistani officials as saying that the number of troops that have been deployed on the border was “modest”.

The timing of the latest Pakistani action has confounded New Delhi, which has done its best to establish channels of communication with Islamabad. In fact, it is Islamabad which has put roadblocks on the Indian attempt to establish dialogue at the foreign secretary level. Pakistan has continued to push for the resumption of the composite-dialogue process while refusing to make any commitments on taking action against the terror groups targeting India.

The envoy’s remarks also come after fulsome praise by Washington on Pakistan’s action against the Taliban in South Waziristan and Swat. Washington’s outreach programme for Pakistan is based on the assumption that Islamabad will step up action against Taliban and Al Qaeda safe havens. This latest statement from a senior Pakistani diplomat, however, suggests that Islamabad is unwilling and unable to broaden the offensive against the Taliban.

In exchange for action against the Taliban, the Obama administration had announced a plan to give a multi-year security-assistance package to Pakistan and promised to expedite supply of military hardware. The supply of military hardware and, in particular, drones and F-16 are of concern to New Delhi, which foresees the F-16s with air-to-air missile capabilities being deployed against India and not against terror elements. Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Washington had also continued to push for killer drones, which includes a closely guarded technology by the US. India is expected to take up the matter of military supplies with the US, which hasn’t taken Indian concerns on board.

Friday, March 26, 2010

NationDetractors demand removal of Maharashtra CM

26 Mar 2010

MUMBAI: After coming under fire for the Pune blasts, waiving off tax for the IPL matches in Maharashtra, and defending a junior Minister Abdul Sattar who was involved in a brawl, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is now facing severe criticism from within the party for the presence of Amitabh Bachchan at the inauguration of second carriageway of Bandra-Worli sea-link on Wednesday.

A section of the state Congress leaders has decided to write a strong letter of protest to party supremo Sonia Gandhi, urging her to sack Chavan for sharing dais with Bachchan who is considered close to Samajwadi Party and is the brand ambassador of BJP-ruled Gujarat.

Though Chavan clarified on Thursday that he was unaware of Big B’s presence at the function, state Congress leaders said that the CM was being naive since Bachchan’s name figured in all invitation and hoardings put up in the city.

MPCC chief Kripa Shankar Singh said that Bachchan’s presence at the function which was graced by Sonia Gandhi on the completion of first phase was improper, but refused to comment on Chavan.

Chavan has come under constant criticism from his detractors for his amateurish handling of sensitive issues often without consulting senior party members.

Some of them accused him of not dealing with important issues very seriously and said that he often got mired in trivial things.

On Monday, Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Abdul Sattar assaulted a party activist Mohammed Mushtaq in Aurangabad and was criticised by everybody.

However, Chavan defended Sattar terming the brawl as ‘a matter of no national importance’.

US dangles Pakistan a carrot

By Syed Fazl-e-Haider on Asia Times

KARACHI - In 2008, after several years of negotiations, nuclear-armed India and the United States signed a civilian nuclear deal that in essence allowed India access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries even though it is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Pakistan, which like its neighbor India has a nuclear arsenal and is not a signatory to the NPT, has long been rankled by India's deal, wanting one of its own with the US. This topic featured high

on the agenda of a top-level Pakistani delegation that held talks in Washington this week with senior US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Washington, with some reservations, has been receptive to Pakistan's wishes, especially as Islamabad has emerged as a key strategic partner in the efforts to bring the war in Afghanistan to a conclusion, and in dealing with al-Qaeda and militancy in general in the region.

There will be a price: the US, according to analysts who spoke to Asia Times Online, wants Pakistan to walk away from the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

Last year, Islamabad and Tehran finalized a US$7.5 billion deal to transfer gas 2,775 kilometers from fields in Iran to terminals in Pakistan, and this month they signed an operational agreement on the project, despite US opposition.

The US, as it seeks to isolate Iran and impose sanctions on it over Tehran's nuclear program, is a vocal critic of the pipeline project, which was initially to have included a third leg going to India. India dropped its participation in the project, ostensibly over pricing disagreements; there is widespread belief that it did so to secure the nuclear deal with the US.

This, according to analysts familiar with the project, is the dilemma that Pakistan now faces. In recent months, there has been talk of the pipeline being extended to China; that would be a non-starter should Pakistan pull out.

The two days of talks in Washington concluded on Thursday. All that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said was that his delegation had had "very satisfactory" talks with US on civilian nuclear cooperation.

"I am quite satisfied with the discussions we had," Reuters quoted Qureshi as saying. "We have to modernize and tap on indigenous resources like hydro[electric power], coal. We have to bring in renewables - solar, wind - and we also have the capability of producing nuclear energy and we are doing it."

Clinton was quoted as saying, "We are certainly looking at it [nuclear deal] as how to help Pakistan with its long-term energy needs."

