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LIVE! Rahul takes on SAD, AAP with sanjha chulha moment in Punjab

14:52  Rahul takes on SAD, AAP with sanjha chulha moment in Punjab :  Launching an all-out attack against Arvind Kejriwal in the backdrop of the Maur Mandi blast, Rahul Gandhi today accused him of “helping” forces who want to disturb Punjab’s peace and push it back to the dark days of militancy.

On the last day of the poll campaign in Punjab, Rahul addressed a gathering in Ballian village and referred to the Tuesday night’s car explosion in Maur Mandi, which left six dead. The blast had occurred shortly after the “jansabha” of Congress candidate Harminder Singh Jassi, who is contesting the February 4 elections from Maur Assembly seat.

“The most important thing is the atmosphere you live in. If that atmosphere gets spoiled, violence starts or anger prevails, then the work of farmers, labourers, weaker sections suffers, entire state suffers,” Rahul said.

Taking a veiled dig at the ruling Akalis and the AAP, Rahul said, “from one extremist thinking, Punjab should not go to other extremist thinking. Congress is one such party which takes all sections along. We want that Punjab should rapidly progress.”

“Bomb blast took place and six people died (Maur). Arvind Kejriwal, who is Delhi’s Chief Minister, is helping these forces and helping them raise their head. And this is most dangerous thing for Punjab. “If these forces raise their head again, then entire agenda will be hijacked and Punjab will look in some other direction,” he warned.

Addressing the gathering while sitting a cot with villagers and farmers of Ballian, Rahul also talked about farmers issues, saying during UPA’s time loans of farmers amounting to Rs 70,000 crore were waived off and promised that if Congress forms the next government in the State, the burden of state’s farmers will be lessened.

Image: Rahul Gandhi tweeted this picture saying, “A great start to the day with Sanjha Chulha at village Ballian. Sharing stories, food & a sense of community — the true spirit of Punjab.”  Sanjha Chulha refers to Punjab’s rural tradition of communal cooking and shared bonhomie. 

14:26  Former Union minister E Ahamed laid to rest:  Former Union minister and IUML President, E Ahamed, who passed away at Delhi early yesterday, was laid to rest at the City Jumma Masjid in Kannur, Kerala, today with full state honours. The body, covered with the national flag, was brought to the Masjid for the burial around noon and hundreds had converged to pay their last respects to the leader.
14:16  The nun who says Mother Mary was not a virgin:  A Catholic nun in Spain has caused outrage after she suggested that the Virgin Mary may not have been a virgin after all. The controversial Dominican nun invited the ire of the Catholic Church who responded to her statements in anger.Sister Lucia Caram was speaking on a talk show over the weekend when she let slip her belief that contradicts one of the key pillars of her faith.
Read more

14:14  BSF rejects VRS plea of jawan who posted video, wife says he’s been arrested:  The BSF has rejected Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav’s voluntary retirement on the plea that a court of inquiry is pending against him for alleged indiscipline over uploading videos on social media showing “substandard food” being served to jawans. Yadav’s wife, meanwhile, claimed he had been arrested.

Speaking to ANI, Sharmila Yadav said she had waited for her husband’s arrival on January 31 but he did not turn up. “He later called saying he had been asked to retire. However, even that was cancelled within an hour and later he was arrested,” she said. She added he had called Thursday using someone else’s phone and informed her he was being threatened and tortured mentally.

However, the BSF said “Yadav was not under arrest and his voluntary retirement has been cancelled pending the COI (Court of Inquiry) and finalisation of its recommendations.” They added the news of the cancellation of VRS was communicated to Yadav on the evening of January 30.


13:54  Another unmanned railway crossing and the result:  Collision between a goods train and a pick-up van on the Chandauli-Mughalsarai-Varanasi route. The van driver has been injured. Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced yesterday that the railways will eliminate all unmanned level crossings on broad gauge lines by 2020 and expert international assistance will be harnessed to improve safety preparedness and maintenance practices.

Till that happens, this will.  

13:41  Political parties must file ITR by Dec or lose exemption: Govt:  After capping anonymous cash donations to political parties at Rs 2,000, the government is amending law to make it mandatory for them to file returns on income by December every year or risk losing tax exemption status. It is also changing the law to keep the identity of the donor confidential who buys the just-introduced electoral bonds from banks to make such donations.

