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Congress remarks on PM Modi’s Lahore visit unfortunate, BJP hits back

BJP on Friday hit back at Congress over its suggestions that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Pakistan was “pre-arranged” at an industrialist’s initiative, and said it was “unfortunate” that the country has an opposition like it which sees negative in all “positive efforts”.Welcoming Modi’s visit which has taken the country by “pleasant surprise”, BJP said the Prime Minister has taken a bold step and only a strong leader like Modi can do so.”Such an allegation by Congress is absolutely incorrect and in bad taste. This is unfortunate that the country has an opposition like this today. People have hopes from Modi and he has in a short span of time brought about a paradigm shift in India’s relationship with the outside world,” party secretary Shrikant Sharma said.Modi decided to go to Lahore after his Pakistani counterpart extended an invitation to him which he accepted, Sharma said. Calling it an “out of box” initiative, Sharma said Modi had been taking such steps and cited his decision to invite the head of governments of the SAARC countries and his meeting with Sharif in Paris recently.He recalled that BJP stalwart and the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also taken a similar exercise with his Lahore bus journey. Modi has been of the view that there should be easy and informal relations among SAARC countries like what exist between the EU and ASEAN nations, he said, adding that this is besides the conventional diplomacy.Sharma also cited Modi’s initiative in building an alliance of Solar energy-rich countries at Paris climate change conference to buttress his point. Congress leader Anand Sharma criticising Modi’s visit said, the meeting between Modi and Sharif was “pre-arranged” by a businessman. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

Train to former PM AB Vajpayee’s village 16 years after he laid foundation

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The train was flagged off by Union Minister of State for railways Manoj Sinha and union MoS for human resources Ram Shankar Katheria on Thursday afternoon.

A train connecting Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ancestral village Bateshwar with Etawah was flagged off on Thursday, 16 years after the former prime minister had laid the foundation stone for this project.The train was flagged off by Union Minister of State for railways Manoj Sinha and union MoS for human resources Ram Shankar Katheria this afternoon. Sinha said that the government has made big investments for accelerated growth of the railway network and that the rail and goods traffic has increased substantially.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In five years, the outlay will cross Rs 8 lakh crores,” he said. The Union minister said that all the important stations in the country will be provided with broad band and made wifi enabled connection. Local BJP leaders said that the new train will open new avenues for development in the backward region bordering Chambal.

BJP veterans’ revolt: Singh, Gadkari and Naidu offer tepid defence

“They had set a healthy precedent of the Party collectively taking up responsibility for victories and defeats. The Party would certainly welcome any guidance and suggestion of our seniors in this regard,”

File Photo

Replying to LK Advani and company’s criticism after the devastating loss in Bihar, senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Venkatesh Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, issued a statement saying that the party would certainly welcome any guidance and suggestion of their seniors in this regard.Seeking to defend its leadership from the attack by its veterans, the BJP tonight tried to put the ball back in their court, saying the “healthy precedent” of collective responsibility for poll victories and defeats was set by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani himself. The BJP also said it would certainly welcome any guidance and suggestion of “our seniors”, shortly after Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar raised a banner of revolt against the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah in the wake of Bihar poll debacle.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The BJP response came by way of a joint statement issued by three Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, all former BJP Presidents. “The Party has been very fortunate to have been led by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shri L.K. Advani for decades. They had set a healthy precedent of the Party collectively taking up responsibility for victories and defeats. The Party would certainly welcome any guidance and suggestion of our seniors in this regard,” the brief statement said. With inputs from PTI

PM Modi’s visit will be turning point in J&K’s history: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed

“I met Modi a couple of times and realized that he genuinely wants to win the hearts and minds of people of the state,” Sayeed said.

Urging India and Pakistan to shun confrontation and engage in a meaningful dialogue, Sayeed said the state is the first casualty of tension between the two countries.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Sunday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit here will be a “turning point” in the history of Jammu and Kashmir and the people of the state have great expectations from it. “People have great expectations from the visit of the Prime Minister who is a visionary and has his eyes fixed on overall development of Jammu and Kashmir. I see this as a turning point in the history of the state,” Sayeed said while recalling former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s address to the people at Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium at Sonwar in 2003. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi is scheduled to address a rally at the same venue on November 7. The Chief Minister, while addressing a public meeting here, cited several instances where the Centre extended wholehearted support in core sectors linked to connectivity, healthcare, education and rural development. He said the Prime Minister had personally intervened in speeding up work of four-lanning of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway and broadening the scope of railway network in the state. “I met Modi a couple of times and realized that he genuinely wants to win the hearts and minds of people of the state,” Sayeed said.He also praised Modi for inviting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in his swearing-in ceremony last year.Urging India and Pakistan to shun confrontation and engage in a meaningful dialogue, Sayeed said the state is the first casualty of tension between the two countries.He stressed that if India has to emerge as a world power, it will have to foster and maintain friendly ties with all its neighbours, including Pakistan.

PM Modi must rein in those engaged in incidents of intolerance in his govt: Farooq Abdullah

He said that some elements are trying to break India instead of uniting.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Former chief minister and National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah on Monday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to rein in those engaged in increasing incidents of intolerance, saying that such acts were a threat to the unity and integrity of the country.”They (some elements) are trying to break India. Instead of uniting India, they are doing such acts. It is threat to unity and integrity of India,” he told reporters.On the increasing incidents of “intolerance”, he said, “I want to request Modi that he should give stern warning to the people sitting with him or he should throw them out of the government because India cannot tolerate it.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Such acts can defame our country. Does he think that Shiv Sena is greater than India? He should tell Sena not to do such acts defame India. I also urge Sena leadership not to do such acts, which will bring disrepute the country,” he said. On protests by Shiv Sena workers at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai over proposed talks for resumption of cricketing ties with Pakistan, he said, “Do not defame the country by such acts. What will happen by holding a meeting? We have not taken any decision with Pakistan. Pakistan is our neighbour. Sports is different from politics. Do not connect the two.”Referring to the statement made by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that friends can be changed but not neighbours, he said, “We can either choose to live with our neighbours on friendly terms and progress, or stop our movement of progress by severing ties with our neighbours”.On trucker Zahid’s death, Farooq said, “This government must take stern actions against those behind the attack. Slapping Public Safety Act (PSA) is not going to help. They should be slapped with more serious charges and punished….Second, this government should help the family of Zahid in the same manner just the way UP chief minister Akhilesh Kumar helped the kin of man lynched in Dadri.”

