Sat, 27 October 2018
Lalu takes swipe at BJP and JD-U over seat sharing arrangement

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20:45   Lalu takes swipe at BJP and JD-U over seat sharing arrangement
RJD national president Lalu Prasad took a swipe at the BJP and the JD-U on Saturday, a day after they jointly announced a seat-sharing arrangement in the NDA, saying they would first fight together and then against each other.
The former Bihar chief minister made the remarks in a post on his official Twitter handle which is being managed by his office. He is serving sentences in fodder scam cases but is currently ailing and admitted to a hospital. 
"They will fight together and then fight each other. They will again fight together and again fight each other," he said taking a dig at the checkered history of the BJP-JD-U tie-up.
The 17-year-long alliance of the two parties was snapped abruptly in 2013 but they came together again four years later.
Prasad also used epithets like paltimaar (turncoat) and "master in fakery" (swagger) apparently for Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi respectively, neither of whom was mentioned by name.

Kumar was accused of being a turncoat by the RJD after he walked out of the grand alliance less than three years after its formation, following corruption cases against Prasad's younger son and the then deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav, and returned to the NDA last year.

Modi was accused of making tall claims and false promises by opposition parties.
On Friday, at a joint press meet in the national capital Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U president Nitish Kumar and BJP chief Amit Shah had said the seat-sharing formula for the NDA in the state would be announced in three to four days.
The announcement put to rest speculations that demands by Kumar for a respectable share may throw a spanner in the way of a pre-poll tie-up.
20:19   Obama takes aim at Trump for 'making stuff up'
Barack Obama criticised Donald Trumps tenure in office in a series of speeches in Milwaukee and Detroit that took aim at the US president and other Republicans for making stuff up.

The speeches were among Obamas sharpest and most direct critiques of his successor, but he was careful to not mention Trump by name. He said the character of our country is on the ballot in the first midterm election since Trump took office.

Obama cited a recent Trump comment that he would pass a tax cut before the November election. Congress isnt even in session before the election. He just makes it up, he said.

Nor did Obama spare the Republicans more broadly. They were were lying when they said they wanted to protect people with pre-existing conditions while trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he said, a reference to Wisconsins governor, Scott Walker.

What we have not seen before in our public life is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, baldly, shamelessly, lying. Just making stuff up, Obama said. Calling up down. Calling black white. Thats what your governor is doing with these ads, just making stuff up, he said.
19:49   Parrikar to chair cabinet, investment board meetings at his house
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar will chair two official meetings at his private residence next week.

He will chair a cabinet meeting at his residence on October 31, an official in the chief minister's office said on Saturday.

Since he was discharged from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi and returned to the state on October 14, Parrikar, who has been suffering from a pancreatic ailment, is recuperating at his residence.
Agenda of the cabinet meeting, to be held at 5 pm on Wednesday, was yet to be decided, the official said.

He will also chair a meeting of the Investment Promotion Board at his residence on October 30 where certain investment proposals would be discussed, the CMO official said.

Congress took exception to these meetings being held at Parrikar's private residence.

-- PTI
19:31   Prime Minister Modi arrives in Japan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday arrived in Japan to attend the 13th India-Japan annual summit with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
The two-day summit beginning Sunday will seek to review the progress in ties and deepen strategic dimension of the bilateral relationship.

"Landed in Tokyo. I am confident this visit will add new vigour to the strong friendship between India and Japan," Modi said in a tweet.

In a statement on Friday, before leaving for Japan, Modi described India and Japan as a "winning combination" and said the island nation was New Delhi's most trusted partner in its economic and technological modernisation.

He said India's partnership with Japan was of great substance and purpose.

"We have a special strategic and global partnership. Our ties with Japan, both economic and strategic, stand completely transformed in recent years. It is today a partnership of great substance and purpose. It rests on the strong pillars of India's Act East Policy, and our shared vision and commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific," he said.

Modi said it will be his 12th meeting with Abe since he first visited Japan as prime minister in September 2014.

