Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Strong law enforcement and political will can stop gruesome crimes against women

akb0612 In the Uttar Pradesh town of Unnao, on Thursday morning, five men, including two alleged rapists, stabbed a 23-year-old girl repeatedly, poured petrol and set her on fire in one of the several horrific crimes in recent times.

The girl had been gang raped on December 12, 2018, and she was on her way to take a train to Rae Bareli to meet her lawyers when the rapists pounced on her. One of the rapists who attacked her, Shivam Trivedi, was released on bail by the Allahabad high court a few days ago.

As national outrage swept the nation, the rape survivor was brought to Lucknow, and from there to Delhi in an air ambulance. She had suffered 90 per cent burns, as she ran in a ball of flames, screaming for help, when an eyewitness rang up the police.

This Unnao incident occurred close on the heels of the infamous incident in Hyderabad, when a lady veterinary doctor was gang raped and then burnt to death by four men causing nationwide outrage. All the four accused were arrested, and on Friday morning, they were killed in an encounter with Hyderabad police, according to latest reports.

The Unnao girl is now battling for her life in Delhi’s Safdarjang Hospital. She had filed a rape complaint against the main accused, Shivam Trivedi. The local police took her complaint but ultimately filed an FIR on March 4 this year, after a Rae Bareli court’s order. The main accused Shivam surrendered in court on September 19, and on November 25, he got bail from the Allahabad High Court. The horrific act was perpetrated ten days later, on December 5.

I am narrating the details only to show the glaring lapses in our law enforcement system. This horrific act could have been easily avoided. The rape survivor should have been provided police security because the rapists were out on bail. Clearly they were out to take revenge on the rape survivor. But the system chose to keep its eyes shut.

Politicians of different hues, while condemning the incident, blamed their political rivals. Some blamed the UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, some others took the opportunity to blame our PM, and one BJP minister in UP went to the extent to say that even ‘Ram Rajya’ was not 100 per cent crime free.

Until and unless the entire political spectrum, the bureaucracy, the police and judiciary come on the same page, our daughters will continue to remain insecure. Even if we enact stringent laws providing for death sentence to rapists and set up fast track courts, the situation cannot change unless there is an overall change in our mindset.

We have to overhaul our system, make our law enforcement system strong and change the mindset of our politicians. Only these measures can open up a way to provide safety to our daughters. The Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday announced that Rs 100 crore from Nirbhaya fund would be spent to set up “women help desks” in each of the police stations, so that the women’s safety concerns can be addressed.

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Social media platforms can play a big role in ensuring women’s safety

akb0210A Parliamentary committee on women empowerment on Wednesday sought a report from micro-blogging site Twitter on how it deals with abusive content and the procedure that is followed to remove objectionable comments from the site.

Top representatives from Twitter India made a presentation before the committee, consisting of women MPs, to apprise them of the action taken by them to tackle cases of ‘cyber-bullying’ and harassment of women. They also informed the women MPs about the latest updates in technology to ensure cyber safety and security of women.

Two central ministries, the Ministry of Women & Child Development and Ministry of Home Affairs, had been in touch with Twitter India on the issue of checking abusive content, particularly against women. The issue of child pornography was also raised in view of growing online abuses faced by children.

Concerns have been expressed in several quarters over lack of control on fake and objectionable information dished out on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Most of the objectionable information are generally found to be fake, dangerous to national security and patently illegal.

To cite an instance, there is a stringent provision in law against disclosure of the name, address, identity and location of rape victims and their family members. After the horrible gang rape and murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad, her name and face were flashed on social media among millions of viewers. Today I read a perturbing news report about nearly 80 lakh searches for videos relating to the gang rape victim on porn sites.

This shows to what dangerous extent there is prevalence of a sick mentality among certain sections of people who have easy access to internet. This also reflects the humongous amount of danger and risks that exist to our daughters in society. In such circumstances, more cooperation is required from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram, which are popular and mostly accessed by people from different sections of society.

