Tue, 20 March 2018
UN condoles death of 39 Indians in Iraq

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23:54   UN condoles death of 39 Indians in Iraq
The United Nations today condoled the death of 39 Indian nationals abducted by Islamic State in Iraq, saying the tragedy is yet another example of the 'barbarism and cruelty' of the notorious terror outfit.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Parliament in New Delhi that the 39 Indians abducted in 2014 by the Islamic State terrorists in Mosul city were dead and their bodies had been recovered.

"I was deeply saddened by the announcement today that the 39 Indian nationals who were abducted by the now defeated Islamic State elements three years ago in Iraq have now been confirmed dead," said Jan Kubis, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq.

Kubis said the incident was 'yet another example of the barbarism and cruelty of this terrorist organisation', according to a statement from the UN Secretary General's spokesperson's office.

"Kubis extended his deepest sorrow and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of India," it said.

A total of 40 Indians were originally abducted by ISIS in 2014 from Mosul but one of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, Swaraj said.

The DNA testing by Martyrs Foundation has established the identity of 38 Indians while there has been 70 per cent matching of the DNA for the 39th person, she added.

Led by its elusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS had seized a third of Iraq's territory in 2014, before being pushed back by the security forces backed by a US-led coalition.

They are accused of mass killings of innocent civilians including many foreigners.  -- PTI

Photograph: PTI Photo
22:39   After meeting Amit Shah, Rajbhar says will back BJP in RS polls
A day after skipping the first year celebrations of the Yogi Adityanath government, sulking alliance partner Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party today announced its MLAs would back Bharatiya Janata Party candidates after its leader met saffron party chief Amit Shah in New Delhi.

"I have met BJP President Amit Shah, who noted points raised by me and said he will visit Lucknow on April 10 and will sit with me, BJP state president and chief minister to get my problems redressed. We have decided to vote for the BJP in Rajya Sabha polls," SBSP president and cabinet minister Om Prakash Rajbhar told PTI over the phone.

Polls to 10 Rajya Sabha seats from UP are scheduled on March 23.

Earlier, Rajbhar had sent shock-waves in the ruling dispensation as he made his displeasure with the senior ally known by skipping the celebrations held on the completion of one year of the Yogi Adityanath regime.

"We have made this government and it is our duty to repeatedly point out shortcomings...Holding celebrations is not going to serve the purpose. Building temples in Mathura and Kashi will not give education to the poor, or toilets and pension to them," Rajbhar had said yesterday.

"We are in an alliance, but the alliance dharma is not being upheld by the BJP. In one year their role has not been good for us," he had rued.

Rajbhar also threatened that his party's four MLAs would boycott the coming Rajya Sabha election in case 'big brother' BJP does not redress its problems.

The SBSP has considerable presence in pockets of Purvanchal in eastern UP.

BJP has fieled has fielded nine candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections.

The party is sure of victory in only eight seats.  -- PTI
21:55   Illaiyaraja, Ghulam Mustafa Khan, 41 others given Padma awards
Noted music composer Illaiyaraja, Hindustani classical singer Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Hindutva thinker P Parameswaran, Kerala Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom and 39 other prominent personalities were conferred the prestigious Padma awards for 2018 by President Ram Nath Kovind in New Delhi today.

Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministerial colleagues, and several other dignitaries attended the function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Keeping its promise of honouring 'unsung heroes', the government this year honoured with Padma awards several personalities who served the poor, set up free schools and popularised tribal arts globally.

Illaiyaraja, the president of Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari Parameswaran, and Hindustani classical singer Ghulam Mustafa Khan were conferred the Padma Vibhusan awards.

Emeritus Metropolitan bishop of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church Philipose Mar Chrysostom, historian and archaeologist  Ramachandran Nagaswamy, legal scholar Ved Prakash Nanda, and Hindustani classical musician and sitar player Pandit Arvind Parikh were conferred the Padma Bhushan awards.

Among the 37 prominent personalities who were given the Padma Shri awards are Arvind Gupta, an IIT Kanpur alumnus who inspired generations of students to learn science from thrash, Lakshmikutty, a tribal woman from Kerala who prepares 500 herbal medicine from memory and help thousands of people, especially in snake and insect bite cases.

The other Padma Shri awardees include internationally-acclaimed Gond artist Bhajju Shyam, who is known for depicting Europe through Gond paintings, a tribal style of painting of Madhya Pradesh; Somdev Kishore Devvarman, Indian tennis player who became the only collegiate player to have made three consecutive finals at the National Collegiate Athletic Association; and Subhasini Mistry, a poor woman from rural West Bengal who toiled 20 years as housemaid and daily labourer to build a hospital for poor in the state.

Assam's Arup Kumar Dutta, who has written 16 books for adults and 17 adventure novels for young people; Tamil Nadu's Rajagopalan Vasudevan, who is known as plastic road-maker of India, developed a patented and innovative method to reuse plastic waste to construct roads; and noted Kashmir theatre artist Pran Kishore Kaul, who shot to fame with his screen play of famous TV serial Gul Gulshan Gulfaam, were also conferred the Padma Shri awards.

