(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)
Updated: Dec 12, 2019 08:12 IST
Prison officers in Delhi’s Tihar jail have begun arrangements to execute the four men convicted of the December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder of a physiotherapy student in the national capital, according to officials aware of the preparations.
These include approaching a prison in Bihar for gallows rope, writing to other states for services of hangmen, and inspections of the courtyard as well as the equipment that will be used to carry out the execution.
“We have ordered 10 new ropes from the Buxar jail. We are making preparations so that when the time comes, everything is in place. The ropes are made in Buxar jail by prisoners. They have to be of a particular type and should not break during the hanging or cut the throat. We had some old ropes but we did not want to take a chance,” said a Tihar officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh are on death row for the gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman who was tortured on a bus that she and a friend boarded in south Delhi’s Munirka. A fifth adult suspect in the case, Ram Singh, purportedly committed suicide in prison before the trial ended and a sixth was a minor at the time of the crime.
Prison officials did not indicate when the executions would take place and said that the four convicts were on October 27 reminded that they had exhausted all their legal options and that if they did not file a mercy petition within a week, the department would proceed with the execution process.
Last month, a mercy petition signed by one of the four convicts was first sent to the state government and then to Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal. State home minister Satyendar Jain and the LG recommended the petition be dismissed and forwarded the file to the President’s office. The convict, Vinay Sharma, withdrew the petition.
Two officials in the President’s office said there are no petitions from these convicts pending.
In a ruling in 2014, the Supreme Court held that a death row convict must be given a reasonable amount of time to take legal recourse against an execution warrant and to have a final meeting with members of his family. “Convicts need to be given 14 days from the date they have been told that their mercy petition has been rejected. The hanging too needs to be preceded by a notice,” said advocate Rishabh Sancheti, who was part of the legal team involved in the 2014 case and has represented convicts such as Surendra Kohli, whose death sentence was commuted over delays.
All of the preparations, the communications to Buxar prison officials and to Uttar Pradesh state officials (seeking services of hangmen), and the inspection of the gallows, which included a test carried out using a dummy weighing 70-80kg, was done on Monday, multiple officials told HT.
“We received a request letter from the Tihar prison through fax on December 9 (Monday) seeking services of the two hangmen of UP, as they do not have hangman there. The letter makes no mention of the convicts to be hanged but states there may be requirements,” said the director general (DG) of UP prisons administration and reform services, Anand Kumar.
A second Tihar officer confirmed that the department has written to not just UP but several states for the services of a hangman. Tihar does not have a hangman of its own at present. “If we do not get a hangman, it can be done by any jail official. We have to follow the manual and the process. Before Afzal’s hanging, we used the services of a hangman from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh,” this officer said, asking not to be named. Parliament attacks convict Afzal Guru was the last person to be hanged inside Tihar, on February 3, 2013. He was hanged by a jail official, whose name was never revealed by the government.
On Monday, prison officers also opened the gate of the “phasi kotha” in jail number 3, the courtyard where the execution will take place. Officers checked the iron beam, the wooden plank, and the lever. The officers then conducted a mock hanging by using sand bags to test the weight on the beam, plank, and lever.
(With inputs from Rohit Singh in Lucknow)
With a population of 1.34 billion people, India is the second most populous country in the world. Statistically, one in six people on Earth is from India. There are 46 cities with over 1 million people, compared to just 10 cities within the United States. And these are the five most populous of them all. Population numbers are 2019 estimates according to World Population Review.
Chennai is a coastal city on the Bay of Bengal. It is well known for its artistic, religious, and culinary traditions. With such a long and rich history, Chennai is a popular travel destination for tourists and is one of the most visited cities in the world.
The city is also famous for its healthcare services and boasts of its medical tourism industry. People flock from across the world to get medical care for a fraction of what it would cost in their home country. More than 10.7 million people live in the city of Chennai.
Officially called Bengaluru, Bangalore is located in southern India on the Deccan Plateau 3,000 feet above sea level. It is a melting pot of many different cultures and religions. In the city alone, there are over 1,000 Hindu temples, 400 mosques, 100 churches, 40 Jain derasars, two Buddhist viharas, and one Parsi fire temple.
Because of its diversity, Bangalore is one of India’s most progressive cities and offers artsy cafes and modern shopping malls. It has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of India” because of its numerous new tech startups. There are many parks and lakes scattered throughout the city. As far as Indian cities go, Bangalore is among the easiest to live in — just ask one of the almost 12 million people who call it home.
Kolkata is located in eastern India on the bank of the Hooghly River. The river empties out into the Bay of Bengal, making Kolkata a hub for manufacturing, transportation, and commerce. The city was originally built in the style of a European city but has since managed to combine East and West to create its own unique identity.
