Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Barbaric acts on border and talks cannot go together

AKBOn September 14, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of both countries on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly session in New York later this month.

In his letter, Imran Khan said his country was ready to discuss terrorism along with all other pending issues including Kashmir. The letter was received in New Delhi on Sept 17.

The next day, on September 18, Pakistani Rangers brutally tortured to death a BSF jawan Narendra Singh, who had gone to cut tall grass growing on ‘No Man’s Land’ on the other side of the border fence near Jammu. His body was found mutilated. According to reports, his eyes were gouged out, his throat was slit and his leg was mutilated. BSF officials were tightlipped about the brutal torture, and only said that he died of multiple injuries including bullet wounds on his neck.

The Pakistani army establishment has thus stabbed in India’s back through this act of diabolical treachery. India has vowed to give a fitting response to this brutal torture. However, on Thursday, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman announced that the offer for meeting between both the foreign ministers has been accepted.

The world has now seen through the double standards of Pakistan. There is a vast gulf between the stated peaceful intentions of the new Pakistan PM and the diabolical acts being committed on the border by his army. To send a letter seeking peace and then treacherously killing our soldier on the border in a brutal manner defies all norms of morality and decency.

The Indian government should realize the true intentions of Pakistan and its army. The Pakistani PM is trying to show to the world that he desires peace, but his army has committed a grave unprofessional act of barbaric proportions. We have to reply to this audacious attack with full force at our command.

Whatever Pakistan may profess, the world knows the true intentions of the Pakistani army establishment. The US State Department in its recent report, while praising India for acting against terrorists, has clearly said that Pakistan has not been taking action against terror outfits on its soil. It is now time that the countries of the world should unitedly raise their voice against Pakistan for nurturing terror outfits.

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Ordinance to criminalize Triple Talaq is a step in the right direction

akbOn the recommendation of the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, The President has promulgated an ordinance that criminalizes Triple Talaq in the Muslim community. Maulanas and other ulema may well describe this as an interfence by the government in their religious traditions, but the fact remains that if Triple Talaq is considered a practice prevalent in Islam, then why have Islamic countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have declared Triple Talaq a crime?

If Triple Talaq is illegal in Islamic countries, when how can it be Islamic in a secular country like India? The second point: Because of the harsh laws enforced by Muslim Personal Law Board, Muslim women in India have been subjected to Triple Talaq and Halala practices till now. There was no law under Indian Constitution against Triple Talaq. After the Supreme Court issued its directive, reports used to be filed in police stations whenever triple talaq was committed, but till now there was no provision in law that prescribes punishments for such acts. Police used to register cases but could not take action in the absence of any legal provision.

Even after the Supreme Court’s verdict which held Triple Talaq as illegal, more than 400 cases of Triple Talaq were reported across the country. Even on Wednesday, an Indian Muslim sitting in Oman uttered the word,Talaq, thrice to his wife staying in Hyderabad over phone. He had first sent his wife for treatment to Hyderabad, and when she reached her parents, he uttered Triple Talaq over phone. That is why a stringent law is necessary to punish such acts, so that we can save Muslim women from atrocities.

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Politicians should stay away from scoring points over Kartarpur Sahib issue 

akbPunjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu drew fresh flak over the Kartarpur Sahib corridor issue on Tuesday, when Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal said that Sidhu had been reprimanded for what they called “meddling” in a matter between two countries. While Sukhbir Badal called him a “traitor” for hugging the Pakistan army chief and said that politics “is not a laughter channel”, Harsimrat Kaur said that Sidhu should not meddle in the affairs of two countries. Sidhu, on his part said that he had been assured by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that she would be writing a letter to Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor issue.  

Kartarpur Sahib is the place where the founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanak Dev breathed his last. It is located 4 km across the India-Pakistan border, and thousands of Sikh devouts everyday pay obeisance from this side of the border. The Pakistan army chief had hinted that a corridor would be opened for Sikh pilgrims.  

