21032018-TTC-01.qxd 3/21/2018 1:31 AM Page 1 13 established in 1881 wednesday, march 21, 2018 chandigarh | gurugram | jalandhar | bathinda | jammu | srinagar | www.tribuneindia.com | vol. 2 no. 78 | 22 pages | ~4.50 | regd. no. chd/0006/2018-2020 /thetribunechd /thetribunechd 39 Indians missing in Iraq dead; row erupts Retrieving the dead Govt insensitive to families, charges Oppn Smita Sharma Tribune News Service New Delhi, March 20 After a painful wait of around four years, the worst fears of the families of 39 Indians missing in Iraq have been confirmed. All of them were declared dead by the government on Tuesday even as a political row erupted with the Opposition accusing the government of being insensitive for not informing the victims’ families first. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, however, defended the government move in Parliament saying the families of the deceased were not informed beforehand as Parliament is in session and the Houses needed to be informed first. She told the Rajya Sabha that the forensic evidence had established the Indians abducted by the Islamic State in Mosul in June 2014 had been killed, following DNA sample match with the bodies. She could not complete her statement in the Lok Sabha due to ruckus created by parties from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for the 12th straight day. “I had said that I will not declare anyone dead without substantive proof... today, I have come to fulfil that commitment...I had said that closure will be done with full proof. And when we will, with a heavy heart, give the mortal remains to their kin, it will be a kind of closure,” she said. Swaraj said the mortal remains, which were exhumed from a mass grave in Badush, would be brought back to India on a special plane and handed over to their Final arguments begin in Sidhu road rage case New Delhi, March 20 Thirty years after an elderly man died in a road rage case allegedly involving Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Supreme Court on Tuesday commenced hearing final arguments on his appeal, challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict convicting him. Sidhu and his friend Rupinder Singh Sandhu were initially tried for murder but the trial court in September 1999 acquitted the cricketer-turned politician. However, the HC reversed the verdict and held him and co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for Gurnam Singh's death in Patiala in 1988. PAGE 2 COULDN’T RELY ON MASIH ❝ Harjit Masih isaan individual, we are government. Had the government announced deaths based on only Masih’s account, it would have been irresponsible… We are not a ‘missing, believed to be dead’ government. Sushma Swaraj, EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER relatives. Sources in the government said it would take 710 days for the bodies to arrive. Of the 39 dead, 27 are from Punjab, four from Himachal Pradesh, six from Bihar and two from West Bengal. While it was not immediately known exactly when the 39 Indians were killed, their bodies were recovered from Badush—a village northwest of Mosul, and their identities established through DNA testing, she said. Harjit Masih from Punjab's Gurdaspur, who managed to escape from the clutches of Islamic State, had claimed that he witnessed the massacre of others. The government had rejected his claim. “His was a cock-and-bull story,” Swaraj claimed. “Harjit Masih is an individual, we are a government. Had the government announced deaths based on only Masih’s account, it would have been irresponsible… We are not a ‘missing, believed to be dead’ government,” Swaraj said. The Congress condoled deaths, but Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad sought to remind the government that it had “assured us last year that the Indians were alive”. The Congress demanded a compensation of Rs 1 crore for every affected family. “Giving falsehood to people is actually cruel and suggests a certain level of lack of transparency on part of the government,” Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said. Rajya Sabha MPs from Punjab Ambika Soni and Partap Bajwa and Congress media head Randeep Surjewala said at a joint press conference that Swaraj had reiterated safety of these persons on five occasions, citing multiple third party sources. “The way Sushma Swaraj lied to the country is saddening and heartbreaking. The nation and the families were misled,” Soni and Bajwa said. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said it was “unpardonable” that families of victims had to learn about their heartbreaking loss from television channels instead of the government. Swaraj accused the Congress of playing “cheap politics”. Meanwhile, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh called up Swaraj and urged her to provide all assistance to the affected families. Victims’ list on page 7 edit: kidnapped indians killed Tribune News Service Amandeep Kaur holds daughter Sanjna (R) and son Harsh as she mourns the death of husband Kulwinder Singh at Khan Ke village in Jalandhar. AFP ‘Why were we kept in the dark?’ ❝ Rachna Khaira On June 13, 2014, IS militants made us sit in a row and opened fire. I was shot in leg. I reached a Bangladesh relief camp and returned to India in Nov. Intelligence agencies kept shifting me from one city to another for a year before releasing me. Harjit Masih Tribune News Service Jalandhar, March 20 “It is sheer brutality,” said a sobbing Swaran Singh on Union Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj's “sudden announcement” about the death of 39 Indians in Iraq's Mosul — 27 of them from Punjab, among them his brother Nishan Singh. “We had been waiting for the return of our boys for the last four years. The minister should have broken the news to us first. Why were we kept in the dark,” asked an anguished Swaran Singh, who belongs to Sangowal village near Nakodar. Refusing to accept that Indians kidnapped by IS had been killed, he reasoned: “We were earlier told that all Indians held hostage were safe. Later, the government said they could be languishing in a Badush jail. Both claims proved wrong. It is entirely possible that the fresh claim may be false too,” hinting at the possi- bility of the families filing a suit to seek a re-investigation. Amarjit Kaur of Kapurthala, in disbelief after receiving the heartwrenching news, declared she would not perform the last rites of her husband Gobinder Singh “until the government hands me a DNA-match report of tests conducted in India. One can't Stormy start to Punjab Budget session trust a foreign organisation.” Ignorant of the tragedy, a bubbly Kanwaljit Kaur of Batala was sure her 25-year-old son Dharmendra Kumar would return home soon. “I have shortlisted a few girls. I can't wait to see him in a groom's attire,” she told The Tribune, breaking into laughter. “Umeed jiundi e aje tak… aun taan sahi… vekhyo kiddan swagat karna mein (I haven’t given up hope. He will surely return, to a grand welcome),” said Manjit Kaur from Jalandhar's Rurka Kalan village. Little did she know she would never see her husband Davinder Singh again. more on pages 4, 12 SC norms to check SC/ST Act abuse New Delhi, March 20 Taking note of the abuse of stringent provisions of the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the Supreme Court on Tuesday issued directions to ensure that innocent persons, particularly public servants, are not unnecessarily harassed. “In view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the SSP which may be granted in appropriate cases, if considered necessary, for reasons recorded. Such reasons must be scrutinised by the magistrate for permitting further detention,” a Bench of Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit ordered. The recorded reasons must be served on the person to be arrested and to the court concerned, the Bench said. “As and when a person arrested is produced before a magistrate, the magistrate must apply his mind to the reasons recorded and further detention should be allowed only if the reasons recorded are found to be valid. The court said, “There is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Act if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide.” To check false implication of innocent persons, the Bench ordered that before an FIR was registered, preliminary inquiry should be made to ascertain if the case fell within the parameters of the Act and ensure that it was not frivolous or motivated. Any violation of these directions will be actionable by way of disciplinary action as well as contempt, the Bench said. “Secularism is a basic feature of the Constitution. Irrespective of caste or religion, the Constitution guarantees equality in its preamble as continued on page 7 Sikh radical Khalsa commits suicide PSEB maths paper cancelled after leak Kurukshetra: Sikh radical Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa, agitating for the release of Sikh prisoners who have completed their sentence, allegedly committed suicide on Tuesday evening at his native Thaska Ali village in Kurukshetra district. SP Abhishek Garg said Khalsa jumped from an overhead water tank where he was holding a protest. TNS Chandigarh: The Class XII mathematics examination of the Punjab School Education Board was cancelled following reports of paper leak before its commencement on Tuesday. Board Chairman Manohar Kant Kalohiya said: “The paper will now be conducted on March 31. Secretary Hargunjit Kaur will look into the reasons behind the leak.” A Board message on postponement just before the exam led to chaos. P3 Satya Prakash Tribune News Service Police use water cannons on SAD-BJP leaders during a march to the Vidhan Sabha on the first day of Budget session in Chandigarh on Tuesday. NITIN MITTAL P2 Won’t cede an inch, ready for bloody battle, says Xi Less lethal plastic bullets for crowd control in J&K: Centre Beijing, March 20 China will not cede a “single inch” of its territory to others and is ready to wage a “bloody battle” to assume its due place in the world, a belligerent President Xi Jinping, now enjoying a life-long tenure, asserted on Tuesday. In a 30-minute fervently nationalistic speech at the close of the National People's Congress, the Communist nation's rubber-stamp Parliament, Xi said, “Since modern times, rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation has become the biggest dream of our nation.” “The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction that is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China,” Xi said, New Delhi, March 20 Noting that the security forces will use less lethal plastic bullets to tackle law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the government today insisted in the Lok Sabha that it had no plan to withdraw or amend “the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990”, which gives the security forces immunity and special rights in carrying out operations in disturbed areas. Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, in a written reply in the House, said the government had no plan for enhanced use of bunkers to protect security forces from stone throwers after the annual shift of the DISCUSSES TIES WITH MODI OVER PHONE ■ PM Narendra Modi on Tues- ■ Modi is perhaps the first for- day congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping over phone on his re-election ■ The two leaders discussed efforts by both countries to enhance high-level exchanges and deepen bilateral cooperation eign leader to have spoken to Xi as the Chinese President began his second term ■ The two held a telephonic conversation at Modi’s invitation, a day after he congratulated Xi on Chinese social media addressing the closing session of the NPC, the first by a President in recent years. Though Xi made no mention of any territorial issues, the country has been involved in a number of disputes with its neighbours. Besides the border dispute with India, China claims rights over the disputed islands in East China Sea under the control of Japan and vast stretches of the South China Sea where it is firmly asserting its control. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter-claims over the strategicSouthChinaSea.Xisaid Chinahasthecapabilitytotakeits due place in the world. — PTI New Delhi, March 20 It required resorting to both technology and religious symbols to conclusively prove that the 39 missing Indians were dead. “We recovered ID cards, long hair, kadas (bracelets) which our Sikh brothers wear and non-Iraqi footwear. So we thought these men could be ours,” Sushma Swaraj said. Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh was sent to Baghdad thrice to coordinate with the Iraqi authorities on the search mission after the families had not heard from the men for nearly a month after the recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces on July 9, 2017. The government began scanning mass graves with MoS Singh requesting the Iraqi authorities to use deep radar penetration at a particular mound near the Badush prison, where the government believed that the Indians might have been in captivity. After signs of evidence from the Badush mound, the corpses were found, the bodies exhumed and flown to Baghdad for DNA tests to match with the samples from families and relatives collected last September onwards from Punjab, Himachal, Bengal and Bihar. The exercise was undertaken through humanitarian assistance group Martyrs Foundation. “We cannot figure out when they were killed. That is now irrelevant since whenever they were killed, the bodies could not have been retrieved,” remarked Swaraj in response to questions on discounting Harjit Masih’s claim made in 2014. She added there was information from two heads of states of the men being alive. AFSPA STAYS The government said there was no move to withdraw or amend “the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990”. A proposal is being considered to make the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, more operationally effective and humane. capital from Jammu to Srinagar over the next few days. “The government has decided to introduce less lethal plastic bullets to be used in tackling law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. Ahir said the government had appointed Dineshwar Sharma, former Director of the Intelligence Bureau, as Today’s issue is of 22 pages, including four-page Jobs and Careers. its representative to initiate and carry forward dialogue with elected representatives, organisations and individuals concerned in Jammu and Kashmir. “The response from the people of the state has been positive,” he added. Meanwhile, responding to a separate question, he said there was no plan to withdraw or amend “the Armed Forces (JammuandKashmir)SpecialPowers Act, 1990”. He, however, said a proposal was under consideration to make the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, more operationally effective and humane.There has been a longstanding demand from various quarters in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East to withdraw the Act. — TNS
The Tribune, now published from Chandigarh, started publication on February 2, 1881, in Lahore (now in Pakistan). It was started by Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia, a public-spirited philanthropist, and is run by a trust comprising four eminent persons as trustees.
The Tribune, the largest selling daily in North India, publishes news and views without any bias or prejudice of any kind. Restraint and moderation, rather than agitational language and partisanship, are the hallmarks of the paper. It is an independent newspaper in the real sense of the term.
The English edition apart, the 133-year-old Tribune has two sister publications, Punjabi Tribune (in Punjabi) and Dainik Tribune (in Hindi).