SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Memorials of Leaders
CIC notice to Delhi chief secy, 4 others
New Delhi, April 18
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued show-cause notices to five government offices, including the Directorate of Estates and the Chief Secretary of Delhi, for not being able to furnish information on the government policy to set up memorial and allow cremation of leaders for converting specially developed cremation sites into their respective samadhis (memorials) later on.

Counter-intelligence: success & shame
New Delhi, April 19
In a rare admission, a former R&AW chief has said that counter intelligence operations in India have failed to prevent penetration by foreign intelligence agencies and once even a Prime Minister was under the cloud of suspicion.

Tytler granted bail in defamation case
New Delhi, April 18
Senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler was today granted bail by a Delhi court for allegedly making defamatory remarks against the lawyer of the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Fund raising drive to empower ‘laadlis’
New Delhi, April 18
Calling women as carriers of culture and progress sounds paradoxical, given the fact that currently only three out of 10 girl children complete standard X as per the National Family Health Survey (2005-2006). To address this concern, ‘Laadli project’ was launched on April 13 in Mumbai being accompanied by Laadli Week Celebration, which culminated here in the Capital.

Maya gives Mulayam yet another jolt
Lucknow, April 18
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati on Friday gave yet another jolt to her archrival, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, as she wooed away his close confidante Banwari Lal Kanchal, a prominent leader of traders in the state.


Children play with masks of political leaders in Allahabad on Saturday.
BROTHERS IN ARMS: Children play with masks of political leaders in Allahabad on Saturday. — PTI

EARLIER STORIES

Self-immolation for Lankan Tamils continues; 13 so far
Chennai, April 18
A 48-year-old man belonging to a central district of Tamil Nadu became the thirteenth victim of self-immolation seeking ceasefire in Sri Lanka, as he succumbed to burn injuries at a government hospital here today. The victim, Sivanandan, a painter hailing from Karur district, had poured kerosene on his body and set himself afire yesterday, in front of the State Election Commission office here, shouting slogans against the Centre’s alleged military aid to the island nation. He was upset following daily reports of killings of Tamils in the island nation and the Centre’s alleged involvement in the war.

Women on a fast unto death to protest against the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka, in Chennai on Saturday. — PTI
Women on a fast unto death to protest against the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka, in Chennai on Saturday.

MNS manifesto targets migrants
Mumbai, April 18
Raj Thackeray is targeting migrants living in Mumbai once again. Only it is in the form of the manifesto released by his party --Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)-- ahead of the Lok  Sabha polls.

Rane accuses Sena MP of kidnapping kin
Mumbai, April 18
Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane today accused Shiv Sena MP and publisher of party mouthpiece Saamna Sanjay Raut of kidnapping cousin Ankush Rane, who has been missing since yesterday.

Advani cautions Varun on speeches
New Delhi, April 18
Varun Gandhi, the controversial new poster-boy of ‘Hindutva’ forces, called on BJP prime ministerial candidate LK Advani this morning to seek his blessings and guidance before filing his nomination from the Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh.


Snap ties with Cong, Ramadoss to Karuna
Chennai, April 18
Alleging that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had done nothing to solve the Sri Lankan Tamils’ crisis, PMK founder S Ramadoss today asked whether the DMK leader was ready to snap ties with Congress, if the latter refused to sever diplomatic relationship with Sri Lanka.

TN CM’s appeal a drama, says Jaya
Tirunelveli, April 18
AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa today dubbed as a “drama” and an “empty threat” CM Karunanidhi asking the Centre to snap diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka if it failed to honour India's appeal for ceasefire. “Yesterday's telegram by Karunanidhi to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is yet another drama and an empty threat to the Centre to mislead people,” she said, addressing an election meet here.

Sanjay in trouble for remarks against Maya
Lucknow, April 18
In fresh trouble for SP general secretary and actor Sanjay Dutt, the Pratapgarh District Magistrate has slapped a notice on him for his alleged objectionable remarks against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati. "We have issued a notice to the SP General Secretary Sanjay Dutt for violating the model code of conduct by his objectionable remarks against the Chief Minister during a rally held in Pratapgarh on March 17," Pratapgarh District Magistrate Pinky Jowal said.