Washington's reservations over a nuclear pact center on lingering concerns over security in Pakistan. The founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, several years ago confessed to playing a role in nuclear proliferation. In 2008, Khan, who remains under house arrest, recanted these confessions. The US is also aware that any deal with Pakistan would upset India.

Pakistan faces daily blackouts, and a power shortfall estimated at 5,000 megawatts (MW) weighs heavily on the economy. Ahead of this week's talks, Islamabad drew up a 56-page report in which it sought US support in developing a civilian nuclear program. The US earlier agreed to provide $125 million for energy development and assistance in establishing three thermal power plants.

Analysts see a major role for the US in rehabilitating the energy sector, as the US could engage international financial institutions, including the US Trade and Development Agency, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, together with the US's private sector.

If the US and Pakistan do go ahead with a nuclear deal, it would still require consensus approval from the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and also from the US Congress - this turned out to be a lengthy process for the Indians.

China this week reacted cautiously to reports that the US was open to help Pakistan tap nuclear energy. "We believe that sovereign countries have the right to peacefully use nuclear energy with adequate safeguards," Pakistan Press International reported a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, as saying in Beijing.

China has assisted Pakistan in developing facilities for nuclear power generation since 1986, when the countries signed a comprehensive agreement for nuclear cooperation that envisaged the supply of power plants and cooperation in the research and development of commercial and research reactors. Under an agreement signed in 1990, China helped Pakistan in the construction of a 300 MW reactor in Chashma, Punjab province, which went into operation in 1998. The Chashma-1 plant has delivered full power of 300 MW to the national grid since September 2000.

In December 2006, a much-awaited agreement on Chinese assistance to build more nuclear reactors in Pakistan was not signed during President Hu Jintao's visit to Islamabad. Though Beijing had agreed to provide two more nuclear power plants, worth about $1.2 billion, China apparently succumbed to pressure from either the West or the NSG. Beijing shelved the project without comment.

At present, China-Pakistan nuclear energy cooperation is mainly focused on the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant-2 in Punjab. The 325-MW capacity facility is being built in collaboration with China National Nuclear Corporation and is likely to be completed by the end of this year.

Global Ayurveda Summit focusses on accreditation issues

KOCHI: Several speakers at the ongoing Global Ayurveda Summit being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (Ayush), Government of India, here on Thursday highlighted the need for standard accreditation system for hospitals and institutions practising traditional medicine, including Ayurveda.

It was pointed out that the process undertaken by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare (NABH) was being followed by a host of institutions, but concerted efforts were required to gain global acceptance.

Darshan Shankar, Executive Chairman, Institute of Ayurveda and Interactive Medicine at the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions, Bangalore, said a comprehensive accreditation system need not be a government initiative. Clinical management software was available and it could be helpful to those institutions seeking to adopt accepted standards. Accreditation would instil confidence among consumers. It would have an impact on manufacturing sector as well.

Mr. Shankar said setting up of autonomous institutes on Ayurveda and other traditional medicines would help promote innovation. ‘Good manufacturing practices' should give way to ‘next manufacturing practices' involving modern technology with a view to gaining excellence. Tools of IT should be utilised for various processes. Web-based short-term courses for young professionals of traditional medicine could also be started. Pointing out that Ayurveda had a role to play in public health, he said traditional practices adopted in the Ayurvedic system could be popularised to strengthen preventive healthcare.

Rajiv Vasudevan, founder and CEO of Ayurvaid hospitals and member, technical committee, NABH, said market expansion for Ayurveda beyond India could happen only with accreditation.

Ayurveda remained a personalised healthcare system. It was often forgotten that Ayurvedic treatment was basically a service-oriented one. Affordability and acceptability were important in the medical management procedures.

Harshajeet Kuroop, Managing Director, Birla Kerala Vaidyasala Private Limited, said the holistic nature of Ayurveda coupled with the absence of side-effects provided a good ground for the system to gain popularity. In an era of lifestyle disorders, conventional medicines had a significant role to play. Evidence based on documentation and integration of practices of herbal medicine was among the challenges faced by the sector.

T. Balakrishnan, Additional Chief Secretary, Industries and Commerce Department, Government of Kerala, said branding of Ayurvedic products of Kerala was being taken up at the ‘Care Keralam,' a cluster of Ayurvedic groups. Facilities for technology transfer, adoption of good manufacturing practices and research and development were being offered as part of the project. The centre was engaged in setting up accreditation norms, he said.

Several key issues involved in promoting Ayurveda at the global level were discussed by experts at the seminar. The three-day meet will conclude on Friday.

