The Country with no place for its Minorities: Church set on fire in Bengaluru

Representational Image

Representational Image

Bengaluru: A Church was set on fire by miscreants over an alleged dispute here on Saturday. The incident took place at Narasipura layout in Vidyaranyapura.

Property and furniture worth lakhs of rupees were destroyed and the building was completely charred. Enquiries by the Vidyaranyapura police revealed that the management of the church allegedly had a dispute with a resident.

Suicide blast during Pakistan and Zimbabwe cricket match near Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore

gaddafistadium-blasts-explosions-cricket

Lahore: A blast near the premises of Qaddafi Stadium on Friday—which took place during a one-day international match between Pakistan and Zimbabwe — was confirmed as a suicide attack by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, who said a sub-inspector lost his life while trying to stop the suicide bomber.

Talking to Geo News, Rashid said an attempt to attack the stadium was foiled by the gallantry of a police official, who lost his life while trying to stop the attacker near Kalma Chowk in Lahore. He added that six people were wounded in the incident.

The information minister praised the actions of Pakistan Broadcasters Association for “Covering up” the news while the cricket match was ongoing so as not to spread panic.

Local media had at first reported an explosion close to Gaddafi stadium but reports were taken off air after it was falsely asserted that the explosion was caused by an electricity transformer in the area.

Later, Punjab police’s IG Operations, while addressing a press briefing said two people — Sub-Inspector Abdul Majeed and a civilian Rizwan — were killed in the blast, DawnNews reported.

But the senior police official claimed that the blast happened inside a rickshaw and that forensic samples had been collected from the site to determine the nature of the explosion.

(AP)

Myanmar denies Rohingya Muslims citizenship under UN pressure

Seventeen countries Asian countries met in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday to discuss the migrant crisis that has seen thousands lost at sea.

Rohingya migrants who arrived in Indonesia by boat are seen at a temporary shelter. Photo: Reuters

Rohingya migrants who arrived in Indonesia by boat are seen at a temporary shelter. Photo: Reuters

by teleSUR

U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Myanmar to address the status of Rohingya Muslims in the country.

“The communal situation in Rakhine and elsewhere remains fragile,” Ban said. “There are already troubling signs of ethnic and religious differences being exploited in the run-up to the elections. The reform process could be jeopardized if the underlying causes of these tensions are left unaddressed.”

Myanmar was criticized for failing to include in its census – the first in three decades – Rohingya Muslims in the list of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups, which was taken as a sign that the country still has no intention of recognizing its 1.3 million Rohingya as citizens.

Myanmar President Thein Sein launched the census and said it had been done in line with international standards.

“From the political dialogues that we will be conducting in the very near future to establish a union based on federal principles, we will certainly encounter issues of categorizing and recognizing the ethnic national races based on political agreements reached,” he said.

The Dalai Lama joined in the debate and asked Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to help the persecuted minority in her country. It is not the first time the Tibetan spiritual leader has pleaded to Suu Kyi, who has always refused to publicly speak out for the Rohingya.

Myanmar refuses to recognize the term Rohingya and calls the people Bengali, suggesting they come from neighboring Bangladesh. Officials in Myanmar said they would not attend the Bangkok meeting if the term Rohingya was used on the statement; which Thailand accepted by titling the conference “Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean.”

Many nongovernmental organizations have been trying to help the Rohingyas, which the U.N. describes as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. On Thursday, the Rakhine state legislature voted to shut down unregistered NGOs, arguing they had been “causing bigger problems” between Muslims and Buddhists. Doctors Without Borders was one of the nongovernmental organizations asked to stop working in the Rakhine state, where it was providing health care to displaced people in camps.

7.8 magnitude earthquake strikes off Japan’s Bonin Islands

Japan Bonin Islands

by RT

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in the ocean off Japan’s remote Bonin Islands at 11:23 GMT on Saturday, USGS reports. There have been no immediate reports of casualties or damage, nor any tsunami alert.

The populated area closest to the quake’s epicenter is the Japanese island of Chichi-Shima with a population of about 2,000 people. It is 189 kilometers from the impact point.

