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Rajasthan cops arrest witness in Mecca Masjid case

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The Times of India

HYDERABAD: A prosecution witness in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar, 43, was arrested recently by the Rajasthan Anti-Terrorism Squad (RATS) on charges of his role in the Ajmer Dargah bombing.

According to sources, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had picked up Rateshwar in connection with the Mecca Masjid case a few months ago and grilled him. In view of his knowledge of the vital portions of the case, the CBI offered to make him a prosecution witness to which he had agreed. Soon after, the CBI arrested the key terror plotter Swami Aseemanand from near Haridwar in the same case and brought him to the city.

Fearing that the Swami might spill the beans and name him in other bombing cases, Rateshwar took to his heels and disappeared from the police radar. His fears came true when the Swami spoke about his role in Ajmer Dargah bomb blast case to the RATS.

In the meantime, the RATS also gathered more evidence against Rateshwar on its own in the Dargah case and intensified the manhunt. He was finally arrested last week and produced in Ajmer district court.

Sources said that the CBI has cited Rateshwar as the PW 113 in the Calendar of Oral Evidence and also recorded his statement. The CBI chargesheet filed against the two accused __ Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma __ in the Mecca Masjid case said that Rateshwar has given a statement to the agency, which corroborates the facts of the chargesheet and would prove that on October 11, 2007 Sunil Joshi (another accused in the case who was murdered later) phoned and told him that the Ajmer blast was triggered by him with the knowledge of Indresh Kumar, a senior RSS leader.

The chargesheet further said that Rateshwar would also prove that Swami Aseemanand and Sunil Joshi were close to each other and that the Swami had provided shelter to Joshi after the Ajmer blast.

Sources said that the RATS could also make Rateshwar a witness as he has been involved with the gang that carried out bombings at various places in the country during last about six years.

Clashes as Israel police raze mosque in Bedouin town

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JERUSALEM – Clashes broke out in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat early on Sunday as Israeli police demolished an illegally-built mosque in a pre-dawn raid, police and witnesses said.

Israeli riot police patrol the streets of Jerusalem

Local residents said thousands of police and border police drove into the southern desert city overnight and set up roadblocks to prevent people from reaching the condemned mosque.

Clashes broke out as those living near the mosque poured out of their houses to prevent the demolition, and police fired tear-gas and rubber bullets, a spokesman for the local branch of the Islamic Movement told AFP.

“They went into the mosque and arrested those who were praying inside, including me, and drove us outside the city until the operation was over,” said Yusuf Abu Jamer.

Police confirmed the demolition, saying a local court had ordered the structure be raised as it was built without a permit.

“A large number of police demolished an illegally-built structure this morning which was being used as a mosque in Rahat,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, saying demonstrators had thrown stones to try to stop the operation, leading to two arrests.

After the raid, Rahat city council declared a general strike, with a protest planned for later on Sunday, residents said.

Abu Jamer said the mosque, one of the biggest in Rahat that had been built to try to combat drug dealing in the area, was one of 17 local mosques built without a permit.

“Obviously, this shows Israel would rather we engage in drug dealing and crime than prayer,” he said.

Rahat is the Negev’s only Bedouin city and has more than 45,000 residents.

Around 160,000 Bedouin live in Israel, more than half of them in unrecognised Negev villages without municipal services like water and electricity. Many live in extreme poverty.

Modi’s method

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By Sadiq Naqvi

After the genocide in 2002 and a string of fake encounters targeting Muslims, the ‘Hindutva lab’ is again active. Now, secular social activists are being branded as Maoists and jailed
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi

“The Gujarat government likes to keep stories on terror alive,” says Mukul Sinha, leading human rights lawyer based in Gujarat. Thirteen people have been arrested recently under one omnibus FIR for alleged propagation of the banned Maoist ideology in ‘Vibrant Gujarat’.