Tuesday’s development is a classic example of scoring political points over a religious issue. Kartarpur Sahib  issue  relates to the faith and belief of over 10 crore Sikhs and Punjabi and Sindhi communities. Sikhs revere the religious place from the bottom of their hearts, and they do desire free passage to the gurdwara. The person who can get this done will surely gain the affection of all devout Sikhs.  

Sidhu may be trying to gain political mileage out of this since the day he hugged the Pakistani army chief, and Akali leaders do not want him to take credit. It would be better if all of them keep politics out of this religious issue.

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Pakistan’s economy can improve only if it stops nurturing terrorists

akb (1) (002)On Monday, the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan auctioned 61 out of 102 luxury vehicles kept at the Prime Minister House by former PM Nawaz Sharif for Rs 12 crore. This was part of Imran Khan’s promise to carry out austerity drive at the PM House and all Governor Houses. This money, which is nothing but peanuts, has been deposited in the government treasury, ostensibly for the welfare of the poor. 

 Pakistan is currently facing a severe balance of payment crisis, and is trying to seek  Rs 12 billion aid from the International Monetary Fund. The country is under a huge debt burden of over Rs 2 trillion. Imran Khan plans to auction four helicopters kept at the PM House, but they are not in flying condition, and nobody knows how much money can be fetched from auction. Even if the helicopters are sold, the money available is still peanuts. 

 None of the big developed countries of the world are willing to assist Pakistan to deal with the present economic crisis. This is because Pakistan is considered as the ‘nursery’ of terrorism worldwide. In order to get economic assistance, Imran Khan’s government and the army will have to stop giving support to terror outfits which have mushroomed across Pakistan. I do not think Imran Khan will be able to do that, because his government is perceived to have been propped by the army.

 It is in this context that Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of State for External Affairs Retd. General V. K.Singh have said that India has practically no expectations from Pakistan despite a change in government, because Imran Khan’s government has been propped by the Pakistan Army. The Pakistani army chief had been openly calling for “revenge over blood spilled” on the Line of Control. 

 On the other hand, with several terrorist commanders killed in the Valley, terrorists have now resorted to taking out soft targets. On Monday, they killed a Territorial Army jawan, who had come home to Kulgam to take part in the funeral of his son. Terrorists in the Valley are now acting out of sheer frustration, and they are fast losing the sympathy of the common people.

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Torture and rape of women are unpardonable crimes

aaj ki baat_frame_438Two incidents, one in Rewari, Haryana, and the other in West Delhi rocked the collective conscience of the nation on Friday.

In the first incident, a girl who stood first in her district in the CBSE examination and was awarded by the President, was gang raped by three youths from her village. She was going to her coaching class, when these youths accosted and drugged her, took her to a lonely place and gang raped her. They then left her, bruised, at a bus stop, and one of the culprits rang up the parents to collect her.

Such an act is a blot on humanity. Though some opposition leaders have tried to gain political capital out of it, the fact remains that this is not a political issue. No government or police can prevent such incidents, where the victim trusts her acquaintances and is then raped. The girl trusted the youths from her village, but if known acquaintances commit such a heinous crime, whom should the parents trust? I have been told several times by senior police officials that in most rape cases, the culprits were either known to the victim, or were close relatives. This is surely a worrying trend in our society.

The second crime in West Delhi is more heinous. Here, the son of an assistant sub-inspector of Delhi Police was shown on a video, brutally bashing up a girl inside a deserted call centre, and when the video went viral, the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh swung into action, and asked Delhi Police Commissioner to take immediate action. The policeman’s son was arrested within hours. It transpired that the culprit had beaten up and raped another girl too.

The culprit will get his due punishment, but his entire family and parents will have to bear the ignominy of this delinquent son. They stand disgraced before society. In one video, we saw the policeman scolding his son and the son misbehaving with his father. The moral of the lesson is: parents should discipline their offsprings from childhood, and show them what is right and what is wrong. This video should serve as a lesson to all parents in our society.

