A T E S T N E W S
Modi, Sonia spar during election rallies
Karnal (Har)/Beed (Mah): As they kickstarted campaigning for the October 15 Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi today traded fire with the former attacking the Congress regime for having done "little" in the last 60 years and she likening him to "empty vessels" making noise.
Attacking Gandhi, Modi said, "Those who ruled for 60 years are demanding the account of what my government did in 60 days. Petrol and diesel prices are down. I promise you I will pull the country out of the current mess in 60 months.
Modi, who addressed a series of rallies in the two poll-bound states, urged the people to dump the Congress and give a clear majority to BJP, promising them a strong and stable government.
The Prime Minister was hitting back at Gandhi who, while addressing an election rally in Meham in Haryana, accused him of trying to "show off" as if everything has been done only after his government came to power and asked what happened to his promise of bringing back black money stashed abroad.
"They are creating such an atmosphere as if nothing has happened in the country since Independence and they will change everyone's fortunes overnight. Have any steps been taken by the BJP to fulfil the promises made during the Lok Sabha elections," she asked.
"Has inflation come down? Is the poor man getting food at cheaper rate? Have the unemployed got jobs?" she asked.
In a swipe at Modi, she said, "empty vessels make the most noise. Being loud doesn't mean you are speaking truth." "What happened to their promise of getting back the black money from abroad within 100 days of coming to power. Have any steps been taken in this regard? Absolutely not," Gandhi said in a blistering attack on Modi, hours after he urged voters in Haryana to oust the Congress, targeting it over alleged land scams and "anti-farmer" policies.
Targeting Congress which had described his recent US visit as "over hyped and disappointing", Modi asked, "Was India's presence ever felt in the US like this?".
"It is not because of Modi but because of 1.25 crore countrymen. No country can afford to ignore a man behind whom 1.25 crore people stand. Today, the ruler and the society stand together," he said. -PTI
Defused grenade found on aircraft kept as standby for Modi
NEW DELHI: In a security scare, a defused grenade was found last night in the business class of an Air India jumbo aircraft which was kept as a standby for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent US visit.
The grenade was found by the Air India crew on board the Boeing 747-400 which was operating the Mumbai-Hyderabad-Jeddah flight, airline sources said today.
On landing at Jeddah, the incident was reported to the local security agencies who took over the aircraft, the sources said.
The aircraft, which has been cleared and released by Jeddah airport security, is still in the city as Indian security personnel were investigating the matter. The plane is likely to return to Calicut soon.
The aircraft had been kept as a standby for the recent US visit of Modi. The Prime Minister had undertaken a five-day visit to the US from September 25.
"A suspicious object was found on board this aircraft.
The investigations are on," an Air India Spokesperson told PTI. -PTI
Pakistan violates ceasefire in Jammu
JAMMU: Pakistan rangers used mortars to target Indian positions on the international border in R.S. Pura sector of Jammu district Saturday. Three people were injured.
A senior police official told IANS: "Pakistan rangers used mortar shells to target Indian positions on the international border in R.S. Pura sector around midnight.
"They fired around 20 mortar shells in which three people were injured in Arnia sub-sector and one house was damaged in Devigarh village".
Pakistan has been violating ceasefire on both the line of control (LoC) and the international border in Jammu and Kashmir since the beginning of this month.
On Friday, a girl was killed and four people were injured in Pakistan army firing in Sabjian area of the LoC in Poonch district.
Pakistan rangers also resorted to indiscriminate firing and mortar shelling on the international border in Arnia sub-sector of Jammu district Friday.
Panic gripped scores of villages along the international border in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts of Jammu region.
The brunt of hostilities on the border between the two countries is being borne by the residents of border villages whose lives, homes, livestock and crops get damaged during Pakistan violations of the ceasefire agreement.
Civil administration has advised people to exercise extreme caution while moving around in border villages along the LoC and the international border in Jammu region.
The army guards the LoC while the paramilitary BSF guards the international border in Jammu and Kashmir.
IS beheads British hostage in latest video
CAIRO: The Islamic State (IS) Sunni radical group on Friday claimed responsibility of beheading British aid worker Alan Henning in an online video.
In the one-minute video clip titled "Another Message to America and its Allies", roughly the same as those released after three previous murders, a masked IS militant also introduced another hostage it identified as a US aid worker Peter Kassig, Xinhua reported.
