All Posts By


Human Rights

Kathua rape-murder case under scanner as Jammu court orders FIR against SIT members

JAMMU: A Jammu court’s order to register an FIR against the six members of the Special Investigation team (SIT) in the Kathua rape-and-murder case has raised question marks over the authencity of the probe done by them so far in the sensitive case. The order to file an FIR against the SIT team comes on a petition filed by three youngsters who claim they were torutured to depose against Vishal Jangotra, the boy who was later acquitted in the henious crime.

It may be recalled that the Kathua rape-and-murder case of an eight-year-old Gujjar Bakarwal girl had made national headlines, causing a massive uproar in the country. The public outcry over the case had led to an in-camera trial in Punjab’s Pathankot, outside J&K.

In its order dated October 22, the Court of the Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Prem Sagar, allowed that an FIR be registered against six police officers who have been identified as RK Jalla (Former SSP Crime Branch, Jammu), Peerzada Naveed (Additional Superintendent of Police Crime Branch, Jammu), Shwetambari Sharma (Deputy SP Crime Branch, Jammu), Nassir Hussain (Deputy SP Crime Branch Jammu) Urfan Wani (sub-inspector crime branch Jammu) and Kewal Kishore (crime branch).

The court order said, “the applicants were coerced/tortured/forced by applicants (SIT) to give false evidence against accused Vishal Jangotra” seeking the registration of FIR. In the two-page order, the court directed SSP Jammu to file an FIR and report compliance by the next date of hearing on November 7.

The court order mentions that the applicants in the case had filed a complaint before the SHO of Pacca Danga Police Station in Jammu on September 24 2019 seeking registration of an FIR under section 194 of the IPC (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence) and other relevant provisions of the law against the members of the SIT.

The applicants argued that the grounds of registration of FIR were how Sachin Sharma and Neeraj Sharma from Kathua district and Sahil Sharma from adjacent Samba district were “forced/tortured/coerced by all the members of the SIT to depose and create false evidence against accused Vishal Jangotra”.

Vishal Jangotra, the son of chief conspirator Sanji Ram serving a 25-year jail term in the case, was acquitted. Sanji Ram was convicted and sentenced along with five other conspirators on June 10, 2019, by a special court in Punjab’s Pathankot. 

Out of the six convicted, Ram and two others were awarded life term while three were sentenced to a jail term of five years. 


Anthrax outbreak in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary

Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary authority could not open the sanctuary on Tuesday for jeep safari and elephant safari due to anthrax outbreak which resulted in the death of two wild buffaloes in the sanctuary on October 16.

Few other buffaloes have also been affected by anthrax and this has posed a serious threat to the one-horned rhino and the local people as well. Humans can become infected with anthrax disease through contact with an infected animal.

Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis. Although it is rare, people can get sick with anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products, as stated in a report by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). 

Based on reports, the deaths occurred last week and the carcasses have been disposed of as per the guidelines. 

Following the outbreak, forest department officials have been taking precautionary measures to control the spread of the disease. 

A team of veterinary doctors have also been allocated for the mass inoculation of livestock in the region and the Forest Department has issued an advisory for preventive measures to ensure that the disease does not spread any further. 

Further, the veterinary department has vaccinated domestic elephants and the entry of domestic animals in the reserve has been restricted for the time being. 

Thus, the reopening of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary has been postponed till further notice. 


Army attacks terror launch pads in PoK with artillery guns, Pakistan army accuses India of targeting civilians to ‘justify false claims

  • Targeting innocent civilians by Indian Army is an attempt to justify their false claims of targeting alleged camps. Injured civilians evacuated to District hospitals, the Pakistan Army official Twitter handle said
  • It further added that the Indian Army shall always get ‘befitting response’ to ceasefire violations. ‘Pakistan Army shall protect innocent civilians along LOC & inflict unbearable cost to Indian Army’
  • Heavy cross-border shelling was reported early on Sunday near Jammu and Kashmir’s Tanghar and Nowgam sectors. At least, two Indian soldiers and a civilian were killed

Soon after the Indian Army said that they have retaliated fiercely to Pakistan’s ceasefire violation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Tangdhar sector in Kupwara, the Pakistan Armed Forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted a jibe at the army and said, “Indian Army struggling to pick dead bodies and evacuate injured soldiers. Indian Army raising white flag. This they should think before initiating unprovoked CFVs and respect military norms by avoiding to target innocent civilians.”

