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MUMBAI: In a sharp escalation of tensions, Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Tuesday wrote a sarcasm-laden letter to CM Uddhav Thackeray saying “it was ironical” that shrines were still shut while bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen in the state and asked if Uddhav, “a strong votary of Hindutva”, had “suddenly turned secular”. Uddhav hit back within hours to say he did not need a certificate of Hindutva from Koshyari and, in an indirect reference to actor Kangana Ranaut, added that “giving a rousing welcome to a person who described Mumbai as PoK does not fit into my definition of Hindutva”, reports Prafulla Marpakwar.

Koshyari’s letter requesting Thackeray to “announce forthwith the reopening of all places of worship” came on a day the BJP launched a state-wide agitation to press for the same . Koshyari said, “I wonder if you are receiving any divine premonition to keep postponing…or have you suddenly turned secular …”

Thackeray wrote back, “Do you feel that merely opening of temples means Hindutva and not opening means secular? As governor you took oath of office and secrecy as per the the Constitution, which is based on secularism. Do you agree with that secularism?”

The governor requested Thackeray to announce forthwith the reopening of all places of worship with all the necessary Covid-19 precautions. “You have been a strong votary of Hindutva, you had publicly espoused your devotion for Lord Rama by visiting Ayodhya after taking charge as CM, you had visited the Vitthal Rukmini Mandir in Pandharpur and performed the puja on Ashadhi Ekadishi,” Koshyari said.

Thackeray, in his written reply, stated that the governor had correctly referred to his Hindutva, but he did not need from the governor a certificate of Hindutva, nor was he required to learn it from anyone. “My definition of Hindutva is very clear. Neither my state nor the state capital will give a rousing welcome to a person who described Mumbai as PoK. It does not fit into my Hindutva,” Thackeray observed.

Koshyari in his letter asked if the CM was “receiving any divine premonition to keep postponing the reopening of the places of worship time and again or have you suddenly turned secular yourselves, the term you hated.” To this Thackeray reacted, saying, “Why has this question come to your mind? Do you feel that merely opening of temples means Hindutva and not opening means secular? As Governor you took oath of office and secrecy as per the provisions of the Constitution, which is based on secularism. Do you agree with that secularism?”

Thackeray added, “The governor must have personal experience of divine premonition. I have absolutely no idea, I am not that big. I am studying what’s happening in other states and trying to implement what is better for Maharashtra.”

In his letter, Kosyari noted that while, on the one hand, the state government had permitted the reopening of bars, restaurants and beaches, on the other, “gods and goddesses have been condemned to stay in the lockdown”. “During the last three months, several delegations met me on this issue, demanding the reopening of places of worship. These delegations were from NGOs, political parties and religious leaders,” he said.

Koshyari said that despite the CM’s promise, the ban on places of worship was being extended again and again. “Your words had raised much hope in the minds of the people tired of the long spell of lockdown,” he wrote.

Thackeray pointed out that it was a coincidence that the three memorandums attached to the governor’s letter were from the BJP. “It appears to be a coincidence. My government has taken serious note of your letter and a decision will be taken as early as possible after taking due precautions,” he stated.

NCP spokesperson and the state’s skill development minister Nawab Malik alleged that Koshyari was indulging in petty politics. “Raj Bhavan has become a hub of political activities. Let the CM do his job. He is handling the situation in the field as political head of the state, and he will take a decision on places of worship at an appropriate time,” Malik said. A Congress leader alleged that Koshyari was pushing the BJP’s agenda.

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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Indian missions collecting Sikh data, MEA calls it ‘reach out’ bid




JALANDHAR: All Indian embassies and consulates across the world are seeking and collecting details of the Sikh diaspora in their areas, particularly in countries where the presence of Sikh community is substantial. This was revealed when an email from the office of the Consul-General of India in Hamburg, Germany, seeking details of the Sikh diaspora in the country became public.

However, MEA has claimed the collection of data was a “reach out effort worldwide” to help the Sikh community as there have been complaints of persecution of the Sikh minorities in some countries. Hamburg vice consul Gulshan Dhingra had on October 19 sent out an email from the official account linked to the CGI office, titled “Data of Sikh Diaspora residing in the 4 North German States.” As per the email, “The ministry is in the process of compiling the data of Sikh diaspora residing in Germany.”

The recipients of the email were urged to “compile a list with the names and addresses of Sikhs living in your area for onward transmission to the ministry” by October 21, 2020. Europe-based lawyer and activist Dr Manuvie made the email from office of Consulate General Of India, Hamburg, public on her Twitter handle on Tuesday. Later, Hamburg Consul General of India Madan Lal Raigar told TOI that the letter had been withdrawn.

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PM greets Bengal on Durga Puja, calls for Covid caution




NEW DELHI: Addressing the people of West Bengal on the sixth day of Durga Puja on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people once again to remain vigilant and not lower their guard in the country’s fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Apnader sakalke janai Durga Puja o Kali Pujar shubhechha (Durga Puja and Deepavali greetings to all),” the PM said in Bengali while appealing to revellers to celebrate Puja with caution.

After recalling several measures towards women empowerment, he appealed to the people to adhere to social distancing norms (“do gaj ki doori”) and wear masks while taking part in festivities. “We are celebrating Durga Puja in times of Covid-19, all devotees have shown exemplary restraint. The number of people might be less but the grandeur and devotion are the same. This is the real Bengal,” he said while sharing his ‘Pujor Shubecha’ (Puja greetings) message.

BJP had made elaborate arrangements for live telecast of the PM’s virtual address from the national capital. It was televised live at over 78,000 polling booths across the state’s 294 assembly constituencies. After decades of limited presence in the state, BJP emerged as the main rival to Trinamool Congress (TMC), winning 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections.

Modi is the first PM to inaugurate Durga pujas in Kolkata, Howrah, Ranaghat, Barasat, Midnapore, Bankura, Malda and Siliguri that have already figured on the BJP’s political map eight months ahead of assembly polls, which may take place around April-May next year.

Combining the spiritual with present-day reality, Modi also urged people to respect girls and described the Mother Goddess as the source of power and peace. “We should respect girls because woman power has the potential to defeat all forces,” he said.

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Opposition, internet activists slam Kerala ordinance




THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala government’s decision to introduce a new section (118A) in the Kerala Police Act to check increasing abuse in social media and cybercrime is “anti-democratic and fascist” as it will enable police to register cases against anyone, including the mainstream media, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said on Thursday.

“If the government goes ahead with the ordinance, it will be fought legally as well as politically,” he said.

Allaying fears, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “The amendment is not intended to curb creative freedom or to intervene in the right to free speech. It is a known fact that there are attempts to defame persons widely and there are demands for an effective legal remedy.”

Internet rights activists said the amendment was more draconian than 66A of the IT Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court.

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