The quake hit at a profound depth of almost 677 kilometers below the ocean bed. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there was no danger of a tsunami. The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a statement saying “a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected and there is no threat to Hawaii.”

Tremors are being felt as far as Tokyo, 870 kilometers from the epicenter, witnesses report. No casualties or damage were reported, but subway trains in the Japanese capitalwere briefly halted, Japan Today reports.

Ross Ulbricht, convicted mastermind behind Silk Road website sentenced to life in prison

Ross Ulbricht

by Liz Fields, Vice

Ross Ulbricht, the hiking, yoga-loving libertarian convicted of masterminding and running the online black market bazaar known as Silk Road, has been sentenced to life in prison.

At the hearing on Friday, Judge Katherine Forrest, who has presided over the gnarled case that has revealed many twisted plots and shadowy secrets since it began in January, delivered her verdict in front of a packed courtroom.

“I don’t know that you feel a lot of remorse,” Forrest said to Ulbricht. “I don’t think you know that you hurt a lot of people.”

The 31-year-old Ulbricht, a former Boy Scout, sat with his lawyers. Minutes before Forrest delivered her decision, Ulbricht reportedly made a tearful last plea for leniency to the court.

“I’ve changed — I’m not the man I was when I created Silk Road,” Ulbricht said, his voice breaking with emotion. “I’m a little wiser. A little more mature and much more humble.”

The minimum sentence he could have possibly received was 20 years.

Even in the days before his sentencing, Ulbricht had denied his involvement in running the “dark” website that he had previously admitted to founding as part of a libertarian experiment — a sort of Amazon or eBay-type marketplace where users could buy or sell any description of goods, from drugs and arms to murder for hire, with the supposedly untraceable currency known as bitcoin.

In an impassioned letter to the court this week, Ulbricht made a plea for Forrest to spare him life in prison and instead sentence him to 20 years, saying that creating Silk Road turned out to be a “very naïve and costly idea that I deeply regret.”

“Silk Road was supposed to be about giving people the freedom to make their own choices, to pursue their own happiness, however they individually saw fit,” Ulbricht wrote. “What it turned into, was, in part, a convenient way for people to satisfy their drug addictions… I learned from Silk Road that when you give people freedom, you don’t know what they’ll do with it.”

Ulbricht’s mother, Lynn Ulbricht, told VICE News ahead of the sentencing the family was “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”

“Even the best possible is a very long prison sentence for nonviolent convictions spanning two decades of the most productive and rewarding years of Ross’ life,” she said.

To this day, Ulbricht has refuted that he operated the site under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts. During the trial, his lawyers tried to convince the court that Ulbricht was simply a patsy, and after creating the site, left it in the hands of another operator — the “real” Roberts — who turned it into the $1.2 billion underground emporium it became before the feds shuttered the site.

But from the start, the evidence against Ulbricht was manifold and damning. Screenshots of drug listings, several journals providing information on transactions in painstaking detail, fake identification documentation, and thousands of pages of chat logs were just some of the data seized by the multi-agency federal taskforce from Ulbricht’s home and laptop after his arrest in October 2013.

Some of that evidence retrieved became the subject of inquiries into authorities’ dubious investigative methods, including early allegations of an illegal search and seizure of data from Silk Road’s servers abroad. The revelation in March that two senior Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents also allegedly pilfered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bitcoins during the nearly two-year investigation also did nothing to allay the multiple online government-conspiracy theories surrounding the case.

But despite these setbacks, Ulbricht was ultimately convicted in February on a raft of charges, including drug trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering, and hiring assassins to take out members of Silk Road.

This week, federal prosecutors sent their own 16-page letter to judge Forrest asking her to slap Ulbricht with “a lengthy sentence, one substantially above the mandatory minimum,” to “send a clear message” to others involved in the dark website racket. Since Silk Road was shut down, many other drug marketplaces peddling similar — or worse — products have sprung up to meet demand.