The video was found online by the SITE private terrorism monitor and opened with a news coverage about the British parliament's vote last week to authorise airstrikes against IS, also known as ISIL, targets in Iraq.
The masked militant, who carried out the beheading in the video, has the same British accent as the killer in a previous IS video of the death of British hostage David Haines.
"The blood of David Haines was on your hands, Cameron. Alan Henning will also be slaughtered, but his blood is on the hands of the British parliament," the killer said before he killed Henning.
He also warned US President Barack Obama, saying that his group will continue to strike "the necks of your people", as the US has also been carrying out aerial bombardment against his people.
A British foreign office spokesperson said Friday that if the video showing the beheading of Alan Henning was genuine, then it was a disgusting murder.
"We are aware of the video and are working urgently to verify the contents," he said, adding that "if true, this is a further disgusting murder. We are offering the family every support possible; they ask to be left alone at this time".
Also on Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the murder of Alan Henning showed the barbarity of IS militants.
"The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are," he said, adding that "my thoughts and prayers tonight are with Alan's wife Barbara, their children and all those who loved him".
"Alan had gone to Syria to help get aid to people of all faiths in their hour of need... We will do all we can to hunt down these murderers and bring them to justice," he said.
In Washington, the White House said the newly released beheading video, the fourth if proven true, is another demonstration of the extremist group's brutality.
Lisa Monaco, US President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, said the US has seen the latest video, and is evaluating it, adding that the murder was another clear example of why the Obama administration was moving to degrade and destroy the group.
Alan Henning, who was a taxi driver from Salford near Manchester, was held since 2013 by the IS militants. He was on an aid convoy for Syrian refugees when he was captured by the terrorists.
Earlier this week, Henning's wife Barbara pleaded with his captors to free her husband in a video message, in which she said that he was innocent under Islamic Sharia law, and his family needed him.
The extremist militants have already beheaded two US journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker, David Haines and showed the horrifying process to the world in similar videos on the internet. –IANS
CBI moves Delhi HC seeking cancellation of Chautala bail
New Delhi: CBI today moved Delhi High Court seeking immediate cancellation of the bail to former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala over his alleged violation of the conditions set for the same.
Sources in CBI said the agency had approached high court as Chautala, who was granted bail on medical grounds, has allegedly violated its terms by participating in election rallies.
The 79-year-old Indian National Lok Dal chief, who has been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail in a teachers' recruitment scam case, was granted bail in May this year on medical grounds.
Following repeated violations of bail conditions, which were brought to the notice of court by CBI, Chautala had volunteered on Sept. 26 that he would surrender after which he was directed to surrender on Oct. 17.
Four-time Haryana chief minister Chautala volunteered to surrender as the court was about to order the constitution of a medical board of AIIMS doctors to consider the necessity of keeping Chautala hospitalised.
CBI has informed court that Chautala addressed a rally at Jind in Haryana on Sept. 25, the sources said. Haryana goes to polls on Oct. 15.
In its petition, CBI has prayed for immediate cancellation of bail of Chautala and sought his return to jail.
Delhi High Court had yesterday issued a notice to CBI on a petition seeking immediate cancellation of Chautala's bail on the grounds that he would "misuse the grace period of 17 days given to him to surrender" by taking part in campaigning.
A special CBI court on Jan. 22, 2013, had convicted and sentenced Chautala, his son Ajay and eight others to 10 years in jail for their role in the illegal recruitment of 3,206 junior teachers in 2000.
Among the others convicted in the case, 44 were sentenced to four years in jail while one was handed a five-year prison term. All of them were found guilty of cheating, forgery, using fake documents and conspiracy under IPC and of abusing their official position under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Chautala was chief minister for six months between 1980 and 1990, five days in July 1990 and for 14 days in 1991.
Finally, he had a complete five year tenure starting in 1999.-PTI
Dummy stun-grenade on plane, probe on; Minister contradicts AI
Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh): Rebuffing Air India's attempts at cover-up, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju today disclosed that a dummy stun-grenade was found on board an Air India jumbo plane when it landed at Jeddah in the wee hours.
The stun grenade, which had no explosive in it, was found on the upper deck business class of the Boeing 747-400, which was operating flight AI-965 on Mumbai-Hyderabad-Jeddah route, official sources said, adding that the aircraft was taken to a remote bay, checked by the local security personnel and later granted operational clearance.
"The grenade may have remained after the mock drill ....
