A T E S T N E W S
Film on Indira Gandhi's assassins barred from release
New Delhi: The Government today barred the release of controversial Punjabi film 'Kaum De Heere' on former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination tomorrow citing apprehensions of law and order problems in parts of the country.
The decision was taken collectively by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Home Ministry and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) after watching the movie.
"We saw the film and decided that it will not be released tomorrow," CBFC Chairperson Leela Samson announced here after review of the movie on the basis of recommendation by the Home Ministry.
"Because of the law and order situation that might result from the showing of the film and based on the ministry of Home Affairs report, the Home Ministry, the CBFC and I&B officials have decided that," she added.
The Home Ministry had expressed reservation and serious concern over the contents of the film and asked the I&B Ministry to take a relook at the clearance given to it.
In a communication to I&B ministry, the Home Ministry said the film may affect the communal harmony in Punjab and other northern states.
Home Ministry told I&B ministry that some of the content in the film was "highly objectionable" and may create enmity between communities and lead to communal tension.
Sources said the film, which is reportedly based on the lives of the assassins of the late prime minister -- Beant Singh, Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh -- glorifies their act.
There have been media reports that Censor Board CEO Rakesh Kumar, who was arrested recently by CBI on corruption charges, gave clearance to the film after allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 1 lakh.
The Punjab units of Congress and BJP have demanded a ban on the controversial film.
India-Arab bond important, extremism a cause of
New Delhi: Amid escalation in violence in a number of Gulf countries, India today expressed deep concern over the rise of fanaticism, extremism and terrorism in parts of the Arab region, saying they are tearing apart the fabric of societies as well as affecting regional stability.
In an address at an event here, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj touched on a range of issues relating to Gulf nations and said India was looking at investments from the sizeable Sovereign Wealth Funds in the oil-rich countries which can prove to be a "game-changer" in India's quest for world-class infrastructure.
"Looking ahead, one can identify India's infrastructure sector as a major growth area for Arab investments. Our government has made infrastructure upgrade and the creation of smart cities major national priorities," she said launching the first India-League of Arab States Media Symposium here.
Referring to violence in a number Gulf countries, Swaraj said "being a longstanding partner of the Arab world, we in India are also deeply concerned with the rise of fanaticism, extremism and terrorism in parts of the region." "We are concerned for the stability of these countries where terrorism and fanaticism are tearing apart the fabric of societies and also concerned over the spill-over effects on regional stability.
"This concern is but natural as the fates of our two regions are intertwined in many ways. Our national and energy interests are certainly important; but more important is the human bond," Swaraj said.
Calling for deepening of trade ties, Swaraj said the possibilities of growth on both sides are "virtually limitless". A number of countries in the Gulf region including Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain have huge sovereign wealth funds.
The Gulf region accounts for over 60 per cent of India's oil and gas requirements. Collectively the Arab world is India's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade increasing to over USD 180 billion in 2012-13. -PTI
Heckling politics: Soren too jeered, Chavan boycotts PM's event
Ranchi/Nagpur: The politics of heckling in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued today with Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren becoming the third victim, while Maharashtra CM Prithiviraj Chavan refused to share the dais with Modi.
The war of words between Congress and BJP escalated over the issue as Jharkhand CM, an ally of Congress, alleged that heckling of opponents by BJP supporters at government functions in the presence of the Prime Minister amounted to "rape" of the delicate centre-state relations.
At a function in Ranchi, where Modi inaugurated a slew of development projects, Soren was hooted by the audience that included BJP activists. They chanted 'Modi, Modi' as soon as the JMM leader took the mike and his attempts to pacify the crowd by saying that he would try to be brief failed.
Soren, however, continued with his speech as Modi waved at the people for restraint. The shouts carried on all through Soren's speech.
"The PM must look into it...the federal system he talks about. I feel it is like raping the system, the tradition of the federal system. There is a plan to break it. And it is an attempt to play politics but it will not work for long," he said.
Soren said he was attending the function as a Chief Minister and not as a representative of any political party.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who had to stop speaking midway after he was heckled by BJP supporters last Saturday at an event in Solapur, today skipped the 'bhumi-pujan' of a Metro project in Nagpur where Modi was also present.
Yesterday, announcing the boycott of Modi's function, Chavan had said the federal structure of the country has been undermined at the programmes in Congress-ruled states where the PM was present recently.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was recently booed by a crowd at a public event in the Prime Minister's presence in Kaithal, after which he said he would never share the stage with him again.
