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Emergency Was A Mistake: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, March 2: The Emergency - imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi over 21 months from 1975 to '77 - was a "mistake" and what happened in that period was "wrong", Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said Tuesday in a conversation with renowned economist Professor Kaushik Basu.

Gandhi also said the Emergency - during which constitutional rights and civil liberties were suspended, the media was severely restricted and many opposition leaders were jailed, was "fundamentally different from the current scenario".

"I think that was a mistake. Absolutely, that was a mistake. And my grandmother (Mrs Gandhi) said as much. (But) the Congress at no point attempted to capture India's institutional framework... frankly, it does not even have that capability," Gandhi told Professor Basu.

"Our (the Congress') design does not allow us (to do)," he stressed.

The ruling BJP - whose leaders were among those jailed during the Emergency - has frequently attacked the Congress on this subject, particularly when faced with accusations it too is curtailing freedom of speech and the right to dissent, and bullying the media into submission.

In June last year Home Minister Amit Shah targeted the Congress and Gandhis in series of tweets, saying "one family's greed for power" turned the nation into a "prison" overnight.

However, Gandhi said Tuesday there was a "fundamental difference" between the Emergency, and what is happening today - the RSS (the BJP's ideological mentor) is filling institutions with its people.

"So, even if we defeat the BJP in the election, we are not going to get rid of their people in the institutional structure," he said.

"Modern democracies function because there is institutional balance... Institutions operate independently. That independence is being attacked in India (by) one big institution called RSS... being systematically done...would not say democracy is eroding, would say it is being strangled," he explained.

Gandhi recalled a conversation with former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath - before his government was overthrown. Kamal Nath told him, Mr Gandhi said, that senior bureaucrats in his government would not follow his orders as they claimed allegiance to the RSS.

"So, it is fundamentally different what is going on," Rahul Gandhi said.

In December last year the Supreme Court said it would examine whether the Emergency could be declared "wholly unconstitutional" after so many years. The centre was asked to respond to this issue, following a petition filed by a 94-year-old woman.

Gandhi also touched upon rifts within his party - rifts that were highlighted Tuesday in an exchange between Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and former Union Minister Anand Sharma, who is part of the G-23 that is calling for sweeping organisational changes.

"I am the first person that says democratic election within the party is absolutely critical, but it is interesting to me that this question is not asked about any other political party. Nobody asked why is there no internal democracy in BJP, BSP and Samajwadi Party," he said.

Gandhi, who has been targeted by the BJP over the Gandhi family's control of the Congress, stepped down as party chief after the abysmal showing in the last Lok Sabha election. His mother, Sonia Gandhi, has been interim chief since, with elections scheduled for June.

Chinese malware may have targeted Indian power systems and seaports: U.S. firm

NEW DELHI, March 1: The government today reacted to a report that stated that Chinese hackers may have planted malware in key Indian power plants in the middle of hostilities at the border.

The report says this may have resulted in massive power outage in Mumbai in October, which stopped trains and shut down hospitals and the stock exchange for hours.

While denying that the power grid was impacted by the malware, the government says it is aware of the threat from Chinese state sponsored hackers including those named in the report.

The study by US-based Recorded Future shows that alongside the Ladakh tensions, which escalated in June with the clash at Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers died for the country, Chinese malware was flowing into systems that manage power supply across India.

The Ministry of Power said prompt action had been taken and there was "no impact" on any of the facilities due to the "referred threat".

"No data breach/ data loss has been detected due to these incidents," it said, but did not mention the Mumbai outage. On February 12, India's National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre had alerted the power ministry of the threat by Chinese state-sponsored hackers.

China-linked threat activity group RedEcho may have planted malware in key power plants in India, said the study first reported by New York Times. The links to the Mumbai power cut "provides additional evidence suggesting the coordinated targeting of Indian Load Despatch Centres," said the study that indicated some of the country's most sensitive national infrastructure is vulnerable to systematic attacks from Chinese hackers using state of the art viruses that hack into systems.

