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Ajmer Dargah blast convict met Yogi Adityanath, suspect told NIA

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New Delhi, March 24, 2017: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath met one of the prime convict Sunil Joshi (now dead) in the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast which left three people dead and injured 15, as per a statement by one of Joshi’s former aides.

According to an investigation by the Rajasthan ATS and the NIA, the meeting took place at Adityanath’s residence in Gorakhpur in March-April 2006. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) further claimed to have found Yogi’s contact numbers in the pocket diary of Joshi, recovered after he was murdered in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas in December 2007.

However, the CMO refused to comment, that Yogi and Joshi meet was cited by Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai, a supporter of Swami Aseemanand. Rateshwar, named as an accused in the Ajmer blast case by the NIA, was acquitted by the special NIA court this month that convicted Joshi (now dead), a former RSS pracharak, and Bhavesh Patel and Devendra Gupta. Both got life imprisonment by the NIA court.

Read More: Ajmer dargah blast convicts get life imprisonment

As per Indian Express, He recorded his statement first before the NIA and then a judge, now part of court records, Rateshwar said he was tasked by Aseemanand in March 2006 to travel with Sunil Joshi alias Manoj. “…Manoj informed me over the phone that Swami Aseemanand has directed him to visit Jharkhand, Agra, Gorakhpur and Nagpur for some special tasks and I also should go with him. I confirmed the same from Aseemanand ji…” it reads.

According to the charge sheet, Rateshwar and Joshi met at Indore and traveled to Chittaranjan where they were received by Devender Gupta, “an RSS Zila Pracharak of Jamtara and stayed with him at RSS Karyalaya Jamtara…After staying for two days in Jamtara, I along with Manoj reached Agra as per the direction of Swami Aseemanand and met with Rajeshwar Singh who was associated with Agra Gramin Sangh.”

Rajeshwar was the main suspect identified behind the conversion of more than 200 Muslims in Agra in 2015. “…Rajeshwar Singh took both of us to Gorakhpur in his vehicle. Next day we reached Gorakhpur and met with Shri Yogi Adityanath, MP in his Ashram. Rajeshwar Singh introduced us to Shri Yogi Adityanath with the reference of Swami Aseemanand. Manoj (Joshi) asked him to meet separately then Yogi Adityanath told him he is busy and will meet in the evening,” Rateshwar stated.

As per the statement, Rateshwar said, “We stayed in the guest house of Ashram and about 9 pm Manoj and myself went to meet Yogi Adityanath in his drawing room separately. On reaching, I remained present at some distance but Manoj went very close to Yogi Adityanath and sat near to his wooden bed on the knees and discussed something secretly and in low voice. Thereafter we came back to Valsad and Indore, respectively. After few days, I informed Aseemanand about the visit…”

Rateshwar’s counsel J S Rana said, “His statement was recorded as the witness and later on he was made an accused so the statement has no sanctity.”

The case was initially inquired by the Rajasthan ATS which arrested Lokesh Sharma, Devendra Gupta, among others and filed first charge sheet on October 22, 2010. In 2011, it was transferred to the NIA.

Read More: NIA court acquits Swami Aseemanand in Ajmer Dargah blast case

Wefornews Bureau

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Shabad, Gurbani resonates as farmers’ protests enter 5th day on Gurpurab

The farmers on Sunday rejected a proposal by the Centre to shift all the agitation to Delhi’s Burari ground and lift the blockade at the borders.

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Gurupurb Farmers

New Delhi: As the farmers’ agitation against the new agricultural laws passed by the Narendra Modi government entered its fifth day on Monday, the sounds of Gurbani and the lessons of the Sikh Gurus resonated on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti.

Covered by the tractor trolleys, the central stage of the protest site at Singhu resonated with the words of the Gurus (Gurbani) as the farmers who are addressing the gathering included them in their speeches.

As the morning sun rose, the sloganeering against the farming laws began by the protesters.

On the order end, the briefing of the security forces have also begun at the border to ensure that the peace and harmony remains intact while the protests continue.

The farmers on Sunday rejected a proposal by the Centre to shift all the agitation to Delhi’s Burari ground and lift the blockade at the borders.

The farmers said the offer of talks is conditional and they will not move to the Burari.

The farmers had been instructed to stay put wherever they were till further instructions from their leaders.

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said they have also decided to stay at Ghazipur.

“We will not leave this spot. We will not move to Burari. The Centre should come forward and listen to the farmers,” he added.

