Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Advani, Joshi offering not to contest LS polls is a step in the right direction

AKB_frame_51537India TV reporters have filed stories on the decision of senior BJP leaders Lal Krishna Advani (age 91 years) and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi (age 85 years) offering not to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. I think, this is a step in the right direction. Both these stalwarts are part of the Margdarshak Mandal of the party, and they have now offered to stay out of active politics.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Advani, M M Joshi and former Himachal Pradesh CM Shanta Kumar (age 84 years) were requested not to contest. They were offered Rajya Sabha seats, but all the three leaders had then opted to contest. This time, both Advani and M M Joshi have offered not to contest and the party leadership has reportedly accepted their request.

It is a historical fact that stalwarts like Advani, Joshi and Shanta Kumar had toiled hard for most of their life in building the edifice of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (later BJP). They worked among the masses and spread the message of the party at a time when it was on the sidelines of mainstream Indian politics.

It was under Advani’s leadership that the BJP organisation spread far and wide across the length and breadth of the country. It was during his tenure as party chief that leaders like Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj rose on the political horizon.

And now times have changed. The party wants to field new faces and wants to give its old stalwarts a rest from the hustle and bustle of electoral politics. India has a burgeoning base of young and energetic voters and the new generation needs a fresh line of politicians. Any vibrant and dynamic party, in order to sustain itself, needs fresh infusion of young politicians and the time has now come to bid farewell to the older generation.

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India seeks FBI help in extraditing Dawood from Pakistan

akbIndia TV on Monday night in its show ‘Aaj Ki Baat‘ gave details of how terror fugitive Dawood Ibrahim has shifted from Karachi and is now staying in an ISI safe house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.These and all other info are being shared by Indian agencies with two senior FBI officials from USA, who are presently in New Delhi to assist the government in extraditing the underworld don.

India’s case is that Dawood Ibrahim and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin are of Indian origin, and they can be put on trial only in Indian courts, unlike Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, who are of Pakistani origin.

A 280-page dossier on Dawood Ibrahim has been prepared and shown to FBI officials, according to this report. Dawood is wanted in 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts and several other terror attacks. India will hand over this dossier to the Pakistani High Commissioner in Delhi and demand that Dawood be extradited. The underworld don is now 64 years old, and he has undergone major plastic surgery. A sketch of Dawood based on his last known photographs has been prepared.

FBI has been told by Indian agencies that Dawood may have become old but his ‘D company’ is still active and he is helping Jaish-e-Mohammed in setting up ‘sleeper cells’ inside India. Indian agencies have given numbers and details of at least five passports issued by Pakistan to Dawood under assumed names. Addresses and details of Dawood’s residences in Karachi have also been shared in this dossier.

India and the US are presently engaged in intelligence sharing to counter terrorism, and the Indian government hopes that the US would exert pressure on Pakistan government to hand over India’s most wanted criminal.

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The inside story of how IAF launched its daring air strikes on Balakot

AKB_frame_16_MarchIndia TV on Friday night in its programme ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ telecast details about the meticulous planning that went into the daring IAF air strikes at the Jaish terror facility located in Balakot inside Pakistan. The actionable intelligence included details of the rooms inside the campus where the terrorists, their trainers, handlers and ISI army officers were staying. For the first time, these details have been made available to the media for the benefit of those who still doubt whether the air strikes were successful or not.

The idea of air strikes had originally come from Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal B. S. Dhanoa, who was himself a fighter pilot. He had a major role to play during the air strikes during 1999 Kargil conflict.

Air strikes nowadays are carried out only when detailed layout and plan alongwith info about specific targets are made available to the fighter pilots. Laser guided smart bombs are designed to hit specific targets only. The entire layout was mapped from satellite surveillance.

There were already info about terrorists’ trail through dense forests to the hill top where the Jaish facility was located. There was also info from intelligence that nearly 300 terrorists had gathered at the campus and the Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar was expected to come in the next 2-3 days. But our Air Chief decided not to wait, and went in for the air strike.

When the air strike plan was prepared for our Mirage-2000 jets, the main worry was how the Pakistan Air Force would react. The Prime Minister had given clear instructions that there should be no casualties on our side.

