Newsletter 3rd June, 2018





Notwithstanding the consternation in Congress camp over his upcoming Nagpur visit, former President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday reiterated his plan to address RSS workers on June 7 saying he would respond to the issue in Nagpur.

“Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur. I have received several letters and phone calls but I haven’t responded to anyone yet,” Bengal daily Anandbazar Patrika quoted Mukherjee as saying.

The former President’s remarks came after his ex-colleague in UPA Cabinet Jairam Ramesh joined the growing list of Congress leaders who have advised him to skip the ceremony in the interest of “secularism”.

Ramesh, in a letter to Mukherjee, is learnt to have expressed “hurt” over the move and said the visit would adversely impact secular solidarity in the country and send wrong signals when Congress and other parties were fighting the RSS ideology of hate and division.





The Congress has extended support to an ongoing 10-day farmers’ agitation and blasted the Narendra Modi government for making “false promises” to raise the hopes of peasants but delivering little on the ground.

Farmers in many states, including Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh, dumped vegetables and milk on the roads instead of taking the produce to the wholesale market.

The Congress general secretary in charge of the organisation, Ashok Gehlot, tweeted on Saturday: “This country has never seen such a strong resentment against a government among the farmers.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress described the farmers’ protest as a “sign of their desperation in the face of the wrongs being perpetrated on them by the central government”.

Union minister Nitin Gadkari, however, blamed the global economic situation and surplus production for the farm woes, and assured that the Centre was working on “a war footing” to solve their problems.

Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Saturday said the protest by farmers were attempts to get media attention, triggering demands by Opposition parties for his removal.

“It requires some unusual deeds to appear in the media. There are crores of farmers in the country but only a few farmers have been staging protest. It has no relevance at all,” the minister said at a press conference when asked about the agitation.





Srinagar remained on edge on Saturday after three grenade explosions in the span of three hours, and fierce protests over the death of a 21-year-old who had been run over and killed by a CRPF vehicle a day earlier.

Qaiser Amin Bhat, who was among the hundreds who had turned out to protest against the firing of tear gas shells outside the Jama Masjid on May 25, was knocked down by a CRPF vehicle at Srinagar’s Nowhatta.

While Bhat’s family said he fell as the vehicle hit him, the CRPF spokesperson in Srinagar alleged that a mob charged at one of their vehicles in which one of the officers of the 28th Battalion, Second-in-Command S S Yadav, was travelling. “The officer was there to survey the deployment on Friday. The vehicle came under attack from hundreds of youth in the area. They attempted to move out of there and had they not done that, they would have been overpowered and lynched,” he said, adding that the officer was accompanied by four escort personnel and a driver. “The personnel in the vehicle were carrying weapons but they did not fire, despite coming under attack,” he said.

As the evening progressed, Srinagar grew tense as news of the grenade explosions came in. Six people, including four CRPF personnel and two civilians, were injured in the grenade explosions.





When Mayawati announced on Saturday she was vacating her official bungalow in Lucknow that she has been accused of illegally occupying, even many within her Bahujan Samaj Party were surprised.

Such docility seemed out of character for their feisty “Behenji”, never known to take a step back in the face of criticism from political rivals, the media or party members.

On Saturday, Mayawati was all propriety when she declared she was abiding by the Supreme Court order. “My critics are saying I’m not ready to vacate it because they are desperate after their defeats in the Phulpur, Gorakhpur, Kairana and Noorpur by-elections,” she told reporters. “They planted news against me….”





Three days after an 18-year-old member of the BJP’s youth wing was found hanging from a tree in Balarampur in West Bengal’s Purulia district, a second BJP worker has been found dead in another village in the same area.

Dulal Kumar, 32, a member of the local BJP OBC cell, was found hanging from an electricity transmission tower in Balarampur’s Dabha village Saturday. As the BJP accused the Trinamool Congress of carrying out a campaign of political murders, the state government called in the West Bengal CID to probe both deaths, and removed the district superintendent of police.

Dulal Kumar’s wife Monika alleged her husband had been killed by the Trinamool. “He had received threats and has been murdered by TMC goons,” she said.

In two posts on Twitter, BJP president Amit Shah said: “Distressed to know about yet another killing of BJP karyakarta Dulal Kumar in Balrampur, West Bengal. This continued brutality and violence in the land of West Bengal is shameful and inhuman. Mamata Banerjee’s govt has completely failed to maintain law and order in the state.”

In Kolkata, union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar described Kumar’s death as a “rajnaitik hatya”, and said political murders had become endemic in the state. “The BJP has lost 19 workers to political murders during the process of the panchayat elections,” Javadekar said.









The United States’ closest allies attacked the Trump administration on Friday for imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and mounted challenges with the world’s top trade body, fouling the mood at a G7 finance leaders meeting.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was the prime target of the criticism at the meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors in Canada, with the six other G7 member countries subject to the U.S. metals tariffs, which were imposed on national security grounds.