Backing its chief ministers' stand, Congress today claimed there was an "orchestrated" and "well-planned conspiracy" behind such incidents and asserted that no one has the right to "humiliate" duly elected CMs.
AICC general secretary Ambika Soni said that Modi should immediately ask his partymen to desist from such acts and refused to accept BJP's argument that Congress needs to introspect on why the common man was unhappy with the state leadership.
Soni said there is a "pattern" as all these states, where such incidents have happened, are facing elections.
Hitting back, BJP reminded Congress Chief Ministers not to breach constitutional propriety and termed the decision of Chavan and other CMs to skip the functions of the Prime Minister as "unfortunate".
The ruling party also told Congress Chief Ministers not to fall prey to the "complex arising due to the popularity" of Modi among the masses.
BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "This type of negative politics will not help the Congress anyways.
Congress can ignore Modi's dais but they cannot ignore his mantra of good governance and development." He said the Congress, even after its humiliating defeat at the hustings, is not ready to see the ground reality.
"Instead of cleaning their face of the dust that has stuck to them in these polls, the Congressmen are cleaning the mirror," he said. -PTI
Imran Khan suspends talks with Pak govt
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan on Thursday called off talks with the government aimed at ending protests seeking the fall of the
Prime Minister, which have destabilised the nuclear-armed nation.
Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have led followers protesting outside parliament for the past two days demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif quit.
Talks to end the standoff which began a week ago with "long marches" from the eastern city of Lahore
started on Wednesday but made little headway.
Khan insists the May 2013 General Election, won in a landslide by Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party, was rigged, despite independent international observers judging it free and credible.
The former cricket star has demanded Sharif resign and call new elections and on Thursday repeated his insistence the PM must quit before talks.
"The talks with the government are over. How can these talks proceed when we first want resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif?" Khan said.
"I want to tell you Nawaz Sharif that I will not leave this place until you step down."
Between them, the protest rallies of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have drawn tens of thousands of supporters this week.
But as Khan made his address from the top of a shipping container outside parliament on Thursday, there were barely a few thousand supporters scattered over the protest site.
PAT has said it wants "meaningful dialogue" and the powerful army has called for a negotiated end to the showdown.
A number of Pakistan's key trade partners and aid donors including the
US, Britain and the European Union have also urged a political solution.
The showdown has added to instability in a country that has had three military coups since its creation in 1947 and which is struggling with a homegrown Taliban insurgency, a crippling power crisis and a sluggish economy.
The two protest movements are not formally allied and have different goals, beyond toppling the government. But their combined pressure
and numbers have given extra heft to the rallies.
If PAT were to reach a settlement with the government and withdraw, PTI's position would be significantly weakened, despite Khan's tough stance.
Neither movement has mobilised mass support beyond their core followers and opposition parties have shunned Khan's call to unseat the government and begin a campaign of civil disobedience.
On Thursday the lower house of parliament passed a unanimous resolution rejecting calls for Sharif's resignation and vowing to uphold democracy.
Lawyers also staged a national strike in protest at the PAT and PTI sit-ins.
"This style of politics and call for disobedience is harming Pakistan's economy, a call for civil disobedience is equal to a constitutional coup," Yaseen Azad, senior leader, Supreme Court Bar Association, told Geo TV. AFP
INLD releases 2nd list of 11 candidates
CHANDIGARH: Haryana's main opposition party Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) today released the second list of party candidates containing names of 11 contestants, including two sitting MLAs, to test electoral battle in the state slated to go to polls in a couple of months.
The list of 11 candidates was declared at Gurgaon by party's senior leader Abhay Singh Chautala and INLD state head Ashok Arora, a party release said here.
The list figured names of two sitting MLAs Ram Pal Majra (Kalayat seat) and Rao Bahadur Singh (Mahendergarh seat) and former legislator Zakir Hussain (Nuh seat).
The strength of Haryana Assembly is 90. Till date the party has declared its nominees on 73 seats, the release said.
Party's supremo and former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and his MLA son and party's Secretary General Ajay Singh Chautala are serving ten years jail term in a teacher's recruitment scandal.
The INLD is contesting the upcoming Assembly polls in Haryana in alliance with Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), where the party is a major partner of the BJP. PTI
Militant hideout unearthed, arms found
SRINAGAR: Security forces have unearthed a militant hideout and recovered a cache of arms and ammunition in Bandipora districts of Kashmir, an Army spokesman said on Thursday.