Our strategists found out that the Pakistan Air Force command would take 13 minutes to make their aircraft airborne to counter our fighter planes. Thus, our Air Force had a 13-minute window to enter the enemy airspace, carry out the strikes and return safely. The air strikes took place at 4:02 am and all our aircraft returned safely. By the time the Pakistani F-16 aircraft took off to counter the air strikes, it was too late.

Already the IAF had other jet aircraft ready to provide cover to our Mirage-2000 aircraft. Had the PAF F-16 aircraft come in hot pursuit into our air space, they could have been shot down. Pakistan Air Force has admitted that their aircraft withdrew when they found a strong squadron of our aircraft waiting for them.

One vital point: The Pakistan army was expecting a surgical strike on land either across the Line of Control or near the international border. It was because of this reason, Jaish terrorists were withdrawn 50 km away from the LoC and stationed at Balakot deep inside Pakistani territory.

The Pakistani army did not have an inkling that the IAF would carry out air strikes on Balakot camp. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who revealed at a public rally that the enemy had expected a surgical strike on land, but the strikes were carried out from air.

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Accountability must be fixed for Mumbai CST foot over bridge collapse

AK(002)On Thursday evening during rush hour traffic, the concrete slabs of the foot over bridge linking to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus fell 35 feet below crushing people underneath. Till Friday morning, six persons died and 38 others were injured, many of them critical. The casualty figure is bound to rise.

Local people along with police and fire brigade rushed to the spot and saved several commuters.

This is not first such bridge collapse in Mumbai. On September 29, 2017, a stampede took place after the Elphinstone over bridge collapsed causing heavy casualties. Twenty three people lost their lives. Army help was taken to rebuild the foot over bridge. An audit was conducted for all foot over bridges in and around Mumbai, and the CST foot over bridge was given a clean chit by the engineers of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Local leaders Raj Purohit, Milind Deora and Waris Pathan visited the spot and demanded action against the erring officials who were in charge of maintenance. Two Maharashtra ministers Vinod Tawde and Subhash Desai promised action against the officials. The accountability lies with the BMC, but the BMC Commissioner came to the spot to inspect and went away without speaking to the media.

Since it is election time now, the demand for action against officials may be overshadowed in the din of poll frenzy, but accountability for this mishap must be fixed at all costs, and the erring officials must be punished.

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Priyanka’s speech had more impact on common man than Rahul Gandhi’s

AKB_frame_460On Tuesday in Gandhinagar, the Congress party launched its election compaign from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf, Gujarat. The new party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra gave her first election speech which lasted hardly seven minutes. This was in sharp contrast to Rahul Gandhi’s speech which lasted for half an hour.

Priyanka’s speech was simple and to the point, while Rahul’s speech was a rehash of what he had been saying all these years, without any variations. The difference in impact was clear. Priyanka easily connected with the common people. She did not claim that she knew much, but asked people to realize for themselves what is good for them and what is bad.

Without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Priyanka questioned Modi’s remark that the country was now in safe hands. Priyanka said, the country’s safety lies in awareness among the common people. She refrained from describing anybody as ‘chor’ (thief), nor did she name Modi or the BJP. But she nevertheless conveyed her message effectively.

Let us hope Rahul will at least learn some aspects of political courtesy and control over his language from her sister.


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Rahul, Farooq may have to face people’s wrath for their remarks on Azhar, air strike

baat_frame_64791 (002)Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday referred to Jaish-e-Mohammed chief as ‘Masood Azhar Ji’ while addressing his party booth workers in Delhi. He was referring to the Kandahar hijack incident in 1999, when Masood Azhar and two other terrorists were handed over to hijackers in exchange for release of hostages.

BJP leaders criticized Rahul for showing respect to the terror mastermind by using the word ‘Ji’. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reminded that it was senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh who had once said “Masood Azhar Ji” and “Hafiz Saeed Sahib”. This month, Digvijaya Singh had referred to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed by a Jaish suicide bomber as “durghatana” (accident).

As an opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi is well within his rights to criticize Modi government’s policies and actions. Being the head of the opposition party, he should be doing so, but making a respectful mention of a terror mastermind whose men killed 40 of our jawans, is one such remark which the people of India may not accept. It may hamper the electoral prospects of the Congress party.