Is govt waiting till 23 Jan to declassify Netaji files due to Bengal polls? asks Congress

New Delhi: Government should declassify the secret files relating to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on Thursday and not wait till 23 January next year, ahead of Assemly elections in West Bengal, to start the process, an unfazed Congress said on Thursday.

Congress leader Anand Sharma criticised the Modi government for delaying declassification of Netaji files. PTI

Congress leader Anand Sharma criticised the Modi government for delaying declassification of Netaji files. PTI

The party said that Modi government was also raising an accusing finger against Atal Bihari Vajpayee if it is questioning the decision of previous governments not to declassify the files and alleged that the BJP was trying to appropriate the legacy of Congress leaders.

“Why is the government waiting till January 23, 2016 to make the documents public? Is it because of Bengal polls? They should do it today or tomorrow. Why to keep up the suspense?” party’s senior spokesman Anand Sharma told reporters.

Throwing more than adequate hints that the exercise was being undertaken with an eye on Assembly polls, Sharma claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “had cried” during the recent visit to the US “targeting voters in Bihar”.

“It is sad and unfortunate…but this is how his mind functions.The Prime Minister is a good event manager,” remarked Sharma when asked about the Prime Minister’s announcement that government will start unveiling the secret files related to Netaji from 23 January next year, raising hopes about solving the seven-decade-old mystery about his disappearance.

Declaring that “there is no need to strangle history”, Modi told Netaji’s family members during a meeting in New Delhi on Thursday that he would also urge foreign governments to declassify files on Bose available with them by writing to them and personally taking up with their leaders, beginning with Russia in December.

Sharma noted that there were years when Congress was not in power but still non-Congress governments including the one led by BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided not to make the documents public.

He said any insinuation against previous governments on the issue also meant an attack on Vajpayee.

“If an accusing finger is raised against the Indian National Congress, then it is also pointed towards Vajpayee who has been one of the most respectable leaders of the BJP.”

Besides, he insisted, that the move is part of appropriating the legacy of the Congress stalwarts in the freedom struggle.

“The Prime Minister is trying to appropriate the legacy of our leaders. They have tried it with Sardar Patel…They had nothing to do with the freedom struggle.”

Successive governments have refused to make public these documents, arguing that India’s relations with foreign countries would be jeopardised. Modi’s office too had stated till August this year that the files cannot be declassified as it will adversely affect relations with foreign countries.

The demands for declassification of secret files have been growing lately, especially after the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal recently declassified 64 files which were in its possession.

PTI

Khurshid Kasuri book launch to be held as scheduled despite Sena threat, say organizers

Mumbai: A key organiser of the Mumbai launch of a book written by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri has said the event will continue as scheduled on Monday amid threats from Shiv Sena.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of Observer Research Foundation, a foreign policy think tank, which has organised the event, met Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence Matoshree here late on Sunday night.

It is understood that the meeting was futile and Kulkarni left Matoshree without getting any assurance from the Sena leader whose party’s threat to disrupt Pakistan ghazal singer Ghulam Ali’s concerts led to cancellation of his events in Mumbai and Pune recently.

Khurshid Kasuri. Image courtesy: ReutersKhurshid Kasuri. Image courtesy: Reuters

Khurshid Kasuri. Image courtesy: Reuters

“I have requested Uddhav Thackeray that the Shiv Sena should not oppose the book launch event. I also told him that the event will proceed despite Sena’s threat,” Kulkarni told PTI.

Kulkarni has served as speechwriter for BJP veterans Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani.

The Sena, which shares power with the BJP in Maharashtra, has written to the director of Worli’s Nehru Centre, the launch venue, to cancel the show because of the Pakistan connection.

Maharashtra’s home department, headed by BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, has assured the organisers of full security cover.

Kasuri is scheduled to attend the launch of his book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’ at 5.30 PM in Worli area here.

“Our event will go on as planned. We have been assured full security and assistance by the police,” Kulkarni said.

PTI

Anti-Emergency movement gave the inspiration to fight repression: PM Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday termed the Emergency, imposed in 1975, as the biggest blow to democracy and said its memories should be kept alive to draw lessons to further fortify the democratic framework and values in the country.

“Emergency was the biggest blow to democracy. The kind of crisis that hit the country during that period had tempered the Indian democracy which came out stronger. I am grateful to those who struggled and fought against it. …

“Emergency should be remembered not to brood over what had happened then, but to strenghten our resolve to fortify and further strengthen the democratic values and framework in our country,” Modi said at the programme ‘Loktantra Ke Prahari’ where he also felicitated many of those who fought against Emergency and went to jail in 1975-76.

Image courtesy: CNN-IBN screenshotImage courtesy: CNN-IBN screenshot

Image courtesy: CNN-IBN screenshot

Paying glowing tributes to the Loknayak on his 113th birth anniversary at the function, he said Narayan was “an institution, and a role model” and “a new political generation was born during the Emergency that was fully dedicated to democratic values, inspired by JP.”

“The biggest message that came out of the anti-Emergency struggle was the inspiration to fight repression. So many people in politics today owe their initial days to those days of Emergency, JP Movement, Navnirman Movement … they gave birth to a new kind of politics in the nation,” the Prime Minister said.

Observing that the struggle by Jayaprakash Narayan for democracy should be taken as a benchmark, he said his speeches reflected the “deep anguish” of the people who suffered during Emergency. “Even though he was a soft-spoken man, his speeches were like the boiling lava.”

Earlier, the Prime Minister also visited the residences of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former NDA Convenor George Fernandes who had played a significant role in the fight for democracy in those days.

Among those who were felicitated at the function were veteran BJP leader L K Advani, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal, four Governors — Kalyan Singh, O P Kohli, Balram Dass Tandon and Valubhai Vala, former Deputy Speaker Kariya Munda, besides BJP leaders V K Malhotra, Jaywantiben Mehta and Subramanian Swamy.

NCP leader D P Tripathi, journalists Virender Kapoor and K Vikram Rao, Prof Ramji Singh, Kameshwar Paswan and Arif Baig
were also honoured by Modi.

PTI

Anti-Emergency movement gave the inspiration to fight repression, says PM Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday termed the Emergency, imposed in 1975, as the biggest blow to democracy and said its memories should be kept alive to draw lessons to further fortify the democratic framework and values in the country.

“Emergency was the biggest blow to democracy. The kind of crisis that hit the country during that period had tempered the Indian democracy which came out stronger. I am grateful to those who struggled and fought against it. …

“Emergency should be remembered not to brood over what had happened then, but to strenghten our resolve to fortify and further strengthen the democratic values and framework in our country,” Modi said at the programme ‘Loktantra Ke Prahari’ where he also felicitated many of those who fought against Emergency and went to jail in 1975-76.