Big B at sealink opening irks Congress

Amitabh Bachchan is the new strain on the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) ties. The star was a guest at the inauguration of the northern carriageway of the Mumbai’s Bandra-Worli sealink on Wednesday. His presence at a government event hasn’t gone down well with a section of the local Congress, the senior coalition partner of the NCP in the state

Actor Amitabh Bachchan’s presence at the inauguration of the second carriageway of the Bandra-Worli sealink has triggered a fresh row between the ruling allies — Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The angry Congressmen promptly complained to the party chief Sonia Gandhi, who has reportedly sought explanation from Chavan.Senior Congress leaders objected to the actor sharing the dais with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan at Wednesday’s function. Some Congressmen boycotted the function.

The angry Congressmen promptly complained to the party chief Sonia Gandhi, who has reportedly sought explanation from Chavan.

Congressmen had a reason to do so because the link is named after the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia had thrown the first carriageway open to public last year. Amitabh had developed differences with his childhood friend Rajiv over 20 years ago. After the split, Amitabh and his wife Jaya got associated with the Samajwadi Party and have been working against the Congress.

Chavan told media that he did not know the actor would be there. “Bachchan’s name was not there in the invitation (circulated by the organisers). I don’t know what a person, who is brand ambassador of neighbouring Gujarat, was doing at the ceremony,” Chavan said.

Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), the private developer that built the sealink along with the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, claimed that the actor had been invited by the NCP to add glamour to the event. “NCP’s other choice was (cricketer) Sachin Tendulkar,” said a HCC official requesting anonymity.

“I don’t know who invited him to the government function,” said Mumbai Region Congress president Kripashankar Singh.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Law Minister Moily says US must allow India to interrogate Headley

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bangalore, Mar 24 (ANI): Union Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily on Wednesday said the United States should permit Indian investigating agencies to probe Lashkar operative David Coleman Headley.

When asked that is 'unfair' and 'unjustified' on part of the US denying access to Indian investigators because the Central Government had permitted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to probe 26/11 Mumbai terror attack accused Ajmal Kasab, Moily said we don't want to pass a value judgement on their policy.

"But this is the matter we need to hard press our argument, and have a strong bargain and tell them what is necessary. We need to make out a very strong case, which we have already made out how he is involved," said Moily.

"He is really involved. So in view of that, I think one day or the other, the US will have to agree to expedite the issue. Headley will have to undergo interrogation from our agents," he added.

India had earlier expressed satisfaction with Washington's cooperation on Headley.

United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake had on March 20 said Headley cannot be extradited to India now, but Indian investigators would be allowed to interrogate him.

Blake said that Headley would not be extradited to India, but Indian officials would be given the chance to interrogate him.

"The plea bargain agreement that was announced and part of the agreement was that United States would not extradite Headley either to India or to Pakistan or to Denmark on the charges for which he is now admitted guilty. That does not mean that at some future date, some additional charges could not be brought," said Blake.

"So, I don't want to speculate too much about that possibility of future extradition but at least on these charges he cannot be extradited. And the other question that has been raised is that whether Indian investigators will be allowed access to Headley to know more about his involvement in the planning of the Mumbai attacks, and the answer to that is yes," he added.

Headley pleaded guilty before a Chicago court on March 18, admitting he had scouted for targets ahead of a brazen terrorist attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008.

As a result, as per law, Headley will not face any trial or won't be given the death penalty.nder the plea bargain, Headley has escaped the death penalty. He also cannot be extradited from the US to India, Pakistan or Denmark. (ANI)

Kuwait's Zain approves Bharti's bid to connect with Africa

India's top telecom company Bharti Airtel was set to become the 7th largest global player in this business, with an approval from Kuwait's Zain to buy its African assets, other than those in Morocco and Sudan, for $10.7 billion.

'The company confirms that the board of directors of Zain met in Kuwait on Wednesday, March 24 to review the latest developments and negotiations related to this matter,' the Kuwaiti company said in a statement Thursday.

'The board is pleased to report that due diligence process has been completed and that the parties are finalising definitive agreements which are expected to be signed in the coming days.'

Thursday was the final day of their exclusive talks.

Based on regulatory approvals, the Sunil Mittal-led Bharti will pay $9 billion to acquire Zain's assets spread across 15 African countries. It will also adopt $1.7 billion of Zain's debt. Bharti has already tied up $.8.3 billion to fund the acquisition.

The confirmation saw the scrip of Bharti Airtel gain nearly 2.5 percent, or Rs.7.5, on the Bombay Stock Exchange Thursday, to rule at Rs.314.30. The scrip had earlier shot up to Rs.316.70.

This has been Bharti's third attempt to enter the largely untapped African market after failing to enter into a merger pact with South Africa's MTN on two occasions. Africa accounts a little over 60 percent of Zain's 71.8 million customers.

'Bharti's acquisition of Zain can be seen as a natural evolution of their business, as they have now reached critical mass in terms of size and share in the domestic market,' said Kamlesh Bhatia, principal research analyst with leading tech think tank Gartner.