“Ulbricht’s conviction is the first of its kind, and his sentencing is being closely watched,” the letter says. “The Court thus has an opportunity to send a clear message to anyone tempted to follow his example that the operation of these illegal enterprises comes with severe consequences.”

Forrest appeared to agree.

“In the world you created over time, democracy didn’t exist,” she told Ulbricht as she delivered his sentence. “You were captain of the ship — the dread Pirate Roberts.”

“Silk Road’s birth and presence asserted that its… creator was better than the laws of this country,” she added. “This is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous.”

The federal prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to VICE News’s calls for comment Friday.

Lynn Ulbricht said that her son plans to appeal the decision and that his attorneys say there are “very strong” grounds for appeal.

For now, Ross Ulbricht will remain in the Brooklyn, New York, jail he has spent more than a year in since his arrest, teaching his fellow inmates math, physics, and yoga, his mother said.

Full text of Arundhati Roy's statement in support of Ambedkar Periyar group de-recognised by IIT Madras

arundhati_roy

“What is it about a student organization, the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC) that frightened the Dean of Students of the IIT Madras enough for him to unilaterally ‘derecognize’ it?

The reason given is the usual idiotic red herring: “They were spreading hatred among communities”.  Another reason they were given, the students say, is that the name of their organization was considered to be too ‘political’. The same does not apply obviously to other student organizations such as the Vivekananda Study Circle.

At a time when Hindutva organizations and media outlets are outrageously celebrating Ambedkar the man who publicly denounced Hinduism, as though he is their very own man, at a time when the Hindu Nationalsts’ campaign of Ghar Wapsi (a revamped version of the Arya Samaj’s ‘Shuddhi’ program) has been launched to get Dalits to return to the “Hindu Fold’, why is it that when Ambedkar’s real followers use the name or likeness of Ambedkar they get murdered like Surekha Bhotmange’s family in Kahirlanji? Why is it that if a Dalit man has a ring tone on his phone with a song about Ambedkar he gets beaten to death? Why has the APSC been derecognized?

It is because they have seen through this charade and have put their finger on the most dangerous possible place. They have made the connection between Corporate Globalization and the perpertuation of caste. There is hardly anything more threatening to this present Ruling establishment than doing what APSC did—celebrating both Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar. This is what has brought them into the line of fire. This is what is sought to be quashed. Equally threatening is the VCK’s announcement about joining forces with the left and progressive Muslim organizations.

The de-recognition of APSC is a recognition of a kind. It is a recognition that it is absolutely right to make the connections it makes. And that many are beginning to make those connections”.

Karnataka government to take call on appeal against Jayalalithaa's acquittal soon

jayalalithaa

Bengaluru: Karnataka government would take a call “as early as possible” on “merits” on the issue of filing an appeal against acquittal of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case, State Law Minister TB Jayachandra said today.

“We had sought many clarifications and they have been answered by the Advocate General. On merits where are we – I am examining it, and I will take a final call as early as possible,” he told reporters in Bengaluru.

In the May 11 verdict that restored Chief Ministership of Tamil Nadu to her, Jayalalithaa was acquitted by the Karnataka High Court of “all charges” in the 19-year old disproportionate assets case.

Three other convicts, including her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, were also given a clean chit by the High Court.

Responding to questions, Jayachandra initially said, “We had sought some clarifications from Advocate General and we have received them. I will look into those recommendations and will take decision in three to four-days-time.”

But later, he said the decision would be taken “as early as possible.”

Jayachandra said the Advocate General has recommended to the government to file an appeal in the Supreme Court, but refused to share the details of Advocate-General’s views.

However, Jayachandra said, “As per law, 90 days is the limit. It is not even 15 to 20 days (since the verdict came), and … the law department has to go and study all aspects.”

Special Public Prosecutor BV Acharya also had advised the government to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against Jayalalithaa’s acquittal, saying it was a “fit case” to do so.

(Agencies)

Modi took lessons from Manmohan Singh on economy: Rahul Gandhi

Manmohan Singh Narendra Modi

New Delhi: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with his successor Narendra Modi had fuelled intense speculation but Rahul Gandhi had a different take — the Prime Minister took “lessons” on economy.

