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Jaitley uses Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s anniversary to attack Congress on free speech debate

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CBI; Jaitley

Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday attacked the Indian National Congress, saying the party supported the “tukde tukde” agitation at the JNU by calling it a “legitimate free speech”, while the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, amended the Constitution to restrict Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s advocacy of ‘Akhand Bharat’.

Mookerjee, whose birth anniversary falls on July 6 (today), was the founder and President of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the precursor of the Bharatiya Janta Party.

In a blog, Jaitley said there were many in India who were opposed to the very idea of partition and amongst the leading opponents undoubtedly was Mookerjee.

“He was one of the key advocates of a united India which he referred to as Akhand Bharat. Two days before the ‘Nehru-Liaquat Pact’ was to be signed in April 1950, Dr Mookerjee, who was Industry Minister in the first Cabinet as a Hindu Mahasabha representative, resigned from the Cabinet in protest and took a strong public position against the Nehru-Liaquat Pact,” the senior BJP leader said.

Mookerjee, he said, spoke extensively in Parliament and outside, opposing the pact and advocating his philosophy in brief of ‘Akhand Bharat’.

“Pt Nehru over-reacted to Dr Mookerjee’s criticism. He interpreted the very idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’ i.e. united India as an invitation to conflict since the country could not be reunited other than by war.

“He, therefore, advised Sardar Patel to consider what action would be taken,” said Jaitley, who is recuperating from a kidney transplant operation.

After consultation with Constitutional experts, Sardar Patel’s opinion was that he could not prevent Mookerjee from propagating his idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’ under the Constitution and if the Prime Minister wanted him to stop this, the Constitution needed to be amended.

The Bill to amend the Constitution which, amongst others, contained the restriction relating to ‘friendly relations with foreign states’ was introduced in Parliament, he said, adding it was passed despite objections by leaders like H V Kamath, Acharya Kripalani, Mookerjee and Naziruddin Ahmad.

“Was this intolerance against Dr Mookerjee and his philosophy which triggered this Constitution amendment? The answer is obvious,” Jaitley said.

But the major paradox today is that the essence of this amendment was that a mere speech advocating ‘Akhand Bharat’ is a threat to the country, it can be an incitement to a war and, therefore, any talk of the same could be prohibited, he said.

“It could even be made a penal offence. The paradox in our jurisprudential evolution is that we have applied a different yardstick to those who want to dismember India and commit an offence of sedition. This debate recently came into forefront during the ‘Tukde Tukde’ agitation at the Jawaharlal Nehru University,” said Jaitley, in an apparent attack on the Congress.

In the past 70 years, he said India has witnessed a change in the situation where Pt Nehru amended the Constitution so that a demand for ‘Akhand Bharat’ could incite a war and therefore should be prohibited.

“On the contrary, we all were told that to advocate a breakup of the country without inciting violence is legitimate free speech,” the senior minister said.

A group of students had allegedly raised anti-India slogans like Bharat tere tukde honge (India, you will be disintegrated) at the JNU campus in February 2016 and cases were filed against some students.

The BJP had criticised Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for visiting JNU after the incident.

BJP chief Amit Shah had said the Congress should be ashamed of Gandhi’s visit to the JNU campus and questioned whether anti-national slogans can be called freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, JNU student Umar Khalid on Friday said the students will not “lie low” and vowed to challenge in court the JNU panel’s recommendation upholding his rustication in connection with the February 9, 2016 incident against Parliament attacks convict Afzal Guru’s hanging during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised in the campus.

The JNU inquiry committee upheld Khalid’s rustication and a fine of Rs 10,000 imposed on Kanhaiya Kumar, the then students’ union president, in connection with the campus event against Afzal Guru’s hanging.

Politics

Ensure justice to two Hindu girls: Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan

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Sushma Swaraj India

New Delhi | External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday asked Pakistan to ensure immediate release of the two Hindu girls who were allegedly kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam in Sindh province last week.

“Justice demands that both these girls should be restored to their family immediately,” she tweeted.

Reena and Raveena, hailing from village Hafiz Salman near the town of Daharki in Sindh, were allegedly kidnapped and forced to convert from Hinduism to Islam on March 20, before being married to Muslim men.

“Forced conversion of Hindu girls in Pakistan: The age of the girls is not disputed. Raveena is only 13 and Reena is 15 years old,” Swaraj said.