The official Twitter handle of Pakistan Army’s spokesperson also alleged that it was Indian Army who violated the ceasefire and in the process “targetted civilians.” “9 Indian soldiers killed several injured. 2 Indian bunkers destroyed. During exchange of fire 1 soldier & 3 civilians shaheed, 2 soldiers & 5 civilians injured.”

In a series of tweets, the spokesperson further added, “Indian Army shall always get befitting response to CFVs. Pakistan Army shall protect innocent civilians along LOC & inflict unbearable cost to Indian Army. Indian lies to justify their false claims & preparations for a false flag operation will continue to be exposed with truth.”

According to latest reports, terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir’s Jura, Athmuqam and Kundalsahi were targeted by Indian Army artillery guns on Saturday night after credible inputs came of significant number of terrorists operating there.

Heavy cross-border shelling was reported early on Sunday near Jammu and Kashmir’s Tanghar and Nowgam sectors. At least, two Indian soldiers and a civilian were killed as Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire in Tanghar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday, police said. Five Pakistani army men were killed in retaliatory firing by the Indian Army in Tangdhar sector along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, official army sources confirmed on Sunday.

According to sources in the Indian Army, two Indian soldiers were killed in ceasefire violation, along the Line of Control in Tangdhar sector in Jammu and Kashmir when Pakistan Army was pushing infiltrators into Indian territory. Indian Army is retaliating strongly in the entire sector, the statement further said.

Indian Army confirmed that they launched attacks on terrorist camps situated inside Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) opposite the Tanghar sector. This is in retaliation to the support provided by Pakistan Army to push terrorists into Indian territory, Indian Army spokesperson was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Indian army has used artillery guns to target the terrorist camps which have been actively trying to push terrorists into Indian territory, ANI reported. A 27-year-old woman was killed on Tuesday due to unprovoked mortar shelling from the Pakistani side. The number of ceasefire violations by Pakistan has seen a spike this year, The Indian Express reported. The months of July, August, and September saw more combined violations than in the same months in the last two years.

With inputs from agencies


Indian Tourist from Maharashtra Detained in Bhutan for ‘Desecrating’ Holy Buddhist Chorten

A biker from India was seen standing on the dome of a sacred structure in Bhutan, which has sparked outrage on social media in the Himalayan nation and India, where people criticised him for his behaviour that could embarrass the country.

In a video tweeted by The Bhutanese newspaper, the tourist in a black jacket and jeans with protective biking gear is seen climbing a ladder to the top of the memorial structure at Dochula, 20 km from Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.

There are 108 stupas at Dochula, built in the memory of Bhutanese soldiers who died in a military strike – Operation All Clear – in 2003 to flush out insurgents from India’s north-east region. The insurgents had set up camps in Bhutan along the border with India.

In another photo, a Bhutanese carpenter was seen sitting on the ladder on the dome of the chorten or a religious monument. The local police are looking for him.

View image on Twitter

The newspaper reported the tourist in the biker outfit has been identified as Abhijit Ratan Hajare, a resident of Maharashtra. “In the second picture the man sitting on the ladder is a Bhutanese citizen and carpenter, Jambay, who was doing repair works on the Chortens,” The Bhutanese tweeted.

There is rising concern in Bhutan against the huge influx of tourists that may damage its fragile ecosystem

“Abhijit was part of a 15-bike convoy headed by a Bhutanese team leader. Incident happened when bikers were resting at Dochula and the team leader was trying to arrange parking for the bikes. The Bhutanese team leader was unaware of the incident,” the newspaper said.

“Abhijit, whose passport has been taken by the RBP (Royal Bhutan Police) has been called in for questioning today. RBP is launching its investigation today. The Indian tourist came across Jambay and he allowed them to climb the ladder. The RBP are in the process of tracking Jambay down,” it reported.