-- PTI
19:13   Khashoggi murder : Saudi Arabia to try suspects, foreign minister says
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has said the suspects in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia.

At a conference in Bahrain, Adel al-Jubeir accused the western media of "hysteria" in its coverage of the case.

His comments come a day after Turkey said it wished to extradite 18 Saudi nationals authorities say were involved in the murder.

The writer was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul three weeks ago.

Riyadh denies the ruling royal family was involved and blames "rogue agents".

Saudi Arabia initially denied all knowledge of the journalist's fate but the Saudi public prosecutor now describes it as premeditated murder.

Khashoggi had been an outspoken critic of the crown prince, the de facto Saudi ruler.
18:29   Centre removed CBI director to prevent probe into Rafale deal: Bhushan
Supreme Court lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan on Saturday alleged that the Centre divested CBI Director Alok Verma of his duties to prevent him from investigating the multi-billion dollar Rafale deal.
He also welcomed the apex court's directions to the Central Vigilance Commission to complete an inquiry into the corruption allegations against Verma within two weeks.

The government removed Verma overnight as it was worried about him ordering an investigation into the Rafale deal, Bhushan said.

Bhushan, along with former BJP minister Yashwant Singh and senior journalist Arun Shourie had submitted a written complaint to the CBI alleging corruption in the Rafale deal.

"Verma had become independent as he had a fixed two-year tenure. The government turned nervous when the CBI director met us after we submitted a complaint to him in connection with the Rafale deal," Bhushan claimed.

He asked why the government is not ordering a Joint Parliamentary Committee or CBI probe or a CAG audit into the Rafale deal.

Bhushan lauded the Supreme Court's order which came on a plea filed by Verma challenging the government's decision divesting him of his duties and sending him on leave.

"It is good that the Supreme Court has intervened in the matter and the inquiry against Verma will be conducted under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge A K Patnaik and it will be done within 14 days," he said.

He alleged that there could not be a bigger "treachery"  in the country than the Rafale deal.

-- PTI
18:18   Rafale: NDA worked a better deal than UPA, says Rajnath Singh
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said that the BJP-led NDA government worked a better deal to buy Rafale fighter jets from France than the previous UPA dispensation.
Opposition parties are reiterating their allegations against the deal with the hope that if they tell a lie a hundred times, people will eventually come to accept it to some extent, he said after inaugurating the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha's national convention.
"I would like to tell the people of India that this deal was negotiated during the UPA rule too. The deal we have worked is a better deal. We signed it keeping national interest in view," he said.
The planes that the NDA government has decided to buy are "battle-ready", he said.
The opposition is asking us the price of nut and bolt of Rafale and risking national security "knowingly or unknowingly. What drama is it?" he said.

The BJYM's convention, which concludes Sunday, is being attended by several national leaders, including Union ministers and chief ministers of BJP-ruled states.

The Rs 58,000-crore Rafale fighter jet deal has been at the centre of a raging political row with the Congress accusing the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government of wrongdoing. The government has rejected all allegations.
In September 2016, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to buy the jets, the delivery of which is slated to begin from September 2019. 

-- PTI
Four Central Reserve Police Force jawans have lost their lives in an encounter with Naxals in Bijapur. Two jawans are injured. 
17:34   Firmly with NDA, working to make Modi PM for another term: Kushwaha
Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha Saturday said he stands "firmly" with the NDA and is working for another term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a day after he met RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav triggering speculation of discontent within the ruling BJP-led alliance in Bihar.
Kushwaha met Yadav on Friday hours after BJP president Amit Shah in Delhi announced a seat-sharing formula for the state for the next year Lok Sabha elections.

He said the seat sharing is yet to be finalised in the NDA and that he would meet Shah in the next two-three days.  

Kushwaha, a Union minister of state for HRD, also wondered why a conclusion was being drawn that the RLSP would not get a fair deal.

The RLSP is a part of the BJP-led NDA in the state whose other constituents are Nitish Kumar's JD-U and Ramvilas Paswan's LJP. 