Maneka files nomination from Aonla in UP
Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh), April 18
Former Union Minister and mother of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi, filed her nomination papers from Aonla parliamentary constituency in Bareilly district on Saturday. The 52-year-old BJP candidate, accompanied by local party leaders, filed her papers before the Bareilly district magistrate at collectorate office here.

A first in Chhattisgarh
Stung by superstition, cops take to witchcraft
Raipur, April 18
Maintaining law and order is not the only job that the Chhattisgarh police is doing these days.





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Memorials of Leaders
CIC notice to Delhi chief secy, 4 others
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 18
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued show-cause notices to five government offices, including the Directorate of Estates and the Chief Secretary of Delhi, for not being able to furnish information on the government policy to set up memorial and allow cremation of leaders for converting specially developed cremation sites into their respective samadhis (memorials) later on.

The show-cause notices, seeking to know why penalty should not be imposed, were issued earlier this month to a total of five government departments for not supplying information on the application of one Subash Chandra Aggarwal of Dariba, Delhi, despite repeated reminders and expiry of the stipulated time frame.

Besides the Directorate of Estates and the Chief Secretary of Delhi, the show-cause notices have also been issued to of DG (Works), secretary, NDMC and MCD commissioner.

Incidentally, none of the government departments had any clue as to who was responsible in the first place to take a decision on setting up of the samadhis of leaders and in the second place who maintained them. The application was transferred from the office of the Chief Secretary, Delhi, to Joint Secretary Planning, Urban Development, Delhi Secretariat to DG (Works) government of NCT of Delhi, to executive engineer, PWD Maintenance Zone (M-3), with none having the answer.

The application had initially been moved in March, 2008, seeking information on samadhis from Manish Baijal, Under Secretary, (W-II). He transferred the application to the Ministry of Urban Development from it was then sent forward to the five departments listed above.

Following repeated transfers, executive engineer, PWD, replied on July 22 last that no record in this regard was available in his office and the matter pertains to Ministry of Urban Development, Central Government. Finally, with no information forthcoming, information commissioner Sailesh Gandhi announced the decision to issue the show-cause notices to the five departments.

“From the facts before the Commission, it is apparent that the PIOs are guilty of not furnishing information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 by not replying within 30 days, as per the requirement of the RTI Act. A show-cause notice is being issued to them, and they are directed to give their reasons to the Commission why penalty should not be levied on them,” he said.

The five departments have been asked to present themselves before the Commission May 4 with their written submissions showing the reason why penalty should not be imposed on them as mandated under Section 20 (1). They have also been asked to submit proof of having given the information to the appellant by then.

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Counter-intelligence: success & shame

New Delhi, April 19
In a rare admission, a former R&AW chief has said that counter intelligence operations in India have failed to prevent penetration by foreign intelligence agencies and once even a Prime Minister was under the cloud of suspicion.

"The shame lies in the fact that it (counter intelligence) could not prevent foreign penetration even into their senior ranks." There was "a general belief in the country that the influence of foreign intelligence organisations had reached deep into the civil society.

"Suspicion was cast once even on a Prime Minister," Anand K Verma, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) of the Cabinet Secretariat, said without elaborating any further.

In an article in the forthcoming issue of 'Indian Defence Review', he described the performance of counter intelligence as "a mixed bag of successes and shame" and said over the years, it had also unmasked "several" Indian agents of all major intelligence organisations of the world.

He pointed out that technological gadgets meant to get highly accurate intelligence were "very expensive", which resulted in the conversation intercepts between the 26/11 Mumbai attackers and their handlers in Pakistan coming from foreign agencies.

“Imagine, if foreigners had not been the victims of 26/11 carnage, the requisite information in all probability would have remained hidden from Indian authorities… At no stage in the past did India's collaborating partners disclose to India anything about Pakistan's ongoing nuclear weapon development programme and China's stellar role in it, when it was widely known that this programme directly targeted India," the former R&AW chief said.

