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Babri Masjid demolition case: LK Advani, all other accused acquitted by special court

ANI, IANS
September 30, 2020 | Last updated on at 11.58 pm
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In its judgement pronounced today, the court said that the demolition was not pre-planned.

All accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case have been acquitted by the Special CBI court in Lucknow on Wednesday.
In its judgement pronounced today, the court said that the demolition was not pre-planned.

Earlier today, 26 of the 32 accused had arrived at the court premises to hear the court's verdict.

While six others, including senior BJP leader LK Advani, had taken part in it through video conferencing.

There were 49 accused in the case out of which 17 have passed away. Therefore, the court pronounced its judgement on the rest 32 accused, who had been asked to be physically present in the court.

However, owing to Covid-19, senior citizens and those who are unwell among the accused are likely to be exempted from personally appearing in the court.

Latest updates:

Rajnath Singh welcomes court's verdict

"I welcome the verdict by Special CBI Court, Lucknow acquitting all 32 accused. It proves that justice triumphed however late it may be," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.
???? ?? ????? ????? ?????? ????? ?????? ??????? ??? ??? ???? ???????? ??????, ???? ?????? ????, ??. ????? ????? ????, ????? ???? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?? ???????? ??? ????? ? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ?????? ???? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?? ??? ?? ?? ??? ??? ????? ?? ??? ??? ???
- Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 30, 2020
Ravi Shankar Prasad meets LK Advani
Minutes after the Babri verdict was pronounced, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad arrived at the residence of BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani. Advani was among the 32 who were acquitted by the court on Wednesday. He attended the court proceeding via video conference.
Delhi: Law & Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad arrives at the residence of senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani who, along with 31 other accused, was acquitted in #BabriMasjid demolition case by Special CBI Court in Lucknow today. pic.twitter.com/oNHImAWP7i
- ANI (@ANI) September 30, 2020
Babri Mosque demolition not pre-planned: Court
As CBI Judge SK Yadav began reading the 2,000-page order, the court observed that evidences against the accused were not strong enough and the Babri Mosque demolition incident was not pre-planned.

Advani, Joshi acquitted of conspiracy charges
A special CBI court acquitted all 32 accused, including BJP veterans LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, of criminal conspiracy charges around 28 years after Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya.
All 32 accused acquitted by CBI court
All accused in Babri Masjid demolition case acquitted by Special CBI Court in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. pic.twitter.com/9jbFZAVstH
- ANI (@ANI) September 30, 2020
Special Judge S.K. Yadav begins proceedings:
Special Judge S.K. Yadav begins proceedings

#Babridemolitioncase #BabriMasjidDemolitionCase

Photo: IANS (File) pic.twitter.com/2v5pq3Nth8
- IANS Tweets (@ians_india) September 30, 2020
All 27 accused present in court
All 26 accused, except LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Nritya Gopal Das, Kalyan Singh and Satish Pradhan are present in the court room.
All accused in Babri Masjid demolition case, except Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Satish Pradhan and Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, have arrived at Special CBI Court in Lucknow. https://t.co/qnQpEogX2I
- ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) September 30, 2020
Vehicular movement in vicinity of court minimised
Wooden barricades were erected near most of the cross sections in the vicinity of the court building, and movement of buses from the Kaisarbagh bus stand diverted, PTI reported.

17 accused died during course of trial
There were 49 accused in the case out of which 17 have passed away. Therefore, the court will pronounce its judgement on the rest 32 accused, who have been asked to be physically present in the court. However, owing to Covid-19, senior citizens and those who are unwell among the accused are likely to be exempted from personally appearing in the court.

A meeting over the security details for today had been held a day earlier in which it was decided that the accused and their advocates would enter the court premises through gate number 3. However, due to security reasons or for any other reasons, if there is a need to enter the premises through vehicles then gate number 6 can be used. The police department has been deputed to look after the arrangements of security in the court premises today.

Some of the high-profile personalities in the case include senior BJP leaders such as Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh, among others. Apart from them, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Champat Rai, and others are also accused.

What the Babri demolition case is all about?
The Babri demolition case has lost much its steam after the Supreme Court, on November 9, 2019, allowed construction of Ram temple at the disputed site where the mosque once stood in Ayodhya, settling the land dispute.

Majority of the accused leaders in the demolition case have already pleaded innocence and blamed the then Congress government for falsely implicating them in the case due to political reasons.