"Seat sharing is yet to be finalised. I cannot comment on the basis of media reports. I will be meeting Amit Shah in next two-three days. I wonder why people are drawing the conclusion that we are not going to get a fair deal," Kushwaha said.

The RLSP is an ally of the BJP since the 2014 general elections.

"I also do not understand this big fuss about an equal number of seats for the BJP and the JD-U. Does it indicate any number? 

"It could even imply that out of the 40 seats in Bihar, both parties will be contesting 10 each and leave the remaining 20 for others.There is a lot of scope for our party being accommodated respectably," he said.

Dismissing speculation, Kushwaha said, "I am firmly with the NDA and committed to working for another term for Narendra Modi as prime minister."

-- PTI
17:25   Row over beer named Ganesh in UK
A micro-brewery in northern England on Friday confirmed that it was withdrawing 'Ganesh' as the brand name of a special beer it had brewed a few months ago. 

Wishbone Brewery Limited, based in West Yorkshire, had branded a lime, coriander, grape and camomile flavoured beer as 'Ganesh' to encapsulate its "Indian flavour profile" for a beer festival in Manchester in September.

US-based president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, was among people who objected to the use of the Hindu deity's name as a beer brand.

"We were completely unaware of the implications. We just used it as a word that represented India and the Indian flavour profile. Our intention was not to cause any offence and we certainly won't be using it," said Adrian Chapman, head brewer at Wishbone Brewery.

He explained that the beer had been brewed as a limited run and was never intended to be bottled or canned to be sold widely.

"As soon as we were made aware that the name could be seen as cultural appropriation, we looked into it and immediately took the decision that it would not be used in future," he said.

Zed issued a statement against the "highly inappropriate" use of the term 'Ganesh' for an alcoholic beverage.

"In Hinduism, Lord Ganesh is worshipped as a god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking? Symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled," he said.
17:09   Pakistan SC reimposes ban on Indian content
Pakistan's Supreme Court has reintroduced a ban on Indian films and television shows being broadcast on the country's local channels.
The apex court was hearing a case filed by the United Producers Association pertaining to the broadcast of foreign content on Pakistani television channels, reported Dawn.

During the hearing, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar ordered a "shut down" and made it clear that authorities should "only air appropriate content".

"They are trying to (obstruct the construction) of our dam and we cannot even ban their channels?" Nisar said.

In 2016, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority had imposed a ban on airing Indian content on local television and FM radio channels.

However, the Lahore high court lifted ban in 2017, declaring it null and void as the Pakistan government had no objections regarding the same.
16:49   Market Capitalisation: Top 10
Market Capitalisation: Top 10 
16:32   Rafale deal: Centre submits details of decision-making in sealed cover to SC
The Centre on Saturday submitted the details of the decision-making process in a sealed cover to the Supreme Court, as per the apex court's direction.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had sought details of the process that led to the deal which has now become engraved in a raging political battle. The top court had asked for the details minus the technical processes while setting Monday (October 29) as the date for hearing the case.

A three-bench judge headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi along with Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph is hearing the matter of a petition filed by ML Sharma. 

The petitioner has charged the government with corruption in the deal. The apex court however made it clear that it is not taking into account allegations made in the petition. 

"We would like to be appraised of the details of the steps in the decision-making process in the Rafale Deal. No official notice. SC also makes it clear that the Centre's response need not cover issue of pricing." the apex court had said.

Congress has tried to corner the government over the Rafale deal over the last several months and has questioned why the prices of the fighter jets were increased and why the contract to manufacture some of these jets in India were given to Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence and not to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. 
16:11   Kashmiri people should stand with Govt, not with separatists in fight against terrorism: Jaitley
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said the people of Kashmir ought to stand with the government and not with the separatists in the fight against terrorism.
"I think it is absolutely essential for all of us ...that in this battle, we need the Kashmiri people on our side. It's a battle for sovereignty, it's a battle against separatists and terrorists and the key is also held by the people," he said.

"And therefore our approach has to be guided by the fact that those people are on our side, and not with the separatists," he said while delivering the first Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture here.

