Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Supreme Court’s historic verdict on Sabarimala shrine is a welcome step

AKB 28 9 (2) (002)The Supreme Court on Friday granted women of all ages the right to enter and perform prayers at the famed Sabarimala temple in Kerala, reversing the 800-year-old tradition of not allowing women in the 10-50 menstruating age group into the shrine. The Constitutional Bench in a 4-1 judgement said that denial of entry to women to the shrine was “derogatory” to them. The bench said that “patriarchy in religion cannot be permitted to trump over the element of pure devotion born out of faith and the freedom to profess and practise one’s religion”.

The apex court’s verdict is a welcome step. Any religious or cultural tradition, howsoever ancient, cannot be supported simply on the ground that it is 800 years old. Culture and traditions change with the times, and the thought process of people at large needs change.

In an era, when women are flying jet fighter planes, zooming off to space, and are working on landmark inventions, with women working as our Defence and External Affairs Ministers, such a bar on entry of women into temples needs to be discouraged. Such a ban is illogical too.

There are many other temples in India that disallow entry of women. The managements of those temples should ponder over the SC verdict, and they should, on their own initiative, allow female devotees to enter the shrines.

I would like to point out here that such retrograde practices should end not only in Hindu temples but also in shrines belonging to other religions. It is better that the managements of these shrines take the initiative on their own. We are living in the 21st century, and we simply cannot refuse equal rights to nearly half of our population .

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Those who raised doubts about 2016 surgical strike should apologize to our brave Army jawans

AAThe government has decided to celebrate the surgical strike conducted by our Army commandos in 2016 inside Pak Occupied Kashmir as ‘Parakram Parva’ across the country. Videos of our commandos carrying out the covert operations inside enemy territory have emerged, and the then Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, Lt Gen B S Hooda and some of the brave commandos have appeared on India TV to describe how the operations took place in a precision-like manner.

Gen Suhag explained in detail how the surgical strikes were planned, an element of audacious daredevilry was added, and how the brave commandos precisely executed the operation. Despite protestations by Pakistan that no such surgical strike took place, the facts and videos revealed should be enough to silence the Doubting Thomases.

It is a matter of sadness that there were politicians in India who described this surgical strike as “khoon ka sauda”, there were politicians who demanded evidences about the surgical strike, and trusted the words of Pakistan army, there were those who said the surgical strikes never took place, they were also those who refused to trust our Army’s statement.

These videos should be an eye-opener for such people. All those who raised doubts about the surgical strike should now apologize to our brave Army officers and jawans, and promise that they would never raise such doubts again in future.

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Validation of Aadhar by Supreme Court is a welcome verdict

AKB 27_09 (002)In a landmark judgement, a five-judge Constitution Bench of Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the constitutional validity of Unique ID Aadhaar, and made it mandatory to link Aadhar with all Income Tax returns, PAN card and government subsidies like LPG.

The bench however weeded out provisions which had potential for misuse, like seeding Aadhar with telephone connections, credit cards, bank accounts, welfare schemes for children, school admissions, mobile payment apps, competitive examinations, pension, mobile wallets, state government welfare schemes, private companies’ salary accounts, etc.

It is now clear as daylight that introduction of Aadhar in subsidy schemes has led to savings of nearly Rs 90,000 crore through detection of fake beneficiaries, and the benefits of such schemes are now reaching the targeted beneficiaries.

A few days ago, we had shown in Aaj Ki Baat how rations meant for nearly eight lakh poor families were siphoned off in Uttar Pradesh and sold in the grey market. This scam was unearthed with the help of Aadhar cards. FIRs have now been filed against the guilty and action is being taken. This single example highlights the need for Aadhar cards. To prevent misuse of Aadhar data, the Supreme Court has elaborated steps to be taken, and this is a good sign.

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Let us all salute our brave hero of 2016 surgical strike, who gave his supreme sacrifice

AKB_26 (002)Lance Naik Sandeep Singh of 4 Para Commandos (Special Services) , one of the heroes of Indian army’s surgical strike that took place in 2016 in Pak Occupied Kashmir, gave his supreme sacrifice in a counter-infiltration operation in Kupwara sector on Sunday morning. He killed three terrorists, before he died of gunshot wounds. In all, five terrorists were eliminated.

