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Barely out of teens, girls are the new face of protests in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, April 26: They are young, most of them in their school or college uniforms. Some of them wear burkhas while many of them have their heads and faces covered. Their school bags slung on their backs, now they also have stones in their hands.

Young girls barely out of their teens have become the new face of protests in Kashmir, adding a new dimension to the story of a valley wracked by years of violence and brutal retaliation government forces.

This April, the valley has woken up to fresh violence sparked by the killing of whom people describe as innocent civilians by security forces. The anger has been fanned by several video clips which purportedly show human rights abuse by security forces, including the use of a Kashmiri man as a human shield.

The anger has spilled out on to the streets and young women are leading the charge.

Dozens of pictures have gone viral on social media -- of groups of girls and women pelting stones on police and CRPF personnel.

A young girl seen kicking an armoured police vehicle has drawn particular attention for the anger it represents – she is said to have reacted in the manner after a college girl was injured on April 21 in Srinagar’s Old City.

“Why should we fear? Things can’t get worse than what has already happened in Kashmir. We have seen dead and mutilated bodies. We have seen many of our brothers and sisters defaced by pellets. At the most we will also die,” said Neelofar Jabeen (name changed on request), a 21-year-old arts student of Women’s College in Srinagar.

Protests by women and girls, even at the verge of violence, is not new to India.

Thousands of students, most of them girls, had taken to the streets in 2012 after the Delhi gang rape and murder of a paramedic student on a moving bus. The protesting girls had broken through police barricades and clashed with security forces seeking safety for women and punishment to the accused in the case that had numbed the country.

A police official in Kashmir described the new trend as “teenage aggression”.

“These things happen everywhere. Students come out in all parts of India to protest. Some where they come out for students’ rights and somewhere they come out for ‘azadi’. The aggression is same. And women have been protesting in Kashmir even before,” the official said.

Kashmir witnessed one of the worst summers in 2016 when more than 90 people lost their lives during violent street protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani in July.

Hundreds of people, many of them children, lost their eyesight to pellet guns fired by government forces, attracting international outrage.

Rahul Gandhi Lauds Role Of NRIs

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, April 19:

A five-member delegation of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), led by Shudh Prakash Singh, Chairman, Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC), USA, called on the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi at his residence here.

During the 30-minute meeting, Rahul Gandhi lauded the role of NRIs in development of Punjab and helping the Indian economy by repatriating billions of dollars back home.

The Congress Vice President agreed with many of the fresh suggestions made by the delegation to bring the NRI community into the mainstream of the Indian political and economic system. He assured the delegation that after consultations with the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the party might make some major announcement for Punjabis living abroad.

The delegation apprised the Vice President of the activities of the Indian National Overseas Congress in USA. Under the guidance of Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Department of the AICC, Dr. Karan Singh, we have expanded the Congress Party base in USA and now there are more than 25 Chapters and sub-chapters of INOC across USA, informed Shudh Pratap Singh.

Earlier in Chandigarh, the INOC delegation had also called on Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to discuss issues concerning the NRIs hailing from Punjab. The Chief Minister reiterated his promise of giving high priority to issues related to NRIs.

While touring Punjab, the delegation members had taken views of common people about the new Captain Amarinder Singh Administration. Punjabis in general are excited with many new initiatives taken by the Punjab Government.

Shudh Prakash Singh said, “austerity measures and ending the VIP culture by Capt Amarinder Singh is exemplary. I am sure other parties in rest of the nation will follow lead of Capt Sahib.”

The delegation shared the positive feedback they had gathered from ground level in Punjab with Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

Soon after the late evening meeting with the Congress Vice President, Shudh Singh told the media outside Rahul Gandhi’s Tughlak Road residence "NRIs are particularly happy with the prompt action taken by Capt Amarinder Singh in the very first Cabinet meeting to resolve the most critical issue of the NRIs. The Punjab Cabinet had approved the decision to set up special courts to settle cases of properties belonging to NRIs. The court would reportedly settle the cases within 15 days.”