The FIR (No. I-37/2010, dated February 25, 2010, under sections 120 (B), 121 (A), 124 (A) and 153 A (B) of the Indian Penal Code, and Sections 38, 39 and 40 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 1967) was lodged by Ravindra B Nikam, a sub-inspector with the Special Operations Group of Gujarat Police. It alleges a conspiracy against the State and points to the Maoist movement in Gujarat and north Maharashtra. It does not name any of those who have been arrested. Ironically, not a single instance of Maoist violence has been reported from Gujarat.On June 17, 2010, Abdul Shakeel Basha, a well-known social activist, was picked up by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police while he was leaving for work. His wife, Anju Shakeel, had no clue where he was until Special Cell officers brought Basha to his house in south Delhi for collecting evidence.

Basha, the Gujarat Police alleges, was an active member of the CPI-ML (People’s War) (now CPI-Maoist) from 1996 to 2004 and was trying to spread the Maoist movement in urban areas even after that. Sources close to Basha reveal that he was being followed for 20 days before he was finally arrested. “They even knew what he ate on the platform in Bhopal where he had gone for a public meeting on the gas tragedy,” says one of them. The police even tried linking him with some Islamist organisation, but failed to find any evidence.”I know Basha since 2004 and he has been working with us till 2008. As far as I know, he has no connections with the Naxals,” says Harsh Mander, member of the National Advisory Council (NAC).

Basha worked with him in Aman Biradari, an NGO working with the victims of the 2002 Gujarat genocide and for the homeless in Delhi, before founding another organisation, Haq, in 2008.”Basha has been fighting for the rights of the homeless and poor in Delhi. I have known him since 2004 and he was working closely with us,” says Indu Prakash Singh of Indo-Global Social Service Society, a Delhi-based NGO. He adds that even if Basha had Naxalite links earlier, he has now completely disowned the ideology and was leading a normal life. “How can they arrest someone because he was a member of an organisation that was banned after he had quit it?” he asks.

Hardnews learnt that even the police admit Basha is a “good man” and has an absolutely clean record since 2004. A source revealed that the police is pressurising Basha to become a police approver.Basha had worked in Mumbai after the 1992 pogrom of Muslims, helping the people to start their lives afresh. Shifting to Gujarat later, he worked first with industrial workers and then with Nyayagraha, a campaign of Aman Biradari for providing legal aid to the victims of the 2002 genocide.Basha’s activism has repeatedly exposed illegalities committed by the BJP-led government in Gujarat. “Two years ago, a young boy had been picked up by Gujarat Police from Seelampur in east Delhi. Basha had been instrumental in getting him released. The police had to pay a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to the boy,” informs a close aide of Basha.

Basha is not the only activist behind bars in Gujarat. There are 12 others who were arrested without any evidence of involvement in Maoist activity. One of them, Sulat Pawar, was recently released on bail after the court found no prima facie evidence against him. Pawar, the police alleged, had gone to Kerala for arms training.The civil society in Gujarat is aghast over the spate of arrests. All the arrested activists were working within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Avinash Kulkarni (57) was working with tribals in Dangs district for the last two decades, with the latest thrust being on the implementation of the Forests Rights Act. He was also opposing attempts of the Hindutva forces to instigate tribals against other minorities.

Bharat Pawar (40) was a local resident who had housed Kulkarni in Dangs. Makabhai Chaudhuri (49) and Jayaram Goswami (52) fought for the rights of quarry workers and diamond labourers, while Satyamrao Ambade (47) and Niranjan Mahapatra (37), nabbed from Surat, worked with textile workers’ trade unions. KN Singh (47), arrested from Bhavnagar, worked for local and migrant industrial workers, representing their cases in labour courts.”

No act of violence has been reported till date in which Kulkarni was involved. The police allege that he had sent two people to Kerala for arms training some 10 years ago. So how come they did nothing violent all these years even after being trained?” asks Ambrish Mehta, a civil rights activist who has worked with Kulkarni.Ten of the 13 accused have been arrested on charges of being members of CPI-ML (Janashakti). “Janashakti has been an overground organisation since 1992. Is it a crime to be a member of an overground organisation?” asks Kavita Srivastava of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

Charge-sheets have been filed against 10 of the accused, in which the police claim that they are “professional revolutionaries” and “members of either CPI (Maoist) or CPI-ML (Janashakti)”, and that intending to usurp political power through violence, they had formed a ‘Surat Area Committee’ of the Maoist party. Mukul Sinha rubbishes these allegations, saying there is no Naxal presence in the area. Activists believe it is a ploy to get more funds from the Centre.”