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Sleeping in tractors, bathing by the roadside, women farmers say they’ve come prepared

Hundreds of women farmers have marched to Delhi with their male counterparts to voice their opposition against the new farm laws, which agitators say will change the manner in which agricultural produce is procured and traded .

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Langar Farmer Protest

Gurdev Kaur, a 70-year-old woman farmer from Patiala, gets a call every two hours from her family members, who are concerned for her well being. Kaur, one of the oldest women participants in the ongoing protests, has been camping at Delhi’s Singhu Border for the past three days with thousands of others from Punjab and Haryana who have marched up to the capital to voice dissent against the newly passed farm laws by the Central government.

And Kaur is not the only one.

Hundreds of women farmers have marched to Delhi with their male counterparts to voice their opposition against the new farm laws, which agitators say will change the manner in which agricultural produce is procured and traded .

Septuagenarian Kaur says that when they were told they will all march up to Delhi to protest against the laws, she did not think twice. “In Punjab, we have been attending meeting on our action plan every day for the past two months. We are ready to support the agitation till our last breath,” she said.

Kaur’s husband passed away a few year ago. She has two married sons back home who take care of the house and the family. “My daughters-in-law will take care of the house while we are here. They call me up frequently to ask if I am fine. They are worried because I am old. But I am not alone. There are hundreds of women here to support the cause and we take care of each other. We have our daily doses of medicines and other necessities with us. We can survive well enough,” she said, adding that she also speaks to her grandson daily, who is in Canada.

Sixty five-year-old Amarjeet Kaur, another protester, added that for the last three days they were sleeping in tractor trolleys. “We have brought along mattresses and we sleep in tractor trolleys. We have designated places to take bath and relieve ourselves. We are not used to all this, but it is for a cause in which all of us are together. Most of the women here are the only representatives from their families,” she said.

Donning a salwar kameez and covering their head with a shawl or dupatta, these women participate in the protest at the Singhu Border by the day and as it starts getting dark, retreat to their tractors to prepare the day’s meal. One of them, 50-year-old Charanjeet Kaur said their tractor is at least four kilometers away from the main protest site. “In the afternoon, we sit where our kisan leaders deliver speeches and raise slogans against the current farm laws. By evening, we return to our tractor trolleys, which is our home for now,” she said.

For the past three days, a majority of these women farmers have mainly been occupied in preparing large quantities of food and distributing it among the protesters hrough Langars with the help of other younger farmers.

“Most of our time is spent in cooking meals. We’ve been eating chapati with mixed vegetable curry for the past three days, which we cook ourselves. We’ve brought ration in abundance. We have food to last us for 5-6 months. When we decided to leave for Delhi, each of us contributed different items. While some brought oil, some contributed spices. Someone else donated their stove while others were told to chip on with mattresses and quilts. When our ration gets over, we will bring more. But will return only when our demands are met,” said 62-year-old Baldev Kaur, another woman farmer from Fatehgarh, close to Patiala.

The farmers have been protesting at Singhu Border since Friday when thousands of them reached Delhi’s border, but were restricted from entering the Capital. Clashes later broke out with the police, with the farmers trying to cross through barricades to enter the city. The Delhi police later allotted Sant Nirankari ground, in Burari, to the farmers to continue their agitation. The farmers, however, turned down the offer, continuing to block the Singhu Border and demanding Ramlila Maidan as a protest site, which is close to Lutyens’ Delhi.

Harinder Singh Lakhowal, general secretary, Bharita Kisan Union, Ludhiana said that whoever was with them had volunteered.

“Women have been the backbone of our movement since the beginning. Even in Punjab, they have been taking care of us when it came to food and other necessities and kept our movement going with active participation in all fields. At least 1000-1200 women joined us from Patiala , Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar and other places. We respect them and are deeply thankful to them for their contribution,” Lakhowal said.

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Uttar Pradesh law on love jihad seeks to divide communities, writes Kapil Sibal

The Ordinance also goes against the right to privacy. The state has no role to play in the personal choice of individuals in consummating a union and embracing their partner’s religion

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Love Jihad

When laws are motivated by communally divisive agendas, they breed suspicion within communities, resulting in a sense of alienation. That in turn negatively impacts societal peace and harmony. Occasionally, it leads to sporadic violence. When such laws attempt to interfere with personal relationships or emotive issues of choice, which are at the heart of individual freedoms, the outcomes are even more disturbing. That explains why matters relating to marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance polarise dialogues and attitudes.