Image courtesy: CNN-IBN screenshotImage courtesy: CNN-IBN screenshot

Image courtesy: CNN-IBN screenshot

Paying glowing tributes to the Loknayak on his 113th birth anniversary at the function, he said Narayan was “an institution, and a role model” and “a new political generation was born during the Emergency that was fully dedicated to democratic values, inspired by JP.”

“The biggest message that came out of the anti-Emergency struggle was the inspiration to fight repression. So many people in politics today owe their initial days to those days of Emergency, JP Movement, Navnirman Movement … they gave birth to a new kind of politics in the nation,” the Prime Minister said.

Observing that the struggle by Jayaprakash Narayan for democracy should be taken as a benchmark, he said his speeches reflected the “deep anguish” of the people who suffered during Emergency. “Even though he was a soft-spoken man, his speeches were like the boiling lava.”

Earlier, the Prime Minister also visited the residences of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former NDA Convenor George Fernandes who had played a significant role in the fight for democracy in those days.

Among those who were felicitated at the function were veteran BJP leader L K Advani, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal, four Governors — Kalyan Singh, O P Kohli, Balram Dass Tandon and Valubhai Vala, former Deputy Speaker Kariya Munda, besides BJP leaders V K Malhotra, Jaywantiben Mehta and Subramanian Swamy.

NCP leader D P Tripathi, journalists Virender Kapoor and K Vikram Rao, Prof Ramji Singh, Kameshwar Paswan and Arif Baig
were also honoured by Modi.

PTI

Emergency was the biggest blow to Indian democracy: PM Modi

PM felicitated many of those who fought against Emergency and went to jail in 1975-76.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday termed the Emergency, imposed in 1975, as the biggest blow to democracy and said its memories should be kept alive to draw lessons to further fortify the democratic framework and values in the country.”Emergency was the biggest blow to democracy. The kind of crisis that hit the country during that period had tempered the Indian democracy which came out stronger. I am grateful to those who struggled and fought against it. …”Emergency should be remembered not to brood over what had happened then, but to strengthen our resolve to fortify and further strengthen the democratic values and framework in our country,” Modi said at the programme ‘Loktantra Ke Prahari’ where he also felicitated many of those who fought against Emergency and went to jail in 1975-76.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Paying glowing tributes to the Loknayak on his 113th birth anniversary at the function, he said Narayan was “an institution, he was a light house and a role model” and “a new political generation was born during the Emergency that was fully dedicated to democratic values, inspired by JP.” “The biggest message that came out of the anti-Emergency struggle was the inspiration to fight repression. So many people in politics today owe their initial days to those days of Emergency, JP Movement, Navnirman Movement … They gave birth to a new kind of politics in the nation,” the Prime Minister said.Observing that the struggle by Jayaprakash Narayan for democracy should be taken as a benchmark, he said his speeches reflected the “deep anguish” of the people who suffered during Emergency. “Even though he was a soft-spoken man, his speeches were like the boiling lava.” Earlier, the Prime Minister also visited the residences of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former NDA Convenor George Fernandes who had played a significant role in the fight for democracy in those days.Among those who were felicitated at the function were veteran BJP leader L K Advani, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal, four Governors — Kalyan Singh, O P Kohli, Balram Dass Tandon and Valubhai Vala, former Deputy Speaker Kariya Munda, besides BJP leaders V K Malhotra, Jaywantiben Mehta and Subramanian Swamy. NCP leader D P Tripathi, journalists Virender Kapoor and K Vikram Rao, Prof Ramji Singh, Kameshwar Paswan and Arif Baig were also honoured by Modi.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar hits back at PM Modi for his ‘Satan’ remark on Lalu Yadav

“The real Modi on display-brazen attempt to add communal texture to Bihar polls,but deafening silence on deplorable incidence of Dadri.”

Image Courtesy: Nitish Kumar’s twitter account
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar hit back at PM Narendra Modi for calling Lalu Yadav a ‘Satan’. Kumar also lashed out calling it a “brazen attempt to add communal texture” to the Assembly polls and said the “real Modi” is on display.CM candidate for the grand alliance and JDU’s second in command, Nitish wrote on Twitter, “He first attacks our DNA, then he calls Bihar a ‘bimaru’ state and people of Bihar ‘unfortunate’. Now he calls Lalu Yadav a ‘shaitan’ and the grand alliance ‘evil forces’.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This portrays his mentality, his frustration and what he thinks of the citizens of Bihar,” he adds.Minutes after Modi ended his Munger election speech in which he accused Lalu of insulting his community ‘Yaduvanshis’ and the people of the state with his ‘Hindus also eat beef’ remarks, Kumar took to Twitter slamming the PM’s “deafening silence” on the Dadri lynching incident. A 50-year-old Muslim man was killed by a mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh recently after rumours that he and his family had eaten beef.Nitish wrote, “The real Modi on display-brazen attempt to add communal texture to Bihar polls, but deafening silence on deplorable incidence of Dadri…”Hinting at what Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once told Modi, Nitish said,In a letter dated June 1, 2002 Vajpayee wrote to Modi asking him to adhere to his ‘raj dharma’ and work without discriminating on the basis of caste, creed or religion. Addressing a poll rally in Munger today, Modi latched on to RJD chief Lalu’s remarks on beef and said a “shaitan (devil) has entered a human body”. “What all did he eat? It (the remarks) insulted the Yaduvanshis… Laluji these Yaduvanshis helped you to come to power. What all Yadavs eat…is it not an insult of Yadavs and Bihar?” he said.

Ceasefire violations: PDP calls for immediate Indo-Pak DGMOs meeting

Leaders from both sides to rise to the level of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statesmanship to resolve all issues cordially,” Mufti said.

There should be an immediate meeting of the DGMOs of the two countries to sort out the issue amicably: Mufti

Ruling Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti called for an immediate meeting of the DGMOs of India and Pakistan to sort out the issue of ceasefire violations amicably so that innocent lives are safeguarded. “I appeal for ending the bloodshed of innocent people residing near the borders. There should be an immediate meeting of the DGMOs of the two countries to sort out the issue amicably so that lives of innocent civilians, including women and children who are under virtual siege from the past several months, are safeguarded,” Mehbooba, an MP from south Kashmir, said in a statement here.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Condoling the death of three civilians in continued shelling from across the border, Mehbooba said the border skirmishes have brought untold miseries upon the people, in particular those residing near the International Border and the Line of Control (LoC). Terming as unfortunate the cancellation of NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan, Mehbooba said the meeting was supposed to discuss critical issues like cross-border shelling and terrorism. “The need of the hour is for leaders from both sides to rise to the level of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statesmanship to resolve all issues cordially,” she said. The PDP President conveyed her sympathies to the bereaved families and prayed for peace to the departed souls. She also asked the Divisional Administration to provide advance medical treatment to those who have been injured in the shelling.