Nothing has been recovered from Basha. The police have not been able to provide any evidence of the conspiracy, neither have they recovered any arms. One of the accused had named Basha in his confession to the police. That confession obviously does not hold ground in the court of law,” Basha’s lawyer Bilal Kagzi told Hardnews from Surat. Indeed, the bail of Sulat Pawar has created hope for activists. “There is no evidence against any of them, except the so-called ‘naxal literature’ the police claims to have seized from the accused. All of them will be ultimately released by the court of law,” says Mehta.

Activists point out that this repression is part of Narendra Modi’s agenda of ‘development’, pitched to assure the corporates that no one will be allowed to stand in their way. “The people who have been arrested are all secular and progressive, and were opposed to this Hindutva regime,” says Hiren Gandhi of Darshan, an NGO where Shrinivas Kurapati (34), another activist arrested for alleged Maoist links, used to work. “Now that the Modi government has been exposed and discredited on the Islamist terror front, this seems to be the new tactic,” says Srivastava.”

It’s a ploy to create a fear psychosis in the state,” says Sinha. This view is also echoed by Harsh Mander. “POTA was indiscriminately used against Muslim youth in the early part of the decade. Now, social activists seem to be their new target,” he told Hardnews.

Police action apart, there are other sinister ways to silence activists. Amit Jethwa, a prominent Right to Information activist, was shot dead near the Gujarat High Court on July 20, 2010, where he had filed a Public Interest Litigation charging Dinubhai Boghabhai Solanki, BJP MP from Junagadh, with running illegal mines and stone crushers in the Gir forest and on the Saurashtra coast. Jethwa’s father has alleged that the MP is behind this brutal murder. The MP is since absconding.”Anybody taking up issues that concern the bread and butter of the poor can be branded a Maoist. This witch-hunt is going on across the country,” says Gautam Navlakha, PUDR.Many others share this view. “The State does not want people to organise themselves. All those arrested are either trade unionists or were organising the tribals.

Anybody engaged in organising tribals can be termed a Maoist and put behind bars,” says Colin Gonsalves, senior Supreme Court lawyer.

Taliban names removed from U.N. list – how times have changed

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In all the noise about the war in Afghanistan over the last week, including the WikiLeaks uproar and a spat between Pakistan and Britain over remarks made by Prime Minister David Cameron about Pakistan’s links to Islamist militancy, one piece of news carries real significance.

On Friday, five Taliban members were struck off a U.N. Security Council list of militants subject to sanctions in a move designed to smooth the way for reconciliation talks with insurgents. Among those, two of the five were dead. The other three – Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad Awrang, a former Afghan ambassador to the United Nations, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the last Taliban ambassador to Islamabad before 9/11, and Abdul Satar Paktin – are no longer subject to the asset freeze and travel ban imposed on those on the list.

To get a sense of quite how significant a change this is, consider how Mullah Zaeef – who now lives in Kabul and says he is no longer an active member of the movement – describes his treatment when he was arrested in Pakistan in early 2002, according to his book “My Life with the Taliban”. The Pakistani official who arrested him told him: “Your Excellency, you are no longer an Excellency! America is a superpower. Did you not know that? No one can defeat it, nor can they negotiate with it. America wants to question you and we are here to hand you over to the USA.”

Turned over to the Americans near Peshawar after being driven there from Islamabad, he says he was attacked and his clothes ripped with knives. “The Pakistani soldiers were all staring as the Americans hit me and tore the remaining clothes off my body. Eventually I was completely naked, and the Pakistani soldiers – the defenders of the Holy Koran – shamelessly watched me with smiles on their faces, saluting this disgraceful action of the Americans.”

“That moment,” he says, “is written in my memory like a stain on my soul.”

That was followed by long years of humiliation and degradation in jails first in Afghanistan and later in Guantanamo. Finally freed from Guantanamo without charge on Sept. 11 2005, he returned to Kabul where he has lived under government protection.