Nonagenarian farm labourer Sulagatti Narasamma, who provides midwifery services in backward region of Karnataka without any medical facility, too was awarded the Padma Shri.

This year, as many as 84 Padma awards were announced, including two duo cases (in a duo case, the award is counted as one). The list comprises three Padma Vibhushan, nine Padma Bhushan and 72 Padma Shri awards.

The awards -- Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri -- are announced on the eve of the Republic Day every year.

They are given in different fields and disciplines such as art, literature and education, sports, medicine, social work, science and engineering, public affairs, civil service, trade and industry.

The remaining awardees of the Padma awards 2018 will be conferred with the honour at another special function to be held on April 2.  -- PTI
21:28   Only God, people behind me, not BJP: Rajinikanth
Actor Rajinikanth today dismissed claims that the Bharatiya Janata Party was behind his political entry and said he was driven by only the God and the people.

"They are saying from the beginning that BJP is behind me. Only God is behind me and after that people are behind me. Okay," he told reporters in Chennai.

He was replying to a question about a 'row' over his meeting with some local BJP leaders in Uttarakhand despite maintaining that he was not a full time politician yet.

Rajinikanth has in December last announced he will launch a political party and contest the next assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and declared that 'spiritual politics' needs to be ushered in, sans shades of any caste or religion.

The actor who had embarked on a spiritual tour of the Himalayas on March 10 returned to Chennai today.

Asked on his friend and actor politician Kamal Haasan saying that he had not expressed views on key issues like Cauvery, Rajinikanth denied it.

"I have given my view before. I have already said Cauvery Management Board should be set up following the Supreme Court order," he said.

Blaming the Centre for 'delaying', the constitution of the CMB, he said the state government should exert 'more pressure', on the union government.

"All steps should be taken for setting up the CMB as soon as possible," he added.

On his spiritual journey, he said he felt refreshed after his tour.  -- PTI
20:07   Maryland high school on lockdown after shooting
A shooting erupted at a high school in the eastern United States state of Maryland today, but the event was 'contained', officials said.

There were no immediate official reports of casualties in the shooting at Great Mills High School, located about a 90-minute drive southeast of Washington, DC.

St. Mary's County Public Schools said on its website that the school was on lockdown and the incident had been 'contained' but provided no further details.

It said law enforcement was on the scene.

'It happened really quickly, right after school started' after 8 am (1200 GMT), a student at the school, told CNN.

"The police came and responded really quickly," he said.  -- Agencies
19:31   The 39 Indians who were killed in Iraq
The Ministry of External Affairs has released the names of 39 Indians who were killed in Iraq.

Of the 39 deceased, 27 are from Punjab, six are from Bihar, four from Himachal Pradesh and two from West Bengal.

Here is the list of the deceased:
Dharminder Kumar (Punjab)
Harish Kumar (Punjab)
Harsimranjeet Singh (Punjab)
Kanwaljit Singh (Punjab)
Malkit Singh (Punjab)
Ranjit Singh (Punjab)
Sonu (Punjab)
Sandeep Kumar (Punjab)
Manjinder Singh (Punjab)
Gurcharan Singh (Punjab)
Balwant Rai (Punjab)
Roop Lal (Punjab)
Devinder Singh (Punjab)
Kulwinder Singh (Punjab)
Jatinder Singh (Punjab)
Nishan Singh (Punjab)
Gurdeep Singh (Punjab)
Kamaljit Singh (Punjab)
Gobinder Singh (Punjab)
Pritpal Sharma (Punjab)
Sukhwinder Singh (Punjab)
Jasvir Singh (Punjab)
Parvinder Kumar (Punjab)
Balvir Chand (Punjab)
Surjeet Mainka (Punjab)
Nand Lal (Punjab)
Rakesh Kumar (Punjab)
Aman Kumar (Himachal Pradesh)
Sandeep Singh Rana (Himachal Pradesh)
Inderjet (Himachal Pradesh)
Hem Raj (Himachal Pradesh)
Samar Tikadar (West Bengal)
Khokhan Sikder (West Bengal)
Santosh Kumar Singh (Bihar)
Bidya Bhushan Tiwari (Bihar)
Adalat Singh (Bihar)
Sunil Kumar Kushwaha (Bihar)
Dharmendra Kumar (Bihar)
Raju Kumar Yadav (Bihar) (to be verified).

IMAGE: Family of Aman Kumar from Himachal Pradesh. Photograph: ANI
19:09   SCs of Veerashaiva, Lingayat sect to lose reservation if separate religion tag given: Union minister
Accusing the Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government of playing politics in the name of religion, a Union minister said today that Scheduled Castes of Veerashaiva/Lingayat sects would lose reservation benefits if the demand for a separate religion tag was accepted by the Centre.

This was the main reason cited by the then United Progressive Alliance government in 2013 while denying a separate religion status to Veerashaiva/Lingayat sect, the minister said, adding that the Congress party was overturning its own decision for 'political gains' ahead of assembly polls in Karnataka.