Such agendas germinate a majoritarian culture pitting “us” against “them” and give birth to electoral majorities. The road to power then becomes a relatively easy enterprise. The rise of right-wing assertions, a global phenomenon, is based on such engineered societal divides. The Uttar Pradesh government’s recent promulgation of the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, relating to “Love Jihad” is yet another attempt, in a string of communally charged initiatives, aimed at reaping electoral dividends.

Love jihad is a concept the contours of which are blurred. However, in simple terms, all that it means is that if a Muslim boy, in love with a non-Muslim girl chooses to marry her and she embraces Islam, such a union will be looked upon with suspicion by the law and is liable to be declared void. This strikes at the root of individual liberty since such a union cannot be held to be legally suspect. It strikes at the core of the ‘right to privacy’, which is protected constitutionally.

The Ordinance also targets mass conversions, which have taken place in the past. These include conversions to Christianity in the 1930s, to Buddhism by Dalits in the 1950s and Mizo Christians to the Jewish faith in the 2000s. Those seeking to convert allure marginalised castes and tribes with hope, dignity and material enticement. Dr Ambedkar, disenchanted with the caste structure of Hinduism, converted to Buddhism.

The reasons for such mass conversions are complex and need to be addressed separately. Under the proposed law, those guilty of mass conversions are liable to face a jail term extending up to 10 years and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000. While it is justifiable to prevent conversion based on force, coercion, undue influence, misrepresentation and allurements, it is difficult to prove these elements if a Muslim boy and a non-Muslim girl or vice-versa exercise their free will to marry for reasons that are entirely personal. The reason why non-Muslims convert to Islam is because the children born in wedlock would otherwise be excluded from inheritance under Muslim law.

Absent this conversion, the union of a Muslim with a non-Muslim or vice-versa will be a difficult proposition. That is why the intent of the proposed law is suspect as it seeks to target conversion and not marriage. The Ordinance provides that in an interfaith marriage, if one of the partners wishes to embrace another religion, that person will have to inform the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate in writing at least two months in advance. A format of the application seeking permission for conversion will be provided by the government.

Under the proposed law, it would be the responsibility of the person embracing another religion to prove that such person was not converted forcibly or through fraudulent means. Those who abet, convince or conspire are also liable to be prosecuted. Any such violation of the law would entail a jail term of six months to three years and a minimum fine of Rs 10,000.

Marriage between two people is personal to them. It allows either of them to opt out of the marriage. In addition, the person victimised is free to allege use of force, coercion, fraud, undue influence or misrepresentation against the other. In the absence of any of these, it is unthinkable that the law mandates a person who voluntarily embraces another religion to seek permission to prove that the decision was not actuated by any of those elements. Reversal of the burden of proof in matters of personal choices of a life partner may be legally unsustainable.

The obligation to seek permission for conversion two months in advance is fundamentally arbitrary and a violation of the ‘right to privacy’. The state has no role to play in the personal choice of individuals in consummating a union and embracing the religion of the partner. The state can certainly regulate acts of forced conversion but the starting point of such regulation has to be a complaint made by the individual who opts to convert. In most of these cases, it is the parents who complain that their daughter has been fraudulently enticed into a relationship and is a victim of forced conversion.

The Ordinance allows members of the family of those who convert or any relative to lodge an FIR. This makes the Ordinance an instrument of harassment in situations where interfaith marriages are voluntary.
We have seen this being played out in Hadiya’s case in Kerala. The couple went through trauma when Hadiya’s husband and some organisations were targeted for allegedly having induced her to convert to Islam. This was despite the fact that she constantly denied the allegations, asserting that she had embraced Islam voluntarily and much before she had met her husband.

The drama was then played out in court after the Kerala High Court held the marriage to be void on grounds that there was no reasonable explanation given by Hadiya for her marriage to a Muslim without the consent of her parents. Finally, while appearing personally in the Supreme Court, she unequivocally stated that she had married her husband of her own free will and converted to another religion much before her marriage. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was asked to investigate the circumstances in which Hadiya had married and converted.

The NIA decided to widen its investigations. From a list of 89 such marriages, it investigated 11 cases and in the absence of prosecutable evidence, all such matters resulted in closure. The bottom line is that the Ordinance serves a political purpose. It is yet another way to polarise our polity. The issue is emotive and seeks to divide communities. The constitutionality of such a legislation when challenged should be decided with utmost speed. The court, hopefully, will find such laws to be antithetical to the constitutional ethos and our civilisational values. Any attempt to delay adjudication would only be playing into the hands of those intending to divide and not unite India.

This article first appeared in the newindianexpress on Nov 30, 2020 under the title ‘The perils of an economic oligarchy’. The writer, a senior Congress leader, is a former Union minister.

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