If the government and society get adequate cooperation from social media sites, it will herald a new beginning, because there is no gainsaying the fact that social media platforms also perform a great service, conveying the complaints and grievances of common people directly to persons in authority who matter.

There have been umpteen instances of government taking action on such complaints from common people that reach via social media. Such an atmosphere creates social awareness and it would be a great service to society, if the concerns of women’s safety too are addressed by social media service providers in the national interest.

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The curious case about breach in Priyanka Gandhi’s security

akbHome Minister Amit Shah clarified in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that the security breach at Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s home last week was an “unlikely coincidence”.

On November 25, the family members of a district Congress leader from Meerut came in a black-coloured vehicle around the same time when Rahul Gandhi was supposed to come to meet his sister in a similarly black-coloured vehicle of the same make. The family members were allowed to enter the residence without any physical checks, and they went straight to Priyanka for a selfie.

“The car got in without security checks. This kind of coincidence never happens but still we ordered an inquiry and suspended three officers who were there. We do not want even a .001 per cent chance,” said the Home Minister.

There is no doubt that the manner in which the vehicle was allowed to enter Priyanka’s residence without any physical checks was a serious breach of security and such mistakes must not be allowed to occur again. But, as Amit Shah said, it was the protectee (Priyanka) who had ordered her security officers not to physically check any of her close family members because of which the vehicle was allowed to enter.

Imagine if a group of terrorists had entered the residence without any checks. It is, therefore, necessary for the protectees themselves to adhere to security guidelines, and all visitors, including relatives, must undergo checks. If the security officers had information about Rahul Gandhi visiting her sister, they could have at least checked whether Rahul was inside the vehicle or not. Even a minor error can cause a big incident, and security personnel need to be ever vigilant.

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Rapist killers should not be shown mercy, they must be hanged

akbThere were nationwide protests across India on Monday in which common citizens expressed outrage over the gruesome murder of a 27-year-old veterinary doctor after gang rape in the city of Hyderabad. Her charred body was found on November 28 morning.

The outrage was reflected in Parliament, when members, cutting across party lines, demanded tough provisions in law to deal with such rapists. Several MPs, including Jaya Bachchan, called for public lynching and castration. Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu suggested that such convicts should not be allowed to file mercy petitions and capital punishment should be meted out in the least possible time.

“What is required is not a new bill, what is required is political will, administrative skill and then change of mindset and then go in for the kill of this social evil”, said the Rajya Sabha chairman. I fully agreed with Naidu’s view that the provision of allowing mercy petitions by such convicts should be discontinued, and if the courts convict such criminals, they should be hanged immediately, without any more hearings, without any delay and without showing any mercy.

We cannot imagine the amount of anger and fear that is the present in the minds of women in India. Wherever I go, women, particularly girls, invariable ask me questions on women’s safety. They ask the simple question: what is the government doing for our safety?

Whenever such horrendous incidents occur, starting from the infamous Nirbhaya gang rape in Delhi in 2012, there had been outrage, massive street protests, there had been change in laws pertaining to rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Stringent provisions for punishment were made in law on the recommendations of late Justice J. S. Verma, special fast track courts were set up, convictions were given, but when the convicts are yet to be hanged even seven years after the act, then questions and doubts arise in the mind of people, particularly women.

It is then that people demand that harsher laws like those applied in North Korea, UAE, Saudi Arabia and China are enforced in India too. People even demand that the rapists be handed over to lynch mobs, that they should be hanged publicly, that they should be physically castrated. Such demands would not have arisen had the enforcement of law been swifter.

So long as convicts get the leeway through provision of mercy petition, or on grounds of being minor, how can society create fear in the minds of such rapists? It is now the right time to decide that provisions of mercy petitions from such convicts be done away with, and they should be hanged immediately.

