CJI Urges ‘Rulers’ To Introspect; Ramayan Express Staff Stripped Of Saffron

NIA arrests Khurram Parvez, coal transition to affect 13 million, 1971 Garibpur battle remembered, UC Davis recognises caste, nonagenarians separated in 1947 meet at Kartarpur

A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal

Snapshot of the day

November 23, 2021    

Pratik Kanjilal

India stands out in the latest report of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) for the “erosion of democracy”, which is “widespread”. It has been clubbed with “Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines” which exemplify “the militarisation of politics, rising ethnonationalism, and high degrees of polarisation threatening prevailing multicultural fabrics.”

PM Modi has been invited to US President Joe Biden’s virtual Summit for Democracy, among leaders of over 100 countries, on December 9-10. From the region, the Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan are also invited but there is no clarity about Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. The list of invitees is problematic, as Reuters notes. Does PM Modi’s participation signal that India no longer considers issues of democracy and human rights to be an “internal matter”?

Recommendations made by a joint committee of Parliament on the draft Personal Data Protection Bill controversially allow the government to exempt any agency from all or any provisions of the law under Clause 35, in the name of “public order”, “sovereignty”, “friendly relations with foreign states” and “security of the state”. It has attracted six dissent notes in the 30-member committee. The Bill is likely to be tabled next week as the winter session gets underway. Recommendations include treating all social media as platforms, and widening the ambit of the law to cover dispersed hardware, including the Internet of Things

Yesterday evening, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested prominent human rights activist Khurram Parvez after raiding his residence and office in Srinagar. According to the arrest memo, cited by The Kashmir Walla, sections invoked against Khurram include 120B, 121 and 121A of the IPC and 17, 18, 18B, 38 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, has called for his release and said: “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a human rights defender.” Read an interview with him from 2016.

Islamabad will allow the transit of 50,000 tonnes of Indian wheat to Afghanistan and facilitate the return of Afghan patients in India for medical treatment. But experts say the aid could take months to reach Afghanistan, since the Attari-Wagah trade infrastructure is virtually closed. Only a few trucks of Afghan dry fruit cross into India every day.

A study to assess the ‘Socio-economic impacts of coal transition in India’, released on Monday finds that at least 13 million people employed in coal mining, transport, power, sponge iron, steel, and bricks sectors will be impacted.

Farmers have rejected the PM’s ‘apology’. Addressing a gathering at the Eco Garden in Lucknow, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said that the agitation would continue until all their demands are accepted. He said: “The government has declared a ceasefire… the farmers have not… the agitation will continue in phases… Ajay Mishra is still roaming free… he should be dismissed and arrested.”

In a crucial development, Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil said that following the Bombay High Court’s observations in the Aryan Khan bail matter, the Mumbai Police would probe if the Narcotics Control Bureau raid on a cruise ship was fake. Sameer Wankhede, the cavalier officer initially probing the matter, received another setback yesterday when the Bombay High Court refused to restrain minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik and others from publishing material against his family while his defamation suit is heard. 

ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava says that there is no scientific evidence for a booster dose against Covid-19. Administering the second dose to all adults is the priority, he said. Meanwhile, actor-politician Kamal Haasan has tested positive for coronavirus, following his return from the US. 

The Supreme Court yesterday asked the Centre to gather information from states on disbursal of ex gratia compensation of Rs 50,000 to the kin of Covid-19 victims. It pulled up the Gujarat government for trying to stall payment of compensation.

The BJP has a serious governor jinx. Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik’s video from the Jaipur Jat conference, where he spoke of Sikhs as formidable enemies who “never forget”, is being played on loop, and the right is furious. He had also spoken of sleaze in Kashmir. Last week, another former governor, Tathagata Roy, wanted to play whistleblower and “expose the corrupt in BJP”. The party has termed him a liability.

The University of California, Davis, has added caste to its anti-discrimination policy after students reported casteism on campus. Its policy, amended in September, allows students and staff who face discrimination or harassment can file complaints leading to formal investigations. It could be the first US public institution to address caste discrimination, imported from South Asia.

In a bizarre development, the Railways are reported to have changed the dress of the Ramayan Express service staff to “professional attire” after Ujjain seers objected to their saffron kit and threatened to stop the train in Delhi. Those who serve must not wear saffron? 

A seer in Chennai has died after asking his wife to bury him alive in an attempt to attain immortality, reports The Times. His daughter Thamizharasi, an IT worker, reported the matter to police after she returned home to find her mother “evasive” about his sudden disappearance.

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