The decision by the United Nations, with American support, to remove the names of Mullah Zaeef and others from the sanctions list is possibly the closest Washington has come since 9/11 to offering some kind of legitimacy to the Taliban movement which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

It is an important step for a movement which some analysts argue always craved legitimacy – it was recognised only by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan when it was in government – and which in any negotiations about giving it an eventual share of power in Afghanistan would be looking for the kind of funding and trade possibilities that only international recognition can provide.

It should also make it easier to open the kind of informal contacts that could eventually pave the way to more serious negotiations. Mullah Zaeef – who in his book speaks of his loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar – was involved in earlier meetings in Saudi Arabia which were reported to have focused on the possibilities of reconciliation with the Taliban.

The United States and its allies have increasingly spoken about the need for talks with the Taliban to try to bring an end to an unpopular war now into its ninth year, although Washington has also said it needs more time to end a stalemate on the ground so that it can enter any talks from a position of strength.

But if and when talks do start, one of the obstacles has been over how to talk to a movement whose members are on the United Nations “most-wanted” list.

The Taliban leadership is not expected to negotiate in public until their names are removed from the list. The United States and its allies are unlikely to remove those names from the list until the Taliban sever ties with al Qaeda. And the Taliban are unlikely to sever ties with al Qaeda until after negotiations start, since that is their biggest bargaining chip.

The removal of some names – even of former Taliban members – from that list is a small step to resolving that conundrum. Potential intermediaries can now travel more freely and if they choose to do so, open up lines of communication to agree on the kind of confidence building measures which would likely be an essential prelude to more organised talks. U.S. and other officials can also meet them without fear of sanction.

Whether those contacts succeed or not is a different question – the Taliban leadership will make their own calculations about whether they can win more at the negotiating table than by waiting out the clock for the Americans to leave. But they should help both sides to understand each other a bit more in a shadowy war where neither side, each from radically different cultures, has much of an understanding of the enemy it is fighting.

In the words of Mullah Zaeef again:

“The biggest mistake of American policy makers so far might be their profound lack of understanding of their enemy. The U.S. brought an overwhelming force to Afghanistan. They arrived with a superior war machine, trying to swat mosquitoes with sledgehammers, destroying the little that was left of Afghanistan and causing countless casualties on their mission, knocking down many more walls than killing insects. Till this very day, it is this lack of understanding and their own prejudices that they still struggle with.”

Is Farooq Leghari the only corrupt man in Sindh?

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By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The case of Farooq Leghari, the detained brother of Prof Javed Leghari who heads the Higher Education Commission, is becoming a classic example of the repressive ways of a mighty administration that has no regard or respect for the rule of law.

Farooq Leghari’s only crime is that he is the brother of Dr Javed Leghari, who has courageously resisted the government’s pressure to surrender and relent on verifying the degrees of MPs. The elder Leghari is braving all pressures but his brother has become the victim.

Otherwise reputed as corruption friendly like the federal government and showing no interest to curb the menace during the last two- and-a-half years of its tenure, the Sindh government has suddenly and vigorously started pursuing the alleged corruption of one of its Grade 19 officer – Farooq Leghari.

The junior Leghari was granted bail by the anti-corruption court on Thursday but he was neither released nor does his family have any clue about his whereabouts. His family sources say that a new case of car theft is being now framed against the officer.

Thanks to an independent judiciary, which has found the earlier case of corruption framed against the officer as “weak” and granted the officer bail, those pulling the strings of the Sindh administration are too clever to let the Legharis off the hook so easily. “You get bail one after the other, we will continue to make more and more cases,” a family member of the Legharis claimed to have received the message from rulers.

Is this not what Asif Ali Zardari used to complain when he was on the receiving end? When he got acquitted in one case, another was ready. Is he taking revenge for what happened to him?

However, it is yet to be seen if the superior judiciary would allow this ‘Tamasha’ going on in a similar fashion in this blatant case of arm-twisting by those who are mandated to rule while remaining within the parameters of law and the Constitution.

The high court, it is said, has the powers to order, while granting bail in a case to any accused, that it should be first informed before taking the concerned person into custody on any other charge and he should not be arrested unless allowed by it.