In keeping with his new-found aggression, the Congress vice president targeted Modi, saying he called Singh to his residence Wednesday after the economist-turned politician tore into the handling of the economy by the government.

“Manmohan Singh criticised the health of economy in the morning yesterday (Wednesday). Narendra Modi took pathshaala (lessons) from him in the evening. I will ask him (the former PM),” he said addressing the national convention of NSUI, drawing a huge round of applause from the gathering. Hours after slamming the NDA government, Singh met Modi at his 7 Race Course Road residence and discussed issues related to economy and foreign policy.

“Very happy to meet Dr. Manmohan Singh ji & welcome him back to 7RCR. We had a great meeting,” Modi tweeted later along with their photographs.

In a statement, Singh’s office said the former prime minister met Modi at the latter’s “invitation” and “they discussed the economic situation in the country and foreign policy issues.”

At the NSUI event, Gandhi also took potshots at the Prime Minister’s pet ‘Make in India’ scheme, saying a “zero” will come out of it. “Nothing is going to come out of ‘Make in India’. It’s a big zero. It is going to yield a zero. For ‘Make in India’, you have to give power to common man. For ‘Make in India’, you have to give confidence to poor people. They think that they will empower two or three big industrialists and ‘Make in India’ will happen. “It will not happen. See after five years but why five years? Just see the one year of their government. Has anybody got employment,” he asked.

(PTI)

2013 Uttarakhand floods: Officers relished mutton, gulab jamuns, with hotel stay of Rs 7,000 a day

Uttarakhand floods

New Delhi: When lakhs of people in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand went hungry during the 2013 disaster, officials of the state government savoured mutton chops, chicken, milk and cottage cheese in the course of their Rs 7000 per day hotel stay supervising relief efforts.

From claiming Rs 194 for half a litre of milk to supplying diesel to two-wheelers, claiming more than Rs 7,000 per day for hotel stay, paying relief twice to same people, purchasing 1,800 rain coats from same shop for three days to making payment of Rs 98 lakh towards fuel purchase to a helicopter company, a string of financial bunglings have come to light through responses to RTI queries.

Taking cognizance of these alleged irregularities when Uttarakhand was reeling under one of the worst natural disasters, state Information Commissioner Anil Sharma has suggested a CBI probe.

In a 12-page order, passed after hearing complainant Bhupendra Kumar of National Action Forum for Social Justice, Sharma has taken note of bills provided by various districts in response to RTI queries seeking to know details of funds spent on relief work in the aftermath of the tragedy that claimed 3000 lives, with many still missing.

Records provided by the authorities showed that some of the relief works began on December 28, 2013 and got over on November 16, 2013, full 43 days before having been launched.

Some other works were shown to have started in Pithoragarh on January 22, 2013, six months before the tragedy struck on June 16, 2013.

“From the records produced by the appellant, the Commission prima facie believes that appeal of the complainant along with all the annexure be sent to Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand, with the direction that it should be brought to the notice of the Chief Minister so that he can decide on initiating a CBI inquiry into these allegations,” Sharma said in the order.

Citing over 200 pages of records received from authorities in response to his RTI petitions, Kumar claimed during the hearing at SIC that while people starved without a roof on their head, officials in worst-affected Rudraprayag district claimed Rs 250 for breakfast, Rs 300 for lunch and Rs 350 for dinner, totalling Rs 900 per day, apart from hotel stay that cost Rs 6750 per night.

Kumar alleged that total expenditure per officer per day hovered around 7000 as he questioned the “obscene expenses”.

He claimed the records showed diesel bills of 30 litres and 15 litres for vehicles bearing registration numbers of scooters, motorcycles and three-wheelers. “These vehicles run on petrol and do not have such fuel tank capacity as shown in the bills,” he said during the hearing.

Kumar also provided records to show that Rs 98 lakh worth of fuel bills for four days had been cleared for a helicopter company.

