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Opening round of Indo-Pak talks on Kartarpur held

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Attari, Mar 14: India Thursday sought visa-free access from Pakistan for 5,000 pilgrims per day to the historic Sikh shrine in Kartarpur.
This was conveyed to the Pakistani delegation at a meeting here to discuss the opening of a planned corridor for pilgrims between Punjab’s Gurdaspur district and Kartarpur Sahib across the border.
“From our side, we have pressed for at least 5,000 pilgrims per day to be allowed to visit the holy Sikh shrine in the initial phase,” S C L Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, told reporters.
This was the first meeting between an Indian and a Pakistani delegation since tensions between the two countries spiked after the attack in Pulwama, followed by retaliatory air strikes.
Das said Delhi wanted access for both Indians and people of Indian origin to the shrine, located where Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev spent the last years of his life.
“We have also strongly urged them to allow the visit of pilgrims for all seven days a week without any break,” he said after the meeting.
India emphasised that the corridor should be absolutely visa-free, Das said. “There should not be any additional encumbrances in the form of any documentation or procedure,” he added.
India also wants Pakistan to allow devotees who want to travel on foot to the shrine across the border.
A statement earlier said the first meeting between officials of India and Pakistan to discuss the modalities for opening the Kartarpur corridor was held in a “cordial environment”.
The Indian delegation was led by S C L Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Pakistani team was headed by Mohammad Faisal, Director General (SA & SAARC) of its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the statement said.
“Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalising the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor,” the statement said.
Technical experts from both sides discussed the alignment and other details of the proposed corridor.

Kashmir bearing brunt of hostilities while India-Pak discuss Kartarpur: Mehbooba

Srinagar, Mar 14: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti Thursday said India and Pakistan were holding talks on Kartarpur corridor but the people of Jammu and Kashmir were bearing the brunt of the hostilities between the two countries.
“This is what we have been talking about that why is it only that Jammu and Kashmir bears the brunt whenever there are hostilities between India and Pakistan. If Kartarpur is opening, Wagah is open, (then why) the Poonch-Rawalkote is closed, Uri-Muzaffarabad road was closed,” she told reporters here.
India and Pakistan held their first meeting Thursday to finalise the modalities for the corridor linking Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistani town of Kartarpur with Gurdaspur district in Punjab. Mehbooba said the PDP wants that assembly polls be held as soon as possible in the state.
“Our party’s stand is clear that elections should take place and take place sooner. People are facing tremendous difficulties – when there are arrests going on and hardships in every way. The polls should take place soon and a government be formed,” she said.

 
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India rejects US report criticising it on religious freedom

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New Delhi, Jun 23: India Sunday rejected a US religious freedom report saying religious intolerance in India was growing under its right-wing government, setting off a new spat before a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

An annual report on international religious freedom released by Pompeo on Friday said Hindu groups had used “violence, intimidation, and harassment” against Muslims and low-caste Dalits in 2017 to force a religion-based national identity.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government insisted that no foreign country had the right to criticise its record.

 

Pompeo is set to arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday for a trip intended to strengthen ties, but already complicated by spats over trade tariffs, data protection rules, US visas for Indians and buying arms from Russia.

The US religious freedom report said groups claiming to protect cows – considered sacred by Hindus –have attacked Muslims and Dalits. Christians have also been targeted for proselytising since Modi came to power in 2014.

“Despite Indian government statistics indicating that communal violence has increased sharply over the past two years, the Modi administration has not addressed the problem,” the report said.

The report consists of chapters by country, grouped into tiers, in which India is categorised in tier 2. It highlights a 12 percent decline in communal violence compared with the previous year.

The controversial revision of the National Register of Citizenship in northeastern state Assam, which could land millions of minorities stateless, also got noticed in the report.

The foreign ministry however rejected the report, saying there was no right “for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”.

Reacting to the report, the external affairs ministry said a foreign entity had “no locus standi” to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar underlined that “India is a vibrant democracy where the fundamental rights of all its citizens, including minorities, are protected under the Constitution.”

“We see no locus standi for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” he said.

“The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including its minority communities,” the MEA spokesperson asserted.

“It is widely acknowledged that India is a vibrant democracy where the Constitution provides protection of religious freedom, and where democratic governance and rule of law further promote and protect the fundamental rights.”

The United States has sought to boost ties with India as a counterweight to China, and both US President Donald Trump and Modi have highlighted their good relationship.

However, India last week imposed higher import tariffs on 28 US items in retaliation to Washington’s recent withdrawal of trade privileges for New Delhi.

Pompeo wants to use his New Delhi trip to lay the ground for a Trump-Modi meeting at the G20 Summit in Osaka this month. It will be their first since Modi’s new landslide election win last month. Pompeo is also to give a speech on the future of the relationship between the two countries. 

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Civilian harassment on highway should stop: Farooq

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Srinagar, Jun 23: Member parliament from Srinagar parliamentary seat and National Conference’s (NC’s) president, Farooq Abdullah Sunday said that security forces are “harassing” people on the national highway.

“When I was coming, I saw security forces were stopping people at several places on the highway. It should not happen, nowhere in the country, people are stopped at so many places, they travel freely on it moreover with peace,” Farooq said at Pahalgam.

Asking for end to the practice, he urged the authorities to ensure hassle free movement of the people on the highway without any delay.

 

“They (forces) should let people travel in peace on the highway and stop harassing people without any reason,” he added.

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Local pandit beaten by forces in Qazigund

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Srinagar, Jun 23: A local resident of Levdoora area of Qazigund in south Kashmir, Krishan Raina, a Pandit, was beaten up by CRPF personnel on Sunday and was rescued by the local people in the vicinity.

According to the reports, Raina, who has been living in the locality since childhood was rounded up by a patrolling party of the CRPF in the Levdoora area without any provocation.

“Forces initially questioned me for living in Kashmir despite being a Hindu. After which they started erecting bamboo sticks on me,” Raina is heard saying in the video.

 

Raina, son of Gopi Nath Raina, sustained multiple injuries during the assault by CRPF men, the front window of his car has also been smashed as well speaking about the incident, he said that he was on way to Qazigund market to get medicines for his ill wife, when the CRPF men intercepted him and started beating him resulting in multiple injuries.

“Local Muslims gathered around the area to rescue me. A man with begging hands pleaded them not to thrash me, however, they assaulted him too,” said Raina. The incident sparked anger in the locality and dozens of other Muslims rushed to help the Pandit man.

“I am thankful to the Muslim community who saved me from the hands of CRPF men, otherwise who knows,” Raina said. He also said that the government forces are defaming the local Muslim population, who otherwise are helpful and rescued him from the wrath of forces. The locals later took Krishan to the nearby hospital where he is being treated

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