Making some major recommendations, he pointed out that the entire range of foreign operations was covered only by executive instructions and not by any legal backing. “An instruction to operate in a foreign country ipso facto implies a requirement to break the local laws (to spy and steal secrets) but no legal authority exists for issuing such instructions or indemnifying the would-be violator under the laws of the home country," Verma said.

This was "a very serious lacuna", which has not caught the attention of anyone in authority, he said, adding "this state of affairs is reflective of the apathy in which intelligence is held in India". He recommended that the very first step of reforming intelligence should be to give them "the backing of legislative enactments", making intelligence accountable to the Union cabinet or the cabinet committee on security and also creating a parliamentary committee for oversight.

The law should also provide autonomy on administrative and financial management, pay scales, recruitment and enforcement of discipline, Verma said.

Asserting that high quality intelligence could be produced by making its pursuance "attractive", the former R&AW chief referred to the practices of Britain and the CIA, which attracted "the highest number of PhDs from the best schools in its rank as compared to other US organisations", apart from scholars, bankers, scientists and economists. — PTI

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Tytler granted bail in defamation case

New Delhi, April 18
Senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler was today granted bail by a Delhi court for allegedly making defamatory remarks against the lawyer of the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Tytler, who was recently in the middle of a controversy over a clean chit given by the CBI in connection with a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, was asked by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ajay Panday to furnish a personal as well as a surety bond of Rs 50,000 each as pre-condition for his release on bail.

A tense-looking Tytler initially tried to avoid waiting mediapersons but on being consistently asked for his reactions over recent developments, which cost him his Lok Sabha nomination, the 65-year-old former Union Minister blamed the media for his woes.

“You (media) have already done the damage. What else you want from me,” he said tersely.

Harvinder Singh Phoolka, a senior advocate, who has filed the case against Tytler for his alleged defamatory remarks in TV programmes in 2004, said “this is a moral victory for me as we have succeeded in making the leader appear in the court”.

Meanwhile, Tytler filed an application seeking permanent exemption from personal appearance before the court in future proceedings saying, “he will not seek adjournment in the case and he be allowed to be represented through the advocate.”

Phoolka's lawyer Kamna Vohra vehemently opposed Tytler's plea and sought to file a detailed reply to the application.

“The matter has been transferred from a Ludhiana court to the capital on the request of Tytler himself. Now he cannot seek exemption from appearance,” she submitted.

The court, which allowed Tytler not to appear till his plea seeking permanent exemption was decided, posted the matter for May 23 for arguments on his application.

Tytler, against whom the Ludhiana court had issued summons and later warrant, had approached the Supreme Court for transfer of the case to a court in the capital saying he feared for his life in Punjab.

The plea was not opposed by complainant Phoolka, leading to the transfer of the case here.

Phoolka and Tytler were co-participants in the news programmes telecast in September 2004 on NDTV news channels. — PTI

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Fund raising drive to empower ‘laadlis’
Ananya Panda
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 18
Calling women as carriers of culture and progress sounds paradoxical, given the fact that currently only three out of 10 girl children complete standard X as per the National Family Health Survey (2005-2006). To address this concern, ‘Laadli project’ was launched on April 13 in Mumbai being accompanied by Laadli Week Celebration, which culminated here in the Capital.

As a part of this celebration, today “Bebo” (Shivshakti), the leading character of “Sabki Ladli Bebo”, a daily serial of Star Plus that celebrates the birth of a girl child, was here in the Capital to take about 150 girl children of Delhi on a joyous ride. This initiative, a joint partnership of Project Nanhi Kali, an NGO of the KC Mahindra Education Trust (KCMET) and Star Plus, which actually prepared the blueprints of the concept, aims at generating awareness and raising funds for educating girl children to enable them to be self-reliant and independent.

