Manmohan, Sonia, Rahul Pay Tributes to Indira, Patel


New Delhi: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday paid tributes to former prime minister Indira Gandhi and India’s Iron Man Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

They paid tribute to Indira Gandhi on her death anniversary at the Shakti Sthal memorial site dedicated to her.

“We pay tribute to Indira Gandhi today (Saturday). A leader with courage and compassion. She protected the poor and died for India,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984 by her bodyguards a few months after the Indian Army took action in the Golden Temple in Amritsar to remove militants from there as part of a move to counter the insurgency in Punjab.

President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari also visited Shakti Sthal to pay floral tributes to Indira Gandhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute and said: “Tributes to former prime minister Indira Gandhi on her death anniversary.”

She was born on November 19, 1917.

She held the office of prime minister from January 1966 to March 1977. She also became the prime minister from January 14, 1980 till her death.

The three Congress leaders also paid tribute to India’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his birth anniversary.

Sardar Patel, known as India’s Iron Man, played a major role in the country’s struggle for independence and subsequently guided its integration into a united, independent nation.

Patel was born on October 31, 1875 in Gujarat’s Nadiad town. He died on December 15, 1950.

In his tweet, Rahul Gandhi said: “My tribute to Sardar Patel on his birth anniversary. One of the founding fathers of our nation, a patriot and a great Congressman.”

“His contribution to unifying India and guarding against fundamentalist forces will always inspire us,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi said Sardar Patel was truly India’s Iron Man as he believed in a strong, united India where every Indian is equal.


‘Gasoline on the fire’: Obama orders ground troops To Syria

Expanded military footprint will include Special Ops forces inside Syria and expanded ground operations in Iraq

"We should know by now that the first law of military conflicts is escalation," said Jon Rainwater of Peace Action. "That’s why sending these troops into battle should trouble all Americans. With the 'no boots on the ground' promise broken there’s no telling how many U.S. troops will ultimately be sent to Iraq and Syria." (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“We should know by now that the first law of military conflicts is escalation,” said Jon Rainwater of Peace Action. “That’s why sending these troops into battle should trouble all Americans. With the ‘no boots on the ground’ promise broken there’s no telling how many U.S. troops will ultimately be sent to Iraq and Syria.” (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

by Jon Queally, Common Dreams

In a move that critics says fulfills long-held warnings of “mission creep” and amount to throwing “gasoline on a fire,” the Obama administration on Friday announced that U.S. ground troops will now be deployed inside Syria.

In strategic leaks to various media outlets, the Pentagon made clear the president’s plan to send approximately 50 Special Operations soldiers inside the war-torn country. Reports also note that expanded ground operations will also be taking place in neighboring Iraq.

Unnamed U.S. officials reportedly “stressed” to Reuters that the new boots-on-the-ground in Syria were “not meant to engage in front-line combat but rather to advise and assist moderate rebels.” One official told Reuters the key role of the troops would be “logistical” and designed, the news agency reported, to “ensure that weapons and other supplies are delivered to the moderate forces whom the United States supports.”

The news was described as “predictable as it is disappointing” by the U.S. antiwar group Peace Action.

“We should know by now that the first law of military conflicts is escalation,” said Jon Rainwater, a spokesperson for the group. “That’s why sending these troops into battle should trouble all Americans.  With the ‘no boots on the ground’ promise broken there’s no telling how many U.S. troops will ultimately be sent to Iraq and Syria.”

An official announcement from the White House or the Pentagon is expected later on Friday.

According to CNN:

The deployment of U.S. Special Operations forces is the most significant escalation of the American military campaign against ISIS to date.

The U.S. Special Operations forces will first be deployed to northern Syria to help coordinate local ground forces and U.S.-led coalition efforts to fight ISIS, the senior administration official said.

