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‘Deep flaws’ in Facebook’s India plan

A group of leading Indian academics criticise Facebook’s controversial Free Basics internet plan, saying it has “deep flaws”.

Mother names baby born in taxi ‘Uber’

An Indian woman names her baby “Uber” after giving birth in a taxi belonging to the cab aggregation service.

Bollywood star must give ‘slap apology’

India’s Supreme Court told a Bollywood actor to apologise to a fan whom he slapped seven years ago while he was shooting a film.

Present govt not doing enough to improve India-Pakistan ties, says former External Affairs Salman Khurshid

On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “casual meeting” with Sharif on the sidelines of climate summit in Paris, Khurshid said such an engagement will have meaning only if the two countries are going to be “honest” and serious intention to make progress.
File Photo
PTI
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had “risked elections” to improve ties with India, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Monday said expressing disappointment over the current government “not doing enough” in this regard.On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “casual meeting” with Sharif on the sidelines of climate summit in Paris, Khurshid said such an engagement will have meaning only if the two countries are going to be “honest” and serious intention to make progress. He dismissed criticism over his recent speech in Pakistan saying that he had instead urged the western neighbour to give up Kashmir. That was the major point of my speech and not criticising the Indian government, he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I have some personal knowledge through meetings and close observations that Nawaz Sharif risked his election when he said he wants better relations with India and will go the extra mile,” Khurshid said at the Times Litfest in New Delhi.The senior Congress leader said that when Sharif embraced Modi during his visit to India, “his intention was to find a solution. I was disappointed that the present government of India has not done enough.””I think that we need to know if there was a substantive conversation and if there is any indication of intent of seriously moving forward. Otherwise meeting is meaningless,” he said on the sidelines of the event.Khurshid also sought to distance himself from former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s statement that the banning of Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel ‘The Satanic Verses’ by the Rajiv Gandhi government was wrong.”I don’t think it’s relevant to talk about what happened in the past. What is relevant is what we are doing today. If anything that happened 27 years ago is being repeated today then examine it in merits. What’s the point in going back in history?” Khurshid asked.He said there was some distance between the experience of Indian Muslims and what their counterparts are going through in conflict-ridden regions such as Syria and Iraq. The issue is “thankfully” not getting transmitted to them in India, he said.”Should they go out of their way and speak more vigorously and should they just ignore it as this is not a part of their lives? Although you have sprinkling of people who have joined the ISIS, I don’t think this a major concern for the psyche of the Indian Muslim which is a good thing,” he said.During a Q&A session, he also identified the first-past-the-post system as a major vice and insisted on the adoption of proportional representation. He also said that reservations, in their present form, had contributed to group identity.

If Sardar Patel had become PM, India would have become Pakistan: Author Kancha Ilaiah

Dalit activist and author Kancha Ilaiah has stirred a controversy by saying that India would have gone on the lines of Pakistan had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel become the nation’s Prime Minister.

Youtube video grab

Dalit activist and author Kancha Ilaiah has stirred a controversy by saying that India would have gone on the lines of Pakistan had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel become the nation’s Prime Minister.Speaking at the Times LitFest on Sunday, Ilaiah said that Patel was close to the Hindu Mahasabha and added that he wouldn’t have allowed Ambedkar to draft and write the Constitution.The Congress Party said everyone had a right to have an opinion.”What Kancha Ilaiah has said is his personal view. One leader cannot be compared with another as every leader has his own stature. I would not like to comment on his views,” Congress leader PL Punia said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

Technology drove Master Raja into police web: Here’s all you need to know about the ISI spy

On Sunday, the Delhi Police announced that it had arrested two relatives — a Border Security Force (BSF) constable, and the other, a suspected Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) handler — on charges of providing confidential information, under the Official Secrets Act.

The Indian Express reported that the arrested individuals have been identified as Delhi-based Kafaitullah Khan, also known as Master Raja, and Abdul Rasheed, who is posted in the intelligence wing of the BSF. Both of them are from the Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Khan is a handler of Pakistani intelligence operatives, and Rasheed was one of his chief sources. They were running an espionage racket which was supported by Pakistan’s ISI. Both were arrested under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Official Secrets Act,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Ravindra Yadav told reporters.

So, just who is Master Raja?

YouTube screengrab.YouTube screengrab.

YouTube screengrab.

Master Raja, who has reportedly been passing information along to a Pakistan intelligence operative for the past year, served in the BSF and later, the Jammu and Kashmir Police, reported Hindustan Times. Over time, sources quoted in the report said, he built a robust network of sources across the Army, BSF and Air Force, who used to send confidential information his way in exchange for money.

Master Raja reportedly used WhatsApp, Viber and email to pass along information. Ultimately, it was technology that led to his downfall. The Indian Express report quoted sources as stating that phones belonging to Master Raja and Rasheed were put under surveillance, and it was discovered that the former had been working ‘on the directions of a Pakistan intelligence operative’.

The Indian Express quoted Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Ravindra Yadav as saying, “Investigators are looking for a retired army havildar… (and) are also likely to get in touch with Khan’s brother”. He added that the spy ring was supported by ISI, to which Master Raja reported. Rasheed was a ‘prime source’.

Meanwhile, BSF director-general DK Pathak reportedly did not seem to think Rasheed was that big a fish. The Times of India quoted the DG as saying, “Rasheed may not have had access to classified information at the Rajouri office. But he must have had information about troop movements and other details of the camps and border outposts.”

Which, reports indicate, is exactly what Master Raja was after.

Master Raja reportedly served as a handler for numerous agents in India, to procure information about security forces deployment and operations of the Indian Air Force.

The BSF is probing whether these inputs helped terrorists make ‘clean entries’ across the border ahead of the 27 July Gurdaspur attacks and 5 August Udhampur attack.

But Rasheed is only the tip of the iceberg.

Among Master Raja’s other agents are Irshad Ansari, Asfaq Ansari and Mohammad Jahangir, who were arrested from Ekbalpore in Kolkata, and charged with attempts to wage war against the state and criminal conspiracy. According to The Hindu, the trio is based in west Kolkata’s Garden Reach area, and Irshad Ansari has been working as a contract labourer at the local shipyard for the past decade.

“The three had visited Pakistan and it seems they were hired by the ISI during the visit,” the report quotes Deputy Commissioner of the Special Task Force Akhilesh Kumar Chaturvedi as saying.

The Times of India reports that further raids are taking place across Delhi, and Jammu and Kashmir to apprehend the other members of Master Raja’s ring.

Prison break: Four unusual ways Indians have escaped jail

…and other novel ways Indians have escaped jail

Indian higher education crisis: More Indians go abroad to study, and fewer international students come to India

Even as reports last week suggested that the number of Indian student going to the US had increased by 30 percent, the inflow of foreign students to India has declined sharply, according to government data.

According to a report by The Times of India, data from the Union Ministry of Home affairs shows that the number of students coming to India from US, Germany, France, South Korea, Australia, China and Singapore had dropped by 73 percent from 13,961 in 2013 to 3,737 in 2014.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The report also indicates that the number hadn’t just dropped for countries better placed than India, but even from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and African nations fewer people are turning to India for higher education.

Adding to this is a report in DNA which suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s bonhomie with Barack Obama had seen a huge surge in students from India studying in the US.

According to the report Indian students going to the United States had risen by 29.4 percent within a year, compared to the six percent previous year following three years of consistent decline. There are, as of now, 1.33 lakh Indians studying in universities across the United States.

In fact, it is not just to the US, more and more Indian students are looking to go abroad for higher education. According to a government report, India saw a huge jump in internationally mobile students with only 39,626 students in foreign countries in 1995 to 1,89,472 students going abroad in 2012.

While the US has remained the top destination abroad to go for higher education, the government date shows that UK replaced Australia in 2012 as the second most coveted destination for getting a higher education.

Though the Modi-Obama bonhomie and more students going to the US is well and good, the fact that lesser students are coming to India and more students are going abroad raises several questions about the quality of education in our country.

Hindustan Times in a report points out, “a part of the reason may have to do with perceptions of insecurity, owing to the attacks on women that inhibit parents from sending their children to the subcontinent.”

Another problem faced by those coming from other countries is racial discrimination. South Sudanese students had complained to Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the issue at Pune’s Symbiosis International University in September. Singh had hence appealed, “From this platform, I want to appeal to all Indian students in Pune as well as in other parts of the country not to discriminate anyone and consider every one as brother. It is very unfortunate if any such incident takes place in our country.”

The Hindustan Times also pointed out that declining level of education because of shortages of capable faculty and lack of government efforts is also a reason why fewer students are coming to India for higher education. This, may also be one of the reasons why more and more students are going out of India for their higher education, apart from may be a more prosperous middle class and easily available education loans.

However, another reason for Indian students going abroad may be better scope and opportunity. As pointed out by Philip G Altbach in a report in The Hindu in 2014, “Not only are overseas programmes and departments more prestigious, they also have far better facilities, laboratories and a more favourable culture of research. Top faculty members are often more accessible and it is easier to become affiliated with a laboratory or institute. Academic politics exists everywhere, and Indians may suffer from occasional discrimination abroad, but overall academic conditions are likely to be better than at home.”

With numbers projecting a pretty bleak picture of the Indian education system, the quickest solution could be government hiring better faculty members in universities, setting up more universities, labs and research centers across the country.

Watch: AAP workers protest after OP Sharma’s sexist remarks at AAP MLA Alka Lamba

On Tuesday, AAP party workers protested outside the MLA’s house with regard to his sexist remarks against Alka Lamba

Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker, O P Sharma was suspended from the Delhi assembly for making derogatory and sexist remarks about Aam Aadmi Party MLA, Alka Lamba on Tuesday.

According to The Hindu, the Chandni Chowk MLA will remain under suspension till Thursday. He represents east Delhi’s Vishwas Nagar assembly constituency. BJP leaders have in recent times found themselves embroiled in some controversy or the other. Just last month, on 22 October, a local BJP leader in Daman was suspended from the party for allegedly assaulting a woman councillor, according to an India Today report.

The Hindustan Times quotes the MLA’s remarks as “Ye toh Raat Bhar ghumne wali”. According to the Speaker, Ram Niwas Goel, the remarks couldn’t be clearly heard but quoted the BJP MLA as saying that Lamba was a woman who “roams in the night,” the phrase usually has a connotation of a woman of loose morals or a slut.”

Alka Lamba in the Delhi Assembly. IBNLiveAlka Lamba in the Delhi Assembly. IBNLive

Alka Lamba in the Delhi Assembly. IBNLive

This incident occurred during a discussion on the homeless and night shelters. Opposition leader, Vijender Gupta accused the government of not being serious about poor people’s deaths. According to The Hindustan Times, Gupta had claimed that 3000 people had died from March to October and Sisodia alleged that during President’s rule, the contract to run shelters was given to a security agency.
Lamba objected to Sharma’s remark and said that the cause of the death of homeless people was drugs and not cold. It is after this that Sharma made the remark against Lamba.

The Hindustan Times quotes the Speaker saying, “I have been observing the behaviour and language of OP Sharma for the past four days. But the language he used for a woman legislator is deplorable and beyond imagination. Despite warnings, OP Sharma did not mend his ways. I also advised the leader of opposition to reign in his colleague but in vain. OP Sharma stands suspended from the House till Thursday.”

This is not the first tussle between the two MLA’s, according to The Hindu‘s report, the two MLA’s had locked horns with each other when Lamba had led a ‘raid’ against Sharma’s restaurant leading to allegations and counter allegations.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal expressed his shock and dismay on Twitter:

Deputy CM, Manish Sisodia asked the Speaker to refer the matter to the ethics committee. According to The Indian Express, the AAP MLAs voiced their protest over the remarks and rushed into the well of the House shouting slogans and demanding his expulsion. Party sources told The Hindu that the AAP legislators are seeking for a suspension till the conclusion of the Winter Session and are also ‘considering disciplinary action’ — including a criminal case and cancellation of his membership to the Assembly.

with inputs from IANS

India temple makes sari mandatory

An ancient temple in northern India asks visiting female foreign tourists to use a sari to “cover themselves and look decent”.

Policy to hire disabled backfires

Indian Railways fails to provide disabled-friendly exam centres to all candidates in a hiring test specially planned for them.

Peter Mukerjea arrested in Sheena Bora murder case: Here are the four biggest developments

The Sheena Bora murder case took another twist on Thursday night with the CBI arresting Peter Mukerjea — media baron and husband of one of the main accused Indrani Mukerjea. He was booked under Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code, which relates to causing the disappearance of evidence of offence, or providing false information.

After taking over the case under acrimonious circumstances on 29 September, the CBI on Thursday filed a ‘1,000 page’ chargesheet in the case against Indrani, her former husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver Shyamvar Rai. It was the latter’s statement that as per Times Now reports, ‘nailed Peter’.

File image of Peter Mukerjea. PTI

File image of Peter Mukerjea. PTI

The man who knew too much

According to sources quoted by The Economic Times, Peter had been ‘evasive’ during his CBI examination on Thursday, which eventually led to the arrest. The sources went on to share that they suspected Peter’s possible involvement in the case after he gave ‘contradictory’ responses to CBI questions on Sheena’s murder. The Indian Express quotes a CBI official as saying, “She has given enough indications… he knew of the murder.”

Not just that. The Hindu reports that Peter not only knew about the murder but also knew for over a decade that Sheena was Indrani’s daughter. Shortly after Peter and Indrani’s wedding in 2003, a letter from Indrani’s Guwahati-based parents requesting ‘financial support for her two children, Sheena and Mikhail’ reportedly landed on Peter’s desk at work.

The money trail

A report in DNA highlights the possible financial angle in the case that may have been a reason leading to Peter’s arrest. It mentions that the Sheena murder investigation had earlier revealed that Peter and Indrani had taken a loan of Rs 87 crore, of which only half went into buying shares of INX Media Private Limited — the media house owned by the couple.

The report goes on to add that INX Media was shown in 2012 as having paid ‘one of its directors’ — which could either refer to Peter or Indrani — Rs 87 crore, which was apparently couched as a ‘loss on the share’ of the company. That this development emerged shortly after April, which was when Sheena was alleged to have been murdered, is suspicious enough, but DNA also notes that the transactions should have been portrayed as a gain rather than a ‘loss’.

Complicit cops?

Another angle that has emerged in recent months is the role of the police in the whole issue.