He regretted that at a time when the country is dealing with troubles being fomented from across the border, some local groups have joined them and the worst sufferers are Kashmiri people themselves.

"How do we resolve the situation? Governments have said that we are ready for the most logical option. We are willing to talk to people, we are willing to even interact and involve regional mainstream parties into it," he said.

Jaitley also said that mainstream regional parties, which speak one language in Srinagar and another in Delhi, must have the courage to face the situation.

They need to create an alternative set of discourse in the Valley for separatists, he said adding "Unfortunately they duck that responsibility. And therefore this is a battle which India has to win and I have no doubt in mind, we will succeed in it at the end of the day because the politics of India has to send a clear message that separatism will never be accepted by India and its mainstream".

He said that every policy and position that the government takes have to be guided by one of the yardsticks that "the people of Kashmir have to be gradually brought on this side and that will be the real test of when we succeed".

-- PTI
15:36   'If small parties don't unite, there will be no elections after 2019'
Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Saturday said that if regional political parties across the country dont unite, there would be no elections held after 2019.

Patel said, If the government fails to fulfill demands of the Maratha and the Dhangar community, then the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will not be good for BJP.

He further said that the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections would be a contest between Modi and the farmers. In the 2019 elections, the people themselves would fight against the Modi government and I would too join them on the streets, he said. My job is to aware the public, not support any political party, he added.

Terming the Maratha Morcha a political drama, Patel said that every party would seek to benefit from it. He also said that instead of building a Shivaji memorial in Maharashtra, the government should rather focus on generating employment opportunities for the people.

Earlier last month, the Patidar leader went on an indefinite hunger strike demanding a loan waiver and reservation for the Patidar community in jobs and educational institutes. However, Patel ended his strike on the 19th day, saying, It was necessary to stay alive to fight and win.
15:18   Imran Khan's sister among 44 prominent Pakistanis owning benami properties in UAE
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's sister is among 44 prominent political and government figures owning benami properties in United Arab Emirates, revealed a Federal Investigation Agency list submitted to the Pakistan Supreme Court. 

The list was part of the annexure submitted to a three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, seized with a case relating to illegal transfer of money from Pakistan to foreign countries, the Dawn reported.

The FIA has furnished before the apex court a list of 44 individuals who owned properties registered in the name of other persons, the report said. 

The list contains the name of Aleema Khanum, a sister of Khan, who has been identified as 'benamidar' of a property. A notice has been issued to her through email as well as delivered at her home address, but her servant says she is abroad.

The list also include the name of government spokesperson on economy and energy issues Farrukh Saleem's mother, according to The Express Tribune.

The investigation further revealed that ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Mumtaz Ahmed Muslim owns 16 properties and former PPP minister Amin Faheem's widow Rizwana Ameen own four properties in the UAE's lucrative real estate market, the report said.

The list also contains the name of Ayesha Enver Baig, wife of former senator Enver Baig and owner of Anwar Steel. She has one property in the UAE, but it has been disclosed in the tax returns filed with the Federal Board of Revenue.

-- PTI
15:02   If voted to power, Congress will fulfil OROP commitments: Rahul Gandhi
A Congress-led government would fulfil all the commitments the party had made on the 'one rank, one pension' issue, Rahul Gandhi told a group of ex-servicemen on Saturday.
At a meeting with the retired defence personnel, the Congress president said that if his party is voted to power in the 2019 parliamentary election, it will fulfil their demands, including 'one rank, one pension'.
Raking up the Rafale fighter jet deal, he said the Narendra Modi government handed out Rs 30,000 crore to industrialist Anil Ambani, but refused to meet the demands of the soldiers on OROP.
The amount of Rs 30,000 crore was more than enough to solve the OROP issue, he said after the 30-minute meeting.
The Congress has alleged that the Anil Ambani-led company was favoured by the Modi government on the offset contract of the Rafale deal. The private firm has denied the allegations.

-- PTI
14:57   Police custody for activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira till Nov 6
Activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, whose bail applications were rejected by a special court in Pune on Friday, have been sent to police custody till November 6. Sudha Bharadwaj, the third activist whose bail plea was dismissed, has been arrested from her house in Faridabad by a team of Pune police.

