QBullet: Sonia Meets Mehbooba, Jaish Rises Like Phoenix in Pak

QBullet: The Quint’s compilation of the stories making news across the country. 

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India
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 Sonia Gandhi arrives at the residence of deceased Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mufti Mohammad Syed to offer her condolences to Mehbooba Mufti. (Photo: PTI)

1. ‘Questionable’ Troop Movement: Manish Tewari’s Confirmation Unites Congress and BJP in Denial

Former union minister Manish Tewari had remarked that a 2012 report in The Indian Express report on the movement of troops was “unfortunate but true.”

While the Congress appeared divided on their reaction to Tewari’s statement, senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar confirmed that “something” had indeed happened on that night in 2012. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the official spokesperson of the party, however, dismissed Tewari’s statement and questioned his locus standi.

Congress leader Manish Tewari addresses during INFOCOM 2015 in Kolkata, on Dec 3, 2015. (Photo: IANS)
Congress leader Manish Tewari addresses during INFOCOM 2015 in Kolkata, on Dec 3, 2015. (Photo: IANS)

A member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence when the report appeared on April 4, 2012, Tewari stood his ground. He said he had nothing to add to, or subtract from, what he had said.

On the night of January 16, 2012, central intelligence agencies reported an unexpected (and non-notified) movement by a key military unit, from the mechanised infantry based in Hisar (Haryana) as a part of the 33rd Armoured Division in the direction of the capital, 150 km away. Any suspicion was still considered much too implausible, but lookouts were alerted as a routine step. The lookouts confirmed the movement of what looked like a sizeable unit.

Report in The Indian Express on April 4, 2012.

2. With ISS Backing, Jaish-e-Muhammad Rises Like a Phoenix in Pakistan

In a seminary in Dera Ismail Khan on New Year’s Eve, hundreds gathered on the bank of the Indus to spend the evening listening to stories from the life and times of Prophet Muhammad. A student debate on the lessons of the Quranic-era battle of Uhud was also scheduled, and Jihadists from the city, who had been killed in Kashmir, were eulogized.

What followed was a videotape of the event, in which Jaish-e-Muhammad terrorists were seen making their way across the Punjab border to attack the Pathankot airbase. The jihad commander delivered a mocking promise.

“People threatening to snatch away jihad from us can’t even snatch away your wooden toothbrush,” said Abdul Rauf Azhar, the military chief of the Jaish.

Large meetings, like the one held in Dera Ismail Khan, have allowed the organisation to raise funds for a lavish new 16-acre headquarters in Bahawalpur, charitable operations, and military training camps. Estimates by India’s intelligence services show the Jaish may now have upwards of 500 trained jihadists at its disposal.

Report in The Indian Express.

3. Confusion Persists But Change Buzz Grows As Sonia Meets Mehbooba

Mehbooba Mufti met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Sunday as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief continued to delay assuming her duties as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir following the death of her father, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Her reluctance to take on the mantle immediately has set off speculations of political re-alignments in the state.

Sonia Gandhi with Mehbooba Mufti. (Photo: PTI)
Sonia Gandhi with Mehbooba Mufti. (Photo: PTI)

Congress and PDP leaders insisted the 30 minute meeting in Mufti’s nature was a “purely personal meeting that has nothing to do with politics”.

PDP sources said there was no clarity yet on government formation despite a late-night meeting of party workers and legislators at her home. Mehbooba made a brief appearance and avoided talking politics.

Report in the Hindustan Times

Experts are seeing Mehbooba’s delay taking over the CM post as a sign that the PDP is trying to avoid “renegotiation with the BJP” as several leaders in that party are pushing for better portfolios.

Although the BJP has agreed to back Mehbooba as J&K’s new CM, the part is yet to officially confirm its support to governor NN Vohra.

Meanwhile, the PDP has yet to communicate on government formation in the state.

4. Air Pollution by Vehicular Traffic Reduced to Half

Air pollution caused by vehicular traffic has dropped dramatically, by over 50 percent in Delhi on Saturday, mainly due to conducive weather conditions, the Delhi government said on Sunday. Scientists are of the opinion that the moment weather conditions improve further, the results of the odd-even formula in the city will show immediate results, reports the Asian Age.

Vehicles ply on a smog enveloped morning during a two-week experiment to reduce the number of cars to fight pollution in New Delhi. (Photo: AP)
Vehicles ply on a smog enveloped morning during a two-week experiment to reduce the number of cars to fight pollution in New Delhi. (Photo: AP)

“More than 50 per cent drop in air pollution primarily caused by vehicular traffic has been recorded according to the latest ambient air data collected by mobile teams of Delhi Pollution Control Committee on Saturday at 18 locations, through mobile dust samplers on using the light scattering technique,” the Kejriwal government said in a statement.

Experts have put Saturday’s air quality in the “moderate” category, rare during the city’s winters, which is responsible for soaring levels of pollutants.