The Economic Times report points out that some IPS officers from the Maharashtra Police are under the CBI’s scanner, but their identities were naturally not revealed. At the same time, DNA quotes former IPS officer and lawyer YP Singh as saying, “I am not sure whether the Mumbai Police were shielding Peter, but it is clear that proper steps of interrogation were not followed even though he was under suspicion… The Mumbai police definitely will have to answer (for) it.

Is there more to the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ remark that the police had ‘shown a lot of involvement and attention’ in this particular case, and the subsequent decision to hand the investigation over to the CBI?

Legal representation

Nevertheless, Peter will be produced in court on Friday. But who will represent him? That’s another blurry area in this extremely hazy case.

His lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani said he was surprised at the decision of CBI to place him under arrest. “I will be extremely shocked if the news about his arrest is true,” he said, and added, “I contacted him through messages and my last contact was well past 7.30 PM when he informed me that he was being questioned by the CBI and that he would contact me later.”

However, The Indian Express quotes the senior lawyer as saying, ““I was informed about Peter’s arrest by his sister this evening. I will not be representing Peter Mukerjea. I don’t know who will be representing him in this case.”

With inputs from PTI

Nathuram Godse row: Now, Hindu Mahasabha calls RSS ‘the biggest traitor’

Three days after the Hindu Mahasabha stirred up a storm by honouring Nathuram Godse on his death anniversary, there are no signs of it subsiding any time soon. Ashok Sharma, national vice-president of the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM), on Wednesday slammed RSS leaders for criticising the ABHM for commemorating Godse, and observing Sunday as Balidan Divas in his honour, reports The Times Of India.

Sharma called RSS ‘the biggest traitor’, and said that the organisation has been disloyal to Hindus and the country as a whole, according to The Times Of India. He asserted that the RSS is power hungry and even the BJP is not loyal to the Hindu cause anymore and the party’s anti-Muslim stand has now simply become a tool to garner votes.

Nathuram Godse. IBNLIVENathuram Godse. IBNLIVE

Nathuram Godse. IBNLIVE

Sharma’s volley was a response to statements made by RSS leader MS Vaidya on Sunday, who said that glorifying Godse “is wrong”. He added that ideological battles have “no place for bloodshed.”

“Some people say it will bring pride to Hindutva. No. It will bring a bad name to Hindutva,” he said in an apparent reference to Hindu Mahasabha’s programme, which included a book release and the launch of a website that purports to tell the truth about Godse.

“I can even say, Hindutva has suffered due to the assassination of Gandhi,” he said.

Vaidya’s remarks have once again highlighted the differences in the ideologies of the two organisations.

The RSS, founded by KB Hedgewar and later led by MS Golwalkar, has built a name for itself as a social organisation that works at the grassroots level. It is currently headquartered in Nagpur.

The Hindu Mahasabha, currently headquartered in New Delhi, has been more political, ever since the days of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

While explaining the differences in ideologies, an op-ed in The Hindu reports refers to the book The Brotherhood in Saffron, The RSS and The Hindu Revivalism, in which the authors, it says, explain that Savarkar wanted to turn the Mahasabha into a political party that was capable of opposing the Congress. However, Hedgewar wanted to keep the RSS away from active politics and focus on “cultural work”. Both Hedgewar and Golwalkar had no interest in using the RSS to take on the Congress .

The relations between the two parties got so bad that in 1943, Savarkar’s office wrote a letter to SL Mishra addressing the problem of RSS workers actually “preaching” against the Hindu Mahasabha, and said that it would be best if the Sabhaites “better leave the Sangh… and start their own Hindu Sabha volunteer corps,” reports The Hindu op-ed.

When Gandhi launched the Quit India movement, the RSS chose not to get involved and focused on its cultural activities instead, reports The Hindu. On the other hand, Savarkar called for the youth to militarise themselves, boycott the Quit India movement and urged Indians who are members of the British Army to stick to their posts instead. But it was the murder of Mahatma Gandhi that proved to be the end of their relationship.

Godse and his fellow conspirators in the murder of Gandhi were members of the Hindu Mahasabha and the party’s involvement in the assassination turned public opinion against them. It also led to the government cracking down on both the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS.

The Economic Weekly reports that the RSS was banned in February 1948, post the assassination and reports of their alleged involvement in the Partition riots. Golwalkar made several attempts to have the ban lifted and finally succeeded in July 1949.

By that time, relations between the two organisations was beyond repair.

With inputs from PTI

Kissed by the devil: ‘Kiss of Love’ protesters held for running ‘online sex racket’ in Kerala

Thiruvanathapuram: On Tuesday, charges were filed against Rahul Pasupalan and his wife Reshmi R. Nair for allegedly running an online sex racket. Rahul and his wife Reshmi were leading the protests and spearheaded the ‘Kiss of Love’ movement in Kochi last year. The campaign used kissing as a form of protest to oppose the restrictions on civil liberties and strict moral policing by authorities. It was heavily criticized by Hindu right-wing parties such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Hindu Sena.

Around 50 people were arrested for participating in the 'Kiss of Love' protest. PTIAround 50 people were arrested for participating in the 'Kiss of Love' protest. PTI

Around 50 people were arrested for participating in the ‘Kiss of Love’ protest last year. PTI

They couple was arrested after the police received a tip off and they were among the eight who were arrested on these charges, however, The News Minute reports that 11 people were arrested in relation to this case. The News Minute also reported that four among the 11 taken into custody were women and one minor. They also reported that while they were being taken into custody, three people escaped in a car including two women and a man.

It is alleged that the couple were in cohorts with a group involved in supplying minors and young children to pedophiles, reported The Hindustan Times. The state police’s cyber cell stumbled upon the racket during their investigating a complaint on a Facebook page, ‘Kochu Sundarikal’ (Beautiful girls) that surfaced carrying pictures of school girls, reported The News Minute. The police followed up on the complaint by a resident of Thiruvananthapuram who was also associated with the ‘Kiss of Love’ movement. The police followed leads by one particular woman who was involved in sex work and tracked down two minors who had been brought in from Bengaluru, reported The News Minute. The complaint was filed by another Facebook page, ‘Sexually Frustrated Mallu’, members of which, were also part of the ‘Kiss of Love’ group, according to The News Minute.

Five people were arrested on the basis of the complaint including the page administrator, a man from Northern Kerala who was operating out of India but was in India at the time, according to The News Minute. Infamous gangster, Ali Akbar was one among those arrested and is allegedly involved in many sex-trafficking cases; two girls from Bengaluru were also arrested, according to The Hindustan Times. The police said that they have taken the couple in for questioning and will decide the next course of action.

Rahul Pasupalan’s friend told The News Minute that the police have to prove their case before declaring statements and that Kerala police had previously fabricated the ISRO spy scandal case using a sex scandal angle.

Crematorium smoke ‘damages Taj Mahal’

India’s Supreme Court orders the removal of a wood-burning crematorium near the Taj Mahal to protect it from pollution.

Tamil Nadu: Former Rajya Sabha member N Rajendran allegedly shoots himself to death

A native of Kovilpatti, Rajendran had joined the DMK later and was the Treasurer of the district unit of the party for a few years.

Representational image

Getty Images
DMK leader and former Rajya Sabha member N Rajendran was found dead in his car in Kovilpatti on Wednesday. 62-year old Rajendran parked his car near the new bus stand and shot himself around 6 pm, the police said.Rajendran was a Rajya Sabha member as an AIADMK representative from 1995-2001. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.The police have ruled out foul play and suspect he committed suicide, but the reason behind it is not known yet. An investigation by the police is on.A native of Kovilpatti, Rajendran had joined the DMK later and was the Treasurer of the district unit of the party for a few years. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In recent years, Rajendran had withdrawn from political life and ran a marriage hall and a bus service.The Hindustan Times reports that the Rajendran may have been under pressure due to losses faced in his business ventures and troubles in his daughter-in-law’s home.With inputs from PTI.

Delhi Diwali smog at ‘hazardous’ levels

Pollution soars to hazardous levels in Delhi on the night of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, reaching 40 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organisation.

India to get first trans police officer

The Indian state of Tamil Nadu is to hire the country’s first transgender police officer after a court cleared hurdles that faced one applicant.

Be careful of friends of Facebook: ‘American businessman’ cheats Mumbai woman of Rs 12 lakh after befriending her on Facebook

Facebook may seem like a fun social network with photos of food and selfies but one can never be too careful.

A Mumbai-based woman was cheated off Rs 12 lakh by ‘American businessman’ who befriended her on Facebook, reports Hindustan Times. A case has been registered with the cyber cell at the Bandra Kurla Complex.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The accused reportedly told her that he was caught by Customs at Delhi airport on his way to India to see her and made her deposit money in a bank account for his release, the report added.

The 46-year-old woman was under the impression that the businessman was on his way to meet her and had got along ‘expensive gifts’. She had met him online towards the end of October and had told her that he donate money for charity in India and asked her for help.

In all, she was made to deposit Rs 12 lakh on different pretexts, including conversion fee of foreign currency into Indian currency. To gain her trust, the accused even sent her emails with the signature of the RBI chief,” a BKC cyber police station was quoted as saying by  Hindustan Times.

Cyber crime though Facebook is not uncommon in India with easy access and the ability to create a fake personality though a fake ‘profile’.

In October, a Chennai woman complained against a driver working in Saudi Arabia of cheating and threatening her after the two had gotten married meeting through Facebook. She had given him her jewelry and other valuables to help him only to realise he was a married man, according to a report by The New Indian Express. 

Seriously, think before you accept a Facebook request.

Maha CM Devendra Fadnavis launches website in memory of cartoonist RK Laxman

“His family members have paid him a unique tribute by creating a website in his name,” Fadnavis said on the sidelines of the launch (PTI)

File Photo
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday launched a website on the life of legendary cartoonist Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Iyer Laxman, known simply to millions as R K Laxman, to commemorate his 94th birth anniversary today. The website ‘www.rklaxman.com’ was launched in the presence of his family members after Fadnavis paid tribute at his official residence ‘Varsha’ to the revered artist. “I consider myself fortunate to have got a chance to launch the website on the life of RK Laxman, a man who will remain immortal. His family members have paid him a unique tribute by creating a website in his name,” Fadnavis said on the sidelines of the launch.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Born in Mysore on October 24, 1921, Laxman, son of a school teacher, had to face rejection from the prestigious JJ School of Arts in Mumbai when he applied there for admission, and subsequently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Mysore. He took up his first full time job as a political cartoonist at Mumbai’s Free Press Journal before moving to the Times of India where his comic strip “You said it” with ‘The Common Man’ became extremely popular.Also read: Google doodle celebrates RK Laxman’s 94th birthdayAmong the honours bestowed on him are Padma Vibhushan, Magsaysay Award in 1984 for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, BD Goenka Award – Indian Express, Durga Ratan Gold medal- Hindustan Times.Never rigid in views and averse to ceremonial rigour, Laxman had settled down in Pune from the last several years where he was accorded a state funeral. He is survived by wife, authoress Kamala Laxman, son Srinivas, a retired journalist and daughter-in-law Usha.

Sushma Swaraj comes to rescue of a Pakistani girl in need of liver transplant

On Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj, the Union Minister of External Affairs tweeted: “We have issued Visa for Basma’s surgery in India. I wish her a speedy recovery.”

File Photo

At at time when some parties are extremely pricklish about Indo-Pak ties of any sort, the Union Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swara went out of her way to help a Pakistani child. On Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “We have issued Visa for Basma’s surgery in India. I wish her a speedy recovery.” ( Read: Shiv Sena wants to ban Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan)<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The tweet was in reference to five-year-old Basma Mohammad Faisal who needed to undergo an endoscopy test immediately. Faisal needs a liver transplantation as soon as possible, a facility which wasn’t available in Oman or even their native Pakistan. He had told the Times of Oman: “I lost my elder daughter to the same disease about 11 years back. I don’t want to lose her and plan to get both the operations done at Global Hospital in Chennai in India.”This isn’t the first time Sushma Swaraj has helped those in need. Earlier, she had helped an Indian national who was stranded in Germany after losing her passport. She also helped rescue 168 Indians held hostage in Iraq.

Dengue fever sweeps Asia, hospitals struggle to cope | Reuters

MANILA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Thousands of people in Asia have been struck by dengue fever in recent months, putting medical services under strain and highlighting the need for a long-term strategy to fight the potentially lethal disease.

The Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam are among countries that have seen significant spikes in the mosquito-borne disease, while India’s capital New Delhi is in the grip of its worst dengue outbreak in almost 20 years.

Hospitals are overwhelmed as thousands of people with symptoms such as high fever, vomiting and joint pains seek treatment, health experts said.

Dengue is the world’s fastest-spreading tropical disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

There is no dedicated treatment for the virus, and sufferers are generally asked to rest, drink plenty of fluids and take medication to bring down fever and reduce joint pains.

“Outbreaks like the current dengue cases can have significant impacts on health systems,” said Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“These patients are acutely ill with severe symptoms and need to be treated fast to avoid complications.”

The size of the outbreak has forced some hospitals to make tough choices.

In Delhi, a couple jumped to their deaths when their 7-year-old son died of dengue after being refused treatment at a number of city hospitals which said all their beds were filled with dengue patients.

News reports followed of other families with acutely ill children and elderly relatives being turned away from one hospital after another due to a lack of beds or other facilities.

EXPLOSIVE GROWTH

Dengue affected only a handful of countries in the 1950s but is now present in more than 125 – more than malaria, historically the most notorious mosquito-borne disease.

The WHO estimates that about 50 million new cases of dengue fever occur each year, but a recent study said the number could be four times as high due to underreporting.

In the Asia-Pacific region the hot and humid climate and frequent flooding linked to climate change create ideal breeding conditions for dengue mosquitoes.

In the Philippines concern is growing that flooding caused by Typhoon Koppu this week will cause a spike in the number of dengue cases, already up 32 percent year on year to 108,263 so far this year, according to the WHO.

In Myanmar, much of which was flooded in July and August, authorities recorded almost 36,000 cases from January to September, 200 percent more than in the same period last year and the highest figure since counting began in 1965, the Myanmar Times reported.

More than 96,000 cases have been registered so far this year in Malaysia, up more than 19 percent, according to the WHO.

Health experts say this explosion in dengue cases is closely linked to a rise in urban living as well as increased movement of people and goods.

“For dengue to occur you need concentrated areas of people – it’s a city-based disease and a tricky one to eradicate because the dengue mosquito bites during the day, unlike the malaria mosquito,” said Hibberd.

The dengue mosquito usually lives inside houses or in courtyards and typically lays its eggs in flower pots or other places with a water source.

