India To Invite Imran Khan For Upcoming SCO Meet

India will extend invitations to all members of SCO including Pakistan as well as to the observer states for 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) heads of government meeting later this year, said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Thursday.

“It is now a public knowledge that India will be hosting the SCO council of heads of government meeting later this year. The meeting is held annually at the Prime Minister’s level and it discusses the SCO’s program and multilateral economic and trade co-operation. As per the established practice and procedure within SCO all eight members of SCO, as well as four observer states and other international dialogue partners will be invited to attend the meeting,” said Kumar when asked whether Pakistan will be invited for the meeting.

India for the first time will host the next meeting of the SCO members states’ heads of government. Kumar, while addressing a weekly briefing, said that all heads of the government of member states including Prime Minister Imran Khan will be invited as per the standard procedure.

The announcement by the MEA comes a day after Pakistan with the help of China tried to raise the Kashmir issue in the United Nations Security Council.

SCO is an intergovernmental organisation founded in Shanghai.

The SCO currently comprises eight Member States — China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, four Observer States interested in acceding to full membership — Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia — and six “Dialogue Partners” — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

In June 2019, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Imran Khan attended SCO summit in Bishkek. During the summit, Modi made a veiled attack on Pakistan while addressing the plenary session, stating that the countries which support and finance terrorism must be held accountable.


CDS Gen Rawat Calls For De-radicalisation Of Youth

Programs aimed at counter-radicalisation of youth should be started for saving them while there is still time, said Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, on Thursday.

“We should start counter-radicalisation programs while identifying who are the people to have been radicalised and to what degree. Then look at them who are completely radicalised and then look towards the future. What we are seeing in Kashmir, young boys and girls as young as 10 years old have been radicalised, but they can still be isolated from radicalisation in a gradual manner,” Gen Rawat said at the panel discussion during Raisina Dialogue 2020.

Asserting there is a need to counter the radicalisation programs, the CDS said that the sources of radicalisation need to be found out and treated.

“Radicalisation can be countered, anything which has started can end. You need to see where it is starting. It is starting from schools, universities, from some other sources. We get the nerve of the whole things from where the radicalisation is coming, we have to start isolation of these people through deradicalisation camp,” Rawat said.

“We have such deradicalisation camps going in our country and so does Pakistan… ideology and radicalisation are the issues which have to be addressed on priority,” he added. (ANI)

India China Relations

China Isolated As It Raises Kashmir At UNSC Forum

China yet again managed to hold an informal closed-door consultation on Kashmir in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York earlier on Wednesday, almost five months after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 in August.

The UNSC’s closed-door meeting was called to discuss an issue relating to an African country. China made a request to deliberate on the Kashmir issue under the agenda of “Any Other Business Points.”

No other UNSC member, barring China, commented on the meeting after it ended given that it was an informal consultation.

China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, warned against further escalation between India and Pakistan’s over Kashmir and hoped that the Security Council meeting would encourage both countries to seek a solution through dialogue.

He told reporters after the closed-door meeting that China remains “concerned about the situation on the ground” in Kashmir.

“I’m sure the meeting will help both parties to understand the risk of further escalation and encourage them to approach each other and to have dialogue and to seek means to seek solutions through dialogue,” Zhang said.

Members of the UNSC speaking on condition of anonymity said that China wanted a review of the UN observer mission in Kashmir. But an overwhelming number in the 15-member council urged for de-escalation of tension and said that the dispute is bilateral and should be resolved by India and Pakistan.

It should be noted that this is China’s second attempt to get the Kashmir issue on the agenda for consultations at the United Nations. However, it was thwarted by other members led by the United States and France.

India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin took to his official Twitter handle to post a picture of the Indian flag fluttering among those of other countries at the United Nations headquarters.

“Today @UN…our flag is flying high. Those that launched a “False Flag” effort got a stinging response from our many friends…,” he posted.

Meanwhile, French diplomatic sources told ANI that their country’s position remains “unchanged” and the matter must be settled bilaterally between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Earlier in the day, the Pakistan media had reported that the UNSC will meet on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Kashmir.

“France has noted the request of a UNSC member to raise Kashmir issue again in this body. France’s position is unchanged — Kashmir issue must be settled bilaterally as we have stated on several occasions and will continue to reiterate to our partners on UNSC,” sources said.

In December last year, France had vetoed the move to convene a meeting on Kashmir. That meeting had been called by China after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a letter to the UNSC on December 12, had expressed concern over a possible further escalation of tension between New Delhi and Islamabad after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5.

