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National Fervour at its peak as India celebrates its 70th Independence Day

India is, and will always remain the biggest democracy and is one of the most flourishing nations

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Jawaharlal Nehru addressing the audience on August 15, 1947. Source: Wikimedia Commons

August 15, 2016:

This day, in 1947, marked the birth of a democratic and free nation. The historic day for Indians who were liberated from the clutches of 200-year-old British Raj. Today, India celebrates its 70th Independence Day amid monsoon showers, Olympic fever and Kashmir unrest. Even amid such tension, the patriotic fervour and zeal of celebrating independence day among Indians have not lost its way!

A refugee train, Punjab Source: Wikimedia Commons
A refugee train, Punjab Source: Wikimedia Commons

Instead of peace, communal violence rules two nations. The Partition of Hindustan into two nations- India and Pakistan were the outcome of pure communal politics, and the atmosphere of tension between the two is evident even today. A report suggests that more than 15 million people migrated from across the borders, and communal riots made it the biggest and the most torturous human resettlement ever.

The love-hate relationship between India and Pakistan ever since has taken an ugly and bitter turn with the increase of terrorism, the emergence of ISIS and Taliban, and Love Jihad.
It is for the first time that the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has gone vocal about the terrorism spread by the neighbouring state and has promised to the fellow Indians that he won’t take the issue of India’s security lightly— be it the face of terrorism or the Kashmir narrative. With numerous preventive measures and some multi-national alliances with other countries— especially with Barack Obama and his government, PM Modi has been taking huge steps towards eradicating violence.

I. United we stand: PM Modi began the quest for a united battle against terrorism at the East Asia Summit, Kuala Lumpur in 2015. There needs to be a global solution to combat violence of any sort, especially terrorism and therefore this year, Modi has gone vocal about the international terrorism being spread by the neighbouring country.

II. Combating ISIS: The ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ is not only limited to cleaning all garbage from the country but ironically plans to clean all terrorism and let peace prevail around. Due to UPA’s reluctance, following are the ISI agents who were arrested or executed:

a) Traitors named Irshad Ansari, son Asfaq and brother-in-law Mohammad Jahan were ISI agents arrested from Bengal, who had alleged connections with Trinamool Congress.

b) Confidential information of the Indian Army had been sent to Pakistan by ISI agent Mohammad Kalam. He stayed in Bareilly since 2014 and was regularly paid ₹ 50,000 by ISI.

c) Ranjit, a former IAF officer, was accused and arrested for providing Pakistani intelligence ISI with vital information.

d) BSF officer Abdul Rasheed was arrested along with an ISI agent for cross-border transmission of confidential information.

3. “When terrorism is on the rise across the world and when we are encircled by terrorism sponsored by the neighbouring country, we will have to be united in this fight. The government expects constructive support from all opposition parties on this.” says Modi on the issue of the Kashmir turmoil. In an all-party press conference speech in J&K on August 12, Modi has spoken on a zero-tolerance  proposal on terrorism and Pakistan— that all consecutive violent terrorist activities in the Kashmir Valley are sponsored and ignited by cross-border enmity. Addressing the unrest in Jammu & Kashmir is the urgent need, but not at the cost of the nation’s integrity, says the Indian Prime Minister. The Central government has forwarded an amount of ₹ 80,000 crores to the state government for the re-development of Jammu & Kashmir. Also, in an attempt to increase employment in the Valley, a huge recruitment drive is also planned to be conducted by the Central Government.

In a reaction to Modi’s speech on PoK (Pak occupied Kashmir) and Balochistan’s issues, the Indian Diaspora now feels a ‘sense of belongingness’ says external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

IV. Peace in Nagaland: India is finding difficulties with Hindus (and especially Dalits) converting to Islam and walking the path of terrorism. In an attempt to achieve peace, Modi govt. signed the historic peace treaty with Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland in order to maintain normalcy in north-east India.

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Terrorism is an alarming concern for the entire world, but India as a developing nation is ready to fight with all these issues and rise above them. Nearly 70 years after gaining independence, India has been prospering at high paces. Let us read some of the greatest achievements of India since its independence:

i. Right to Vote: India as the largest democracy has given rights to every adult to vote, and this was implemented from the first day of gaining independence. In the United States, this right was given nearly after 150 years of independence.

ii. Combining the Union: Independence brought partition but also the merging of all princely states into the Union of India, 560 to be precise. All of the acquisition was done without any bloodshed.

iii. Multi-lingual state: India has over 29 active languages and 1,650 dialects, making it the only country with the maximum number of languages spoken. Whereas in comparison, Canada has only English and French since the 1960s.