With an initial corpus of 1,00,000 lakh, this project, presently supporting 49,000 nanhi kalis across Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi, targets to reach out to one lakh by the end of this year. In the Capital, the Ladli Fund would contribute towards supporting 600 girl children from the areas of Motilal Nehru Camp, Budh Vihar, Katwaria Sarai and some JJ clusters around JNU and IIT.

Such drives are the call of the time to uproot the age-old nostrums and regressive beliefs that are still ingrained in the very construct of our society, especially in the remotest alleys of our country.

Head of the Nanhi Kali project, Nalini Das said its was especially significant keeping in mind that presently the female literacy in our country stood at 55 per cent vis-à-vis 71 per cent of their counterparts’.

This means that 70 per cent are dropped out of schools before they finish off with their basic education, which is the sole way to empower the women of tomorrow, and with this the millennium development goal of empowering women with an equal status with men seems to be distant dream.

Meanwhile, understanding the pulse of the current times, Star Plus has brought in celebrities like Kiran Bedi, Saurav Ganguly, Shah Rukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, and Anand Mahindra for the promotion of the concept.

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Maya gives Mulayam yet another jolt

Lucknow, April 18
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati on Friday gave yet another jolt to her archrival, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, as she wooed away his close confidante Banwari Lal Kanchal, a prominent leader of traders in the state.

Kanchal has quit the Samajwadi Party as well as his Rajya Sabha membership. The announcement came at a specially convened press conference just before Mayawati's departure for her hectic election campaign across the country.

"Today, Uttar Pradesh Udyog Vyapar Mandal president Banwari Lal Kanchal came to me and expressed his desire to join the BSP in the larger interest of the trader community whom he represents," Mayawati told mediapersons. "Kanchal was impressed by what my government has been doing for the betterment of traders."

Kanchal joined the Samajwadi Party after leaving Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) several years ago. Asked to explain his decision, Kanchal said: "Anything is possible in politics." Before Kanchal, prominent leaders who quit the Samajwadi Party include Beni Prasad Verma, Raj Babbar, Shafiqur Rehman Burq and Saleem Sherwani - all sitting MPs. — IANS

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Self-immolation for Lankan Tamils continues; 13 so far
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, April 18
A 48-year-old man belonging to a central district of Tamil Nadu became the thirteenth victim of self-immolation seeking ceasefire in Sri Lanka, as he succumbed to burn injuries at a government hospital here today.

The victim, Sivanandan, a painter hailing from Karur district, had poured kerosene on his body and set himself afire yesterday, in front of the State Election Commission office here, shouting slogans against the Centre’s alleged military aid to the island nation. He was upset following daily reports of killings of Tamils in the island nation and the Centre’s alleged involvement in the war.

Tamil Nationalist Movement leader P Nedumaran and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi president Thirumavalavan visited the hospital and expressed shock over the self-immolation.

Interrogations revealed that the victim had frequently visited Nedumaran’s house demanding early solution to the Sri Lankan Tamils’ issue. He had participated in several related-protests held in the city.

The state has been witnessing a spate of protests for the Tamil cause ever since the Lankan army’s advances into LTTE-held areas in northeast of the island nation leading to large scale casualties among civilians. The Lankan issue took an emotional turn when Muthukumar, a 26-year-old youth, set himself ablaze at Shastri Bhavan on 29 January to condemn India’s reported assistance to Colombo in the ongoing war and leaving behind a letter criticising the Centre on the issue. His act triggered more such self-immolations across Tamil Nadu.

Ravi of Pallapatty, Ravichandran, a Congress worker in Sirkali in Nagapattinam district, DMK supporter Amaresan in Chennai and VCK cadre Tamilvendhan in Cuddalore were among those who have committed suicide for the Tamil cause.

This type of self-immolation for the Tamil’s cause has even spread to faraway places like Geneva where a Lankan Tamil burnt himself in front of the UN office there and Malaysia where two youths perished in the same way.

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MNS manifesto targets migrants
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, April 18
Raj Thackeray is targeting migrants living in Mumbai once again. Only it is in the form of the manifesto released by his party --Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)-- ahead of the Lok 
Sabha polls.