These three activists, along with two others - P Vara Vara Rao and Gautam Navlakha - for alleged links to Maoists during country-wide raids by the Pune police on August 28 and put under house arrest following a Supreme Court order.

After the arrest of the activists in August, eminent historian Romila Thapar had moved a petition in the Supreme Court saying the police crackdown is linked to the left-leaning viewpoints of the activists. That plea was rejected by the top court today.

The prosecution had argued against granting bail to the three activists and said they have enough "corroborative evidence" against the trio to prove their links with CPI-Maoist in various ways such as "raising funds" for the banned outfit and helping them recruit the cadre.

The nationwide raids in which the activists were arrested had been launched as part an investigation into a conclave, Elgar Parishad, that was held in Bhima Koregaon near Pune on December 31 last year.
14:16   Pak most dangerous country, poses 3 times more terror risk than Syria: Report
Pakistan remains to be a breeding ground of terrorism with the country registering the highest number of terrorist bases and safe havens, reveals a report. 

Identifying Lashkar-e-Tayiba as the outfit which continues to pose the maximum threat to international security, it said that Pakistan poses three times the terror risk to humanity than Syria.

The facts were published in a report titled "Humanity at Risk - Global Terror Threat Indicant by Oxford University and Strategic Foresight Group.

It terms Pakistan a supporter of global terrorism and a country which is responsible for three times the terror risk to humanity that Syria poses. 

The survey states that while the Afghan Taliban and the LeT pose the maximum threat to international security, Pakistan is placed on top of the list of countries with the highest number of terrorist bases and safe havens.

"If we look at the most dangerous terrorist groups, based on hard facts and statistics, we find that Pakistan hosts or aids majority of them. Also, there are a significant number of groups based in Afghanistan, which operate with the support of Pakistan," the report says.

The over 80-page report, which has been prepared to discuss security challenges in the next decade, presents an analytical framework for policymakers to tackle terrorism.
13:48   BJP standing like a rock with Ayyappa devotees: Amit Shah in Kannur
BJP chief Amit Shah began his speech in Kannur on Saturday with the chant of Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa, invoking Lord Ayyappa at a time when the issue of womens entry at the Sabarimala temple snowballs into an election issue.

Addressing a public meeting after inaugurating the Kannur airport, Shah said the BJP was firmly with the devotees of Lord Ayyappa and warned the Pinarayi Vijayan government over ill-treatment meted out to the devotees during the recent monthly pooja at the temple.

Today in Kerala, a struggle is going on between religious beliefs and state governments cruelty. More than 2,000 activists and workers from the BJP, RSS and other organisations have been arrested. The BJP is standing like a rock with devotees, Left government be warned, he said.

The temple had witnessed high drama last week with around a dozen women in 10-50 age group being prevented from entering the temple by protesting devotees after the doors were opened for all women following the Supreme Court verdict.
13:06   Sacked Sri Lanka PM Wickremesinghe seeks emergency session of parliament
Ousted Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday sought an emergency session of Parliament to prove his majority, as the island nation plunged into a constitutional crisis after President Maithripala Sirisena sacked him and made former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa the new premier.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya's office said that Wickremesinghe has sent a letter, seeking an emergency session of the Parliament, which was scheduled to meet on November 5 to debate the budget.

Wickremesinghe, who has been asserting that the swearing in of Rajapaksa in his place is "illegal and unconstitutional", wants the issue be settled in parliament with show of numbers.

Sirisena on Saturday formalised the sacking of his former ally by issuing two extraordinary gazette notices. 

After Rajapaksa took oath at the Presidential Secretariat here Friday, Sirisena wrote to Wickremesinghe, saying he had been removed.

"I had appointed you as the prime minister under (article) 42 (1) of the Constitution and as your appointing authority, I write to notice that you have been removed from the post of prime minister," Sirisena said in the letter.

