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Kartarpur corridor: Navjot Singh Sidhu accepts Pakistan’s invite, writes to Qureshi

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Navjot Singh Sidhu

Chandigarh | Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Sunday accepted Pakistan’s invite to attend the ground-breaking ceremony of a corridor to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara across the border on Wednesday, saying this initiative would open “the borders of hearts and the mind”.

The foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib corridor on the Indian side will be laid by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday.

Singh has declined to attend the ceremony in Pakistan, citing its continuous support to terrorist activities in his state and killing of Indian soldiers by Pakistan armed forces.

He, however, welcomed the historic occasion and described it as the cherished desire of Sikhs around the world, but said he “must most reluctantly, however, regret his inability to be present”.

On Sunday, Sidhu wrote to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, accepting his invitation for the ground-breaking ceremony, where Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will also be present.

“It is with great honour and unalloyed joy that I accept your invitation to attend the ground-breaking ceremony at Kartarpur Sahib on November 28. I look forward to meeting you on this historic occasion,” Sidhu wrote to Qureshi.

The Local Government, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister wrote that his application “for permission to attend (the ceremony) is now lodged with the Ministry of External Affairs”.

In the letter, Sidhu said that this day “will indeed break ground.”  “As our nations take this first step, the Kartarpur Spirit can make pilgrims of us all, venturing out on a journey that breaks the barriers of history and opens the borders of hearts and the mind,” he said. “A journey that our people can walk together towards, a future of shared peace and prosperity for India and Pakistan”.

Sidhu was responding to Qureshi’s letter to him dated November 24, in which the Pakistani foreign minister had said, “This has been a long-standing demand of the Sikh community, especially those from India. You remained a steadfast partner in this endeavour.”

Sidhu responded, “Good deeds speak for themselves, the hand only interprets their eloquence. Every noble act makes way for itself.”

The Punjab minister had welcomed the Indian government’s decision to develop passage from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur in his state to the historic shrine in the neighbouring country. The decision coincided with the 549th birth anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev on Friday.

The government will build and develop the corridor from Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Sikh pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi river.

In August, Sidhu had come under fire from opposition parties in Punjab after he visited Islamabad and hugged Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in of Imran Khan as prime minister of that country. Sidhu had claimed then that Gen Bajwa had told him about “making efforts to open the Kartarpur corridor”.

Kartarpur is located in Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab. Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, had spent more than 18 years of his life there.

The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located about three-four km from the border in Pakistan.

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UDF disrupts Kerala Assembly for 6th day, proceedings adjourned in 32 minutes

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Thiruvananthapuram | Sloganeering and a banner protest by the opposition Congress-led UDF legislators over the Sabarimala issue marred proceedings of the Kerala Assembly for the sixth consecutive day Monday.

As opposition members, armed with placards and banner, trooped to the well of the House and continued sloganeering, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan scrapped the question hour and zero hour and rushed through the listed business of the day before adjourning the House in 32 minutes.

Public Works Minister G Sudhakaran started replying to questions but the UDF MLAs stood in front of the speaker’s podium demanding lifting of prohibitory orders in Sabarimala, which was further extended by the government till December 12. The Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government’s alleged lukewarm response towards the ‘satyagraha’, staged by three UDF MLAs at the portals of the House since last week demanding removal of curbs at the hill shrine, also irked opposition members.

They raised slogans expressing solidarity with fellow lawmakers-V S Sivakumar (Congress), Parakkal Abdullah (Indian Union Muslim League) and N Jayaraj (Kerala Congress-Mani)- who had launched the indefinite ‘satyagraha’ on December 3. Some of the opposition members even tried to attract the Speaker’s attention by blocking his view by the banner.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala later told reporters that the CPI(M)-led LDF government was extending prohibitory orders “intentionally” as UDF MLAs were staging protest. He, however, said the opposition would go ahead with the protest and would not buckle under pressure of the Left government and the chief minister. As soon as the House proceedings began, the lone BJP MLA O Rajagopal and independent Legislator, P C George staged a walkout.

They said the walkout was a mark of protest against the LDF government’s decision to continue prohibitory orders in Sabarimala and to express solidarity with the BJP leader A N Radhakrishnan, who has been on a fast for the last eight days in front of the Secretariat here demanding lifting of curbs at the hill shrine. The hill shrine had been witnessing protests by devotees and right wing groups against the government’s decision to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups to offer prayers at the temple.

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Agusta Westland case: CBI Special Court extends Christian Michel’s custody

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Christian Michel

New Delhi | The CBI special court on Monday extended Agusta Westland Middleman Christian Michel’s custody for an additional 5 days.

The Central Beaureu of Investigation (CBI) had demanded a custody of further 9 days claiming that Michel was uncooperative and evasive during the custody. The agency further claimed that Michel didn’t co-operate with the Italian investigation in the case.

Opposing the custody Michel’s lawyer Aljo Joseph argued that Police custody is not required anymore as there is no incriminating evidence against Michel. CBI further informed the court that the British Council has approached it for consular access to Michel.

Earlier the CBI special court on December 5 sent Christian Michel to a 5 days CBI custody in a case related to the 3,600 crore AugustaWestland case. Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in politically-sensitive Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, was brought to India on late December 4 night following his extradition by the UAE. Earlier, the UAE Ambassador Ahmed Albana had said that the decision of the extradition of Christian Michel- a British citizen should be left on the judicial system of the United Arab Emirates.

Michel has been accused of influencing politicians, officials and journalists using monetary incentives to procure 12 VVIP helicopters, to be used for the Indian Prime Minister, the President and other important personalities. The deal signed in 2007, was scrapped in 2013 following the bribery allegations.

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Develop Gorakhpur as city of knowledge: President Ram Nath Kovind

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Gorakhpur (UP) | President Ram Nath Kovind said Monday that Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh should be developed as a city of knowledge in the next 15 years as the state has the largest human resource in the country.

Addressing the founder’s week celebration of Maharana Pratap Shiksha Parishad, Kovind said Gorakhpur, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath‘s political home turf, should be developed as a knowledge city by 2032 — the centenary year of the Parishad, which works in the field of education and capacity building. He said Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of youths in the country and the new policies of the state government should help them become “job creators”.

The president said the objective of education is to develop a good human being, but stressed that quality of education is as important for a country’s development. Recalling the great men from the region — such as Paramhans of the Nath sect, Sufi saint Roshan Ali Shah, Baba Raghav Das, Munshi Premchand, Ram Prasad Bismil and Firaq Gorakhpoori, the president asked students to follow the path of Maharana Pratap, a Rajput warrior from the Mewar region of Rajasthan.

He also praised the contribution of saints from the Nath sect in the field of education and contribution towards society and during the freedom struggle. He said he has visited the Gorakhnath temple several times when Mahant Avaidyanath, the mentor of Adityanath, was its head.

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