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Sadhvi Pragya has apologized, but what about Rahul Gandhi?

akb0210BJP MP from Bhopal Sadhvi Pragya had to apologize twice in Lok Sabha on Friday for describing the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi as ‘deshbhakt’ (patriot). In her first apology, she targeted Rahul Gandhi, without naming him, for calling her a ‘terrorist’ and claimed that her ‘deshbhakt’ comment was twisted and misrepresented.

When Opposition members objected to the first apology, the Speaker Om Birla called a meeting of leaders where the text of the second apology was prepared in which she said “I did not call Nathuram Godse a patriot. I did not even take his name. Still, if someone is hurt, I express my regret and apologize.”

Rahul Gandhi however stood by his ‘terrorist’ remark about Sadhvi Pragya, who is presently an accused in Malegaon blast case.

I feel that Sadhvi Pragya made a big mistake by saying whatever she had said, considering the place and context in which the remark was made. She should have apologized in the first instance and the controversy could have been avoided. She should now be careful before making any controversial remark because it unnecessarily puts senior party leaders in a spot.

Now that the controversy has blown over, the question now arises: will Rahul Gandhi accept if his party ally in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, praises Nathuram Godse? Rahul cannot say that by praising Godse Sadhvi Pragya is a ‘terrorist’ but if the Shiv Sena says the same thing, it can be a political ally.

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Why Uddhav Thackeray has a lot to answer?

AKB2610With the stage set in Shivaji Park for the swearing-in of the first member from Thackeray clan as chief minister, the broad contours of the new Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government have been set after a six-hour-long marathon meeting between the three major constituents.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will surely have a tough time keeping his two major allies happy. Now that the political storm is over, people are still waiting for the Shiv Sena to clarify why it left its decades-old saffron ideology and joined hands with a political rival like the Congress.

Congress had been questioning the very existence of Lord Ram in courts, and Shiv Sena was at the forefront of the Ayodhya Ram temple movement. Shiv Sena had the image of being a saffron party espousing Hindutva, and the Congress used to call all Hindutva supporters as communal. It had been the consistent demand of Shiv Sena to give Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar, the Hindutva ideologue, and Congress used to question the greatness of Savarkar.

The question now is: how will Uddhav Thackeray bridge this wide gap between two opposite ideologies. Uddhav Thackeray and his party organ ‘Saamna’ had been roundly criticizing the Congress, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for decades.

The harsh reality remains that Uddhav Thackeray broke Shiv Sena”s 30-year-old friendship with BJP for the sake of two and a half years of chief ministership. BJP president Amit Shah has said that he or his party never promised chief ministership to the Shiv Sena and in almost every major rally in the presence of Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray, the party projected Devendra Fadnavis as the chief ministerial candidate. Neither Udhav nor Aaditya then challenged this assertion. Election results also showed the BJP had won 105 and the Shiv Sena 56 seats. BJP was clearly the bigger partner and had the right to claim chief ministership.,

Naturally, Shiv Sena leaders have a lot to answer before the people. BJP could have posed these questions in a forthright manner till the time it made the midnight blunder of accepting NCP leader Ajit Pawar’s support.

It is true that Devendra Fadnavis made a big mistake in trusting Ajit Pawar’s promise and he admitted the same in his press conference. But leaders in state BJP, who had been deprived of their ministerial posts and were denied party tickets, have now got the chance to strike back at Fadnavis. BJP leader Eknath Khadse on Wednesday questioned the wisdom behind accepting support from Ajit Pawar who is an accused in the massive irrigation scam.

In my long experience as a journalist in the world of Indian politics, I have never seen an individual like Ajit Pawar. He revolted in his family, tried to break the party, attempted to foil his supreme leader’s efforts to forge a coalition, and yet coolly returned to the party and family, saying “I was always with the NCP, I am in the NCP and I shall stay in the NCP.”