Health experts said that while much attention had focused on eradicating malaria, which has higher mortality rates, the fight against dengue lacked a long-term plan and focused on controlling outbreaks instead.

“It requires a shift in approach from responding to isolated outbreaks to investment in strategies that cover effective vector control, access to health services and early clinical management,” said Xavier Castellanos, Asia Pacific regional director of the International Federation of the Red Cross.

There is no vaccine for dengue yet, but some are undergoing clinical trials. French drugmaker Sanofi SA hopes to win approval for the world’s first dengue vaccine soon.

(Reporting By Astrid Zweynert, additional reporting by Nita Bhalla in New Delhi, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Monk seeks eight-month walk to court

An Indian monk from the Jain religion says he needs eight months to answer a court summons, as he will have to walk in accordance with his faith.

Dance bars in Maharashtra to return after SC order? Let’s not speak too soon

The imbroglio between the judiciary and the Maharashtra state government over dance bars appears to be going around in circles all over again. In the latest development on the issue, the Supreme Court has stayed a state government law which imposed a ban on such bars, paving the way for them to restart business, at least for the time being.

However, given the convoluted history of dance bars, this may not actually happen any time soon. Bars that hosted dancing performances have their origins in the early 1980s, with the first establishments coming up in the town of Khalapur, a town between Mumbai and Pune, according to IANS. As the underworld syndicates rose to notoriety in Mumbai in the 1980s and 1990s, dance bars were also known for being crucial sources of tip-offs for the police from informers, as pointed in an article in Caravan.

Tarannum, known as the ‘crorepati bar dancer’, became the subject of metropolitan folklore after she faced an income tax raid. However, in 2005, then Maharashtra home minister RR Patil imposed a ban on such bars, saying that they ‘corrupt the younger generation and threaten the cultural fabric of the country,’ as reported by India Today.

Representational image. Image courtesy: ReutersRepresentational image. Image courtesy: Reuters

Representational image. Image courtesy: Reuters

However, the three-star and five-star establishments were exempted from the morality crusade. Taking note of this discrepancy, the Bombay High Court observed, “The object of the legislation was prohibition of dances which were obscene or vulgar… That being the object, can the restriction be said to be in the interest of the general public? Women can still dance in the exempted establishments, women can still participate in tamashas and laavnis. Women can still work as waiters or any other allied jobs in the prohibited establishments.”

The court, noting this, went on to quash the ban. However, the Maharashtra government obtained a stay on the order, which meant that the dance bars would continue to remain shut.

However, after the government failed to convince the Supreme Court that such an order was legally valid (see The Indian Express report here), it again seemed in July 2013 as if the road was clear for dance bars to again become a part of the city’s night life. But this was not to be. Dance bar owners found that regaining licences was a tough proposition, with more than 40 licences required, as reported by The Times of India.

Soon enough, the Maharashtra government decided to legislate its way ahead to enforce the ban, and passed an amendment to the Maharashtra Police Act, putting in place the law. This law addressed the discrepancy between the rules for three-star hotels and five-star hotels. However, the restriction did not extend to family parties in pubs and discotheques, or to orchestras, according to a report in The Times of India.

Thus, the state government has plugged one loophole which had led its first initiative towards banning such establishments to be struck down. However, the other major issue which the Bombay High Court had considered while setting aside the ban in 2006 was the question of employment of the women who had been working as bar dancers. Whether the government can defend its law in the top court will depend partly on how it addresses this point.

The Supreme Court’s order on Thursday is merely a stay on the law, and the final word has not yet been spoken on the matter at the judicial level. What’s more, the court has clarified dance performances which are ‘explicit’ and have ‘any kind of obscenity’ will still be banned. Needless to say, the definition of ‘obscenity’ and explicit nature is entirely subjective in nature. Given the numerous instances of raids on public establishments as well as on people in the privacy of hotel rooms, the level of zeal which the police could display when it comes to dance bars is anybody’s guess.

So, does the Supreme Court order really mean the return of Mumbai’s dance bars?

Going by recent history, this might be a case of speaking too soon.

Chinese media asks India to be vigilant about joining anti-China camp

The Global Times article said Indian officials stressed that New Delhi has been pursuing a “multi-vectored diplomacy”.

Flags of India and China

Asserting that the Sino-India relationship is on a sound track, the Chinese media on Wednesday asked India to be vigilant to the efforts to rope it into anti-China camp in the backdrop of Japan joining the Malabar naval exercises. “The China-India relationship is on a sound track, and healthy ties are beneficial to both countries. India should be vigilant to any intentions of roping it into an anti-China camp,” an article in the state-run Global Times said on Wednesday highlighting that the India-China joint drills and the Malabar exercises involving the navies of India, the US and Japan are being held concurrently.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> On Sunday, the 10-day India-China anti-terrorism joint military drill, code-named Hand-in-Hand 2015, commenced in the Chinese city of Kunming, Yunnan Province. The next day, a trilateral drill by India, the US and Japan was launched in the Bay of Bengal, the article titled ‘Concurrent India drills spark unnecessary speculation’. “Malabar, a bilateral navy exercise involving the US and India, includes Japan this year. Speculation has therefore mounted that Washington and New Delhi are considering turning Japan into a permanent partner.” “Rabble-rousers say that India is eyeing China by including Japan in the Malabar exercise and the trilateral drill is targeted at China,” it said. Reacting to the Malabar exercises, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told media briefing two days ago that “everyday a lot of activities takes place around the world. We can not connect every activity with China”. The Global Times article said Indian officials stressed that New Delhi has been pursuing a “multi-vectored diplomacy”. “India’s policies and strategies are based on its national interests. It has been proved that over the past decades, India has stuck to independent foreign policies and never wants to be part of any coalition to contain China,” it said. “The efforts of China and India moving closer have been snubbed by the West, which tries to hype the contention of the two sides. Given the border disputes between China and India, and geopolitical rivalry as well, mutual distrust is slow to dissolve, and India is vigilant against China’s rise. This creates opportunities for other countries to drive a wedge between Beijing and New Delhi,” it said. “But China and India have reached a solid consensus that continued growth in bilateral relations should not be thwarted by divergences,” it said highlighting the consensus during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in May that two countries “have enough political wisdom to manage and control divergences.” “Both China and India are emerging countries and share more common interests than disagreements. Since both face an arduous task of development, neither side will prioritise geopolitical competition,” it said.

Sudheendra Kulkarni attacked: Rajdeep Sardesai writes open letter to Aaditya Thackeray, asks Sainiks to help distressed farmers than committing ‘act…

Stating that this seems to be the season of open letters, Rajdeep said, “I thought I’d write one to you too (Aaditya). Especially since we went to the same college: as a fellow Xavierite, I feel we share a bond, and as a senior alumni, might even dare to offer some advise.”

After writing to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, senior Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai has now written an open letter to Shiv Sena leader and Yuva Sena Chief Aaditya Thackeray offering him some advise being a fellow Xavierite.Soon after attack on ex BJP ideologue ​Sudheendra Kulkarni for organising former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch in Mumbai, Rajdeep in a blog said that if Maharashtra’s asmita has to be defended, maybe Sainiks should go to Marathwada and help farm widows in distress.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rajdeep wrote, “I thought I’d write one to you too (Aaditya). Especially since we went to the same college: as a fellow Xavierite, I feel we share a bond, and as a senior alumni, might even dare to offer some advise.”Referring to attack on Kulkarni, Rajdeep added, “His crime? He had organised a discussion in Mumbai on former Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Kasuri’s book. The Shiv Sena we were told was angry with the presence of a Pakistani on Indian soil and wanted to register their protest. So, ink had to be spilled on the streets of Mumbai yet again. Last week Ghulam Ali, this week Kasuri: the Sena is back in the news.”Citing the protests by Sena when he was working in Times of India, he added that then Balasaheb Thackeray was the supremo, and now the next generation have taken up mantle, yet some things have not changed. He wrote, “I am angry with the Sena, although I am not surprised. After all, Kulkarni is not the first public figure you have attacked, he probably won’t be the last. Many years ago, when you were probably just a year old, the Sena had dug up a cricket pitch at the Wankhede stadium to protest an Indo-Pak cricket series. When I wrote an article against the Sena, there was a protest outside the Times of India building against me. I was lucky: I escaped unhurt. My senior colleague Nikhil Wagle who edited a Marathi eveninger was less fortunate: his office was broken into and he was physically attacked. Then, your grandfather Balasaheb was the supremo, now you and your father seek the mantle.”He also said that some things won’t change, adding, “The difference is that then you were in opposition, now you are in government.”Meanwhile, questioning Maharashtra government, he said “Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has promised full protection for the book release function. Good for him. But I ask him, and the Maharashtra police: if you were so committed to securing the function, how did you allow Mr Kulkarni to be a soft target? Or does this suit everyone involved: you get mileage, the Maharashtra government pretends to act tough and Mr Kasuri’s book too will now sell more because of your foolish act. As for my letter : I guess it will probably be thrown into the dustbin of a bloody and violent history.”Sardesai also addressed the ‘patriotic’ tweeter users, saying that attacking Pakistani nationals is not the answer to what is happening at the border.

IAF to induct women pilots to fly fighter jets soon: Here’s why this plan is historic

In a stunning announcement, IAF Chief Arup Raha said on Thursday said the Indian Air Force is now planning to induct women into the fighter aircraft stream.

“We have women pilots flying transport aircraft and helicopters. We are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspirations of young women in India,” Air Chief Marshal Raha said as the air force celebrated its 83rd anniversary in Hindon, Uttar Pradesh.

The plan to induct women into a fighting arm is a first in the three services which were earlier not open to the idea of women taking part in combat roles.

An IAF fighter plane. Image courtesy PIBAn IAF fighter plane. Image courtesy PIB

An IAF fighter plane. Image courtesy PIB

This comes in stark contrast to a statement by Raha last year, where he said women were physically not suited for the job and they might face problems while flying fighter planes.

“As far as flying fighter planes are concerned, it is a very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically suited for flying fighter planes for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems,” he said in March, 2014.

If the decision goes through, India will join countries like Pakistan, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland and United Kingdom, among others, who have women in active combat roles in their country’s air force.

While Indian women have been serving in the forces since the early 1990s, they haven’t been allowed to have any combat roles.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has also previously expressed skepticism with recruiting women for combat operations in armed forces due to apprehensions about their safety.

In May 2015, Parrikar said when asked about the matter, “No. Think of what can happen if a woman is taken as a prisoner in combat operation,” implying at possible atrocities they might suffer if held captive by enemy forces.

IAF currently has women in seven areas: administration, logistics, meteorology, navigation, education, aeronautical engineering – mechanical and electrical – and accounts. The air force currently has about 1500 women on its rolls of which 94 are pilots and 14 navigators.

A major hindrance for women in the IAF until now, was that it took well over Rs 13 crore to train a single fighter pilot, with the huge investment being recovered only over 13-14 years of active flying. Women fighter pilots, the force believed, may get married, have children, and consequently disrupt the IAF’s tight flying schedules, reports The Times of India.

Also the fact that women couldn’t get a permanent commission in the IAF didn’t help matters. But in June 2010, after three-year-long court battle, women officers of the Air Force were accorded permanent commission for IAF. Previously, women officers could serve a maximum of 14 years of service in the air force.

The court orders came in March on a petition from 22 IAF and other 30-odd Army women officers, who accused the government of discriminating against them vis-a-vis their male counterparts.

It also helps that technological advancements have made traditional attributes like physical toughness (as cited by Raha in 2014) redundant for fighting roles, as this TOI report points. Also, flying a fighter is significantly different from a ground combat role in close proximity to enemy forces.

The move will also help IAF overcome shortage of officers in the fighter aircraft stream. In April this year, a parliamentary committee had slammed the defence ministry over the gap between the sanctioned strength of active fighter aircraft squadrons and their actual number, saying that “even the slight edge over rival neighbouring nation” would be lost if the “complacency” remains.

The Standing Committee on Defence said that while the sanctioned strength was 42, Indian Air Force at present has 35 active squadrons. The panel also said in a report, that IAF would need 45 squadrons to counter “two front collusive threat”.  The reference was likely to Pakistan and China.

It is still not certain what prompted today’s announcement by Raha. Is the IAF becoming more progressive with an aim to be more in sync with global trends, or is it just the shortage of combat personnel and pressure to counter the forces like Pakistan and China? Either way, it could mean a historic flight for an Indian woman pilot soon.

with inputs from agencies

French TV station fails in attempt to make a point on feminism; but India is no better

Advertisements centred around women’s empowerment are very much in vogue, and not just in India.

However, much like in India, some end up scoring a self-goal on the patriarchy front. One such feminism disaster happened in France recently, when a French TV station pulled down an advertisement aimed at highlighting its feminist credentials, but instead earned ridicule for being inherently sexist.

A screenshot from France-3 advertisementA screenshot from France-3 advertisement

A screenshot from the France 3 advertisement

The advertisement was designed to highlight the station’s positive record on female employment, with the tagline “The majority of our presenters are women presenters,” AFP reported. However, the TV station chose a rather dubious way of making the point, by showing household chores that had gone wrong because the woman of the house was, well, not in the house, but working at the TV station — France 3.

So, a meal is left overheating in an oven, a bedroom is in disarray and an iron is left smouldering over clothes, while a song on the soundtrack asks ‘Where are the women?’ Soon enough, the question is answered emphatically: “They are at France 3”. The channel goes on to proclaim that it is ‘more different, more modern and more feminine’. France’s minister for women’s rights, Pascale Boistard, however, was not convinced and tweeted that ‘it did not seem like the best way to promote equal rights.’ The TV station later pulled down the advertisement.

Evidently, while creative heads for advertisements are convinced that showing equality at the workplace is a good way to showcase a brand, they are not as enthusiastic about shared responsibility on the home front.

Not long ago, an advertisement for Airtel in India sparked a debate for its depiction of working women. The advertisement shows a woman taking her husband to task as her boss in office, while cooking up a meal for him at home. While one could say that the commercial was better than the ones showing wives washing clothes for their high-flying husbands, it perhaps got flak precisely because it claimed to send out a different message, but ended up reinforcing it instead.

Not to be left behind, Fair & Lovely too, had come up with a commercial claiming to root for gender equality. However, that advertisement ended up showing a young woman’s marriage prospects, as also her self-confidence while standing up to her father, to be linked to the colour of her skin. This, of course, was not much of a surprise considering that the product itself is based on the premise that the colour of a woman’s skin is a deciding factor in her success in life.