At a function to release the party manifesto here today, Thackeray said his party’s main aim was to prevent migrants from taking over open spaces in Mumbai.

“The MNS will keep its eye on open spaces so that they don’t become dumping grounds for migrants,” Thackeray said. Only he sounded more sober, keeping in mind the election code of conduct.

“We will use all legal avenues open to us to prevent encroachers,” he added.

Some of the other points in the manifesto included reservation of jobs in both the state and the Centre for locals. The MNS, Thackeray said, would press for locals being given preference for employment by even private enterprises in the state. “Our MPs will work to protect Maharashtra’s interest in Parliament,” Thackeray said.

“Since our priority is protecting the interests of the Marathi manoos, we will not make promises like free electricity or rice at Rs 2 per kg,” Thackeray said.

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Rane accuses Sena MP of kidnapping kin
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, April 18
Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane today accused Shiv Sena MP and publisher of party mouthpiece Saamna Sanjay Raut of kidnapping cousin Ankush Rane, who has been missing since yesterday.

In his police complaint, Narayan Rane said Ankush was missing from Kankavali town in Sindhudurg district since Friday evening. Ankush had been campaigning for Rane's son Nilesh, who is the Congress candidate from the Sindhudurg-Ratnagiri Lok Sabha constituency. The Shiv Sena has fielded sitting MP Suresh Prabhu.

Rane alleged that he suspected foul play because some blood-stained belongings of Ankush Rane were discovered from the spot where he had gone missing.

Incidentally, the police had arrested Raut only yesterday for delivering a provocative speech in the town of Kudal in the same constituency.

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Advani cautions Varun on speeches
AshokTuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 18
Varun Gandhi, the controversial new poster-boy of ‘Hindutva’ forces, called on BJP prime ministerial candidate LK Advani this morning to seek his blessings and guidance before filing his nomination from the Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

This was the first time the 29-year-old son of Maneka Gandhi stepped out of his house after his release on two-week parole from the Etah jail, where he had been lodged for 19 days under the NSA for making hate speeches at election meetings in Pilibhit.

According to BJP sources, Advani advised Varun to exercise restraint in his speeches and abide by the undertaking he had given to the Supreme Court. Advani also inquired about Varun’s campaign programmes and his experience in the prison.

Varun thanked the BJP leadership for having stood by him in his hour of crisis after he was booked under the NSA for making inflammatory speeches that could have cause communal disharmony.

Varun had claimed that the CDs of his speeches, which shocked both political parties as well as the intelligentsia, were doctored. Despite the nationwide outcry and a suggestion from the Election Commission, the BJP refused to withdraw Varun as its candidate from Pilibhit. The party took an ambivalent stand on the issue. While dissociating itself from the comments attributed to Varun, the party asserted that the controversial young politician’s claim that the CDs of his speeches had been doctored must not be rejected outright.

The sources said there was every possibility of the party using Varun during campaigning in other constituencies as well.

Varun, meanwhile, is expected to file his nomination on April 21.

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Snap ties with Cong, Ramadoss to Karuna
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, April 18
Alleging that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had done nothing to solve the Sri Lankan Tamils’ crisis, PMK founder S Ramadoss today asked whether the DMK leader was ready to snap ties with Congress, if the latter refused to sever diplomatic relationship with Sri Lanka.

Reacting to Karunanidhi’s telegram to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and AICC president Sonia Gandhi yesterday, asking them to sever diplomatic ties with the island nation if it refused to listen to India’s request for an immediate ceasefire, the PMK leader said Karunanidhi should break ties with the Congress if it rejected the Chief Minister’s request.

While all parties, including the AIADMK, was supporting a separate homeland for Sri Lankan Tamils, the DMK had not committed itself to any solution in its election manifesto, he told reporters in Coimbatore in western Tamil Nadu.

Referring to Karunanidhi’s claim that he had lost power for Sri Lankan Tamils twice, the PMK leader said the DMK leader was dismissed in 1976 on corruption charges and in 1991, he lost power due to political reasons. The DMK had never sacrificed power for Sri Lankan Tamils, he added.