The case of Farooq Leghari is not much complex to understand as to why he has suddenly become the high-profile example of corruption in Sindh. Will he be in a similar position had his brother followed the orders of the Sindh rulers and not performed the duties assigned to him under the law?

Why is the PPP leadership so scared? There is no other reason except that it has many skeletons hidden in its cupboard. It wants all the cheats in its ranks to be occupying important positions who decide the destiny of the nation. Farooq’s arrest, moments after he was granted bail by the Sindh High Court, reminded many of us of tactics of oppressive dictatorial regimes.

According to the Leghari family sources, the most powerful man in Sindh, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, personally held a meeting with the Hyderabad superintendent of police at the latter’s residence in Latifabad on Wednesday to discuss this unique case of “corruption” in the Sindh government. It is claimed that Farooq Leghari has been moved to Badin despite his bail whereas the anti-corruption department authorities, when contacted on Thursday by the family, denied that the officer was with them.

These are such a strange testing times for Dr Javed Leghari that instead of being rewarded and praised for doing his job honestly and fairly, he and his family are at the receiving end where the corrupt are having a field day. His family members, friends and acquaintances are also worried about the safety and security of Dr Javed Leghari, who remains undeterred and is determined to complete the job assigned to him.

Will the courts, the politicians, the assemblies, the media and the civil society support this great exception in the present ruling elite during these testing times or would he be left alone to face all these excesses and become history? Will corruption and the corrupt rule? Will anyone stand up to stop them?

Kashmir: Observance Of Martyrs’ Day

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Country May Be destroyed; The will of the People Can Not Be Broken

By Sajjad Shaukat

Indian Brutalities Are No Less Than Israel’s

Youme Shuhada-e-Kashmir (Martyrs’ Day) is observed on July 13 every year on both sides of the Line of Control and all over the world by the Kashmiris to pay homage to 22 Kashmiris who were martyred in 1931 to free Kashmir from the brutalities of despotic Dogra rulers. The day is the milestone in the history of Kashmiri struggle against foreign occupation.

A young Kashmiri martyred has a smile on his face

The history of Dogra rule (1846-1947) in Kashmir is replete with tyrannous treatment, meted out to the Kashmiri Muslims by Dogra forces. Under the Dogra rule, they were leading so miserable life that it was difficult to differentiate them from beasts. Slave labour, heavy taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, and living under constant terror was order of the day.

In this connection, Yousaf Saraf in his book, ‘Kashmiris Fight for Freedom’ calls it “free forced labour” and “instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used for transportation of goods across the far-flung areas”.

Atrocities of the Dogra regime could also be judged from the book of Sir Walter Lawrence, ‘The India We Served’. While describing the pathetic picture of the Kashmiris, he remarks, “army was employed in forcing the villagers to plough and sow, and worse still, the soldiers came at harvest time and when the share of the state had been seized” and “there was very little grain to tide the unfortunate peasants over the cruel winter.”

Under that tyrannical regime, political rights could not be imagined; even the religious rights had been segregated away from the Muslims of the state.

On April 19, 1931, the ban of Eid Khutba ignited widespread demonstrations in the Jummu city for a number of days. It was followed by desecration of the Holy Qur’an at the hands of Dogra forces, which resulted into outrage among the Muslims throughout the state. In Srinagar, people gathered in Jamia Masjid to denounce this blasphemy. One such get-together was held in Khankah-e-Muella Srinagar, which was addressed by prominent Kashmiris. When the meeting was concluded, a youth, Abdul Qadeer, pointing his finger to the Maharaja’s palace, raised slogans “destroy its every brick”. With the accusation of sedition, he was arrested forthwith. Abdul Qadir was to be tried in the court but due to large public resentment, the court was shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.

On July 12, 1931, in response to the shifting of court, intense public protests were held throughout the city. The next day, on July 13, 1931, thousands of people thronged the Central Jail Srinagar to witness the in-camera trial of Abdul Qadeer. As the time for obligatory prayer approached, a young Kashmiri stood for Azan. The Dogra Governor, Ray Zada Tartilok Chand ordered soldiers to open fire at him. When he got martyred, another young man took his place and started Azan. He was also shot dead. In this way, 22 Kashmiris embraced martyrdom in their efforts to complete the Azan.