13:38  Bastar’s abusive top cop sent on sick leave :   Just in: Bastar top cop DIG SRP Kalluri who threatened activists sent on medical leave. Kalluri had skipped a NHRC hearing saying he was on sick leave. Sundarraj P, Dantewada deputy inspector general of police has been put in charge of Bastar Range in south Chhattisgarh.

This comes in the aftermath of several complaints by activists, lawyers and human rights defenders who said they have received a string of abusive and threatening messages purportedly from phone numbers belonging to Kalluri.

Their ‘crime’: sending messages of concern to Kalluri regarding the hounding of the activist Bela Bhatia. Bhatia, an independent researcher, was threatened by a mob at her home near Bastar, virtually forcing her to leave, supposedly because she was part of an effort to uncover alleged human rights abuses by security forces.

Kalluri has been unwell for a while with kidney and heart problems.

Image: DIG Kalluri (centre) in a file picture.


13:21  UP Polls: Filing of nominations for fifth phase begins:   Filing of nominations for the fifth phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh started this morning with the issuance of notification for 52 seats spread across 11 districts including Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s parliamentary constituency Amethi. The filing of nominations started at 11 AM with issuance of notifications, according to the office of UP Chief Electoral Officer. While the last date of filing nominations is February 9, withdrawals could be made till February 13 while polling will be held on February 27.


12:39  The Kashmiri schoolgirl who defied Burhan Wani:  This is the story of a feisty schoolgirl in Kashmir, who defied all odds and  topped the state’s Class 12 Boards, scoring 498 marks out of 500.

Her name is Shaheera.

Her achievement comes in the wake of a four-month shutdown of education institutions in the Valley last year in the aftermath of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s killing.  In fact, Shaheera is from the same school as Burhan Wani.

Speaking to ANI Shaheer said she was delighted. “I’m delighted at this feat and am thankful to all teachers. I wish to take the NEET examination in future,” she said.

Shaheera’s proud father said he always advised her to study hard. “I told her to be regular and punctual. I hope she she excels in future too.

Last year, at least 27 schools — middle, high and higher secondary schools — have been burnt mysteriously during the unrest. Due to over four month long unrest and shutdown in the Valley, all educational institutions including schools and colleges remained shut.

Despite opposition and protests by students, the government decided to conduct 10th and 12th class examinations of students with 50% syllabus cut and also provided choice to students to appear in exams with full syllabus in March 2017. However, most students decided to appear in exams now with 50% syllabus cut.

In some cases, students appearing for the exams had to face stone pelting with at least four students injured during clashes between stone pelting youth and security forces outside an examination centre in Pahnoo area of south Kashmirs Shopian district.

12:17  Man tries to end life on tracks but escapes miraculously:  A 65-year-old man allegedly attempted to end his life by lying in front of a local train at suburban Vikhroli station in Mumbai, but escaped unhurt as the train passed over him, an RPF official said today. Dinkar Sakpal, the man, jumped on the tracks and lay down as a train arrived on platform 1 at around 11 yesterday morning, an official of the Railway Police Force said. However five bogeys of the train, which was at a low speed, passed over him without he coming under the wheels, before it was stopped and he was pulled out. The incident was captured on CCTV at the station.

12:16  Trump to focus counter-extremism program solely on Islam :  The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

Such a change would reflect Trump’s election campaign rhetoric and criticism of former President Barack Obama for being weak in the fight against Islamic State and for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islam” in describing it. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians in several countries.


12:01  No party, candidate shall publish any ad in print media on Feb 3 and 4: EC :  The Election Commission of India on Thursday has directed that no political party, candidate, organisation or any person will publish any advertisement in the print media on February 3 and 4 unless the contents of the advertisement proposed to be published have been pre-certified by the political parties and candidates from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) committee.

This came after many instances of advertisements of offending and misleading nature have brought to the Election Commission’s notice in the past.

A similar direction has been issued to all the newspapers in Goa and Punjab asking them not to publish any advertisement in the print media on the same dates which has not been pre-certified by the said MCMC.