The Indian tourist apologised in writing to the police, after which he was released, the newspaper reported.

Indians don’t need a visa to travel to Bhutan. However, they should have either a passport with minimum six-month validity or a voter identity card.

For some time now, environmentalists and activists in Bhutan have been raising concerns over a huge influx of tourists that may add pressure on the landlocked Himalayan nation’s fragile ecosystem.

Tenzing Lamsang, editor of The Bhutanese that reported the stupa incident first, said unsustainable growth of regional tourists is affecting the country. “The issue is not about discrimination,” he said. 

Over 50,000 regional tourists came to Bhutan in 2012, as against 54,685 “international tariff-paying” tourists, Mr Lamsang said. In comparison, over two lakh regional tourists – a huge rise in number – came to Bhutan in 2018 and only 71,807 international tourists came, he added. (NDTV)


Acid from coal mine burst pipe, kills four

by Mubina Akhtar

Four men were killed when the pipe that brings water from Kopili dam in the Indian state of Assam to its 275 MW hydropower station burst in the early hours of October 7. Three of them – J Sing Timung, Robert Baite and Prem Pal Balmiki – were employees of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO), a government-owned firm that operates the project. The fourth victim – still unidentified – worked for a contractor to the project. Hemanta Deka, NEEPCO executive director (Operations and Management), blamed rathole coal mining in Meghalaya for the accident.

Located on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra river that flows through the Assam valley, the Kopili dam is on the river with the same name. The Kopili river flows down to the Brahmaputra from the Meghalaya plateau in the south – and is now infamous for carrying coal slurry and acids used in rathole mining in Meghalaya. This practice, of creating narrow holes of about a metre in diameter in which only one person can enter, has been banned by the National Green Tribunal, India’s top green court, but continues illegally.

Deka says the acids from the slurry had corroded the pipe that was designed to bring water at the rate of 12,000 litres per second. The burst pipe caused a fountain that rose several hundred feet and continued to do so for hours, according to eyewitnesses. The four victims were washed away and their bodies could not be recovered for days. NEEPCO sought help from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the paramilitary Assam Rifles. It opened all gates of the dam to reduce the water flow to the powerhouse.

The incident showed a lack of emergency preparedness. “What is this? Why have no steps been taken for rescue by the government agencies?” asked the brother of Robert Baite, one of the four victims.

Kopili hydroelectric project was NEEPCO’s first project when the company was formed in 1976. It has two dams, on the Kopili River and on its tributary the Umrang River. The first power unit was commissioned in March 1984 and a second in July 2004. The powerhouse was renovated in the financial year 2015-16. A water tunnel that had cracked was repaired in 2018. The issue of corroded pipes remained unresolved.

No funds for maintenance

The Congress party that is in opposition in Assam and the centre has blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government for not releasing the money – INR 2 billion (USD 28 million) – for maintenance work in the project, though this had been approved by a Congress-led government before the party went out of power in 2014.

Making the allegation, Congress Member of Parliament from Assam Gaurav Gogoi also decried the centre’s reported move to merge NEEPCO with other government-run firms. “NEEPCO was established under the North East Council not only to tap the hydropower potential of the region but also to ensure overall socio-economic development,” he pointed out in a letter to the power ministry.

Durga Das Boro, spokesman of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee, echoed Gogoi’s charge and said, “A major repair of the project was due in 2014. The life of the pipeline expired in 2014. However, it [the maintenance] could not be done as the BJP-led government had not released the amount approved.”

Acid-laced water

V.K. Singh, the head of NEEPCO, also blamed acidic water for corrosion of the water pipe and therefore the accident, while holding that the pipe that burst had been repaired just a year ago. He estimated the loss at INR 6 billion (USD 84 million).

NEEPCO officials say that since 2007, they have been warning the Central, Assam and Meghalaya governments about the acid-laced water, but no one listened to them.