According to the scientists, Saturday’s favourable weather conditions helped improve air quality. PM 2.5 air pollution levels on Saturday showed recordings of less than 100 micrograms/m3 at nine locations, which is more than 50 per cent less than average recordings since the odd-even regulations were put in place, the AAP government said.

Report in the Asian Age

5. Centre Bats For Open-Book Tests at Board Level

Gunning for reform, the HRD Ministry has urged state and central school boards to consider introducing open-book tests in secondary- and senior secondary-level examinations.

Open-book tests allow students to refer to their notes or textbooks while answering questions. The focus will not be on memorising, but on applying information contextually. Examinees are expected to not merely reproduce textbook material, but to interpret it in the context of specific questions and scenarios.

Dr Khuntia stated that the conceptual clarity should be tested in the exams rather than rote memory of the students. The purpose of education is to make students more conscious and aware of surroundings as well as be able to lead their life in a better way. He said that Open Book based examination is a good point for consideration as the testing will not be on memory but on comprehension and understanding. In such a format, rote learning will not work as the pattern of questions will focus on thinking.

Report in The Indian Express

6. Fight is Only Between Me and Kejriwal, says Amarinder

A week before Arvind Kejriwal’s rally at Muktasar to jumpstart the Aam Aadmi Party’s campaign for the Punjab Assembly polls, Pradesh Congress Committee president Capt. Amarinder Singh said the real fight was between him and Kejriwal.

Amarinder Singh (second from right) with party members. (Photo: Facebook/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Capt.Amarinder/photos/pb.189701787748828.-2207520000.1448662032./1023025797749752/?type=3&amp;theater"> Amarinder Singh</a>)
Amarinder Singh (second from right) with party members. (Photo: Facebook/ Amarinder Singh)

In an interview to The Hindu, he said the frustrated youth had made the State desperate in its search for an alternative.

The AAP is a phenomenon that I didn’t expect to do well in the general election. The youth are looking for work; that is not available as Punjab has been mismanaged for so many years. Industry has left Punjab. Economy has collapsed. India is looking at 7.4 percent growth, we are at 5.7 percent. I brought in the service sector, I brought in companies like Quark, Dell, Infosys, and these chaps [the Akalis] closed them down. There are no jobs. People out of sheer frustration say we’ve seen the Akalis, we’ve seen the Congress, let’s give these guys a chance.

Report in The Hindu

7. India a Tolerant Nation, Says Taslima Nasreen

Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen believes that India is not intolerant; it is in fact a nation with a few intolerant fringe groups. She also believes that the focus should be on fundamentalists at large, regardless of whether they are Hindu and Muslim.

Exlied Bangladeshi author, Taslima Nasreen, says India is not intolerant. (Photo: <a href="https://twitter.com/taslimanasreen/status/651860720141905920">Twitter</a>)
Exlied Bangladeshi author, Taslima Nasreen, says India is not intolerant. (Photo: Twitter)

I think India is a tolerant country, but some people are intolerant. In every society, there are some intolerant people,” the self-exiled author said at an event here, while referring to the recent violence in Malda in West Bengal. She said while there was talk about Hindu fundamentalists, one had to talk of Muslim fundamentalists as well.

Taslima Nasreen

Nasreen advocated for absolute freedom of speech, regardless of whether it offended some people. “If we do not open our mouths, society will not evolve.” She participated in a discussion on ‘Coming of the Age of Intolerance’ at the Delhi Literature Festival at Dilli Haat on Saturday evening.

Read The Hindu’s story here.

8. Like a Ponzi Scheme, Kejriwal Bubble Will Burst Sooner or Later

The Aam Aadmi Party won a definitive victory in Delhi because the people were desperate for change and let down by the other parties. Arvind Kejriwal projected himself as the epitome of honesty, a 21st century Moses who would lead Delhi to the land of milk and honey. However, now that the haze is beginning to clear, it is becoming increasingly clear that he has no solutions to the peoples’ problems, writes Markandey Katju for the Hindustan Times.

Markandey Katju (Photo: Twitter/ <a href="https://twitter.com/mkatju">Markandey Katju</a>)
Markandey Katju (Photo: Twitter/ Markandey Katju)

Also people are disillusioned by his dictatorial mentality when he sacked the co-founders of AAP and surrounded himself with chamchas, allocated Rs 536 crore for his self-promoting ads and increased salaries for his MLAs. Seeing his popularity decline he has now resorted to headline-grabbing gimmicks like car-free day, going on a bicycle, lokpal (which many people called jokepal), and now the odd-even scheme.

9. Difficulty of Coming Together

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much spoken-about visit to Lahore on the birthday of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, television showcased a Sangh Parivar stalwart’s view that the road to Akhand Bharat was open.

One can react to this dangerous delusion whichever way one likes — laugh derisively or weep — but Inder Malhotra, a political commentator, thinks it necessary to recall and recount an instructive event in the subcontinent’s history that took place half a century ago.

Read Malhotra’s opinion piece in The Indian Express.

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