So, along comes an advertisement from another part of the world which does not exactly do a good job of depicting gender equality either. However, in this case, the French minister for women’s rights’ remarks was followed by the commercial being pulled off the air by the TV station. In India, on the other hand, Minister for Culture Mahesh Sharma has been quoted as saying that girls wanting a night out is not a part of Indian culture (see report by The Times of India here). This is something to think about before we gloat about the French TV channel’s failed attempt at feminism.

With inputs from AFP

Here’s why the Porn Ban faced such a backlash: Six Indian cities among global top 10 for porn searches

Remember the outrage over the (temporary) porn ban in India a few months back?

Indians were either startled at not finding their favourite sites one morning, or were aghast at this curb on the freedom of expression.

Representational image.Representational image.

Representational image.

While most sites returned and many people’s online activity went back to normal, the outrage over the porn ban was widespread from celebrities to normal citizens on social media lashing out against the ban.

Now, Google Trends data might just tell us the reason for the immense outrage over the porn ban.

The latest data shows that six of the top ten cities in the world that type ‘porn’ as a keyword on the search engine, are in India, according to a report by The Times of India.

New Delhi leads the list of ‘porn searches’, followed by Pune, Mumbai, Howrah, Unnao, Kuala Lumpur and Bengaluru in that order, continues the report. FYI, Unnao is a small town in Uttar Pradesh.

And if the fact that so many Indian cities top the list of porn searchers surprises you, the type of porn they search will probably disturb you.

The Times of India report says that the highest number of searches for ‘animal porn’ were from Pune, followed by New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. ‘Rape porn’ was widely googled in Kolkata, Howrah, New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Pune. Unnao actually had the most number of Google searches for ‘child sex’.

While we are not suggesting that this is the sole reason for the porn ban protests, it does show the wide penetration that online porn has in India, irrespective of region and social conditions.

Counting stars: Generals, think before you flaunt your ranks

The upcoming Commanders Conference (12-16 October) in New Delhi is tipped to take up a soft issue which has nothing to do with military strategies or strategic matters. But the very fact that the issue is set to be broached at such an elite and formal gathering of military commanders is an indication of its importance.

The issue is to do with the flaunting of ranks by the rank-conscious senior military officers who take the fetish of displaying stars and flags — two symbols of ranks–to ridiculous limits, rather than displaying them just on their vehicles.

In this context, it would be useful to read this interesting news story carried on Sunday by Times of India here
and an insightful opinion piece published by a two-star general in April last year here.

Representational image. Image courtesy: ibnliveRepresentational image. Image courtesy: ibnlive

Representational image. Image courtesy: ibnlive

The second article shows the extent of the personal idiosyncrasies of soldiers, which range from making their caddies wear shirts displaying their rank during friendly golf matches, to draping their mules with garish cloth advertising their rank during their visits to forward posts in the mountains.

A similar rank-consciousness is visible even when these “starred” officers undertake pilgrimage trips to high altitude shrines like Vaishno Devi and Amarnath.

But a Lt General’s act of draping a boat with an official flag and three stars during the immersion of the ashes of a parent earlier this year, as pointed out in the Times of India article, has taken the generals’ fetish for rank consciousness to absurd levels.

Incidents like these have been happening for decades. But “starred” soldiers must realize that they are living in changed times, in which the power of social media is increasing by the day.

A general flaunting his rank while touring forward posts in Arunachal Pradesh or the jungles of Assam or the deserts of Rajasthan, whether in official or private capacity, could be photographed by a social media enthusiast and his pictures could go viral on social media within minutes.

However, all this presents only one side of the picture. Officers from the IAS, IFS and IPS cadre, and those from other echelons of bureaucracy, are no less. Of course, it is true that if one sees a bureaucrat’s car, one can’t make out whether the car belongs to a joint secretary or an additional secretary, because the car doesn’t have tell-tale signs of a flag or stars. But once you get inside the offices of these bureaucrats, several things indicate the rank and importance of the occupant of the room, including the crockery used to serve you tea, the furniture, the curtains and the room decor.

It is true that bureaucrats don’t wear their ranks on their sleeves literally as soldiers do. Yet, in an event where bureaucrats as well as soldiers are present, particularly in diplomatic events, it is clear who is the boss, as invariably the soldiers end up being the second fiddle.

When the Commanders’ Conference holds its sessions later this month and takes up the issue of senior soldiers flaunting their ranks, it must be sensitive to the fact that soldiers have nothing but their rank to flaunt. This is even more so in the case of “starred” generals in the army, and their equivalents in the air force and navy, as there are just about 2400 of them in the three services.

Indians must be grateful to its soldiers who have never been politically driven or greedy in stark contrast to our immediate neighbourhood, particularly in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The narrative should not be one of imposing restrictions on our senior soldiers with respect to the use of stars and flags — two power symbols which accord them special status.

Instead, the narrative should be on sensitizing”starred” soldiers to voluntarily exercise restraint and discretion and not flaunt their ranks during their personal chores and engagements.

Decoding the Dadri lynching: From political mileage, to strange thoughts and boiling blood

This is a village of Thakurs and they express their sentiments in a very strong way When religious sentiments of people are hurt, they get agitated and this sudden anger leads to such incidents,” former BJP MLA from Dadri, Nawab Singh Nagar told The Indian Express in the aftermath of the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq on Tuesday.

This rationalisation of a 58-year-old man allegedly being bludgeoned to death for what he was eating is a discomforting insight into the sort of issues surrounding what is being dubbed the ‘beef murder’.

The nationwide outrage is apparently misplaced, because episodes like this are not out of the ordinary. At least that’s what the BJP western UP unit’s vice-president Shrichand Sharma seemed to think, when he told The Indian Express that ‘this happens every day’.

This was not a communal riot. The Hindu community worships cows. Whose blood won’t boil if they see cow slaughter?” asked Sharma.

Relatives mourn the death of farmer Mohammad Akhlaq at his home in Bisara village. PTI

Relatives mourn the death of farmer Mohammad Akhlaq at his home in Bisara village. PTI

What’s also clear is that some blood being spilt is apparently fine, if the other’s blood boils.

According to The Times of India, a priest made the announcement that Akhlaq’s family had beef in their house. The priest later proceeded to defend himself, and told the police that he was ‘forced’ to make the announcement by two youths from Akhlaq’s village of Bisara.

The Times of India report points out that while the Akhilesh Yadav government wants the six arrested for Akhlaq’s murder to be tried under the National Security Act, the BJP’s beef appears to be with the meat in Akhlaq’s kitchen.

Thakur Harish Singh, the BJP district president is quoted as saying, “The locals gave samples of meat to the police but they (the cops) did not take it seriously. Then some people got agitated.”

The Uttar Pradesh government, The Hindu reports, has ordered a probe into the incident, even as the samples of the meat procured from the family’s kitchen have been sent for forensic analysis. The question here is: Should the quantum of punishment for the perpetrators will vary depending on the type of meat?

Meanwhile, with the Bihar Assembly election around the corner, the Congress weighed in with its own take. Referring to a ‘growing ambience and climate of hate’, party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told The Asian Age, “Such politics (need) to be condemned… Politics of poison and hatred is bound to grow in the run up to the Bihar elections.”

The report also quotes Singh as saying that ‘peace committees to restore communal harmony’ have been assembled.

It is fervently hoped that these committees bear little resemblance to the Samadhan Sena that popped up in the vicinity of village around four months ago. The Indian Express reports on the story of the little-known group that has been fanning the flames of communal unrest in villages across Dadri.

According to the report, Virpura village-resident Govind Chaudhary set up the Sena in June and has held meetings where groups comprising youths between 16 and 20 years of age would listen to “issues that had never bothered them before — like cow slaughter and the ‘declining’ population of Hindus”.

The father of one such youth expressed to The Indian Express his bewilderment at where this ‘strange radical thought process’ has come from. “One day, he was talking about movie stars and item numbers. The next day he began saying the population of Hindus in the country has dipped. I have asked him not to attend these meetings, but do young boys listen these days?”

Maybe they do, but only when their blood boils.

Uttar Pradesh police goof-up: Police book 2-year-old boy for theft, later delete name from FIR

An FIR has been lodged against a two-year-old boy, along with three others, in a theft case by the Sadarpur police of Sitapur district in Uttar Pradesh. The matter came to light on Wednesday when the father of the boy took him to the district court to surrender.

Later, the name of the boy was scrapped from the FIR following an intervention by the superintendent of police, a police spokesperson told PTI.

However, according to another report in The Times of India, the incident happened due to the negligent Uttar Pradesh police. According to the report, the police booked the toddler without verifying proper details. The report added that the toddler shared the name with another accused mentioned in the FIR.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The theft took place in Bajehra village in Sadarpur area on 20 September. On the basis of complaint filed by the victim and other villagers, a case was registered against four, including the boy, the police spokesperson said.

After the police allegedly went to arrest the boy, his father took him to surrender at a district court from where, with the help of some lawyers, he approached the SP’s office and narrated the incident to him.

During the investigation, the boy’s name was removed, Additional SP, Subhash Gangwar told PTI. This is not the first time that the Uttar Pradesh police has done something this bizarre. Back in 2010, in a goof-up, the Kanpur Electricity Supply Company (Kesco) and Uttar Pradesh police booked a toddler visiting his grandmother here for power theft.

According to PTI, an FIR was registered against two-and-a-half-year-old Shahnawaz and seven others when Kesco officials carried out raids to check power theft in a locality in Kanpur, police sources had said.

In India, the age for criminal responsibility is seven years.

After the case was booked at Bajriya police station, police reached the houses of the eight accused to arrest them. However, when they reached the house of the eighth ‘accused’ Shahnawaz, his grandmother produced the child much to the amazement of the police. Perplexed police personnel then informed their seniors that one of the accused was a child. When the matter came to light, Kesco officials said the child was booked by mistake.

But this doesn’t happen only in India.

Pakistan’s ‘ill-trained’ police arrested a nine-month-old toddler for attempting murder and charges of rioting in Islamabad. According to this report in The Guardian, Musa Khan’s family was distraught after they faced national humiliation following the charges.

According to the FIR, which was written by a now-suspended assistant sub-inspector, nine-month-old Musa and his co-accused tried to kill gas company workers and the policemen accompanying them by throwing stones.

“We have had to move to a secret place because we are poor and the police are putting huge pressure on us to manipulate the case,” Muhammad Yasin, the boy’s grandfather told The Guardian. 

With inputs from PTI

Disabled activist who helped frame air security rules made to get off wheelchair at Delhi airport

In an unexpected case, a disabled rights activist who helped frame the guidelines to make air travel easier for disabled passengers, was made to get off his wheelchair at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi.

Javed Abidi, who is the chairperson of Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI), was asked to move as his wheelchair had to be X-rayed by the Central Industrial Security Force, which handles security at the airport, according to a report by The Times of India.

File photo of Javed Abidi. Image Credit: Twitter @javed_abidiFile photo of Javed Abidi. Image Credit: Twitter @javed_abidi

File photo of Javed Abidi. Image Credit: Twitter @javed_abidi

The incident happened on Wednesday when Abidi was on his way to board an Air India flight to Colombo for an official meeting. The CISF asked him for his wheelchair in order to screen it and when he protested, he was reportedly asked to comply or risk missing his flight, continues the report.

“This is the first time I am experiencing such a humiliation. The officials started to off-load my luggage and prepared to escort me out of the airport. I finally get off the chair as I was to at tend a crucial meeting. What if it was some paralysed person or someone who couldn’t get off,” Abidi was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

Ironically, Abidi was instrumental in framing rules for passengers with disability at airports in 2014. The rules were set to ensure that such people faced no discrimination.

Sure enough, the report titled ‘Non-discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel clearly instructs CISF staff: “Do not force wheel chair users to stand from their wheel chairs” and “Use ETD (Explosive Trace Detector) to screen passenger’s wheelchair/scooter”.

Meanwhile, CISF has maintained that it has its own set of rules to follow, and defended the decision to x-ray the wheelchair saying that the cushion was thick and had to be screened to ensure airport safety.

“His cushion was unusually thick. We requested him to move to one of the airline’s wheelchair so that his chair could be screened, but he refused,” an official told The Times of India.

They have also said that none of their personnel behaved rudely as alleged by Abidi.

Abidi made his stand clear on Twitter when he retweeted a tweet by Disability News and Information Service about the incident.

INS Kochi, warship to be commissioned on Thursday, is truly ‘armed to conquer the enemy’

Naval warship INS Kochi, the stealth-guided missile destroyer, will be commissioned on September 30 by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai. The warship is the second of three destroyers being built at the Mazgaon Docks in Mumbai, The Times of India reported.

INS Kochi. ReutersINS Kochi. Reuters

INS Kochi. Reuters

The commissioning of the warship is particularly important since, as reported by The Times of India, destroyers are considered to be second only to aircraft carriers in showcasing defensive power on the seas. According to a report in Mail Online India, while the defence ministry has cleared its procurement, its installation will take place after about a year.

Here are the key facts about INS Kochi, which has Jahi Shatrun Mahabaho (Armed to conquer the enemy) as its motto-
-The contract for three ships of Kolkata class was signed as a follow-on to the legendary Delhi-class Destroyers, which were commissioned into the Navy more than a decade ago, a defence spokesperson said. Designed by the Navy’s in-house organisation, Directorate of Naval Design, and constructed by Mazagon Dock Ship builders Ltd in Mumbai, the ship is christened after the port city of Kochi.

Image courtesy: Solaris imagesImage courtesy: Solaris images

Image courtesy: Solaris images

-Although conceived as a follow-on of the earlier Delhi class, this ship is vastly superior and has major advancements in weapons and sensors. The ship incorporates new design concepts for improved survivability, stealth, sea-keeping and manoeuvrability. According toa report in The Hindu, the weapons on the warship include the BrahMos surface-to-surface missile, a 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount and AK-630 Close-in Weapon System. The ship is also equipped to operate two Sea King or Chetak helicopters.

-With a displacement of 7,500 tonnes, the majestic ship spanning 164 metres in length and 17 metres at the beam, is propelled by four gas turbines and designed to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots. The ship has been assigned a crew of about 40 officers and 350 sailors.