Yesterday, the Karnataka government accepted a proposal to grant a separate religion status to the Lingayat community.

"In November 2013, the then Mohanmohan Singh government had decided that giving separate religion tag will split the society further and affect SCs professing Veerashaiva/Lingayat Dharma," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal told reporters.

Quoting the November 14, 2013 letter to the Karnataka government, he said the Registrar General of India had said, "Veerashiva-Lingayat is a sect of Hindu and not an independent religion."

"The demand made by All India Veershiva Mahasabha is apparently not logical and correct. Therefore, no separate code/column was proposed to be assigned for persons returning their religion as Veerashiva-Lingayat during the Census of India, 2011," the letter said.

The Registrar General had also said, "If Veerashiva-Lingayat is treated as a separate religion by providing separate code/column than Hindu, all SCs professing the Veerashiva-Lingayat  sect will lose their Constitutional status, since SC can be only from Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh alongwith their sects."

The minister alleged that 'the Karnataka government is playing politics. The only reasons they are pushing for separate religion status is to stop Lingayat BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa from becoming chief minister.'

The central government decision on this issue is very clear and there won't be any change in that, he added.

Union Minister of State of Drinking Water and Sanitation Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi was also present at press conference.

Speaking separately, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said, "SCs following Veerashiva-Lingayat dharma will lose their rights if a separate religion status is given.

"The Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka is adopting Britisher Robert Clive's divide and rule strategy ahead of assembly polls. The Congress is doing vote-bank politics. This will not benefit them. It will boomerang," he added.  -- PTI
18:49   Naidu cancels dinner for MPs over frequent disruptions in RS
Anguished over disruptions in the working of the Rajya Sabha, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu today cancelled a dinner he was to host for members of the Upper House tomorrow.

According to sources, preparations for the dinner were completed last week.

Naidu had even spoken to the President, the prime minister, the Leader of the House, the Leader of Opposition and floor leaders of various parties whom he had invited.

Invitation cards were kept ready. Naidu had expected the House proceedings would normalise by today.

At a meeting with the floor leaders of various parties in his chamber today, the RS Chairman conveyed anguish over the ongoing stalemate in the House and informed them of his decision to cancel the dinner.

Naidu was of the view that it would not be appropriate to go ahead with the dinner with the House not functioning for over two weeks, the sources said.

He had planned an Andhra Pradesh special dinner, with specialist cooks called from the state.

It is learnt that he also refused to inaugurate a badminton tournament for members of Parliament at the Constitution Club last week.  -- PTI
18:41   JNU professor Atul Johri arrested in sexual harassment case
Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Atul Johri was today arrested for allegedly sexually harassing several women students, police said.

Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi Range) Ajay Chaudhary confirmed his arrest.

He was later produced in a court.

Students, professors and women rights organisations have been protesting demanding his arrest, after some students accused him of sexual harassment.

A first information report was filed against the Life Science professor based on one of eight complaints from women students.

After JNU students held a mass protest outside Vasant Kunj Police Station yesterday, women rights organisations including All India Democratic Women's Association and All India Mahila Sanskritik Sanghatan today held protest outside the police station demanding arrest of the professor. -- PTI
Update: Four terrorists killed in the encounter which broke out in Kupwara's Halmatpora, operations underway.

More details awaited.
18:15   MEA left no stone unturned in trying to rescue Indians in Mosul: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweets on 39 Indian hostages killed in Iraq.

"Every Indian grieves with those who lost their loved ones in Mosul. We stand in solidarity with the bereaved families and pay our respects to the Indians killed in Mosul," he  tweeted.

"The MEA (ministry of external affairs) and particularly my colleagues Sushma Swaraj ji and V K Singh ji left no stone unturned in trying to trace and safely bring back those we lost in Mosul.

"Our government remains fully committed towards ensuring the safety of our sisters and brothers overseas," PM Modi tweeted.
17:51   So was Harjit Masih right all along?
The Establishment may not be particularly fond of Harjit Masih, who managed to flee Mosul after the ISIS gained control of it and spoke of the 39 other Indians who were killed long before Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj admitted to their deaths on Tuesday, but this article in Fountain Ink from July 2015 leaves no doubt about what Masih had been saying all along.   

You can read the article here.
17:49   Rajya Sabha MPs get a Carvaan radio from Naidu
Chairman of the Rajya Sabha M Venkakaih Naidu has gifted the MPs  with a Saregama Carvaan radio which has been liked by many, especially the retiring MPs.   

Here's hoping it changes the tune in Parliament to a more melodious one.
17:40   You misled hostages' kin 7 times: Congress hits back at Sushma
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala reacts to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swarj's remarks on his party.

"The Congress has expressed grief at the death of 39 Indians in Iraq. The Narendra Modi government has passed all limits of heartlessness, when whole world was saying they have died, the Indian government assured the country and the kin seven times that they are alive."