-- PTI
13:03   'History will not misjudge Manmohan Singh': Anupam Kher as he wraps up 'The Accidental Prime Minister'
Veteran actor Anupam Kher has wrapped up shooting of The Accidental Prime Minister that is based on former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and says history will not misjudge the Congress leader.

Anupam shared a video, where he is seen donning Singh's looks and holding the film's clapboard. He announces that the last shot of the film was taken at 2:40 am on October 27.

"It is a wrap for one of my most cherished films 'The Accidental Prime Minister'. Thank you...for the most enriching times. Thank you Dr Manmohan SinghJi for your journey," the actor said.

Kher said it has been "a great learning experience." "One thing is sure 'history will not misjudge you'," he added.

The film is based on a book by Sanjaya Baru, a former media advisor to Manmohan Singh. Akshaye Khanna features as Baru, and Divya Seth Shah plays Manmohan Singh's wife Gursharan Kaur in the movie.
JUST IN: Sanjay Mishra appointed principal special director in ED; will hold charge of director ED for 3 months
12:14   Delhi continues to choke with very poor air quality, 5 areas record severe pollution
Delhi's air quality remained very poor for the fourth day on Saturday with five areas of the national capital recording severe pollution levels, as authorities warned the situation may deteriorate further next week due to localised emissions during festival and stubble burning.
The Central Pollution Control Board recorded the overall  Air Quality Index of Delhi at 341. The highest AQI of this season was recorded on Friday at 361.

On Saturday,  five areas in Delhi recorded severe pollution levels. They are Anand Vihar, Dwarka Sector 8, Narela, Punjabi Bagh and Rohini. Punjabi Bagh recorded the highest pollution level in the national capital at 434.

An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered "good", 51 and 100 "satisfactory", 101 and 200 "moderate", 201 and 300 "poor", 301 and 400 "very poor", and 401 and 500 "severe".

According to the data by the Centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research, the overall air quality index of Delhi would deteriorate in a few days, remaining just points below the severe category.

The CPCB-led task force has recommended stringent measures from November 1 to 10, predicting further deterioration in the air quality ahead of Diwali.

Some of these recommendations include shut down of coal and biomass factories, intensification of inspection by transport department to check polluting vehicles and control traffic congestion in Delhi-NCR during November 1-10.

Authorities have issued an advisory, asking people to avoid outdoor strenuous activities and minimise use of private vehicles.

-- PTI
11:51   PM Modi leaves for Japan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday left for Japan to attend the annual summit with his counterpart Shinzo Abe.
The summit will be held on October 28 and 29. 

In a statement on Friday, before leaving for Japan, Modi described India and Japan a "winning combination" and said the island nation is New Delhi's most trusted partner in its economic and technological modernisation.

He said India's partnership with Japan is of great substance and purpose.

"We have a special strategic and global partnership. Our ties with Japan, both economic and strategic, stand completely transformed in recent years. It is today a partnership of great substance and purpose. It rests on the strong pillars of India's Act East Policy, and our shared vision and commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific," he said.

Modi said it will be his 12th meeting with Abe since he first visited Japan as prime minister in September 2014.

He said, as democracies, the two countries have shared values and they seek peace and prosperity for all.

"Our complementarities make India and Japan a winning combination. Japan today is one of the most trusted partners in India's economic and technological modernisations and one of the top investors in India," he pointed out.

-- PTI
11:50   Kerala ashram run by preacher who backed Sabarimala verdict set on fire
An ashram in Kerala, founded by a preacher who supported the Supreme Court verdict allowing the entry of women of menstruating age to the famous Sabarimala temple, was attacked by unidentified persons early this morning.

Two cars and a scooter belonging to Swami Sandeepananda Giri's School of Bhagavad Gita on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram were set on fire at around 2:30 am. The attackers also put a wreath in front of the hermitage.