The flow of malware was detected by Recorded Future, a Massachusetts-based company that analyses online digital threats. It found that most of the malware was never activated. And because Recorded Future could not get inside India's power systems, it could not examine the details of the code itself, which was placed in strategic power-distribution systems across the country.

Since early 2020, Recorded Future's Insikt Group observed a large increase in suspected targeted intrusion activity against Indian organisations from Chinese state-sponsored groups, said the report.

"From mid-2020, Recorded Future's midpoint collection revealed a steep rise in the use of infrastructure tracked as AXIOMATICASYMPTOTE, which encompasses ShadowPad command and control servers, to target a large swathe of India's power sector. 10 distinct Indian power sector organisations, including four of the five regional load dispatch centres responsible for the operation of the power grid through balancing electricity supply and demand, have been identified as targets in a concerted campaign against India's critical infrastructure. Other targets identified include two Indian seaports," the report said.

Shadow Pad is the name of the malware and Red Echo is the name of the group.

There was a "clear and consistent pattern of Indian organizations being targeted in this campaign through the behavioural profiling of network traffic to adversary infrastructure", said Recorded Future, an assessment that the government agrees with.

A total of 21 IP addresses linked to 12 Indian organizations in the power generation and transmission sector - classified as critical - were targeted.

The report said media reports had previously linked the October 12 power outage in Mumbai to malware at a Padgha-based State Load Despatch Centre. "At this time, the alleged link between the outage and the discovery of the unspecified malware variant remains unsubstantiated. However, this disclosure provides additional evidence suggesting the coordinated targeting of Indian Load Despatch Centres," said the report.

It took two hours for the power supply to resume, and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered an enquiry into the reported grid failure.

This comes on a day when Reuters has reported that another Chinese state-backed hacking group recently targeted the IT systems of Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India, the two Indian vaccine-makers whose coronavirus shots are now being rolled out across India.

Arrival of 'Sticky Bombs' in Kashmir Sets off Alarm Bells, Forces Change Security Protocol to Fight Threat

JAMMU, March 1: Security forces in Kashmir were alarmed by the recent arrival in the region of small, magnetic bombs that have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan.

"Sticky bombs", which can be attached to vehicles and detonated remotely, have been seized during raids in recent months in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, said three senior security officials.

"These are small IEDs and quite powerful," said Kashmir Valley police chief Vijay Kumar, referring to improvised explosive devices. "It will certainly impact the present security scenario as volume and frequency of vehicular movements of police and security forces are high in Kashmir Valley."

The arrival of the sticky bombs in Kashmir – including 15 seized in a February raid – raises concerns that an unnerving tactic attributed to the Taliban insurgents in nearby Afghanistan could be spreading to the India-Pakistan conflict.

Afghanistan in recent months has seen a series of sticky-bomb attacks targeting security forces, judges, government officials, civil society activists and journalists. The attacks – some as victims sat in traffic – have sown fear, while avoiding substantial civilian casualties.

None of the devices seized in Kashmir was produced there, a senior security official said, suggesting they were being smuggled from Pakistan. "All of them have come via drone drops and tunnels," he said, asking not to be named.

Officials said the bombs are particularly worrying because they can be easily attached to vehicles using magnets, potentially allowing militants to carry out assassinations or target military convoys that regularly criss-cross the valley.

In February 2019, a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into a convoy in Kashmir's Pulwama, killing 40 soldiers – the deadliest attack on Indian forces in the region – bringing India and Pakistan to the brink of another war.

Kumar said the security forces were changing protocols to deal with the new threat. The measures included increasing the distance between private and military traffic, installing more cameras on vehicles and using drones to monitor convoys.

A difference between militants in Kashmir and Afghanistan is that the Taliban have tremendous ability to move around in urban and rural areas, which, along with the easier availability of explosives, make the bombs a potent threat.

The Taliban, which initially said it was behind some of the attacks, has since denied any involvement in the attacks.

"The Taliban has targets, can reach them, and kill them with impunity. The whole structure of the attack – and its endless repetition – is what makes the bomb effective," said Avinash Paliwal, a senior lecturer in international relations at SOAS University of London.

"In Kashmir, the space for such ability to manoeuvre with ease is limited."


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