The tariffs also are complicating U.S. efforts to gain cooperation to challenge China’s trade practices as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross arrives in Beijing on Saturday for talks aimed at averting a U.S.-China trade war.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, whose country’s steel and aluminum producers have been paying the U.S. metals tariffs since March 23, called the U.S. action “deeply deplorable.”

“This doesn’t happen that often at G7 meetings, but it was U.S. against everyone else,” Mr. Aso told reporters.





New Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had been barely sworn in Saturday before one of the country’s most critical issues facing his fragile government was pressed upon him — ending the Catalan secession crisis.

Not even two hours after Mr. Sanchez had taken his oath to uphold the Spanish Constitution, Catalan chief Quim Torra demanded to meet with Mr. Sanchez and speak “government to government” regarding the future of the restive north eastern region.

“Pedro Sanchez, let us talk, take risks, both you and I, let us sit down at a table and talk, government to government,” Mr. Torra said after swearing in his Cabinet in Barcelona.

Mr. Torra, who was chosen by separatist lawmakers to lead the region last month, said that his government “accepts the charge to continue forward with the mandate to form an independent state.”

Sanchez has just 84 seats in the 350-member Assembly, which could make any bold move on Catalonia much difficult.









Parts of Shillong remained tense for the third straight day as protesters clashed with security personnel until late Saturday night and authorities declared a seven-hour night curfew across the city.

Late Friday night, the Army conducted a flag march in the restive areas after protesters set a house near the Them Iew Mawlong locality on fire and threw stones and petrol bombs at security personnel.

Police have so far arrested 10 people in connection with the violence that began on Thursday following an altercation between a Khasi boy and a Punjabi woman in Them Iew Mawlong, a Punjabi settlement in Shillong with around 350 households. The settlement is also called the ‘Punjabi Lane’.

Residents of Punjabi Lane say the anger directed at the community is part of a long-standing demand from sections of the Khasi society to get them evicted from the area.

Says a resident: “Since the 1980s, they (Khasis) have been calling us illegal settlers and asking for us to be shifted out of this place. But we have been living here forever and we will stay here. That is our stand.” He said his ancestors, mostly Dalits from Punjab, had come to Shillong around 200 years ago, brought by the British to work as cleaners and sweepers.

Soon after the Thursday incident, several organisations in Shillong, including the powerful Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), reiterated their demand for the “eviction” of the “illegal settlers”.

Calling the residents of Punjabi Lane “trouble-mongers who often harass Khasi people”, KSU general secretary Donald Thabah said, “We demand that the illegal settlers in that area are immediately evicted. Those who assaulted the minor Khasi boy should be booked under stringent laws. And the Khasi protesters arrested in the clashes should be released and those injured must be compensated.”





Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken has dismissed all suggestions of talks with the Aam Aadmi Party for an alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “No Congress activist or any leader wants a deal with (chief minister Arvind) Kejriwal’s party for two reasons,” Maken told reporters.

“The biggest reason is the decreasing popularity of Kejriwal for not performing,” the Congress leader said, adding that the second reason was that Kejriwal, along with Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Ramdev and Gen. V.K. Singh, had “hoisted the demon of” Narendra Modi in 2012-13 “with the backing of the RSS and the BJP”.

“No official talk has happened with any leader of the party (AAP),” Maken added.

Maken made the comments a day after he fought with AAP spokespersons on Twitter after Kejriwal’s party declared the names of those who would be in charge of five of Delhi’s seven parliamentary constituencies. AAP leader Dilip Pandey had claimed that the Congress had been demanding a seat from his party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The AAP had polled 54.3 per cent votes in the 2015 elections, but it came down to 25.8 per cent in the municipal polls last year. On the other hand, the Congress’s vote share has gone up from 9.7 per cent in 2015 to 21.2 per cent in 2017.





A new book by a Pakistani journalist claims that Pakistan and India had a “done deal” through backchannel diplomacy to end the Kargil confrontation at the end of June 1999, a month before it finally wound to a close with the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from their encroachments on the Indian side, and that India backtracked because it was confident that US pressure would force Pakistan to pull back.

Nasim Zehra had reported this “deal” at the time, and it was not denied by the Indian side. Her book From Kargil to The Coup: Events That Shook Pakistan, released in Pakistan last week, contains more details, but is mostly an indictment of a “clique of generals” headed by then Pakistan Army chief Pervez Musharraf, who planned and implemented the Kargil operation in secrecy and autonomously of the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif.

Released days after The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace by two former heads of the Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies caused a backlash in Pakistan against the Pakistani co-author, Lt Gen Asad Durrani (retd), for appearing to endorse the view that Pakistani military had made several wrong decisions, Zehra’s book is a narration of how the military took that country to the brink in Kargil without the Sharif government’s authorisation, and finally pinned the blame on him, claiming that Pakistan would have achieved all the objectives of the operation if only the political leadership hadn’t panicked and succumbed to US pressure.

The book also comes at a time when Sharif, judicially ousted as Prime Minister in 2017 and disqualified for life by the Pakistan Supreme Court, is embroiled in a battle of wits with Pakistan Army, and has been painted as “pro-India” weeks ahead of national elections in which his party remains a powerful contender.