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TN CM’s appeal a drama, says Jaya

Tirunelveli, April 18
AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa today dubbed as a “drama” and an “empty threat” CM Karunanidhi asking the Centre to snap diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka if it failed to honour India's appeal for ceasefire.

“Yesterday's telegram by Karunanidhi to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is yet another drama and an empty threat to the Centre to mislead people,” she said, addressing an election meet here.

“We have been accusing the UPA government and the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu of not taking any effective steps to bring about a ceasefire in Sri Lanka and end the plight of Tamils caught in the crossfire,” she added. Stepping up pressure on the Centre, Karunanidhi had sent a telegram to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, asking the UPA government to snap “all diplomatic relations” with the island nation if it failed to honour India's appeal for a ceasefire in the embattled north. — PTI

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Sanjay in trouble for remarks against Maya

Lucknow, April 18
In fresh trouble for SP general secretary and actor Sanjay Dutt, the Pratapgarh District Magistrate has slapped a notice on him for his alleged objectionable remarks against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.

"We have issued a notice to the SP General Secretary Sanjay Dutt for violating the model code of conduct by his objectionable remarks against the Chief Minister during a rally held in Pratapgarh on March 17," Pratapgarh District Magistrate Pinky Jowal said.

Dutt, during an election rally held at KP Hindu College in support of SP candidate Akshay Pratap Singh Gopal, had allegedly said that he will "give 'jaadu ki jhappi and pappi' (magical hug and kiss) to the people of Pratapgarh, and given a chance he will do the same with the BSP supremo Mayawati".

"His statement goes against any woman," the District Magistrate said. Meanwhile, BSP workers in Pratapgarh have lodged a complaint with Kotwali police station in this regard.

Earlier, on April 14 an FIR was lodged against Dutt for making communal remarks during an election rally in Mau district.

Dutt, who was campaigning in support of the party nominee Arshad Jamal Ansari had allegedly said: "jab mai police custody me tha to police wale mujhe third degree dete the, woh mujhe marte the aur kehte the ki tumhari maa musalman hai. (When I was in police custody, I was given third degree because I am the son of a Muslim woman). SP nominee from Mau seat Arshad Jamal was also named in the FIR. — PTI

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Maneka files nomination from Aonla in UP

Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh), April 18
Former Union Minister and mother of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi, filed her nomination papers from Aonla parliamentary constituency in Bareilly district on Saturday.

The 52-year-old BJP candidate, accompanied by local party leaders, filed her papers before the Bareilly district magistrate at collectorate office here.

Maneka, who was the sitting MP from Pilibhit, had shifted to Aonla constituency for her son Varun Gandhi, who was recently mired in a controversy following his alleged inflammatory anti-Muslim speeches.

Varun, who was expected to accompany her mother during the filing of nomination, was not present. As per the affidavit filed by Maneka Gandhi along with the nomination papers, total assets disclosed by her were around Rs 18 crore. —ANI

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A first in Chhattisgarh
Stung by superstition, cops take to witchcraft
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Raipur, April 18
Maintaining law and order is not the only job that the Chhattisgarh police is doing these days.

The men in khakhi are learning witchcraft and acquiring godmen-like supernatural powers and all under the guidance of state Director General of Police (DGP) Vishwa Ranjan.

When Ranjan decided to constitute a special task force — the first of its kind in India — to deal with superstitions and sorcery-related crimes in the tribal-dominated state, the IPS officer was determined to prove his point in a prac1tical manner rather than sending the message in a mere verbal or theoretical way.

His unique way of combating the widespread menace of superstitions in Chhattisgarh is now being emulated by other states as well.

Superstitious and witchcraft practices have very much been a part of tribal and village life in Chhattisgarh. In fact, with around 50 per cent of the population belonging to tribals and Scheduled Castes, these practices have a deep-rooted presence in the rural society of the state.