"Unfortunately the one who is playing politics on this issue is Sushma Swaraj ji. She misled the parliament and kin seven times. Today Martyrs Foundation announced they will hold media briefing on the issue, so as a result the government panicked and announced before them."  -- ANI
17:18   CBI challenges 2G case verdict in Delhi HC
The Central Bureau of Investigation has said that it has today filed an appeal in the Delhi high court in 2G spectrum case.

The trial court judgment in the case was examined and it was found that there are strong grounds for an appeal, the CBI said.

More details awaited.
16:52   Army jawan commits suicide by shooting self in Samba
An Army jawan today allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself with his service pistol in Jammu and Kashmir's Samba district.

One Jawan Naresh Yadav was found dead with bullet injuries in the Maheswar area, Senior Superintendent of Police Samba Anil Magotra told PTI.

The body has been recovered and sent to post mortem, he said, adding that initial investigation points towards suicide by him with his service pistol and an investigation is on.  -- PTI
16:52   Mrinal Pande appointed as group editor of National Herald
Just In: Mrinal Pande has been appointed group editor of the Congress party's National Herald newspaper.
16:48   Anna Hazare to return to Delhi's Ram Lila maidan with Lok Pal agitation
For all those wondering what's up with Anna Hazare, whose anti-corruption rally at New Delhi's Ram Lila maidan, calling for the appointment of a Lok Pal, weakened the UPA government, here's an update.   

Hazare will once again go on an indefinite dharna from March 23 at Ram Lila maidan demanding the appointment of a Lok Pal. Fringe elements of various kisan sabhas and labour unions are likely to take part in his protest.   

The Delhi police has ear marked half of Ram Lila grounds for the purpose for 14 days, which has been accepted by the organisers, so the dharna may be terminated in a fortnight. But the question on most minds is, will Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was an intrinsic part of Hazare's Lok Pal agitation then, join him this time?   

Watch this space.
16:36   If ruckus continues Speaker may adjourn Lok Sabha sine die on Friday
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has decided to adjourn the Lok Sabha sine die on March 21, Friday, at noon, if the AIADMK and TRS don't cooperate with  the chair to smoothly conduct the proceedings of the House.

If the ruckus continues for the next two days it is likely that the no-confidence motion will not be taken up.   

Will the chairman of the Rajya Sabha also consider adjourning the House sine die on Friday?   

No clarity has emerged so far as far as the Upper House is concerned.
Here's the official break-up of the 39 Indians who have died in Iraq at the hands of the Islamic State, according to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. 
1) Punjab -- 27
2) Himachal Pradesh -- 4
3) Bihar -- 6
4) West Bengal -- 2

She also said that of the 39 people, 1 person's DNA was not yet a complete match and she identified him as Raju Yadav from Bihar. 
16:09   We did not keep anyone in the dark, didn't give false hopes: Sushma
After making a statement in the Rajya Sabha, announcing the death of the 39 missing Indians in Iraq, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held a press conference during which she slammed the Congress for disrupting the proceedings in Lok Sabha and not letting her announce to the world about the sad demise of the 39 Indians. 

Here are the highlights from the press conference:

>> In Rajya Sabha everyone listened to me speaking very patiently and in peace. Everyone paid tribute, I thought same would happen in Lok Sabha. But unlike the past few days of ruckus, today Congress led the protests under Jyotiraditya Scindia ji. Very unfortunate

>> Today Congress indulged in very low level of politics, probably Congress president thought how did no uproar happened in Rajya Sabha and decided to ask Scindia ji to lead protests in Lok Sabha. Playing politics on deaths

>> I personally talked to the foreign ministers of the respective countries. I went to them and asked them if they have any evidence they provide us the same. 'Khoye huye ho to maare huye samjhe jaaoge' ye sarkar aisi nahi hai

>> Some kin of the victims have questioned as to why they were not told about the deaths before the parliament. It is parliamentary procedure to first inform the house, so it was my duty

>> We had been saying that we neither have the evidence of them being alive nor the evidence of them being dead. We maintained this in 2014 and 2017. We did not keep anyone in dark. We gave no false hopes to anyone

>> I am satisfied that I had stated that will declare them dead only on the day I have concrete evidence, I kept my word. I will get my closure when I would hand over the mortal remains to their families & they receive proper last rite

>> Harjit Masih is just an individual, he could claim 39 others are dead, but we are the government, we can't say this so easily. We have to be responsible
15:39   71-year-old Shantaram Naik heeds Rahul's youth call, quits as PCC chief
Goa Congress President Shantaram Naik today resigned from his post, saying he was "inspired" by Rahul Gandhi's speech at the party plenary about making way for younger leaders.   

Naik, 71,  is the first senior Congress leader to resign after Rahul Gandhi announced on Sunday in his concluding speech that he wants to give the younger generation a chance to come forward and lead the party.   

Naik has sent his resignation to the All India Congress Committee this morning, ending his stint as Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president since July 8, 2017, when he had replaced senior party leader Luizinho Faleiro.   

"I have resigned from the post of Goa Congress chief to pave the way for the younger generation to come forward.   