Former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah has also made a more objectionable remark. On Monday, he said that the “surgical strike”(air strike) on Balakot inside Pakistan was done “only for the purpose of elections. We lost an aircraft worth crores of rupees. Be thankful that the IAF pilot survived and returned from Pakistan with respect”.

Farooq Abdullah is an experienced politician, and I have seen him working for a long time. When he was in the NDA during Vajpayee’s rule, he used to condemn Pakistan almost daily. He also used to praise Narendra Modi. But when the BJP joined hands with PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti to form a government in J&K, he changed his tune.

Since Farooq Abdullah is now an opposition leader, he has the right to criticize the government, but it does not behove of him to blindly accept the claims of Pakistan army, and reject the claims of our army. This amounts to lowering the morale of our brave jawans and pilots. He refuses to believe that our Mig-23 Bison pilot shot down an F-16 aircraft of the Pakistan army.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, has therefore, rightly said in ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ show on India TV that such leaders may garner TRPs for Pakistani news channels, but they will have to face the wrath of the people in India.

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Supreme Court has taken the right step by sending Ayodhya case for mediation

AKB_frame_402A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Friday referred the 70-year-old Ayodhya dispute to a three-member mediation panel, comprising spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, former SC judge F. M. Kalifulla and mediation expert Sriram Panchu and asked the panel to submit its report within eight weeks. The apex court asked them to carry out the mediation process in utmost secrecy.

I think this is a correct step in the right direction. It was former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar who had initiated talks to resolve the Ayodhya dispute, two years before the Babri mosque was demolished. Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee also opted for mediation, and several other individuals or groups made efforts to bring out an amicable solution. All these efforts could not succeed.

The matter was then taken to Allahabad High Court which gave its judgement calling for a 2:1 bifurcation of the disputed land. The High Court accepted the plea that the Babri mosque was built on the debris of a temple in Ayodhya, but since the disputed land was sought to be trifurcated, the matter has now reached the apex court.

Technically it is a title suit, but the dispute is linked with the faith of millions of Indians. It is the job of the Supreme Court to deliver its verdict taking into account all the legal and Constitutional aspects, but it is not easy for the apex court of the land to deliver its judgement on an issue that relates to the faith of millions.

I feel the apex court has taken the right step towards mediation. Any judgement by the court could have resulted in victory or defeat for either of the parties, whereas a solution reached through mediation can accepted as a victory for India’s unity. Those who are saying that the court is delaying its verdict should understand that eight weeks’ time has been given to the mediators. During this time all parties can go through the translation of voluminous evidences, so that none of the parties can raise questions on translations later during hearings.

The setting up of the three-member mediation panel clearly shows the apex court’s intention of arriving at an amicable solution through dialogue, rather than a verdict imposed from above that could complicate the issue further.

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Terror groups from Pakistan have changed their strategy post-air strikes

AKkkB_frame_506 (002)The death of two persons and injuries to 27 others in a grenade blast at the Jammu bus stand on Thursday clearly points to a shift in the strategy of terror outfits and their handlers sitting across the border after India carried out sir strikes deep inside Pakistan.

They used a modus operandi in which it was impossible to prevent such an attack. A Kashmiri teenager with a red coloured rucksack on his back reaches Jammu from Srinagar by bus, throws the grenade under a bus, and then takes a bus ride back. Fortunately the color CCTV footage identified him, and the Jammu police nabbed him at the Nagrota check post within hours. The attacker claims that he was asked by a Hizbul Mujahideen commander to carry out this heinous job.

No amount of surveillance can prevent such attacks and the credit must go to Jammu and Kashmir police for nabbing the attacker in a span of four hours.

I would like to repeat what I had said a week back. Such terrorists mix with the common people, carry out their perfidious acts and then escape taking advantage of the crowd. It is not possible for the police or security agencies to nab such terrorists. The public at large must keep their eyes and ears open and watch for any suspicious person or activity. They must immediately inform the police to prevent such attacks. We should remember why Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that if 130 crore Indians remain ever vigilant, terrorists can never achieve their objectives.

I shall now mention an unfortunate incident that took place in Lucknow.

Some self-styled saffron activists beat up two Kashmiri traders selling dry fruits on a pavement, but were stopped due to timely intervention by a local citizen. The act of a handful of such people makes 130 crore Indians hang their heads in shame. The video of such hooligans thrashing Kashmiris became viral on the social media and bought a bad name to our country. Pakistan misuses these videos for its own benefit and terrorists use them to brainwash teenagers in Kashmir to instill a sense of hatred towards India.

