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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.

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Fire at Delhi’s ITO building, no casualties

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A fire broke out at the Institution of Engineers building at ITO on Friday here. No injuries were reported, and the blaze has been brought under control, the Fire Department said.

The fire started from a meter board of the building. “We received a call around 8.30 a.m. about a fire in the meter board at the Institution of Engineers building at ITO. A total of 12 fire tenders were rushed to the site. The fire was on the second floor of the building,” said Atul Garg, Director Delhi Fire Service.

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Maha Congress to agitate for Arnab’s arrest

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Arnab Goswami

Terming the recent revelations of WhatsApp chats of two media personalities Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta as “extremely serious and violative of the Official Secret Act, 1923” the Maharashtra Congress on Thursday announced state-wide protests on Friday (Jan. 22) demanding their arrest and prosecution.

State party President and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said that the chats between the Republic TV Editor and the ex-BARC head had some serious revelations related to national security and pertaining to the retaliatory surgical strike by India in Balakot, Pakistan.

“How did Goswami get the information on the air-strikes of Feb. 23, 2019, three days before the action was taken? Who is the ‘Big Name’ in the government that he refers to? With whom did Goswami share such sensitive information that is violative of the OSA, 1923,” Thorat demanded.

The Congress leader pointed out that the WhatsApp chats indicate how Goswami enjoys very close ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and other ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party government, many ministers or high-ranking officials have helped him out by flouting rules, and the Pulwama attack pointed to vested interests of some big functionary.

“The chats mention that ‘he will win elections’ on the issue – so did the BJP use the martyrs’ sacrifice only to win polls? What is the connivance between Goswami and the BJP which is dangerous not only for the press freedom, but also the country’s security and democracy,” Thorat pointed out.

Claiming that Goswami is not ‘the only culprit’, the Congress chief alleged that many Central ministers have violated their oath to help the Republic TV chief earn commercial gains, and action must be taken against all those who were party to the entire episode.

Referring to the ongoing TRP manipulations scam and Republic TV illegally using Doordarshan’s satellite frequencies causing huge losses to Prasar Bharati, Thorat said even after DD lodged a complaint, the then Information & Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore failed to take cognizance of the matter and set it aside.

“This shows that Goswami enjoys great support from within the BJP government is it the reason he has been spared of action despite misappropriation of public funds,” Thorat asked.

Last week, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had said that the state government will seek legal opinion to examine how it could proceed against the Republic TV head in the matter which concerned national security.

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Australian envoy calls on Punjab, Haryana CMs

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Amarinder Singh

Chandigarh, Jan 21 (IANS) Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell on Thursday called on Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana here to explore cooperation in agriculture, water and education.

“Valuable insights from Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar-ji on his key priorities for Haryana and opportunities for greater Australia-Haryana cooperation in agribusiness, water and education,” O’Farrell said in a tweet.

He said he met officials of key universities in Punjab and Haryana to explore ways to strengthen education partnerships between institutions in Australia and north India as India’s new National Education Policy is being implemented.

On his meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, he tweeted: “Thank you Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh-ji for a great discussion on how we can revitalise our economies post COVID-19, and further deepen our cooperation in agriculture, water and education.”

The envoy said he also enjoyed conversation about Amarinder Singh’s grandfather Maharaja Bhupinder Singh’s and father Maharaja Yadavinder Singh’s contribution to the Indian cricket — one played several first-class cricket matches for India and the other played a Test match in 1934.

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