'Zain presents a suitable opportunity to expand in a region that has a similar market condition, allowing Bharti to leverage its nearly perfected low cost, but high volume model,' Bhatia said, adding adapting to cultures in 15 countries will be a challenge.

Bharti Airtel is among Asia's leading telecom service providers with operations now in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. As on Jan 31, It had the largest market share of 23.33 percent in India's mobile telephony segment with 121.71 million subscribers.

The Indian firm is currently the 10th biggest player in the global mobile phone service business, as opposed to Zain's 20th rank. Post the acquisition of the African assets of Zain, it is set to climb three places to the 7th position.

Some of the highlights of the deal with Zain are:

Offer of $10.7 billion for Zain's assets

Deal excludes Zain's operations in Morocco and Sudan

Zain has over 71.8 million customers in 23 countries

In the Middle East, it has 29.9 million and in Africa 41.9 million customers

Zain is listed on Kuwait Stock Exchange with 100 percent free float

Its largest shareholder is Kuwait Investment Authority with 24.6 percent

The company's consolidated revenue amounted to $6.1 billion last year

Bharti Airtel, which has been on the lookout for an overseas acquisition for over two years now, said last month that it would acquire a 70 percent controlling stake in the Bangladesh-based Warid Telecom to expand its global footprint.

The company had late last year failed to strike a deal for the second time with MTN.

The MTN deal, worth some $24 billion in cash and equity, envisaged Bharti getting a 49-percent stake in MTN, and the South African firm and its shareholders 36 percent equity in the Indian telecom major. But it got stuck over policy issues.

Now, MTN will be a major competitor in the territories the Indian company is entering.

Monday, March 22, 2010

HC asks Nanavati Commission to clarify stand on summoning Modi

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court today asked the Nanavati Commission, probing the 2002 riot cases, to clarify by April 1 whether it will summon Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the matter.

A division bench of Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi sought this information from the
government pleader while hearing an appeal by Jan Sangarsh Manch (JSM), an NGO representing the 2002 riot victims.

When the matter came up for hearing today the court asked the government pleader to get clarification from Nanavati
Commission by April 1 with regard to its order of September 2009, and inform the court whether its decision not to summon
Modi and others was a final decision or a tentative one.

Nanavati Commission, in September last year had disposed of JSM's application asking for summoning of Modi and others
saying that it did not find justification in cross-examining them at that point of time for the purpose stated by JSM.

The Commission had further stated in the order that allegations made in JSM's application were vague and based on
wrong or unwarranted assumptions.

JSM had sought quashing of the Nanavati Commission's order in the Gujarat High Court and prayed that Modi and three
others -- the then home minister Gordhan Zadafia, health minister Ashok Bhat and DCP Zone 5, R J Savani-- be called for
cross examination with regard to the 2002 riots. PTI

Date for response from stakeholders on Telangana extended

The Justice Srikrishna committee appointed to look into the issue of statehood for Telangana Monday extended till April 10 the date for receiving views and suggestions from political parties and other stakeholders on the various terms of reference put out by it.
The decision was taken in view of requests that 'some more time is required as the issues involved require in-depth study and examination'.

'The committee has considered the requests made and agreed to extend the date for submission of responses by April 10,' said member-secretary of the committee Vinod K. Duggal in an advertisement published in leading dailies in the capital Monday.

The one-month period for submitting views and suggestions expired March 21, Sunday.

The five-member committee, formed after violent agitations by political parties and student organisations for carving out a separate Telangana state, also requested stakeholders to furnish the details at the earliest so that it 'can start holding consultations' with the parties, organisations and groups concerned 'as quickly as possible'.

The committee, mandated to 'examine the situation in the state of Andhra Pradesh with reference to the demand for a separate state of Telangana as well as the demand for maintaining the present status of a united Andhra Pradesh', is slated to submit its report to the central government by Dec 31.

The other members besides Justice Srikrishna and Duggal are Ranbir Singh, vice chancellor of the National Law University, Delhi; Abu Saleh Shariff, senior research fellow in International Food Policy Research Institute, Delhi; and Rabinder Kaur, professor at the department of humanities and social sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hijacked plane can be shot down: Anti-hijacking law amendment

With terror threats from skies looming large in the wake of 9/11 in the US, government is likely to amend the existing anti-hijacking law which would arm it with powers to shoot down a hijacked aircraft and providing for death penalty for hijackers.

The issue of amending the law is likely to come up before the union cabinet on Friday, official sources said.
The amendment will seek to provide a legal backing for any extraordinary move like shooting down an aircraft whose hijack has been established and the hijackers have intentions to target vital installation by using it as a missile like it had happened in New York on 9/11.