"A militant hideout was busted in Maitrigam area of Bandipora district where a huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered," the spokesman said.
He said the recoveries included seven AK 47 rifles, five pistols, one UBGL, 74 rounds of UBGL, 21 hand grenades and large quantity of AK and pistol ammunition. -PTI
Punjab Police arrest three smugglers
TARN TARAN: Punjab Police arrested three smugglers in Tarn Taran district and recovered two-kg heroin from their possession, police said on Thursday.
The smugglers were intercepted on a highway following a tip-off. Police also recovered a 9 mm pistol, ammunition and a Pakistani SIM card from their possession.
The recovered heroin is valued at Rs 10 crore in the international market, police said.
Tarn Taran district is situated along the India-Pakistan border. The border belt is prone to heroin smuggling from Pakistan. IANS
23 killed as bus falls into gorge
SHIMLA: At least 23 persons were today killed and another 21 injured when a private bus rolled 400 feet down into a gorge in Rohtrung village in Himachal Pradesh's Kinnaur district, 250 km from here.
Fifteen persons died on the spot while three others succumbed to their injuries on way to hospital, Kinnaur Deputy Commissioner D.D. Sharma said.
The bus was on its way from Sangla Valley to Kalpa, when the mishap took place. The injured persons are being brought to IGMC Hospital, Shimla, and a state helicopter has been sent to Sangla to evacuate the injured.
The driver and conductor were among the dead, while all 17 injured have been rescued and rushed to a local hospital.
The bodies of the deceased have been retrieved and would be handed over to the family members after an "on-the-spot post-mortem", Sharma said.
Most of the deceased are from surrounding villages of Sangla.
In another incident, two persons were buried alive when a huge mound of earth fell on their vehicle near Chulling on
the Chulling-Tapri diversion road.
One body has been recovered while a search is on to recover the other body as the vehicle is completely buried under huge rocks.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has expressed grief over the accident and directed the district administration to provide immediate relief and adequate medical help to the injured persons.
quake rocks Himachal
SHIMLA: A moderate intensity earthquake rocked Kangra, Mandi, Shimla and Chamba districts of Himachal Pradesh this afternoon.
The earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale occurred at 1.41 pm and lasted few seconds, the local MeT office said.
The epicentre of the quake was at Chamba-Kangra border in Himachal Pradesh.
No loss of life or damage to property has been reported from any part of the state.
People ran out of their houses in Palampur and parts of Kangra and Mandi districts and schoolchildren left the classes in panic as strong tremors were felt, reports
received here said. PTI
U'khand govt deliberately not appointing
DEHRADUN: Criticising the state government for not appointing a Lokayukta despite nearly six months since a legislation in this regard was passed by the
state Assembly, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri on Thursday said the delay was deliberate.
"The government is deliberately delaying appointment of the Lokayukta as it fears that many of its functionaries will come under the scanner of the anti-graft ombudsman.
"It lacks the political will to fight corruption," the senior BJP leader who represents Pauri constituency in the Lok Sabha said.
Khanduri said the state government's lack of political will to fight corruption was also
evident in the manner in which it quashed the Lokayukta Bill passed by the state
Assembly during his tenure in 2011 despite the President giving it his ascent after prolonged legal scrutiny.
"The Bahuguna government replaced that Bill with a much watered down version based on the Centre's Lokpal. However, that too has not yet been appointed in Uttarakhand. It shows the government does not have the will to combat corruption," he said.
The Bahuguna government had passed the Lokayukta Bill in the state Assembly on January 21 and going by constitutional provisions in this regard, it must come into force within 180 days or six months.
The six month period for the appointment of the Lokayukta in Uttarakhand gets over on August 26.
gurdwaras to launch campaign to improve Sikhs image
WASHINGTON: Amidst increasing incidents of hate crimes against Sikhs, Gurdwaras in the US have decided to launch an intensive national campaign running into USD 5 million to improve the image of the community in America.
Representatives from over 100 gurdwaras in the US held a meeting here over the weekend to discuss the strategy, wherein a detailed presentation on this was made by Geoff Garin of Hart Research, who served as Hillary Clinton's former top political strategist, and Isaac Baker of AKPD Message and Media, President Barack Obama's media firm.
The two have been hired by the Sikhs community leaders to help change the perceptions about them in the US.
Garin gave the meeting's participants an exclusive update on the National Sikh Campaign's groundbreaking messaging research that will underpin the effort and inform the community how it can effectively communicate to the American public, a media release said.