The Commission further said that in order to facilitate the process of pre-certification of the newspaper advertisements and as instructed above, MCMC at state/district level be immediately alerted and activated in order to examine and pre-certified all such advertisements received from the political parties, candidates and others.


11:56  E Ahamed’s funeral in Kannur today :  The funeral of former union minister and senior Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader E. Ahamed, who passed away in the early hours of Wednesday in Delhi following cardiac arrest, will be held his native city, Kannur in Kerala today.

The body was brought to Karippur in Malapuram last evening, where thousands of people paid homage to their departed leader.

The body was kept at the Hajj House in Kondotty for the public to pay homage and was taken to Kozhikode. The leaders of various political parties including Chief Minister Pinarai Vijayan paid homage to the former union minister at the League House.

Image: PM Modi pays homage at E Ahamed’s home yesterday.

11:50  IED detected on Srinagar-Jammu NH:  Security forces today detected and defused an improvised explosive device (IED) on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway in Pampore area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. A patrol party of police detected the IED planted by militants between Kadlabal and Chursoo section of the National Highway this morning, a police official said. He said the bomb disposal squad was rushed to the spot which destroyed the explosive.

11:42  Did Trump hang up on the Australian PM?:  Senior Australian Government sources have confirmed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Donald Trump had a “robust” and shorter than expected phone call, which Trump reportedly labelled “the worst by far” of a clutch of calls to world leaders.

According to The Washington Post, Trump claimed the refugee resettlement deal struck with former US president Barack Obama was “the worst deal ever”, before abruptly ending the 25-minute phone call.  Read more

Image: US President Donald Trump on the phone with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull. Pic: Reuters.


11:25  Three Pakistani fishing boats seized in Kutch:   Three Pakistan boats seized from Sir Creek area of the Kutch region in Gujarat. Fishing equipment have also been seized from these boats. However, no arrest has been made in this connection and investigations are underway to determine any terror angle into the incident.

Amid heightened security across the nation over continued tensions between India and Pakistan, the Border Security Force had on Tuesday seized two Pakistani boats at Tota border out post in Punjab.  No arrests were made.

In October last year, the BSF seized a Pakistani boat from the same area. The boat was empty and had reportedly got washed away along with its anchor due to rising water level in the sea.

The alert over Pak-sponsored terrorism via the sea route comes after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Representational image.

11:04  Armed Turkish police officer receiving psychiatric treatment attempts suicide at Istanbul hospital:  A Turkish hospital official said an armed police officer receiving psychiatric treatment at an Istanbul hospital barricaded himself into a room and attempted to kill himself, reports the Independent.

Earlier reports had said a gunman was holding doctors and other members of staff hostage at Cerrahpasa hospital, but the spokesman, shown in Dogan news agency video, said all staff had been evacuated from the psychiatry unit.

Police were dispatched to the scene and negotiators are attempting to persuade the man not to kill himself.

The hospital official who initially spoke to journalists outside the building, reporting a hostage situation and causing panic, has not been identified.


11:00  The hero who blocked the Chinese invasion into Assam:  Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, 21, received the Mahavir Chakra in the 1962 War with China. Such was his valour that a temple and museum stands on the land he died defending in the icy valley of Arunachal Pradesh.’s Archana Masih meets his family in Dehradun and discovers that in the home that he left 54 years ago his place is higher than the gods. Do read

IMAGE: Jaswant Singh Rawat is a legend in the Indian Army. His room in Jaswantgarh is a shrine in his memory.

10:57  Sky News sources say Donald Trump was ‘yelling’ during his phone conversation with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and hung up after 25 minutes.

10:47  Trump administration puts Iran ‘on notice’:  President Donald Trump’s national security adviser has said the administration is putting Iran “on notice” after it tested a ballistic missile, allegedly in violation of a UN resolution. “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” Michael Flynn said, signalling a tougher stance against the Islamic country than the previous Obama dispensation.

10:46  You have a bunch of bad hombres down there: Trump calls Mexican prez:  President Donald Trump threatened in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart to send US troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpt of the call did not detail who exactly Trump considered “bad hombres,” nor did it make clear the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s response.

