At least seven pilgrims killed in Indian administered Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

At least seven pilgrims killed in Indian administered Kashmir

A police spokesman said the bus was returning from the hard-to-reach Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath when militants and Indian police exchanged fire at Botengoo, Monday night, on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, south of the capital Srinagar.
“Terrorists fired on a police checkpoint and the fire was returned. A tourist bus was hit by bullets,” police spokesman Manoj Pandita said in a statement.
An estimated 60 to 70 pilgrims had boarded the bus at the Baltel base camp, reaching Botengoo just after sunset around 8.20 p.m. local time.
The bus was traveling after sunset — which is banned throughout the region due to security restrictions. It didn’t have the usual police escort and may not have had the correct registration paperwork, according to local authorities.
Amarnath is considered one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. Located at an altitude of 3,888 meteres (12,756 feet) and surrounded by snowy mountain peaks, the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine kicked off on June 29 and will culminate on August 7.
The last major attack on pilgrims in the area was carried out in August 2002, in which nine people were killed in Pahalgam.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack on social media, saying that “India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and evil designs of hate.”
The attack coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Burhan Wani, a 21-year-old commander of the militant separatist group Hizbul Mujaheedin.
It happened just hours after a government imposed curfew was lifted. The curfew had been placed over the weekend in anticipation of an attack to mark the anniversary.
Wani’s death in July 2016 resulted in violent clashes between between protesters and security forces, that left at least 20 people dead and more than 300 injured.

India: PM Modi, Sir India Is Not A Democracy If You Do Not Have Religious Freedom

To India’s Prime Minister Modi:

This article is in regard to a story I read earlier today from the Christian Post. In several regards this article if it is true shows that India is not yet a true democracy. For any country to actually be a democracy there are many issues that must be addressed, in this article I am only going to try to address a few of these ideals. In a true democracy there has to be equality in areas of their caste system where anyone can move up, or down in the financial arenas depending on their own abilities. All adults must be allowed to vote for whomever they chose at least as long as they are not convicted felons who are in jail at the time of the elections. This last issue I have with your government is in regard to India not having true honest religious freedom.

 

I do believe that India is a great country right now yet it could be so much more if the political will is there. The article today in the Christian Post said that six Christian adults were arrested last month for taking 72 Christian children of Christian parents to a ‘vacation Bible school’. A State can not prosper for all of its citizens if they cannot worship their God as they see fit. The only exception to this rule should be if the religion is telling people to go into the population and attack and or kill people who don’t agree with them and their ‘God’s’ teachings. If a person actually knows anything about the New Testament Scriptures of the Bible then they know that the Scriptures do not teach violence toward anyone. As you well know Mr. Modi there are some ‘Religions’ that do teach such violence and not even as arbitrarily, but as a requirement. Mr. Modi, is the Hindu Religion really one of these Demonic Cults? I believe that the Nation of India can be the greatest Democracy size wise on this planet in about 20 or 30 years and you may think it is now but with these glaring flaws that is not so, not yet. If the politicians in your country do not fix these serious issues I believe your future will look like a mixture of Iran and China except not Islamic or Atheist but a horrible debased Hindu State that will end up having no semblance of Democracy or freedom.

India: 6 Christians Charged With Kidnapping For Taking Their Christian Kids To VBS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

6 Christians Charged With Forced Conversions in India After Taking 72 Children to Vacation Bible School

Six Christians who were arrested in May for taking 72 children to a Vacation Bible School camp in Madhya Pradesh state, India, have reportedly been charged with kidnapping and forcible conversions as police refuse to recognize the children as Christians.

(Photo: Reuters/Babu) Women attend a mass inside a church to celebrate Easter in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 31, 2013. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.

Sources told Morning Star News in a report published June 23 that along with the six Christians, a 15-year-old boy was also held in a juvenile detention center for nearly a month, before finally being released last week.

“I missed my home so much — I cried every day, and prayed and prayed,” Akash Gundia said. “Finally, the Lord heard me. I am happy to be back home.”

Gundia was reportedly one of the 72 children detained by Ratlam Railway Police on May 21 as they traveled to the VBS camp in Nagpur. Eight supervisors were also arrested, and despite explanations that all the children had Christian parents, they were accused of trying to convert the children.

Authorities claimed at the time that the parents hadn’t followed the proper procedures in converting to Christianity, and insisted that the children will be treated as Hindus under the law.

“For changing to another religion, one needs to submit a written application to the district collector and only after the stipulated process, a person can change religious identity, which didn’t happen in the case of any of the parents claiming to be Christians,” police superintendent Krishnaveni Desavatu said at the time.