The Congress Vice President thanked the members of the INOC, who came from all over the world, to campaign in the recently concluded elections in Punjab where the Congress party returned to power with a thumping majority.

In appreciation of the efforts of NRIs, Rahul Gandhi acknowledged that NRIs should become part of the governments wherever the Congress Party is in power.

This will encourage more NRIs to participate in the Indian political system and also help in the economic growth of the country.

Echoing the words of former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the Congress Vice President felt that the billions of dollars remitted by NRIs have already helped the economy of Punjab and India. “The Congress Party should take the lead in recognizing these NRIs,” he added.

Besides Chairman Shudh Prakash Singh, the INOC delegation comprised of Treasurer Vinit Nagpal and members of the executive Budh Singh, Desh Pal Singh and Shyla Singh.

Rahul Gandhi also personally congratulated US-born Shyla Singh, who has won the Junior Indian National Equestrian Championship.

The delegation also met Dr Karan Singh, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Department of the AICC.

In an hour long meeting, Dr Karan Singh provided them new ideas and emphasized the need of even stronger coordination between INC and INOC to spread the word on achievements of the new government of Punjab.

It may be recalled that nearly 400 NRIs from the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy and other countries arrived in Punjab to campaign in support of the Congress party for polling on February 4.

During the election campaign, the NRIs had met people across constituencies to the spread the Congress Party’s message to make voters aware of the Congress agenda of development and progress for Punjab.

The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee has already acknowledged the valuable contribution of the NRIs in the party’s campaign.

Normal for China to give political colour to my spiritual visits: Dalai Lama

TAWANG (Arunachal Pradesh), April 8: Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, on Saturday accused China of spreading wrong information about his trip to Arunachal Pradesh, saying it is normal for Beijing to give "political colour" to his spiritual visits.

The ongoing visit by the 81-year-old Nobel Laureate to the frontier state has triggered strident protests by China.

The Dalai Lama also criticised China for making a bid to name his successor.

"The Chinese people were being fed wrong information(by China) about me," he told reporters, adding that they realised this when they met him in other countries.

"The Chinese people have every right to know the reality, but totalitarianism had done a great damage," he observed after addressing devotees at the monastery, considered one of the holiest sites in Tibetan Buddhism.

On whether his visit to Tawang, a place Beijing claims to be its own, will affect India-China ties, he said: "We will have to wait and see. But it is normal for China to give political colour to my spiritual visits."

"I wish Chinese officials accompanied me during my visits to find out if I am doing or saying anything against them," he added.

China had years ago confined the Dalai Lama-nominated Panchen Lama and projected its own Panchen Lama, a monk immediately below the rank of the Dalai Lama.

"Beijing's bid to name my successor to undermine the Tibetans' cause is 'nonsense'," he said.

"As early as 1969, I had said the Tibetan people will decide if this very institution of Dalai Lama should continue or not. If this institution is no longer relevant, it should stop," said the Dalai Lama, who had fled Tibet back in 1959 to take refuge in Tawang.

"Nobody knows who or where the next Dalai Lama will be born or come from. Some indication (about his reincarnation) might come at the time of my death, but now there is no such indication," he said.

He, however, did not rule out the possibility of the next Dalai Lama being a woman.
"In the past, Chinese emperors did have involvement in the reincarnation of some Lamas but they were disciples of certain Tibetan lamas," he pointed out.

While forgiving China for its atrocities committed against the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama wondered why despite his adopting a middle-path the Chinese government continued to call him a separatist.

"This shows a negative attitude. Tibet has very good relationship with China for thousands of years. I have no issues with 'One China' policy ensuring economic benefit to Tibet, provided we have the right to preserve our own culture and language," he said.

Praising Taiwan for preserving Chinese culture, the Dalai Lama observed that China needed another cultural revolution based on compassion and "not on hatred and anger" which was the case with the one led by Mao Zedong.

