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Kohinoor should be returned to Sikhs: SGPC

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Amritsar, April 19 : Claiming that the Sikh community was the “legitimate” owner of the Kohinoor diamond, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Tuesday demanded that the priceless stone should be handed back to the Sikhs.

In a statement issued here, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar expressed surprise over the Centre’s stand in the Supreme Court on Monday that the Kohinoor was “neither stolen nor forcibly taken away but was gifted” to the British East India Company by Maharaja Duleep Singh, who was aged only nine at that time.

“To say that the Kohinoor was neither stolen nor forcibly taken away by the British but was given as a present by Maharaja Duleep Singh to the East India Company is a gross misrepresentation of historical facts. This stand seems to support the deceitful ways and means of the British,” Makkar said in the statement.

The SGPC said the Kohinoor was taken away through “deceitful means” by the British from a young Maharaja Duleep Singh, who was the last Sikh ruler of Punjab.

Makkar demanded that the ministry of culture, which put the Centre’s stand before the Supreme Court, should review its stand on the issue.

“Even if the maharaja himself parted with the diamond, we cannot ignore the ways and means the British must have employed to secure it,” he said, adding that not only the Kohinoor but other priceless treasures belonging to the Sikhs – like the Peacock throne – were taken away from Lahore after the fall of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s empire.

The Centre’s stand on the matter was conveyed to a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit in response to a public interest litigation by an NGO, All India Human Rights and Social Justice Forum, seeking directions to the government to make efforts for getting the diamond back to India.

The court, while giving the government six more weeks, said that if it accepted the government position and dismissed the PIL, all future avenues for staking any legitimate claim over the diamond will be shut.

The apex court gave the time as Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told it that the stand was that of the ministry of culture but the “ministry of external affairs is also a party but their response is yet to come”.

The 108-carat diamond was presented to the then British monarch, Queen Victoria, in 1850 after the Anglo-Sikh wars, in which the Britain gained control over the Sikh empire in the then undivided Punjab.

The Kohinoor diamond, kept under tight security at the Tower of London, is claimed by India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

India

India’s Covid cases cross 9L-mark with over 28K new cases

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India recorded a spike of more than 28,000 cases for the second consecutive day in the last 24 hours, pushing the tally to 9,06,752 cases with a death total of 23,727, the Health Ministry’s data stated on Tuesday.

India crossed nine lakh mark from eight lakh within three days. India had crossed the 8 lakh COVID-19 cases on July 11.

According to data, India witnessed a spike of 28,498 fresh cases taking the total number of cases to 9,06,752 and with 553 deaths in the last 24 hours the total number of fatalities crossed 23,727.

According to Health Ministry data, as many as 5,71,459 patients have recovered, over twice the number of active patients which stand at 3,11,565.

The rate of recovery has touched 63.02 per cent. India, however, remains the third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil.

During the last 24 hours, 2,86,247 samples were tested, as the testing lab network continues to expand. As on date, more than 1,194 labs have enabled people to undergo coronavirus tests.

Maharashtra remained the worst-hit state, with 2,60,924 cases and 10,482 casualties followed by Tamil Nadu with total 1,42,798 cases, including 2,032 deaths.

With 1,246 new coronavirus cases and 40 deaths in the last 24 hours, the national capital recorded a total tally of 1,13,740 cases and 3,411 deaths.

States with more than 10,000 cases included Gujarat (42,722), Uttar Pradesh (38,130), Rajasthan (24,936), Madhya Pradesh (18,207), West Bengal (31,448), Haryana (21,894), Karnataka (41,581), Andhra Pradesh (31,103), Telangana (36,221), Assam (16,806), and Bihar (17,959).

On the global front, the overall number of global COVID-19 cases has surpassed the 13 million mark, while the deaths have increased to more than 572,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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Injured Inspector recounts July 3 horror by Vikas Dubey gang

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Vikas Dubey.

Bithoor police inspector Kaushalendra Pratap Singh, who was injured in the July 3 ambush at Bikru village, has now been discharged and is ready to tell the ghastly story of that night when he lost eight of his colleagues in the shootout by gangster Vikas Dubey and his associates.

Singh had taken three bullet injuries on his legs and arm in the shootout. He is the first eyewitness in the case and was at Bikru village on Tuesday to help the SIT reconstruct the sequence of events that led to the incident.

Kaushalendra Pratap Singh told SIT members that his police station had received a phone call from Station Officer (SO) Chaubeypur, Vinay Tiwari — now in jail, asking them to accompany a raid team from his police station.

“We left at around 12.30 am on July 3 to conduct a raid at gangster Vikas Dubey’s residence at Bikru village. We parked our vehicles near the site and started walking towards his house. An earthmover was parked near his house in such a way that only one person could move to the other side. As soon as we crossed the earthmover, a volley of bullets was sprayed on us,” Singh later told reporters.

Singh admitted that the police team was unarmed and completely unprepared for an encounter.

“Some of us who had our weapons took positions while others ran for cover. I took position behind the wall with two other police personnel, who were unarmed. Later, our colleague Ajay Sengar told me that he was shot in the stomach. One more police personnel was shot in the hand. As the criminals were firing from the rooftop, we could not see them,” he said.

The team from three police stations — Bithoor, Bilhaur and Chaubeypur — which went to conduct the raid consisted of about 35 police personnel, he said.

Contrary to the earlier assertion that the power supply to the village had been disconnected before the police team reached Bikru, Kaushalendra Pratap Singh said, “When we reached Bikru village, lights were on and the criminals on the terrace easily spotted the locations of police personnel and took position accordingly. Soon after, the village plunged into darkness owing to a power cut.” He said that suspended SO Chaubeypur Vinay Tiwari disappeared when the criminals started firing indiscriminately.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) and the judicial commission headed by Justice Shashikant Agarwal (retired) are visiting Bikru village to record statements of the local people and police about the July 3 massacre and the events prior to the incident.

IANS

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Covid-19 takes 93 lives in Agra in around 100 days

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More than the lack of medical facilities, it is the critical delay in testing samples of Covid-19 to ensure early treatment of patients, that has taken a heavy toll of lives in Agra which has recorded 93 deaths in around 100 days.

So cumbersome and time-consuming is the process of sampling that most suspected cases go unreported. “People on their own are reluctant to come forward to give samples, as they have to wait for long and go through an agonising procedural process. The patients are also scared of being sentenced to quarantine in facilities that are ill equipped, and reportedly unhygienic,” explained a health worker attached to an NGO.

So far Agra has tested only 30,510 samples. The SN Medical College, district hospital and the JALMA centre run by the ICMR, have a collective testing capacity of more than a thousand daily.

“If only people could get samples checked without fear and delay, and confined to friendly hospitalisation, the results would show a marked improvement. The private nursing homes are compounding the problem by squeezing the victims and when things get out of control, the patients are referred to government hospitals,” complained a family member of a victim.

In the last 24 hours, 14 fresh cases have been reported in Agra, while Firozabad reported 23 and Kasganj 12.

Agra district magistrate P.N. Singh said the total now stands at 1,411 cases, of which 1,154 had recovered. The number of active cases is 164.

More than 1,550 teams under the Covid Surveillance Programme, scheduled to end July 15, have surveyed over a lakh homes and collected health related data.

Health department officials collected 67 samples of the inmates of the temporary jail at the MD Jain Inter College. All those arrested are first lodged in this temporary jail for 14 days and only when the report comes, are they transferred to the district or the central jail.

On Monday markets opened in all areas, except in the buffer and the containment zones.

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