"I was inspired by party chief Rahul Gandhi's speech at the plenary session, where he said he wanted to give chance to the younger generation," he told PTI.   

During the session, the entire stage was empty and only those who were delivering a speech would go up and do it from the podium, he said.   "Everyone including Sonia Gandhi was off the dais," Naik told PTI.   

"When Rahul Gandhi went to deliver the speech, he said the stage is kept empty so as to let the younger generation take over the reins. My resignation is to make way for the young leadership to take over," the former MP said.   

Naik was elected to Lok Sabha in 1984 from North Goa constituency and twice to Rajya Sabha later.   

The Congress, with 16 legislators, is currently the main opposition in the Goa legislative assembly.   Naik said he was turning 72 and wanted the young to now lead the party.   

"I only want to suggest that somebody who has put in at least 10 years in the party and has love and commitment for the party should be given a chance to come forward and lead the party in the country," he said. 
15:20   The end of a great junoon
Those of us on this side of Wagah know him as the frontman for the sufi rock band Junoon who mesmerised us with songs like Saiyyoni.   

Those on the other side of Wagah also know Salman Ahmad to be a loyal adherent of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan for decades.   

So it was with not a little surprise that one learnt that Salman is finally calling it quits with the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf founder. has come across Salman's tweets hinting at his break with Imran, which they aptly titled 'Salman Ahmad is leaving PTI and we don't know what true love is anymore'.   

You can read the article, here.

Image: Salman Ahmad in concert. Photograph: Courtesy, Junoon on Facebook.
15:10   I told the truth that 39 Indians were killed: Man who escaped Islamic State

Harjit Masih, the lone Indian worker who escaped from Islamic State captivity in Iraq, said his stand was vindicated following External Affairs Minister Sushma Swarajs confirmation that all 39 Indians who were kidnapped in Iraqs Mosul were dead. Addressing Parliament, Swaraj said all the 39 Indians are dead and their bodies have been recovered.

"I told the truth that 39 Indians were killed. The government has misled the 39 families who lost their relatives," said Masih, who had escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, said.

Masih, who works as a daily wager, also raised questions over governments exercise to collect DNA samples of the family members of dead Indians. 

Meanwhile, while delivering her statement in Parliament on Tuesday, Swaraj said, I have two information. First, Harjit Masih who escaped was lying and, second, the Indians are dead. And I have proofs for these.

Masih had cooked up a story saying they were taken to a jungle where ISIS terrorists fired. The bullet shot his leg. But somehow he managed to leave and the others got killed. Hence, Masihs story was wrong. He had left in the beginning only by becoming Ali, she said.
14:39   Another Periyar statue vandalised in Tamil Nadu
A statue of social reformer and Dravidian movement icon E V Ramasamy, popularly know as 'Periyar', was found damaged in a village in Pudukkottai on Tuesday, the latest in a series of similar incidents of vandalism.  

Unidentified persons cut off the head of the statue using a chisel and placed it near the traffic island, the police said.   

On receiving information, police and revenue department officials rushed to the spot.   

The district authorities swung into action on hearing about the incident, carried out repair works and restored the statue to its original state by 8 am, they said.   

The statue unveiled by Dravidar Kazhagam leader K Veeramani in 2013 is maintained by the district unit of the party.   A large contingent of police has been deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident.   

A case has been registered, the police said.   

Earlier, on March 6, a statue of the Dravidian leader was allegedly vandalised in Vellore district and two persons were arrested.
14:30   IAF aircraft crashes into Odisha's Mayubhanj
Indian Air Force Hawk aircraft meets with accident after taking off from airbase in Kalaikunda in WB, pilot ejects safely. 
14:25   Punjab CM Amarinder 'shattered' over death of Indians in Iraq
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today said he was "shattered at the heart-wrenching news" that 39 Indians, kidnapped by the Islamic State, had been killed in Iraq.
His Congress colleague Partap Singh Bajwa and Aam Aadmi Party's Kanwar Sandhu also expressed their grief and targeted External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for misleading the families of those who had died.

Sandhu also asked for the minister's resignation.

Swaraj today said 39 Indians, who were abducted by IS in Iraq nearly three years back, were killed and their bodies recovered.
As many as 40 Indians were abducted by the terrorist organisation in June 2015 from Mosul in Iraq but one of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, Swaraj said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha.

"Shattered at the heart-wrenching news from @SushmaSwaraj that the 39 Indians missing in Iraq, most of whom were Punjabis, are dead. My heart goes out to the families who had been living in hope since their reported abduction by ISIS in 2014. Prayers with all of them," Amarinder Singh said on Twitter.

Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa added that he was saddened by the news confirming the deaths of those missing in Iraq and his thoughts and prayers are with their families.

"Why did Sushma Swaraj mislead the families for more than 3 years.This is complete failure of MEA & GOI," he tweeted.

"I raised this issue many a times in Rajya Sabha that why is the government playing with emotions of families by giving them false hopes. Can there be anything more shameful than this?" Bajwa added.

