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A day after 8 activists of the banned Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were killed by the police after they broke out of a prison in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, speculations about the nature of the incident continue. A sarpanch of a village gave an eye-witness testimony to the media, recounting how the men emerged from water one by one (VIDEO), with lathis in their hands. While the police maintain that the killings happened following heavy exchange of fire and four country guns and sharp-edged weapons were recovered from the escapees, Islamic clerics expressed doubt over the nature of the "encounter". Bhopal's Muslim clergy, which have a strong following, have asked for a probe into the incident and objected to the use of the word "terrorists" in relation to the deceased SIMI activists until such a fact has been established through a fair trial.
The exchange of fiery words continues between Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry. Since his ouster from the position of chairman of Tata Sons, Mistry has levelled accusations of internal mismanagement against the board of the company. On Tuesday, he clarified that insinuations that he had mishandled a lingering dispute with Tata Son's Japanese telecom partner NTT DoCoMo Inc were baseless. On his part, Tata told the employees of the company that the removal of Mistry was "absolutely necessary" for the future success of the group. In the midst of the fire and brimstone rhetoric, the Parsis, a people known for guarding their privacy, are embarrassed by the public fallout between two of their brightest members.
In the last four months, since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani, 26 schools have been burnt in Kashmir. The situation is so dire that a division bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court took suo motu cognisance and asked the custodians of law and order to deal with the "mysterious enemies of education" with an "iron hand". Even Wani's father has condemned the cases of arson strongly. Between this and the Internet blockade, "normal life" in Kashmir remains suspended, caught in a stalemate between the government's paranoia over safety and the desire to bring in modernity to the Valley.
Authorities in India have an enduring habit of closing the stable doors long after the proverbial horse has bolted. As early as 2014, a prison supervisor had told the Madhya Pradesh government of the "vulnerable points, illogical security arrangements and deplorable condition of staff" at Bhopal Central Jail. These concerns are being flagged yet again after 8 SIMI activists escaped on Monday and were subsequently killed by the police. With broken fences and open gate, scaling the walls of the prison may not have been too difficult for the runaways. "God is helping but it would a mistake to presume that he will continue to offer help," former Madhya Pradesh IG (Prisons) GK Agarwal had written to the state government two years ago. His words, clearly, were prophetic.
Pakistan is considering withdrawing four diplomats from India after reports claimed they were involved in espionage. The allegations have drawn a strong response in Islamabad, which said these charges were all baseless. Mehmood Akhtar, the diplomat who was expelled by India on 29 October for spying, had named four officials in a recorded statement in Delhi. But Pakistan High Commission claimed Akhtar was forced to sign the statement by security personnel. "He was kidnapped and signed on the statement under duress. The episode shows that India is violating the Vienna Convention which has to be upheld by both sides," a source told The Hindu.
According to a report in Mint, Flipkart has generated six times more sale this October compared to 2014, when it launched its annual shopping festival, Big Billion Days. The company, along with its fashion units Myntra and Jabong, has clocked Rs 5,000 crore this Diwali, a figure that exceeds the sales of its arch-rival Amazon India, which reportedly made between Rs 4,000 and 5,000 crore. These results, Flipkart CEO Binny Bansal said, only go on to show that local businesses can take on global behemoths successfully.
Off The Front Page
The US state department issued a travel advisory to its citizens visiting India, asking them to stay alert and citing growing threats of attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the country. On 9 September, a similar message was relayed which spoke of ISIS incursions into Bangladesh and other parts of South Asia. This is the first time a specific country in the region has been named as a specific target of ISIS terror.
If you're the sort to turn up your nose at the idea of travelling by Indian Railways, you may have to reconsider your snobbery soon. New AC-III tier compartment, which are scheduled to be rolled out in the middle of November, will come equipped with CCTV cameras as well as a tea and coffee vending machines in each compartment. Apart from these measures, there will be a GPS-based passenger information system above each door, a fire-and-smoke detector, automatic room freshener dispensers and so on. The coaches will be initially plying between Delhi and Gorakhpur.
As the Centre and the Supreme Court lock horns over the appointment of judges, huge number of positions in the judiciary remain unoccupied. Andhra Pradesh leads the list of ten high courts with unfilled positions with a staggering 62% vacancy. The approved strength of the country's 24 high courts stands at 1,079, of which 464 posts or 43% are vacant.
With the US presidential elections just days away, opinion sections of Indian newspapers are also warming up. So far the scales are highly tipped in favour of Hillary Clinton, though Donald Trump, political scientist Ashutosh Varshney writes in The Indian Express, may defy all probabilities and surprise the world. But as of the moment, unless something terribly incriminating surfaces against Clinton, she seems to be well on her way to becoming the first woman president of the United States of America.
In The Telegraph, K.P. Nayar sees the return of Ratan Tata at the helm of Tata Sons, albeit temporarily for four months until a suitable successor can be identified, as "a moment of nostalgia" for Indian diplomacy. "Tata's contribution to changing the contours of India's external affairs at a time when foreign policy — especially economic diplomacy — was at a crossroads is yet to be recorded," he writes. "Very few people are aware... that Tata was a midwife of sorts for what is now celebrated alternately in Washington and in New Delhi as the annual 'strategic dialogue' between India and the United States of America, the strongest institutional pillar of their bilateral relationship."
An editorial in The Indian Express notes how Akhilesh Yadav is acting cannily, like an astute politician, in the midst of a family feud. Commenting on a recent promotional video released by the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, it says, "Akhilesh's video shows the elasticity of how we define family itself. From a warm, fuzzy embrace, a family could easily deliver stabs in the back and hence, flexibility — swinging nimbly from sprawling, joint clans to cosy little lots — is vital."
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