On the BJP-led NDA government's China policy, the Tibetan leader said: "It is more or less the same as that of the Congress from the days of Narasimha Rao... but I admire (Narendra) Modi, he is active and seeks development."

Terrorism or tourism: It’s your choice, Modi tells Kashmir youth

SRINAGAR, April 3: Industrious Kashmiris were chiselling through a rocky mountain to shape their future when some of their fellow brothers were busy throwing stones.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi summoned an allegory on Sunday to describe the situation in trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir, after inaugurating the Chenani-Nashri all-weather tunnel, the longest in the country.

“I want to tell the misguided youth of Kashmir, realise the power of a stone. On the one hand, there are some youth who pelt stones, on the other hand, there are young men from the same Kashmir who carve stones to build infrastructure,” he said.

The Prime Minister urged the youth of the Valley to choose between “tourism and terrorism”, saying “40 years of bloodshed” has not done anyone any good.

He promised to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the development of Jammu and Kashmir, and follow former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s slogan of “Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat (Kashmirism, democracy and humanity)” to take the state to new heights.

He said if the people of Kashmir had devoted 40 years to development of tourism, the Valley would have been blessed with a vibrant world-class tourist economy.

“I want to tell the Kashmiri youth, there are two paths in front of you which can determine your future; one is tourism, the other is terrorism.”

Modi drove in an open jeep through the all-weather route, which is expected to help trade and tourism in the region.

“This tunnel is not just the longest tunnel but a big leap for Jammu and Kashmir in terms of development,” Modi said, describing the engineering feat as the state’s “fate-line” that will translate dreams into reality.

Built at an altitude of 1,200 metres, the tunnel bypasses a dangerous hilly terrain of more than 30 km of the strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway — the sole surface link that connects Kashmir Valley with the rest of India.

The highway is blocked sometimes for hours and even days because of heavy snow, avalanches, monsoon rain and landslides.

It took engineers six years to build the 11 km tunnel through treacherous Himalayan terrain at a cost of Rs 2,519 crore.

At the inauguration, where thousands of people have gathered, Modi’s message was clearly for the Kashmiri youth involved in stone-pelting at security forces, thereby risking their lives.

Militancy-hit Kashmir has been intensely restive since the killing of a popular militant leader, Burhan Wani, last summer that triggered a long unrest in which more than 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes with security forces.

Simmering separatist sentiments often prompt people to create hurdles during counter-militancy operations — trying to get close to the site of a gunfight between soldiers and militants, shouting slogans and throwing stones at the troops, allegedly to help the cornered insurgents escape. Several civilians have been killed of late in retaliatory firing.

According to military intelligence, the Pakistan establishment and anti-India forces across the border have been goading Kashmiris to disrupt counter-insurgency operations.

For his part, Modi hit out at the Pakistani leaders, saying “they can’t even take care of themselves”.

“Hum seema paar ke Kashmir ke nagariko ko bhi dikhana chahte hain ki pragati kaise hoti hai, vikas kaise hota hai. Aur jinhone aap par kabza kiya hai, aapko barbad kiya hai,” he said.

Basically, he told the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir that he wanted to show how progress is made and how their Pakistani rulers have ruined them.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed thanked Modi for supporting her government during the “difficult times” last year, referring to the volatile situation in the Valley after the July 8 killing of Wani.

“Last year was like crossing a river of fire. There is a lot of improvement since then but a lot is still to be done. That cannot be done by my government alone,” she said.

The opposition National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah said economic development and infrastructure growth was essential, but the state would continue to suffer unless the Centre takes a political initiative to resolve Kashmir issue.

“The Chenani-Nashri tunnel being portrayed as an alternative to a political initiative is yet another indication of a sustained effort to brush the Kashmir issue under the carpet.”

Modi urges young innovators to dream of ‘New India’ at Smart India Hackathon

NEW DELHI, April 1: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday linked an event to promote out-of-the-box thinking among the youth to his vision of a new India, saying innovation and technology will shape the future of the country.