Hindustan Times, 15 August 1947 Source: Wikimedia Commons
Hindustan Times, 15 August 1947. Image 
Source: Wikimedia Commons

iv. Empowering Goddesses: Ever since 1947, women have begun to be given equal rights and opportunities to grow and sustain themselves. India is the largest in number to ha e women elected in politics, especially as panchayats in villages. It is also the first country to appoint a woman (Pratibha Patil, the 12th President of India) as the head of State. Considering the state of affairs, Sucheta Kriplani was the very first woman chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1963. Following four states have women chief ministers:

a) West Bengal- Mamata Banerjee
b) Rajasthan- Vasundhara Raje
c) Tamil Nadu- J Jayalalitha
d) Gujarat- Anandiben Patel

v. Labour-free childhood: In an attempt to develop socio-economic scenarios in India, literacy has been highly focused on. From merely 12% in 1947 to 74.04% in 2011, the literacy rate in India has increased at a whopping pace.

Mid-day meals are an additional attempt towards achieving the goal which serves 120 million school children, making it the world’s biggest school lunch programme.

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vi. Freedom from Polio: India got Polio affectation rate down to zero since the last polio case was reported in January 2011, in West Bengal. After 20 years of battling the disease nationally, WHO has declared India as a polio-free nation.

vii. Green Revolution of the 1960s: India, before the revolution, suffered from food scarcity and began importing food and grains from foreign. Frequent famines like the Bengal famine of 1943 and others could not be sufficed by the agricultural production in the nation itself. The idea of Green Revolution eradicated this issue by increasing agriculture in Punjab and Haryana by using insecticides, pesticides, improving agricultural infrastructure and bringing land reforms.

Nobel prize holder Kailash Satyarthi in conversation with Narendra Modi. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Nobel prize holder Kailash Satyarthi in conversation with Narendra Modi. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

viii. Proud Indians: The list is endless and the Nobel Prize recipients and holders like Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa, Dr. Hargobind Khorana, economist Amartya Sen, Indian origin novelist VS Naipaul are the ones, that Indians know by heart but this year in 2016, Kailash Satyarthi’s name has also been added to the pages of history for his incredible work to end child slavery and protect child rights. He is the fifth Nobel Prize winner for India and the second Indian winner of the Nobel Peace Prize after Mother Teresa.

ix. Non-Alignment: This was a major step taken to prevent World War- III. The world was split up in binaries of US and the Soviet Union, where India chose to be non-aligned in the Cold War.

x. Indian Diaspora: Indians constitute the world’s second largest Diaspora community across the world, with more than 20 million. They majorly reside in the United States, UAE, Canada and UK, contributing greatly to each country’s economic and socio-cultural stability.

xi. The United Nations and India: India has played a crucial role in supporting the objectives of U.N.O like the fight against apartheid and disintegrating colonisation. Various eminent personalities have also held positions in the United Nations, like Mrs. Vijaylakshmi Pandit who was the General Assembly’s President at United Nations.

India is, and will always remain the biggest democracy and is one of the most flourishing nations— rich in culture and heritage, knowledge and intelligence, with the world’s strongest army and even stronger citizens.

 Happy Independence Day to all!

– prepared by Chetna Karnani at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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U.S.-Backed Syrian Democratic Forces Celebrate The Death Of Self-Declared “Caliphate”

“The threat remains,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter. “The fight against terrorist groups must continue.”

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Smoke rises from a strike on Baghuz, the last of the Islamic State group's holdouts in Syria, March 22, 2019. VOA

For consecutive nights, bombs rained down on the last scraps of Islamic State-held territory, lighting up the night sky over the northeastern Syrian town of Baghuz.

By Saturday morning, all that remained was a landscape littered with burned-out vehicles, abandoned campsites and other provisions the last of the terror group’s fighters and their families left behind.

On one of the few buildings that still stood, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces raised their flag and celebrated the death of a self-declared caliphate that inflicted terror and death on the people it tried to rule.

“After five years of fighting, we stand here to declare the physical defeat of ISIS and the end of its public challenge over all humanity,” SDF Director General Mazloum Kobani told officials and coalition partners at a ceremony to mark the long-awaited victory, using an acronym for the group.