The UNSC had met on Kashmir in August last year, the first such meeting in decades after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

China, in the meeting, had strongly criticised the move to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.


Separate Ethnic Identity: Sikhs Hail US Govt Decision

The Sikh community in the United States on Wednesday described as a “historic milestone” their identification as a separate ethnic group and said the procedure will help in recording an accurate number of their people in the decennial US Census report.

The US Census board has included Sikhs as a separate Ethnic Group. For the first time, this minority group will be counted and coded in the decennial US Census.

“A separate code recognises the unique identity of Sikhs and gives us an opportunity to have an accurate count of Sikhs in the United States to better serve the community’s needs,” said US Census Deputy Director Ron Jarmin.

Advocated by United Sikhs, a non-profit organisation based in the US for more than two decades, this development will also be instrumental in addressing major Sikh issues which included bias, racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes against the community.

“This historic announcement is the result of decades of advocacy by the United Sikhs group at the national level on behalf of the Sikh community. Being involved in this civic engagement will help ensure an accurate count of Sikhs in the United States. Census data will help in tracking and measuring hate crimes against the community. It will also ensure an equal and accurate representation of Sikhs. This is useful in providing access to members of Congress and other essential government services for the needs of the community,” said Jasmit Singh, Advocacy Director of the United Sikhs.

Jasdeep Singh, another prominent voice of the community and the founder of ‘Sikhs of America,’ welcomed the US Census Board’s decision, saying, “A lot of hate crimes after 9/11 were attributed to the Sikh community, and there were no boxes to check. As Sikhs, we were lumped in as south Asian, Middle Eastern, so we could never get our voice heard. This would give a number and identity to the Sikh community.”

“A long-awaited demand of the Sikh community has been met. The main category in the census is the country of origin and for many of us, that will always be Asian Indian. But when it comes to religion or ethnicity the new Sikh identity will come in place,” he told ANI.

One of the many formal partners of the US Census Bureau, the Sikh Coalition — a US-based think tank — also raised census awareness and participation of the Sikh community as a separate group.

“The Sikh Coalition is partnering with the Census Bureau because Sikhs have traditionally been a ‘hard to count’ population in the United States,” said Satjeet Kaur, Sikh Coalition Executive Director.

“Our community matters and we want to make sure that Sikh families are appropriately counted and accurately resourced wherever they are across the United States,” Kaur added.

In the lead-up to the mid-March mailing of initial census forms, the Sikh Coalition will recruit and train volunteers at Gurdwaras across the country who will help community members submit their census information online in a safe and supportive environment.


Execution Of Convicts In Nirbhaya Case Postponed

Standing Counsel for Tihar Jail authorities Advocate Rahul Mehra on Wednesday said that the execution of convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case will not take place on January 22.

He further stated that the fate of a death convict comes to finality only after his mercy plea is rejected by the President

“It can only take place 14 days after the mercy plea is rejected as we are bound by the rule which says that a notice of 14 days must be provided to the convicts after the rejection of mercy plea,” he added.

Mukesh Singh, one of the four convicts in the gang-rape and murder of paramedic student in 2012, has informed the Delhi High Court that his mercy petition is pending before the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and the President of India and he should be given a minimum 14 days notice between the rejection of his mercy petition and scheduled date of execution.

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court has refused to set aside the trial court order which issued death warrant.

Delhi High Court had asked convict Mukesh’s counsel to approach trial court and apprise the court about the pending mercy plea.

The Supreme Court had already dismissed curative petitions of the two death row convicts, including Mukesh Singh, in 2012 gang-rape case.

Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh had moved the curative petitions in the top court after a Delhi court issued death warrants in their names for their hanging on January 22.

Besides them, two other convicts named Pawan and Akshay are also slated to be executed on the same day at 7 am in Delhi’s Tihar Jail premises.

They were convicted and sentenced to death for raping a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in the national capital on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012.

The victim, who was later given the name Nirbhaya, had succumbed to injuries at a hospital in Singapore where she had been airlifted for medical treatment. (ANI)

Bhim Army Chief Granted Bail In Delhi Violence Case

A Delhi court on Wednesday granted bail to Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad in connection with the Daryaganj violence case.

The court has ordered him not to hold any protest in Delhi till February 16th.

While hearing the case, the Judge had asked Azad’s counsel to read out some of his social media posts.

Advocate Mehmood Pracha, representing Azad, had on Tuesday said that the petitioner was sent to jail without any evidence in connection with anti-CAA protests in Delhi’s Darya Ganj area last year.