Local media reported that a white Maruti Suzuki Omni and a Honda CRV were set ablaze. Reports said police have been posted in the ashram following the attack. Police have registered a case and are on the lookout for the attackers.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who visited the ashram this morning, condemned the attack. "Physical attacks happen when you can't deal ideologically. We will not allow anyone to take law and order in their hands.Those who are intolerant towards Swami's activities attacked his ashram," Vijayan said.
11:24   Kerala ashram run by preacher who backed Sabarimala verdict set on fire
An ashram in Kerala, founded by a preacher who supported the Supreme Court verdict allowing the entry of women of menstruating age to the famous Sabarimala temple, was attacked by unidentified persons early this morning.

Two cars and a scooter belonging to Swami Sandeepananda Giri's School of Bhagavad Gita on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram were set on fire at around 2:30 am. The attackers also put a wreath in front of the hermitage.

Local media reported that a white Maruti Suzuki Omni and a Honda CRV were set ablaze. Reports said police have been posted in the ashram following the attack. Police have registered a case and are on the lookout for the attackers.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who visited the ashram this morning, condemned the attack. "Physical attacks happen when you can't deal ideologically. We will not allow anyone to take law and order in their hands.Those who are intolerant towards Swami's activities attacked his ashram," Vijayan said.
11:07   No seat sharing agreement in Bihar yet: Upendra Kushwaha
Union Minister and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha reacts to reports of Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal-United reaching seat sharing deal in Bihar for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

"Number of seats has not been decided yet, we are discussing, I have talked to Amit Shah Ji, can't say anything else right now," Kushwaha said told ANI.

BJP president Amit Shah announced on Friday that his party and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led JD-U will contest equal number of Lok Sabha seats in the state, in what is being seen as a big boost to Kumar who had been insisting on a parity with the saffron party.

Shah told reporters that an announcement on the number of seats both parties, besides two other allies -- Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party and Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samta Party -- will contest in 2019, will be announced in two-three days.

Meanwhile, Kushwaha's meet with Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav on Friday also triggered speculations.  -- Agencies
10:54   CISF jawan killed in terrorist attack in Kashmir
A Central Industrial Security Force officer has been killed in a terrorist attack in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said on Saturday.

"In the intervening night, a standoff fire by terrorists took place at the grid Station Wagoora in Budgam district in which one ASI of CISF sustained serious bullet injuries," a police spokesman said.

He said the attack was, however, successfully repulsed by the alert sentry at the spot.

"The injured ASI Rajendra Prasad was evacuated to the hospital for medical attention but succumbed at the hospital," the spokesman said, adding the area has been sanitized by the security forces.  -- PTI

10:18   Amid political drama in Lanka, US urges parties to follow Constitution
The United States urged political parties in Sri Lanka on Friday to abide by the Constitution and refrain from violence, as the island nation faces a constitutional crisis after its president ousted the prime minister.

Controversial Sri Lankan strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa staged a dramatic political comeback on Friday, becoming the new prime minister after President Maithripala Sirisena sacked premier Ranil Wickremesinghe who termed the move as 'unconstitutional' and vowed to prove his majority in Parliament.

In its first reaction to the unfolding situation in Sri Lanka, the US State Department said it is following the development in the island nation.

'We call on all parties to act in accordance with SL's Constitution, refrain from violence, and follow due process,' the State Department said in a tweet.

'We expect gov of SL to uphold its Geneva commitments to human rights, reform, accountability, justice, and reconciliation,' the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department said.

The move that took Sri Lanka by surprise came amid growing tensions between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on several policy matters even as the President remained critical of the Prime Minister and his policies, especially on economy and security.

Reacting sharply to his sacking, Wickremesinghe asserted that the swearing-in of Rajapaksa is 'illegal and unconstitutional' and he will prove his majority in Parliament.  -- PTI
09:25   Chinese 'bribing' leadership in countries to bag infra projects: Pompeo
China has taken actions that have provided risk to the American people, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, alleging that Chinese have been 'bribing' leadership in countries to bag infrastructure projects.

"I think if you go look at (Chinese) President Xi's (Jinping) stated intentions, you can clearly see that China has a plan that is different than the one that they had five years ago or even two or three years ago. You see this in their ability to use their money around the world," Pompeo said in an interview with Hugh Hewitt of the Hugh Hewitt Show.