Such hooligans must be given a severe and exemplary punishment and videos of such punishment should be forwarded on social media so that such fanatics may fear while committing such acts in future. The world can then see that India is a country that upholds the rights of all its citizens, irrespective of religion, caste, gender or class.
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Pakistan enacting a farce in the name of sealing Jaish, LeT offices

AK(002)India TV on Wednesday night showed exclusive visuals of how Pakistani authorities were sealing offices of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba in Lahore after the recent ban and allowing their cadres to lie low for a few weeks. We have also shown statements from senior Pakistani leaders who are openly saying that this action is purely temporary.

The Army spokesman’s claim takes the cake. Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the Pakistani army spokesman, said at a briefing on Wednesday that Jaish-e-Mohammed does not exist in his country after the recent ban.

Clearly, Pakistan is under intense international pressure to take action against terror outfits. The world has taken notice of the brutal suicide bombing in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF jawans were martyred. Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s whereabouts are not being officially acknowledged, and his brother and son and 42 other leaders have been rounded up, only to be taken into ‘protective custody’.

India does not trust Pakistan’s words and actions. After 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and the Pathankot air base strike, similar actions were taken against terror outfits, but soon afterwards these terror masterminds and their henchmen came out in the open and carried on with their nefarious terror activities. The only difference this time after the Pulwama attack is that Indian aircraft entered Pakistani airspace, decimated the terror camp on Pakistani soil, and the world stood by India on the issue of terrorism.

Soon after the Pulwama terror attack, Pakistan, anticipating a major strike, sent all the Jaish terrorists and huddled them inside the camp in Balakote, which was made a target by Indian Air Force on February 26. Indian intelligence agencies had gathered information about terrorists and their sympathizers making calls to Balakote, and on the basis of these info, the plan to target Balakote was prepared. Our air force hit the target perfectly and it was almost 80 per cent success, and this was later proved from other evidences gathered by our intelligence agencies.

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Putting Jaish chief’s brother, son into ‘preventive custody’ is a classic Pakistani ploy

AKB_frame_22509 (002)Under growing pressure from international community, Pakistan on Tuesday announced that it has taken Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s brother and son into ‘protective custody’ along with 42 others. The neighbouring country also put Jamaat ud Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, frontal outfits of Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed on the list of banned terror outfits.

Masood’s brother Abdul Rauf Asghar was the man who planned the IC-814 Kandahar hijacking in 1999, and he now runs the terror operations for Jaish. Masood Azhar’s son Hamad and brother Rauf figure in the dossier submitted by India after the Pulwama terror attack. However the name of Jaish chief is missing from the list, though there are reports that he may also be arrested any time soon. Pakistan’s Home Secretary has added a rider: these terrorists taken into custody could be released if the evidences submitted by India are not found actionable.

Pakistan’s actions against homegrown terrorists have been mostly of a cosmetic nature, to say the least. After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, Hafiz Saeed and his colleagues were put under protective custody. Hafiz Saeed challenged the order in court, the government’s advocate failed to appear in court and the Lashkar-e-Toiba chief was released.

There are also reports that Pakistan government is planning to induct all home grown terrorists from Jaish and Lashkar into its paramilitary forces. Reports say, the plan was prepared in December last year, but because of acute financial crisis, the plan was then shelved. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has now decided to induct these terrorists into paramilitary forces, so that they can move around freely in uniform, and Pakistan can save itself from international opprobrium.

Meanwhile, the litany of lies from Pakistan continues. On Tuesday, Pakistan Navy claimed that it forced an Indian submarine from approaching its coast. This was promptly rejected by Indian Navy as baseless. We in India should remain alert about such spurious claims, because the enemy is resorting to lies and calumny to shore up its dwindling prestige.

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Pakistan is spinning lies, one after another

baat_frame_64791 (002)On February 26, when 12 Indian Air Force Mirage jets bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakote of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, more than 50 km inside Pakistan, Pakistani army spokesman told the world that there was no camp at the spot, and the ‘smart bombs’ that IAF jets delivered had fallen on open ground, and damaged only a few trees. The next day the Pakistani army conducted a press party to the spot and produced ‘tutored’ villagers who said there was not much damage in the area. The logical question is: Had there been not widespread damage, why did the Pakistan Air Force then tried to carry out a counter air-strike near the Line of Control the next day?