We face a terrorism problem due to our neighbouring country: Rajnath Singh on Pakistan

Rajnath Singh said Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to say and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also of the view that India should maintain good relationship with its neighbours.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said terrorism was a major concern not only for India alone, but for the entire international community.”I don’t think that there are two different views on this issue. As far as terrorism is concerned, I think it is not only India which is concerned on the issue, the entire international community is concerned,” Singh said at an event in Lucknow.”We have not been able to control terrorism. I am talking about the international community, cannot control it. We have more problems due to our neighbouring country,” he said. Singh said Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to say and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also of the view that India should maintain good relationship with its neighbours.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We made our intentions clear by inviting premiers of all the neighbouring countries,” he said while referring to oath ceremony of Modi government. He said the amount of ceasefire violation by Pakistan was done which a matter of serious concern for the government.”After I took over the responsibility, there was ceasefire violation every now and then. I told our Border Security Force personnel not to fire a bullet first, but if there is violation of ceasefire, we should not count our bullets and it has given results,” he said.Regarding Naxal menace, Singh said as far as internal security was concerned even those, who study it from time to time, have accepted the fact that there has been a decline of 30 per cent to 40 per cent within a year. He said the government was heading towards controlling the menace, but also want to carry out development works in areas affected by naxalism and maoism. The union minister said the government has also been successful in checking smuggling of cows on Indo-Bangladesh border.”More than 20 lakh cows were smuggled across the border every year. I immediately visited the border and told jawans and officers to take it as a challenge. I am happy to inform you that this number has declined to three lakh only in six to seven months,” he said. He congratulated the security jawans for protecting the borders and fighting against terrorism.

Kumbh: Seer invites Hurriyat, Ulfa leaders to discuss peace

“Our country was at one time giving message of peace to the world, now it is seen facing many problems from internal forces. I urge the Central government to call leaders of these organisations for a discussion and find a way.”

Swami Adhokshjanand Maharaj

A Hindu seer has invited separatist leaders from Kashmir and heads of militant groups like Ulfa and Bodo to participate in a debate on peace at the ongoing Kumbh mela here.”I have given invitation to devotees from Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and other states to participate in the Mahakumbh,” Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth at Jagannath Puri, Odisha, Swami Adhokshjanand Maharaj told PTI during an interaction here.”I have also asked leaders of Hurriyat Conference, ULFA, Bodo and other organisations to participate in a meeting to establish peace in troubled states,” he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Our country was at one time giving message of peace to the world, now it is seen facing many problems from internal forces. I urge the Central government to call leaders of these organisations for a discussion and find a way,” he said.The Shankaracharya was skeptical about the recent Naga peace pact, saying that such an agreement was also made during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, but problems continued.Chief ministers of three states were not even taken into confidence while finalising the recent agreement, he said.He also stressed the need to resolve problems through ‘adhyatma’ (knowledge of the self), ‘yagnya’ (a ritual sacrifice with a specific objective) and ‘sadhana’ (disciplined and dedicated practice or learning).The seer, who arrived at the Kumbh mela camp on Sunday to a warm welcome by his followers, said various programmes like ‘maha yagnya’ and religious discourses have been arranged for the devotees at the event.He described the Kumbh mela at Nashik as a symbol of peace and cultural unity.

Sops before Bihar polls: PM Modi promises Rs 1.25 lakh crore to ‘change face of state’

Promising to ensure development in the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today promised that the central government would give Rs 1.25 lakh crore for the development of Bihar. The announcement of a special package for the development of Bihar comes ahead of the declaration of poll dates which would bring into force the model code of conduct.

“I am announcing a package of Rs. 1.25 lakh crore. This package will change the face of Bihar,” Modi announced after inaugurating infrastructure projects worth Rs 9,700 in the state in Arrah.

The Prime Minister then said that the government would also be sanctioning Rs 40,000 crore for ongoing projects in the state to be completed.

Image courtesy: @ANI_NewsImage courtesy: @ANI_News

Image courtesy: @ANI_News

“Rs 1.25 crore plus Rs 40,000 crore for the existing projects. This totals to Rs. 1.65 lakh crore for the development of Bihar,” he said.

Modi said that he wanted to make the announcement of the special package for the state during an earlier visit to the state but had been prevented from doing so by the monsoon session of Parliament.

“I had said Bihar will be given a package of Rs. 50,000 crore. But I couldn’t talk about it during my last visit to the state due to Parliament,” he said.

He also took a moment to slam the previous UPA government saying that it had “played with the pride of Bihar” by allocating only Rs 12,000 crore for its development. He said that of that amount, Rs 1,000 crore was pending for use from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s allocation.

The Prime Minister also hit out at the Bihar government over its inability to use funds allocated by the central government for the development of the state. He also mocked the state goverment for seeking funds for the state despite claiming the state was not part of the Bimaru states.

“Does a sick person go to a doctor or a healthy one? Some people claim that they are not sick and still keep asking for things, saying I want this, I want that,” he said to cheers from the crowd.

Information and Broadcasting Ministry mulls adding more names to the pool for Prasar Bharti panel

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is considering broadbasing the pool from which it intends to select four new part-time members of the Prasar Bharati Board by including some more names.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is considering broadbasing the pool from which it intends to select four new part-time members of the Prasar Bharati Board by including some more names.The Ministry had earlier prepared a list comprising seven people including Bollywood star Kajol, singer Anoop Jalota, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s media advisor Ashok Tandon and journalist Minhaz Merchant.Sources said it was later felt that some more names should be added to the list so there can be greater choice for making the selection.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to the Prasar Bharati Act, its Board should have six part-time members and curently there are four vacancies.A committee headed by Vice President Hamid Ansari and comprising Information and Broadcasting Secretary and Chairman of Press Council of India (PCI) would choose the members.The decision to choose more names, however, would also mean that the appointment of part-time members would take longer since security clearance of the new members would also have to be done.The Ministry of Home Affairs has already given security clearance to the seven people whose names have been forwarded to it by the I&B ministry. The same process would have to be undertaken with regard to the new names, sources said.The vacancies of part-time members have existed for over a year as some of them had resigned after a change of government at the Centre.As per the Prasar Bharati Act, part-time members have to be persons of eminence in public life. While their term of office shall be six years, one-third of them shall retire on expiration of two years.