The city was originally named Calcutta, which was the British version of what the locals called it: Kalikata. Kalikata referred to the goddess Kali and was a combination of the three cities that combined to make the metropolis. In 2001, the name Kolkata was officially adopted. The city covers 40 square miles and is home to almost 15 million people.
The city of Delhi is made up of two parts: Old Delhi and New Delhi. Old Delhi is a historic city that reaches back into the 6th century and beyond. New Delhi was created under British colonization as the capital of India and the capital of British India. More than 16.3 million people live in New Delhi alone, making it the second most populated city in India.
If you count Delhi as one unified city that includes both New and Old Delhi, the population jumps to nearly 30 million, doubling the population of Kolkata! Because of its massive population, pollution is a major issue for both air and water quality.
Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the financial, commercial, and entertainment capital of India. It is the largest as well as the wealthiest city in the country. The city is home to 37 billionaires, making it the city with the tenth most billionaires in the world. One of the most expensive private residences on Earth is also located in Mumbai. The 27-story, 400,000-square-foot palace is considered second only to Buckingham Palace in terms of cost and size.
While there is immense wealth in Mumbai, that wealth is not spread evenly across the population of almost 20 million people. More than half of the city’s inhabitants live in slums, most without access to clean water or electricity.
Credit: Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / Shutterstock
Updated: Sep 04, 2019 08:16 IST
Talks between India and China on the boundary issue under the framework of the Special Representatives (SR) mechanism are likely to be delayed, four people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
To be sure, the two sides had not formally announced any dates for the talks under the SR mechanism. But the people cited above said that China’s foreign minister Wang Yi was expected to visit New Delhi next week for talks with National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval.
The Indian Army’s Udhampur-based Northern Army commander, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, is also not going for a visit to China as scheduled, the people said. The visit was expected to take place this month, but the exact dates could not be immediately ascertained. The Northern Army command is the nerve-centre for counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir and is also responsible for guarding the Line of Control (LoC).
Also watch| Jaishankar meets Chinese minister amid Beijing’s objection to Art 370 move
The reasons for the likely change in the schedule for the talks between the Special Representatives, and the change in the top Indian general’s visit to China, could not immediately be ascertained.
HT has learnt, however, that the SR talks would be held in the near future.
India and China have held more than 20 rounds of talks under the mechanism to settle the dispute over the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The countries are also continuing with preparations for the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, expected to be held during October 11-12.
The people cited above said the two sides were looking at four possible venues – Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Varanasi – for the informal summit. The first informal summit between Modi and Xi was held in Wuhan last year and helped put bilateral ties on an even keel after the 73-day military standoff at Doklam in 2017.
Wang Yi, who is also a state councillor, is set to visit Islamabad on September 7 for a trilateral Afghanistan-China-Pakistan meeting, people aware of the matter in China said. He will then travel to Kathmandu on September 8 to prepare for President Xi Jinping’s proposed visit to Nepal in October.
Meanwhile, China’s new envoy to India, Sun Weidong, said on Tuesday that the two countries should work to reduce their differences and settle their disputes through talks. “For neighbors and major countries, differences are hard to avoid. The key is to properly handle them,” he told a welcome reception hosted by the Chinese embassy.
First Published: Sep 04, 2019 00:46 IST
Book a trip to India, and there is one staple sight you’re going to try and see — the Taj Mahal. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to visit India’s most popular tourist destination, but to visit the Taj Mahal and only the Taj Mahal would mean missing out on some of the most breathtaking views a country could offer.
Before you start filling up your calendar with the things you’ll see and do, make sure the following three sights are somewhere on your itinerary. They’ll help you see a side of India you didn’t know existed while also providing a glimpse into the early history of the South Asian nation.
As a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site, Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi draws plenty of attention. The tomb, which shares a similar appearance to the famed Taj Mahal, was built in 1565 A.D. after the death of Humayun, also known as Nasir-ud-Din Muhammad. The second emperor of the Mughal Empire is joined by several other Mughal rulers, who are buried within the walls of Humayun’s Tomb.
When Humayun passed away after a fall down a flight of stairs, his widow, Queen Bega Begum, undertook the task of having a mausoleum built for the emperor. Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas took on the job under the supervision of Bega Begum.
Once an incredible structure marked by ornate designs, a lack of maintenance over the years allowed much of it to pale. In the early 20th century, a restoration project tackled the decaying structure and the surrounding gardens, which were taken over by the English in the 19th century, and returned the building to its original form.