At the Wednesday meeting, he occupied a seat nearer to his uncle Sharad Pawar. The Maratha strongman knows that it was Ajit Pawar who practically ran the party for the last two decades, and he has a good hold on most of the party leaders. Surely there has never been such a precedent, with a leader revolting in his party and then coolly returning to claim the seat of power.

Credit for keeping the family and party intact goes to Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, who toiled hard for the past two weeks. She personally welcomed each MLA to the meetings.

Supriya has learnt a lot from her father, who continues to be a mass leader, who had always contacts with the roots, mixing with common people. It is an open secret that Sharad Pawar wanted his daughter to become his political heir, but every time Ajit Pawar used to come in the way. After this political circus, Supriya Sule’s stature has grown considerably, while Ajit Pawar’s stature among his people has taken a hit.

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How Sharad Pawar emerged as the ‘Mahanayak’ of Maharashtra politics

AKB2610The uncertainty is over and the picture is clearer now. Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray will be the new chief minister of Maharashtra, and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar will be at the centre of state politics, keeping a close eye on the Maha Vikas Aaghadi coalition government. The single largest party BJP will sit in the opposition.

The prodigal nephew Ajit Pawar has now said, ‘I was in NCP, I am in NCP and I shall stay in NCP’, meaning that his homecoming is complete. May be he could be made a minister in the new government, and if that happens, tongues may wag and people may say that the entire circus could be Sharad Pawar’s making.

People could say that Sharad Pawar first trapped the Shiv Sena and sent his nephew to the BJP camp, but I think this surmise may not be correct. After watching the political imbroglio in Maharashtra for two months, one can say that what Sharad Pawar said on Monday was true. Pawar had said, BJP should not consider Maharashtra as Goa, Karnataka or Manipur, and any cunning step will not work. Pawar proved this true on Tuesday.

On an overall assessment, whatever has happened cannot be attributed as Uddhav Thackeray’s victory or BJP’s defeat. It portrayed the deft political skills and management of Sharad Pawar.

BJP made a mistake in making an enemy out of Pawar. The 78-year-old political warhorse had already called it a day and had announced that he was retiring from politics and would not contest elections. When the ruling dispensation sent CBI and ED after him and his associates like Praful Patel, the old warhorse decided to re-enter the fray and took the BJP head-on.

He put in his best during the election campaign and addressed crowds despite heavy downpour. When the election results went in favour of BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, he was disappointed, but the Shiv Sena ‘fruit’ fell on its own, into his lap. It was then that Sharad Pawar fought back like a tiger.

He first befriended the Shiv Sena and persistently persuaded the Congress to join the alliance. After tying up the alliance and declaring Uddhav as the leader, he went home, only to find that his nephew had revolted. Even at this old age, Pawar remained awake late into the night and kept the alliance intact.

Look at the irony. First the Congress suspected him when Pawar called on Prime Minister Modi to discuss drought situation, and now the BJP is suspecting that Pawar sent his nephew to their camp to show the ruling party in a bad light. Ultimately, Pawar won, and he has become the ‘mahanayak’ (great hero) of Maharashtra politics.

The outgoing chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who ran the state government for five years commendably, ultimately cut a sorry figure. For five whole years, Shiv Sena criticized his government, made caustic remarks which even the Opposition leaders never made, and yet, during election time, Fadnavis agreed to an electoral alliance.

When the results were out, Uddhav Thackeray joined hands with Sharad Pawar, and when the latter’s nephew came calling, he trusted his words that he had the requisite number of NCP MLAs with him. Ultimately, he lost the gambit, but I would say, ‘to cheat is a sin, and to be cheated is not a sin’.

And Uddhav Thackeray? It was his stubbornness for the chief minister’s chair that ultimately paid off. It was Sharad Pawar who did all the work for him. In the process, Uddhav broke many traditions.

For the first time in the Thackeray family, his son Aditya contested and won the assembly elections. A Thackeray will now become a CM for the first time. It was Udhav who gave his party’s saffron ideology the go-by and joined hands with the Congress. It remains to be seen how he will run the three-party coalition government given the fact that he has had no experience in administration.