FILE - Mazloum Kobani, commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), speaks during an interview in the countryside outside the northwestern Syrian city of Hasakah, in a province of the same name, Jan. 24, 2019.
Mazloum Kobani, commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), speaks during an interview in the countryside outside the northwestern Syrian city of Hasakah, in a province of the same name, Jan. 24, 2019.. VOA

“We announce today the destruction of the so-called Islamic State organization and the end of its ground control in its last pocket in Baghuz region,” he said.

Yet in between the applause and the music of a marching band, SDF commanders and coalition officials paid tribute to the SDF forces, which paid for the victory in blood and treasure — an estimated 11,000 killed in the campaign to roll back IS, which at its height controlled nearly a third of Syria and almost as much of Iraq.

And even until the end, sometime Friday night into Saturday morning, IS put up a vicious defense, using suicide bombers and even children as human shields in an attempt to cling to one last scrap of land over which they could fly their black flag.

The fate of the last of the IS fighters, perhaps several hundred of the terror group’s most hardened and devoted followers, was not clear Saturday.

Observers on the ground said some appeared to have surrendered following the airstrikes that began Thursday night, targeting IS positions next to the Euphrates River and another sliver where IS fighters were backed up against a cliff overlooking the town.

By early Saturday, the airstrikes seemed to focus solely on the area by the cliff, where SDF and coalition officials said the IS fighters might have access to an extensive system of tunnels that helped to hide tens of thousands of people, the last of whom surrendered earlier in the week.

The first indications the fight against IS in Baghuz had ended came early Saturday, said SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali, using Twitter to announce the “total elimination of so-called caliphate.”

Only about 12 hours earlier, U.S. President Donald Trump made a similar declaration, telling reporters traveling with him aboard Air Force One that IS had been “100 percent defeated.”

But Trump’s announcement was quickly rejected by U.S. defense officials and the SDF, who said fighting had not yet ended and more airstrikes were being called in.

On Saturday, Trump again hailed the victory over the terror group in Baghuz.

“ISIS’s loss of territory is further evidence of its false narrative, which tries to legitimize a record of savagery that includes brutal executions, the exploitation of children as soldiers, and the sexual abuse and murder of women and children,” he said in a statement.

“While on occasion these cowards will resurface, they have lost all prestige and power,” he added. “They are losers and will always be losers.”

On Saturday, the SDF’s Kobani was careful to note that while IS’s caliphate had finally been brought down, the danger was far from over, with numerous IS “sleeper cells, which continue to present a great danger in our region and the wider world.”

Top U.S. defense and intelligence officials repeatedly have warned that the terror group had long been planning for the demise of its caliphate, and that a clandestine insurgency already had taken root.

“While this is a critical milestone in the fight against ISIS, we understand our work is far from complete,” acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a statement. “We will continue our work with the Global Coalition to deny ISIS safe haven anywhere in the world.”

One senior defense official warned IS still has, at minimum, “tens of thousands” of fighters and supporters across Syria and Iraq, and that much of the group’s senior leadership, including self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains at large.

FILE - Men suspected of being Islamic State fighters wait to be searched by members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 27, 2019.
Men suspected of being Islamic State fighters wait to be searched by members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 27, 2019. VOA

There also are concerns that IS has thousands more supporters and sympathizers — including upward of 60,000 people who have surrendered since the SDF and coalition launched their final assault last month.

So, too, there are concerns about more than 1,000 foreign fighters being held by the SDF, which has asked repeatedly that they be taken back and prosecuted by their home countries.

“These folks are unrepentant,” the official said. “The seeds for a future caliphate or certainly a persistent clandestine insurgency exist in these large numbers of people who … are looking to reposition for future perpetuation of ISIS in some form or fashion.”

Speaking Saturday at the victory ceremony near Baghuz, the U.S. adviser to the coalition pledged Washington would not abandon the SDF or its other partners, even though Trump has said most of the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria will be leaving.

“We will continue to support the coalition’s operations in Syria to ensure this enduring defeat,” William Robak said. “We will do what is necessary in the region, including here in Syria and across the globe, to ensure the defeat of this threat.”

France and Britain also reaffirmed their commitment, though disagreements with the U.S. over the next steps remain.

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“The threat remains,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter. “The fight against terrorist groups must continue.”

“We will continue to do what is necessary to protect the British people, our allies and partners from the threat Daesh poses,” said Prime Minister Theresa May, using an alternate acronym for IS. (VOA)