“India has been a hub of knowledge. We invented zero. We have travelled from zero to Mars, we have travelled from Upanishad to upagrah,” Modi said in his address to thousands of innovators and engineers at India’s biggest innovation fest named Smart India Hackathon.

“Your innovations, products will change lives. Your approach will strengthen New India,” Modi added.

The PM asked questions during his interaction to students in different states to know about their plans.

“You will get more happiness from this exercise as it will help poor and may become the part of government’s policy,” the PM added.

The hackathon is focused on the problems of social importance identified by 29 ministries and departments of the government. They identified 598 problems, which 7,531 teams of approximately 42,000 students responded to. Of them, 1,266 teams of 10,000 participants were shortlisted for the finale.

A student told Modi, “the dream of your New India is also our mission.”

Emphasising that demographic dividend will turn into development dividend for India through innovations, Modi also advised students not to give up on any idea.

He indirectly mentioned how Steve Jobs started Apple from his car garage and said, “Everyone has power to dream. But dreams should be turned into resolutions. IT innovations had started even from a garage. I wish to say, don’t allow any idea to die. No one knows that idea can turn into a billion dollar company,” he said.

Gurgaon’s CyberHub goes dry

GURGAON, April 1: It’s curtains down for 34 pubs and bars in Gurgaon’s CyberHub after the Supreme Court on Friday upheld its December 15 order, which mandated that sale of liquor not be allowed within 500 metres of national and state highways.

The apex court has comes as a rude shock to the pub/bars and restaurants that fall in the red zone. The licences of 143 pubs and bars, including 34 in DLF CyberHub, have not be renewed by the excise department.

“We have not received the Supreme Court order yet, but we will comply with its orders. We have already conducted a survey and submitted the report to the headquarters,” said Aruna Singh, deputy excise and taxation commissioner, Gurgaon.

Gurgaon has a large number of bars located within 500 meters of highways, including those in CyberHub, Sector 29 market and Sohna Road.

But the pub/bar owners in CyberHub and Sector 29 claimed that they do not fall within the 500-metre motorable distance.

“We are now working with state departments on identifying the entities which fall under this purview. There will be some busy days ahead for sure,” said Rahul Singh , Haryana chapter head, National Restaurant Association of India.

Ashwani Choudhary, managing director Soi 7 Hospitality, said, “We are safe as the (excise) department will have to measure the motorable distance and the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram(MCG) should measure the distance to submit a fair report.”

If these pubs and bars are closed the state could suffer a loss of Rs 70.81 crore, the revenue earned from these vends.

The owners are in the panic as this will be a major loss. They have spent crores to set up their business and this order has taken their sleep away.

“Restaurants are being targeted unjustifiably on a liquor vend act. The excise office is unclear on this stand and restaurants are being forced to comply. A restaurant is the safest place for an individual to drink and at least more than three and a half lakh employees face the risk of losing jobs and earnings. CyberHub is facing the highway and it is truly catastrophic for us as a destination food hub to lose our liquor licences,” said Arvind Kumar, general manager, The Wine Company.

The SC order clearly mentions that “No shop for sale of liquor shall be visible from a National or state highway”. They should not be directly accessible from the national or state highway and should be situated within a distance of 500 metres from the outer edge of the road or a service lane along the highway.

“The Supreme court maintained its original order of Decemeber 15, 2016 which banned liquor vends along national and state highways situated at a distance of 500 meters. We are now working with state departments on identifying the entities that fall under this purview. There will be some busy days ahead for sure”, said Rahul Singh , head, Haryana chapter of National Restaurant Association of India.

A number of five-star hotels in Gurgaon such as Oberoi, Trident, Hotel Leela, Westin and Crowne Plaza also fall within the red zone marked by the Supreme Court.

The SC verdict was given keeping in mind road accidents owing to drink driving.

On Friday, the bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao, however, relaxed the ban to 220 metres for towns having less than 20,000 a population which fall along the highways.


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