The U.S. will also boost its military footprint in confronting ISIS in Syria by deploying A-10 and F-15 fighter jets to an airbase in Turkey. And the U.S. is also eying the establishment of a Special Forces task force in Iraq to boost U.S. efforts to target ISIS and its leaders. President Barack Obama has also authorized enhancing military aid to Jordan and Lebanon to help counter ISIS.

The U.S. has bombed targets in Syria since September 2014 without stopping ISIS, and it has largely failed in a mission to recruit and train moderate rebels in Syria to take on the terror group. In recent months, the U.S. has also bolstered its aid to local forces, air-dropping weapons, ammunition and other supplies to rebel forces inside Syria.

The announcement for military escalation comes as Russia, the U.S., and other regional powers, including Iran, met in Vienna, Austria to initiate a new round of diplomatic efforts aimed at ending Syria’s civil war and countering the rise of the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.

Writing for The Intercept, journalist Nick Turse writes that while the deployment is being “portrayed by the administration as an intensification of the current strategy and enhancing ‘efforts that are already working,'” the order is a “clear escalation of the conflict for the president who has previously said, ‘I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.'”

Since Obama first announced the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria in 2014, critics have warned that such tactics would likely lead to “mission creep” in the two countries. As the number of troops in Iraq has steadily grown over the last year and a half, this will be the first acknowledged presence of U.S. soldiers in Syria—a country against which the U.S. has not officially declared war.

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill was among the immediate critics, offering this sarcastic tweet following Friday’s announcement:

“Over a year into the U.S.-led bombing campaign what have we accomplished?” asked Rainwater. “The United States has spent over $4.75 billion on over 6,059 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.  Watching the tragic refugee crisis spreading, we know that more bombing isn’t making the Syrian people any safer.  And as the United States drops thousands of bombs, angering thousands of people in two Middle Eastern nations, it’s not making the American people any safer either.  On the contrary, a U.S.-led attack in Syria, with the inevitable civilian casualties, strengthens recruitment for ISIS.  Adding U.S. ground troops is just throwing gasoline on the fire.  Instead, we need sustained diplomacy to end the Syrian civil war and we need to significantly increase humanitarian aid for the victims of the conflict.”

Meanwhile, Peter Van Buren, a retired 24-year veteran of State Department and sharp critic of U.S. foreign policy in the region, said on Friday that President Obama has much to answer for now that he has betrayed earlier and repeated vows not to expand military operations in Syria and Iraq.

“In August 2014,” writes Van Buren, Obama told the nation we needed to re-intervene in Iraq “on a humanitarian mission to save the Yazidis. No boots on the ground, a simple act of humanness that only the United States could conduct, and then leave. We believed. It was a lie.”

Now, Van Buren continues, we are “being told by that same president that Americans will again fight on the ground in Iraq, and Syria, and that Americans have and will die. He says that this is necessary to protect us, because if we do not defeat Islamic State over there, they will come here, to what we now call without shame or irony The Homeland.”

But serious questions remain, he says, and the U.S. public deserves answers and a sensible explanation. “We want to believe, Mr. President. We want to know it is not a lie. So please address us, explain why what you are doing in [Iraq and Syria]. Tell us why we should believe you — this time — because history says you lie.”

Anupam Kher calls Tata Literature Festival audience paid, gets booed

Bollywood actor Anupam Kher. (Photo by Waseem Gashroo/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Bollywood actor Anupam Kher. (Photo by Waseem Gashroo/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Mumbai: Actor Anupam Kher was booed by the audience as a debate at a literary festival here on freedom of speech heated up, with the actor wondering aloud if it was a paid audience.

Kher was among the panel of speakers at the debate on ‘Freedom of expression is in imminent danger’ organised as part of the Tata Literature Live Festival.

Kher along with BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli spoke for the motion whereas former BJP ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni and noted writer Shobha De spoke against the motion.

Soon after Kher rose to speak, he was booed after he recalled Shobha De’s past as an editor of a film magazine “which printed gossip about which film star slept with whom.”