Image courtesy: Solaris imagesImage courtesy: Solaris images

Image courtesy: Solaris images

-Enhanced stealth features have been achieved through the shaping of the hull and the use of radar-transparent deck fittings. A bow-mounted sonar dome, the second of its kind in an indigenous naval platform, has been introduced to enhance sonar acoustic performance, according to a spokesperson. The ship is one of the few warships of the world and the second in the Indian Navy to have Multi-Function Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar to provide target data to Long Range Surface to Air Missile system. According to the Mail Online India report, it relies on online applications to protect itself from cyber threats.

Image courtesy: Solaris imagesImage courtesy: Solaris images

Image courtesy: Solaris images

With inputs from PTI

With Nepal crisis nearing boiling point, NSA Doval skips first leg of PM Modi’s US visit

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will reportedly be flying out on Friday to join Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the US, after delaying his departure on account of the crisis in Nepal. He stayed on in New Delhi as India gets deeper entrenched in the political strife across the porous border.

FIle photo of Ajit Doval. AFP

FIle photo of Ajit Doval. AFP

The NSA was called in for consultations with India’s Ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae, after agitations in the Terai region of Nepal against the newly-promulgated Constitution.

Government officials told The Economic Times that the NSA, who is likely to travel to the US on Friday, has stayed back to handle what is emerging as the ‘biggest foreign policy challenge’ in recent times for the government.

Doval missed Modi’s bilateral meetings with such leaders as Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina — with whom the PM held his third meeting in recent months  — but is expected to arrive in the US in time for Modi’s meeting with President Barack Obama.

In June, Doval had stayed on in India when Modi made a state visit to Bangladesh, in order to plan the operation against militants on the India-Myanmar border.

The report in The Economic Times adds that the crisis in Nepal is showing no ‘signs of abating, even as India has been urging its neighbour to make the new Constitution inclusive to meet the demands Madhesis and others’.

And within this context, a lot depends on what Doval was able to accomplish in the past two days.

Yoga, 99 orders and problem-solving: Newbie IAS officials being put through the grind

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known to be a workaholic, and since his coming to power, government employees who have had to keep up with him haven’t been finding it easy.

Even the newest batch of IAS officers (2013 batch), who are still undergoing training, haven’t been spared. The Economic Times reports that they have been asked to come up with ideas to simplify at least two government processes before 30 November when they meet the PM after their three-month training session.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The report says that the training programme with the Centre has been keeping these new IAS officers on their toes. Apart from dealing with files and meeting officers, they also compulsorily have to do yoga at 6.30 am.

The Economic Times reports that the Department of Personnel and Training has issued as many as 99 orders over a month on how they should work, including a detailed 13-week work calendar.

These diktats don’t come as a surprise. Gone are the days when government employees could take it easy. Since Narendra Modi, they have been working hard, and as we pointed out earlier this year, they aren’t happy about it.

From accepting gifts to enjoying holidays, the privileges once taken for granted have been curbed.

On 21 June,  the International Day of Yoga, the government had made it compulsory for all officials to attend and perform yoga asanas at designated places despite it being a Sunday.

But that was not the first time they were made to give up a holiday. On 2 October, 2014, they were made to go out and sweep roads as the PM launched his pet project Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

After that was the re-branding of Christmas vacation with Good Governance Day , effectively ending another confirmed holiday. This was part of Modi’s plan to link 25 December with good governance in honour of BJP leader and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose birthday falls on the day.

Foreign trips for IAS officers too have been curbed under the governments cost cutting measures. On top of that they have to submit an “outcome report” when they return. Foreign junkets are also being discouraged by the Prime Minister.

‘Never before has it fallen to such low levels’: SC flays ‘mob mentality’ of Madras HC lawyers

Judges in the Madras High Court have a “fear psychosis” due to the constant threat that lawyers might enter court rooms shouting slogans, the Supreme Court observed on Monday, lamenting that never before has the situation fallen to “such low levels”.

The Supreme Court flayed the “mob mentality” of lawyers of the High Court, who created a ruckus on 16 September when suo motu contempt proceedings against two leaders of the Madurai Bar Association were being heard in-camera.

Reacting to the apex court’s strongly-worded remarks, Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda met Chief Justice of India HL Dattu on Monday and discussed the matter, The Hindu reported.

Image courtesy: AFPImage courtesy: AFP

Image courtesy: AFP

“Judges in Madras HC sit in courts with a fear psychosis. There is always a threat that at any time, lawyers shouting slogans will enter the courtroom,” the Supreme Court said.

“It was once a traditional court that we all looked up to. Never before has it fallen to such low levels. I have had a long conversation with the Madras HC Chief Justice day before yesterday,” Chief Justice Dattu said.

The CJI, who was heading the bench along with Justice Amitava Roy, also flayed the lawyers associations of Tamil Nadu and Bar Council of India, apex body of advocates in the country, for their inaction.”In Madras, there are three strong lawyers associations. What do they do when mobs enter courtrooms with wives and children and shout slogans?,” the CJI remarked.

“You people take your wives and children and demand that Tamil should be the language of the court. What will the Chief Justice do?” an anguished bench said when an advocate from Chennai sought the indulgence of the bench to hear him.

The CJI said that he has not seen such situations in courts since 1975.

The observations came after senior advocate KK Venugopal, appearing for the High Court registry, apprised the bench of the recent chaotic scenes when a group of around 100 advocates created ruckus after a division bench initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against two advocates of Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. According to a report in The Times of India, Venugopal told the court that lawyers were entering the chambers of judges and filing frivolous complaints against them. He was quoted as saying that it is “time we protect the judges.”

“Lawyers form different groups based on caste. They take processions in court halls and chambers with wives and children. They enter judges chambers,” Venugopal said and suggested that the apex court send three Supreme Court judges to the High Court to probe the matter. To this, the CJI said, “Let’s give the HC Chief Justice some time. Sending judges from here will create unnecessary problems.”

With inputs from PTI

Sheena Bora murder case: Bones found in 2012 don’t match remains exhumed recently?

Even as Indrani Mukerjea and Sanjeev Khanna will be produced in a court in Mumbai on Monday as their judicial custody ends, experts at the BYL Nair Hospital in a report to the Khar police station have said that the remains collected by the Pen police in 2012 and those submitted by JJ Hospital are probably not from the same body.

The Times of India reports that the BYL Nair Hospital has criticised JJ Hospital in their report for callous paperwork and called for DNA profiling of the bones stored at the JJ hospital to end the confusion.

Sheena Bora in a file photo. PTISheena Bora in a file photo. PTI

Sheena Bora in a file photo. PTI

The Times of India quoted a doctor from the Nair hospital as saying, “JJ Hosiptal gave the Khar police multiple teeth, bones from chest and vertebrae, and some charred skin. These were not the remains mentioned in the Pen report. The humerus was not there in the JJ samples. It seems that JJ doctors neither documented what was given to them in 2012 nor what they handed over to the Khar police in 2015. It is clear that we are dealing with two different sets of remains.”

However, earlier this month, PTI had reported that the digital superimposition of the profile of Sheena Bora has matched with the skull recovered from a forest in the neighbouring Raigad district.

The matching of digital superimposition with the skull is important in establishing that the human remains found in the forest in Pen tehsil of Raigad are of Sheena, the daughter of Indrani Mukerjea, Peter’s wife.

Indrani Mukerjea, her former husband Sanjeev Khanna and their driver Shyamvar Rai are right now in judicial custody over their alleged complicity in the murder of Bora.

So far, what is known from the statements of the accused and several others, it appears that Sheena was strangled by Indrani in a rented car in Mumbai after which her body was burnt and dumped in the forests in Raigad.

The police have extensively grilled Indrani’s husband Peter Mukerjea, though he is not an accused in the case. Others questioned in connection with the case included Peter’s son Rahul Mukerjea and Vidhie, daughter of Indrani and Sanjeev Khanna.

With PTI inputs

Tributes paid to Indian cricket boss

Tributes are paid to the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Jagmohan Dalmiya, who has died in the city of Kolkata.

Watch: In Delhi group of boys rescues foreigner after man attempts to molest her

In a video, which once again points out the glaring problem of lack of women’s safety in India, a foreigner was sexually assaulted by a man in New Delhi who attacked her as she was walking alone on a deserted road at around 10 pm on 19 August.

Screenshot from YouTube video.

Screenshot from YouTube video.

The entire incident was caught on CCTV camera. However, after the man assaulted the woman, a group of boys playing in a park nearby came to the rescue of the woman and caught the culprit and handed him over to the police.

The woman is from Uzbekistan and the boys who rescued her were playing football and call themselves the Malviya Nagar Maniacs, according to The Times of India.

“We were playing in the park when we heard a scream. We rushed towards the sound. We saw a foreigner, who was all teary, and then a man running towards Apeejay School. We sensed something was wrong,” TOI quoted Sarthak Sharma, one of the boys who rescued the woman, as saying.

You can watch the entire CCTV footage of the attempted molestation of the woman and the rescue by the boys, posted by LiveLeak on Thursday, here:

Maharashtra does it again: Now, only Marathi-speaking people can get autorickshaw permits in Mumbai

Amid raging controversy over banning sale of meat in Mumbai for four days during a Jain fasting season, the Maharashtra government’s new order could ruffle a few more feathers. The state government on Tuesday issued an order making Marathi mandatory for those seeking permit to ride an autorickshaw in Maharashtra.

State transport minister Diwakar Raote said that one lakh new auto permits for Mumbai Metropolitan Region have been announced but added that these permits would be given only to Marathi-speaking applicants. The Hindustan Times report quoted Raote as saying, “New permits will be issued by November and applicants must submit domicile certificate and should know Marathi language. Those who don’t know Marathi language will not get the permits.”

Raote added that the applicant should submit a domicile certificate as a proof that he or she has been a resident of the state for the past 15 years. The rule, that a permit-holder should know the local language has always been in place but never before was it imposed.  According to the report in HT, Raote, a senior Shiv Sena leader, is known for insisting on using Marathi for official purpose.

Autorickshaw1Autorickshaw1Last permits were issued in 1997. Now for the MMR region 1 lakh and for few other cities such as Solapur, Aurangabad, Nashik, Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad around 7,500 permits will be issued, The Times of India reported.

At the same time, the Maharashtra government has decided to regularise over 1.4 lakh autorickshaw’s across the state, who have not renewed permits or cancelled since last few years. The fees to renew permits will be Rs 20,000 for MMR region and Rs 15,000 for the rest of the state, the report further added.

The move by the state government is sure to kick the hornet’s nest as Maharashtra houses millions of migrant workers. By putting down these pre-requisites, the state government has almost ensured that migrants from other parts of India, who want to work in the state, also learn Marathi. According to IndiaTV, after the BJP came to power in Maharashtra last year, the Devendra Fadnavis government conducted a survey and found that around 70 percent of auto drivers in the state are non-Marathis.

A few members of the Opposition party called the move politically motivated as the civic body elections are round the corner. Sanjay Nirupam, Mumbai Congress chief said, “We condemn it and demand that such policy should be withdrawn as early as possible. We will not tolerate such divisive politics on language, caste and creed.”

In 2012, the Congress-NCP combine government in the state also mooted the idea of giving autorickshaw licences to only Marathi-speaking applicants.

Scroll down for more cows: Farmers sell cattle through Quikr, OLX

Think about online classifieds marketplace like OLX and Quikr, and their television advertisements immediately pop into your head. Advertisements urging you to sell your motorcycles, cars and furniture for reasonably higher prices and with reasonably less hassle.

These websites have grown considerably in the past few years, but there is one category on them — a rather unconventional one — that has seen a substantial growth without any promotion: Cattle.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Yes, people from around the country are buying and selling cows on OLX and Quikr.

Some classifieds sites now have even introduced separate categories for animals. Although, the largest number of ads placed in this category, are for pets — dogs, cats, parrots, a rural economy beginning to get access to and recognise the fruits of digitisation is adopting the heretofore exclusive urban domain and rapidly making it its own, reports the New Indian Express.

The primary reason for such growth in the number of advertisements is the elimination of brokers and cattle markets, where farmers find it difficult, as well as expensive, to sell their cattle, notes another article from the New Indian Express. Other reason is the low logistical costs (as the buyer usually pays for transportation, and one does not have to travel to the market).

All these add up to making online space ideal for buying and selling cattle.

But although OLX alone flaunts close to 3,500 ads for cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep, the operators of the traditional markets are skeptical of the growing trend and access to computers and internet remains an issue in the rural parts of the country.

“There can be no substitute for traditional cattle markets and it would be unfortunate if they are replaced. Unless you interact with an animal, you cannot see how healthy it is and how it behaves. Unless you experience all those things personally, it would not be prudent to buy cattle,” says Binnu Tyagi, who organises cattle fairs at his property in Meerut’s Parikshitgarh talking to The Times of India.

After being acquitted in 2006 blasts case, Abdul Shaikh writes book on ‘wrongful’ arrests, torture

The lone acquittal in the 2006 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case may well prove costly for the police. The man, Abdul Wahid Shaikh has written a book on alleged wrongful arrests, fabricated evidence and custodial torture by the police, according to a report in the The Times of India.

The 2006 blasts in Mumbai. Image courtesy: ReutersThe 2006 blasts in Mumbai. Image courtesy: Reuters

The 2006 blasts in Mumbai. Image courtesy: Reuters

Shaikh began writing the book after the arguments in the case got over, as reported by TOI. The book will mention the statements of Indian Mujahideen operatives, who are reported to have said that they had carried out the blasts and not the persons who have been convicted.

Soon after Shaikh’s acquittal, Mumbai Mirror had quoted him saying that the persons who have been convicted were “more innocent than I am.” He has also been quoted as saying that he was illegally detained more than five times before he was arrested.

In a judgment last week, twelve persons were held guilty by a special court for their involvement in the 2006 serial blasts in Mumbai, in which more than 180 persons were killed. The twelve persons have been convicted under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA).

Shaikh is not the first person to have written about his experiences with the criminal justice system after being acquitted. Last year, Arun Ferreira, who had been accused of Naxalite activities, wrote a memoir titled “Colours of the Cage”, in which he gave detailed accounts of torture in prison and police excesses. A report by the magazine Frontline on this book is available here.

While Ferreira has written extensively about his own experiences, he has also detailed stories of other prisoners who were arrested and put in custody in the Nagpur Central Jail.

Gurgaon rape case: Residents of Saudi diplomat’s apartment beat up police officers, alleges report

The Gurgaon police on Monday submitted a report on the alleged rape and torture of two Nepalese women by a Saudi diplomat to the Haryana DGP.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to Times Now, the police have claimed in the report that the residents of the apartment from where the two women were rescued abused and even beat up the police officers who had were present there.