Abdul Kalam’s death ‘a great loss’ to nation: Prakash Padukone

Chess icon Viswanathan Anand, too, remembered the late leader as someone who a lot of people could relate to.
File Photo
AFP photo
Former Badminton ace Prakash Padukone on Tuesday said the passing away of former president APJ Abdul Kalam was a great loss to the nation.”I think it’s a great loss to the nation. I have read a lot and heard a lot about him. I’ve heard all his speeches,” Padukone told ANI.Chess icon Viswanathan Anand, too, remembered the late leader as someone who a lot of people could relate to.”I haven’t actually spent a lot of time with him but I do remember reading a lot about him and a lot of people seem to be able to relate to the late president,” Anand said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dr. Kalam passed away in Shillong last evening. He collapsed after suffering a massive cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong yesterday.The government has declared a seven-day national mourning as a mark of respect for Dr. Kalam, who played a stellar role in advancing India’s nuclear programme.Considered one of the most popular presidents of India, Kalam became the11th head of the state and occupied the post between 2002 and 2007 during the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Display of ISIS, Pakistan flags is expression of ‘anger’, says Farooq Abdullah

Necessary measures need to be taken to “get these boys back into the national mainstream”, he said, adding, “You have to look at the what is pinching them.”
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dna Research & Archives
With ISIS and Pakistani flags being repeatedly displayed in Kashmir, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah on Friday said it was an expression of “anger” and “frustration” by the youth who want to “wake up the nation”.The former Chief Minister said “none of us has bothered about them” and there is no way for them to express themselves other than displaying such flags.”It is actually the frustration and anger in the youth. Nothing is being done for them. They can’t show their anger by any other method except by putting these flags up,” Abdullah said when asked about the frequent hoisting of ISIS and other controversial flags during protests in Kashmir.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”They (youth) want to wake up the nation that ‘think of us’. None of us has bothered about them. That is the tragedy of it,” said the NC chief whose party was in power in the state from 2009 to the last year-end.Necessary measures need to be taken to “get these boys back into the national mainstream”, he said, adding, “You have to look at the what is pinching them.”At the same time, he said that borders between India and Pakistan can never be changed as referred to a series of grenade attacks carried out by militants in Srinagar on Friday.”They (militants) are attacking towers. What is attacking a tower going to do? Do you think that will change anything. I am absolutely clear the border will never change, whatever you may do. The border is not going to change,” Abdullah said after a meeting of his faction of the state’s Cricket Association.Invoking former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he advocated friendly relations with Pakistan.”What must be done is friendship between the two countries. It is essential for survival of Kashmir and when I say Kashmir, it means Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. I remember Vajpayee Ji’s words that friends can be changed but neighbours cannot be. Either we can have friendly relations with the neighbours or destruction is around the corner. They (Pakistan) should also understand this that the Muslims across the world today are facing destruction. Who is responsible for it,” he said.Abdullah said the young generation in Kashmir was on the path of destruction and everyone, except the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led state government, was concerned about it.”Everybody is concerned about it. Recently, the NSA (Ajit Doval) had also come to review this (situation). Instead of countering these things, they (the state government) is busy with (affairs of) cricket association,” the NC chief said.He was referring to the recent election conducted by the rebel faction of the association which elected Sports Minister Imran Raza Ansari as the president, replacing Abdullah as the head of the cricket governing body after 35 years.”The young generation is going on to a path of destruction and Mufti sahib’s government is not thinking about how to save the situation from going back to the 1990’s. Youth is now educated and wanting to take the gun,” he said.Abdullah criticised the PDP-BJP coalition government for “withdrawing security of people who are most vulnerable” to militant threats.”Those who are facing the most threat, their security is being withdrawn. Mufti sahib, we also were in power. Farooq Abdullah never reduced your security. Did I trouble you in any way. How long will you continue this way? ‘Jitna aap badla lena chahenge, utna hi Allah bhi aap ka Jinazah jaldi nikalega’ (As much as you will try to take revenge, Allah will hasten your death),” he said.Asked if his security had also been downgraded, Abdullah, who has ‘Z-Plus’ cover, evaded a direct reply saying he was not bothered.”I am not bothered about my security, I have faith in Allah. No security can save me when I am destined to die but I am worried about those who live in vulnerable areas and are at the mercy of God,” he added.

Trust deficit between Srinagar and Delhi leading to radicalisation of Kashmiri youth: Farooq Abdullah

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday warned that trust deficit with Delhi is resulting in radicalisation of the youth in Kashmir and that the trend needs to stopped, failing which it may lead to problems bigger than what was seen in early 1990s.

PTI photo
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday warned that trust deficit with Delhi is resulting in radicalisation of the youth in Kashmir and that the trend needs to stopped, failing which it may lead to problems bigger than what was seen in early 1990s.Speaking at the release a book — “Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years” — written by former RAW Chief AS Dulat, Abdullah, who has been actively participating in day-to-day politics in the state after his long illness, spoke on various issues related to Kashmir and the Centre”s approach over the years towards the state.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”As I have always said that don”t mistrust us, don”t push us to the wall, we will die as Indians. I have always said that and I will continue to say that till I go to the grave and face my God,” Abdullah said. Asked whether autonomy was a way to move forward in solving the Kashmir issue, he said at least this is a road.”Where we reach is up to the discussions that we will have,” he said. Referring to a statement made by the author, who served as OSD on Kashmir in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, that educated youth are getting swayed by militancy, Abdullah said, “Trust deficit between Srinagar and Delhi is a major contributor for this. Let me warn, today”s generation and Farooq Abdullah”s generation are different… My generation agreed with little but today”s generation needs results faster and better.”Abdullah spoke about growing fundamentalism in almost all religions, and said, “India is in tremendous danger, the fallouts are going to be miserable if we don”t wake up against the growth of fundamentalism in various forms in almost all religions, that is going to be death for those of us who believe that we are a nation.””And I hope those people in power whether at the Centre or in the states realise that we are dying but the nation will go on, let us steer it towards a better future,” he said.