According to legal experts, if convicted, veteran leaders like L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Rithambhara, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Champat Rai Bansal, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Dharmadas and Satish Pradhan would face maximum imprisonment up to five years for conspiracy.

If former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj and then Ayodhya district magistrate R.N. Srivastava are convicted, they may get maximum three years of jail term.

The remaining accused, including BJP MPs Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and Lallu Singh and 17 others, are also facing charges under Section 395 (committing dacoity) which may invite life imprisonment if the court records their conviction.

"All the accused can move the high court to challenge the verdict," said a senior lawyer.

Special judge Surendra Kumar Yadav, on May 30, 2017, had framed charges against Advani, Joshi, Bharti, Katiyar and Rithambhara for conspiracy under Section 120 B of IPC read with sections 147, 149, 153(a), 153(b) and 505(1)(b) of IPC.

Mahant Nritya Gopal, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Dharmadas and Satish Pradhan are facing charges under Section 295 of IPC in addition to Sections 147, 149, 153(a), 153(b) and 505(1)(b).

The CBI and defence lawyers have filed separately as many as 850 pages in their written arguments.

Interestingly, Wednesday's verdict is the last in the service period of special judge S.K. Yadav, whose tenure was extended by the Supreme Court as he retired on September 30, 2019, till delivery of the verdict by September 30, 2020.

It may be recalled that exactly 10 years ago, on September 30, 2010 -- a three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court had delivered the verdict in the Ayodhya title suit, which was later challenged in Supreme Court.

The Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992, but the case moved at a snail's pace due to judicial delays.

The trial only began in 2010, and proceeded at a slow pace till the Supreme Court ordered day-to-day hearings on April 19, 2017, and said that the judge hearing the case, S.K. Yadav, would not be transferred.

Meanwhile, the defence lawyers representing the accused too have their paperwork ready - whether the accused are convicted or acquitted, the defence will have to move bail pleas.

"In case there is an acquittal, we will have to move bail under 437 CrPC by furnishing a personal bond for each person. In case they are convicted, then we will move bail on the same day before the same court so that they are not sent to judicial custody," a defence lawyer, who did not wish to be named, said.

Over the years, the Ayodhya case has seen several witnesses narrating how the Babri Masjid was demolished using axes, heard audios of kar sevaks raising slogans, seen evidence on video and arguments by the defence.

The case centres on the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid by a mob which believed it was built on the birthplace of Hindu deity Lord Ram. The demolition triggered communal riots around India that killed around 1,800 people, according to official figures.

The case is different from the land dispute at the heart of the stand-off, which was settled by the Supreme Court in November 2019 in favour of a Ram Janmabhoomi temple, the foundation stone for which was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5.

Following the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992, the police filed two FIRs.

The first - number 197/92 - was registered against lakhs of unnamed kar sevaks (volunteers) who had climbed atop the mosque to smash it with hammers and axes.

The second FIR - number 198/92 - was filed against eight people, namely Advani, Joshi, Bharti and Vinay Katiyar of the BJP, and the Vishva Hindu Parishad's Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Sadhvi Rithambhara. Of these, Dalmia, Kishore and Singhal have died.

Forty-seven more FIRs were filed for the attacks on journalists on the day of the demolition, after the mosque had been brought down.

The first problem that arose was the division of cases between the CBI and the UP Police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

FIR 197 against the kar sevaks was handed over to the CBI, while FIR 198, against the BJP and VHP leaders, was handed over to the CID.

It was only on August 27, 1993 that the CBI was handed over all the cases by the UP government.

On October 5, 1993, the CBI filed its first chargesheet against 40 people, including the eight leaders. After two years of investigation, the CBI filed a supplementary chargesheet on January 10, 1996, alleging a larger conspiracy and a planned attack on the Babri Masjid.

The CBI then included the charge of criminal conspiracy, Section 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code, against nine more people, including Shiv Sena leaders Bal Thackeray and Moreshwar Save.

In 1997, a Lucknow magistrate ordered the framing of charges (including criminal conspiracy) against the 48 accused. But 34 of them moved the Allahabad High Court appealing for revision, and were granted a stay.

For four years, nothing moved, because of the high court's stay order.

Then, on February 21, 2001, the Allahabad High Court ordered that the criminal conspiracy charge against Advani, Joshi, Bharti, Kalyan Singh and others be dropped.

Less than three month later, on May 4, 2001, the special court in Lucknow bifurcated FIRs 197 and 198 again, and stated that while 21 accused will be tried in Rae Bareli, the other 27 will be tried in Lucknow.