Undeterred, Kher went on saying “people have an agenda and cannot handle a chaiwala becoming a PM.”

As the booing continued, Kher said he had spoken to the festival organiser Anil Dharker in the morning and expressed his apprehensions of a paid audience at the debate.

This infuriated several members of the audience who kept on booing the actor.

His wife Kirron Kher, a BJP MP, who was in the audience rose to his defence but the audience did not stop booing Kher who said being a theatre artist he was used to such booing.

Dharker said it was ridiculous to suggest that the audience at the debate which ended at around 10 PM, was paid.

Moderator Nik Gowing former BBC anchor declared the motion carried after a show of ‘ballot pamphlets’ by audience.

(Inputs from PTI)

Moody’s warns Modi: Rein in BJP members or risk losing credibility


New Delhi: International rating agency Moody’s Analytics on Friday cautioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India might lose domestic and global credibility if he did not rein in controversial members of his Bharatiya Janata Party.

In a report titled India Outlook: Searching for Potential, Moody’s Analytics said for the country to reach its growth potential it has to deliver the promised reforms.

“Undoubtedly, numerous political outcomes will dictate the extent of success,” it said. The ruling BJP does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha and crucial reforms bills has been met with an obstructionist opposition.

“But in recent times, the government also hasn’t helped itself, with controversial comments from various BJP members.
While Modi has largely distanced himself from the nationalist gibes, the belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities has raised ethnic tensions.

“Along with a possible increase in violence, the government will face stiffer opposition in the upper house as debate turns away from economic policy. Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility,” Moody’s said.

It projected that India’s GDP growth for September quarter at 7.3%, while for the full fiscal it would be 7.6%.
“Key economic reforms could deliver greater potential GDP, as they would improve India’s productive capacity. These include the land acquisition bill, a national goods and service tax, and revamped labour laws. They are unlikely to pass through Parliament in 2015, but there is an even chance of success in 2016,” Moody’s said.

As regards interest rates, it said low rates will buttress the economy in the short-term but reforms are needed to reach long-term potential growth.

The Reserve Bank kick-started the recovery by cutting the repo rate by 1.25% this year.

It said positive signs are emerging with the State Bank of India, the nation’s largest bank, cut its base lending rate earlier this month.

“Capacity utilisation has been low across industries this year. The capital expenditure pipeline is running dry. However, interest rate cuts should encourage investment, as will the softer inflation profile,” it added.


Israeli forces kill three Palestinians including a baby

Eight-month-old child suffocates from tear gas inhalation, bringing death toll of Palestinians to 69 in one month.

Palestinians decry Israel's heightened security measures which have led to several killings [Al Jazeera/Ezz Zanoun]

Palestinians decry Israel’s heightened security measures which have led to several killings [Al Jazeera/Ezz Zanoun]

by Al Jazeera

Three Palestinians – including an eight-month-old baby – have died from Israeli fire and another is critically wounded, while many others were injured in West Bank and Gaza protests.

The Palestinian health ministry confirmed on Friday the death of Ramadan Mohammed Faisal Thawabta, the baby who suffocated from tear gas inhalation in a village near Bethlehem.

He died in Beit Fajjar in clashes as the Israeli army sprayed tear gas at Palestinians.

The ministry also confirmed the first incident, citing the death of Qasem Sabaana, 20, and the injury of a 17-year-old, as yet unnamed, at a checkpoint south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

An Al Jazeera journalist who witnessed the incident said police fired at least seven shots at the Palestinian now fighting for his life in hospital.

Israeli police claimed that the two Palestinians had approached the checkpoint on a motorbike carrying knives.

Also in Jerusalem on Friday, another Palestinian succumbed to wounds inflicted earlier in the morning.

Train security officers shot the alleged attacker on the light rail in occupied East Jerusalem with live ammunition after he allegedly attacked an Israeli settler, the police said.