“This is why the children and their parents will be officially treated as Hindu tribals and not Christians,” he added.

Morning Star News noted that the children had permission from their Christian parents to go to the Bible camp program, however.

“I told the police I am a Christian by birth, and we are going to attend the VBS, but they did not listen to me and took us to the police station,” the 15-year-old boy said.

“Children as young as 6 were also in police custody, but when their parents came, the police handed them over to the parents. I was produced in court a day later, and from there was sent to a juvenile detention home,” he added.

Hartesh Singh Gundia, the boy’s father, insisted that Hindu extremist groups put pressure on officials to punish Christians, and blamed them for his son having to spend 25 days in judicial custody

Attorney Anand Nagarkar added: “The charges were framed based on malice and suspicion, and on this basis there can be no conviction, but the police have been taking it slow to file the challan [charge sheet]. They are under pressure by the Bajrang Dal and RSS activists.”

Nagarkar noted that that parents of the 72 children have submitted an affidavit before the court declaring that all the children were born to Christian parents, and that the volunteers came from the Sunday schools of their respective churches.

Christians, who are a growing minority in India, have found themselves attacked by Hindu radicals but also persecuted by authorities antagonistic to their faith, watchdog groups like International Christian Concern have warned.

ICC reported in February that a Christian evangelist fell into a coma following heavy harassment by a group of Hindu radicals in Hyderabad, who were angry at him for distributing copies of the New Testament.

Ronald John, state president of Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee, said at the time that such treatment of Christians is “unacceptable.”

“Even the responsible, so-called law protectors don’t go by the constitution that guarantees religious freedom. This shows how minorities are being treated in this nation,” John said.

There Is A Video War Being Played Out In Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Video vs Video: The other war playing out in Kashmir

INDIA Updated: Apr 17, 2017 07:39 IST

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kashmir unrest

Protesters clash with police and paramilitary soldiers during a protest after Friday prayers in Srinagar.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

A grainy short video shot with a cellphone shows Wali Mohammed Bhat, a supporter of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), apologising profusely and shouting anti-India slogans at gunpoint.The petrified Kashmiri man is heard saying he has long quit all political activities.

In another similar video, a group of security men are seen pinning a youth in a red vest to the ground. His hands are tied behind his back, and the men are beating his legs with sticks.

He screams: “Paani … maafi (water… mercy).”

Read more

The two clips were uploaded on social media on Sunday and quickly became the most shared, watched and commented items online in militancy-riddled Jammu and Kashmir as well as the rest of India.

These are from a long line of videos showing the two stark realities of Kashmir — alleged atrocities of a hardnosed establishment trying to bulldoze the insurgency, and the threats, brickbats and stones that people on the non-separatist side of the political divide face in the Valley.

This is Unacceptable ! Cant do this to our CRPF jawaans .This rot has to stop. Badtameezi ki hadd hai.

The troubled region’s pro- and anti-separatist battle is fought through videos — a quick-reaction psychological weapon that is exploding on social networks more often lately, especially after the protest-blighted by-elections to the Srinagar parliamentary seat on April 9.

At least eight people died in the unrest and hundreds were wounded as security forces fired at and caned crowds that tried to disrupt the bypoll in response to a separatist call to boycott the democratic process.

The video of an armed CRPF trooper being kicked and booed by a group of youth when he was returning from bypoll duty with his colleagues became a nationwide television debate.

Another Socking & Outrageous Video from occupied . Indian Brutality & oppression on its peak

The men in uniform do nothing to the hecklers. They walk on. Their action is peddled on the loop in national television as an epitome of restraint shown by the armed forces.

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The tide turns on April 13 as another explosive clip surfaced. It shows security forces firing at a group, mostly children, throwing stones. The soldiers are seen moving behind a wall, bending, locating the position of the stone-throwers, and firing at a boy. Netizens called it targeted killing.

A day later, a video showed a Kashmiri youth tied to the bonnet of a military jeep as a human shield against stone-throwers. The background audio warns people that “this will be the fate of stone-pelters”.

Here’s the video as well. A warning can be heard saying stone pelters will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry & follow up NOW!!

The video was supposedly shot in Budgam district on April 9 during the bypoll.

Another clip emerged, showing Kashmiri youth protecting a security man who allegedly fell behind from the rest of his troop.

It rained videos last Saturday. One of them shows a child screaming his lungs out as four men in army fatigues beat him mercilessly with sticks. Another one has three Kashmiri youth shouting “Pakistan Murdabad”, allegedly at the behest of a security man, half-visible in the video.