"The Sikh community in US has never been more educated, more wealthy, and more successful than today and we've also never had this many Gurdwara leaders together in a room. We have never been more primed to do something big," said Gurwin Ahuja, executive director of the National Sikh Campaign.
"This is perhaps the first time a thorough scientific data will be made available to the community within and without to set the next path of our campaign," he said.
According to a media release, Sikh Leaders worked together to create a realistic region by region breakdown of US
gurdwaras and fundraising strategies were also discussed and approved to reach an overall target of USD 5 million.
Dr Rajwant Singh, president of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said the consensus was that there is a critical need for this kind of media strategy for the Sikh community.
"All possible efforts need to be made to include as many gurdwaras as possible in the network as partners. Our goal is to keep the focus on introducing Sikhism and the Sikh identity while showing the positive contribution of the community in the media," he said.
Dr Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, president of the Oak Creek Gurdwara from Wisconsin, said the aim of the campaign is to counteract the negative image and perceptions Americans have about Sikhs and Sikhism and create a positive image of Sikhs and our faith.
Sikh representatives came from the following states: Illinois, Connecticut, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana, Delaware, and over 70 people joined from others states over the phone. PTI
Beheading spurs new attacks on Islamic militants
WASHINGTON: The United States launched a new barrage of airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley and that has seized a swath of territory across Iraq and Syria.
President Barack Obama vowed relentless pursuit of the terrorists and the White House revealed that the US had launched a secret rescue mission inside Syria earlier this summer that failed to rescue Foley and other Americans still being held hostage.
In brief but forceful remarks, Obama said on Wednesday the US would "do what we must to protect our people," but he stopped short of promising to follow the Islamic State in its safe haven within Syria, where officials said Foley had been killed. Later, though, the administration revealed that several dozen special operations troops had been on the ground in Syria briefly in an effort to rescue the hostages, but did not find them.
And looking forward, the State Department refused to rule out future US military operations in Syria, where Obama has long resisted intervening in a three-year civil war.
Western nations agreed to speed help to combat the militants - most notably Germany, which bucked public opposition by announcing it would arm Iraqi Kurdish fighters to battle the Islamic State. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he was outraged by the beheading, deeming it evidence of a "caliphate of barbarism." Italy's defense minister said the country hopes to contribute machine guns, ammunition and anti-tank rockets.
The Islamic State called Foley's death a revenge killing for US airstrikes against militants in Iraq, and said other hostages would be slain if the attacks continued. Undeterred, the US conducted 14 additional strikes after a video of the beheading surfaced, bringing to 84 the number of airstrikes since they began on Aug. 8.
Two US officials said additional American troops - probably less than 300 - could be headed to Iraq to provide extra security around Baghdad, where the US
Embassy is located. That would bring the total number of American forces in Iraq to well over 1,000, although officials said no final decision had been made. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name.
Foley's mother said she is praying for other hostages being held by the Sunni-dominated terror group, and described her son's slaying as "just evil."
"No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day," the president said. The Islamic State militants have promised to eliminate all people they consider heretics in their quest to create an extremist state across much of Iraq and Syria.
"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," Obama said, urging unity among Mideast governments in order to eviscerate the extremist group's growing power. He spoke from Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, where his family is vacationing.
In capitals across the Middle East, news of Foley's death was met largely with silence, even in Syria and Iraq - the two countries where the Islamic State is strongest. On social media, people in the region condemned Foley's killing, but stressed that the Islamic State has been committing atrocities against Iraqis and Syrians for years.
For much of the past year, and until this summer, the Obama administration was deeply divided on how much of a threat the Islamic State posed to Americans or even other nations beyond Iraq and Syria. But since the militants' march across northern Iraq in June, and as its ranks swelled almost threefold to an estimated 15,000 fighters, Obama has acknowledged that the Islamic State could become a direct threat to Americans.
The secret mission to rescue the US hostages involved several dozen special operations forces dropped by aircraft into Syria. The hostages weren't found, but special forces engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants before departing, according to administration officials. Several militants were killed, and one American sustained minor injuries.
"The US government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens," Lisa Monaco, Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present."
Foley's death proved to the West what many people in Syria and Iraq already knew: The Islamic State "has declared war on the civilized world," said Dr. Najib Ghadibian, the Syrian National Coalition's special representative to the US The group's sweep also has served as a wake-up call to other Mideast governments, said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.