Bajwa appealed to to the government of India and Punjab government to provide all possible help and financial aid to the families.

-- PTI
13:59   Pakistan renews Musharraf's diplomatic passport
Former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf was not only issued a new passport two months before the expiry of his travel document but it was again a diplomatic passport that he was entitled to being a former head of state, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal confirmed to Dawn on Monday, reports Baqir Sajjad Syed.     

'The former military ruler has been declared absconder by courts in several cases including high treason case, judges' detention case and Benazir Bhutto assassination case. However, it is not clear if specific permission was given for a diplomatic passport and who gave it,' Syed reports in Dawn.comhere.
13:46   'Will believe my brother is dead when MEA contacts me'
Gurpinder Kaur, the sister of one of the 39 Indians killed in Iraq, today said she finds it difficult to believe her brother is no more because External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had assured her for years that he is alive.
Gurpinder, who heard the news on television, said she will believe her brother is actually dead only when the ministry contacts her.

Swaraj said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha today that 39 Indians, abducted by Islamic Statr in Iraq's Mosul town three years ago, are dead and their bodies have been recovered.
Forty Indians were abducted by the terror organisation but one of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, Swaraj said in a statement in the upper house.

"I heard this on television. Until the MEA (ministry of external affairs) does not contact me, I will not believe this," Gurpinder, whose brother Manjinder Singh was in the group, said.

The minister, she added, had been saying all along that that he was alive and they are tracing the location.
"Now, I don't know what to believe," she told the media.

-- PTI
13:13   The truth about Facebook groups?
'Facebook recently announced that group content will receive more prominent placement in the News Feed and that groups overall will be a core product focus to help reverse an unprecedented decline in active users in the US and Canada. The unintended consequence is that the more than a billion users active in groups are being placed on a collision course with the hackers, trolls, and other bad actors who will follow Facebook's lead and make groups even more of a focus for their activities,' writes Craig Silverman in Buzzfeedhere.
12:46   Notices of no-confidence motion not taken up amid protests in Lok Sabha
Another day, another washout. 

Notices of no-confidence motion against the government by the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress were not taken up for a second consecutive day in Lok Sabha. 

On Tuesday, as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked the MPs to quiet down so that she could introduce the motion, chants and protests erupted, forcing her to adjourn for the day. 

It was deja vu as similar scenes had taken place on Monday when Mahajan tried to introduce the no-confidence motion, but the uproar in the House forced an adjournment. 

Today will be the 12th day in a row that the Lok Sabha has not transacted any business. 

12:26   Last male northern white rhino dies
The world's last surviving male northern white rhino has died after months of ill health, his carers said.

Sudan, who lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, was put to sleep on Monday after age-related complications worsened.

His death at the age of 45 leaves only two females of the subspecies alive in the world. 

Read full HERE
12:20   SC Jamir bows out as Odisha governor after 5 years
Governor S C Jamir of Odisha completes his five-year tenure today, becoming the UPA government's last gubernatorial appointee to bow out of office, after spending the last four years of his term under the NDA government.   

Satya Pal Malik, governor of Bihar, has been given additional charge of Odisha until a new incumbent is appointed.
12:08   Why was information delayed by govt: Tharoor on 39 Indians killed in Mosul
"This is saddening for every Indian. I would ask why was this information delayed by the government? They should tell how it happened, when they died. Also, the way the government gave high hopes to the families was not right," says Shashi Tharoor after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that the 39 Indians kidnapped in Iraq's Mosul had been killed. 

Making a statement in Rajya Sabha, the Union minister said that search operations led to a mound in Badoosh where locals said some bodies were buried by the Islamic State. "Deep penetration radars were used to establish that the mound indeed was a mass grave," she said, adding the Indian authorities requested their Iraqi counterpart to exhume the bodies.

Swaraj said the mass grave had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. 

11:57   Sasikala seeks parole to attend husband's funeral
Convicted All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader VK Sasikala, who is currently lodged in Bengaluru's Parappanna Agrahara Jail, has applied for 15 days parole to attend her husband last rites.

Reportedly, Sasikala is expected to travel to Thanjavur directly by road for the funeral.

Maruthappa passed away on Tuesday around 1.35 am at the Gleneagles Global hospital in Chennai.

Sasikala is currently serving a four-year imprisonment and is lodged in central prison in Bengaluru in a disproportionate assets case. She was sent to Parappana Agrahara central prison in February last year. 

-- ANI
11:40   Amit Shah asks BJP's UP ally chief to meet him
A day after Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party cchief Om Prakash Rajbhar threatened to boycott voting for the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh minister to come to Delhi and meet him.

Rajbhar, whose party is an ally of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, yesterday, threatened to boycott voting for the Rajya Sabha elections if he is not allowed to speak Amit Shah.

Rajbhar had said yesterday, "If I don't get to speak to BJP president Amit Shah, I will boycott the voting for Rajya Sabha elections."

The BJP has the numbers to send its eight candidates to the Rajya Sabha, the SBSP, which has four MLAs in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly, holds the key to the fate of its ninth nominee.