Hindustan Times could not authenticate where and when these videos were shot. But these are having an effect.

After death sentence, what are Kulbhushan Jadhav’s options under Pakistan laws?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

After death sentence, what are Kulbhushan Jadhav’s options under Pakistan laws?

INDIA Updated: Apr 15, 2017 08:36 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kulbhushan Jadhav

People shout slogans during a protest against the conviction of Kulbhushan Jadhav, in Mumbai.(AP Photo)

Pakistan on Friday listed the options available to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to appeal against the death sentence given to him by a military court on charges of espionage.Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, told a news briefing that the former Indian Navy officer was allegedly “responsible for espionage, sabotage and terrorism” and had been tried according to the law of the land.

Aziz, who read from a statement and did not take questions from the media, then listed the options available to Jadhav under Pakistani law.

“He has the right to appeal within 40 days to an appellate court. He may lodge a mercy petition to the (army chief) within 60 days of the decision by the appellate court,” Aziz said.

“He may lodge a mercy petition to the President of Pakistan within 90 days after the decision of (the army chief) on the mercy petition.”

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India has strongly criticised Pakistan for not sharing Jadhav’s whereabouts and details of his condition. It also criticised Pakistan for not adhering to the international norm of providing consular access to a prisoner despite the two countries having an agreement on the issue.

New Delhi has also said that if Islamabad goes ahead with the execution of Jadhav, it would be tantamount to premeditated murder.

Jadhav was reportedly captured in Balochistan in March last year. He was tried by a field general court martial or an army court under provisions of the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act.

Aziz said Jhadav was provided with “legal counsel in accordance with provisions of our law” and that he reportedly confessed before a magistrate and the army court that he was tasked by Indian intelligence to “plan, coordinate and organise espionage and sabotage activities”.

Aziz said all political parties of Pakistan were unanimous that the death sentence given to Jadhav was “the correct decision” and the “whole nation is solidly united against any threat to Pakistan’s security”.

Read more

Scare And Sell: How Indian Call Centers Scam/Cheat Foreign Computer Owners

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Scare and sell: How Indian call centre scammers cheat foreign computer owners

A tech support scam begins by planting a pop-up message in the target user’s web browser that alerts them to a so-called virus infection, employees and experts say.

INDIA Updated: Apr 10, 2017 07:03 IST

Snigdha Poonam and Samarth Bansal
Snigdha Poonam and Samarth Bansal
Hindustan Times, Gurgaon/New Delhi
India call centres

A tech support scam begins by planting a pop-up message in the target user’s web browser that alerts them to a so-called virus infection, employees and experts say.(Reuters Representative Photo)

Dusk is falling on Gurgaon’s Sohna Road, an upscale neighbourhood crammed with gleaming steel-and-concrete buildings that power India’s software surge and offer hopes of a brighter future to millions.It’s about 5pm. Backpack-laden young men and women pour out of cabs and auto-rickshaws and take a lift to the sixth-floor call centre of Saburi TLC, past a company motto inscribed in bright orange, “If you work only for money, you will never make it”.In 15 minutes, they diffuse into a maze of blue-and-white cubicles where they will spend the next eight hours with a computer, a desk phone and a pair of black headphones.There are hundreds of similar call centres in the neighbourhood. But Saburi TLC is different, a shadowy outfit accused of being among the biggest players in a thriving tech-support fraud that cons unsuspecting foreigners into buying expensive security software for their perfectly normal computers.

The charges against Saburi TLC are just the tip of a growing rot in India’s $110-billion business process outsourcing (BPO) industry that is being potentially hollowed out by fraud businesses thriving in the absence of strong regulation and oversight.

Many of these dodgy businesses operate a stone’s throw away from major companies in places such as Gurgaon, Pune and Bengaluru but are notoriously difficult to pin down because the victims are foreigners who can’t file police complaints in India, and the firms are often run out of flats or nondescript locations by a handful of people.

If the trend isn’t checked, experts warn, India might soon join the ranks of Nigeria and Vietnam where employment shrunk rapidly as investor confidence eroded because of high cybercrime rates and angry customers.

“Anyone doing bad things is not good for us because the impression gets generalised. In the mind of those affected by the scam it’s not a company or a person, it becomes a country,” says Raman Roy, chairman of India’s main IT industry lobby NASSCOM.

Testimonies of many victims float on the internet, in tech blogs, chat rooms and even with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the United States’ consumer protection agency that has investigated several Indian BPOs for fraud.

Ask Timothy Gatewood of Texas, United States. “I got a pop-up notice from Apple saying ‘you have virus infecting computer, call this number’. So I called the number, and it was some guy with an Indian accent,” the 53-year-old Houston-based DJ told Hindustan Times.

