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Explosions Rattle Houses at Mandol Village in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir

Villagers of Mandol in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir say the explosions rattled their houses as usual when Pakistani troops opened retaliatory fire

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An Indian Border Security Force soldier patrols near the India-Pakistan international border area at Gakhrial boder post in Akhnoor sector, about 48 kilometers from Jammu, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA

Mandol, Kashmir, October 3, 2016: The village of Mandol in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir along the banks of the Poonch River is just 2,100 meters from the Pakistani military post that authorities say came under fire from India last Thursday.

Villagers here say the explosions rattled their houses as usual when Pakistani troops opened retaliatory fire, and they ran for cover in bunkers until five-hours of gunfire ended.

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India said its troops carried out “surgical strikes” on alleged terrorist camps on the Pakistani side of the ceasefire boundary, named the Line of Control, or LoC.
Pakistan’s military, however, swiftly rejected any assertion that Indian forces crossed the heavily militarized line, which divides the Himalayan territory between the nuclear-armed arch-rival nations.

Instead Pakistani authorities asserted a routine exchange of fire across the LoC that killed two Pakistani soldiers, while several others sustained minor injures.

Security officials in Islamabad also say that if Indian forces had crossed into Pakistan, it would have been treated as a declaration of war.

The military flew a group of journalists on Saturday to Mandol and Bagsar, two of the several sites of the skirmishes, to reassert their side of the story as bilateral tensions continue to simmer.

Pakistan's army spokesman Lt Gen. Asim Bajwa, second from right, with area commanders briefs to journalits at a forward area Bagsar post on the Line of Control (LOC), in Bhimber, some 166 kilometers (103 miles) from Islamabad, Oct. 1, 2016.VOA
Pakistan’s army spokesman Lt Gen. Asim Bajwa, second from right, with area commanders briefs to journalits at a forward area Bagsar post on the Line of Control (LOC), in Bhimber, some 166 kilometers (103 miles) from Islamabad, Oct. 1, 2016.VOA

“We would have known it if Indian troops secretly came across the the LoC,” said Mirza Abdul Waheed, a local political figure.
The officers briefed the media on the challenges both the mountainous terrain and military deployment would have made it rather “impossible” for Indian soldiers to physically cross over to Pakistani side to undertake any action like “surgical strikes”.

“That’s a total lie. It is very difficult to comprehend. It is unimaginable,” said. Maj-General Muhammad Chiragh Haider, the commander of the 23rd Infantry Division of the Pakistan Army.

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“We met a surgical strike and we did not know what had happened. Were they so magical or so mysterious I cannot say, but what happens actually here is slightest movement is picked and it is responded in a strong manner.The entire areas is in front of you,” he asserted.
General Bajwa asked India to produce evidence of any damage caused on the Pakistani side.

“Where is that damage? Where are the bodies of the people they killed and where did the invading Indian soldiers go,” he asked.

Bajwa said Pakistan is open to the U.N. mission [for any probe] and to media, and has nothing to hide. He asserted that most of the area that came under attack from India on Thursday is linked to the rest of the world through cell phones and the internet, making it difficult for anyone to prevent locals from putting information or images on social media had there been any physical Indian incursion.

Pakistan army soldiers patrol at a forward area Bagsar post on the Line of Control (LOC), that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India, in Bhimber, some 166 kilometers (103 miles) from Islamabad, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA
Pakistan army soldiers patrol at a forward area Bagsar post on the Line of Control (LOC), that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India, in Bhimber, some 166 kilometers (103 miles) from Islamabad, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA

While the United Nations and the United States urged both India and Pakistan to defuse tensions to reduce changes of another war between them, residents in villages near the ceasefire line appeared calm, with schools and markets opened and farmers busy working in their fields.
General Bajwa would not confirm whether an Indian soldier was captured by Pakistani troops after the clashes broke out, saying “inadvertent crossers” is a routine matter along the more than 700 kilometer LoC and authorities take time to ascertain their identity.

He said Pakistan has been officially convey by Indian authorities that an Indian solider has inadvertently crossed over to the Pakistani side. “We are checking out details on ground, we are in the process of ascertaining,” Bajwa added.

The general avoided speculating on whether Pakistan and India are on the verge of another full scale war. “You can see that all the escalation and signal for escalation, any claims of movement like evacuation of the border villages is coming from the Indian side. We are not in any mood to imitate anything but if anything gets initiated from their side it will get a very comprehensive and very befitting response,” he said

Indians living close to the border with Pakistan board a bus to move to safer places after authorities ordered the evacuation of villages near the highly militarized Line of Control dividing Kashmir, at Narana village in Pallanwal, about 65 Kilometers from Jammu, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA
Indians living close to the border with Pakistan board a bus to move to safer places after authorities ordered the evacuation of villages near the highly militarized Line of Control dividing Kashmir, at Narana village in Pallanwal, about 65 Kilometers from Jammu, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA

Responding to Indian terrorism charges, General Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan has been fighting a major war against terrorism on its own soil with full commitment and those operations being undertaken by more than 200-thousands troops are moving towards the concluding stage.

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“It will be very unfortunate if we have to pull out troops from their and bring them on the eastern border [with India],” the army spokesman said when asked whether further escalation in tensions with India would promote Pakistan to redeploy troops from the western border with Afghanistan.

Such an invasion and damage inflicted on this side would have not skipped local attention, he added.Other residents gathered nearby narrated similar impressions to reporters.