Israeli forces regularly fire live ammunition at protesters who gather to demonstrate against the Israeli occupation [Ezz Zanoun/Al Jazeera]

Since October 1, Israeli forces or settlers have killed 69 Palestinians – including unarmed protesters, bystanders and alleged attackers – across Israel, the occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Nine Israelis have died in stabbing or shooting incidents in the same period.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker in Jerusalem said the city is heavily policed and Palestinians are monitored closely.

“Israeli security forces have clamped down on occupied East Jerusalem; it’s completely surrounded. People have to walk one by one, Palestinians often have to lift their shirts to show they are not carrying a weapon,” she said.

Clashes erupt

Outrage over the killings sparked Palestinian-led protests outside the Israeli settlement of Beit El, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah.

Around 500 Palestinians protested and clashed with Israeli forces, according to witnesses.

Israeli troops shot at least one protester in the chest with live ammunition, said Mohannad Darabee, a photographer at the clashes.

At least 69 Palestinians have been killed in the month of October as Israeli-Palestinian tensions rise [Ezz Zanoun/Al Jazeera]

“Medics told us he is in critical condition,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that an Israeli Jeep ran over another protester.

Orient Radio, a local media outlet, captured the soldiers running the protester over on video.

“When medics tried to help him and journalists approached the area, the soldiers attacked all of them with pepper spray and [tear] gas. Then they arrested the man [who was run over].

“People are angry about the martyr killed in Nablus. They [Israeli forces] are firing a lot of live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets – they are shooting indiscriminately,” Darabee said.

Human rights groups have warned of a risk of vigilantism as many citizens have carried out attacks on Palestinians [Ezz Zanoun/Al Jazeera]

Ezz Zanoun, a Gaza-based photographer, said that clashes are also taking place in areas across Gaza’s border with Israel.

“Two journalists have been hit with rubber-coated steel bullets” near the Nahal Oz Israeli military outpost, he told Al Jazeera, referring to an area near eastern Gaza City.

At least 2,000 people participated in the demonstrations, Zanoun added.

“The Israelis are using rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas,” he said. “Participation in the protests here in Gaza is growing.”

Israeli soldiers cursed at the protesters in Hebrew and Arabic, and waved an Israeli flag at them, witnesses said.

“The soldiers did not wait long to open fire,” said Zanoun. “The feeling among Palestinians is that this has become something routine for them, to fire quickly.”

‘Unlawful measures’

Tension has surged amid resentment over Israeli settlements and the incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims.

Rights groups have slammed Israel for its harsh measures as it continues to crack down on Palestinians.

This week, Amnesty International warned Israeli forces to end its “pattern of unlawful killings”.

“In some cases, Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook and resorted to extreme and unlawful measures,” the group said.

“They seem increasingly prone to using lethal force against anyone they perceive as posing a threat, without ensuring that the threat is real.”

Demonstrations are being led by young Palestinians who are growing increasingly anxious over lethal force being used as collective punishment [Ezz Zanoun/Al Jazeera]

More than 200 feared dead in Russian jet crash in Egypt

Rescue teams locate wreckage of Airbus A-321 belonging to Metrojet which came down in central Sinai Peninsula.

Metrojet's Airbus A-321 is seen in this picture taken in Antalya, Turkey on September 17, 2015 [Kim Philipp Piskol/Reuters]

Metrojet’s Airbus A-321 is seen in this picture taken in Antalya, Turkey on September 17, 2015 [Kim Philipp Piskol/Reuters]

by Al Jazeera

A Russian plane carrying more than 200 people has crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said.

The statement said search-and-rescue teams found on Saturday the wreckage of the Russian passenger jet in the Hassana area, south of the city of el-Arish, where Egyptian security forces are fighting a local affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

It said the plane took off from Sinai Peninsula’s Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular destination for Russian tourists, and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after take-off.