Read more

“He said he was a representative of Apple, and he’s with this company, Tech Live Connect. I paid them 200 dollars, all they did was delete a couple (of) files, and maybe put a couple (of) apps from the App store, and said, there you go, bada-boom bada-bing, 200-something dollars!”

Tech Live Connect’s call centre is run by Saburi TLC whose promoter and CEO Anuj Jain has heard of these complaints but denies that the blame lies with his company.

“Some of our ex-employees impersonate us, which is why you see the complaints,” Jain tells HT, sitting in a corner office with a wall full of certificates praising his achievements in the BPO industry. “They steal data from us and start calling our clients.”

Jain, 42, says Tech Live Connect (TLC), a Singapore-based company, is one of Saburi TLC’s “major clients”, handling their customer calls out of its call centre in Gurgaon. He denies any other links between the two companies.

But an HT investigation and interviews with former and present employees of Saburi TLC reveal the two companies are intimately connected.

A SCARE-AND-SELL INDUSTRY

In the satellite city of Gurgaon, an hour’s drive from downtown New Delhi, Saburi TLC’s 20,000-sqft is manned by mostly fresh-out-of-college graduates, eager for a job and who don’t ask too many questions.

A tech support scam begins by planting a pop-up message in the target user’s web browser that alerts them to a so-called virus infection, employees and experts say. The pop-up alarms the user, sometimes by locking their devices, forcing them to call a phone number flashing in the message.

The call is picked up by someone like Vikas Tanwar*.

“You ask for remote access and show them temp files, run fake software to show fabricated security threats, and convince them their computer is corrupt. Then we tell them that if you don’t buy our security products, the computer will become unusable,” says Tanwar, who knew the scare-and-sell script by heart by the end of his first week at Saburi TLC.

“We know there are no viruses. User ko to nahi pata (the user has no idea),” says Anshul, 26, who gave only one name and who joined the company five years ago. Like other employees – past and present – HT spoke to Anshul wants to hide his name. “They will have me killed.”

Tanwar, a 24-year-old commerce graduate, joined the company in November 2016. He says the brief was clear: To con every caller of anywhere between 10 and 500 dollars.

“The moment you put on your headphones, your supervisor tells you ‘you are scammers. Aapko customer ko fasana hai, kuch bhi kar ke… (you have to trap the customer, no matter how),” says Tanwar, who quit Saburi TLC in February.

It’s on the back of millions of English-speaking, tech-savvy college graduates like Anshul and Tanwar that the Indian BPO industry has grown to be a behemoth. But a paucity of jobs, easy access to foreign clients and lax regulation have caused an explosion in cyber-related crimes – exemplified last year when a Thane call centre was busted by Indian and US police for cheating 6,500 US nationals of almost $100 million.

MAZE OF DECEIT

Jain’s career maps the highs and lows of the Indian BPO industry, from a global powerhouse to a potential destination for the desperate and devious. From 2002 to 2011, Jain worked for a series of companies at the top of the BPO ladder, from Wipro to Quattro. Then, in November 2011, he launched Saburi TLC.

The first is registered in India under Jain’s name and the second, Tech Live Connect, in Singapore under the name of Brian Cotter, a former colleague of Jain’s at Quattro who left around the same time as him.

“No one knows Saburi TLC as a brand. So we reach out to clients as Tech Live Connect, who see us as one company,” says Jain.

But that argument flies in the face of evidence put together by HT.

Tech Live Connect is the owner of the domain, saburitlc.com — the official website of Saburi TLC. It’s also from an email ID registered with the domain techliveconnect.com that Jain used to communicate with HT. On LinkedIn and Facebook, Jain introduces himself as director and chairman of Tech Live Connect.

Jain and Tech Live Connect promoter Brian Cotter attribute the overlap to the “nature of partnership” between them. Cotter told HT that Saburi TLC handled its clients’ service and tech support calls.

BLOWING THE LID

To be sure, Saburi TLC’s operations include some legitimate services. Jain is the co-owner of Imagine Tressor, a premium reseller of Apple products with 11 stores across north India. He also runs two premium Apple service centres in and around Delhi.

In an industry where customer interface rarely goes beyond long distance calls, small legitimate operations often act as smokescreens for many fraudulent cyber businesses.

To capture the scam, an HT journalist called Tech Live Connect’s registered number to complain that his perfectly healthy Windows laptop was running slow.

He was first instructed to hand over remote access to the computer and then told, in an escalating tone of alarm, about a range of security threats, from “junk files” to “virus, malware, Trojan” to that his “computer has been hacked”.