The policy also provides for immobilisation of the aircraft and disallowing it to take off if the hijack takes place on the Indian soil.
During the Kandahar hijack in December 1999, 178 passengers and 11 crew members were exchanged for four dreaded terrorists, including Maulana Masood Azhar who later floated the terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). At that time, security forces had failed to immobilise the plane at Amritsar airport.

The group of ministers headed by home minister P Chidambaram, had examined the proposal to amend the existing
Anti-hijacking Act of 1982 to cover aspects of conspiracy to hijack an aircraft.

India OK with life sentence for David Headley: Govt

NEW DELHI: The Indian government will be 'satisfied' if Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, who pleaded guilty in a US court to his involvement in the Mumbai attacks, is awarded a life sentence, home secretary G K Pillai said on Friday.

'The US Attorney General has advised a sentence of life imprisonment. If he gets a sentence of life imprisonment, I don't think government of India will be unsatisfied,' he said here.

He said other details of his accessibility for questioning by India, interrogation or about giving testimony have to be worked out in the coming weeks.

Headley can now be directly questioned by Indian investigators after his confession in a court in US to his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks, although he will not be extradited to India.

The US, which has so far denied India the right to question Headley, arrested by the FBI in October last year, said he has agreed to 'fully and truthfully' participate in this process which has to be undertaken only on US soil.

Headley, accused of plotting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks at the behest of Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba and conspiring to target a Danish newspaper, pleaded guilty to all terror charges before a US court.

Under the plea bargain, he has escaped the death penalty. He also cannot be extradited from the US to India, Pakistan or Denmark.

'When directed by the US Attorney's Office, Headley must fully and truthfully participate in any debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence or national security information,' the US Department of Justice has said in a statement.

'Headley further agrees that, when directed by the United States Attorney's Office, he will fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video-conferencing or letters rogatory,' the statement said soon after the 49-year- old Chicago resident pleaded guilty on all 12 charges against him.

Headley's lawyer John Theis told reporters after the over 30-minute hearing held before US District Judge Harry Leinenweber that 'he has agreed to allow himself to be interviewed by foreign governments in this country' as part of the agreement.

India, which had pressed for the maximum death penalty to Headley, can now approach the US to directly question him.

His admission of being trained in Pakistan terror camps nails Islamabad's lie that such camps were nonexistent.

Headley faces six counts of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons and providing material support to foreign terrorist plots and LeT; and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of six US citizens in the 26/11 attacks that killed 166 people.

'Headley has agreed to not only continue his cooperation with the government, which he has been doing since October, but also to make himself available for interviews by other governments in this country,' Headley's attorney Theis said.

Headley, who had pleaded not guilty on January 14 to the charges against him, did a U-turn in the 35-page plea agreement and admitted to all the charges.

When asked, if this means that Indian investigators could come to US and talk to Headley, even about the Mumbai attacks, Theis said 'Yes. If he refuses to talk to foreign governments here, it would mean a violation of the plea agreement'.

The plea agreement states that whenever directed by the US Attorney's Office, 'Headley must fully and truthfully participate in any debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence or national security information.'

Since his arrest in October, Headley has been cooperating with the government and has provided substantial assistance in the investigation of this case as well as 'critical' information regarding intelligence on other matters.

He said all the information that Headley has given to US authorities is and has been shared with India and Denmark.

Asked if plea agreement was a setback to India, Theis said 'I can't see how it can be interpreted as a setback for India. They are going to have the same opportunities that the US here to question Mr Headley and he will make himself available.'

'Obviously, his lawyer will be present but he is required under the terms of the agreement to cooperate with Indian authorities as well as Danish or Pakistani if they choose to do the same thing,' he said.

Through the 13 days that Headley 'talked', he was informed of his right to remain silent, of his right to counsel, that anything he said could and would be used against him. 'But he chose not to exercise those rights and in fact to provide timely, thorough, trustworthy and complete information,' Headley's lawyer Robert Seeder added.

Seeder said the information provided by Headley has 'significantly helped the United States and has also aided other countries'.

The lawyers refused to comment on the issue of Headley, son of a former Pakistani diplomat and a Philadelphia socialite, being a double agent. 'There is nothing in the plea agreement about anything about that (his being a double agent). I don't know where that kind of language comes from'.

On whether Headley would get a life sentence, Theis said the range of the sentence could be either life or any other sentence less than that as authorised by law. 'It is obviously a complicated case. Sentencing is up to Judge Leinenweber. This case has a long way to go,' he added.

Meanwhile, US Attorney spokesperson Randall Samborn said life imprisonment in the case of Headley is the maximum sentence without probation. He said Headley is 'not eligible for probation'.

Headley's extradition tough but India will still press for it: Chidambaram

March 19, 2010 PTI
New Delhi: Not viewing as a 'setback' the plea bargain between 26/11 accused David Headley and the US government, India today said it will continue to press for his extradition even though it is difficult as he is accused of commiting crime in the US also.