Pompeo said that he has spoken about this repeatedly.

"I spoke to it when I was in Panama and I travel the world.

"I remind countries we welcome commercial competition with China on a fair and reciprocal basis, but when China shows up with bribes to senior leaders in countries in exchange for infrastructure projects that will harm the people of that nation, then this idea of a treasury-run empire build is something that I think would be bad for each of those countries and certainly presents risk to American interests, and we intend to oppose them at every turn," he said.

Pompeo said that the US has been consistent with its strategy on China since the beginning of this administration, which is to recognise the competitive nature of the relationship between the two countries, and as China has taken actions that have provided risk to the American people.

"Whether that's a risk through the stealing of intellectual property or trade rules that are unfair or activity in the South China Sea or their continued expansion in space and their efforts to develop their military, each of those actions has been met with a strong and vigorous response from the United States of America and we'll continue to do so.

"There wasn't a moment, but rather an administration that has recognized the difference in China's behaviour and the requirement for an American response to that changed behaviour," Pompeo said.

Responding to a question on reports of imprisonment of as many as one million Uighurs, Pompeo said that these camps are clearly a Chinese effort to reduce the capacity for Chinese people to exercise their religious freedom.

"We've seen it in many different forms. We've seen it being more difficult for churches to put crosses on the roofs of their buildings. We've seen religious freedom practices be denied in ways that they had not been in years previously," he said.

These are real threats to religious freedom, something that President Trump has directed this administration to take seriously, Pompeo said.

"We are not only talking about this where countries are denying religious freedom around the world, but beginning to use American efforts and global efforts to push back against these denials of the most basic human rights.

"Indeed, an International Religious Freedom Day is upon us and is something the State Department will be talking about a great deal," Pompeo added.  -- PTI
08:05   Suspicious packages addressed to Kamala Harris, Tom Steyer found
Two suspicious packages addressed to Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris and billionaire Democrat Tom Steyer were recovered, taking the number of such packages to 14, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Friday.

Kamala, a rising star in the opposition Democratic Party and a potential presidential candidate, is the first Indian-origin US Senator.

She represents the state of California.

The FBI said the suspicious package addressed to her was recovered from California.

The federal investigating agency also confirmed that a package has been intercepted in California, similar in appearance to the others, addressed to Tom Steyer.

In New York, the FBI intercepted another suspicious package addressed to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. With this, a total of 14 suspicious packages have been recovered from various parts of the country.

Most of them, which the FBI identified were IEDs, have been addressed to top Democratic leaders including former president Barack Obama, former vice president Joe Biden, and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Since Monday, homemade bombs and other suspected explosive devices have been addressed to Obama, Clinton, Hollywood actor Robert De Niro and a slew of figures disliked by the President's supporters.

The FBI has arrested Cesar Sayoc, 56, a resident of Florida on charges of sending package bombs.

He has been charged with five federal crimes.

Sayoc, media reports said, has a criminal history and threatened Democrats on Twitter.

He is reported to have frequently posted far-right conspiracy theories about the opponents of President Donald Trump.  -- PTI
00:23   Navy's reconnaissance aircraft makes first landing in Car Nicobar
The Indian Navy's Boeing P-8i Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Anti Submarine Warfare aircraft made its maiden landing at Car Nicobar, giving the force tactical advantage, the navy said on Friday.
This assumes significance as it comes amid the increasing movement of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean Region.
"#IndianNavy P-8i makes a maiden landing at Car Nicobar, A&N Islands airport thereby increasing our reach & flexibility of Operations deep in our Area of Responsibility in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) @DEFENCEMININDIA @PMOIndia @SpokespersonMoD @IAF_MCC @adgpi @IndiaCoastGuard," the Indian Navy tweeted.
The aircraft need not have to come to the mainland in case the Andaman airport is not operational and can land at Car Nicobar instead, which will give it an edge in conducing its operations 
The Andaman and Nicobar archipelago lies at a strategic location, just ahead of the mouth of the crucial Malacca Straits, one of the most important Sea Lanes of Communications. -- PTI