Kopili and its tributaries – Kharkor, Myntriang, Dinar, Longsom, Amring, Umrong, Longku and Langkri – are known to be heavily affected by rathole mining for coal that is rampant in Meghalaya, especially in the Jaintia Hills in the eastern part of the state. The rivers run reddish due to a phenomenon called Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), caused by active and abandoned mines, coal storage sites and overburdened rocks. Leaching of heavy metals and the washing down of the soil removed to reach the coal seams add to the pollution in the rivers.

India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned rathole mining in the Jaintia Hills and two other mining regions on April 17, 2014. “We are of the considered view that such illegal and unscientific method can never be allowed in the interest of maintaining ecological balance of the country and safety of the employees,” said the tribunal.

But the ban was opposed on the plea that the area is inhabited by indigenous communities that have special rights under India’s Constitution. The mining continues, and the miners continue to use child labour, again citing special rights. There has been no environmental impact assessment that was supposed to be mandatory under a 2006 notification, nor has the environmental clearance for mining activities – required under the 1986 Environment Protection Act – ever been given.

On January 4, 2019, the NGT fined the Meghalaya state government INR 1 billion (USD 14 million) for its failure to curb rathole mining. But India’s Supreme Court revoked the ban and allowed coal mining “on privately and community owned lands with permission from concerned authorities”.

NEEPCO’s responsibility

Most independent experts agree that pipes at the Kopili project have been affected by acidic water. But knowing this, why has NEEPCO continued to operate the dam and the power station, they ask.

The accident has brought back the debate on dam safety in north-eastern India, a region in which 168 hydropower projects are being planned – although it is unclear if many of them will see the light of day. Environmentalists have repeatedly questioned these plans, pointing out the adverse impacts on ecosystem and the risks to people. There have been a number of instances of floods being worsened because dam managers upstream have opened the gates.

NEEPCO has been in focus after a number of dam-induced accidents in its projects in the recent past. Assam’s Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had to warn NEEPCO not to release water from its Ranganadi project while downstream areas were flooded anyway. There have been reports that the Kameng dam it is now building has already shown several leaks.

Along with rathole mining and NEEPCO, the entire issue of building dams in the geologically and ecologically fragile Himalayas is now being questioned again.

( The report first published in The Third Pole,, London)


Ayodhya case: five SC lawyers refute reports of Muslim parties willing to give up claim over land

They say the Supreme Court-appointed mediation committee or Nirvana Akhara could be behind ‘leak’

Five Supreme Court lawyers issued a joint statement on Friday, refuting media reports that the Muslim parties were willing to relinquish their claim over the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land and said the Supreme Court-appointed mediation committee or Nirvana Akhara could be behind the “leak”.

The statement was issued by the advocates for the various Muslim parties, including the U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board. The advocates are Ejaz Maqbool, Shakil Ahmed Syed, M.R. Shamshad, Irshad Ahmad and Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi.

On Wednesday, parties engaged in the mediation told the media that a settlement had been filed in the Supreme Court. They claimed that a consensus had been struck among certain Hindus and Muslim parties, in which the Sunni Waqf Board was said to have raised no objection to the acquisition of the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site by the government. The development came on the last day of the Supreme Court hearing of the Ayodhya appeals.

This was followed by news reports attributing to Shahid Rizvi, advocate on record, that the waqf board was willing to withdraw the claim on site of the Babri Masjid.

The lawyers’ statement contend that the “recent attempts before the mediation committee were not representative”.

The statement said only a “limited” number of persons attended the mediation — “Dharma Das of Nirvani Akhara, Zufar Faruqui of Sunni Central Waqf Board and Chakrapani of Hindu Maha Sabha. We are also made to understand that the two other persons interested may attended the mediation”.

The statement by the lawyers reasoned that it was hard to accept that mediation would have worked, as certain stakeholders across the religious divide had openly resisted attempts to make amends and settle the decades-old feud over the ownership of the disputed land.

“The leak to the press may have been inspired by either the mediation committee directly or those who participated in the said mediation proceedings or participants. It needs emphasis that such a leak was in total violation of the orders of the Supreme Court that had directed that such proceedings should remain confidential,” the statement said.

