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RTI activist brutally assaulted in coal-belt area in Meghalaya

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RTI ACT

Shillong, Nov 8 (IANS) Meghalaya women’s rights activist, Agnes Kharshiing, and her two companions were brutally assaulted in a coal belt area in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district on Thursday.

Medical officials at the North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health Medical Sciences said that Kharshiing is in a critical condition with cut injuries on her skull bone.

Her companion Amita Sangma also suffered severe injuries besides their driver E Kurbah, who is also para legal volunteer. Both are admitted in NEIGRIHMS

“A group of 30-40 people, including women who are mostly dealing with coal trade, attacked us at Lum Sohshrew area around the coal depots after Kharshiing went and lodged a complaint at the Lad Rymbai police station on the illegal mining and transportation of coal in the district,” Kurbah said.

The NGT had ordered an interim ban on “rat-hole” coal mining in Meghalaya from April 17, 2014, after the All Dimasa Students’ Union and the Dima Hasao District Committee filed an application before the tribunal alleging that the water of the Kopili river was turning acidic due to coal mining in the Jaintia Hills.

“We were waylaid by a three to four vehicles and they later dragged us out of the vehicle. They snatched away our mobile phones. They kicked and punched us and Kharshiing was hit by a log from behind. It was a scary incident. I managed to escape from the scene after pleading with the attackers to leave me alone. I informed police personnel at Lad Jowai,” Kurbah said.

R Chandranathan, who took over as Meghalaya police chief on Thursday, told IANS that he has directed the local police to register a case and bring the perpetrators to book.

“A police officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police will investigate the incident,” Chandranathan said.

The attack on Kharshiing, who is also the chairperson of Civil Society Women’s Organisation, an influential women’s group, was the second attack on social activist in East Jaintia Hills district.

On March 19 this year, RTI activist, Poipynhun Majaw, who was the president of the Jaintia Youth Federation was attacked and found murdered in Khliehriat, the district headquarters of East Jaintia Hills.

Meanwhile, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma strongly condemned the incident of attack on Agnes Kharshiing and her team.

“We have issued necessary directions to the police and district administration to investigate the matter and arrest those behind the attack. Civil Society plays an important role in a democratic system as they are instrumental in highlighting the concerns of the people.” Sangma said in a statement.

“Violence in any form will not be tolerated and the government will take all necessary steps to ensure that those behind the attack are brought to justice,” the statement said.

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Sabarimala protests part of BJP-RSS game plan: CPI-M

The CPI-M said that the Kerawla government had acted only against BJP-RSS activists, including some criminal elements, who it alleged wanted to take control of the temple premises.

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New Delhi, Nov 22 : The agitation against the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala is part of an “all-India game plan of the BJP and RSS to stir up communal tensions and create communal polarization” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the CPI-M has said.

“Given the all-round failure of the Modi government and with the Lok Sabha elections just six months away, the BJP and RSS have begun to desperately revive communal and divisive issues,” said an editorial in the CPI-M journal “People’s Democracy”.

“Central amongst them is the Ram temple at Ayodhya,” the Communist Party of India-Marxist said.

The editorial said that the aim of the BJP, RSS and allied groups was to provoke violence and create trouble within the Sabarimala temple premises and to put the blame on the Kerala government led by the CPI-M “for destroying the sanctity of the temple”.

It quoted Kerala BJP President Sreedharan Pillai as saying that their struggle was against the Communist government and not the entry of women into the temple.

The CPI-M said that the Kerawla government had acted only against BJP-RSS activists, including some criminal elements, who it alleged wanted to take control of the temple premises.

“There was no hindrance for the tens of thousands of devotees who had begun to flow in to pray at the temple.”

On the contrary, the state-wide shutdown called by the BJP and other groups on November 17 “actually inconvenienced a large number of pilgrims who had come for the Sabarimala pilgrimage from outside the state”.

The editorial accused the Congress party in Kerala of “shamelessly” lining up behind the Hindutva forces in condemning the state government and echoing the demands of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“The campaign to revive the building of Ram temple at Ayodhya and the agitation against the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala are part and parcel of the pre-election agenda of the Sangh parivar,” the editorial said.

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Sabarimala pilgrim arrivals dip badly

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Appam

Sabarimala (Kerala), Nov 22 : A week after the Sabarimala temple opened for a two-month pilgrimage season, the number of pilgrims has touched a new low due to political protests as well as tightened security.

According to official figures, while five lakh pilgrims visited the temple during the opening week in the last season, this time the figure is just 1.42 lakh.

The sale of ‘appam’ (local variety of cake) and ‘aravana’ (jiggery payasem) to pilgrims has also dropped, forcing authorities to slow down production.

The main reason for this has been the tightening of the rules for pilgrimage by the police following protests by Hindu groups since September 28 when the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged 10-50.

The apex court on November 13 refused to stay the September verdict.

The Left Democratic Front government led by the CPI-M has been trying to implement the apex court’s verdict even as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and several Hindu groups are up in arms against it.

On Wednesday, 72 pilgrims who were arrested after they protested at the temple were released from the jail after they secured bail.

But the protests have helped the pilgrims in one way — they are able to pray before the deity in a leisurely manner.

During this time in the previous season, the flyover leading to the sanctum santorum of the temple was packed. This week it looks deserted most of the time.

“I am coming for the past 18 years. This time, I could go up the hallowed 18 steps by touching all the steps with both my hands which I could never do all these years because of the rush,” said one pilgrim, beaming with happiness.

“I have already had ‘darshan’ of the deity four times and am getting ready for a fifth time.”

Minister of Devasoms (temples) K. Surendran told the media on Thursday that the situation was smooth in Sabarimala and there had been relaxations of the rules.

“For the real pilgrims there are no issues and no problem. The restrictions are only for anti-social elements,” he said.

After the Kerala High Court’s intervention, the ban on going up to the temple from Pamba has been lifted.

Any dip in the number of pilgrims to Sabarimala affects the Travancore Devasom Board – custodian of the temple – as the revenue generated from Sabarimala is used to meet expenses of about 1,200 temples under its jurisdiction.

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Decision to challenge dissolution rests with PDP: Omar

In a lighter vein, Abdullah said this was for the first time that a fax machine did not work in a Governor’s office and became responsible for the death of democracy.

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Omar Abdullah
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Srinagar, Nov 22 : Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said on Thursday that it was for the PDP to challenge the Governor’s decision to dissolve the state Assembly.

Addressing the media here, Abdullah said that since it was the PDP and not the National Conference that had sent a letter to the Governor claiming majority support in the Assembly, it was for the PDP to challenge Satya Pal Malik’s Wednesday night move.

“We never sent any letter to the Governor. The primary decision to challenge the Governor rests with the PDP,” he said.

The National Conference reacted angrily against BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav’s comment that the National Conference and PDP had boycotted the urban local bodies polls at Pakistan’s behest and were now trying to forge an alliance under directions from Islamabad.

“It is unfortunate that a senior BJP leader has said that we got instructions from Pakistan. I challenge Ram Madhav and his associates to prove this with evidence.

“You are disrespecting the sacrifices of my colleagues who refused to dance to Pakistan’s instructions and died,” he said.

In a lighter vein, Abdullah said this was for the first time that a fax machine did not work in a Governor’s office and became responsible for the death of democracy.

“This fax machine is a one-way fax, it has only outgoing and no incoming. This is a unique fax machine and an investigation should be done.”

The comment was in response to PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s statement that her party had sent a fax to the Raj Bhawan claiming support of 56 MLAs but it did not reach Raj Bhawan.

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