It has BSF markings," Raju told reporters at Vizianagaram. The security drill was carried out by National Security Guards between September 24-27 at select airports and aircraft across the country to check the alertness of the crew and others concerned.
Terming the incident as "unacceptable", he said though there was no threat to passengers, "there is some failure and this lapse may not be condoned. Corrective measures have to be taken." The Minister's statement came hours after an Air India press release said "after screening the aircraft and the object which was found to be a plastic wrapper, the Jeddah airport security cleared the aircraft for further operations." A joint team of Air India and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security was rushed to Mumbai this morning which was investigating the incident and questioning those concerned in order to fix responsibility, the official sources said.
Just before landing in Jeddah, they said a box, wrapped in plastic, rolled out from beneath one of the business class seats. The cabin crew saw it and immediately informed the pilot who informed the Jeddah air traffic control.
On landing, the pilots were asked to take the plane to a remote bay where the security personnel took out the grenade and found it not having any explosive, the sources said.-PTI
Cops who filed charge sheet against Amit Shah transfered
MUZAFFARNAGAR: Two policemen who were involved in preparation of the charge sheet against BJP President Amit Shah for alleged hate speech, which was rejected by a local court, have been transfered.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (New Mandi Circle) Yogender Singh and Investigation Officer of the case Sub-Inspector Bharat Lal were shifted yesterday.
SSP H N Singh, however, said it is a routine transfer and has no connection with the Amit Shah case.
Deputy SP Yogender Singh has been shifted to police lines from the Circle of New Mandi, while Sub-Inspector Bharat Lal has been shifted to Bhorakala Police Station from the New Mandi Police Station, he said.
SI Bharat Lal had investigated the case while Dy SP Yogender Singh had filed the chage sheet in the court.
Shah was charge sheeted by the police on September 10 for his alleged hate speech during campaigning here for the Lok Sabha elections.
The court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Sunder Lal on September 11 refused to take cognisance of the charge sheet against BJP President Amit Shah in connection with the alleged hate speech made by him and returned it to the police.
Lal had refused to take cognisance of the charge sheet as police had not followed the provisions of 173 CrPc in which they did not try to arrest the accused before filing the charge sheet in court.
Returning the charge sheet to remove errors, the court had said police cannot file a charge sheet under section 188 IPC as it should be filed as a private complaint by the officer concerned, who had imposed prohibitory orders which were violated. -PTI
Prestige at stake in multi-cornered fight in Haryana polls
CHANDIGARH: Prestige is at stake as top guns of Haryana politics, including the kin of the three famous 'Lals' battle it out in a multi-cornered contest for the October 15 Assembly elections.
Unlike in the recent past, when the fight has mainly been limited between Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), a number of new players have thrown their hats in the ring this time.
However, Congress, BJP and INLD are being seen as the main players, with all three hoping to capture power on their own.
BJP for the first time in the history of Haryana, which was carved out as a separate state in 1966, is contesting on all the 90 seats on its own. Two new parties—- former Union Minister Venod Sharma-led Haryana Jan Chetna Party (HJCP) and Independent MLA Gopal Kanda's Haryana Lokhit Party—-, besides BSP, Haryana Janhit Congress and the Left parties are also trying their luck.
Two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, son of veteran freedom fighter late Chaudhary Ranbir Singh, is seeking re-election from his Garhi Sampla Kiloi constituency in Rohtak district.
Opponents taking on Hooda in Kiloi may be lesser-known politicians, but the Chief Minister faces the challenge to lead Congress to a third-time win in a row in the wake of anti-incumbency and other factors.
While Haryana's famous 'Lals'-— Devi Lal, Bansi Lal and Bhajan Lal-- may have dominated the state's political landscape for decades, years after they are gone, their progenies and kin who are contesting from different seats this time hope to keep the family name flying high.
Devi Lal's son former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and the latter's son Ajay Singh may be out of the contest this time in the wake of their sentencing in the teachers' recruitment scam last year, prestige is at stake for the kin who are in fray fighting from the seats represented by the jailed leaders.
OP Chautala's another son and senior INLD leader Abhay Singh is seeking re-election from Ellenabad Assembly segment.
In the absence of the jailed leaders, he faces the tough challenge to lead his party to victory.
Indicating that it is a do-or-die battle for the INLD this time, with the party being out of power for a decade, even O P Chautala, who is out on bail on health grounds, has joined the campaigning.
INLD is contesting on 88 seats while the remaining two seats are being fought by its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal).