The people carried the dead and paraded through the streets of Srinagar, chanting slogans against Dogra brutalities. Complete strike was observed in the city, which was followed by weeklong mourning. This incident shook the whole state and the traffic from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and Srinagar to Jammu came to halt from July 13 to 26, 1931. The 22 martyrs are buried in Martyrs’ Graveyard at Khawaja Bazar, Srinagar.

The atrocities against the Kashmiri Muslims did not stop even after the partition of India. The human rights record of Indian government in the occupied Kashmir has been terrible and is characterized by arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and extrajudicial killings.

Since 1989 when liberation of Kashmir entered a new phase, Indian military troops have been using all inhuman tactics of ethnic cleansing to disturb the majority population of the Kashmiris.

Today’s Kashmir presents the worst possible case of state terrorism where Indian forces threaten to eliminate entire masses engaged in demanding implementation of the United Nations resolutions. Various methods of state terrorism such as breaking the leg, burning of a village, custodial killings etc., are mercilessly used against the innocent Kashmirirs, demanding their legitimate right of freedom. More than half million people have been massacred by the Indian troops so far.

In the recent past, discovery of nearly 3000 graves of the unmarked Muslims in the 18 villages of Indian controlled Kashmir surprised the international community, displaying new evidence regarding New Delhi’s state terrorism there.

Graveyards are full but India wont listen

It is notable that ‘composite dialogue’ between India and Pakistan took place on a number of occasions, but produced no outcome, prolonging the agony of the subjugated people of the occupied Kashmir due to Indian intransigence.

Nevertheless, observance of Kashmiris’ freedom struggle on the Martyrs’ day every year is reaffirmation of the fact that Kashmiris will continue to fight against Indian illicit occupation. In this respect, Youme Shuhada-e-Kashmir is an ideal day for Kashmiris to seek inspiration to carry their struggle for freedom to its logical end. At this time of distress, the people of Pakistan side with the oppressed ones in sharing the grief of Kashmiri freedom lovers. Pakistan also observes Youme Shudaha-e-Kashmir on July 13, launching a protest against the oppressive polices of Indian occupation, which has continued against the hapless Kashmiris.

However, on July 13, all over the world, Kashmiris renew their pledge to continue the ongoing war of liberation for the accomplishment of their right of self-determination and for the independence of occupied terroritoris from the despotic Indian rule.

‘Red alert’ for India Maoists protest

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Security forces in India’s West Bengal say they are on “high alert” as Maoists began a four-day protest against a security operation in which eight of their fighters were killed.

There has been a wave of Maoist-led violence in recent months

The rebels, including three women, were killed by security forces in West Midnapore district on Wednesday.

The police say they are expecting rebels attacks over the weekend.

Authorities have been under pressure following a wave of Maoist-led violence in recent months.

In late May, more than 145 people were killed when a train crashed in West Bengal after Maoist rebels allegedly sabotaged the rails.

West Bengal police chief Bhupinder Singh told the BBC that police and paramilitary federal forces in the affected areas have been put on “red alert”.

“We anticipate retaliatory attacks and explosions by the rebels over the weekend,” he said.

Earlier Maoist leader Comrade Khokan had said that the rebels would observe a two-day protest over the weekend.

‘Police atrocities’

Later, he said the protest would continue until Monday in the Junglemahal area – a Maoist stronghold – in West Midnapore.

A local rebel militia has also called for a separate strike in the area on Friday in protest against “police atrocities on innocent villagers”.

A militia spokesman said a deaf and mute tribal boy had been arrested by the police and described as a Maoist rebel.

“A physically handicapped boy has been framed by the police,” a spokesman of the militia said.

Early on Wednesday, eight rebels were killed during a six-hour-long firefight in the Rajna forests near the troubled Lalgarh enclave.

Their bodies were recovered along with some guns and ammunition which had been earlier looted from a police armoury, police said.

Thousands have died in the rebels’ decades-long fight against the state.

Maoist rebels have in recent months stepped up attacks in response to a government push to flush them out of their jungle bases.