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It was not Jaitley, but UPA’s PM and Finance Minister who helped Mallya with bank loans

AK_B (1) (002)Congress President Rahul Gandhi jumped into the Vijay Mallya controversy on Thursday, when he alleged what he called “collusion” between the fugitive liquor baron and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. He also demanded Jaitley’s resignation and a probe into why Mallya met Jaitley in Parliament a day before he fled from India.

However facts point towards something entirely different. Even the Congress do not disagree that Mallya’s companies were sinking in a sea of debts, he owed thousands of crores to the banks, and he had no interest in repaying back the loans. And yet, the UPA government of Dr Manmohan Singh went out of the way to pressurize public sector banks to lend more loans to his companies. Even these loans sank and there was debt restructuring. The banks were unwilling to give more loans to Mallya’s companies but the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh and the then Finance Minister put pressure on banks to lend him money. Mallya even wrote letters to them to thank them for their help.

Naturally questions will be raised. It is also a fact that Mallya’s companies did not get a single rupee as bank loan after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over in 2014. On the contrary, pressure was exerted on his group to repay the loans, and legal action was initiated. It was because of this that Mallya was forced to leave his land and properties in India and flee to foreign shores.

Congress is yet to answer why despite knowing the fragile status of his group, thousands of crores of rupees worth loans were given from the banks, not once, but several times. Congress is making an issue out of how Mallya met Jaitley before fleeing. This issue should have ended the day when Mallya himself said that it was not a scheduled meeting with Jaitley.

The BJP, on its part, has shown letters from the then PM’s office, to show how the UPA government was bending over backwards in accommodating Mallya. Both the then Prime Minister and the then Finance Minister were helping Mallya and his group of companies. Despite opposition from senior bank officials, pressures were exerted from the Congress to help Mallya and his companies. Arun Jaitley as Finance Minister did nothing of the sort. He put pressure on Mallya to repay the loans, and initiated action in UK courts to deport Mallya. The fugitive baron’s lawyers raised the issue of “poor conditions of Indian jails”, but when a video of the Arthur Road central jail was submitted to the British court, Mallya’s lawyers had no answers.

The Congress may well claim that the Mallya-Jaitley meeting is a “big political issue”, but it should not forget two things: One, even Jaitley’s political rivals do not doubt his personal integrity, and Two, the final verdict in Mallya’s case before the British court is going to come on December 10, and at that time, Mallya may spill out the beans, which can cause discomfort to the Congress party.

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How Mamata Banerjee is trying to win back support of Hindu voters

AKB (002)On Monday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee surprised everyone by announcing Rs 10,000 grant for each of the 28,000 Durga Puja organising committees, which will result in an outgo of Rs 28 crore for the cash-strapped state government.

Contrast this with what happened last year. The state government postponed immersion of Durga idols by a day in order to allow Muharram processions. It did not allow Ramnavami processions and imposed curbs on Hanuman Jayanti celebrations. The result was that in the panchayat elections, the BJP fared well to the chagrin of Trinamool Congress leaders.

Over the last two years, there has been a certain amount of dissatisfaction among Hindu voters in West Bengal over the perceived bias of Mamata Banerjee towards Muslims. Soon after coming to power in 2011, she had announced monthly allowances of Imams at mosques.

Now that there is a shift in the preferences of Hindu voters in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee is trying hard to win back their support, and the latest grant for Durga Puja organisers is one such instance.

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Bringing fuel prices under purview of GST can give timely relief

Aaj-KiBaat_frame_434Prices of petrol and diesel are continuously on the rise because of hike in crude prices in the international market. It is true that the Centre has no control over fuel prices. The oil marketing companies decide fuel prices on a daily basis. A fierce debate is going on in the social media between the Congress and BJP supporters, but the people at large want that fuel prices should come down.