With Ghulam Nabi Azad in tow, Narendra Modi uses ‘damaad’ barb apparently to hit at Congress

“Aaj kal hum jante hai daamadoun ke karan kaya kaya bataen hoti hai (We all know what kind of things are being said today because of the sons in law),” Modi in an apparent dig at Vadra said while addressing a gathering to mark the centenary celebrations of veteran Congress leader and former J&K financé minister Girdhari Lal Dogra in Jammu.

With leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad in tow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a jibe at the dynastic politics and invoked “damaad” apparently lampooning Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in law Robert Vadra who is facing enquiry into land deals.”Aaj kal hum jante hai daamadoun ke karan kaya kaya bataen hoti hai (We all know what kind of things are being said today because of the sons in law),” Modi in an apparent dig at Vadra said while addressing a gathering to mark the centenary celebrations of veteran Congress leader and former J&K financé minister Girdhari Lal Dogra in Jammu.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi’s ‘damaad’ jibe left the audience in splits with people clapping loudly before Modi again started his speech. Showering praises on Dogra, who is the father-in-law of union finance minister Arun Jaitely, Modi said his son-in-law kept himself aloof from his father-in-law and the late leader too kept him away.”That is why it is important in public life that we should not divide our legacy. Everybody works with certain ideology in his public life, but he lives and dies for the nation. We should be proud of them and have equal regard for anybody who has worked and died for the nation, irrespective of their political ideologies and affiliations,” Modi said.Modi opposed political unaccountability saying the contradictions are the beauty of democracy. To put across his point, Modi recalled the day when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked his deputy LK Advani to join the last rites of the leader of rival party.”Our heritage should not be divided. I know when Atal Ji became prime minister and on this day a leader, who was opposing us throughout, passed away on the day. Atal Ji asked Advani Ji to join his last rites because his contribution to nation is immense,” he said.Hinting at the stormy parliamentary session, Modi said there will be a “muqabala” (contest) in the coming monsoon session. “We all are sitting here but just wait to see the ‘muqabla’ we will have in some days,” he said pointing towards Azad.Modi also greeted the people on Eid-ul-Fitr but did not announce any economic package as was being anticipated in Jammu and Kashmir.

PM Modi hands over Bangladesh Liberation War Honour to Vajpayee

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday handed over the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour to ailing BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

File photo.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday handed over the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour to ailing BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee.Modi visited Vajpayee’s residence here and handed over the award to the former Prime Minister’s foster daughter Namita Bhattacharya and her husband Ranjan Bhattacharya.External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was present on the occasion.Bangladesh has conferred its prestigious liberation war honour on Vajpayee for his “active role” in its independence struggle and consolidating friendship with India.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi had received the honour on behalf of Vajpayee during his recent visit to Bangladesh.”Visited Atal ji & was delighted to hand over the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour to his family,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

Murli Manohar Joshi pokes holes into Modi government’s plans to develop Varanasi

The senior BJP leader was recently shunted out of the Parliamentary Board.

PM Modi and Murli Manohar Joshi

Veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi has hit out at Centre’s plan to develop Varanasi, PM Narendra Modi’s constituency along the lines of developed cities Tokyo and Kyoto, Daily Mail reports.While he said that he is not against the development of Varanasi, he added, “there is need for infrastructural development before going ahead on that path.” Joshi was talking at a seminar in Banaras Hindu University (BHU). He added that the city faced basic problems of garbage and waste disposal. ‘You can’t build a city on a pile of garbage’, he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He also spoke about Modi government’s plans on having bullet trains run across the country. “I am also not against running bullet trains, but first we need to have the basic transportation facilities,” Joshi said.A multi-disciplinary team of the Union Urban Development Ministry and officials from Varanasi had reportedly gone to the Japanese cities to study them and their development so as to implement the same for Varanasi. The senior BJP leader was recently shunted out of party’s Parliamentary Board. Instead he was made a part of ‘the Margdarshak Mandal’ (guiding group) along with other senior leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.Problems between Joshi and the Modi-led BJP came out when in 2014, when he was forced to change his constituency from Varansi to Kanpur, to make way for Modi to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He was later critical of Modi’s Gujarat development model saying that it cannot be applied across the nation.Few days ago former BJP minister Arun Shourie too criticised the party and its leadership. In an interview to a new channel, he said that economic policy was “directionless” while the social climate was causing “great anxiety” among the minorities. The BJP he was a “fair weather friend” and could be having a “grouse” over not getting positions.With agency inputs

‘What about Babri masjid demolition’:Owaisi questions Bharat Ratna for Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Hyderabad: AIMIM president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has kicked up a row by questioning the Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan awards being given to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP patriarch LK Advani.

“How can the country’s second highest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan, be given to Advani who was facing criminal cases (in connection with the Babri masjid demolition),” Owaisi said at a book release function on Sunday night.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee. ReutersAtal Bihari Vajpayee. Reuters

Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Reuters

“The same LK Advani who spread destruction in the country with his ‘Rathyatra’… This could probably be the first instance of Padma Vibhushan being given to a person who is facing criminal cases,” the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen leader said.

As to Vajpayee, Owaisi alleged that the BJP stalwart had made some controversial comments on the Ayodhya issue, the videos of which were available on the YouTube.

“Have we forgotten December 5 (1992)? The same Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had said ‘we are going to level the ground’ (has been now given the Bharat Ratna),” he claimed.

PTI

Have we forgotten the Babri masjid demolition? Owaisi questions Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee

Hyderabad: AIMIM president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has kicked up a row by questioning the Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan awards being given to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP patriarch LK Advani.

“How can the country’s second highest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan, be given to Advani who was facing criminal cases (in connection with the Babri masjid demolition),” Owaisi said at a book release function on Sunday night.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee. ReutersAtal Bihari Vajpayee. Reuters

Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Reuters

“The same LK Advani who spread destruction in the country with his ‘Rathyatra’… This could probably be the first instance of Padma Vibhushan being given to a person who is facing criminal cases,” the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen leader said.

As to Vajpayee, Owaisi alleged that the BJP stalwart had made some controversial comments on the Ayodhya issue, the videos of which were available on the YouTube.

“Have we forgotten December 5 (1992)? The same Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had said ‘we are going to level the ground’ (has been now given the Bharat Ratna),” he claimed.

PTI

Have we forgotten Babri masjid demolition? Owaisi questions Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee

Hyderabad: AIMIM president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has kicked up a row by questioning the Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan awards being given to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP patriarch LK Advani.

“How can the country’s second highest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan, be given to Advani who was facing criminal cases (in connection with the Babri masjid demolition),” Owaisi said at a book release function on Sunday night.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee. ReutersAtal Bihari Vajpayee. Reuters

Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Reuters

“The same LK Advani who spread destruction in the country with his ‘Rathyatra’… This could probably be the first instance of Padma Vibhushan being given to a person who is facing criminal cases,” the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen leader said.