Indian forces launched the offensive in what is known as the “red corridor” – a broad swathe of territory in eastern and central India where the Maoist rebellion has been gathering strength.

Nearly 50,000 federal paramilitary troops and tens of thousands of policemen are taking part in the operation in several states.

In April, 76 paramilitary troops were killed in an ambush – the single deadliest attack on the Indian security forces by the rebels.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India’s biggest internal security challenge.

Delhi police make arrests after ‘honour killing’

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Police in the Indian capital, Delhi, say a teenage girl and her boyfriend have been murdered in what they suspect is a gruesome case of “honour killing”.

Caste leaders frown upon marriages within the same sub-caste

Aisha Saini and Yogesh Kumar, both 19, were beaten with metal rods and then electrocuted, police say. The girl’s father and uncle have been arrested.

According to police, the girl’s family disapproved of the relationship because her boyfriend was from another caste.

Cases of suspected “honour killing” are rare in the Indian capital.

Correspondents say the killings – long a taboo subject in India – are now being reported more often. There have been a number of recent cases in regions near Delhi.


The couple’s mutilated bodies were recovered early on Monday after neighbours complained of a foul smell emanating from the uncle’s house in Swaroop Nagar area in north-west Delhi.

“When we found the bodies – the couple’s legs and hands were tied and they were bleeding,” Delhi’s deputy police commissioner NS Bundela told a news conference.

“The couple had been electrocuted as well, but we will wait for the full post-mortem report.”

He said the girl’s father and uncle had been arrested “but three suspects still remain at bay”.

Police say Ms Saini’s family feared she would elope with Yogesh and he was called to her uncle’s home on Sunday on the pretext of discussing the relationship.

According to the Hindustan Times, neighbours went to the house on Sunday but were told that a family matter was being discussed.

A police official quoted in the newspaper said the assault went on for hours.

The couple were beaten with “iron rods and other blunt weapons” before being forced to sit on iron trunks to which live wires were attached and they were electrocuted, he said.

“This is a barbaric act of violence and should be condemned. It is my duty to get the perpetrators punished,” Delhi’s Women and Child Development Minister Kiran Walia said.

So-called “honour killings” are fairly common in parts of northern India, but rarely heard of in the Indian capital.

In April, five men were sentenced to death and one jailed for life over the 2007 murder of a young couple who married against the wishes of village elders in Haryana state, not far from Delhi.

Elders said they had violated local customs by marrying within the same sub-caste.

Social activists say many young men and women die every year in northern states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Some commit suicide, others are killed – often with the approval, tacit or otherwise, of village councils that still wield considerable power.

Doctor molests pregnant woman, arrested

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A pregnant woman complained that she was allegedly molested by a government doctor in Kamrup (Rural) district during medical examination after which the police arrested the physician on Sunday.

The seven-month pregnant woman alleged that the in-charge of Tularam Baphna Civil Hospital of Amingaon, Uday Shankar Medhi (50) molested her while medically examining her at a private pharmacy.

The woman told her husband that the Gynecologist physically molested her while medically examining her.

The husband then filed an FIR in Changsari police outpost. The doctor was immediately arrested by the police, the sources added.

Women protest as French Cabinet gets veil ban bill

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PARIS – One runs her own company, another is a housewife and a third, a divorcee, raises her children by herself. Like nearly 2,000 other Muslim women who freely wear face-covering veils anywhere in France, their lives will soon change and they are worried.

On Wednesday, French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie presented a draft law to the Cabinet banning Muslim veils that cover the face, the first formal step in a process to forbid such attire in all public places in France. It calls for euro150 ($185) fines and, in some cases, citizenship classes for women who run afoul of the law.

The measure notably creates a new offense, “inciting to hide the face,” and anyone convicted of forcing a woman to wear such a veil risks a year in prison and a euro15,000 ($18,555) fine, according to a copy of the text.

“Citizenship should be experienced with an uncovered face,” President Nicolas Sarkozy told the Cabinet meeting, in remarks released by his office. “There can be no other solution but a ban in all public places.”