Located in the Leh District of Basgo, some 24 miles from Leh, travelers will find the remains of the Basgo Monastery. In 1680, the monastery was constructed for the Namgyal rulers who overtook the land. Built from bricks of mud, the monastery overlooks Ladakh and is tucked between the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges.
Grags-pa-bum, a Tibetan king, started construction of the structure. At the center of the manmade complex is a series of temples dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha, or fifth incarnation of Sakyamuni, or Buddha. Murals that depict snippets of the life of Buddha are painted along the interior walls.
Though much of the monastery has deteriorated over time, it’s still used for ceremonies and holidays by the inhabitants of the nearby Hemis monastery.
Not every incredible sight in India is going to be manmade. In West Bengal, travelers will find the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Found on the southeastern tip of the 24 Paraganas district, the Sundarbans is named for the Sundari mangrove plant that grows within the region.
The wilds of West Bengal come to life in the Sundarbans, which is the world’s largest deltaic mangrove forest. Along with a striking beauty and exotic appearance, the Sundarbans are home to an icon of India — the Royal Bengal Tiger.
This natural stretch of mangrove offers a unique experience for anyone who travels down the still waters that run alongside vibrant green coastlines. Visitors will get to say they’ve been inside the world’s largest estuarine forest and existed among tigers and crocodiles.
Updated: Aug 18, 2019 08:15 IST
The 22nd round of the India-China Special Representatives dialogue on the boundary issue will take place in New Delhi in mid-September. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.
Dates for the meeting between Doval and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the interlocutors, haven’t yet been finalized, Hindustan Times learns from Chinese and Indian diplomats.
The foreign ministers dialogue on August 11-13 in Beijing and the Special Representative talks are precursors to the October 11-12 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in India for which Varanasi is being considered as the potential venue.
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way, and that Wang had sent “early harvest” proposals to India.
Neither side is willing to share the contents of the proposals. However, Beijing, as indicated by HT’s conversations with Chinese diplomats, is showing no signs of changing any positions with New Delhi, be it India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or full political support to its “all weather ally” Pakistan.
The trust factor between the two sides has also taken a hit after China, joined by the United Kingdom, still living in its imperial past, supported Pakistan in the informal United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Monday against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to nullify Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.
The overall sense from the UNSC meeting was that both countries were hopelessly outnumbered and out maneuvered in their quest for a formal outcome by the remaining 13 members led by the US and France.
In his meeting this month in Beijing with State Councillor Wang, who is also foreign minister, external affairs minister S Jaishankar had made it very clear that both countries should be sensitive to each other’s core concerns. “If Beijing wants India to support One China that includes Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, then it also must support One India,” said a top official.
Indian diplomats based in the US said the latest Chinese move in support of Pakistan on Kashmir will lead to a cooling of ties; Article 370 and Article 35 A have nothing to do with beaching either the UN Charter or the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, they say. Despite Chinese diplomats vehemently denying it, Beijing wants to play elder brother to South Asia as the dominant power in the region and will support Pakistan for its own economic and strategic interests.
In the circumstances, mutual trust between the two countries can only be built if President Xi, or Xi Dada (elder brother as he is called), can overrule the status quoits in Beijing and opt for a mutually beneficial and mutually acceptable solution to the long-pending dispute over the boundary.
First Published: Aug 18, 2019 07:07 IST
Updated: Aug 03, 2019 09:10 IST
Intelligence reports and satellite imagery of the line of control bordering Pakistan reveal that the country cleared all launch pads of terrorists in the run-up to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington last week – and then brought them back after his return.
“For several days, we got reports saying there are no terrorists at the launch pads waiting to infiltrate into India. It was very surprising because the period between May and October is when infiltration bids are made,” a senior army officer who has seen the intelligence reports said on condition of anonymity.
Khan met US President Donald Trump last week on July 22. For the first time, a Pakistani prime minister was accompanied by the country’s army chief, General Qamar Bajwa and spy agency Inter services Intelligence’s chief, Faiz Hameed. The assessment in Delhi is that Pakistan did not want any skirmish on LoC to spoil the high-level meeting, a first since 2015.
Fresh intelligence reports now indicate that 200 to 250 terrorists are back at the launch pads waiting to infiltrate into India, the army official added. The ceasefire violation in the Valley’s Gurez sector on Tuesday was an infiltration attempt, the army officer confirmed. “We could see two bodies (of terrorists) lying (there) ,” he said.
An intelligence official confirmed that the launch pads were vacated and the terrorists shifted to villages close to the line of control for the duration of about two weeks. “The border has become active again and we are expecting more ceasefire violations,” this person added on condition of anonymity.