The TV report also said that the report was a detailed description of how the crime against the two women took place and the sequence of events which took place during the night when the women were rescued. The Times Now reporter added that the details of the report “cannot be described on television”.

Gurgaon Police on Wednesday night had sent a “detailed” report to the External Affairs Ministry on the issue, according to PTI.

The report was e-mailed to the ministry, hours after a second medical medical examination of the two women, who were rescued from the diplomat’s apartment on Monday night, confirmed rape and sodomy, Rajesh Chechi, ACP (Crime) of Gurgaon Police, had said.

He had said that the “detailed report” contained “elaborate description” of the sequence of events, including the rescue of the two women and registration of an FIR in the case.

The two Nepali women had been rescued from an apartment flat on the fifth floor of Ambience Island Caitriona complex in Gurgaon. The victims were “rescued” after the intervention of the Nepalese embassy and with the help of an NGO Maiti India, police had said.

The Nepali women were lured on pretext of all comforts and high salary for a job in Saudi Arabia by a woman in Nepal six months ago, according to IANS.

“After keeping the duo for some time in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, both were brought to Gurgaon. The victims were raped and gang raped by the diplomat and his friends and guests,” Assistant Commissioner of Police Rajesh Kumar had told IANS.

On the other hand, the Saudi Embassy had issued a statement on Wednesday terming the allegations “false” and said it has protested the police “intrusion” into a diplomat’s house against “all diplomatic conventions”.

(With agency inputs)

Enter Ajit Doval: NSA takes up case of Saudi diplomat accused of rape

With the row over the allegations of rape against a diplomat from Saudi Arabia showing no signs of ending, the imbroglio is the latest assignment on National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s hands. The Times of India has reported that Doval has decided to take up the issue after the government felt the need to resolve the issue quickly in the interests of the bilateral relations between the two countries.

FIle photo. Image courtesy: AFPFIle photo. Image courtesy: AFP

FIle photo. Image courtesy: AFP

The TOI report also says that the case, which is currently being probed by the Gurgaon police, may be transferred to the Delhi police, making a resolution easier to arrive at.

The Saudi Arabian ambassador had protested the police’s ‘intrusion’ into the diplomat’s house, which it termed as being against diplomatic conventions.

Last week, the Gurgaon police filed an FIR alleging that two women from Nepal were lured to India with a false promise of jobs, and then sold to the diplomat, as reported by The Hindu.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the women were rescued in a raid which was conducted after the police received a letter from the Nepal embassy.

The Telegraph reported that Saudi Arabia has sent a complaint to the ministry of external affairs, while pointing out that the country is India’s largest source of oil. Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia later this year, a visit which assumes significance as the country is India’s fourth largest trading partner.

It also assumes cultural significance in religious terms for the Indian Muslim community, and also provides monetary support to cultural and educational institutions, as pointed out by Sanjay Singh in a Firstpost article.

Saudi Arabia has accused India of having violated the Vienna Convention on Public Relations, which states, “The receiving State shall treat consular officers with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on their person, freedom or dignity.”

‘Stop spreading falsehood!’ Radhe Maa clarifies that she won’t be part of Bigg Boss

Did you hope that Radhe Maa would be in the Bigg Boss House this season? Did you wonder what fun it would be to watch the godwoman interact with Salman Khan?

“Stop spreading falsehood!”

That’s the message ‘pure and pious’ Param Shradhey Shri Radhe Maa has for all of you.

Radhe Maa. Image Credit: Official Facebook page.Radhe Maa. Image Credit: Official Facebook page.

Radhe Maa. Image Credit: Official Facebook page.

After various news reports suggested that the godwoman, who has courted controversy with harassment complaints and viral videos, would make an appearance in the capital of controversial figures, aka Bigg Boss house, she has issued a stern clarification on Facebook.

Radhe Maa has uploaded a Public Notice drafted by her lawyer on her Facebook page, tagging various media organisations, with the caption “Stand up for the truth. Stop spreading falsehood.”

The notice says that the client Sukhvinder Kaur popularly known as Radhe Maa is ‘constrained’ to dispel any ‘misconceptions created in the mind of certain innocent and gullible members of the public’ and that she is not associated with Bigg Boss.

The notice also requests everyone to ignore reports which are circulated ‘at the instance of persons having unscrupulous intention and vested interest’ and who are against her ‘pursuing her various charitable, religious and social activities’.

Well, all we can say is that Bigg Boss sure has lost a major potential TRP-puller. Here’s hoping that maybe the reports about Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan, of Messenger of God (MSG) fame being there are not false. It would make for good entertainment, after all.

Stand up for the truth. Stop spreading falsehood The Times of India TIMES NOW Zee News Hindi BBC News BBC Hindi…

Posted by Param Shradhey Shri Radhe Maa on Monday, September 7, 2015

Hyderabad man to go on a selfie spree to click a place on Guinness World Records

NFL star Patrick Peterson has competition. No, his place at the Arizona Cardinals is not in danger, but his place on the Guinness World Records for most number of selfies taken in an hour might be.

Bhanu Prakash Racha, a 24-year-old from Hyderabad is a man on a mission to click 1800 selfies in the span of 60 minutes and claim the Guinness World Record for most number of selfies in an hour.

American football star Peterson made the record of 1,449 selfies earlier this year when he went on an hour-long selfie streak with his fans and high school students.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

According to a report in Times of India, Bhanu has been practicing for months and has even quit his job to concentrate on his selfie skills before attempting the record selfie spree on 18 September at a city mall.

“Almost the first thing I did when I got the phone in my hands is click a picture. The word ‘selfie’ wasn’t known much then. As soon as I wake up, I click a selfie,” the report quoted Bhanu as saying.

According to a report in the International Business Times, the idea of taking on the selfie record came to Bhanu when he came to know about wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson’s 105 selfies taken in three minutes.

He sent an application to Guinness, claiming he could topple Peterson’s record, which got accepted and prompted Bhanu to leave is job to get enough time to practice, an India TV report says.

Here’s hoping that Bhanu’s fingers are fast enough, and his phone camera is even faster. If you want to know what it takes to be a Guinness World Record holder for most selfies, watch Peterson attempting the record below.

Outrage over linking rape to condom ad

An Indian politician’s comment that a condom advertisement starring a porn star will lead to a rise in rapes causes outrage on social media.

Viewpoint: How a ‘breaking’ murder has exposed Indian media

India’s media are riveted by a murder mystery, but the hysterical coverage, full of speculation and innuendoes, is disturbing, writes politician and author Shashi Tharoor.

The Sheena Bora murder mystery: Everything that has happened so far

It has been three days since Indrani Mukerjea was arrested by the Mumbai Police on 25 August and since then the murder case of Sheena Bora has gotten murkier with each unravelling fact.

While television channels on the night of her arrest had flashed that Indrani was arrested for allegedly murdering her sister, by next morning things began to get more complicated when it was reported that Sheena was actually Indrani’s daughter and not her sister.

Indrani Mukerjea. Image courtesy: Mukerjea's Facebook pageIndrani Mukerjea. Image courtesy: Mukerjea's Facebook page

Indrani Mukerjea. Image courtesy: Mukerjea’s Facebook page

News has been rife with theories behind the murder even as Mumbai Police chose to remain strictly tight-lipped although its chief Rakesh Maria said that they had a clear idea about the motive.

Friends, relatives and acquaintances of the Mukerjea-Bora family have been hounded by reporters and each of them have given their own version of what they thought about the murder.

And on day four, we know that Sheena’s remains have presumably been exhumed, her brother Mikhail has been brought to Mumbai for questioning and Indrani is being questioned at a secret location.

Here is a look at how the case, that is still top news across television channels and newspapers, has unfolded in the past few days.

DAY 4, FRIDAY, 28 AUGUST

Sheena’s remains exhumed

The remains of Sheena Bora are being exhumed to find more clues that can help solve the murder case, if reports are to be believed.

According to The Times of India, “In an important breakthrough, the Mumbai Police on Friday morning dug the place where Sheena Bora’s body was dumped and recovered some bones, a skull and a suitcase. The police are at the spot and digging for more remains is still on in Pen in Maharashtra’s Raigad district.”

NDTV reported that JJ Hospital too gave the police 2012 reports on tests run on the last reamains of Sheena.

Rakesh Maria, meanwhile told the media that, “Sheena Bora’s skeletal remains were recovered today and will be sent for DNA test tomorrow.”

He also said that her passport had been recovered from Dehradun.

Sanjeev Khanna remanded in police custody

Sanjeev Khanna, the former husband of Indrani Mukherjea, was on Friday remanded in Mumbai Police custody till 31 August by the court of Bandra Metropolitan Magistrate.

Maria after interrogation said, “Khanna has admitted to his role in the murder.”

Khanna, dressed in an off-white shirt and khaki trousers, was produced in the court amid tight security with his face covered with a white cloth. The order was passed by the court on an application by the police seeking his custody. The police alleged in the court that Khanna had played an active role in the conspiracy and murder of Sheena, and he had to be taken to the spot where her body was disposed off.

PTI reported, Khanna was arrested under IPC sections 364 (kidnapping), 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) and 120-B (conspiracy).

Mikhail Bora brought to Mumbai

Sheena Bora’s brother Mikhail, who arrived in Mumbai from Guwahati, on Friday said he will cooperate with police in the probe of his sister’s murder as more details of the murky case and cover-up bid are expected to emerge later in the day.

“I will extend full cooperation to Mumbai Police. I will get justice for her,” Mikhail, who arrived in Mumbai this afternoon, told a TV channel on board the flight. He said the Sheena murder case was not the only reason he was going to Mumbai.

“I have some other personal work in Mumbai as well,” said Mikhail who is likely to be quizzed by police in connection with the murder case. (Read more here)

Cops reveal details on how Indrani was questioned

Indrani Mukerjea was interrogated by Mumbai Police commissioner Rakesh Maria for over nine hours on Thursday. But the cops at the Khar police station were pretty flummoxed at the disposition of the ‘cold and calculated’ Indrani. “Indrani has proved to be a tough nut to crack even for a team of experienced interrogators as she has been skillfully answering the questions. She has been curt with her replies and this forced investigators to confront her with questions that emerged from the statement of Peter Mukerjea’s younger son, Rahul,” a police officer told The Hindustan Times.

According to The Hindustan Times, since the start of the probe, Indrani has maintained a cool composure reiterating that Sheena was her sister who had moved to the US. It was only after she saw her driver that Indrani relented and confessed that Sheena was her daughter from an earlier marriage.

Sources added that Indrani turned out to be quite a struggle even for seasoned interrogators. That’s when Maria personally arrived to take over the interrogation. Though the investigators are yet to reach definite conclusions on the motive of the murder, all angles including Indrani’s dislike of Sheena’s alleged relationship with Rahul and the financial aspect, are being probed.

“While being interrogated about her past relationships, Indrani broke down and spilled the beans. She told the police about her relationships with Siddharth Das and Sanjeev Khanna before marrying Peter Mukerjea. When questioned further, she told us about how her father forced himself on her during her childhood… she later said she gave birth to Sheena when she was 17. It was the result of her physical relationship with her father,” a police source told Ashwin Aghor of Catchnews. (Read more).

DAY 3, THURSDAY, 27 AUGUST

Have fair idea behind motive of murder, says Rakesh Maria

In a late night press conference Mumbai Police commissioner Rakesh Maria told the press that Indrani Mukerjea had gotten a third person to forge the signature of Sheena Bora in her resignation letter to the company she worked in and to her landlord.

Maria told the media, “With regard to Sheena Bora’s resignation letter, letter to landlord, we have traced the person who gave the signature of Sheena.”

Confirming all the theories about how Sheena was murdered Maria said, “Sheena Bora was killed by strangulation in a car. Then, the body was set on fire in a bag.”

However he refused to divulge much detail about the motive behind the murder. “We have a fair idea on the motive but we will only be able to comment after questioning the third accused. Investigation is going at a brisk pace.”

Sheena had told me she was Indrani’s daughter, says Peter Mukerjea

While Peter Mukerjea had earlier told television channels and the police that he was completely unaware that Sheena was Indrani’s daughter, he has now told Times Now that Sheena had told him that she was actually Indrani’s daughter and not sister.

He told Times Now, “Indrani said it was utter rubbish… Why would I not believe my wife?”

Mukerjea also told the news channel that “Indrani flatly refused that Sheena was her sister. Rahul had also told me the exact same thing, but I chose to believe my wife.” Mukerjea told Times Now that Indrani disapproved of Rahul’s relationship with Sheena and wanted them to break up. “Indrani felt that Sheena could get herself a better guy.”

Sheena’s grandfather speaks out

Upendra Kumar Bora, father of Indrani Mukherjea, too disputed his daughter’s claim that murdered Sheena Bora was his daughter.

“She is not my daughter. I am her grandfather,” 80-year-old Bora, whose name was said to have been given by Indrani as father in the birth certificate of Sheena (who was born in February, 1989) told PTI.

He named Sheena’s father as one Siddarth Das.

Asked if there was another person in Shillong who is believed to be the biological father of the murdered girl, Upen Bora told PTI “that needs to be explored”.

What Mikhail told the police

In Guwahati, Mumbai policemen questioned Mikhail Bora at his grandparents (Indrani’s parents) home in Ganeshpuri area.

While the investigators were tight-lipped, Mikhail said he could be the “next target” after his sister (Sheena) if he visited Mumbai for the murder probe.

“I do not know. I may be the next target of my mother. She is very powerful. She can do anything she wants,” he told the media.

“I can go to Mumbai only if the Assam government ensures that two nurses take care of my (ailing) grandparents. They are both in their 80s and suffer from dementia,” he said.

Mikhail reiterated that he had repeatedly asked Indrani about Sheena’s whereabouts but the former maintained she was in the US.

Sheena Bora and Indrani Mukerjea in file photos.Sheena Bora and Indrani Mukerjea in file photos.

Sheena Bora and Indrani Mukerjea in file photos.

The driver’s statement to the police

The driver Shyam Rai, whose statement led the police to Indrani allegedly in his statement said that the murder was pre-planned and that Sheena was strangled to death by Indrani and her first husband Sanjeev Khanna.

According to CNN-IBN, which has access to the statement by the driver, “Indrani went for a reccee on April 23, 2012 along with him in Gagode village near Khopli Pen road in Mumbai where she planned to dump Sheena’s body after killing her. Following this, she gave a call to her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna.”