Egyptian search and rescue team members said they heard voices in a section of the plane, an officer on the scene told Reuters news agency.

The black box which contains the flight data was also found at the scene.

“There is another section of the plane with passengers inside that the rescue team is still trying to enter and we hope to find survivors especially after hearing pained voices of people inside,” the officer said.

Separately, Egypt’s top prosecutor ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash, a source at his office said.

Nabil Sadek, the prosecutor general, ordered the formation of a team of prosecutors tasked with going to the site of the crash and investigating the debris.

A centre to help relatives of the passengers has been set up at Pulkovo airport, Tass news agency quoted St Peterburg city officials as saying.

The office of the Eyptian prime minister, Sharif Ismail, earlier confirmed that a Russian airliner with more than 200 people on board had crashed in central Sinai.

The Airbus 321 was at an altitude of 9,450m when it vanished from radar screens, the ministry said in a statement.

Most of the passengers are said to be Russian tourists, according to reports. The plane was operated by the small Russian airline Kogalymavia, based in western Siberia.

The pilot reportedly requested clearance for an emergency landing at Cairo airport due to a technical malfunction.

Plane tracking website Flight Radar said Metrojet flight #7K9268 disappeared over Egypt 23 minutes after departure from Sharm el-Sheikh.

Conflicting reports

The Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya said in a statement that flight 7K 9268 left Sharm el-Sheikh at 06:51 Moscow time (03:51 GMT) and had been due into St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport at 12:10.

The authority said the aircraft failed to make scheduled contact with Cyprus air traffic control 23 minutes after take-off and disappeared from the radar.

A Cyprus Civil Aviation official said Cairo air traffic control notified Cypriot authorities that they had lost contact with a Russian aircraft early on Saturday.

The official said the aircraft’s last contact was with Egyptian Authorities before disappearing.

He said the aircraft did not make contact with Cypriot authorities.

Turkish government spokespersons said they had no information about the missing Russian plane ever entering Turkish airspace.

Security sources in the Sinai Peninsula later confirmed reports that an aircraft was missing.

Now RBI chief Rajan raises voice against intolerance in India

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan

New Delhi: Amid the raging debate over intolerance, Reserve Bank Chief Raghuram Rajan today said excessive political correctness stifles progress and called for an improved environment for tolerance and mutual respect.

Rajan also said protection of right to question and challenge was essential for India to grow.

Speaking at the convocation of IIT Delhi, the RBI Governor said actions that physically harm anyone or show verbal contempt for a particular group, so that they damage the group’s participation in the marketplace for ideas, should certainly not be allowed.

“Sexual harassment, whether physical or verbal, has no place in society. At the same time, groups should not be looking for slights any and everywhere, so that too much is seen as offensive; the theory of confirmation bias in psychology suggests that once one starts looking for insults, one can find them everywhere, even in the most innocuous statements,” he said.

On whether ideas or behaviour that hurt a particular intellectual position or group be banned, he said: “Possibly, but a quick resort to bans will chill all debate as everyone will be anguished by ideas they dislike. It is far better to improve the environment for ideas through tolerance and mutual respect.


Uddhav Thackeray calls BJP ‘arrogant’, threatens to withdraw support from Maharashtra government

uddhav thackeray

Mumbai: After Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis compared Shiv Sena to a drama company, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Friday threatened to bring down the state government.

“People taught lesson to Indira Gandhi then what is BJP? If the government keeps behaving in this way, then we will have to bring it down. I will ask all my ministers to resign from the government,” Thackeray, whose party is a junior ally of the BJP-led government in Maharashtra and at the Centre, said.

Earlier, addressing a public gathering in Dombivali, Fadnavis compared Shiv Sena to a drama company while referring to Eknath Shinde’s resignation. Shinde had publicly tendered his resignation from the government in a rally in presence Uddhav Thackeray. However, Thackeray refused to accept his resignation.