The journalist was told his computer would be “unfixable” if he didn’t buy an $8 one-time fix followed by a year’s worth of security service from Tech Live Connect.

Had HT bought the security solution, Saburi TLC executives would have taken the customer through one of six or seven US-based payment gateways to deposit money in American bank accounts, says Tanwar, recapping steps he followed hundreds of times to extort money from unsuspecting clients.

“They would then launder it back to India,” he says. Tanwar thinks the call centre makes at least $5000 off the scam every day. Rajat Garg, a former Saburi TLC employee, says it makes $100,000 a day.

Tanwar made an average of 15 calls every day at Saburi TLC with a “target” of $500 on every call. “If you sell services worth $1000 dollars, you get 1000 rupees,” says Tanwar, who made Rs 20,000 in monthly salary but a far bigger amount in “incentives”.

HT also filed a request for information with the office of the US Freedom of Information Act, which revealed that the US FTC had received 699 consumer complaints against Tech Live Connect. The latest was filed on March 28 by a resident of Warner Robins, a city in the US state of Georgia, who narrated a harrowing tale of deceit and threats from Tech Live Connect. HT has copies of 50 such complaints.

Asked if Tech Live Connect was under investigation, FTC spokesman Frank Dorman told Hindustan Times: “All information about investigations is nonpublic, including whether or not there is an investigation.”

Better Business Bureau (BBB), a leading US consumer protection forum, set up a “business profile” of Tech Live Connect on its website after receiving multiple complaints against it.

“We especially do this if the company appears to have a pattern of complaints as was the case with Tech Live Connect,” BBB spokeswoman Katherine Hutt told HT. Some of these complaints with BBB were resolved, mostly with a refund. Former Saburi TLC employees told HT this was done to avoid trouble and manage online reputation.

LEGAL LOOPHOLES

A 2016 Stony Brook University study showed that 86% of all tech scams originated in India.

“Unfortunately, the scale of such scams originating from India is huge,” says Roy, also the founder of Quatrro, a big name in India’s BPO industry. “A small group of people with an internet connection and VoIP numbers can launch a tech support scam.”

And the art of scamming is not at all difficult to learn, says Garg, a former Saburi TLC employee. According to Garg, “even a 10th pass can get a job at TLC.”

Garg, 26, says he has worked for many such scam outfits. In 2012, he joined Saburi TLC but left in a year to join iYogi, a big name in Indian tech support, for a better salary. In 2015, he left iYogi after a lawsuit was filed against the company in the United States for running a tech support scam.

In 2016, he landed at Prime Technologies but lost his job the same year after founder Aman Mehndiratta – an ex-Saburi TLC employee — was convicted in a US court of routing fraud money to India using the bank account of an American co-conspirator.

But why is it so difficult to shut down such companies? A major reason is the ease with which these companies can be launched or re-launched, experts say.

Apple and Microsoft know about the scale of the fraud. A Microsoft spokesperson told HT it has a dedicated online portal to report tech support scams, which receives an average of 10,000 consumer complaints a month. To a detailed questionnaire from HT, Apple just said, “We take security very seriously”.

Vakul Sharma, an advocate at the Supreme Court, says India has the legal framework, but the complainants need to be physically present in an Indian court or send a lawyer as a representative. Hardly any American victim of tech scams do that.

In 2012, the US FTC charged six tech support firms with fraud in a US district court– five in India alone. In 2014, a US court ordered the six companies to pay more than $5.1 million dollars in damages. It was not clear if these companies paid up.

“We have met with the CBI, and with local law enforcement officials, on many occasions and hope to coordinate our efforts to halt these frauds and the damage they do to consumers as well as the reputation of India’s call center industry,” Dorman told HT in an email.

But the industry isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon, say people who have been a part of it.

“It’s very easy to scare Americans,” says Amit Singhal, who worked at Saburi TLC between 2012 and 2013.

“Bade bhole hote hain (They are very gullible).”