According to Zehra, an influential media voice in Pakistan, though the book may be seen as being “pro-Sharif”, it is also about the former Prime Minister’s naivete back in 1999.

When and whether Sharif got to know about Kargil has always been a question. Zehra is unequivocal that it was sprung on him nearly five months after the generals had begun implementing it, even as he and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had embarked on a diplomatic process with the Lahore Declaration in March 1999.





The RSS’s economic and labour outfits on Saturday asked the government not to approve the Walmart-Flipkart deal and declared war on e-commerce websites, claiming that most of them followed a “cash burning” model that was against the country’s interest.

“Government departments cannot allow the Walmart-Flipkart deal to go through,” Swadeshi Jagran Manch national convener Ashwani Mahajan said.

“We are not against e-commerce but platforms that are engaged in the cash burning model cannot be allowed to run. They are trying to capture the Indian market to finish off our domestic businesses, farmers, etc,” he declared.

Walmart last month announced a deal to acquire 77 per cent stake in Flipkart, an Indian e-commerce giant.

The RSS affiliates said the deal was illegal and accused Walmart of trying to capture the Indian market through the backdoor. They vowed a countrywide agitation to stop the deal from getting government approval.

Mahajan said most e-commerce platforms doing business in India followed the “cash burning” model – engaging in “predatory pricing” and suffering losses to capture the market. He also cited taxi aggregator Uber. Other speakers named e-commerce portals Myntra and Jabong.





Apple next week will debut tools to let two iPhone users share augmented reality (AR) while limiting the personal data sent to its servers, two people familiar with the matter said this week.

AR allows viewers to see virtual structures superimposed on their surroundings via their smartphones or other devices. It is the technology used in mobile game Pokemon Go, and by industry, such as factories seeking to map new assembly lines. Apple and rival Google are racing to release AR tools to attract software developers to their platforms. Both are seeking to allow two people to share data so they can see the same virtual object in the same space via their individual devices. But that has sparked privacy concerns – if AR apps become commonplace, people will be scanning their homes and other personal spaces routinely, developers say.

Apple designed its two-player system to work phone-to-phone in part because of those privacy concerns, one of the people familiar with the matter said.





Actor-producer Arbaaz Khan, the brother of superstar Salman Khan, was questioned for five hours by the Thane Police in connection with the alleged IPL betting racket on Saturday. While police claimed Arbaaz had accepted having placed bets in the past, the actor told reporters while leaving the office of the Anti-Extortion Cell that he had answered all the police’s questions, and would cooperate with the investigation.

Meanwhile, bookie Sonu Jalan alias Sonu Malad, whose questioning had thrown up Arbaaz Khan’s name, was produced before a court and remanded in police custody until June 6. The electronic equipment used by Jalan had been sent for forensic examination, officers said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Abhishek Trimukhe said, “During his (Arbaaz Khan’s) questioning he has said that he has placed bets in the past. He, however, said that he does not remember the amount for which he has placed bets. We are verifying these claims.”

On May 16, the Thane Police had arrested five bookies who were allegedly running a betting racket out of Dombivli. The bookies were allegedly using a software to place bets online. Based on their interrogation, the police arrested Sonu Jalan, allegedly a top bookie with international links, earlier this week.





Every England batsmen contributed but not one reached a half-century as Joe Root’s side ratcheted up the pressure on Pakistan in the second Test to lead by 128 at the end of a rain-affected second day at Headingley on Saturday.

By the late close, England had reached 302/7.

After the morning session was lost to the weather, England mixed watchful defence with occasional attack to increase their stranglehold on the game and further their chances of levelling the two-test series.

Their batsmen were heavily criticised for lack of application during their nine-wicket first-test defeat but looked much more impressive in Leeds, building a strong platform from which their bowlers can attack on Sunday.







K. Khachanov vs A. Zverev (2)

D. Thiem (7) vs K. Nishikori (19)

D. Goffin (8) vs M. Cecchinato

N. Djokovic (20 vs F. Verdasco (30)

D. Schwartzman (11) vs  K. Anderson (6)

R. Nadal (1) vs. M. Marterer

J. Isner (9) vs J. del Potro (5)

M. Čilić (3) vs F. Fognini (18)




M. Keys (13) vs M. Buzărnescu (31)

B. Strýcová (26) vs Y. Putintseva

A. Kontaveit (25) S. Stephens (10)

D. Kasatkina (14) C. Wozniacki (2)

G. Muguruza (3) vs L. Tsurenko

A. Kerber (12) C. Garcia (7)

S. Halep (1) vs E. Mertens (16)

S. Williams vs M. Sharapova (28)





Many things are improbable, only a few are impossible. – Elon Musk





An astrologer once told my friend Anil: “Someday many beautiful girls would want to give you money. Lots of money.”

And yesterday Anil told me, “Sadly, the pandit was right” Before I could ask him what’s so SAD about beautiful girls wanting to give you lots of money, he was on the phone, yelling, “No, No, No, Lady! I don’t want your stupid personal loan. Now stop calling me.”

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