Mumbai under attackHome minister P Chidambaram said India would file charges against Headley, a 49-year-old Pakistani-American operative of Lashkar-e Taiba, at an "appropriate time" and seek access to him.

He said the US has provided "significant amount of information" with regard to Headley's activities but many questions remained unanswered and India wanted replies to these.

Chidambaram noted that the plea bargain between Headley and the US government would provide an opportunity to India to question him as he has agreed to "fully and truthfully testify to any foreign judicial proceedings held in the US, either through deposition, video conferencing or through Letters Rogatory (a formal communication to request testimony of a witness residing foreign land)."

"It is not a setback," he told reporters when asked to comment on the plea bargain under which the 26/11 accused would escape death penalty and instead could be imprisoned for his life (meaning entire life).

"There is a good chance that he will testify in a US court where Indian authorities will have a chance to ask questions," he said.

He, however, added that the fate of the plea bargain would depend on the court which is not a party to it although the court is "by and large bound" by it.

On the possibility of Headley's extradition to India, the home minister said it would be difficult as he is accused of committing crimes in the US as well.

He said extradition would have been an easy affair if Headley had committed crime only in India and was a fugitive in the US.

However, with regard to the Mumbai attacks, Headley is accused both in India as well as in the US, where he "conspired" in the killing of people, who included six Americans, Chidambaram said.

"So American authorities have jurisdiction to prosecute him as he was apprehended in the US. We will have jurisdiction when we file charges against him," he said.

"Since he was apprehended in the US, we had apprehended problems in extradition. But, we have not given up our plea.
We will continue to maintain our plea for his extradition.But, it will depend on what the court decides on the plea bargain," he said.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

BJP Announces New Team, Varun Gandhi Appointed Secretary

Much-awaited change in BJP has been effected. Newly elected BJP President Nitin Gadkari has announced his new team, which is a mixture of young and old stalwarts with greater participation of RSS.
The Saffron Party has promoted Varun Gandhi as national secretary. Cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was also awarded with secretary post. Television actor and politician Smriti Irani, RP Mehra and Santosh Gangwar have also been named secretaries.

On the other hand, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Ravi Shankar Prasad were also promoted and appointed as new party Vice Presidents. Purushottam Rupala and Shanta Kumar have also been appointed as new Vice Presidents.

Other BJP vice presidents are: BC Khanduri, Nejma Heptullah, Kalraj Mishra, Vinay Katiyar, Hema Malini, Kiran Ghai and Vijoy Chakrobraty.

Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara raje, who was forced to step down as Leader of opposition in state assembly, and senior leader Ananth Kumar were given responsibility of party's General Secretary.

Shahnawaz Hussain and Tarun Vijay are among new spokespersons along with Prakash Javadekar, Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Ravi Shankar Prasad has been appointed as senior spokesperson.

Varun Gandhi

Varun Gandhi is the son of Sanjay Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi, the son and daughter-in-law of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. Feroze Varun Gandhi was 3 months old when his father was killed in a plane crash.

On 31 October 1984, when Varun Gandhi was 4 years old, his grandmother and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her bodyguards.

Varun's mother, apart from being a political opponent of the Indian National Congress, is an animal rights' activist of international stature. She used her famous name to direct attention in the country towards animal welfare. She has set up a nationwide organization called People For Animals (PFA).

Varun's great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first Prime Minister of India, and his great-great-grandfather Motilal Nehru was a distinguished leader of the Indian independence movement. His grandfather Feroze Gandhi was a Parsi parliamentarian and the husband of Indira Gandhi.

Indira Gandhi is said to have been very fond of Varun, and was greatly distressed when Varun's mother left the household. In an interview, Varun suggested that he feels a bond with the Nehru-Gandhi family, even though he belongs to a rival political party. Varun has claimed that Indira Gandhi did not force his mother Maneka Gandhi to leave, she left on her own.

He started his education at Modern School, New Delhi. After finishing the fourth standard, he transferred to the Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, India. He then went on to The British School, New Delhi, studying for his UK secondary exam board GCSEs and A levels. He obtained his BSc in Economics from the University of London External System.


Varun Gandhi held college degrees from the London School of Economics (LSE) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), both in London, United Kingdom.

Varun was exposed to politics from an early age as his mother, Maneka Gandhi, was politically active since his birth.[citation needed]

In August 1999, at the age of 19, Feroze Varun Gandhi was active in his mother's Pilibhit constituency. She made Varun accompany her in meetings. Varun started addressing public meetings during this election campaign.

He wrote a book of poems titled "The Otherness of Self", illustrated by Anjolie Ela Menon, Manjit Bawa and Manu Parekh. Asked what drew him to poetry, Varun Gandhi, explained: “Because it is so precise and illustrates the strength of language.”

