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NEW DELHI: Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said the West Bengal government is creating an atmosphere of fear and muzzling opposition voice, even as people in the state yearned for a change.

“We will bring about a change in Bengal. The BJP assures the people of Bengal that the party will continue to speak up for the citizens’ democratic rights peacefully,” the Union minister said during a press conference in New Delhi

In the media briefing, Prasad strongly condemned the “barbaric treatment by the West Bengal police” of the BJP workers during today’s “March to Nabanna”, the state secretariat. The minister said that BJP doesn’t believe in violence, but that peaceful protest is “our right”.

The Yuva Morcha of West Bengal BJP organised a massive rally in the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah against the recent killings of its workers and leaders, the latest being the murder of Titagarh Councillor Manish Shukla.

He was gunned down in front of Titagarh police station in North 24 Parganas district, said Prasad, adding a few days ago Shukla had expressed apprehensions fearing for his life, in a video.

“To protest these recent political killings in Bengal, around one lakh BJP members took out the march, Nabanna Cholo. But police used barbaric force with lathi-charge and water cannons to stop them, because of which 1,500 workers were injured.”

The march took a violent turn after the party workers allegedly hurled bombs and bricks at policemen. The police, in turn, resorted to using water cannons and fired tear gas shells, besides lathi charging the workers, to disperse the crowd.

Among the injured were many senior leaders like national secretary Arvind Menon, state vice-president Raju Banerjee who had to be hospitalised, north Kolkata president Shivaji Sinha Roy who was hit on the head and youth wing president Tejasvi Surya who was manhandled, said the law minister. “There were many women who were misbehaved with. I was told that the water sprayed on the BJP march was laced with chemicals because many started vomiting.”

“We want to humbly tell (Chief Minister) Mamataji (Banerjee) and the West Bengal government that if you think that you can stop the BJP by baton and barbaric police force, you won’t be successful. The BJP strongly condemns this barbaric treatment by the Bengal police of senior leaders of the party,” he added.

Recalling last year’s Lok Sabha elections, he said the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) had tried this before. “But we won 18 seats in Bengal. The grassroots reality is telling us that the BJP will form the government whenever there are Assembly elections.”

Ravi Shankar Prasad also lashed out at chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whom he alleged was “losing political foothold” in the state.

“In your state, people are arrested even for making cartoons (referring to the arrest of a Jadavpur University professor in 2012), if somebody opposes you, he or she gets killed. The reason is clear: it’s because the TMC and Mamata are losing political foothold,” he said.

The Union minister also did not refrain from attacking other opposition parties in the state. “Most surprising is that the party that started such violence, CPM, they are also getting the beating, but they are quiet; and it is better to speak least about the Congress. They have almost lost their existence in the state.”

On allegations that the BJP workers in today’s protest were armed, Prasad said that it was the version of the state government. “I have nothing more to say, except that hundreds of BJP workers were killed in the last two-three years, how many people have been put on trial,” he threw a counter-question.

Prasad compared the state of affairs with Uttar Pradesh when a media person questioned him about Hathras.

“I will just say the UP chief minister formed an SIT soon (after the death of the Hathras assault victim), gave orders for CBI inquiry and the solicitor general pleaded in the Supreme Court that an SC judge can monitor the probe. How fairer can a government be? On the other side (in West Bengal), no action is taken whether it’s a scam or murder. This is clear that opposition voice is being muzzled there under the shadow of fear.”

Asked about the COVID-19 protocol to avoid mass gathering, he again asked a question in reply to the concerned media personnel. “The COVID (protocol) also requires that the opposition party leaders shouldn’t be killed and that too in front of a police station. If COVID is a problem, did it stop Mamataji from taking out a march against Hathras,” he said.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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Pakistan targets LoC, IB in ceasefire violation




JAMMU: Pakistan on Saturday violated ceasefire at multiple locations by firing unprovoked along the International Border (IB) in Samba sector and the Line of Control (LoC) in Degwar sector of Poonch district in Jammu & Kashmir.

Official sources said Pakistan violated ceasefire along the International Border at Rajpura area of Ghagwal in Samba district around 2am by firing at the border outposts (BOPs) of Border Security Force (BSF). BSF troops retaliated promptly and effectively to the enemy fire. No loss of life or injury was reported in the exchange of firing. Sources said that BSF had started some development work of forward locations along the international border, and Pakistani firing was aimed at hindering it.

Later in the evening, Pakistani troops violated ceasefire along the LoC in Degwar sector of Poonch district. Jammu-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand said, “Pakistan initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by firing with small arms and mortar shelling along the LoC in Degwar sector at about 6.30pm. The Indian Army retaliated befittingly.”

On Friday, Pakistan had violated ceasefire by resorting to unprovoked firing and shelling along the LoC in three sectors of Poonch district. Before this, it had violated ceasefire in the Mankote sector on October 16 and in two sectors along the LoC in Poonch district on October 14. Prior to this, it had violated ceasefire for three consecutive days — on October 9, 10 and 11 — in Rajouri and Poonch districts.