The CBI then moved the high court to review its decision to drop the criminal conspiracy charge, but its petition was dismissed.

On June 16, the CBI wrote to the UP government for a fresh notification to resume trial.

In July 2003, the CBI withdrew the criminal conspiracy charge against Advani and filed a fresh chargesheet in the Rae Bareli court. But in July 2005, the high court re-framed the charge of 'inciting hate' against Advani.

Until 2010, the two cases were being argued in the two separate courts.

In 2011, the CBI finally approached the Supreme Court, which decided to transfer the Rae Bareli part of the trial to Lucknow as well.

For the next seven years, several review petitions were filed in the courts against the charges framed, which led to a further delay.

It was only after the Supreme Court stepped in on April 19, 2017 that Advani and others were brought back into the criminal conspiracy case.

The apex court called the high court's order "erroneous", and also pulled up the CBI for not appealing against the order earlier.

There were over 30,000-40,000 witnesses to the demolition, and oral evidence is said to have played an important role in the trial. Oral evidence includes all the statements given by witnesses to the police while the investigation was on.

The CBI, during the investigation, drew up a list of 1,026 witnesses, which includes mostly journalists and policemen, and relied on oral evidence to establish the criminal conspiracy case against the eight BJP and VHP leaders as well.

The oral evidence also includes speeches that were made by these leaders when Advani's rath yatra for a Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya began in 1990. These show that the idea to demolish the mosque was conceived in 1990, which proves conspiracy.

The CBI made extra efforts to track most witnesses. Since 2010, several CBI teams have travelled the length and breadth of the country to issue summons asking them to depose in court. The CBI has produced a total of 351 witnesses and nearly 600 documents as evidence before the special court.

Documentary evidence too is set to play an important role in the case, including news reports of the incident, as well as photographs and videos shot at the site on December 6, 1992.

On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court, while awarding the disputed site to Hindu claimants, noted that the demolition was "an egregious violation of the rule of law".

It now remains to be seen whether the SC's noting that the act of demolition was a "violation" impacts the judgment.

The prosecution has said in its final arguments that since the demolition is an act of violation, the accused who conspired must be punished, while the defence has cited the SC's final comments that the land belongs to the Hindu claimants.
 

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India gang-rape case shocks world

AFP/Bool Garhi, India
Filed on September 30, 2020
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A demonstrator is detained by police during a protest after the death of a rape victim, on Rajpath near India Gate, in New Delhi, India, September 30, 2020 (Reuters)


"I wasn't even allowed to see the body of my daughter one final time before they burned it," her mother said.


Indian police were accused Wednesday of cremating the body a teenaged "untouchable" Dalit woman against her family's wishes after she died following an alleged gang-rape by four upper-caste men -- the latest sexual assault to shock the country.

The 19-year-old from India's marginalised Dalit community was left paralysed following a brutal attack two weeks ago in fields outside a village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

She was found lying in a pool of blood after going missing while collect fodder outside her home village of Bool Gahri.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was later taken to hospital in New Delhi, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) away, but died Tuesday from her injuries.

The assault comes months after four men were hanged for the brutal 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi, a case that came to symbolise the nation's problems with sexual violence.

The latest attack sparked anger that was further fuelled Wednesday after the woman's family accused police of cremating her body in the dead of night -- against their wishes and religious custom -- raising doubts about their commitment to a proper investigation.

"I wasn't even allowed to see the body of my daughter one final time before they burned it," her mother told reporters Wednesday.
Four men have been arrested in connection with the attack -- all aged in their 20s and 30s -- with an Indian newspaper reporting one was from a wealthy landowning family feared by the community.

He "creates trouble but no one ever says anything," the Indian Express quoted a villager as saying.
"He drinks, harasses women. Everyone is scared of the family."

- 'Caste supremacy' -

Police chief Vikrant Vir insisted the woman's cremation took place with the family's consent, but added: "We did not want any outsider to create law and order disturbances."

The All India Progressive Women's Association said the police action "reeks of caste supremacy".

India's 200 million "untouchable" Dalits have long faced discrimination and abuse, and campaigners say attacks on them have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

The attack has sparked uproar and lit up social media in India, with politicians, Bollywood personalities, cricket stars and rights activists voicing anger.
"When will this stop? Our laws & their enforcement must be so strict that the mere thought of punishment makes rapists shudder with fear! Hang the culprits," tweeted Bollywood megastar Akshay Kumar.