In February 2004, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party along with his mother after being convinced to do so by BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan.[6] His joining the BJP was hyped by the BJP with general secretary Pramod Mahajan claiming that "With Varun joining BJP, half the Congress will be with us..." The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee posed before the media with Maneka Gandhi and Varun after which the BJP held a media event presided over by the then BJP president Venkaiah Naidu[8] . The president of the Indian National Congress and Varun's aunt, Sonia, wished him success in his career in politics. She later said that Maneka and Varun's joining BJP was "painful as the Nehru-Gandhi family had always fought against communalism".

Varun was used as a star campaigner by the BJP in the 2004 elections. He, however, refused to attack his family consisting of his cousins Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi and his aunt Sonia Gandhi.

In October 2004, when campaigning for the BJP in Maharashtra assembly elections, he questioned the Congress as to what it had done for minorities in the past 50 years.

In November 2004, he was inducted into the BJP national executive.

In 2006, the BJP asked him to contest the by-election to Lok Sabha from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, a seat vacated by Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Chauhan. The party backtracked later denying Varun the ticket. The party then offered Varun a seat to contest from Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur constituency, but this time Varun refused the seat.

In January 2008, the media reported that his mother Maneka Gandhi would vacate her five-time constituency of Pilibhit for Varun during the 2009 elections, while she will contest from neighboring Aonla. BJP decided to field Varun Gandhi from the Pilibhit Lok sabha seat for general election 2009. Varun Gandhi was elected into the 15th Lok Sabha of India by a victory margin of nearly 293,501 votes. He procured around 429,000 votes. Highest margin for a newcomer, and second highest margin in the House.

In January 2010, a large section of the BJP was projecting Varun Gandhi as the future face of the party in the country, especially Uttar Pradesh. A public rally addressed by him in Sultanpur, in December 2009, drew a larger crowd than any of the events hosted by the BJP in the recent past. The RSS sees him as the only hope for strengthening the party's presence in Uttar Pradesh.

India cannot bypass concerns on terror, says Rao

17 Mar 2010

NEW DELHI: India delivered a strong message on terror to Pakistan even as Islamabad continued to make wild allegations of Indian involvement in the Lahore attacks and insurgency in Balochistan. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao warned against interpreting Indian restraint towards Pakistan as weakness and highlighted Indian efforts to reach out to Islamabad.

“We have consistently emphasised the need for governments concerned to act decisively to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and to effectively deal with groups that perpetrate it... our restraint should not be confused with weakness or unwillingness to act against those that seek to harm our people, create insecurity and hamper our developmental goals,” she said in an speech that was aimed as much at Islamabad as Washington, which wants normalisation of ties between India and Pakistan.

She further said that India could not just bypass the concerns on terror and go about business as usual by resuming the composite dialogue process. ``It is very, very difficult to be convinced in such a situation that we should set aside these concerns and just move on,’’ she said but added that the door for dialogue had never been shut. Ms Rao, who is on a six day visit to the US, was speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington. She also made it clear that India has no plans to downscale its presence in Afghanistan following the targeting of Indian nationals in Afghanistan by terror elements.

``We are not scaling down our operations in Afghanistan, we are taking all necessary security measures to safeguard Indian lives there,” she said and called the February 26 Kabul attack as a “barbaric attack against Indians engaged in humanitarian and development work in Afghanistan”.

Any downscaling of Indian presence would be widely welcomed in Pakistan which has been seeking a reduction of Indian involvement in Afghanistan while looking at increasing its own presence. Focusing on Pakistan, the foreign secretary also pointed out that persons who were identified by the world as terrorists were making open threats against India. “I did not want to bring the name of Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the LeT... we feel (they) continue to roam, to speak, have unhindered access to media, to channels to communicate that agenda (of violence).. that effects us. Our people are concerned about it,” Ms Rao said.

She also alluded to the impatience within India against the continued export of terror from Pakistan. The general feeling in India right now is: “We have suffered too much for too long,” she said. Ms Rao, who is in the US to co-chair a meeting of the India-United States High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG), is scheduled to meet US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other top US officials.

India has continued to make the point that selective targeting of terror elements would not yield the required results either in Afghanistan or Pakistan. ``Distinctions made between the various terrorist outfits are now meaningless, since they are now in effect fused both operationally and ideologically,” she said.

Another point that India has been making repeatedly is a cautious approach to pouring in large amounts of military aid to Pakistan. Ms Rao said there should be strict accountability criteria on US defence assistance rendered to Pakistan.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Women's Reservation Bill: MPs protest, RS adjourned

NEW DELHI: SP, BSP and RJD members on Monday strongly opposed the Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha, with one of them even trying to climb the Speaker's podium, leading to adjournment of the House for the second time till 2pm.

The bill, slated to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha, created storm in the Lok Sabha soon after Speaker Meira Kumar welcomed a Croatian delegation and read out a reference on International Women's Day.