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Farooq Abdullah to head seven-party Peoples Alliance, Mehbooba Mufti nominated VP




SRINAGAR: The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, the seven-party amalgam of mainstream Kashmir parties demanding the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, appointed on Saturday National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah as its president, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti as vice-president, and decided the flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir would be the flag of the alliance.

The decisions came at a meeting of alliance constituents, some of whom are arch-rivals, at Mufti’s Gupkar Road residence here. “It’s not an anti-national alliance, it is an anti-BJP alliance… BJP wants to divide the country, our aim is to ensure that the rights of the people of J&K and Ladakh are restored,” Dr Abdullah said.

Congress appeared to distance itself from the PAGD with J&K PCC president GA Mir staying away from two meetings of the conglomerate — on October 15 when the alliance was forged, and on Saturday. Sources close to the regional Congress unit said this was because of what they described as a “twist” in the objective of the basic demand for the restoration of special status to J&K, a reference to recent statements from Mehbooba Mufti to the effect that she would raise the tricolour only when the J&K flag, too, was allowed to fly. The source said Congress had raised the issue of the nullification of Article 370 in Parliament but the PDP Rajya Sabha members had not spoken a word on it in the Upper House.

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, meanwhile, was quoted by ANI as asking, “Why is the so-called secular lobby silent at this anti-national remark (Mehbooba’s remarks of Friday)? … In one country there cannot be ‘do nishaan, do pradhan’. We condemn this.” He added that J&K was “India’s inseparable part” and “Article 370 abrogation was a constitutional process (sic)”.

However, CPM leader Yousuf Tarigami rejected the notion of Congress distancing itself, saying,“Congress party is very (much) a constituent of the PAGD.”

PAGD’s constituents are National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Peoples Conference, Awami National Conference, CPM, CPI and J&K Peoples Movement.

Veteran CPM leader M Y Tarigami was elected convener while Lok Sabha member from South Kashmir Hasnain Masoodi was made coordinator of the conglomerate. People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone would be the spokesman for the amalgam.

Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone said the PAGD would come up with a document, at the next meeting in Jammu in two weeks, on the “lies being spread against the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. “The white paper will compare the reality and false propaganda on the ground,” Lone said.

Both Congress and BJP condemned Mehbooba’s statements of Friday. While Congress advised Mehbooba to desist from such statements, BJP demanded her arrest and party activists burnt effigies of Mufti for “insulting the national flag”

“Our relationship with the flag of this country is not independent of this flag (Jammu and Kashmir’s flag). When this flag comes in our hand, we will raise that flag too,” Mehbooba had said on Friday.

JKPCC chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, however, added that Congress is for the restoration of J&K’s special status and that J&K should revert to being a single state that includes Ladakh. “We are not with any such irresponsible statement which would hurt the sentiments of Indians,” Ravinder Sharma said.

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Rajnath reviews LAC situation in eastern sector at Army’s Trishakti Corps in Sukna




NEW DELHI: Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday reviewed the combat preparedness of the Indian Army at the Sukna-based headquarters of its 33 Corps which is responsible for guarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the Sikkim sector, officials said.

The defence minister arrived at the key military base, popularly known as ‘Trishakti’ Corps, in Darjeeling district in late afternoon as part of his two-day visit to West Bengal and Sikkim to review the military preparedness in view of the border row with China in eastern Ladakh as well as to celebrate Dussehra with soldiers.

Singh is accompanied by Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane.

The Army has significantly bolstered deployment of troops and weaponry along the nearly 3,500 km-long LAC including in the Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh sectors.

The officials said top commanders of the 33 Corps gave detailed briefing to the defence minister and Gen Naravane on the situation along the LAC in Sikkim sector as well as about deployment of troops and weapons.

In an interaction with a group of Army personnel, the defence minister conveyed his wishes to them on the occasion of Vijayadashami and hailed their dedication in securing the nation’s borders.

“Due to brave soldiers like you, the borders of this country are protected. The whole country is proud of you,” he said.

The defence minister also talked about the rich history of the Trishakti Corps.

“The Trishakti Corps has a great golden history. Especially in 1962, 1967, 1971 and 1975, this Corps demonstrated examples of valour. It has been excellent,” he said.

“I extend my best wishes to all of you and your family for the festival of Vijayadashami,” the defence minister’s office tweeted quoting him as saying.

Officials said Singh will perform ‘Shastra puja'(worship of weapons) at Sherathang area in Sikkim on Sunday morning on the occasion of Dussehra.

The defence minister had performed ‘Shastra Puja’ in the French port city of Bordeaux during Dussehra last year as he was on a bilateral visit to the country then.

Singh has been performing ‘Shastra Puja’ during Dussehra for the last several years including during his tenure as the Union Home Minister in the previous NDA government.

Almost all formations of the Indian Army along the LAC are on a very high-level of alert in view of the border row with China in eastern Ladakh.

India and China are locked in an over five-month-long bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh that has significantly strained their ties.

Both sides held a series of diplomatic and military talks to resolve the row. However, no breakthrough has been achieved to end the standoff.

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