The report suggests that the next day she booked a room in Worli’s Hill Top hotel as Sanjeev arrived in Mumbai from Kolkata.

CNN-IBN reports that the driver told the police that on 24 April Indrani and Sanjeev picked up Sheena from National College near Linking Road and then strangled her to death and put her body in a bag.

“Later, the bag was allegedly set on fire at around 4 am on April 25. Sanjeev returned to Kolkata after disposing off Sheena’s body,” reports CNN-IBN.

Sanjeev Khanna questioned

The Mumbai Police on Thursday got a five-day transit remand for Sanjeev Khanna and he is going to be brought to Mumbai by Friday. According to television reports, Khanna has admitted that he was present in the car on the day of Sheena’s murder.

CNN-IBN reports, “Sanjeev Khanna reportedly told the police that he was inside the car in which Sheena was murdered, but did not confess to the killing. This was confirmed by public prosecutor Shorin Ghaushal.”

What the police asked Rahul Mukerjea

For a third time in less than 24 hours, Rahul was questioned about his long relationship with Sheena, his step-mother Indrani Mukherjea, why he didn’t pursue the “missing person” complaint filed after Sheena disappeared and other related aspects.

According to reports that Rahul told the police that after Sheena’s disappearance he did try to look for her and get in touch with her but he remained unsuccessful.

“I tried very hard to find out about her whereabouts but I had no luck,” Rahul told the police according to The Times of India. He also told the police that his parents told him she had gone to study abroad.

Later, Rahul was escorted to his two flats in Khar and Bandra where he and Sheena spent time together, a fact brought in the open by his step-father Peter Mukherjea, Indrani’s husband.

DAY 2, WEDNESDAY, 26 AUGUST

Sheena was Indrani’s daughter, not sister

While initial reports said that Sheena was Indrani’s sister, it turns out that she was her daughter. According to Times Now, Indrani confessed to the police that Sheena was her daughter. (Read more here)

According to The Telegraph, Indrani’s relatives too confirmed to the paper that Sheena was actually her daughter. The accused also has a son from a “relationship with a person who divided his time between Calcutta and Tripura”. Later, Indrani was married to a man who had businesses in Kolkata and Jamshedpur.

The Telegraph reports: “Sheena and her brother, who works in an airline now, were brought up by their maternal grandparents in Guwahati. The children eventually moved to Mumbai and Sheena did her graduation from St. Xavier’s College there. After Indrani married Peter, who made a name for himself at the helm of STAR India and during whose tenure the blockbuster Kaun Banega Crorepati was launched, Sheena moved in with the family. The family friend said Sheena, who was known as Indrani’s sister, became close to Peter’s son from an earlier marriage. It is not clear whether the alleged relationship played any role in Sheena’s death.”

Indrani’s son Mikhail speaks out

Meanwhile news channels also spoke to Mikhail Bora, Sheena’s brother who confirmed the fact that Indrani was their mother.

When asked whether Indrani and Sheena had any reason for conflict, he said,”Yes, many times.” However, he refused to specify what the arguments between the two were regarding. He told CNN-IBN that he didn’t believe that the murder had anything to do with property or money.

“I want her to reveal everything herself… After 31 September when I come to know that she has admitted everything. If she lies, I will give every evidence. I have all the evidence and photos. I will provide it to the media,” he said.

Speaking to Times Now, Bora said that his sister had been living with him and his grandparents in Guwahati for a long time and Indrani had been living in Mumbai. He said that Sheena had gone to Mumbai to study in St Xavier’s college after which she had been working in Mumbai.

“In 2012 she came here for a wedding of her friend. After that she has no contact,” he said. Mikhail said that he had always asked his mother where his elder sister was but had received vague answers. “She always replied she was abroad. She said she (Sheena) had got a job there,” he told the channel.

He said that he had stopped asking questions about Sheena since he was dependent on funds from Indrani to take care of his ailing grandparents and she had threatened to cut him off. (read more here)

What Indrani’s husband Peter Mukerjea said

Indrani’s husband Peter has now gone on to say that he was completely unaware of the whole ordeal and was in a ‘state of shock’.

Reacting to the revelations, Peter had said to CNN-IBN that he had no clue about this fact. He further said that Sheena and her son were introduced to him as Indrani as her siblings. He added that the revelations are shocking to him.

Peter claimed that Sheena had an affair with his younger son and that Indrani did not approve of their relationship. He said that he did not know about the conversations between Sheena and Indrani used to be in Assamese, and so he did not understand them.

“When she disappeared in 2012, I was told that she was studying in the US. I asked Indrani and she showed me pictures of Sheena at a Diwali function there,” Mukherjea said.

Admitting that he was completely stumped by the police action of nabbing Indrani Mukherjea, he said: “I am dumbstruck by this level of criminality…”

Theories behind the murder

Tehelka suggests that it may not have been Bora getting involved with her stepson which may have enraged Indrani enough to have Sheena killed.

It may have got to do with something bigger than that – and what’s bigger motive for murder than money? According to

Tehelka

, the Mukerjeas had siphoned a lot of money from INX media, a company they later stepped down from. To avoid suspicion, a lot of this money had been transferred to their relatives’ accounts. One of those accounts may have belonged to Sheena Bora, who later refused to return the money.

Tehelka reports: “Singapore based company Temasek invested in the the media company of the Mukherjea’s and after the global recession, Temasek got the media company audited. It was found out during this audit that Peter and Indrani had siphoned of huge sums of money from the company in the name of various family members, including Peter’s brother Gautam Mukherjea who brings out the magazine Planet Goa.”

How Sheena went missing

Sheena studied in St Xavier’s College in Mumbai, and according to her LinkedIn profile, was employed with Reliance ADAG when she disappeared in 2012. She was 24-years-old at the time.

A missing persons complaint had been filed in May 2012 at the Khar police station after Sheena, who lived in the suburb was untraceable.

According to an Indian Express report, around the same time the police had found partially burned remains of a woman’s body near a farm house in Lonavala.

DAY 1, TUESDAY, 25 AUGUST

Indrani Mukerjea detained

The wife of former Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea, Indrani was detained by police for her alleged role in Sheena’s murder. PTI reported that she was detained by suburban Khar police, DCP (Detection) Dhananjay Kulkarni said without elaborating.

Media blitz goes wrong: Peter Mukerjea caught in a web of contradictions

Mukerjea’s statements are coming under scrutiny as his version of events seems to be change from one day to the next.

As the story behind the murder of Sheena Bora and arrest of Indrani Mukerjea keeps evolving, statements are being put out not just by the police but also by Indrani’s current husband Peter Mukerjea.Indrani was accused of Sheena’s murder and arrested on Tuesday evening, August 25. Since her arrest, Peter Mukerjea has spoken to numerous media and giving his version of a story that only seems to be getting murkier by the day.Mukerjea’s statements are now coming under scrutiny by media because his version seems to be change from one day to the next and from one media to other.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Here are some differing statements that Peter Mukerjea has made so far-On SheenaAugust 26 – “I didn’t know Sheena was Indrani’s daughter”The day after Indrani’s arrest Peter Mukerjea told media that he had no knowledge that Sheena was Indrani’s daughter and not her sister. August 27 – “Sheena told me she was Indrani’s daughter”Mukerjea told Times Now that Sheena had told him she was Indrani’s daughter and so had his son Rahul. Peter said that when he confronted Indrani with this information, she denied it and told him not to believe it.On Indrani’s murder chargeAugust 26 – “I am dumbstruck by this level of criminality…”Peter Mukerjea told the media that he was shocked at the crime that had been committed. He said, “I am really in a state of complete shock. Not experienced anything like this. The kind of crime that has been committed is not something I would have expected in a million years. I am dumbstruck by this level of criminality…”Peter also spoke to the Daily O where he said, “I am dealing with it with a great deal of difficulty as it is all very shocking. And quite disgusting really… I really am very hurt that these last two years that this is the kind of story I have been living with. And it may not be true at all. I’m still holding out a little hope that this is all some big mistake.”August 27 – “I believe her 9.5 out of 10… I would say 10 out of 10 unless proven wrong”In an interview to Times Now, Mukerjea stated he was completely in shock and dismay at the charges filed against Indrani. He went on to state that he doesn’t know what to believe. He told the channel that he was finding it hard to “digest the information” in reference to the charges against his wife. “The issue at hand is Indrani my wife is currently facing a murder charge. In my relation with my wife, I believe her 9.5 out of 10 … I would say 10 out of 10 unless proven wrong. She is my wife after all.”Also read: Peter – Indrani Mukerjea saga: The who’s who of INX Media

Things just got murkier: Latest developments in the Sheena Bora murder case

It has been more than 24 hours since the arrest of media honcho Indrani Mukerjea. The plot of the murder of her daughter Sheena Bora has thickened considerably as the police questioned members of the Bora and Mukerjea families.

While the driver Shyam Rai, Rahul Mukerjea and Indrani were questioned in Mumbai’s Khar police station, Indrani’s son Mikhail was questioned in Assam’s Dispur police station.

Indrani Mukherjee. Image courtesy: FacebookIndrani Mukherjee. Image courtesy: Facebook

Indrani Mukherjee. Image courtesy: Facebook

Also in an interview to Times Now, Peter Mukerjea, Indrani’s husband, has now said that even Sheena had approached him saying she was Indrani’s daughter and not sister.

And even as inputs on the case continue to come in, here’s a round up of Thursday’s developments in this extremely convoluted case.

Have fair idea behind motive of murder, says Rakesh Maria

In a late night press conference Mumbai Police commissioner Rakesh Maria told the press that Indrani Mukerjea had gotten a third person to forge the signature of Sheena Bora in her resignation letter to the company she worked in and to her landlord.

Maria told the media, “With regard to Sheena Bora’s resignation letter, letter to landlord, we have traced the person who gave the signature of Sheena.”

Confirming all the theories about how Sheena was murdered Maria said, “Sheena Bora was killed by strangulation in a car. Then, the body was set on fire in a bag.”

However he refused to divulge much detail about the motive behind the murder. “We have a fair idea on the motive but we will only be able to comment after questioning the third accused. Investigation is going at a brisk pace.”

Sheena had told me she was Indrani’s daughter, says Peter Mukerjea

While Peter Mukerjea had earlier told television channels and the police that he was completely unaware that Sheena was Indrani’s daughter, he has now told Times Now that Sheena had told him that she was actually Indrani’s daughter and not sister.

He told Times Now, “Indrani said it was utter rubbish… Why would I not believe my wife?”

Mukerjea also told the news channel that “Indrani flatly refused that Sheena was her sister. Rahul had also told me the exact same thing, but I chose to believe my wife.” Mukerjea told Times Now that Indrani disapproved of Rahul’s relationship with Sheena and wanted them to break up. “Indrani felt that Sheena could get herself a better guy.”

Sheena’s grandfather speaks out

Upendra Kumar Bora, father of Indrani Mukherjea, too disputed his daughter’s claim that murdered Sheena Bora was his daughter.

“She is not my daughter. I am her grandfather,” 80-year-old Bora, whose name was said to have been given by Indrani as father in the birth certificate of Sheena (who was born in February, 1989) told PTI.

He named Sheena’s father as one Siddarth Das.

Asked if there was another person in Shillong who is believed to be the biological father of the murdered girl, Upen Bora told PTI “that needs to be explored”.

What Mikhail told the police

In Guwahati, Mumbai policemen questioned Mikhail Bora at his grandparents (Indrani’s parents) home in Ganeshpuri area.

While the investigators were tight-lipped, Mikhail said he could be the “next target” after his sister (Sheena) if he visited Mumbai for the murder probe.

“I do not know. I may be the next target of my mother. She is very powerful. She can do anything she wants,” he told the media.

“I can go to Mumbai only if the Assam government ensures that two nurses take care of my (ailing) grandparents. They are both in their 80s and suffer from dementia,” he said.

Mikhail reiterated that he had repeatedly asked Indrani about Sheena’s whereabouts but the former maintained she was in the US.

The driver’s statement to the police

The driver Shyam Rai, whose statement led the police to Indrani allegedly in his statement said that the murder was pre-planned and that Sheena was strangled to death by Indrani and her first husband Sanjeev Khanna.

According to CNN-IBN, which has access to the statement by the driver, “Indrani went for a reccee on April 23, 2012 along with him in Gagode village near Khopli Pen road in Mumbai where she planned to dump Sheena’s body after killing her. Following this, she gave a call to her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna.”

The report suggests that the next day she booked a room in Worli’s Hill Top hotel as Sanjeev arrived in Mumbai from Kolkata.

CNN-IBN reports that the driver told the police that on 24 April Indrani and Sanjeev picked up Sheena from National College near Linking Road and then strangled her to death and put her body in a bag.

“Later, the bag was allegedly set on fire at around 4 am on April 25. Sanjeev returned to Kolkata after disposing off Sheena’s body,” reports CNN-IBN.

Sanjeev Khanna questioned

The Mumbai Police on Thursday got a five-day transit remand for Sanjeev Khanna and he is going to be brought to Mumbai by Friday. According to television reports, Khanna has admitted that he was present in the car on the day of Sheena’s murder.

CNN-IBN reports, “Sanjeev Khanna reportedly told the police that he was inside the car in which Sheena was murdered, but did not confess to the killing. This was confirmed by public prosecutor Shorin Ghaushal.”

What the police asked Rahul Mukerjea

For a third time in less than 24 hours, Rahul was questioned about his long relationship with Sheena, his step-mother Indrani Mukherjea, why he didn’t pursue the “missing person” complaint filed after Sheena disappeared and other related aspects.

According to reports that Rahul told the police that after Sheena’s disappearance he did try to look for her and get in touch with her but he remained unsuccessful.

“I tried very hard to find out about her whereabouts but I had no luck,” Rahul told the police according to The Times of India. He also told the police that his parents told him she had gone to study abroad.

Later, Rahul was escorted to his two flats in Khar and Bandra where he and Sheena spent time together, a fact brought in the open by his step-father Peter Mukherjea, Indrani’s husband.

Unemployment in Chhattisgarh: Post-grads and engineers among 75,000 applicants for 30 peon jobs

That government jobs are highly sought after in India is common knowledge. After all, they offer several benefits along with job security, and so candidates are known to go to great lengths to secure one — from lining up for hours to taking extensive exams. Not even the disparity between the the number of vacancies and applications deters them.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

However, the flood of applicants for for the post of a peon in the Directorate of Economics and Statistics in Chhattisgarh showed just how highly disproportionate the jobs to applicants ratio is in many parts of India.