The Rajya Sabha polls are scheduled for March 23.

There will be 59 vacancies in the Rajya Sabha in April, including 17 from the BJP and 12 from the Congress party. 

-- ANI
JUST IN: Rajya Sabha adjourned for the day after ruckus erupted in the House.
11:22   39 Indian hostages in Iraq have died: Sushma confirms in Rajya Sabha
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has confirmed the worst. 

On Tuesday, the external affairs minister said that the 39 Indians who were kidnapped in Iraq are dead. "Deep penetration radar confirmed that all Indians were dead after all bodies were exhumed."

"Yesterday we got information that DNA samples of 38 people have matched and DNA of the 39th person has matched 70 per cent," she added. 

The Union minister also added that General VK Singh (MoS external affairs) will go to Iraq to bring back mortal remains of the Indians killed in Iraq. The plane carrying mortal remains will first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata.

In 2014, 39 Indians were abducted in Mosul allegedly by the Islamic State. Among the 39, 22 were from different places in Punjab, including Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, and Jalandhar.
10:54   Trains resume on Mumbai's Central line as job-seekers call off agitation
Train services on Central Line have resumed as students, who have been demanding jobs, have called off their agitation.

Earlier in the morning around 7, students who were demanding jobs in railways, blocked the rail track, forcing the authorities to stop the suburban as well as express trains in the affected section between Matunga and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.

The sudden strike was called by the All India Act Apprentice Association. The strike came at a time when the Modi government announced that Indian railways will recruit 90,000 job aspirants.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Congress extended their support to the protesters, demanding that the BJP-run government heed the demands of the students. 

10103 CSMT-Madgaon Mandvi Express (scheduled departure: 0710 hrs) at 1000 hrs 
11301 CSMT-KSR Bengaluru Udyan Express (scheduled departure: 0810 hrs) at 1015 hrs
12534 CSMT-Lucknow Pushpak Express (scheduled departure: 0825 hrs) at 1030 hrs
11029 CSMT-Kolhapur Koyna Express (scheduled departure: 0840 hrs) at 1045 hrs
10:27   Parliament may see chaos as as TDP, YSR Cong will pitch for no-confidence motion
The Telugu Desam Party and YSR Congress will pitch for no-confidence motion today. The notices for a no-confidence motion against the government could not be taken up in the Lok Sabha on Monday due to noisy protests by several parties, which washed out the proceedings in both Houses of Parliament. 

Monday was the 11th consecutive day that the proceedings were washed out and the second day that Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan could not take up the notices for a no-confidence motion. 

It is still unclear whether the AIADMK will vote in favour of the no-confidence motion. However, on Tuesday morning hinted that they wouldn't.
10:05   UP's Robertsganj railway station renamed Sonbhadra
The Robertsganj railway station in Uttar Pradesh has been renamed Sonbhadra, an official has said.

The Union home ministry has given its approval for the renaming of the British-era railway station in the Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh.

Even though the railway station falls under the district, there is no place in the name of Sonbhadra. The Robertsganj station has been renamed Sonbhadra, the home ministry official said.

This is the second time a railway station in Uttar Pradesh has been rechristened. The Mughalsarai railway station was renamed after RSS ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya in last August.

The iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus in Mumbai also saw the word "Maharaj" added to its name early last year.

-- PTI
09:55   'Won't budge till Goyal meets us': 30 trains on Mumbai's central line cancelled
Massive protests erupted in Mumbai between Matunga and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. 

Students from the All India Act Apprenticeship Association have launched Rail Roko movement demanding permanent jobs in railways.

The Mumbai Police has reached the spot.

Train services have been affected due to the protest. Atleast 30 trains have been cancelled on the central line. 

One of the protesting students said, ""We will not budge from here until and unless Railway Minister Piyush Goyal come and meet us. Our several prayers made to the divisional railway manager of Mumbai division have failed."
09:35   Uber apologises for inconvenience caused to passenger due to strike
Transport aggregators Uber expressed regret over the inconvenience caused to the passengers due to the strike called on by 'some cab drivers' and stressed that the company remains committed to serve the city.

"We remain committed to serving the city, ensuring driver partners can continue to access stable earning opportunities while giving riders a convenient option to get around their city," said a spokesperson of the company.

The company also welcomed the injunction of the Bombay high court prohibiting unions and their leaders from obstructing the activities of Uber driver partners.

He also hoped that the decision of the court will enable drivers to stay behind the wheel.

"While the authorities have taken steps to ensure minimal disruption to our rider and driver communities, we hope that they will continue to enforce the order passed by the High Court," the spokesperson said.

The company also said that the strike has only affected Mumbai and Pune and the business is as usual in other cities, including Delhi-NCR and Bangalore.

-- ANI
Commuters on the Central Railway line in Mumbai at many spots got off the trains and have begun to walk on the lines as the services have halted between Matunga and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in the city.'s Divya Nair sent us this image of passengers on the tracks between Mumbra and Kalwa. 
09:03   Sex And The City's Cynthia Nixon to run for New York governor
After much speculation, actress and activist Cynthia Nixon announced that she is officially throwing her hat in the New York gubernatorial race.