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Onus is now on Maharashtra MLAs to decide at the floor test

akb2308Now that the three-judge bench of Supreme Court has directed that a floor test be conducted in Maharashtra assembly on November 27 soon after completion of oath by members, the two-month-long political crisis in the state will reach a decisive point. The newly elected MLAs will decide whether the incumbent Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis commands majority or not.

The apex court has directed on Tuesday that there shall be no secret balloting and there shall be a live telecast of the floor test. Earlier, on Monday evening, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress ‘aaghadi’ (alliance) conducted a ‘parade’ of 162 MLAs in a Mumbai hotel, in the presence of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray and senior Congress leader Mallikarjuna Khadge. All the MLAs took ‘oath’ not to deviate from their party position and vowed to abide by the directives of their leaders.

The result of the assembly floor test will be out on Wednesday evening. In my reckoning, the present malaise that has affected Maharashtra politics indicates a crisis of trust. None of the camps, or camps within camps, trust the other. The Congress still continues to distrust Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena is yet to show trust in the Congress, and Sharad Pawar, the veteran, old political warhorse, does not appear to trust either the Shiv Sena or the Congress.

Even in the ruling BJP camp, the party leadership is yet to trust the rebel NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who has been anointed deputy chief minister. MLAs do not trust their own party leaders and vice versa. Nobody knows who will go with whom.

It is because of this atmosphere of mistrust that 162 ‘aaghadi’ MLAs assembled in the hotel on Monday were asked to take oath of loyalty. MLAs are being herded like sheep from one hotel to another to evade horsetrading. The onus is now on the MLAs to decide at the floor test whom they want in power.

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How Amit Shah outsmarted Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray

AKB1010 Anything is possible in love, war and politics. On Friday night, the Shiv Sena camp was elated after NCP supremo Sharad Pawar declared that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray would head a coalition government for the next five years.

All the morning newspapers on Saturday published headlines about Uddhav to be anointed as the CM, but throughout Friday night, there were secret and hectic developments afoot in Mumbai. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis along with NCP leader Ajit Pawar went to the Governor to stake claim for forming a government. President’s Rule was revoked quickly and early in the morning, the Governor sworn in Fadnavis as chief minister and Ajit Pawar as his deputy chief minister.

The Congress camp, in particular, was in a state of shock. Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted that he first thought it was a fake news, but as reality dawned, he too was shocked. There was utter confusion in the NCP camp, with several MLAs claiming that they were with their supremo Sharad Pawar, and not his breakaway nephew Ajit Pawar.

By afternoon, Sharad Pawar addressed a press conference with Uddhav Thackeray claiming that all three parties, NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress, had the required numbers to form a government, and that his nephew has acted against his party’s ideology.

Sharad Pawar claimed that hardly 11 out of the 54 MLAs were with his nephew, and even out of those 11, three have returned to the party fold. His associates alleged that Ajit Pawar had “misused” the letter of support given to him by the MLAs for staking claim by filling the blanks with the name “BJP”.

Now that the political situation is still in a state of flux, all eyes will now be on the state assembly where the chief minister will have to prove his majority.

Let it be clear that Ajit Pawar did not join hands with the BJP all of a sudden. Secret talks were going on between him and BJP leaders on forming a coalition government, and it was he who had been dragging his feet for the last one month over tying up a coalition with Uddhav Thackeray.

Ultimately, it was BJP chief Amit Shah who had the last laugh. The midnight political drama was reminiscent of a political ‘surgical strike’. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray who was trying to act smart with the BJP has been clearly outsmarted.

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Let us hope SS, NCP, Congress will provide a stable government

akb3010As the long-drawn talks between Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress enter the final lap, there are indications that a coalition government will be formed in Maharashtra after the three parties jointly approach the Governor to stake their claim. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s dream of becoming the chief minister may be fulfilled, though names of other Shiv Sena leaders like Anil Desai and Eknath Shinde are being mentioned.