“Even the Prime Minister on Naya Pakistan will not believe that girls of this tender age can voluntarily decide about their conversion to another religion and marriage,” she said.


A Pakistani high court on Tuesday ordered official protection for the two girls due to concern about their safety as authorities widened a probe to ascertain if the teenage sisters were abducted, forcibly converted and married.

On Sunday, Swaraj tweeted that she asked the Indian envoy in Islamabad to send a report on the incident.

Hours later, India issued a note verbale to Pakistan on the issue, sharing its concerns over the incident and called for suitable remedial action to protect and promote safety, security and welfare of people from the minority communities.

Subsequently, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an investigation into the incident.

The Islamabad High Court issued the order on Tuesday after the petition was filed by the girls and their husbands to seek protection from adverse action.

On March 20, the girls’ family lodged a First Information Report against their alleged forced conversion to Islam.

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Implementation of Cong’s minimum income scheme may not be an easy task: Experts

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New Delhi | Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s minimum income scheme, aiming to lift five crore families or 25 crore people out of poverty, reflects a commitment to social security, but financing it may be an uphill task, said several leading economists and social scientists.

Gandhi on Monday, announced that under ‘Nyay’ — an acronym for Nyuntam Aay Yojana, Rs 72,000 will be given to the poorest families every year if his party returns to power while calling it a final assault on poverty.

Nyay would require run up an annual bill of Rs 3.60 lakh crore, or around 1.7 per cent of GDP, which, for 2019-20, is pegged at 210 lakh crore. The Congress is yet to spell out how resources will be generated to implement the scheme amid concerns that its implementation may not be fiscally prudent.

“NYAY reflects a welcome commitment to social security. The soundness of this proposal, however, depends on how it is to be financed and how the poorest 20 per cent are to be identified. Hopefully, the proposal will improve even as the commitment remains,” Development Economist Jean Dreze told PTI.

Under the scheme, any family having a monthly income less than Rs 12,000 would receive Rs 6,000 monthly.

Syeda Hameed, former member of Planning Commission gave a thumbs up to the scheme though she admitted that it could result in a “fiscal burden” on the exchequer.

“It can change the face of India. It will be a fiscal burden, but there is enough ill gotten money with billionaires which can be put to use by a leader who is honest and who cares,” she said.

Abhijit Sen, a retired JNU professor who was also a member of the erstwhile Planning Commission said, “It is going to cost a lot of money. And it is going to be an implementation issue.”

Right to food activist Harsh Mander said he welcomed the scheme because it brought the real issues of the poor at the centre of the political discourse and also recognised the inequality prevailing in the country.

“India’s tax to GDP ratio is among the lowest in the world. We are just not taxing the super rich. Our subsidies to the rich and middle class is at least three times as much as we give to the poor, so we need to reorganise our subsidies to include the poor.

“If we have a fully functioning employment guarantee programme, both for urban and rural areas, and if we have an effective pension programme for poor and person with disabilities, then those who still fall through the cracks would be covered by this program,” he said.

Economist Sen suggested that while implementing the scheme, the obvious thing that the Congress can do is to link it to something such as NREGA.

“You don’t identify; people come to work. So, if you can increase the number of days on which the people are eligible to work, that would serve the purpose as far for those who can work.

“For the old and the disabled you just transfer cash transfer. To transfer cash to the working age population, which is a large population, you will need to know their incomes and all that. That is a very difficult thing to do,” he said. PTI DSP ASG MPB

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Happy that women will benefit under NYAY scheme: Priyanka Gandhi

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New Delhi | Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday said she’s happy that women will receive Rs 72,000 per year directly into their bank accounts under the minimum income guarantee scheme announced by party chief Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi on Monday announced that Rs 72,000 per year will be given as minimum income to poor families, benefiting around 25 crore people, if his party is voted to power in Lok Sabha polls, and asserted it will be the final assault on poverty.

“So happy that under the NYAY scheme, women will be the ones who receive the annual amount of Rs. 72,000 directly into their accounts. ‘Empower a woman, empower a family’,” Priyanka Gandhi wrote on Twitter.

She said 20 per cent or 5 crore families belonging to the poorest category with monthly income less than Rs 12,000 will benefit under the scheme.

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