“There are instances when the hotel stay of officers have been shown for period before the tragedy struck on June 16, 2013. The price for half litre of milk has been shown as Rs 194, while items like mutton, chicken, eggs, gulab jamun are also shown much higher than market rates,” Kumar said.

(PTI)

Our dissent against Modi govt and caste discrimination on the campus is being stifled: Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, IIT-M

We would like to share the mail which members of Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle sent to Dean and Director of IIT-Madras to explaining their stand on recent issue.

Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle

Sir,

We the students of Ambedkar-Periyar Study circle are writing you regarding our stand on the recent email that we received from the Dean of Students, de-recognized our students’ organization.

The mail from Dean of Students dated on 22/05/2015 says “because of the misuse of the privileges” given to your study circle (Ambedkar-Periyar study circle) as an independent student body, your student body is de-recognized by the institute. However it does not contain any details regarding the privileges misused by the APSC.

We resent the fact that the Dean has de-recognized our study circle unilaterally without giving us a fair hearing and an opportunity to represent ourselves. In our face to face interaction with the Dean of Students, we have been told that our study circle engages in “controversial activities” and violated the code of conduct of independent student bodies. We are clear on the stand that we have not misuse any privileges given by the institute. So far our activities are engaged with the healthy discussion on socio-economic issues on scientific basis to promote the scientific temper among the student which is allowed by the Indian constitution. We have not been given a satisfactory definition of what entails “controversial”. Further, we were asked to give assurances that we shall desist from such activities in the future before the Dean (Students) can allow us to restart our activities. We have also been asked to route all our activities through the Dean’s office rather than the usual practice of routing all our discussions, plan of activities and pamphlets through our faculty adviser. This excessive scrutiny is unprecedented and does not apply to any other students’ organization. Vis-à-vis this move of DoS clearly shows, only opinions put forth by the right wing group will get the consent to see the light of the day, while the voices and opinion of the democratic students like us will be curtailed hereafter. Since DoS chaired this position, two times he warned us to change the name “Ambedkar-Periyar” stating that it is polarizing the student. This shows the aversion of DoS towards the the name “Ambedkar-Periyar.”

The Dean’s office has provided us with a copy of a letter from the MHRD dated 21/05/2015with the ref no. F. No. 5-3/2014-TS-I. The letter stated that the MHRD has received serious complaints regarding the activities of our study circle through anonymous letter. A copy of one such letter was provided. We wish to respond to the allegations in the complainant’s letter.

  1. It has been alleged that we have spread hatred against the Modi government and a copy of our pamphlet on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti was enclosed. We do not see any merit in such a statement. We stand by our opinions. Yes, we were very critical of the government. However, we do not understand how dissent and criticism of the government’s policy is akin to “spreading hatred”. If any person professing an anti-establishment view is accused of engaging in “controversial” activities and all dissent is stifled, wouldn’t that be a violation of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to freely express ourselves? We feel that a vibrant and proactive civil society is an integral part of a healthy democracy. IITM itself have had many meetings that discussed the policies and legislation’s of the current and previous elected governments. Among them the reservation policy is the one which has not been still implemented in IITM campus. Here we want to raise a rational question on IITM’s stand on the reservation policy which is still an alive Government policy even in Modi Government since Independence. When OBC reservation was announced by then Govt., whether anti-reservation student group of IITM simply sat without commending because that its ‘government’s policy’ or it fought against it on the streets of Chennai with its tooth and nail to stop that move? What was the action taken by IITM towards those who fought on streets against the Govt. Policy on Reservation? Rather, the IITM took part in negotiating a raise of 24% to safeguard the vested interested of those anti-reservation body functioning in IITM?