An unprecedented 75,000 people applied for the position that only has 30 seats available, according to a report by Hindustan Times. The sheer magnitude of the aspirants was so high, that the examination, which was to be held on 30 August, was cancelled as the department was unable to handle the numbers.

Amitabh Panda, commissioner of the department, told Hindustan Times“We were left astounded. For the vacancy of 30 posts of peon required across the state, as many as 70,000 applications were received online and over 5,000 through the post.”

However, what’s striking about this rush of applicants is the qualification — the job was that of a peon, which doesn’t necessarily require a college education, but several graduates, post-graduates and engineers have also applied for the job, reports Hindustan Times.

Indeed, this incident highlights the issue of unemployment and underemployment in India, where post-graduates and engineers are wiling to to work as peons.

Post-ban, Maggi plant workers now work as rickshaw pullers, tea vendors in Uttarakhand

The Maggi ban has affected not just families who are pondering over options for a quick evening snack. It has left unhappy a large number of workers who have lost their jobs after a production unit stopped functioning in Rudrapur in Uttarakhand.

Representational image. Image courtesy: AFPRepresentational image. Image courtesy: AFP

Representational image. Image courtesy: AFP

The Times of India had reported on Sunday that about 1,100 contractual workers at the Nestle plant in Rudrapur have been forced to take up jobs as rickshaw pullers, tea vendors and construction labourers after production was halted owing to the three-month ban on the product in Uttarakhand. TOI also said in its report that if production does not restart in the near future, many of them will be forced to return to their villages.

Further, even companies which work as suppliers to manufacturing the instant noodles have been hit. According to a report in The Hindu Business Line,  Paras Spices Pvt Ltd, a company which supplies spices to Nestle, asked about 200 temporary workers not to report to work in June, or to report twice or thrice in a week.

In the same month, a contract worker at the Rudrapur production had committed suicide less than two weeks after the Uttarakhand High Court imposed a ban on production and sale of the popular snack, as reported by Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, the Maggi fiasco has become a case study at the India Research Centre of Harvard Business School, according to a report in the Economic Times. Contrary to other business models which have been the object of admiration at Harvard, this episode is being reviewed to look at the missteps which led to product’s removal from Indian markets. The Ivy-league institution seems to be in a hurry to put together the case study. The study may be ready in a month, as against a period of nine months that is normally taken for completing such case studies.

End of an era: Parsi Dairy Farm may shut down after owners sells agricultural plot

The Parsi Dairy Farm on Princess Street, Marine Lines is hard to miss. The bright blue building with its aroma of milk, ghee and a variety of sweets is considered to be one of Mumbai’s most iconic food establishments, coming from the erstwhile Irani café era of the city.

However, the 99-year old dairy seems to be nearing its end. The family is planning to to sell its 300-acre land at Talasari, an agricultural land in Warvada village on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border, according to a a report by The Times of India. The Nariman family, which founded the dairy, bought the land back in 1968 for livestock and to support its dairy activities. The reports also suggests that the family may look to shut shop or sell the brand in the near future.

The Parsi Dairy Farm building. Image Credit: Twitter @rommelferns77The Parsi Dairy Farm building. Image Credit: Twitter @rommelferns77

The Parsi Dairy Farm building. Image Credit: Twitter @rommelferns77

While it is unclear whether the family will actually sell the store as well, if it does happen, it will be the end of yet another iconic Parsi establishment in Mumbai. The Parsi Dairy Farm was founded in 1916 by Parsi entrepreneur Nariman Ardheshir, and has since been run by the Nariman family. It was included in CNN Travel‘s 10 vintage Bombay brands in 2010 and is one of the most frequented sweet shops in South Mumbai.

However, this may not be the end of the establishment, as it has faced other problems in the past but managed to sail on. In 2006, the store was shut for months due to a labour strike. The shop remained closed from November 2006 to June 2007 after workers went on strike protesting non-payment of dues, according to this Mumbai Mirror report. In 2008, the workers planned another strike over wage issues, continues the report. The overall production of the farm has also gone down, over the past decade-and-a-half, with the business plummeting from supplying 15,000 litres of milk a day to barely 2,000 litres today, says The Times of India.

The establishment was then revamped a few years later thanks to brothers Bakhtyar, 31, and Sarfaraz K Irani, 28, who joined the family business in 27. A Mumbai Mirror interview quotes them as saying that they focused on marketing, advertising, packaging and new product creation.

Parsi Dairy Farm is not the only iconic eatery from the bygone era struggling to stay afloat. The once popular joints are being fazed out, especially in South Mumbai, as the city moves from ‘brun maska‘ to burgers. The Bastani and Co bakery, very close to Parsi Dairy at Dhobi Talao, shut a few years ago. Merwans, a traditional Iranian café at Grant Road was on the verge of shutting down in 2014, however it managed to continue running, along with a handful of other iconic Iranian establishments in the vicinity.

While the future of the dairy as it approaches its centenary year remains to be seen, hopefully we can enjoy a few more years of the malai kulfi and sutarfeni there.

Intelligence agencies have fresh evidence of Dawood’s presence in Pakistan: Report

Documentary evidences available with the Indian Intelligence agencies claims that Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim is in Pakistan and also have in possession a recent picture of him, reported Hindustan Times.

Documentary evidences available with the Indian Intelligence agencies claims that Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim is in Pakistan and also have in possession a recent picture of him, reported Hindustan Times.According to report, Dawood, wife Mehjabeen Shaikh, son Moeen Nawaz and daughters Mahrukh, Mehreen and Mazia are in Clifton, a suburb located in Karachi. His son Moeen is married to Sania while daughter Mahrukh is married to Junaid, son of former Pakistan cricket captain Javed Miandad.The report also says that the agencies have in possession of an April 2015 telephone bill in the name of Dawood’s wife Mehjabeen with D-13, Block-4, Karachi Development Authority, Sch-5, Clifton, as the installation address.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Also: Dawood Ibrahim wanted to return to India; UPA discussed ‘offer’ two years ago: ReportDawood has three Pakistani passports with two more residential addresses – 6A, Khayaban Tanzeem, Phase 5, Defence Housing Area and Moin Palace, II floor, Near Abdullah Shah Ghazi Dargah, Clifton.National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is likely to confront Pakistan over Dawood.Indian security agencies also have images of Dawood’s Pakistani passports, passport numbers and travel details. The report also says that Dawood’s close associates are also based in Pakistan and are frequent visitors to Dubai.Also read: Top 5 locations of Dawood IbrahimIf NSAs of India and Pakistan meet on August 23 in New Delhi, as per the schedule, Indian side could also bring up terror cases related to wanted gangster and mastermind of 1993 Mumbai blasts Dawood Ibrahim during the meeting, which was agreed to at the meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa in Russia last month.Dawood is the prime accused in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai. The blasts, which Dawood is said to have engineered in cahoots with the ISI and associates like Tiger Memon, saw locations like the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), Air India building at Nariman Point, and the fishermens’ colony at Mahim being targeted. The attacks led to 257 people being killed and over 700 injured.The United Nations Security Council has also issued a special notice No.U-65/4-2006 against him.Earlier in May, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, had ruled out New Delhi’s assertion that 1993 Mumbai blasts mastermind Dawood Ibrahim is in the safe haven of Islamabad.

One mosque, one church, two schools: Indian Army plans new counter-terrorism training village in Gaya

After years of training in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, army cadets are set to receive a new training facility.

The Indian Army floated a unique tender on Tuesday inviting bids for the construction of a ‘counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism village’ for its cadets in Gaya. Training facilities generally tend to emphasise simulating the sort of geographic conditions a soldier would encounter in a real conflict.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

This proposed village will also attempt to accurately replicate ‘real’ conditions — albeit of the demographic variety.

The Economic Times reports that the Indian Army is planning to build a “model village complete with a mosque and a church to train troops in counterterrorism operations” which “will replace operations in the Northeast and J&K”.

Sure enough, in its schedule of requirements, the tender lists one model of a church and one model of a mosque, along with mannequins of villagers in “relevant clothing”.

This includes 10 mannequins clad in burkhas, 10 in Pathani suits, five in police uniforms and two is “church father dress(es)”.

In addition, the village will contain huts, animal sheds, ponds, two schools, and IED models to reproduce the sort of situation soldiers would encounter in a conflict.

The Officers Training Academy in Gaya that will host this village was established in 2011.

Start Up India: When a 16-year-old Indian beat Google’s Sundar Pichai at his own game

earch engine giants Google might have an Indian as a head but a kid of Indian origin has actually designed a search engine which is 47% times more accurate than Google!

File Photo

Search engine giants Google might have an Indian as a head but a kid of Indian origin has actually designed a search engine which is 47% times more accurate than Google! 16-year-old Anmol Tukrey designed the search engine as part of a project to submit to the Google Science Fair and all he needed for it was a python-language development environment, a spreadsheet program and access to Google.While the testing of the software was limited to news article appearing on The New York Times and provided more accurate results. Turkel claims his search engine is better because not only does it take into account location or browsing history but also tries to understand context and meaning. Tukrel is a student of Holy Trinity School in Toronto, and learned to code in Class 3. He said: “My computer teacher was pretty impressed with the project. I skipped a year in computer science, so they knew I was good, but may be not so good.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Turkel also runs a company called Tacocat Computers and wants to study computer science at Stanford University. If Turkel’s search engine works over large chunks of date, it might be quite a game-changer.

Security increased after email threatens to blow up Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has recently received an e-mail which threatened to blow up the Supreme Court building, sources were quoted as saying by The Hindustan Times on Tuesday. The email has been forwarded to the Delhi Police.

According to this report in the NDTV, security measures have been increased in and around the court since the letter surfaced last weekend. “The letter, which was found by security guards in the backyard of the judge’s home in Delhi, said in Hindi: ‘irrespective of the protection you may avail, we will eliminate you.’

Supreme Court. ReutersSupreme Court. Reuters

Supreme Court. Reuters

As per the report, the Union Home Ministry and intelligence agencies were also informed about the threatening email.

“We have received an email in which anti-national elements have threatened a bomb attack at the Supreme Court. We have forwarded the matter to our elite special cell for further probe. It could be a prank but we are not taking any chances,” a senior officer, who also confirmed the receipt of the email, was quoted as saying by the HT report.

Earlier this month, Supreme Court judge Justice Dipak Misra, who handed down the death penalty to 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon, received an anonymous threat letter at his residence in Tughlaq Road area.

The letter threatened Misra would be killed even if he was provided security cover.

Justice Misra has been provided a bullet proof vehicle while commandos from central paramilitary force have been deployed at his residence.

Discrepancies or dishonesty? How black money estimates are frequently miscalculated

The Hindu reports that the cash found from an engineer’s home near Kolkata was Rs 20.75 cr. The Times of India puts it at over Rs 24 cr. Both mention gold separately. This variation or discrepancy can be a metaphor for the lack of estimation, forget knowledge, of the black money in India. And that has to be a big worry. It does not make sense to cling only to the black money law recently enacted to find the wealth stashed away overseas.

Way back in the Janata government days, Madhu Dandavate had told me that the estimate of black money held in India was “around Rs 40 lakh cr” and admitted that it was a rough back of the envelop figure. “We have no way of knowing how much is generated”, but “we know a lot of it is generated every day” in possibly every government office, including those who are supposed to check such wealth. He was in agreement that his could be a “gross underestimate”.

By anecdotal references, we know that the black money is so huge it could not only be parallel, but possibly even be equal to the white economy. An economist friend often says that the country’s growth is often underestimated because the role of black money in keeping it buzzing is ignored. Have you seen a shopkeeper give you an official receipt for the stuff you bought, say stationery? You have to settle for an ‘estimate’.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Here is a thought: illegalities, morality apart, there is a factor we do not take into account. If the business of bribery ended, a lot more of revenue would accrue to the exchequers — of the civic bodies, the state, and the Centre — and the newer taxes that are raised to meet the demand for expenses may be avoided. This presumes that the use of public money, such as gathered, is efficient.

However, I am no economist.

The authorities were figuring out if he held other immovable properties where some more of the ill-begotten — it cannot be honest cash from a man who had so much of it, even under the tiles, and in an unused commode — may be stashed. How many properties he may have acquired? Stashing cash in the manner he has indicates there is a limit to the size given a place.

Identified by the media as Pronab Adhikary, the engineer “the last word” in a small but 135-year-old Bally Municipality which had just 35 wards, and is to be merged with the Howrah’ civic corporation. Bally could be comparable to Panvel in Mumbai metropolitan region for size. Such outlier bodies grow and the construction industry find them to be the best place to colonise for the booming urbanisation means demand for housing.

This official enjoyed lot of discretion, and caught when accepting a bribe of Rs one lakh. The builder was the complainant with the ACB. Generally, the builder-developer nexus in civic administrations strong enough for anyone to be able to, or even attempted to, crush it, in India. In Mumbai, on every visit to the chief minister’s residence during the 1990s and early 2000s, I would see a builder waiting in the reception, and quickly ushered in by the staff.

If one engineer can amass so much, imagine how much all such engineers in all civic bodies across the country can, and perhaps would have? When he was the Maharashtra urban development minister, Arun Gujarathi, a simple honest person — so rare in politics — had spoken of a rough and ready survey had done. In all municipal bodies, including smaller towns, about half of the members were either builders, contractors, or their proxies. If not, sooner or later, many of them drifted there.

Which meant rules to be made as per the lobbies’ convenience and benefit, and if those rules are broken, being presiding deities of the towns, they managed to hush them up. Who can ask questions of elected representatives? If you could have, perhaps the level of honesty — or dishonesty? — may not be where it is now. But that is the ‘if’ part of a nation’s life.

The corrupt are very strong, therefore influential. When he was transferred from the Transport department, Mahesh Zagade had estimated that the level of corruption in it was somewhere in the region of Rs 900 cr per annum and to me, it is not surprising that he was shifted out within months. He had worn jeans and T-shirt, sported a cap, and drifted in and out of RTOs with an eagle’s eye to realise that if there was one department to be cleaned-up, it was that.

Have you seen trucks carrying sand in your city or town for building purposes? Check and you would see two possibilities. It was repeat transport of sand on the same permit used earlier, or just even without it. Despite bans, riversides have trucks lined up to ferry the mineral. In 2013, in one single instance, a single person was fined Rs 263 cr in Bhind in Rajasthan. It was possible because some officials are clean and watch the conduct of those below them.

But not always successfully, for there are pressures.

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