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50 ambulance halts, CRPF orders probe

50 ambulance halts, CRPF orders probe

Despite orders to allow movement of ambulances during the ban, the driver of the vehicle carrying the patient to Doda after his discharge from a Srinagar hospital last Wednesday was stopped around 50 times on April 10, including a 30-minute halt at Lower Munda. file photo

Ishfaq Tantry
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, April 17

Amid mounting anger against the biweekly ban on civilian traffic on the national highway, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has ordered a probe into the incident involving the death of a cancer patient whose ambulance was repeatedly stopped during the convoy movement last week.

Despite orders to allow movement of ambulances during the ban, the driver of the vehicle carrying the patient to Doda after his discharge from a Srinagar hospital last Wednesday was stopped around 50 times on April 10, including a 30-minute halt at Lower Munda.

Abdul Qayoom Banday of Doda was stopped on the Srinagar-Jammu NH near Lower Munda in Qazigund area on April 10 for about 30 minutes by CRPF men.

Ambulance driver Javed Ahmad said the patient died near Batote. “Before that, our ambulance was stopped around 50 times between Srinagar and Doda.”

This is the first casualty due to the biweekly ban on civilian traffic on the 270-km Baramulla-Srinagar-Udhampur highway imposed on April 3. “A high-level inquiry has been ordered,” the CRPF said, expressing “anguish” over the demise of the  patient after a video of the ambulance being stopped surfaced on the social media.

The force said: “Strict instructions are in place to enable speedy passage of ambulances and ailing civilians.”


Three live mortars found at Ram Darbar

Three live mortars found at Ram Darbar

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13

Panic gripped Ram Darbar after three live mortars were found lying in a heap of garbage in the area on Saturday morning.

Garbage collectors noticed the mortars lying near the vegetable market, after which various police teams rushed to the spot. Cops cordoned off the area and the traffic on the adjoining roads, including Ram Darbar-Poultry Farm chowk road, was diverted.

An earth mover was pressed into service to dig a pit to safely place the ammunition in it. The Army was also informed about the recovery of live mortars. An Army team later took the live mortars in its custody. A DDR has been lodged at the Sector 31 police station.

Priest with live cartridges caught at airport

Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 13

The police have nabbed a Barnala-based priest and spiritual guru, Gulam Haider Ali Quadri, with 13 live cartridges at the Chandigarh International Airport here today.

He was produced before a court, which sent him to 14-day judicial custody. He was sent to the Patiala jail.

Giving details, Inspector Baljeet Singh, SHO of the Airport police station, said Gulam Haider Ali Quadri was heading for Kolkata. While passing through the departure scanning section, the CISF detected ammunition in his baggage and detained the priest. Later, the police were informed about it. On checking the baggage, the CISF and the police recovered 13 live cartridges of .32 bore revolver.

Inspector Baljeet Singh said during preliminary interrogation, the priest claimed that he had a licensed revolver, which has been deposited with the police due to the poll code, and the cartridges were mistakenly left in his baggage. He said his weapon licence story had been verified and ascertained that he had deposited the weapon due to the model code of conduct.

The Inspector said even though the priest had a licensed weapon, they had to arrest him as he did not possess documentary evidences to support the ammunition in the baggage.

The police have booked Gulam Haider Ali Quadri under Section 25-54-50 of the Arms Act at the Airport police station, said the police.

Pak violated truce 513 times in last 45 days: Army

Pak violated truce 513 times in last 45 days: Army

Shyam Sood

Rajouri, April 13

The Pakistan army violated the 2003 truce agreement 513 times in the last 45 days along the Line of Control (LoC), said a senior Army officer on Saturday.

“During the last about 45 days, the Pakistan army has violated the 2003 truce agreement 513 times and used heavy weaponry (artillery guns) over 100 times to target Indian forward areas and civil population,” said Lt Gen Paramjit Singh, General Officer Commanding (GOC), White Knight Corps.

He said the Pakistan army rarely disclosed its fatalities while the Indian Army gave due respect to its martyrs.

After paying homage to martyrs on the occasion of Rajouri Liberation Day, Lt Gen Paramjit Singh said, “The Army will take strong and effective action against every nefarious activity along the LoC,” the GOC said.

“Whenever Pakistan uses artillery fire on the LoC, it gets the same response. People are safe till the Army is on the border,” he said.

About the “politicisation” of the armed forces, the GOC said, “The Army is working under the Constitution and has its own task and mandate. It does not want to be involved in such disputes.”

He said the Army with the help of people, security forces, civil administration had succeeded in wiping out militancy from Rajouri and Poonch.

“Since the enemy (Pakistan) can revive militancy, the Army has not been withdrawn from Rajouri and Poonch districts,” said the GOC, White Knight Corps.

The Army’s morale was high and it was at the highest alert along the border, the Army officer added.

About the sniping incidents, the GOC said only three such cases had been reported till February 26. He also expressed his concern over the increase in militancy-related incidents in Kishtwar.

Regarding terror camps, he said, “No change has been reported and the figure is the same. After the IAF strikes, top leadership of terrorists has been eliminated in Kashmir.”

Ammo dump blast: Lt Col’s widow moves HC

Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 13

Almost three years after 19 persons had lost their lives in a massive fire that had broken out at the Central Ammunition Depot (CAD), Pulgaon, it has now emerged that the Army had made multiple requests to the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for removing defective anti-tank mines from the depot but no action was taken on the requests.

A petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court by the widow of Lt Col RS Pawar, herself an Army officer hailing from Rohtak, has averred that the Army had in strong terms put on record that the matter was being “delayed deliberately” and “dragged unendingly,” thereby posing a serious threat to safety and security of personnel and endangering the establishment.