Still, the excerpt offers a rare and striking look at how the new president is conducting diplomacy behind closed doors. Trump’s remarks suggest he is using the same tough and blunt talk with world leaders that he used to rally crowds on the campaign trail.

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. The Mexican Foreign Relations Department told The AP: “The negative statements you refer to did not occur during said telephone call. On the contrary, the tone was constructive.”

The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt given to AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

A person with access to the official transcript of the phone call provided only that portion of the conversation to The Associated Press. The person gave it on condition of anonymity because the administration did not make the details of the call public.

The Mexican website Aristegui Noticias on Tuesday published a similar account of the phone call, based on the reporting of journalist Dolia Estevez. The report described Trump as humiliating Pena Nieto in a confrontational conversation.

Mexico’s foreign relations department denied that account, saying it “is based on absolute falsehoods.”

10:40  Left is absolutely terrified of free speech: Yiannopoulos:  Milo Yiannopoulos responded on Facebook after Wednesday’s event was canceled, saying he had been “evacuated from the UC Berkeley campus after violent left-wing protestors tore down barricades, lit fires, threw rocks and Roman candles at the windows.”

Read his post:

“I have been evacuated from the UC Berkeley campus after violent left-wing protestors tore down barricades, lit fires, threw rocks and Roman candles at the windows and breached the ground floor of the building. My team and I are safe. But the event has been cancelled. I’ll let you know more when the facts become clear. One thing we do know for sure: the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”


10:35  Berkeley university in lockdown over right-wing speaker’s speech:   The University of California at Berkeley went into lockdown on Wednesday amid a violent protest over a planned appearance by a right-wing speaker, with demonstrators throwing barricades, setting fires and lighting firecrackers, reports Reuters.

School officials said on Twitter after the protest erupted that the speech by far-right Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos had been canceled and that the campus was on lockdown.

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, previously headed Breitbart News and CNN reported that many of the protesters voiced opposition to the Republican president.

Many of Trump’s executive orders and proposed policies, including his suspension of the U.S. refugee program and temporary ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, have been met by largely peaceful protests and marches that have drawn tens of thousands of people across the United States.

Police ordered protesters at the liberal-leaning university to disperse and a short time later at least one fire erupted when protesters ignited a light generator outside the student union, according to CNN, which broadcast footage of the demonstration.

Protesters tossed metal barricades through windows at the same building and threw firecrackers and rocks, according to CNN. The crowd appeared to number in the hundreds.

One protester held a sign that said “No Safe Space for Racists” while other protesters danced to hip hop music, footage from a Facebook Live feed showed.

Yiannopoulos, whose account on Twitter was suspended last year after he was accused of participating in the online harassment of an African-American actress, in a statement on Facebook said he was “evacuated” from the campus and criticized “the Left” saying it was “absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”

He also said on Fox News that he was evacuated by police after protesters began throwing rocks and other objects at the building.

“Obviously it’s a liberal campus so they hate any libertarians or conservatives who dare to express an opinion on their campuses. They particularly don’t like me,” he told the network.

Image: Protesters tossed metal barricades through windows and threw firecrackers and rocks. Picture courtesy: UC Berkeley.

10:09  The ever eloquent US President.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!


09:54  Hardline separatist Geelani admitted to hospital:  Senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was last night admitted to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, after he complained of severe chest pain.

Since Geelani is not being allowed to move out of his home due to house arrest, the police was informed that the former needs to be shifted to a hospital.

Geelani, in police custody, was shifted to SKIMS where several tests including ECGs were repeatedly conducted. He was later admitted to medical ICU and is now being constantly observed by specialist doctors.


09:31  Jilted lover sets girl and self ablaze in Kerala medical college:  

At a medical college in Kerala’s Kottayam, 20-year-old Laxmi was sitting in a classroom with a few other students when a young man barged in and poured petrol on her and himself.

As the man, Adarsh, took out a lighter, Laxmi ran out of the classroom screaming.

But Adarsh caught up with her and used a lighter to set her on fire. Then he set himself ablaze.

Laxmi, 20, and Adarsh, 26, died of severe burns in hospital last night. Two classmates who tried to save her were also burnt and are being treated.