NCP supremo Sharad Pawar wants that the coalition government must be stable, but if we look into past records, coalition governments of this nature hardly last their full tenure, because of inherent contradictions.

The latest failed experiment was in Karnataka. When the JD(S)-Congress coalition government led by H D Kumaraswamy was formed, most of the people thought that the two parties have come together to forge an anti-BJP front. Quarrels began only soon after power sharing, and the coalition fell through because there was a clash of interests.

For the sake of the people of Maharashtra, let us all hope that a stable government is formed which can run its full term.

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Why Amit Shah said NRC will be implemented across India

akb0210A storm is brewing over the issue of National Register of Citizens (NRC) after Home Minister Amit Shah disclosed in Parliament on Wednesday that the Centre will implement NRC across the country along with Assam. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee declared that her government would not allow the implementation of NRC in her state at any cost.

Amit Shah said in the Rajya Sabha that “the process of NRC will be carried out across the country. No one irrespective of their religion should be worried as it is just a process to get everyone under the NRC”.

The Home Minister clarified that the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was different from the NRC. The CAB aims to provide citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have fled to India to avoid religious persecution, but he said, the NRC has no such provision that says certain religions will be excluded from it. All citizens of India, irrespective of religion, will figure in the NRC list.”

The NRC process to be implemented across India will take time because the National Population Register(NPR) is not ready. The NPR will be updated during the 2021 Census.

There are many apprehensions about NRC in the minds of the people. I would like to point out here that the NRC process was carried out in Assam on the orders of the Supreme Court. The guidelines for carrying out the process were prepared by the apex court. And now that the Home Minister has said that NRC will be implemented across the country, politicians like Mamata Banerjee have become apprehensive.

Mamata Banerjee is opposing the NRC because she fears that this can cause harm to her vote banks in West Bengal. Amit Shah has clarified at the right time that there would be no religious discrimination while preparing the NRC. Let us wait and watch.

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How normalcy is finally returning in Kashmir Valley

AKB2610Three months ago, Articles 370 and 35A granting special status to Jammu & Kashmir were abrogated, and there was a lockdown in the valley. Now, normalcy is finally returning with shops open throughout the day, public transport on the streets and train services restored in the valley. India TV on Tuesday night showed visuals of a large number of patients flocking to the main hospital in Srinagar.

Shopkeepers in the valley were till now afraid of terrorists who had threatened them of retaliation if they opened their shops. Markets have also reopened in the other towns of the valley, like Baramulla, Uri, Kupwara, Sopore and Bandipore. Mini buses, autos and two-wheelers are plying on the streets of Srinagar. The high turnout of students in the recent Class 10 and 12 board exams in the valley points to a return of normalcy.

Now that Jammu & Kashmir has been made a Union Territory, time has come for the Centre to swing into action. The valley needs more hospitals, schools and colleges, better infrastructure and transport. The people of the valley had been deprived of these benefits for the last 72 years, much money went down the drain and now there has been a rise in people’s expectations.

I do hope the Narendra Modi government will try its best to fulfill the expectations of the people at the earliest. The state administration has already promised to give compensation to apple growers who have lost their crops due to early onset of winter. The sooner the compensation is given, the better.

On Tuesday night, India TV showed in its show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’, how our army jawans are keeping a round-the-clock vigil at the Line of Control despite heavy snowfall. Some of these jawans told the Northern Army Commander that they slept hardly for four hours daily and much of their time was spent on keeping a hawk’s eye on infiltrators.

I would appeal to all to heed to PM Narendra Modi’s call to greet our army jawans with loud clapping whenever they say them at airports, railway stations and markets. These jawans protect us so that we can have a sound sleep. Our brave soldiers need our full support.

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