“I think the court’s comments should become a precedent for the country. The Public Prosecutor at the behest of police tried to make this a communal issue. We told the court that the government has a problem with Azad because he made the CAA-NPR-NRC an issue for everyone. The Court also sought evidence,” Pracha told ANI after Delhi’s Tis Hazari court deferred the bail plea of Azad till today.

On Wednesday, the court pulled up the Delhi Police for failing to show any evidence against Azad.

Azad was arrested on December 21 last year after he led a march from Jama Masjid against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. He was sent to judicial custody till January 18 at Tihar jail.

The Bhim Army chief was charged with rioting, unlawful assembly and inciting the mob to indulge in violence after vandalism in Delhi’s Daryaganj area. (ANI)

Unnao Rape Convict Sengar Moves HC Against Order

Expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar has approached the Delhi High Court, challenging his conviction by the trial court in connection with the Unnao rape case.

Sengar has also challenged the trial court’s judgment which awarded him life imprisonment in connection with the case.

On December 16 last year, Sengar was found guilty by a Delhi court for raping a minor girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district two years ago.

The court convicted him under Section 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 5 (c) and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which pertains to penetrative sexual assault committed against a child by a public servant.

A day-to-day hearing was conducted into the case after it was transferred from Uttar Pradesh to the national capital on the directions of the Supreme Court after the rape survivor’s car met with an accident in which two of her aunts were killed.

The rape survivor and her lawyer had also sustained grievous injuries in the accident. The family had alleged foul play.

The girl was airlifted to Delhi’s All Indian Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) following the car crash.

Sengar, a four-time BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Bangarmau, had raped the girl at his residence in Unnao in June 2017, where she had gone seeking a job. Later he was arrested and is currently lodged in Tihar jail.


Farmers From Punjab Join Shaheen Bagh Protest

Protesters from Punjab, including members of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) on Wednesday joined the ongoing sit-in at Shaheen Bagh where people, largely women from the minority community, are demonstrating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Protesters including senior citizens, men, women and children joined the protest in New Delhi and raised slogans against CAA and NRC.

Earlier on Tuesday, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar joined the protest in Shaheen Bagh here and attacked the BJP-led central government saying that they fought elections on the promise of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, but they did ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vinash’.

“They got majority in election because they said we will do ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (Together for everyone’s progress). But what they did? They did ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vinash (destruction)’,” Aiyar said.

Meanwhile, due to the protesters occupying a major portion of the road, traffic movement in the area has been affected for about a month now.

The Kalindi Kunj stretch, a crucial route that connects Delhi with Faridabad and Noida has been closed since December 15 last year due to demonstrations against CAA and NRC.

Several commuters using this road have been forced to use alternative routes such as Delhi-Noida-Delhi (DND) Expressway and Ashram.

“Road No. 13A between Mathura Road and Kalindi Kunj is closed for traffic movement. People coming from Noida are advised to take DND or Akshardham to reach Delhi,” Delhi Traffic Police tweeted earlier today.

The CAA grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.


Jamia VC Visits HRD Min, Seeks Probe Into Police Action

Jamia Millia Islamia Vice Chancellor Najma Akhtar on Tuesday met Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Secretary Amit Khare and briefed him about the students protest outside her office on Monday.

Akhtar requested the ministry to initiate an inquiry into the police action in the university library.

Students entered the JMI campus and protested outside the VC’s office demanding an FIR against Delhi police for the December 15, 2019 incident of “police brutality” in the university library.

Students had also demanded rescheduling of exams and security for students.

The Vice-Chancellor had on Monday, announced that the exam dates of the varsity will be rescheduled and assured students that security in the campus has been increased.

On December 15 clashes had erupted between the Delhi Police and Jamia students after a protest against the newly-amended Citizenship law turned violent. (ANI)

Kerala Challenges Citizenship Law In SC

The Kerala government has moved the Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which grants Indian citizenship to minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.

In the petition, the government stated that the act violates “Articles 14, 21, and 25 of the Constitution of India” and is violative of the basic structure principle of secularism as well.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Kerala will be at the forefront for protecting the Constitution of India and the fundamental rights of its citizens.

“The suit filed by the state government in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is part of the intervention to protect civil rights from within the Constitution,” he said in a Facebook post.

Vijayan said that secularism was a fundamental characteristic of the Indian Constitution.

“To deviate from that is to undermine the Constitution. Kerala was the first state in the country to decide not to implement the wrong law. The resolution was first passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly demanding repeal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act,” Vijayan said.

“Kerala has requested other Chief Ministers of the country to intervene similarly to uphold values of Constitution. The united voice of the people are rising. Will seek every possible means for the upkeep of democracy in the country,” he said.