Ranjan’s task force is trying to deal with increasing number of sorcery and superstition-related crimes in the state. The officials are learning the tricks of witchcraft as part of their training to spread awareness about such practices in these extreme backward areas of India. They are learning how to turn paper into currency notes, change the colour of water and walk on burning coal. When he has to prove to villagers that it is no divine power that makes a man walk on a bed of coal without burning his feet, Ranjan prefers to first demonstrate it himself.

“The entire aim is to fight against superstitions, which are rife among poor tribals and villagers in the state. The so-called godmen and witch doctors show them all kinds of tricks and claim supernatural powers. To expose them, we try to show the people how these chemical and scientific tricks are done,” he explains.

What is more disturbing is that, more often than not, it is women who fall victims to such crimes. Several cases of women being ostracised, even killed or badly hurt on suspicion of indulging in witchcraft, have been reported in the state.

The police’s decision to start an awareness drive follows an incident from forest village in Sarguja district a couple of months back when several women were assaulted on charges of sorcery and their heads forcefully tonsured. Chief Minister Raman Singh asked Ranjan to investigate the case and ensure punishment to culprits and the task force was born.

Such incidents continue to occur in the tribal and rural areas despite the state government enacting the Witchcraft (Prevention) Act, 2005, with a jail term of up to five years against those found guilty, and an earlier Magic and Drugs Act.

The DGP says these laws have not acted as a major deterrent because of lack of awareness about the law among the rural people. But he is hopeful that involvement of the police will help in creating awareness against such practices.

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BRIEFLY


Congress candidate Jyotiraditya Scindia garlands the statue of his father, the late Madhav Rao Scindia, during an elction campaign in Ashok Nagar, Guna, Madhya Pradesh, on Saturday.
Congress candidate Jyotiraditya Scindia garlands the statue of his father, the late Madhav Rao Scindia, during an elction campaign in Ashok Nagar, Guna, Madhya Pradesh, on Saturday. — PTI

Private hospitals in Imphal face ultra ban
IMPHAL:
Private hospitals and clinics at Manipur capital complex here have stopped functioning following a militant “ban”. The outlawed militant outfit Kangleipak Communist Party-Military Council (KCP-MC) in a statement on Friday said they have “banned” private hospitals and clinics from functioning since April 12 as they were taking “exorbitant” amounts from patients. However, police said, KCP-MC has imposed the restriction as the hospitals had refused to pay the money demanded by the outfit. — PTI

Warning to Sonia
CHENNAI:
President of Tamil Film Directors Association and revered director Bharathiraja today warned that the film industry would hold a protest against AICC president Sonia Gandhi, if she did not stop the war before coming to Tamil Nadu to seek votes. Sonia Gandhi was maintaining silence on the issue and she should take steps to stop the war and announce it when she came to Tamil Nadu to canvass votes for her party, he said. If she respected Tamil sentiments, Tamil film industry would welcome her gratefully, he said. But, if she failed to do so, the film industry would hold a fast on April 21 condemning the Congress leader and show its strength against the Congress party, he warned. —TNS

Two boys die in fridge while playing
PUNE:
Two eight-year-old boys froze to death inside a heavy duty refrigerator while playing hide and seek in a Maharashtra town, the police said. The chilling incident occurred Friday evening in Jejuri, about 60 km from here. The victims were identified as Rishikesh Jaimallar Lakhe and Shah Rukh Abdbul Khan. While playing, the boys hid inside the heavy duty refrigerator storing poultry products, P.D. Modak of Jejuri police station said on Saturday. The two could not open the door of the fridge and are believed to have died after a few hours. They were among a larger group of children but the others dispersed after playing. — IANS

Chiranjeevi booked for code violation
HYDERABAD:
Police in Andhra Pradesh's Nellore district Saturday registered a case against actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi for allegedly violating the model code of conduct. The Praja Rajyam Party chief reportedly addressed a public meeting beyond 10 pm, the time when campaigning has to stop. The Police said Chiranjeevi arrived late in the town and continued addressing a road show till 11 p.m. He reportedly did not stop even after the police intervention. The police have also booked cases against local PRP leaders and candidates. — IANS

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