"I love New York, and today I'm announcing my candidacy for governor," she tweeted Monday, along with a video.

"I've never lived anywhere else," Nixon says in the video. "But something has to change. We want our government to work again, on health care, ending mass incarceration, fixing our broken subway. We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us. It can't just be business as usual anymore."

The "Sex and the City" star will challenge Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo in the state's Democratic primary in September.
08:38   Mumbaikars brace yourself, protests on tracks disrupt Central Railways
Protesting against the confusion surrounding railway recruitment, students stopped trains on Mumbai's Central Railway during the peak hours on Tuesday. 

Due to the agitation between Matunga and Dadar, rail traffic has been affected between Matunga and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.

Students are sitting on the tracks. 

Not just local trains but even long-distance trains have been impacted.

Apprentice students, who have worked for many years but have not been recruited, are leading these protests. 

Photograph: Sahil Salvi/
08:24   Upset with Union ministers, Nitish Kumar says "communalism unacceptable"
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday made it clear that he is upset with two Union ministers. "Please remember, neither did I compromise with corruption, nor I will compromise with those trying to divide the society. I'm for complete communal and social peace... I want to make it clear that this country will march ahead on the basis of love, compassion and communal harmony".

He then went on to support Union Minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who on Sunday advised ally BJP on the "need to change mass perception among Dalits and minorities". "I know Paswan very well and without applying his mind he won't speak on these issues," Kumar said.

BJP leaders in the state declined to comment over the remarks.

The CM's remarks came in the backdrop of day-long opposition protests in the state assembly against Union Minister Giriraj Singh and Ashwini Choubey.

Last week, after victory of Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal won the by-elections for Araria parliamentary seat in face of an aggressive BJP campaign, Singh had said the district will become a "hub of terror". It had created a huge controversy, with the opposition RJD calling the remark communal.

On Sunday, Singh was caught on camera inciting a mob to shout slogans against a senior police officer in Darbhanga, where a man was hacked to death. While the police said it was a case of land dispute, Mr Singh insisted that the man was killed for naming a chowk after Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
08:04   Jailed AIADMK leader VK Sasikala's husband M Natarajan passes away
Husband of jailed AIADMK leader VK Sasikala, M Natarajan, died today at a hospital in Chennai, an official said.
He was 74.

"It is with profound grief and sorrow that we announce the sad demise of Natarajan Maruthappa at 1.35 am today," an official release issued by Shanmuga Priyan, chief operating officer of Gleneagles Global Health City, said.
Natarajan was admitted to the hospital on Saturday with severe chest infection and was put on ventilator support. 
00:06   Treating J&K as a law and order problem not the way forward: Yechury
Calling upon the Centre to initiate a process of political dialogue involving all stakeholders, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Monday said treating Jammu and Kashmir merely as a law and order problem was not the way forward.
Speaking at the two-day 11th state conference of the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the CPI-M, Yechury said the issue could not be resolved without adopting a composite approach.
"We want the political process to be started immediately and the country be immediately told about the policy towards Pakistan. There is uncertainty and lack of clarity which, we feel, can cause more damage.
Innocent people are getting killed like the family in yesterday s incident in Jammu," Yechury told reporters in Srinagar.
The CPI-M general secretary said there was no clarity on the roadmap the government plans to take to find a solution to address such problems.
"This problem cannot be solved without composite approach. Start a dialogue process, law and order cannot be the single approach, otherwise we will not reach towards the solution. Merely treating this as a law and order problem is not a solution. It has to be a political solution based on a process of dialogue with all the stakeholders," Yechury said.
Yechury said he had visited Kashmir with two Parliamentary delegations in 2010 and 2016 amidst unrest in the valley and called for confidence building measures and a political process to resolve the issue.
"The last time, under Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in 2016, we decided that a process of political dialogue will be started with all stakeholders, the government accepted it. The second thing that the government accepted was taking CBMs like withdrawal of pellet guns and other developmental agenda.
"We also told them to make the policy on Indo-Pak dialogue clear to find a solution to the issue as it is also a component. About two years have gone, but no headway has been made. You have all the reports of the previous interlocutors or the working groups, you have instrument of accession of J-K and the promises made on the basis of that accession, let that be the basis for a dialogue process," he said.

There are many big challenges before the country and people due to the present government, which is running at the behest of the RSS, Yechury said.
"For the last four years, the economic condition of the common people has worsened. According to 2017 figures, only one per cent of our population controls 73 per cent of the total wealth of the country. Economic inequality is increasing, poverty and unemployment are increasing, there is a farming crisis and farmers are committing suicide," he added.
Yechury said communal polarisation was increasing in the country. "There are many private armies in the name of gau raksha, moral police, anti-romeo squads which are taking law and order in their own hands. Attacks have happened on Muslims and Dalits and lives have been lost," he said. -- PTI