(Input from Harry Stevens in NEW DELHI and Yashwant Raj in WASHINGTON)

*Names of current and former Saburi TLC employees changed to protect identity

Kashmir: 8 Killed During Voting Violence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

8 killed in Kashmir bypoll violence, Srinagar registers poor voter turnout of 7.14%

INDIA Updated: Apr 10, 2017 08:29 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bypolls

Srinagar: Youths throw stones on Security forces during clashes in Srinagar on Sunday. Four civilians where killed and more than two dozens were injured during the clashes. (PTI Photo)

At least eight people were killed in clashes with security forces during Sunday’s by-election to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, which recorded a poor voter turnout of 7.14%. (HIGHLIGHTS)Violence marred polling in Ater assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh too, where police firing was reported from two places after villagers allegedly threw stones at Congress candidate Hemant Katare’s car. Six vehicles, including police cars, were damaged, sources said.The biggest bloodshed was recorded in Srinagar, where the by-poll was held along with 10 assembly constituencies in eight states, including New Delhi’s Rajouri Garden.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) float in a river after protesters attack on polling station at Kanihamma in Srinagar on Sunday. More then 20 people were injured during the clashes. (PTI Photo)

“There were more than 200 incidents of violence, mostly in Budgam district, which included stone-pelting, petrol bomb attacks, setting ablaze of a polling station, some vehicles and attempt to burn another two polling booths,” Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer Shantmanu said.

“It was not a good day for us.” And he admitted that the by-poll in Anantnag on April 12 would be a bigger challenge.

Internet services in the Valley have been suspended till Wednesday.

The violence in Kashmir followed a separatist call to boycott the by-election, saying the situation is not right to hold a democratic exercise after last year’s unprecedented public unrest triggered by the killing of popular militant commander Burhan Wani.

People took to the streets to enforce the boycott across the constituency straddling Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts.

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Polling staff abandoned almost 70% of booths in Budgam district because of the violent protests. Army was called out to help security forces quell mobs throwing stones and petrol bombs at polling stations in Ganderbal district.

Security teams fired bullets as well as the controversial pellet guns to disperse mobs. Pellet guns — a so-called non-lethal weapon — have killed, maimed and blinded hundreds of people during the 2016 unrest.

On Sunday, at least one man died of pellet wounds, director general of police SP Vaid said.

A senior doctor at Budgam district hospital confirmed that the majority of patients were being treated for pellet wounds.

Most of the dead were young men, including a 15-year-old Faizaan Ahmad Rather and Amir Manzoor, who was 17.

Protesters throwing stones at a burning polling staff bus after they attacked a polling station at Kanihama in Srinagar on Sunday. (PTI)

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said she was pained that most of them were teenagers. “I am distressed … they were yet to understand the intricacies of the issues,” she said.

Former chief minister and opposition National Conference working president Omar Abdullah, whose father Farooq Abdullah is contesting the by-poll, said he had never seen this level of violence in elections in Kashmir.

“I am talking about having fought my first election in 1998 at the peak of militancy. Even then the environment for campaigning and voting was not as bad as it is today. That may itself tell you just how mismanaged this state is under Mehbooba Mufti,” he said.

Repolling could be ordered in “anywhere around 50 or 100 polling stations or more” because of the violence, according to state poll panel chief Shantmanu.

“The tentative voter turnout is 6.5%,” he said.

That’s much lower than the 2014 parliamentary polls, which recorded 26%.

In the 1989 elections, National Conference’s Mohammad Shafi Bhat won the seat uncontested. The previous lowest turnout in the prestigious seat was 11.93% in 1999 when Omar Abdullah had defeated Mehbooba Mufti in a straight contest.

Police firing was also reported in Madhya Pradesh’s Ater seat after Congress and BJP workers clashed. Polls in the state were preceded by controversies related to electronic voting machines.

People damaged the Congress candidate Katara’s car at Sankri polling booth, where he had gone to check reports of booth capturing by BJP candidate Arvind Bhadoria’s followers.

But the state election commission dismissed reports of booth capturing.

By-elections in another assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh, two in Karnataka, one each in West Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and New Delhi ended peacefully.

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In all, by-elections were held in nine assembly constituencies in six states, besides the Srinagar parliamentary seat.

Rajouri Garden assembly seat in west Delhi recorded a poor turnout of 47%. The by-election is seen as the trailer to the municipal polls this month. The seat was held by the Aam Aadmi Party’s Jarnail Singh before he resigned to contest the Punjab assembly polls this February.

In Jharkhand’s Littipara assembly by-poll, about 72% turnout was recorded till evening.

The by-poll is viewed as a prestige issue for the ruling BJP and the opposition Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in the state. The BJP is trying to capture a seat that the JMM has held for 40 years.

Polling was peaceful and around 52% votes were cast in six hours in the Kanthi Dakshin assembly by-poll in West Bengal. The ruling Trinamool Congress has nominated former minister of state for health Chandrima Bhattacharya as its candidate.

Bhattacharya had lost from Dum Dum (North) in last year’s assembly polls.