“The timing of the leak to the press and its confirmation by Mr. Rizvi on October 17, 2019, on the very date when the hearing closed seem to have been well thought out,” the statement said.

“Accordingly, we must make it absolutely clear that we, the appellants before Supreme Court, do not accept the proposal made, which has been leaked to the press, nor the procedure by which the mediation has taken place, nor the manner in which a withdrawal of the claim has been suggested as a compromise,” the statement said.  (The Hindu)

Human Rights

Miss Kohima contestant is viral for her message to PM Modi: Focus on women instead of cows

A contestant of the Miss Kohima 2019 beauty pageant has made headlines for her response to a question involving Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The contest was held in the Nagaland capital Kohima on October 5.

During the question and answer round, Vikuonuo Sachu was asked by one of the judges about the thing that she would tell PM Modi if he invited her for a chat. Pat came her response as she told the jury without batting an eyelid, “If I were invited by the PM of India, I would tell him to focus more on women instead of cows.”

Source : India Today

Vikuonuo Sachu received a big round of applause from the audience as well as the internet since a video of the particular moment has gone viral on Twitter. The twenty-seven second clip has been tweeted by a user, Riaz Ahmed and you must watch it without further ado.

During Miss Kohima 2019 beauty pageant, a contestant was asked the question:

“if Prime Minister of our country Modi ji invites you to chat with him, what would you say?”

She replied: If I were invited by the PM of India, I would tell him to focus more on women instead of cows.

A Miss Kohima 2019 beauty pageant contestant has impressed the internet for her response to a question involving Prime Minister Narendra Modi


Our brains control pain perception

Washington: Pain perception is essential for survival, but how much something hurts can sometimes be amplified or suppressed: for example, soldiers who sustain an injury in battle often recall not feeling anything at the time. A new study published in Cell Reports on Tuesday honed in on the brain circuitry responsible for upgrading or downgrading these pain signals, likening the mechanism to how a home thermostat controls room temperature.

Yarimar Carrasquillo, the paper’s senior author and a scientist for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), told AFP the region responsible was the central amygdala, which according to her work appeared to play a dual role.

Studying mice, Carrasquillo and her colleagues found that the activity in neurons that express protein kinase C-delta amplified pain, while neurons that express somatostatin inhibited the chain of activity in the nerves required to communicate pain. The central amygdala isn’t completely responsible for pain itself: if it were removed entirely, then “the ‘ouch’ of things, or the protective pain, would remain intact,” said Carrasquillo.

“It seems to be sitting there waiting for something to happen,” for example responding to stress or anxiety that amplifies pain, or being forced to focus on a task that diverts your attention and reduces pain. Experiencing pain can be a vital warning to seek help, for example in a person experiencing appendicitis or a heart attack.

People who are born with insensitivity to pain, meanwhile, often do not realize the severity of injuries and are at greater risk of early death. But not all pain is useful. According to a 2012 survey, about 11 per cent of US adults have pain every day and more than 17 per cent have severe levels of pain.

Often this leads to dependence on potent painkillers like opioids, or attempting to self-medicate through counterfeit or illicit drugs which are increasingly laced with deadly fentanyl. By better understanding the brain mechanisms responsible for pain modulation, researchers hope to eventually find better cures: potentially ones that target only those forms of pain that are “bad” and not useful.

“The healthy response is you get pain, it tells you something is wrong, it heals, and the pain goes away,” said Carrasquillo. “In chronic pain, that doesn’t happen, the system gets stuck. If we can identify what makes the system gets stuck, then we can reverse it.”


Economy in tailspin…doing very badly, says Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee

NEW DELHI: Sandwiched between the World Bank and International Monetary Fund reducing India’s FY20 growth estimates was the Nobel Economics Prize for IndianAmerican Abhijit Banerjee — who shared the award with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer
— and the media interaction following the Nobel announcement in which Banerjee’s key observation on India’s economy was that it’s in a “tailspin” and “doing very badly”.