  2. We have been accused of spreading hatred between SC-ST and the Hindus and vitiating the atmosphere of the institute. We are surprised and slightly amused. Are SC, ST not part of the so called ‘Hindus’? How MHRD and IITM is perceiving such a venomous anonymous mail with full of hatred towards the SC, ST and Ambedkar? Are we the one who polarise the students or they are the one who think IITM is their own base to propagate against the interest of SC, ST, OBC who are the majority in our Society? Rather our organization is engaged in propagating Ambedkar and Periyar thoughts, in helping depressed castes and the caste Hindus to realize the evilness of caste based discrimination taking place in modern India and expose the ideology functioning behind such discrimination. When we talk about the hierarchical caste structure existing in Indian Society, inevitably we end up in talking about the present pathetic condition of peasants and labours. There are a number of sociological studies that will bear us out when we say that caste based discrimination is still very strong in our society, that caste based associations can leave some with privileges that add up throughout their lives while those that are excluded face powerful social barriers to their attempts to improve their social and economic status. We have only been discussing these issues with an aim to make a common platform for all students in spite of their caste and creed so as to dismantle the evilness of caste barriers. However, even in 2015, our activities are seen to be too radical by the religious right. If the religious right has the right to be offended, then don’t the oppressed Dalits and Bahujans who still face powerful prejudices have a right to be offended with the state of affairs? Our pamphlets do not have any material that would surprise a sociological or political scientist. Yet, the institute has taken these complaints seriously and has chosen to derecognise our organisation. Any higher education institute should be a platform where critical thinking and dissent ought to be encouraged. Where brave new thoughts are nurtured. However, the “dangerous” ideas that we have been accused of spreading are at least a few decades old, if not a few centuries.

  3. The complainant has taken exception to one of our meetings which dealt with an MHRD circular regarding vegetarian and non-vegetarian mess halls. We do not understand how anybody’s sentiments could have been hurt when the entire discussion was about the right of every individual to decide what they can eat. This meeting could be seen as trivial when compared to the meetings on much larger issues. However, the complaint against this meeting indicates how unsparing the dominant establishment has become when it comes to stifling dissent. If such a trivial freedom such as being able to eat meat in the mess halls is seen as dangerous, then the continued existence of our study group becomes all the more important.

  4. Another issue that the complainant has taken exception to is a meeting that discussed language politics and the primacy given to Sanskrit and Hindi in the disbursement of central funds. We had a Linguist from HSS, IITM and a linguistic scholar from Pondicherry University who led the discussion. As rationalists, we feel that though Sanskrit has a valued place as part of culture and history of certain sections of our society, it is also an instrument of spreading a Brahminical, dominant narrative. Imposition of Sanskrit in school has less to do with teaching a language and more to do with the ideology behind teaching the language. We stand by our opinions and wish to assert our rights to profess our opinions freely.

  5. Finally, we have been accused of getting funds from the outside organization. This allegation is completely baseless and absurd. So far for all the programs the financial support had been taken from the study circle members’ own pockets and collected in paisas from IITM students at their doorsteps which was witnessed even by those who wrote the above said ‘anonymous pettition’. Why we had to collect in paisas from the students to conduct our events through a platform like APSC is because IITM rejected many of our moves to bring personalities like Prof. Chaman Lal through EML. Since its birth, EML is been the monopoly of religious right wing to propagate their metaphysical idealist ideology and is a platform for corporate think tanks in the scientific and academic fraternity. When the taxpayers money is been spend for propogating anti-people, anti-rational agenda, pro –people, rational groups like APSC have to collect money from the students to conduct its events. We are maintaining proper account for all our expenditures.

Our discussions, meetings and pamphlets are meant to kick start a discussion within the campus among the academic fraternity. The issues that we discuss are very important and define the way we live our lives. IITM is a public funded higher education institute, whose vision and mission should abide for the upliftment of the common mass, who are the taxpayers. Rather, the move from DoS, IITM says there is no space for such opinions and discussions. We would also like to know what exactly constitutes the “misuse of privileges” and how the specific issues raised in the complainant’s letter could be deemed controversial? The right of function of any independent student body is not the ‘privilege’ given by the authority, rather it’s the democratic right of student themselves.

We strongly believe that what we stated in our pamphlets and content of our discussion is correct and as per the Constitution. Therefore, action against the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle by the DoS, IITM is undemocratic and unilateral against the interest of common mass for whom the Institute itself is indebted; hence we are not accepting this decision taken by the Institute.