"The Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the Emiratis, and even the Qataris, are getting the message now," Gerges said. "I think in the last few weeks we have seen a kind of new awareness on the part of regional powers that the Islamic State does present a threat to the very social fabric and the foundation of the state system."
He said Foley's death could help intensify efforts on the part of Washington's regional allies to make a more concerted effort to address the threat.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both of whom share a border with Iraq, have dispatched troops to the frontier in a bid to prevent any attempt by the extremists to attack. Iran, an ally of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, has sent military advisers to help organize Shiite militias in Iraq and defend holy sites.
Authorities from the Gulf to Egypt, as well as their peoples, have looked on with growing concern as the Islamic State group has brutally expanded the territory under its control, punctuating its rise by declaring a caliphate in lands straddling the Syria-Iraq border.
Foley, a 40-year-old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, was no stranger to war zone reporting. He went missing in northern Syria in November 2012 while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based news organization GlobalPost. The car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a contested battle zone that both Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control. He had not been heard from since.
He was one of at least four Americans still being held in Syria - three of whom officials said were kidnapped by the Islamic State. The fourth, freelance journalist Austin Tice, disappeared in Syria in August 2012 and is believed to be in the custody of government forces in Syria.
The Islamic State video of Foley's beheading also showed another of the missing American journalists, Steven Sotloff, and warned he would be the next killed if US airstrikes continued. US officials believe the video was made days before its Tuesday release, perhaps last weekend, and have grown increasingly worried about Sotloff's fate.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says that more than 80 journalists have been abducted in Syria, and estimates that around 20 are currently missing there. It has not released their nationalities. In its annual report in November, the committee described the widespread seizure of journalists as unprecedented and largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help in the captives' release.
Obama avoided specific mention of the other American hostages in Syria, and was vague on whether the US would significantly ramp up its assault on the Islamic State beyond the airstrikes and small potential increase in troops in Iraq. A third senior US official said the administration was well aware of the risks to the hostages once the strikes began, and would now consider as aggressive a policy as possible to obliterate the militants.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf did not rule out military operations in Syria to bring those responsible to justice, saying the US "reserves the right to hold people accountable when they harm Americans."
US lawmakers, however, said they doubted the White House would expand its attacks to strike within Syria - something the Obama administration has long resisted.
"The mission already crept a bit," said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and House Intelligence Committee member. "The administration would be wise to not get sucked in. That's going to be very hard."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., lamented that Obama has been "unwilling to do what is necessary to confront" the Islamic State. AP
US eager to engage Modi govt: Congressional report
WASHINGTON: The US, which had shunned Narendra Modi for nearly 10 years, is eager to engage India's new government led by him and re-energize what some see as a flagging relationship, according to a new Congressional report.
Modi "is known as a strong-willed and effective, if perhaps autocratic, administrator," said the background report for US lawmakers.
"His reputation has been burnished by Gujarat's impressive economic performance during his 15-year tenure," it said noting the state accounts for more than 20 per cent of all Indian exports while being home to only 5 per cent of the population," it said.
The report on "India's New Government and Implications for US Interests" has been penned by K. Alan Kronstadt, specialist in South Asian affairs, for the bipartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS).
"Garnering an outright majority in Parliament for the first time in 30 years, Modi's new government promises fresh US engagement with an Indian leader reputed to be more pro-trade and pro-business than the socialist-oriented ones of the past," it said.
Modi, the report noted had also vowed to "implement a more assertive Indian foreign policy that could see the country shift away from its traditional 'non-alignment' approach to global politics."
President Barack Obama and other top US officials "have expressed an interest in revitalizing bilateral fora so as to further boost trade and investment flows, deepen security cooperation, and otherwise solidify the geopolitical alignment with India."
His "BJP made history by becoming the first party to win an outright parliamentary majority in 30 years, meaning India's federal government is no longer constrained by the vagaries of coalition politics," the report noted.
Domestic and international proponents of Modi's business-friendly policies are hopeful that these circumstances will make for more effective governance and streamlined economic reforms, it said.
But Modi "also is a controversial figure for his Hindu nationalist views" and his alleged role in 2002 Gujarat riots led the Bush Administration to deny Modi a visa in 2005, the report noted.
"Many observers warn that a BJP-majority government could have dire consequences for human and civil rights in India, especially if it chooses to implement openly Hindu majoritarian policies," the report said.
However, it noted "Obama wasted no time in ending speculation on the visa issue by immediately inviting Prime Minister Modi to visit Washington, DC." He is now set to visit the US capital in late September.