As to Vajpayee, Owaisi alleged that the BJP stalwart had made some controversial comments on the Ayodhya issue, the videos of which were available on the YouTube.

“Have we forgotten December 5 (1992)? The same Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had said ‘we are going to level the ground’ (has been now given the Bharat Ratna),” he claimed.

PTI

Bharat Ratna conferred on ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have turned down the idea of being conferred Bharat Ratna when he was himself Prime Minister, but on Friday president Pranab Mukherjee took a departure from protocol by driving down to the ailing BJP leader’s house to present to him the highest civilian award.

School students in Mirzapur congratulate former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on receiving the Bharat Ratna on Friday

PTI
Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have turned down the idea of being conferred Bharat Ratna when he was himself Prime Minister, but on Friday president Pranab Mukherjee took a departure from protocol by driving down to the ailing BJP leader’s house to present to him the highest civilian award.The simple event, at which there were no speeches, was attended by around fifty people, all of whom have known Vajpayee, and close family members. Among them were Vice President Hamid Ansari, prime minister Narendra Modi, BJP veteran LK Advani, senior cabinet ministers, some chief ministers, including Jammu and Kashmir’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and senior leaders of other parties.”There are crores of workers around the country who draw inspiration from Atalji. We got an opportunity to confer Bharat Ratna on Atalji who dedicated his life to the nation, he’s a son of mother India. I thank the president for personally conferring the Bharat Ratna to Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” Modi said.Finance minister Arun Jaitley described him as a leader par excellence who has worked tirelessly in the interest of the nation. “In this country, I think there would be very few people like him who are good orator, political leader, thinker and poet,” he said.All those present at the ceremony at his residence at Krishna Menon Marg, had fond memories of him as statesman, prime minister and human being. Yashwant Sinha, who was a senior minister in Vajpayee government, recalled how during official tours he would make sure that he had at least one informal meal with some people in the delegation. “He loved Chinese food so it would often be to a Chinese restaurant,” recalled Sinha who described him as a “great man and a great prime minister.”Home minister Rajnath Singh described Vajpayee as an “international icon”.Even Opposition leaders endorsed his leadership. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a letter to Vajpayee, said it was a “fitting recognition” to his wisdom, statesmanship and deep commitment to national interest. “Your broad and large hearted vision, your patriotism and eloquent oratory have always embraced the entire political spectrum and all sections of our society,” she said.

Lucknow elated at Bharat Ratna for Atal Behari Vajpayee

Lucknow: The conferring of Bharat Ratna on Atal Behari Vajpayee in Delhi on Friday (27 March) has come as a special moment of glory for residents of Lucknow, with the general feeling that it is an honour for a gentle soul the likes of which are becoming rarer in public life.

Not only among leaders and workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party, but among people across party lines the sentiment is that of gratitude. His simplicity, oratory and fondness for simple joys of life like cracking an innocent joke, sharing tea and sweets with anyone who was with him, playing with children and above all, remembering people even after long passage of time, are remembered by people.

File photo of Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was honoured with the country's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna at a ceremony at his residence. PTIFile photo of Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was honoured with the country's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna at a ceremony at his residence. PTI

File photo of Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was honoured with the country’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna at a ceremony at his residence. PTI

The conferring of the honour was the talk of the town in Old Lucknow’s Chowk locality where many persons have had long and non-political association with Vajpayee. A visit to the narrow lanes of Chowk also yielded many little-known facets of Vajpayee’s life.

Ashish Tripathi of the famous Raja thandai shop in Chowk, says Vajpayee often used to come to the shop to drink a glass of thandai, accompanying a friend on a bicycle. “He was so fond of this thandai that he mentioned it in many of his speeches in Lucknow in those years,” says Ashish.

Vajpayee’s fondness of sweets is well-known. He had a weakness for pedas from a shop in Chowk. Anyone who went from Lucknow to Delhi to meet Vajpayee used to take a package of pedas from the shop, says Dilip a worker in the shop.

A popular figure of Chowk is veteran politician Lalji Tandon, who was member of Lok Sabha from Lucknow after Vajpayee till the last election, had been a long time associate and confidant of Vajpayee. Tandon was in New Delhi to attend the ceremony in which President Pranab Mukherjee went to Vajpayee’s residence to confer him the country’s highest civilian award.

Dr SC Rai, Lucknow’s former mayor, recalls that he had treated Vajpayee’s father in 1956 for an abdominal ailment later diagnosed as cancer. “I was the resident doctor in the medical college and had been instructed to take good care of him. He often used to rest on the benches near my house, use the washroom in my house and had a cup of tea, reading the morning newspaper.”

Dr Rai recalls that a long time after this he had gone to Delhi to listen to Vajpayee’s speech in Parliament. “He not only noticed me but also invited me to have tea with him.” He last met him in 2005 in Delhi and had dinner with him. “He was very fond of gardening and had lots of interest in bonsai, asking questions about how it was done,” says Dr Rai.

Laxmikant Bajpai, the state BJP president, said he was fortunate to have got the opportunity to work under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “What I remember most about him was his oratory and the poetic manner in which he explained and put across the most difficult subject.” He also recalled that Vajpayee’s popularity transcended political boundaries.

BJP general secretary Sunil Bansal recalled that Vajpayee never forgot to mention national interest in whatever organisational activity was taking place. “He was nationalist to the core and the interest of India had always been uppermost in whatever he spoke or did.”

A recitation of Hanuman Chaleesa, display of fireworks and distribution of sweets at the state BJP headquarters marked the occasion. A large number of workers and supporters had gathered in the party office premises who shouted slogans and sang songs praising Vajpayee.

“This is a decision with which none of us can find any fault. He was much more than merely a party leader and while I and many like me had our differences with the Jan Sangh and later the BJP, an honour to Atalji has been our wish also,” this came from a retired Lucknow University teacher PK Srivastava who is settled in Lucknow.

Asif Zamaan Rizvi, whose father Aizaz Rizvi was a minister in a former BJP government in the state and an associate of Vajpayee, said he and many others like him felt sad that they had not seen Vajpayee for a long time. “But the ceremony in his residence in Delhi has come as a reassurance that he is well.”