In Karnataka, by-polls to Nanjangud and Gundlupet assembly constituencies were held. Fresh polls had to be called at Nanjanagud as V Srinivas Prasad, the Congress MLA, resigned after he was dropped from the ministry. Prasad is now the BJP candidate.

In Dholpur assembly constituency in Rajasthan, where the BJP is in power, 74% polling was recorded.

Polling was peaceful amid reports of electronic voting machine (EVM) and voter verified paper audit trial (VVPAT) malfunctions at some booths, Rajasthan’s chief electoral officer Ashwini Bhagat said.

(With inputs from HTC Bhopal, Kolkata, Ranchi and agencies)

India: Cops Halt Church Prayer Because Hindu Group Alleges Conversion: Democracy, Really?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

In Uttar Pradesh, cops halt church prayer after Hindu group alleges conversion

INDIA Updated: Apr 08, 2017 07:49 IST

Abdul Jadid
Abdul Jadid
Gorakhpur, New Delhi
Yogi Adityanath

People inside the church on Friday. Eleven US nationals were also present in the church. (HT Photo)

Police stopped a prayer attended by more than 150 people, including 11 American tourists, at an Uttar Pradesh church on Friday after the right-wing Hindu Yuva Vahini complained that the event was a cover for religious conversion.The youth group, set up by chief minister Yogi Adityanath in 2002, filed a complaint against Yohannan Adam, the pastor of the church at Dathauli of Maharajganj district.

The organisation accused him of converting Hindus to Christianity, a charge the pastor denied.

“No prior permission was taken before the meeting. We stopped the meet after a complaint was registered. A probe is underway and appropriate action will be taken if the charges are correct,” said police officer Anand Kumar Gupta.

The US tourists were let off after police checked their visas and relevant documents.

“The presence of US nationals indicates that innocent and illiterate Hindus were being converted by the missionaries, who lured them with money to change their religion,” said Krishna Nandan, a Hindu Yuva Vahini leader who surrounded the church with his supporters in the afternoon.

They dispersed after police promised a probe and adequate action, though Nandan was not happy that the Americans were cleared.

The church authorities dismissed the conversion allegations.

“The charges are absolutely baseless. The people were attending a prayer meeting voluntarily. We prayed. Nothing else was done,” pastor Adam said.

The Hindu right wing has been at loggerheads with Christian missionaries, accusing them of converting people through coercion and allurement to their faith.

Several Hindu organisations have conducted ghar wapsi or homecoming of such people, which minority groups say is a couched term for re-conversion.

Earlier this year, Hindu Yuva Vahini activists attacked the Full Gospel Church in Gorakhpur, accusing it of religious conversion.

India: Murders Hide Behind Religion And The Holy Cow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Rise of gau rakshaks: Don’t hide behind euphemisms, this is murder, writes Barkha Dutt

COLUMNS Updated: Apr 08, 2017 08:09 IST

Gau Rakshak

As the list of people murdered by ‘gau rakshaks’ continues to rise, it is time to call murder by its name, instead of cloaking it in euphemisms such as manhandling and vigilantism. (Nitin Kanotra / HT Photo)

End the euphemisms. Call it by its name- Murder. Not manhandling. Not vigilantism. And stop saying, ‘gau- rakshaks,’ please.The men who dragged Pehlu Khan out of his vehicle on the Alwar highway in Rajasthan, flung him on the roadside and lynched him so brutally that he died four days later, are not ‘protectors’, self- appointed or otherwise; they are not even ordinary criminals. They are thugs, who driven by blind religious prejudice, and emboldened by an environment that will justify the perpetrator instead of standing with the victim, brazenly killed an innocent man.

It didn’t matter that Pehlu Khan, a trader from Haryana, pleaded with his assaulters that the cattle he was transporting was with legal documentation and had been purchased at a fair in Jaipur. Quite frankly, even if he were a cow-smuggler it was no one’s business but that of the state police to enforce the law. That the Rajasthan home minister- the man who is meant to be a custodian of the law- sees “two sides” to a singular horrific truth is what is frightening.

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In the India of 2017, we are asked to see these murderous mobs as men whose intent is pure and ennobling, even if their actions are not. In the noisy debates over ‘cow-protectionism’, we gloss over the fact that it is Indian Muslims and, in some cases Dalits, who are being repeatedly targeted. And that bigotry, and not some misguided sacred zeal, is the subtext that ties all the attacks together. The lynch mobs count on two things – the ifs and buts ambivalence of government response as illustrated in the rationalisations of Rajasthan’s home minister and our short, fickle memory that is either too numbed or too distracted to stay focused on the issue.

