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Sri Lankan President calls Modi, rejects assassination reports

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New Delhi, Oct 17 Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday rejected media reports alleging an Indian hand in a plot to assassinate him and a former Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka during a telephone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena called Prime Minister Modi today,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement.

“The President of Sri Lanka stated that he categorically rejected the reports in sections of media about him alluding to the involvement of India in any manner whatsoever in an alleged plot to assassinate the President and a former Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka,” the statement said.

“He mentioned that the mischievous and malafide reports were utterly baseless and false, and seemed intended to create misunderstanding between the two leaders as well as damage the cordial relations between the two friendly neighbours,” it stated.

According to the statement, Sirisena apprised Modi of the “urgent steps taken by him personally and the Sri Lankan government to publicly reject these reports.

“The President also stated that he regards the Prime Minister as a true friend of Sri Lanka, as also a close personal friend,” the statement said.

“He stressed that he greatly valued the mutually beneficial ties between India and Sri Lanka, and remained steadfast to work with the Prime Minister for further strengthening them.”

According to the PMO statement, Modi appreciated the prompt steps taken by Sirisena and the Sri Lankan government to firmly refute the malicious reports by publicly clarifying the matters.

“He (Modi) also reiterated India’s emphasis on ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and the priority the government of India and he personally attach to developing even stronger all-round cooperation between the two countries,” it stated.

This development comes ahead of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to India starting on Thursday.

Modi and Wickremesinghe are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting here on Saturday.

India

Bombay HC upholds acquittal of six in 2009 Goa blast case

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 The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court on Saturday upheld the acquittal of six persons accused of being linked to the Goa-headquartered Sanatan Sanstha, and who were charged by the NIA for a failed bomb blast plot in South Goa’s Margao town in 2009.

Speaking to reporters here, National Investigation Agency (NIA) counsel Pravin Faldessai said that Vinay Talekar, Dhananjay Ashtekar, Prashant Ashtekar, Vinayak Patil, Prashant Juvekar and Dilip Mazgaonkar were acquitted getting “the benefit of the doubt”.

“Today, the HC passed a judgment on an NIA appeal against the acquittal order passed by a Special Judge in the blast case. The High Court considered (the appeal) in larger detail and held that the accused be given the benefit of the doubt,” Faldessai said.

On October 16, 2009, accused Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik ferrying an IED to a Diwali pandal in Margao, 30 km from here, were killed when the improvised explosive device exploded accidentally.

Barring Naik, all the other accused hail from Maharashtra, and were regular visitors to the Sanatan Sanstha ashram in the temple town of Ponda, 30 km from Panaji.

The case was initially investigated by the Goa Police Crime Branch but later handed over to the NIA.

In all, 11 persons were accused of participating in the conspiracy, including the two deceased, even as three persons are still absconding.

On December 31, 2013, a special trial court in Goa acquitted Talekar, Dhananjay and Prashant Ashtekar, Patil, Juvekar and Mazgaonkar, while accusing the NIA of “manipulating” facts to implicate Sanatan Sanstha in the case.

In their order on Saturday, High Court Justices MS Sonak and MS Jawalkar expunged the remarks of the special court regarding the alleged mala-fide intentions of the central agency, the NIA counsel said.

“The Special Judge had said that there were mala fides by the investigating agency… those remarks are now expunged,” Faldessai said.

“There was one major circumstance which we had to prove — this particular Sanstha had the motive to conduct this blast to spread terror in Goa and across India. But the court said there was no proof…,” the counsel said.

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Delhi riots: Opposition leaders meet President, demands independent probe into police role

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Delhi Roits Judicial Enquiry

Opposition leaders met President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday and demanded an independent probe by a commission headed by a retired or sitting judge into the role of the Delhi police in the February riots and the ongoing probe into the incident.

Congress Treasurer and MP Ahmed Patel, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D. Raja, DMK leader and MP Kanimozhi and RJD leader and MP Manoj K Jha were part of the delegation.

The Delhi police have set up special investigation teams, and its Special Cell has been probing the aspect of conspiracy behind the riots, in which 53 people lost their lives.

In a memorandum, the leaders voiced concern over the probe being conducted by the police. “The entire investigation appears to be aimed at arriving at a pre-meditated theory about a conspiracy propounded by the Home Minister in the Lok Sabha in March 2020, before any investigation had even begun into the riots,” it said. The memorandum said the investigation by the police did not inspire confidence as there were serious questions about its “impartiality”.

“A credible and unbiased probe is crucial to restore public trust in the law and order machinery of the State. The investigation cannot be allowed to become a fishing and roving expedition aimed at causing a chilling effect on dissent and protest in the country. We, therefore, urge you to call upon the Government of India to institute an inquiry into this investigation under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, headed by sitting/retired judge(s),” the memorandum said.

It criticised the police for the reference made to Mr. Yechury in a supplementary charge sheet, citing disclosure statements made by the accused. “This is a disturbing trend that raises serious questions over the manner of such investigations,” it said.

The leaders said there were several publicly documented accounts and videos of the police being “complicit in the violence, directing mobs pelting stones or looking the other way when mobs were indulging in violence”. “During the violence, a disturbing video emerged showing uniformed policemen assaulting young men lying injured on the road and forcing them to sing the national anthem while repeatedly beating them with lathis. One of the men, Faizan, succumbed to his injuries a few days later,” the memorandum said. It also highlighted other such instances, including the one in which the “DCP stood quietly next to a BJP leader who was instigating violence against the protestors, warning that if they did not vacate the road, he would do it himself”. The memorandum said that despite several complaints about the involvement of police officials, no action had been taken.

The leaders also criticised the police for being a mute spectator to the alleged hate speech of BJP leaders and turning a blind eye to the role of its own personnel in the violence. The probe appeared to be pursuing a line of inquiry “criminalising the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and portraying them as a conspiracy which resulted in the riots in Delhi,” they said.

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Congress Leader Ahmad Patel Raises Digital Divide Issue in Rajya Sabha

Digital India should not increase the barrier between students. The government should regulate it for the poor and help the poor : Ahmed Patel on students facing difficulties in online classes

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Ahmed Patel Rajya Sabha Online Education

Congress leader Ahmed Patel raised the issue of digital divide amid online schools during the pandemic while BSP’s Rajaram raised the issue of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes in the Jammu region in the Upper House.

It is causing financial and mental trouble to some weaker sections of the society. Digital India should not increase the barrier between students. The government should regulate it for the poor and help the poor.

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