A brave army commando, his mortal remains were brought to his native village in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, where the final rites were done with state honours. India is proud of such a gallant hero.

Even in the face of such adversity, it was his mother who lent her shoulder to her son’s coffin. Sandeep Singh’s widow vowed that she would make their five-year-old son a brave soldier to follow in the footsteps of his father.

I admire the courage of the commando’s family which showed tremendous conviction in the face of such a big loss. This, in essence, is the strength of our armed forces. Never say die. Brave men like Sandeep strike fear in the hearts of our enemies, and it because of our brave heroes that we can sleep in peace.

The nation salutes this brave hero for his heroic deeds.

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Rahul Gandhi should understand how Pakistan is taking undue advantage of our domestic issues

aaj ki baat_frame_15734In the past one week, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has become the cynosure of all eyes in the Pakistani media and political establishment. His trenchant criticisms of Prime Minister Narendra Modi like “Chowkidar Chor Hai” and “Commander-in-Thief” over the Rafale deal has warmed the cockles of the hearts of Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats.

This comes at a time when India firmly rejected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s request for a foreign secretary level meeting in New York in the backdrop of brutal mutilation of the body of a BSF jawan and cold-blooded killings of three special police officers in Kashmir valley.

Former Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik went so far as to tweet a video of Rahul Gandhi’s press conference and wrote: “Rahul is your next PM as he is talking sense in his pressers.PM Modi is scared of him.”

Pakistan Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry went to to the extent of saying “Rafale will become Panama for Prime Minister Modi”, comparing the Rafale issue with the imprisonment of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter and son-in-law over Panama Papers.

Rahul Gandhi should understand one important thing. He has every right to question the government being the leader of the largest opposition party, but it is better that domestic issues are kept within our borders. We should not allow our enemies to take undue advantage of our political quarrels.

I remember, in September 2013, nearly five years ago, the then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif had remarked that the then Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh was quarreling like a “dehatan” (an illiterate woman). Narendra Modi was then chief minister of Gujarat. At a rally in Delhi, Modi said, “we can question our PM as much as we want, but Nawaz Sharif should not have the temerity to make fun of our PM in public”.It would be better if Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders should take a leaf out of Narendra Modi’s book.

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Cancelling Foreign Ministers’ talks is a right decision taken by India

aaj ki baat_frame_8663 (002)The government has taken a right decision in calling off the meeting of Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York. A day earlier, India had announced that it had accepted Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s offer for a bilateral meeting in New York, but after a nationwide outrage, the government had to reverse its decision. Pakistan has clearly betrayed India by carrying out the barbaric mutilation of the body of a BSF soldier near Jammu border. This was soon followed on Wednesday by cold-blooded killing of three Special Police officers in Kashmir, who were abducted by terrorists.

Pakistan is never going to listen to reason and it badly needs a strong rap on its knuckles. It is now as clear as daylight that the Pakistan Army and its infamous ISI do not listen to any sane voice in their own country. The Pakistani army establishment is carrying out murder and mayhem on the border and inside the Valley disregarding all canons of justice. India will now have to pay back Pakistan in its own coin.

As far as bilateral talks are concerned, there is no point starting negotiations until and unless Pakistan stops giving support to terrorists on its own soil. Pakistan PM Imran Khan wrote the conciliatory letter to our PM only because his country is under pressure from other countries of the world to stop terrorism and start dialogue. It is now upon the world community to decide how much it should trust Pakistan as far as terrorism is concerned.

Terrorists in Kashmir valley are now desperate, as they are fighting a losing battle. They have started targeting soldiers returning home on leave or policemen staying in their homes in order to create a reign of terror. Social media is being misused through fake videos and claims about policemen deserting their jobs.

One fake video went to the extent of showing Kashmiri policemen shouting anti-India slogans, whereas the fact was that they were forest department guards demanding hike in salaries. Clearly, the sloganeering audio was laid on the video, and there was clear mismatch of lip sync. Similarly, soon after three special police officers were killed in cold blood, fake news was spread on mainstream media to say that six Kashmiri policemen have deserted their jobs. This turned out to be false. None of the policemen had resigned.

India is thus not only fighting a proxy war based on weapons supplied by Pakistan to terrorists, but also a propaganda war, which it has to counter. Clearly the days of terrorists in Kashmir are numbered and Pakistan’s diabolic plan is going to bite the dust.

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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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