First woman from the Devi Lal's clan to enter politics, Naina Singh, wife of Ajay Singh Chautala, has entered the poll arena from her husband's Dabwali segment while her son and Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala is fighting from Uchana Kalan, the seat at present represented by O P Chautala.
Congress has nominated Devi Lal's youngest son Ranjit Singh from Rania constituency.
Former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal's younger son and HJC President Kuldeep Bishnoi, who has suffered two setbacks this year, has entered the fray from the family's pocket borough Adampur constituency while Bishnoi's wife Renuka Bishnoi is contesting from Hansi.
Bhajan Lal's elder son and former Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan is contesting from the Nalwa segment.
Bishnoi and Bhajan Lal had floated their own political party the Haryana Janhit Congress in 2007 after parting ways with Congress. HJC contested its first assembly polls in 2009 and won on six seats including the victory of Bishnoi, but five of the MLAs switched over to the Congress camp.
Lal passed away three years back. Bishnoi won from the Hisar Lok Sabha seat in a bye-election in 2011, the HJC chief who re-contested from the seat in this year's general elections lost to Dushyant Chautala.
In more setback to him, his alliance with BJP did not work and he finally parted ways with the saffron party. Now, Bishnoi faces perhaps the toughest challenge in his political career in the October 15 polls as his party is contesting on 65 seats while the remaining 25 are being contested by its recent ally HJCP.
The kin of late Bansi Lal, who was considered as the architect of modern Haryana, have again entered the fray to retain hold over their traditional turfs.
Bansi Lal's son and former BCCI President Ranbir Singh Mahendra, daughter-in-law (late Surender Singh's wife) and Haryana Minister Kiran Choudhary and Lal's son-in-law Sombir Singh are contesting as Congress candidates from Badhra, Tosham and Loharu segments in the Bhiwani district.
Among other top guns in the fray are Haryana Cabinet Minister and Congress's national spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala, seeking re-election from Kaithal constituency.
BJP's chief ministerial aspirant state unit chief Ram Bilas Sharma, party's spokesman Capt Abhimanyu and former RSS leader Manohar Lal Khattar are in the fray from Mahendergarh, Narnaund (Hisar) and Karnal assembly segments, respectively.
Haryana Minister Savitri Jindal of Congress, is seeking re-election from Hisar segment. Savitri is the wife of former Haryana Minister late O P Jindal and mother of former MP and noted industrialist Naveen Jindal.
Another Haryana Minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav is seeking re-election from his stronghold Rewari assembly segment for a record seventh time.
Contesting an election for the first time from Safidon seat, teacher-turned-politician Vandana Sharma is the younger sister of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Vandana has entered the fray as a BJP candidate.
HJCP chief Venod Sharma, who snapped his four-decade old ties with Congress, is seeking re-election from Ambala City constituency while his wife Shakti Rani is in the fray from Kalka assembly segment.
Gopal Kanda, currently out on bail in connection with the airhostess Geetika Sharma suicide case, is seeking re-election from Sirsa constituency.
Bihar stampede tragedy due to suffocation: Patna dist admn
PATNA: Facing flak for the stampede at Gandhi maidan that left 33 dead and 29 injured, Patna district administration today denied lapses and said the tragedy "seems to be result of suffocation" due to the huge gathering of people for Dusshera celebrations.
"People appear to have died due to suffocation," District Magistrate Manish Kumar Verma told reporters at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH).
Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj echoing him attributed the tragedy to 'asphyxiation'.
"CCTV footage shows movement of a huge mass of people and there is no clear picture of stampede visible in the footage ... The incident (the deaths) seems to have happened due to suffocation," he said.
"Some people are seen falling and others picking them up ... Light was dim as the high mast light was not functioning near Ramgulam chowk... CCTV footage due to poor light is not conclusive," the SSP told a press conference at the PMCH principal's chamber.
He denied lathicharge by police, which eyewitnesses alleged triggered the stampede and at the same time did not rule out the role of rumours as part of a 'conspiracy' behind the tragedy.
Some people are being questioned in this respect and the police was in the process of registering an FIR in the incident.
"We are also checking how far the falling of an electric wire or a ditch in which the feet of some people were trapped caused panic among crowd are true," Maharaj said.
Verma dismissed allegations that the gates of Gandhi Maidan was kept closed, except for the one that opened near Ramgulam chowk.
"Gates were not closed. All the four gates including the one for VIPs were open... This can be seen in CCTV footage which cannot lie," he asserted.
