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In wake of Punjab terror attack, Badal calls off meeting with Pakistani envoy

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

In wake of the terror attack in Punjab’s Dinanagar town on Monday which left seven people dead, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal called off his scheduled meeting later this week with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit, an official said.

The meeting between Badal and Basit was to be held on July 29 in Chandigarh.

Harcharan Bains, advisor to chief minister on national affairs and media, said that the meeting was called off “in view of today’s incident at Dinanagar in Gurdaspur district”.

Bains said that the Pakistani mission had requested for a courtesy call during Basit’s visit to Chandigarh this week.

(With inputs from IANS)

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On the boil, Punjab seeks divine intervention

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Chandigarh: With just over a week to go for the second Progressive Punjab Investors Summit-2015, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is making appeals and even seeking divine intervention for the return of peace and normalcy in the frontier state.

Violent protests, multiple roadblocks across Punjab, youths out on the streets brandishing swords, sticks and other traditional weaponry, shops and establishments being forced to shut down, railway tracks being blocked for days by agitating farmers, rumours being spread through social media to create differences on religious lines and radical elements having a free run – this is certainly not the image that the Punjab government would want the country’s top industrialists and investors to see about the state.

The investors’ summit, which is the brainchild of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who himself is a billionaire businessman with interests in hotels, agriculture, infrastructure, media and some other fields, could take a hit with Punjab being on the boil in the past one month.

First, it was the farmers – the backbone of Punjab’s economy – who blocked railway tracks for several days, affecting nearly 900 trains, demanding higher compensation for their crop loss. The agitation was the outcome of a scam in purchase of spurious pesticide – which led to the loss of the cotton crop.

This was followed by protests and violence after the alleged sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. Radical elements, who had been sidelined over the years after militancy ended in the state in 1995, found a new opening to re-launch themselves. The Badal government, which promised to maintain peace in the state at all costs, was seen faltering and even the elder Badal had to land up at Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, to seek divine intervention for peace and normalcy.

Then, radical elements in the state got pumped by the flip-flop of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion, which first announced its “pardon” for controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was accused of hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs in 2007 when he dressed up like Guru Gobind Singh. The Akal Takht has now, in a complete U-turn, reversed its decision.

The investors’ summit on Oct 28-29, to be held on the campus of the Indian School of Business in Mohali near here, will focus on agro- and food processing, life-sciences, information technology and its enabled services, skill development, health, manufacturing, education, renewable energy, aerospace and defence and tourism sectors.

Big names from the industry are expected to participate this time too. The last summit, in December 2013, saw the likes of Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani, steel tycoon L.N. Mittal, ITC’s Y.C. Deveshwar, Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, L&T’s A. M. Naik, Hero Group’s Sunil Kant Munjal, DLF’s Rajiv Singh, Bharti Airtel’s Sunil Bharti Mittal and many others attending.

Despite claims by Sukhbir Badal, the first summit has hardly made any impact on the ground in terms of big investments in Punjab. This time too it is not going to be any different.

All the happenings in Punjab in the past month are hardly going down well with any prospective investor. The state’s “progressive” image would surely take a hit.

Perhaps because of this, on Tuesday, the chief minister, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee asked the people to orgnaise “akhand paths” (prayers) in towns and villages across Punjab to restore peace in the state.

The question is: Will divine intervention succeed where everything else has failed?

(Jaideep Sarin, IANS)

 

 

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Sikh protest continues over Granth Sahib’s desecration

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Chandigarh: Sikh protesters continued to block roads in Punjab’s Malwa region on Sunday to protest against the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of Sikh religion.

The blockade, however, was reduced to one location in each district from Sunday instead of several locations.

Protest leaders said the road blockade would be from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM so that ordinary people, particularly motorists, do not suffer much inconvenience.

The protesters carried black flags and placards and brandished swords and sticks.

The blockade, in the past week, had affected life in Malwa region. The worst hit were Moga, Faridkot and Bathinda districts, police said.

The protests, called by radical Sikh groups, are against the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib. The protesters want action against those involved in the desecration.

A ‘bir’ (holy book) was desecrated in Bargari village, 15 km from Kotkapura, leading to tension on October 12. Over 100 pages of the Sikh holy book were found scattered on a street near a gurdwara. The holy book had been stolen from a gurdwara in June.

At least two people were killed and nearly 70 injured, including police officials, on Wednesday in clashes between police and Sikhs near Kotkapura town in Faridkot district, 230 km from here.

The two victims are yet to be cremated.

In Amritsar, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday offered prayers at ‘Harmandar Sahib’, popularly known as Golden Temple, for peace and communal harmony.

Congress leader Amarinder Singh on Saturday visited the families of the two people killed in police firing.

(IANS)

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Punjab attack: No evidence that terrorists used Ravi river route, says BSF

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By Jaideep Sarin and Parminder Bariana

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Gurdaspur (Punjab):  Despite Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in parliament that the three terrorists who launched the attack in Dinanagar town of Punjab’s Gurdaspur district on July 27 had entered India by crossing the Ravi river along the India-Pakistan border, doubts are now being raised about the authenticity of the GPS (global positioning system) coordinates recovered from the killed militants.

“We have not found any evidence of the terrorists using the route (as indicated by the GPS coordinates),” BSF Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police N.K. Mishra told IANS.

Sources in the Border Security Force (BSF), which guards the India-Pakistan border 24×7, pointed out that no traces of the movement of terrorists through the Ravi river route and beyond have been found which could establish that they entered from the Makoda area of Bamiyal sector of Gurdaspur district.

The area borders Pakistan on the west and Jammu and Kashmir on the north.

“It is impossible that no traces were left by the terrorists while crossing the well-guarded river or footmarks on the river bank or even crawling tracks in the wild growth (Sarkanda) in the area.” a BSF source, involved in investigating and tracking the route taken by the terrorists, told IANS in this frontier sector.

“The GPS coordinates found on the equipment recovered from the terrorists could be misleading,” he added.

BSF officers feel that the terrorists could have entered through some place in adjoining Jammu and Kashmir and later arrived in Punjab.

BSF officials also point out that even if the GPS coordinates were to be believed, it was impossible for the terrorists to traverse the terrain so quickly and reach Dinanagar for carrying out the attack.

As per the GPS coordinates recovered, the terrorists entered through the Ravi river in Makoda area and moved along Narowal, Bala Pindi, Chak Alla Baksh (all in Pakistan), railway track near Talwandi village, Chottu Nath Mandir, Dinanagar to Taragarh road, near village Jakhar Pindi to SSM College in Dinanagar.

It was believed that the terrorists followed this route on the intervening night of July 26-27, planted bombs on the railway track near Parmanand railway station and then moved to Dinanagar town for the attack.

The BSF sent a team of its troopers on the route and found that the team took over six hours to reach the railway track alone. This did not include the time taken to cross the river, which is not easy to cross either, and planting of bombs on the railway track.

The attack in Dinanagar started around 5.25 am. The terrorists engaged security forces in an over 11-hour long gun-battle before being neutralized by the Punjab Police.

“The GPS coordinates could have been loaded on the sets to mislead security agencies. The terrain is not easy to move freely. Even otherwise, how could such heavily armed terrorists not be seen by anyone all along even though it was night time,” one officer said.

The Ravi river has Cobra electric wires and the river is guarded round-the-clock with motorboats, day and night devices and floodlights. The river, in the current monsoon season, has a heavy flow of water.

The electrified, barbed wire fencing along the border has also not been breached in the sector, BSF sources said.

(IANS)