Nearly 90 rape cases were recorded every day last year, according to data released Tuesday by the National Crime Records Bureau, but vastly more assaults are thought to go unreported.

On Wednesday several dozen protesters were detained outside the heavily barricaded Uttar Pradesh government offices.
"We are getting reports of rape cases non-stop, this isn't the first one," protester Jaideep told AFP.

"In this one there was so much pressure from the upper castes that the police didn't register a case for eight days."

In Bool Gahri Wednesday, there was a heavy police presence with barricades and police at every corner as dozens of TV crews scrambled to interview relatives and locals.
 

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India's coronavirus infections surge to 6.23 million

Reuters
Filed on September 30, 2020

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Deaths from coronavirus infections rose by 1,179 in the last 24 hours to 97,497, the ministry said.

India's coronavirus case tally surged to 6.23 million after it reported 80,472 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Wednesday.

Deaths from coronavirus infections rose by 1,179 in the last 24 hours to 97,497, the ministry said.

The south Asian nation, which is second only to the United States in terms of total cases, has a scope for higher infections with a large chunk of the population still unexposed to the virus, a survey showed on Tuesday.

 

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Burdened by debt and unable to eke out a living, many farmers in India turn to suicide

India's farming community averaging 28 suicides a day

Salimah Shivji · CBC News · Posted: Mar 30, 2021
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Kiran Kaur, 25, stands on the three acres that her family owns in Mansa, in India's Punjab region. The fields yield a meagre profit and she says that drove her father to take his own life five years ago. (Salimah Shivji/CBC)

Kiran Kaur surveys her family's paltry plot of land in Mansa, in the northern Indian state of Punjab, and gestures dismissively at the three acres of wheat that will soon yield to cotton plants, which bring in little profit.

"Cotton is a complete failure for us," she said. Prices are low, and the cost of producing the fibre is far too high.

It's what drove her father, Gurnam Singh, to take his own life nearly five years ago on the same plot of land that defeated him, driving the family to the edge of economic ruin, she says.

"Life is still very tough without him here," Kaur, 25, told CBC News. "But that first year after his death almost destroyed me and my family.

"I dropped my studies and sat at home. The world blacked out for me. I have no recollection of the 10 days that followed his death."
1617180623800.png

Many in Punjab grow water-intensive crops such as cotton, wheat and rice, which has pushed farmers to invest heavily in irrigation and pesticides to protect crops, often depleting their savings and adding to debt. (Salimah Shivji/CBC)


What fills Kaur with guilt is that she didn't see it coming. Her father was one of her best friends, and yet, he kept the crippling debt he was struggling to manage hidden from her and the family.

"When he died, things were falling apart," acknowledged Shinderpal Kaur, Kiran's mother.

She knew about the massive loans her husband had taken out to pay for their eldest daughter's wedding and to cover medical treatment for Kiran. Even so, the notion that her husband would kill himself never entered her mind.

"I never thought [the suicide crisis] would hit me," Shinderpal said. "Not in my wildest dreams."

The crisis is deeply felt in Mansa, one of the poorest districts in Punjab, which is often referred to as the country's breadbasket, because of its rich soil and rice fields.

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Kiran’s mother, Shinderpal Kaur, foreground, said the years without her husband have been excruciatingly difficult, as she worries about whether the cotton and wheat crops they are growing will be enough to cover the family’s bills. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

Nearly every village here has had a string of suicides over the past few decades, but the problem goes beyond the district and even the state.

Bankruptcy, debt major factors

As in the rest of the world, the agriculture sector in India is hit disproportionately hard by suicide. Sixty per cent of the country's population works in agriculture.

The latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau shows more than 10,000 farmers and agricultural labourers killed themselves in 2019 — that's 7.4 per cent of India's total suicide victims. (As a comparison, students also made up 7.4 per cent while civil servants accounted for 1.2 per cent.)

That means an average of 28 suicides in India's farming community every day.

While there's rarely just one factor that leads to suicide, the root causes for the suicides among India's farmers highlighted in the government's data are mainly linked to despair over their livelihoods. That ranges from bankruptcy and debt to farming-related issues and crop failure.

The crisis is spread across two dozen of India's states, with the highest number of agricultural suicides in the densely populated Maharashtra state. But it is particularly acute in Punjab, where farmer suicides have increased more than tenfold in the past five years.