To say that the Centre has no control over fuel prices will not do. The only way out is: Bring fuel prices under the purview of Goods & Services Tax (GST). The Congress has already said that it would support the Centre on this issue. The ruling BJP and its allies have governments in 23 states. So, it would not be a problem in bringing about unanimity in the GST Council on bringing fuel prices under GST.

Continuous fuel price hike in recent weeks has caused dissatisfaction among the people at large and they are demanding immediate relief. The Janata Dal(U) leader K. C. Tyagi hit the nail on its head when he pointed out that the opposition had no issue against the Centre for the last four years, but fuel price hike has given a readymade handle to the opposition to beat the ruling party with. Congress and other opposition parties will surely try to take political advantage from this issue. Congress President Rahul Gandhi made fuel price hike an issue on Monday at his Ramlila Maidan rally, but the absence of leaders from Samajwadi Party and BSP at the rally has raised doubts in the minds of political analysts. The question is: Is Mayawati unhappy with the proposed Mahagathbandhan?

As far as incidents of vandalism and stone pelting during Monday’s Bharat Bandh are concerned, I can only say that the parties that gave the call for Bandh should take responsibility.

Political parties have the Constitutional right to raise the voice of opposition, but in doing so, they cannot prevent people from reaching hospitals or their workplaces. Dozens of buses were damaged in Maharashtra. There were cases of vandalism in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Trains were stopped causing inconvenience to commuters. It is the duty of the administration to catch the culprits who vandalized public property by going through CCTV footage.

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Why Pakistan is blowing hot, blowing cold on normalizing relations with India

aaj ki baat_frame_438Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that his country was planning to provide visa-free access to Silk pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. In an interview to BBC, the minister said that a special corridor will be built from the Indian border to the gurdwara to enable Sikh pilgrims to visit the gurdwara. “They will have to buy a ticket to go back”, he added.

It is not yet clear whether this facility will be a permanent one or is only meant for the 550th birth celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev . It was at Kartarpur that the founder of Sikh religion breathed his last and a gurdwara was built in 1559 on the banks of Ravi, hardly three km away from the border.

If Pakistan opens the corridor and provides visa-free access to Indian pilgrims, it will surely be a welcome step. Guru Nanak Dev stayed in Kartarpur for nearly 18 years. This holy gurdwara is visible from the border, and thousands of Sikh pilgrims pay obeisance every day from this side of the border. BSF jawans, who are posted there, regularly clear long grass near the border to enable pilgrims to watch the gurdwara clearly. If visa-free access is allowed it will be a first welcome step towards normalizing bilateral relations by the Imran Khan government.

It was Pakistan army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa who had promised Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu at Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony that his country was planning to open the Kartarpur corridor. However, on Thursday, Gen Bajwa, while addressing a Defence Day ceremony warned that his army would “avenge the blood that has been spilled on the border”. He was referring the casualties near the Line Of Control.

For the last several days, there had been media reports that Gen Bajwa was in favour of resuming dialogue with India, but his remark about “revenge” gives a totally different impression. The General may have said this in order to boost the morale of his troops, but this remark certainly does not augur well for normalizing relations between both countries.

There have been media reports about the army and the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan having a cosy relationship, and these appear to be true. Imran Khan had said at the same ceremony that Pakistan was not going to fight any other country’s war. His reference was to Pakistan providing help to the US in fighting its war in Afghanistan. The Pakistani leader might have made this remark for domestic consumption, but the fact remains that the country is fast sliding into a terrible economic crisis and is in dire need of international financial assistance.


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Supreme Court verdict decriminalizing gay sex is a welcome step

Aaj-KiBaat_frame_434A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday in a unanimous landmark judgement legalized consensual sexual relations among gay adults, hitherto considered a crime under Section 377 of Indian Penal Code. The apex court thus declared a two-judge bench decision in 2013 prohibiting gay sex as “arbitrary, fallacious and retrograde”. The apex court clearly said “history owed an apology to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) members and their families for the wrongs inflicted on them”.