Regional military commanders and Pakistan army spokesman, Lt. General Asim Bajwa, accompanied the journalists to Tata Pani, where Mandol is located, and Bhimber, the two sectors along the de facto Kashmir border. (VOA)

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Top Highlights of PM Narendra Modi’s Speech on India’s 71st Independence Day

10 Important points in PM Modi’s speech

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth Independence Day speech from Red Fort
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth Independence Day speech from Red Fort. Twitter
  • We have to take the country ahead with the determination of creating a ‘New India’
  • His government is serious about tackling various national security issues
  • I want to proudly tell people that within just three years, we have recovered black money of Rs 1.25 lakh crore

New Delhi, August 15, 2017: It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth Independence Day speech from Red Fort, Delhi. He talked about a variety of issues like GST, demonetisation, terrorism, and triple talaq among others. Here are the top 10 points of Modi’s speech:

  • A New India will be our democracy’s biggest strength

During his speech, Modi expressed that India should create a new India before 2022, the 76th year of Independence. Modi said, “We have to take the country ahead with the determination of creating a ‘New India’. Let us come together to create an India free of corruption, nepotism, casteism, communalism, and terrorism. Let us build a country which is clean, healthy and is self-determined.”

  • From Quit India Movement to a United India Movement

Modi has previously spoken about the Quit India Movement during the monthly address of Mann ki Baat as well as the special session of the Parliament to commemorate the event. During the Independence Day speech, he once again brought back the historic event.

Asking Indians to take inspiration from the 1942 movement, Modi said, “Within five years, the British had left the country because of our unity. We have to take a sankalp of new India and take the country forward.” Remembering the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom movement, “There was a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi once. People with cotton in their hands support Gandhi and eventually, the country got freedom,” he added. He said on the Independence Day that the need of today’s India is Bharat Jodo, a united India.

  • 2018: A crucial year for India

Modi put special emphasis on January 1, 2018, telling Indians that 2018 will be the year that will mark the coming of age of a whole generation, the generation which will steer India forward.

1 January 2018 will not be an ordinary day. “The people who were born in the 21st century will find that this date will decide a lot in their lives. I welcome all the youths who will turn 18 in 2018. Now, you are getting an opportunity to be a part of the force which develops India,” said the prime minister. He called them the Bhagya Vidhatas’ of our country

  • Surgical Strikes and National Security

Modi hailed the surgical strikes (29 November 2016) on the Independence Day and stressed upon the fact that his government is serious about tackling various national security issues. He said, “After the surgical strike, the entire world had to acknowledge India’s strength.” The concern for national security is a natural one in an independent India. Our armed forces always showed their capabilities in handling both terrorism and during the war.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi Condemns Religious Violence on 71st Indian Independence Day, Warns “Will Not Accept Violence In The Name Of Faith”

  • Breakthrough measures of Modi government

Modi said that people are celebrating a Mahotsav of honesty today. His government implemented various praise-worthy measures like One Rank One Pension, GST, and demonetisation.

Talking about his government’s commitment to armed forces, Modi said, “For 30 or 40 years, the matter of One Rank One Pension was stuck. But our government took steps to fulfill the demand of our security personnel.” He said that GST gave the nation a new direction to competitive federalism and that GST was rolled so fast across the country, all thanks to technology. He said, “After GST enrollment, our truck drivers save 30 percent of their time in travel now.”

PM Modi spoke on demonetisation, “Today, I want to proudly tell people that within just three years, we have recovered black money of Rs 1.25 lakh crore.” Through Note ban, the black money came out. It was their endeavor to recover black money and then to make it a constructive part of the economy. Demonetisation proved to be a successful move against corruption. “The businessmen with black money used to run shell companies. After demonetisation, three lakh shell companies were found. And out of that, we canceled the registration of 1.75 lakh companies,” said the prime minister.

On development measures, he said, “Today, roads and railway tracks are being constructed twice as fast. Today, over 14,000 villages have got electricity. 29 crore people have got bank accounts now.”

  • Modi opposes Triple Talaq

His government supports the movement against Triple Talaq and India will also support Muslim women in their struggle. “I believe India will fully support the women in their struggle. The women of this country created a revolution against Triple Talaq. There was an atmosphere against Triple Talaq in the country with even the media supporting the women,” he said.

  • Gorakhpur tragedy

The prime minister was being criticized for not speaking on the Gorakhpur hospital tragedy which has killed over 70 children so far. But, Modi broke his silence today. He said, “In the last few days, some of our innocent children died in a hospital. All the countrymen stand together at this time.”

  • Militancy in Kashmir

On Independence Day, taking a peacemaking approach towards Kashmiris, Modi expressed his opinion that the Kashmir issue can be solved only through peaceful means.  He said, Na gaali se samasya sulajhne wali hai, na goli se, samasya suljhegi har Kashmiri ko gale lagane se (Kashmir problem can’t be resolved by either bullet’s or by abuses. It can be resolved only by embracing all Kashmiris).

He promised to bring prosperity to the militancy-infested state. “The development of Jammu and Kashmir is also a commitment of the people and the government there,” said Modi.

  • No leniency for terrorism

Prime Minister spoke of involving common Kashmiris in India’s growth story but took a tough stance on militancy. “A lot happens in Kashmir. A lot of claims have been made. A lot of people abuse each other. There are a lot of separatists. But there will be no leniency for terrorism. I have told many to become a part of democracy,” said the prime minister.

  • Communalism and Casteism are poison for the country

Modi said that violence in the name of faith is not acceptable and described casteism and communalism as poison for the country. The comments assume importance in the backdrop of various incidents of lynching by cow vigilantes. He said that issues like communalism and casteism can’t benefit the country in any way. “Therefore, violence cannot be emphasized in the name of faith,” Modi said.

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.