Although the Interior Ministry estimates there are only 1,900 women in France who cover their faces with veils, the planned law would be another defining moment for Islam here as the nation tries to bring its Muslim population – at least 5 million, the largest in western Europe – into the mainstream, even by force of law.

The bill is to go before parliament in July, and despite the acrimonious debate that is sure to come, there is little doubt the measure will become law. Sarkozy, who says such veils oppress women, wants a law banning them on the books as soon as possible.

“If the law is voted, I won’t take off my veil. … No one will dictate my way of life” but God, said Najat, a divorcee, who gave her age as “45 plus.” She was one of a half-dozen women who, in a rare move, met with reporters on Tuesday to express their worries about changes they say will impact their lives to the core.

Like others, she refused to give her full name. All said they fear for their safety in an increasingly tense climate. Najat was among those who said she has been increasingly harassed since debate over the planned law began nearly a year ago.

Amnesty International urged French lawmakers to reject the bill. The London-based organization said its expert on discrimination in Europe, John Dalhuisen, believes a complete ban would violate rights to freedom of expression and religion for women who wear the face veils “as an expression of their identity or beliefs.”

A French anti-racism group, MRAP, which opposes such dress, said a law would be “useless and dangerous.”

Sarkozy welcomed the bill, saying the government is embarking on “a just path” and urging parliament to take its “moral responsibility” and approve it.

The final draft text says France’s founding tenets of liberty, equality and fraternity, values that guarantee the “social pact,” are at stake.

The women beg to differ, claiming that France is betraying itself.

“Liberty. Liberty. I’m in France, in the land of liberty, equality, fraternity. I had the impression I was living it,” said Oum Al Khyr, of Montreuil, on the edge of eastern Paris.

The measure, which could be amended once it reaches parliament, foresees a six-month delay in its application to explain the law and mediate with recalcitrant women who cover their faces, which means it wouldn’t take effect until early in 2011.

A similar veil ban is in the works in neighboring Belgium.

France has already walked this road, banning Muslim headscarves, and other “ostentatious” religious symbols, from classrooms in 2004.

The bespectacled Najat, with a French mother and Moroccan father, said she has covered her face with a veil for 10 years. Najat said that because she is divorced and raising her children alone no one “can say this is imposed on me.”

“I won’t leave” France if the veil is outlawed. “Why should I leave?” Najat said, waving her French passport.

The women predicted that their “sisters,” other women who veil themselves, would hide out in their homes so as not to get caught breaking the law. Several said they would take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if arrested.

With the law, “They are giving people the right to attack us,” said Kenza Drider, of Avignon in the south, who is married with four children. She was the only fully veiled woman to be interviewed by a parliamentary panel during a six-month inquiry.

“To tell a sister you can’t wear this veil is to say you can’t practice your religion,” said Oum Al Khyra.

The bill turns on the “dignity of the person” rather than security issues, as had been widely speculated. It was unclear if that would make it more vulnerable to constitutional attacks.

The French government decided to risk running up against the constitution, despite a warning from the Council of State, France’s highest administrative body, which said March 30 that a full ban would likely not pass constitutional muster. It confirmed its “unfavorable opinion” on a general ban in a final report last week, according to the daily Le Figaro.

France’s Muslim leaders have said the face-covering veil is not required by Islam, but have also warned that a ban on the full veil risks stigmatizing all Muslims.

In a country where fashion counts, and is often revealing, there is a visceral reaction among some French to veils that cover women from head to toe and conceal the face, sometimes including the eyes.

Critics of the garb say such dress is an affront to gender equality and undermines the nation’s secular foundations by bringing religion into the streets. Others say the face-covering veil is the gateway to radical Islam.

The six women speaking Tuesday tackled such arguments, saying that their dignity cannot be dictated by the state, that they do not represent a terrorist threat and that secularism should give them the right to practice their religion as they see fit. They correctly note that women make up less than 20 percent of the 577 lawmakers in the French National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

“They say they are going to free us,” said Drider. But “it’s the state who will force us into cloisters. We will have to sue for sequestration.”

Karima, 31, who runs an import-export company, said she has been wearing a burqa-like veil for 16 years – more than half her life, she notes – and “I don’t even know how to take it off.”