The moment Kumar called for Question Hour, SP, BSP and RJD members trooped into the Well demanding quotas for OBC, Dalit and Muslim women within the proposed law to reserve 33 per cent seats inParliament and State assemblies for the fair sex.

The Speaker refused to adjourn the House and carried on with the Question Hour. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav gestured his party members to move forward and himself marched to the Well from the side of the treasury benches. Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) and Lalu Prasad and Umashanker Singh (both RJD) followed Yadav.

At this moment, Mithilesh Kumar (SP) tried to climb the table placed in front of the Speaker prompting Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee to request Yadav to control his members.

On the SP chief's directive, the members retreated a bit but stayed put in the Well and continued to raise slogans.

I have not done anything illegal: Nityananda

Chennai: Breaking his silence in the sex scandal in which he allegedly figured, self-styled godman Nityananda Swami today claimed he has not done anything 'illegal' and that he was a victim of a smear campaign.

'There have been many allegations against me and my organisations in recent days...I want to assure you all, all
of you, that nothing illegal has been done by me or by any of my organisations,' he said in a video clip recorded at an
undisclosed location, a week after his alleged sleazy acts were telecast on TV channel drawing widespread protests.

'We are in the process of collecting evidence to establish the falsity and motive of this smear campaign that
has been going against me. I will address all the allegations and issue a detailed explanation. We will find out the truth
and will come back to you very soon. Till then please be patient,' he said.

The CD of him speaking before a camera at an undisclosed location was sent throughhis lawyer and circulated to select
media. The contents of his speech were telecast by a private Tamil Satellite Channel.

His statement comes a day after his former disciple Nithya Dharmananda alias K Lenin said he had shot the video
purportedly showing Nityananda in a compromising position with an actress which was later telecast on TV channels.
Based on his complaint, police registered cases against Nityananda under various sections of the IPC including
cheating, criminal intimidation and rape.

Police Commissioner T Rajendran had said all cases would be transferred to Bangalore since the incident had taken place
at his ashram at Bidadi. Special teams had been formed to trace Nityananda.

The video aired on Tamil TV channels recently had caused a furore, with some Hindu groups and others protesting against
Nityananda even as Karnataka government promised 'very strict' action against him. The Ashram, however, has maintained that the video footage was morphed. PTI

Rao assures support to SL for resettlement of Tamils

Colombo, Mar 7 (PTI) In the first high-level contact between the two countries after the Presidential polls here, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao today met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and assured him of India's support to the process of resettlement and rehabilitation of Tamil civilians.

Rao met Rajapaksa over lunch at 'Janadhipathi Mandiraya' (President's House), and congratulated him for his resounding victory in the January 26 Presidential polls.

"She expressed India's willingness to continue assisting Sri Lanka in the resettlement of the IDPs...India was also keen to assist in the complete restoration of the railway line in the North," an official statement from the Presidential Secretariat said.

Rao, who had earlier served in Colombo as Indian High Commissioner, also said the Sri Lankan Government has made efforts to resettle nearly 3 lakh displaced civilians after shifting them from the welfare centres in the North and East.

'42 terrorist camps on border should be disbanded'

Thiruvananthapuram : Defence Minister A.K. Antony Saturday said 42 terrorist camps functioning on the border have to be disbanded by Pakistan for the India-Pakistan talks to be successful.

'Pakistan has not made any serious attempt to disband the camps that are functioning close to Jammu and Kashmir. The decision for bilateral talks has been made consciously and it was not an ad hoc one,' Antony told reporters after inaugurating the new office complex of the Coast Guard station at Vizhinjam near here.

'Though there was no breakthrough, being a conscious decision, the process (of talks)will continue,' he added.

The minister said the union home ministry and the Jammu and Kashmir government have evolved a formula to check infiltration and bring back terrorists to normal life.

'Many have surrendered too. With the conditions becoming normal, there is an increase in tourist arrivals in Kashmir. Attempts for terrorist infiltration are there and the armed forces are maintaining an eternal vigil on the border,' he said.

Onthe US supply of arms to Pakistan, he said the US should make sure that the arms were used at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and not targeted against India.

On the Maoist issue, he denied that the government had any information on the Chinese aiding and abetting the Maoists.

'The army will give logistic support to the State police (of Maoist-affected states). Paramilitary forces will be used for training the State police,' said Antony.

He said the acquisition of defence equipments and aircraft has increased considerably in the past five years.

'The process for acquiring the Kiev-class aircraft, Admiral Gorshkov, from Russia is in the final stage,' added Antony.

He said that after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, the threat through sea has increased and a coordinated effort of the forces as well as the government is being made to prevent such attacks.

'One of the positive aspects is that even fishermen have become alert and are giving valuable tip-offs to the forces,' said Antony.