The state was transformed in the mid-1960s by the Green Revolution, when the government introduced subsidies to encourage farmers to grow high-yielding rice and wheat varieties that eventually led to the country becoming self-sufficient in those grains.

But over the years, problems started to accumulate. All those water-intensive paddy fields led to the depletion of the area's groundwater. Many farmers poured money into digging deeper wells and into pesticides to protect their crops, but their costs spiralled, leading to crushing debt for many.

'A social phenomenon'

Decades in the making, it's such a deep-rooted crisis that many farmers take their own lives by consuming a pesticide called Sulfas. In Haryana state, the phrase "consuming Sulfas" has become shorthand for suicide.

"It's become a social phenomenon," said Vikas Rawal, an economics professor specializing in agrarian distress at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. He noted that references to Sulfas have also turned up in songs dealing with the plight of India's farmers.

"It's a loss-making enterprise, but these farmers don't have anything else to do, so they just keep doing it," Rawal said. Jobs are scarce, and many people are also reluctant to give up even the smallest plot of land their families own to work for someone else. Rawal said they end up having few options but to descend further into debt.

He said up to 90 per cent of India's farmers can't cover the basic costs of fertilizer, seeds, pesticide and other equipment.

"Your cost of production has gone up and then you've been made to compete with the world," Rawal said, especially with the majority of India's farmers tilling tiny plots of land.

"That has squeezed incomes of farmers so much that basically they're being forced to commit suicide."

'We never had a happy day'

Kiran Kaur's family in Mansa has been especially hard hit. Her father was one of three brothers out of four who took their own lives, leaving behind three widows and their young children.

Kiran's aunt Malkeet lost her husband to suicide 17 years ago, when their two sons were eight and 10 years old. The years since have been difficult, she said, wiping away tears, with a nephew taking care of the fields because her children were too young.

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Gurmeet Kaur, Kiran's aunt, lost her husband to suicide two years ago, after struggling daily to turn a profit on their small farm. 'We never had a happy day,' she told CBC. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)


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Malkeet Kaur’s husband killed himself 17 years ago in Mansa, leaving behind his widow, two young boys and persistent worries about repaying loans. (Salimah Shivji/CBC)

It took five years before anyone explained to Malkeet how to apply for her government-issued widow's pension. Once she got it, it only came intermittently, disappearing inexplicably for years at a time before being re-introduced.

The pension is the equivalent of $12 Cdn a month.

"It's a pittance and makes little difference anyway," Malkeet Kaur said wryly.

Another of Kiran's aunts, Gurmeet Kaur, sat staring into the distance during our interview, clearly still mourning her husband, Gumdoor. He took his life two years ago, on New Year's Day.

"We never had a happy day," Gurmeet told CBC. "The daily struggle basically destroys you.

"We used to think we were doing all this work for our children. But once the father dies, the children are burdened."

She also said she felt betrayed by nature when bad weather led to crop failure.

No national prevention strategy

India's suicide rate was 12.7 per 100,000 as of 2019, according to the WHO, but experts have said the actual numbers are likely far higher than the official figures because of the stigma in a country where trying to take your own life is still listed as a crime in the penal code.

The country also lacks a national suicide prevention strategy, although some initiatives are folded into India's mental health plan. In 2016, the Modi government introduced a crop failure insurance program in an attempt to address a spate of farmer suicides following a lengthy drought.

The fact that India, like nearly every other economy, has been hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic and strict lockdowns has drastically compounded the suicide problem, according to Rawal.

He also fears the potential impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new farm laws, which have prompted months of protests, has also driven up suicide rates.

In September, India abruptly transformed the way the country's massive agricultural sector works, passing new laws that reduce the role of the government in grain markets in an attempt to modernize the industry. It's a move the farmers fear will push prices down and further ruin livelihoods.

"Having fought for so long to survive ... [they] just don't see this government giving a damn about it," Rawal said. "That's forced some people to actually take their lives there in the protest sites or when they went back home."

It's estimated several hundred farmers have died at the three large protest camps currently surrounding India's capital, New Delhi, but it's unclear how many of those killed themselves.

1617180728500.png

Tens of thousands of India's farmers have been camped out for months at several sites bordering India’s capital, New Delhi, in protest of the government's new laws, which farmers fear will crush livelihoods. (Salimah Shivji/CBC)

As a result of the severe backlash, the proposed laws are now on hold, but tens of thousands of farmers are still camped out in protest, pushing for a complete repeal of the legislation.