Heavy artillery fire duels between India and Pakistan too escalated this week in the Tangdhar and Keran sector. In another ceasefire violation in the Sunderbani sector, one Indian soldier was killed.
At a press conference in Srinagar on Friday, Chinar Corps Commander, Lt Gen KJS Sandhu said Pakistan was continuing with its infiltration bids and was trying to “disrupt peace in the Valley.”
There was a spike in ceasefire violations after the Balakot air strike at a Jaish-e-Mohammed facility in February, soon after the attack in Pulwama, in which a vehicle laden with explosives rammed into a CRPF convoy, killing 40 troopers.
The border has come alive once again and the thinking in the Indian security establishment is that Pakistan will up the ante. “The assessment in Pakistan is that they had a good trip to Washington and are happy with Trump’s offer to mediate on Kashmir,” an Indian official said, asking not to be identified.
First Published: Aug 03, 2019 05:45 IST
Updated: Jul 03, 2019 08:49 IST
India will decide on oil purchases in line with its national interests but Tehran is hopeful New Delhi will resume Iranian oil imports that have been hit by American sanctions, Iranian ambassador Ali Chegeni said on Tuesday.
New Delhi stopped Iranian oil purchases after Washington ended on May 2 a six-month waiver that had allowed the top buyers, including India, to continue imports.
The US imposed sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal last year.
“We understand India will act according to its national interests. We know India is under pressure (but) India’s relationship with any other country is not against us,” Chegeni told reporters after the opening of an exhibition of Iranian arts.
“We are not deciding on behalf of the Indian government and we respect all their decisions, but we expect a friend…(to place orders for oil) in future…Iran is ready to be the biggest protector of India’s energy security,” he added.
Referring to external affairs minister S Jashankar’s recent remarks about India’s need for affordable, stable and predictable energy supplies, Chegeni said Iran fulfilled all these conditions.
“We didn’t get any negative signal from the Indian government that they won’t buy in future…We are hopeful that our relationship will continue,” he said.
Though the Iranian port of Chabahar, which India is developing as a gateway to Afghanistan, isn’t under sanctions, Chegeni said US actions had created uncertainty in the minds of investors and bankers.
“They are saying Chabahar is not under sanctions, but the banks don’t dare to come, the private companies say the future is not clear for them. Somehow this is a sanction,” Iranian ambassador Ali Chegeni said, adding that operations at the port had picked up in recent months.
Chabahar is key to the plans of Central Asian states to trade with India, he said. “Nobody can ignore the importance of Chabahar,” Iranian ambassador Ali Chegeni added.
First Published: Jul 02, 2019 23:31 IST
Updated: Jun 20, 2019 23:58 IST
There are no immediate plans to impose caps on H-1B work visas in retaliation for New Delhi’s data localisation plans though India and the US will have to contend with a full plate of trade-related issues during secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s visit next week, people familiar with developments said.
Trade tensions between the two sides have increased in recent weeks, with India imposing higher tariffs on some American goods on June 16 after the US withdrew export benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme. The US has opposed India’s data storage plans that could hit firms such as Wal-Mart and Amazon.
“We are not aware of such plans,” a person familiar with developments said in the wake of a Reuters report that the US is considering a 15% cap on H-1B visas for countries that force foreign companies to store data locally. India is the largest beneficiary of the programme, with about 70% of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued each year going to Indians.
Asked about the H-1B visa issue at a regular news briefing on Thursday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We have not heard anything officially from the US government on this matter.
“We remain engaged with the US administration…and we have emphasised time and again at all our high-level interactions the contributions of Indian skilled professionals to the growth and development of the US economy.”
Kumar said consultations are underway within the Indian government and between the government and industry on data localisation or the storage of private data of users by foreign firms. The use of such data will have to be balanced with “national priorities and sensitivities,” he said.
“India’s position is in line with global best practices. We will remain engaged with the US on this matter and see how we can dispel any misconceptions on data localisation which they might have,” he added.
The Indian side is looking to Pompeo’s visit during June 25-27 – the first high-level engagement with the US since the general elections – as an opportunity to clear the air on differences over trade-related issues, which are in marked contrast to the robust cooperation on strategic security and defence issues.
Kumar said Pompeo’s visit will be “an important opportunity for both sides to explore ways to further strengthen the India-US strategic partnership and continue the high-level engagement on matters of mutual interest”.
Besides holding talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, Pompeo will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on June 26, the main working day of his visit.
The external affairs ministry sought to play down trade-related differences, with Kumar saying, “In a relationship that is as diverse and as deep as the one we have with the US, that there will be certain issues which will be on the table…The overall direction of the relationship remains very positive.”
First Published: Jun 20, 2019 23:57 IST
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