Vajpayee’s birthplace Gwalior erupts in joy and celebrations

Gwalior celebrated when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee recieved his Bharat Ratna.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee
File Photo

Gwalior, the birthplace of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee erupted in joy and celebrations on Friday after he was awarded the Bharat Ratna. Vajpayee did his schooling from Saraswati Shishu Mandir and Gorkhi Bara, after which he graduated from the then Victoria College, which is now called the Laxmi Bai College. An event was also organised at Maharajbada on Friday where Vajpayee used to deliver his historic speeches in his trademark style. The Gorkhi school which Vajpayee had attended, was lit up in honour of its brightest student. Celebrations are also on at his residence in Kamal Singh Ka Bagh area where at present, a computer centre is being run by his relatives. Meanwhile, local MP and Union Minister for Steel and Mines Narendra Singh Tomar termed the development as “historic” and “a matter of honour” for Madhya Pradesh and Gwalior. “It is a matter of pride for Madhya Pradesh, especially Gwalior. Atalji had always preached the politics of development in the country,” Tomar said, congratulating Vajpayee for receiving the Bharat Ratna. Also Read: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee conferred Bharat Ratna by President Mukherjee

Vajpayee an international icon loved by all: Rajnath Singh

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday described former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as an international icon who is respected and loved by one and all.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Vajpayee was loved by everyone. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Vajpayee was loved by everyone. PTI

“Our former Prime Minister Vajpayee is not only just an Indian statesman but an international icon who is respected and loved by everyone,” Singh told reporters in New Delhi.

Vajpayee is being conferred country’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna today by President Pranab Mukherjee.

The Home Minister said it is a matter of immense happiness for the whole country that the former Prime Minister is being bestowed with the Bharat Ratna.

“His personality, his oratory skill, his honesty and humility signify his greatness. His is a great human being,” he said.

Setting aside protocol, the President will visit Vajpayee’s Krishna Menon Marg residence here and will confer him the Bharat Ratna later on Friday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other senior Cabinet ministers will be present on the special occasion.

PTI

Rajnath is right: A debate on religious conversions is probably overdue

Not for the first time has an important leader from the BJP-Sangh Parivar stable (Home Minister Rajnath Singh himself) called for a national debate on religious conversions. And not for the first time will India’s Lutyens mafia probably duck for cover – or shift the debate to communalism. Only in India will so-called liberals run away from a debate where the stronger arguments are possibly on their side.

That Rajnath Singh raised the conversions issue at a conference of state minority commissions on Monday (23 March) is significant. It means the parivar is serious about flagging its concerns and will not allow the issue to die out easily. Atal Bihari Vajpayee raised the issue when he was PM, but he did not have it in him to push the argument, handicapped as he was by his own liberal credentials. Singh seems to be trying his luck now.

A debate on ghar wapsi and religious conversion is long overdue. PTI

A debate on ghar wapsi and religious conversion is long overdue. PTI

It is a debate worth having, even if you disagree wholeheartedly with the parivar point of view.

The Sangh is clear and unambiguous: it wants a ban on religious conversions. Rajnath Singh made the same point, but then muddied his argument by asking: “Do we need to impose the supremacy of our faith over others? Can’t we decide that serving humanity is fine, but why do people have to be converted to another faith? Why are religious conversions being carried out?”

All faiths consider their own versions of god and scripture superior, but the question of imposing anyone’s supremacy does not arise at all. So Rajnath Singh made a needless observation here. More relevant is his question whether those who do service to humanity need to convert. But the answer is equally simple: the motivation behind one’s humanitarian activities is irrelevant, even if it is important to understand it.

While reassuring the minorities that the NDA government will address their insecurities and protect them, Singh said the government was concerned about the possibility of demographic change through conversions. The Indian Express quotes him as saying: “If we go to the US and try to hurt the identity of that country, will they accept it? Why do we want to change their identity? There should not be any such attempt. How can a country like India allow changes in its demographic profile and character? Let India’s character remain the same.”

In the context of the demographic changes that have already happened in the north-east due to illegal migration, and in Jammu & Kashmir through the ethnic cleansing of the Pandits from the Valley, Singh is certainly right to flag worries about demographic change. However, it is difficult to attribute this change to conversions alone – though some of this may be happening in areas where aggressive evangelical organisations are at work.

Singh is certainly right to demand a debate, since these are not isolated concerns of only the Hindu fringe. These are mainstream concerns, though not articulated so far by ordinary Hindus due to the fear of being branded “communal” by the “Liberal-Left” secularati.

The so-called English-speaking “liberal” elite has always been uncomfortable about discussing conversions and prefers to talk about communalism, as though the two issues are the same.

This is one reason why the media discourse on “ghar wapsi” has been relabeled as one about communalism when this Sangh programme is really about countering conversions through reconversions.

There can be arguments for and against conversions, but there can be none against having an honest discussion in public spaces.

The “liberal” argument against banning conversions is hypocritical – but valid. It wrongly conflates freedom of religion with the freedom to convert – though the two are different things. The “liberals” have no problems with conversions away from Hinduism, but get vocal when attempts are made to reverse or stem this process (as their opposition to ghar wapsi demonstrates). Ghar wapsi thus becomes an attempt to create communal tension, as though conversions away from Hinduism do not have the same effect.

However, the liberal aversion to banning conversions is valid. In a truly liberal state, freedom of religion should also mean the right to propagate and convert someone to your point of view. The only things that can be banned are conversions through force and fraud. Even conversions through inducements (whether psychic or real, like the promise of heaven, virgins, cash or jobs) cannot be proscribed, for each individual is free to accept or reject what he or she believes is in his or her interest. If a politician can get elected by promising free power or laptops, one cannot take a stand against missionaries promising jobs or cash for changing faith.

But there is also another point of view on this. We don’t take this kind of absolute approach to other freedoms. The government bans majority foreign ownership of news media – which is also about freedom to propagate views. We ban even purely commercial activities (multi-brand retail, for example) on the argument that it affects this group’s interests or that. So, the sanctity given to creating a “free market for souls” is inexplicable. What is so special about the harvesting of souls that commerce in this must be free, but not in regular goods and services? Are we saying a Wal-Mart type of religious enterprise like the Catholic church must be entirely free to acquire market share in souls from kirana-shop belief systems?

Why is not reasonable to curb the flood of foreign donations for conversion activities without in any way circumscribing freedom to practice religion or curtailing the activities of proselytisers locally?

Also, if ghar wapsi is a bad idea, why is aggressive evangelisation also not equally bad or condemnable?

A debate on conversions is not a bad idea at all. It is overdue. We don’t have to ban anything, but it’s time to talk about it openly. A discussion on conversion is not a communal activity.