Homosexuality, gay, same sex and lesbian, you call it by whatever name, is not a disease. One can call it a genetic flaw or a hormonal disorder. It could be different from heterosexuals, but you cannot blame anybody for that, nor should one hate anybody because of that, and neither should one make fun of such people. In today’s modern society, we cannot force any homosexual rom hiding the person’s sexual proclivity.

The Supreme Court has rightly said that homosexuality is not a crime, and societal morality cannot violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual. Justice Rohinton Nariman said, ‘Persons who are homosexuals have a fundamental right to live with dignity..We further declare that such groups (LGBTQ) are entitled to the protection of equal laws, and are entitled to be treated in society as human beings without any stigma attached to any of them.”

I believe this is easier said than done. Our society has certain preconceived notions about homosexuality, and the apex court’s verdict may be difficult to implement in society by force. We may need more time for society to understand the need for equal rights of homosexuals, and the law cannot be enforced with a stick. Justice Nariman has rightly said that the verdict needs to be widely publicized in society.

Homosexuals should also understand that our society presently does not allow excessive sexual permissiveness in public places. They will have to exercise patience and caution. And the most important thing is: Homosexuals should accept that their sexual choice is purely a personal matter, and it is better that if they avoid indulging in consensual gay sex in public places. Otherwise, such an act can come under the purview of law that disallows obscenity in public places.


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Perpetrators of brutal gangrape and murder of girl in Kashmir must get death sentence

aaj ki baat_frame_69242As details of the gangrape, savagery and murder of the nine-year-old girl in Uri, Kashmir, by her stepbrother, stepmother and and three others emerged on Wednesday, people in general were stunned. The heinous act was committed by the stepmother who was jealous that her husband doted more on his second wife and nine-year-old daughter, and then conspired with her teenager son, two of his friends and a male to carry out this crime, according to police.

All five accused have been arrested, and forensic tests have revealed that the minor girl was raped by the perpetrators of the crime. She was then strangled and struck on the head with an axe by her stepbrother, her eyes were gouged out and acid was sprayed on her body.

I would like to thank the police officers who cracked this case fast and collected vital evidences. This bloodcurdling act is a blot on humanity in general, and there is no way out, except to hand out death sentence to all the perpetrators of this heinous crime. My heart cries out for the little girl, who suffered inhuman torture at the hands of her own relatives.

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Petrol, diesel, LPG, CNG should be brought under GST

akb2Prices of petrol and diesel have spiralled for the tenth day in a row on Tuesday because of constant rise in international crude prices. The common man has been badly affected by rising fuel prices, and in an election year, such a situation could cause worries for the ruling party.
India is dependent on oil producing countries for its fuel requirements. Crude production in Iran has decreased sharply due to sanctions imposed by the US.
India and China import almost 18 lakh barrels per day from Iran, and with reduced production, prices of international crude has shot up to 85 US dollars per barrel. It has been reported that Iran’s oil production may decline to 10 lakh barrels per day by November this year, when the US sanctions will fully be in place. This will further lead to huge rise in crude prices.
It is also true that in recent years the central excise duty on petrol has increased by about 105 per cent to Rs 19.48 paise per litre, and the hike in diesel price has been nearly 331 per cent. Many state governments levy ad valorem tax in order to garner more revenue.
Last year, the Centre made a modest reduction in taxes on fuel and five state governments promptly followed the lead, in order to give relief to the common man. Now that the economy has registered an 8.2 per cent growth in GDP, the Centre can afford to reduce fuel taxes and persuade BJP-ruled states to follow the same path. This can give great relief to the common man, and can also fuel economic growth. This is a short-term measure, but the permanent solution to this is to bring all petroleum products under the purview of Goods and Services Tax (GST). This will bring uniformity in fuel prices across the country, and the Centre can then persuade the states in the GST Council to reduce the tax rate.

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