'There needs to be reform'

The standoff is in its fourth month even though both sides know the system as it stands is unsustainable, said Harish Damodaran, agriculture editor at the daily newspaper The Indian Express.

"Everyone agrees that there needs to be reform … that this cannot be sustained forever," Damodaran said. "Even the farmers themselves."

But he said the Modi government's error was not moving slowly and prioritizing financial incentives for India's farmers to diversify the crops they grow.

"It has to be done very sensibly, very carefully, very sensitively. No reform is possible without consulting the stakeholders," Damodaran said.


1617182749000.png

Many farmers across India are struggling with high debt to keep their farms going. More than 10,000 farmers or agricultural labourers took their own lives in 2019. (Salimah Shivji/CBC)

The protesting farmers see the so-called black laws as a path to allowing large corporations in and a means to decimate the traditional "mandi" system, which guarantees a minimum price for their produce.

"We're not going to leave until we get what we came here for," said Surinder Singh, who has a small farm in Punjab, while sitting near his chai stand at Singhu, the largest protest site surrounding Delhi.

"We know we'll be here for the long haul, years if needed," Singh said. He said the harvest will continue to be done by others at home, allowing the protesters to stay put.

"We will win this war," he said.

Helping widows 'to be heard'

Even with the regulated minimum price for rice and wheat in some areas, many farmers are barely making ends meet. The fact it could disappear is a devastating thought for many at the protests.

Many don't trust the Indian government, which has promised it will not get rid of the floor price. Kiran feels that fear whenever she walks around the protest camp.

She often visits a community kitchen set up by a rotating group of widows at the Singhu camp. On one recent visit, the women were making rotis for other protesters, loudly joking that India's prime minister should come visit and speak to them directly to truly understand the life of an Indian farmer.


1617180831800.png

Kiran Kaur joins a group of widows making roti at the Singhu protest site, set up by farmers bordering the Indian capital. It’s part of the work Kaur does to support families left behind by suicide. (Salimah Shivji/CBC)

After the loss of her father, Kiran started an organization to help widows in her home state. She now buses around Punjab, meeting widows and their families to explain the services available to them, and to emotionally support those "teetering on the brink" and contemplating suicide.

She sees it as another way to honour what her father would have wanted for her.

"The government does not care," Kiran said. "Nobody wants to talk to or listen to the widows or the families of suicide victims."

Hearing the stories, day after day, of widows struggling is not easy, but it gives Kiran strength. "It furthers my resolve to fight for them, to help them be heard."
 

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22 Indian security members killed in Maoist attack - govt official

April 4, 2021
Updated an hour ago
By Saurabh Sharma, Jatindra Dash, Rupam Jain
3 Min Read


(Reuters) -At least 22 members of Indian security forces were killed in a central Indian state by Maoist fighters, in one of the bloodiest attacks by the extreme left-wing insurgent group this year, officials said on Sunday.

Security personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force’s elite CoBRA unit, the District Reserve Guard, and the Special Task Force were attacked on Saturday in the tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh state during an anti-insurgency operation.

“We can confirm that 22 of Indian force members have been killed by Maoist fighters,” said a senior government official in Raipur, the capital of mineral-rich Chhattisgarh.

They were killed in firing that lasted for four hours in the border district of Sukma, 540 kms (340 miles) south of Raipur.

Om Prakash Pal, a senior police official in Raipur, said combing operations to trace one missing security force member were being conducted.

The death toll was the heaviest for Indian security forces battling the far-left guerrillas since 2017.

Home Minister Amit Shah said the government will not tolerate such bloodshed and “a befitting response will be given to prevent such attacks.”

The Maoists, also known as Naxals, have waged an armed insurgency against the government for decades. Leaders of the hardline leftist militant group say they are fighting on behalf of the poorest, who have not benefited from a long economic boom in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Since 1967 the group seen as the greatest threat to the country’s internal security have asserted control over vast swathes of land in central and eastern India, establishing a so-called “red corridor”.

The militant group operate from thick forests, and their operations against the Indian administration and forces are shrouded in secrecy. The group has not claimed responsibility for the latest attack.

Hours after the attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter that the “sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten. May the injured recover at the earliest.”

Last month, five policemen were killed and several others were injured in a blast in what police said was a Maoist strike targeting a bus carrying more than 20 security personnel.
 
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