The lies are being exposed, one by one. Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s brother recently issued an audio message admitting that IAF planes attacked their camp, while sources in the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), a technical intelligence agency under the PM’s National Security Adviser, have revealed that there were more than 300 cellphones ‘active’ at the spot, on the night the IAF raid took place. It is a clear piece of evidence that not less than 300 Jaish operatives and their handlers were presumably present inside that camp that night, and all signs of the terror camp were removed by the Pakistani army soon after the air strike.

Pakistan’s second lie was that its F-16 fighter jet was not downed by IAF near the Line of Control the next day. On Thursday, senior Indian Air Force officers showed in Delhi, the broken pieces of AMRAAM missile, that can only be fitted to an F-16 jet. Pakistan has been suppressing news about the death of its own pilot who was flying the ill-fated F-16 jet. It has refused to accept that its pilot is dead. A day earlier, the Pakistani army spokesman had claimed that two IAF pilots were killed, but later the spokesman reduced the number from two to one on his Twitter handle.

The third lie that Pakistani social media peddled on March 4 was that IAF jets sent a missile near Fort Abbas in the Cholistan desert of Pakistan. Still pictures and video of the missile were circulated. Later the Indian Air Force announced that its Sukhoi jet has shot down a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that was hovering on the Pakistani side.

Spinning lies and then peddling them on media has been a standard trait of the Pakistani army establishment. What can one say when Pakistan, which is home to the largest number of terrorists and terror outfits, claims that it is itself a victim of terror? What can one say about Pakistan, which sends ‘non-state actors’ to carry out terror strikes in India, and then demands ‘actionable evidence’?

My view is that, a rogue country like Pakistan should never be allowed to live in peace, so long as its army does not uproot all the terror camps that it has been nurturing. It is in this context that our Air Force Chief ACM B. S. Dhanoa said on March 4 that the current operation against terror camps in Pakistan is ‘ongoing’.
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Keep up the pressure, Pakistan can never be trusted

Aaj ki baatOn Friday night at around 9.21 pm, Pakistan handed over our Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan at the Wagah border, but before making this humanitarian gesture, it circulated a video of Abhinandan, in which the IAF prisoner, clearly under duress, was made to “praise” the treatment meted out by his captors, and as an added dose, he was made to criticize the Indian media. This shoddy piece of cheap PR was done by the Pakistani army to gain brownie points, and the video itself showed more than three dozen cuts. The video was chopped to pieces, and badly edited.

As India salutes and welcomes back her brave warrior who downed a Pakistani F16 jet fighter, questions arise about the intentions of Pakistan in the current round of hostilities.

I would like to mention here an incident from our epic Ramayana, where Lord Rama waited on the seashore for several days, praying to the Sea God to allow access to his Vanara Sena (army of monkeys) to launch attack on the demon king Ravana’s kingdom Lanka. There was no response from the Sea God. Finally, an angry Lord Rama took out his bow and arrows to aim at the sea, vowing to vaporize the sea. The Ramayana notes that the Sea God, in a frightened state, appeared, and with folded hands appealed to Rama not to vaporize the sea, and willingly offered access to the Vanara Sena.

The moral of the story: Rod is the logic of fools (‘Laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahin mantey’) Till now, Pakistan had been carrying out terror attacks in India, and we used to make appeals to Pakistan to desist from harbouring terrorists. The entire narrative changed after the Pulwama terror attack. They killed 40 of our CRPF jawans, and we decided to strike back, deep inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. After we decimated their terror camp, Pakistan is now speaking the language of peace and offering dialogue.

My view is very clear: India need not show forgiveness or mercy to those who have caused mayhem on our soil. Pakistan was never trustworthy in the past, and it cannot be trusted now, nor in the future.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands this clearly and he has already made up his mind. Any big terror attack, and India will strike back. He has got the support of most of the world’s big powers on this point. It is time to salute the strong leadership of our Prime Minister and also laud the valour displayed by our Armed Forces. The bravery and valour of our jawans, our officers, our pilots, our navy personnel, our border guards shall always remain etched in the memory of Indians. Forever.


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