Referring to the incident, CM Fadnavis described it as mere theatrics by Shiv Sena to attract attention of the people ahead of local body elections.

riday was the last day of campaigning for the upcoming Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) elections. BJP and Shiv Sena are fighting the polls separately.

Relations between the Sena and the BJP have deteriorated rapidly ever since the Ghulam Ali concert was cancelled under pressure from Sena activists and then ink was smeared by Sena activists on former Vajpayee aide Sudheendra Kulkarni.

The BJP believes that this is a deliberate attempt by the Sena to embarrass the BJP amid of the all important Bihar assembly elections, where the BJP is locked in a dead heat with the Grand Alliance led by Nitish Kumar.

BJP’s opponents are harping on the cancelation Ghulam Ali concert and the Kulkarni ink attack incident in a big way and highlighting this as proof of the intolerant face of BJP’s friends and the PM’s inability to rein in the fringe.


Movie Review: ‘Te Aath Divas’ offers a clean & wholesome family entertainment after a long time


Producer: Kishore Dhargalkar & Shekhar Pradhan
Director: Shyam Swarnlata Ghanorkar
Starcast: Renuka Shahane, Tushar Dalvi, Aaroh Velankar, Deepali Muchrikar, Avinash Masurekar, Sunil Joshi, Atul Todankar etc
Genre: Drama
Verdict: GOOD

Plot: The story of this film revolves around a big joint family. In the beginning of the film, there are preparations going on for the wedding of the young girl from this family (Deepali Muchirkar) to her would – be groom (Aaroh Velankar). The boy is also eager to marry this girl; but there is confusion in the mind of this girl, when the film takes you into flashback. 8 days before the marriage, the girl’s mother (Renuka Shahane) arrives from USA. This ambitious woman had left the girl years ago in the custody of her husband (Tushar Dalvi), only to pursue her career there. Her arrival sparks off a new wave of happiness in the family. But when she comes to know that the marriage of her daughter is being fixed much against her own wish, she decides to help her.

Aces: The subject matter of the film is quite impressive with a wonderful twist in the 2nd half. That apart the credit also goes to director Shyam Swarnlata Ghanorkar for treating the film in a light hearted manner. And of course the presence of seasoned artistes like Renuka Shahane, Tushar Dalvi etc was like an added bonanza. A left handed compliment also goes to young actors like Aaroh Velankar, Deepali Muchrikar, Sunil Joshi etc.

Minuses: Some of the loose ends of the film which are the results of a not properly structured script.
Last Word: Te Aath Diwas is something different than the other stereotyped lavani based Marathi films. Te Aath Diwas also offers a clean & wholesome family entertainment after a long time.

Movie Review: ‘Titli’ is a good watch albeit very dark & disturbing


Producer: Aditya Chopra & Dibakar Bannerjee
Director: Kanu Behl
Star Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sial, Shashank Arora, Lalit Behl, Prashant Singh & Shivani Raghuvansi
Genre: Drama
Verdict: VERY GOOD

Plot: In the badlands of Delhi’s dystopic underbelly, Titli (Shashank Arora), the youngest member of a violent car – jacking brotherhood, plots a desperate bid to escape the ‘family’ business. His struggle to do so is countered at each stage by his indignant brothers (Ranvir Shorey & Amit Sial), who finally try marrying him off to ‘settle’ him. Titli, finds an unlikely ally in his new wife Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi), caught though she is in her own web of warped reality & dysfunctional dreams. They form a strange, beneficial partnership, only to confront their inability to escape the bindings of their family roots.

Aces: The best thing about Titli is the excellent direction of Kanu Behl and the outstanding performances of its principal cast right from Ranvir Shorey to Amit Sial, Shashank Arora, Latit Behl, Prashant Singh & Shivani Raghuvanshi.

Minuses: Some of the most violently shocking scenes topped with brutal cuss words galore.

Last Word: Titli is a must watch film for one & all albeit strictly not recommended for weak hearted persons.