The government’s main focus has to be on reviving demand, the Nobel Laureate said, responding to questions on India’s economy, adding that worries about monetary balance should take a back seat. “The Indian economy is going into a tailspin; it is the time when you don’t worry so muchabout monetary stability and you worry a little bit more  demand,” Banerjee said at a press conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I think demand is a huge problem right now in the economy.”
‘Fight Over Data’ He said the country’s economy is “doing very badly” even as the government has started to recognise that there’s a problem. “There is an enormous fight going on in India about which data is right and the government has a particular view…all data that is inconvenient to it is wrong,” Banerjee said.
“But, nonetheless…I think even the government is increasingly recognising that there is a problem. So, the economy is slowing very fast.
How fast, we don’t know — there is this dispute about data — but I think fast.” Referring to the numbers put out by the National Sample Survey, which come out every 1.5 years and give estimates about the average
consumption in urban and rural areas, he said, “…we see in that…between 2014-15 and 2017-18, that number (consumption figure) has
slightly gone down. And that’s the first time such a thing has happened in many, many years.

So, that’s a very glaring warning sign.”
The government has a large deficit but right now it’s sort of at least aiming to please everybody by pretending to hold to some budgetary
targets and monetary targets, Banerjee said.
He said he does not know exactly what to do. “That’s a statement not about what will work in the future but about what’s going on
now-…that I’m entitled to have an opinion about,” he said.

Both the Bank and the Fund, in commentary alongside their downsized growth estimates, have said the main policy challenge for the
country is to address the sources of softening private consumption as well as address problems behind weak investment sentiments.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had last week evaded a direct reply to a question on whether the government accepts there is an
economic slowdown, and had said the government is giving relief to all sectors which need help.
Over the last one month, the government has announced several measures, including reduction in corporate tax rates and asking banksto organise loan disbursals. The government has said disbursals crossed Rs 80,000 crore in nine days. Reserve Bank of India has cumulatively lowered the repo rate, or the rate at which it lends money to commercial banks, by 135 basis points since January with the latest 25 bps cut coming on October 4.

The central bank has also slashed its growth forecast for the country to 6.1% for 2019-20 from the 6.9% forecast in August, noting that the “continuing slowdown warrants intensified efforts to restore the growth momentum”.


Reliance Industries resumes Venezuela oil imports in barter deal

India’s biggest private oil refiner Reliance Industries has resumed crude imports from crisis-hit Venezuela, using diesel exports to pay for them under a barter system that the company said Tuesday complies with US sanctions.
The Mumbai-based company owned by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani was forced to cap crude imports from the South American country in March following pressure from the United States.
It also stopped exporting diluents needed to process thick Venezuelan crude to the country.
But under the terms of the barter arrangement, the energy-to-telecoms conglomerate has resumed crude imports from the Latin American country, Reliance spokesperson Tushar Pania told AFP.
The deal will help ease Venezuela’s inventories after US sanctions left its state-owned oil company PDVSA with huge volumes of unsold crude.
“Reliance Industries is exporting diesel and importing crude oil from Venezuela in a barter arrangement,” Pania said.
“This is in compliance with US sanctions and Reliance is confident of adhering to them,” he added, declining to say when the company had resumed the shipments.
Venezuela — a once-rich oil-producing nation — is in the grip of an economic crisis and a political standoff between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and opposition leader Juan Guaido.
The situation has worsened with successive rounds of US sanctions against Maduro’s government, including steps that have severely curbed its oil exports.
PetroWatch editor Madhu Nainan told AFP the barter agreement was “a win-win situation for both as Venezuela is battered with crippling sanctions while Reliance aims to boost its profitability”.
“With this barter deal, Reliance can procure cheap crude… which will help their refining margins.”
Refining margins are a key profitability gauge for Reliance, which operates the world’s biggest refining complex in Gujarat state.
India became the top importer of crude from Venezuela in February after US President Donald Trump issued a de facto ban on imports.
In addition to Reliance, Nayara Energy — a Mumbai-based company that is partly owned by Russia’s Rosneft — is also a buyer of Venezuelan crude.(Agencies)