We have already moved on from Mohammad Akhlaq who was killed in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that there was beef in his house and whose son, a corporal in the air force continued to believe his country would grant him justice. And I can confidently wager that not too many people would even know, leave alone remember, who Majloom Ansari and Inayatullah Imtiaz Khan are. In March 2016 they were found hanging from a tree in a Jharkhand village, their hands tied together by the nylon chords used to hold cattle. Imtiaz was only 12 years old. A school-going child, he was accompanying Ansari to a cattle fair in the hope of making a few extra bucks for his family. Later it emerged that Ansari had been threatened just a few days earlier by a gang of extortionists who asked him for a 20,000 rupee bribe money to ferry his oxen. The National Commission of Minorities team that investigated the killing reported a “brazen communal bias” in the police handling of the lynching and said that complaints by Muslim traders against the so called cow-protections groups had been ignored. A few months later the Jharkhand Chief Minister declared that “If India is your country; the cow is your mother.” But no mother would allow murder in her name.

If we barely remember Ansari and Khan, we didn’t even pay marginal attention to the death of Zaid Ahmed Bhat, a young man in his twenties who died in a Delhi hospital after being attacked with petrol bombs on the highway in Udhampur, Jammu & Kashmir. His body was unable to recover from the 60% burns the flames had inflicted. And once again the rumours of cow slaughter turned out to be unfounded.

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Now Pehlu Khan joins this growing list of (forgotten) victims. His murder will occupy the news cycle till another story bumps it off. He will be a talking point in Parliament till the next deal has to be negotiated between the government and the opposition. There will be outrage and analysis; we will tell you how cow hide is used in other parts of our life, from leather to musical instruments. The opposition will urge the Prime Minister to break his silence and make a statement. He may even do so, as he did in 2016 after four Dalits were flogged in Gujarat. Back then, he eviscerated what he called the ‘gau-rakhshak business” underlining that nearly 80% were “anti-social” elements hiding under the cover of cow protection. Yet, several BJP leaders of Uttar Pradesh had rallied behind those accused in the Dadri lynching, demanding punishment for Akhlaq’s family instead for eating beef. The opposition outbursts will be replete with hypocrisies as well. (After Dadri, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh boasted that the Congress had banned cow slaughter in 24 states and was even open to a debate around a nationwide ban). And the BJP will fulminate in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat- where a law was just passed on life imprisonment for cow slaughter- but reject any idea of a beef ban in the north-east where it is looking to expand its political presence.

Soon enough the debate will go off the front pages and the prime time headlines and we will all get on with our lives. Till the next murder. In the meantime, the ‘cow’ards will thrive. This has become the New Normal.

Barkha Dutt is an award-winning journalist and author

The views expressed are personal

India: No Plans To Demonetise Rs 2,000 Bank Notes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF INDIA)

No plans to demonetise Rs 2,000 notes: Government

PTI | Updated: Apr 5, 2017, 05.15 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Counterfeit currency that came into the market after demonetisation were made of low quality paper which was easy to make out
  • The government is more alert and has taken many measures to curb fake currency: Kiren Rijiju

File photo used for representation. File photo used for representation.

NEW DELHI: There are no plans to demonetise the new Rs 2,000 currency notes, the government said on Wednesday, scotching “rumours” to this effect.

“We are seizing fake currency. As far as rumours in the market are concerned, we should not go by such rumours,” minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said in the Rajya Sabha.

He was responding to a question by Congress member Madhusudan Mistry during Question Hour seeking to know if the government will demonetise Rs 2,000 currency notes as there were “strong rumours” in the market.

The minister said fake currency has mostly been seized from Gujarat and West Bengal. “But it is not correct that fake currencies cannot be identified. It is not true,” he said.

Counterfeit currency that came into the market after demonetisation were made of low quality paper which was easy to make out. But later fake currency notes with better quality paper started coming in, Rijiju said.

Stating that the government has adopted many new security features in the new currency notes, Rijiju said, “I can assure the House and the country that now no one can copy 100 per cent, as we have indigenous design and extra features.”
The government is more alert and has taken many measures to curb fake currency such and there were provisions for stringent action against those involved in fake currency, including setting up a coordinated committee of all intelligence agencies, providing training and creating awareness among the people, he said.

Top Comment

To have full effect, they should remove the 2000 Rs note. Crooks and hoarders have taken it directly from the bank during demonetization.

As per the data placed before the Upper House, Border Security Force has seized 378 new Rs 2,000 currency notes from Assam and West Bengal post demonetisation.

National Investigation Agency (NIA) has seized 22,677 new Rs 2,000 notes worth Rs 4.53 crore from Gujarat and West Bengal.