They had been in a relationship, say the police.

Adarsh, an ex-student of the college, was allegedly furious at Laxmi for breaking up with him.

09:12  JUST IN: Hurriyat leader SAS Geelani admitted to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences last night, after he complained of severe chest pain. He was later admitted to medical ICU and is now being constantly observed by specialist doctors.


09:01  Apple’s Tim Cook contemplating legal action over Trump’s travel ban:  

Apple Inc is considering taking legal action in response to US President Donald Trump’s controversial refugee and immigration ban, CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. 

Cook did not elaborate on the potential action, telling the Journal only that, “We want to be constructive and productive.”

Apple has also pledged to double any donations made by its employees to refugee relief funds.

“More than any country in the world, this country is strong because of our immigrant background and our capacity and ability as people to welcome people from all kinds of backgrounds,” said Cook. “That’s what makes us special.”

Cook’s comments expand on an e-mail he sent to employees over the weekend, hours after Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven countries from entering the US. The 90-day ban hits people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya.

08:22  Trump to focus counter-extremism program solely on Islam :  The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a US government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

Such a change would reflect Trump’s election campaign rhetoric and criticism of former President Barack Obama for being weak in the fight against Islamic State and for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islam” in describing it. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians in several countries.

Read full story HERE

07:58  Former chairman of Exxon Mobil sworn-in as US secretary of state:  

Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has been sworn in as US President Donald Trump’s secretary of state after having been confirmed by the Senate earlier in the day.

“Though you inherit enormous challenges in the Middle East and around the world, I do believe we can achieve peace and stability in these very, very troubled times,” Trump said at the swearing-in ceremony in the White House’s Oval Office.

Tillerson, 64, who was confirmed by the Senate in a 56-43 vote, was administered the oath of office by Vice President Mike Pence.

However, his nomination was opposed by Democratic lawmakers in the Senate, who raked up his ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

In remarks on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said Tillerson’s “extensive and longstanding ties with Russia” meant that the US couldn’t trust him to be a strong advocate for their interests.

“Secretary Tillerson’s close personal and business ties with President Putin give me no confidence that he would be an effective force in America’s dealings with Russia,” said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.


00:17  Indian Americans launch community-wide effort against Trump’s travel ban:  Two Indian-American lawmakers along with two former top Obama Administration diplomats have launched a community-wide effort to oppose the ‘unlawful, unconstitutional, and un-American’ executive orders that impacts the immigrant community in the US imposed by President Donald Trump on seven Muslim countries.

The lawmakers — Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamoorthi — joined by former Obama Administration official and top Indian-American leaders urged the community to stand united and fight jointly against these executive orders.

Jayapal has emerged as one of the national figures in fight against executive orders that impacts the immigrant community in the US.

“Last week’s executive orders on immigration have thrown the country to chaos,” she said, adding that Trump’s attack on immigrant and refugee community ignored everything that is great about this country.

“This is not normal and it is not constitutional. It also makes us far less safe as a country,” she said, noting that the executive orders gives fodder to those who do want to harm America.

“It undermines our place in the world as global compassionate democratic leader,” she said as she lashed out at Republican Hindu Coalition for supporting the executive orders.

“Today a group calling itself as Republican Hindu Coalition will announce its support for un-American executive orders. And to them I would say, shame. Shame for trying to divide the Indian-American community. As a Hindu, I can tell you that this group does not represent the much, much larger Indian American community that honour our birth countries commitment to religious freedom and democracy,” Jayapal said.

Indian-Americans, she said, will not be bullied by this President or any group that seems to divide the community.

“The Republican Hindu Coalition does not represent us. As Indian Americans, I can tell you, we believe deeply in pluralism, in freedom of religion, in freedom of speech and in a democratic diverse society,” Jayapal said.

Nisha Desai Biswal, the former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said, “I am here today not only as former State Department official, but also as an Indian American, as Hindu, an immigrant and most importantly as a proud American to speak out against this executive order that was issued by President Trump which imposes an unjust, un American and we believe unconstitutional ban on immigrants and refugees from certain nationalities and certain faiths.” — PTI

Source: Rediff