Asked about the poor light condition in Gandhi maidan, the DM said lighting arrangement was the responsibility of the Puja committee. He said some lights were functional while some others were not working.
Meanwhile, Principal Secretary (home) Amir Subhani and Additional Director General of Police (headquarters) Gupteshwar Pandey, who have been asked by the state government to probe the stampede, visited the spot.
"We have come here as part of the probe," Subhani told reporters.
The two top officials saw a ditch under the iron gate that opened on the side of Ramgulam chowk. They also saw some iron rods of the cover on the ditch were uprooted.
Some eyewitnesses had claimed that the feet of some people were trapped in it causing panic among crowd.
Pandey said they would host an open session at the collectorate on October 7 in which people could depose before the probe team. -PTI
Eid-eve has never been so subdued in Srinagar
SRINAGAR: While the ghosts of last month's devastating floods continue to haunt the major commercial hubs of Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, almost a month after they were submerged, Eid-eve has perhaps never been so subdued in the city in living memory.
The worst-hit by the devastation of businesses and homes in Srinagar is the once booming sacrificial animal market of Srinagar at the Eidgah grounds in the old city. This is the largest animal market in the Valley and even today is full of sacrificial animals, including sheep and goats, and their sellers who have come from different places - but buyers are few and far between.
"I have brought my flock of sheep and goats from Wadwan (Kokernag). I reared these animals for the whole year to fetch me good prices on Eid-ul-Azha. More than 50 percent of my last year's buyers have not visited me this year. Even those who come and buy animals for sacrifice are doing it partially," Farooq Ahmad, 60, who comes each year to sell his stock of well-fed animals, told IANS.
"Buyers who would take four sheep for sacrifice are buying just one this year," he added.
Muslims throughout the world offer animal sacrifices on Eid-ul-Azha, also called Bakr Eid, to commemorate the sacrifice offered by prophet Abraham.
"We don't have a home this time. Where do we do the offering? Normal life has taken a backseat. I have been running from one insurance company to another to get my car and household goods assessed by surveyors deputed by insurance companies, Bashir Ahmad, 63, whose uptown Gogjibagh house was inundated by flood waters on Sep 7, told IANS.
"Where is the time for doing anything else?" Ahmad has since been living at the house of his wife's brother in the Zadibal area of old Srinagar.
The most sought after bakery shops in the Maulana Azad Road and the Residency Road are still closed after the floods hit them.
So are all the fashionable hosiery and readymade garment shops in these markets.
"Children won't get their firecrackers and toys this Eid. Those markets have also been inundated and remain closed. Yes, the one thing that everyone of us will do on this Eid is offer the Eid Nimaz to thank Allah that we are still alive," Noor Muhammad, 60, who lives in the Padshahi Bagh area, told IANS.
"After our homes got flooded on September 7, we took shelter in the local mosque for four days before we could move out to safer places," he added.
While markets in the old city areas were not directly affected by this year's unprecedented floods, Eid-eve shopping is hardly seen there as well.
"You don't celebrate when thousands have been rendered homeless and hit by floods. The least we can do to identify with the flood victims in the Valley is not to indulge in shopping and festivities.
"How can you bring new clothes home when your fellow citizens are wearing clothes given to them as relief," asked a stoic resident of Rajouri Kadal in the old city.
Eid falls on October 6. For many days before Eid markets in Srinagar would remain overcrowded with shoppers. Pavement sellers would spread their merchandise on pedestrian malls. Makeshift markets would result in endless traffic jams in uptown city.
Today the only overcrowded places are where people are waiting for relief material, including cooking gas, kerosene oil and medicines.
Resentment is growing in many places as residents blame the government for its failure to streamline the relief and rehabilitation process.
The state government has sought Rs.100,000 crore ($16 billion) as central assistance. This is also to cover losses suffered by private and public properties, livestock, agriculture and government infrastructure. The floods killed 196 people in the Jammu region while 85 died in the Valley.
Reports of profiteers hoarding goods to make money also continue to pour in from different places.
"We have booked many people who are trying to convert this tragedy into an opportunity for themselves.
"This includes blackmarketeers and those trying to raise unauthorized constructions in the city," said a senior official of the state administration.
The message for Kashmiris in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley is clear. Everything humankind owns or builds is at the mercy of nature.
Nothing proves this more than seeing the crestfallen faces of people as Eid shopping and festivities cease to be anybody's priority this year. –IANS