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Gujarat gay prince throws open palace doors for LGBT community

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Mumbai: The only openly gay prince in India is throwing open his palace doors to lesbians, gays, transgender and other Indians shunned for their sexuality.

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, heir apparent to the throne of Rajpipla in Gujarat, said it was particularly hard to come out in small-town India, where traditional values hold sway and heterosexual relations are the norm.

“People still face a lot of pressure from their families when they come out, being forced to marry, or thrown out of their homes. They often have nowhere to go, no means to support themselves,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

 

So the prince, 52, is building a centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) on the grounds of his ancestral palace.

“I am not going to have children, so I thought, why not use this space for a good purpose?” Gohil said, adding that he will offer rooms, a medical facility and training in English and vocational skills to help people find jobs.

Gohil came out to his family more than a decade ago, prompting his mother to take out a newspaper advertisement disowning him.

After coming out, Gohil set up the Lakshya Trust, a charity for LGBT people in his conservative home state, and became a champion for gay rights. He has made numerous international appearances, including The Oprah Winfrey Show.

He is a vocal critic of the colonial-era law that criminalises consensual sexual relations between same sex adults. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court said it would reconsider its 2013 decision to uphold the law.

“Lifting the law will encourage more people to come out and live their lives freely. But it may also mean more people in need of support,” Gohil said.

Gohil said he is renovating and extending his palace, built in 1927, on the 15-acre site, installing solar panels for power, and reserving some land for organic farming.

An online crowdfunding campaign and donations are financing the centre, which will be managed by his charity, he said.

Gohil’s high profile has helped the LGBT community in India enormously, said Harish Iyer, a gay rights activist who hosts a radio show dedicated to LGBT issues.

“For him to be one of us, the stakes are even higher, so providing this space is a great gesture,” he said.

“We are lucky to have many LGBT-friendly spaces in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. But in smaller towns, there are not so many places, and that is where they are most needed.”


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‘Voter ID more powerful than IED’, says Modi after casting vote

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Mumbai: Voters in India are wise and their ID is more powerful than the IEDs of terrorists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after voting in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad.

The Prime Minister arrived to vote in an open jeep as he walked down the streets with the BJP’s candidate in Ahmedabad East, Hasmukhbhai Somabhai Patel, and addressed the media after voting inside the polling booth in Nishan Higher Secondary School in Ranip area of Ahmedabad.

“Today, the third phase of polling is underway. I am fortunate that I got the opportunity to fulfil my duty in my home state of Gujarat. Like one feels pure after a holy dip during the Kumbh, I feel pure after casting vote in this festival of democracy,” the Prime Minister said while speaking to reporters.

 

“The weapon of terrorism is IED, the strength of democracy is voter’s ID. I can say with surety that the voter’s ID is much much more powerful than an IED, so we should understand the strength of our voter IDs,” Modi said.

Amid chants of “Modi, Modi”, the Prime Minister came out after casting his ballot, showed his inked finger and acknowledged the people gathered outside the booth. He also walked a little distance as people continued to chant his name.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s president Amit Shah, who is up against the Congress’ three-term legislator CJ Chavda in Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat, accompanied the Prime Minister.

Earlier, Modi met his mother at her house in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar. Photographs tweeted by news agency ANI showed the Prime Minister touching nearly 99-year-old Heeraben Patel’s feet as she blesses him. Modi also met people outside his mother’s house before getting in.

All the 26 parliamentary constituencies in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat is polling in the third phase of ongoing general elections and the contest is primarily between the ruling BJP and Congress. The BJP won all 26 seats in 2014.

The third phase of the Lok Sabha elections will see as many as 117 seats across 15 states and two Union territories going to vote on April 23. Among the seats will be a solitary seat from Tripura, Tripura East, where elections were delayed by one phase due to security reasons.

Chants of “Modi, Modi” were heard as he came out after casting his ballot and acknowledged the people gathered outside the booth. He also walked a little distance as people continued to chant his name.

Earlier, Modi met his mother at her house in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar. Photographs tweeted by news agency ANI showed the Prime Minister touching nearly 99-year-old Heeraben Patel’s feet as she blesses him. Modi also met people outside his mother’s house in Gandhinagar before getting in the house.

All the 26 parliamentary constituencies in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat is polling in the third phase of ongoing general elections and the contest is primarily between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress. The BJP won all 26 seats in 2014.

The third phase of the Lok Sabha elections will see as many as 117 seats across 15 states and two Union territories going to vote on April 23. Among the seats will be a solitary seat from Tripura, Tripura East, where elections were delayed by one phase due to security reasons.

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SC notice to lawyer who was ‘offerred money to frame CJI for harassment’

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from a lawyer, who had made a sensational claim that there was a conspiracy to make CJI Ranjan Gogoi resign by “framing him” in a false case of sexual harassment.

A three-judge special bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra issued notice to lawyer Utsav Singh Bains and sought his response with regard to his claim that he was also offered Rs 1.5 crore to represent a former apex court woman employee and arrange a presser against the CJI at the Press Club of India here. The bench, which also comprised Justices R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta, has now fixed the case titled as a matter of “great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary”, for hearing on Wednesday at 10:30 am.

The lawyer had filed an affidavit on Monday following the unprecedented hearing on Saturday during which the CJI had said a larger conspiracy was behind it and that he would not stoop too low even to deny these allegations.

 
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Rahul ‘regrets’ using SC reference in ‘chowkidar chor hai’ remark over Rafale deal

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New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday filed his response to a contempt petition filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Meenakshi Lekhi over his remark on the Rafale deal. Rahul said that he ‘regrets’ using Supreme Court’s reference in ‘chowkidar chor hai’ remark and it was ‘made in the heat of the political campaign.’

SC had last week issued a notice to Rahul Gandhi in connection to the contempt petition and sought an explanation from him.

In his response, the Congress president said that the statement was made in the “heat of political campaigning” but alleged that it has been “used and misused by political opponents.”

 

“I will not attribute any views, observations or findings to the court in political addresses to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the Court,” Rahul Gandhi said.

“It is also clear that no court would ever do that (say Chowkidar Chor hai) and hence the unfortunate references (for which I express regret) to the court order and to the political juxtaposition in the same breath in the heat of the political campaigning,” he added.

The Supreme Court will hear the matter .

After the apex court had dismissed preliminary objection raised by the Centre seeking review of the earlier judgment in the Rafale case, the Congress president remarked: “Supreme Court has said chowkidar chor hai in the verdict.”

While making the observations last week, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said: “We make it clear that views, observations, findings attributed to this court in the alleged speeches, remarks made by Gandhi to media/public have been incorrectly attributed to this court. We also make it clear that this court had no occasion to make such observation in as much as it was deciding legal admissibility of certain documents which were objected by the attorney general.”

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