No effective action whatsoever was taken by the OFB, ultimately leading to the tragic blast in depot, one of the largest in Asia, on May 31, 2016 because of defective mines. Two officers, including Lt Col Pawar, who was posthumously decorated for gallantry, and 17 others were killed and a huge stockpile of ammunition was destroyed.

Taking cognisance of the petition filed by Maj Reenu Ohlan, the High Court has issued notices to the Department of Defence Production (DDP) and the OFB. Besides seeking compensation “as the court may deem fit” from these two establishments, she has also sought action on the directions passed by the Defence Minster for fixing accountability and culpability in the incident and also for ensuring time-bound removal of all defective ammunition to prevent any such catastrophe in the future.

It was the mandate of technical experts from the OFB and the Quality Assurance directorate to remove the mines categorised as defective. The Army, which controls the CAD, is not authorised to handle such ammunition. In fact, there was another blast at CAD, Pulgaon in 2018, in which six persons were killed.

Pointing out that the though the Army and the Department of Defence (DoD) in the MoD are supporting her, she has averred that there has been total apathy, negligence and indifference on part of the DDP and OFB.

In honour of

Martyr Amin Chand

Rajender Sharma, great-grandson of martyr Haqim Amin Chand, is a businessman in Amritsar. Amin Chand hailed from Murad Pura Hakima Wala, a village inhabited by physicians of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. On April 13, 1919, Amin Chand left for Jallianwala Bagh, all decked up in black clothes as a mark of protest. He was at the forefront of the resistance and the following  day, when his body was found, it was so badly riddled with bullets that the last rites were performed by NGO Sewa Samiti in the city only instead of being taken to the village.

Martyr Hari Ram

HP Minister Suresh Bhardwaj honours Mahesh Behal.

Mahesh Behal, grandson of martyr Hari Ram, heads the Jallianwala Bagh Shaheed Parivar Samiti. When the Rowlatt Act was introduced, Hari Ram, a petition writer, would often tell people how dangerous the legislation was. A close associate of Pt MM Malviya, he was active in the freedom movement.  

Martyr Wasoo Mal of Amritsar

Capt Amarinder Singh honours Sunil Kapoor, great-grandson of martyr Wasoo Mal.

Sunil Kapoor, great-grandson of martyr Wasoo Mal, runs a textiles business in Amritsar’s old market. He is trying to keep the families of martyrs together through the Jallianwala Bagh Freedom Fighters Foundation. Lala Wasoo Mal Kapoor was a prominent cloth merchant of Karmon Deori area of Amritsar and liberally funded activities of freedom fighters. He was hit by two bullets at Jallianwala Bagh and six days later at the age of 45, he succumbed to his injuries at Civil Hospital, Amritsar.

Build grand memorial to martyrs: HP minister

Naina Mishra
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 13

Himachal Pradesh Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj today urged Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to build a grand memorial in the memory of civilians massacred at Jallianwala Bagh.

Speaking during the event, Bhardwaj said: “Last year, I went to Jallianwala Bagh and was saddened to see the memorial built there. We have not been able to build a memorial that would give justice and depict the martyrs’ sacrifices.”

“The Jallianwala Bagh massacre will be remembered till eternity as it marked the beginning of the freedom struggle of India,” he said. While condemning the Rowlatt Act, he said, “The Rowlatt Act was a black Act that aimed at suppressing political leaders’ voice and permitting imprisonment of suspects without trial.”

“It can also be described as the first-ever law that targeted press freedom after the ‘Emergency’ period, which also crippled our fundamental rights. The Act was censured by the revolutionaries of that time.”

Bhardwaj said the way “our unarmed men were fired at on the orders of General Dyer cannot be forgotten. It was a deadly massacre of thousands of civilians who had gathered peacefully at Jallianwala Bagh”.

The Himachal Minister said his state had always “stayed upfront at the service of the nation and our soldiers at the border were rendering selfless service for the country”.

Anil Ambani in Rs 1,100-cr waiver row French daily claims concession after Rafale deal; no favouritsm: Rel Com

Anil Ambani in  Rs 1,100-cr waiver row

Anil Ambani

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 13

The controversy over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France has taken a new turn following an article published in French daily claimed that Anil Ambani’s France-based company (not the same dealing with Dassault Aviation) was given a tax waiver of 143.7 million euros (over Rs 1,100 crore).

The waiver came in October 2015, six months after PM Narendra Modi announced the Rafale deal in April 2015,  Le Monde reported. Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence is an offset partner of Dassault in the Rafale deal. Reacting to the report by the French daily, Reliance Communications said the tax demands were completely unsustainable and illegal, and denied any “favouritism or gain from settlement”. 

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the period of tax concession did not relate “even remotely” to the Rafale deal.

Anil Ambani’s France-based  ‘Reliance Flag Atlantic France’ deals in under-sea cabling which carries telephone and internet traffic. French tax authorities, after a probe, found the company liable to pay 60 million euros in taxes for the period between 2007 and 2010. Reliance offered to pay 7.6 million euros as a settlement. 

This offer was turned down, and the French authorities conducted a fresh probe from 2010 to 2012 and levied an additional 91 million euros, Le Monde reported.

However, six months after the Rafale announcement, the French tax authorities accepted 7.3 million euros from the company as a settlement, the daily reported.

“France has cancelled a tax recovery of a total amount of 143.7 million euros, yet claimed for years, in favour of a French company belonging to Reliance Communications,” it reported. The French daily cited an auditor’s report of January 30, 2015, saying Reliance Flag Atlantic France is subject to two tax adjustments. It claimed that the parent company of the French company of Anil Ambani, Reliance Globalcom Ltd, is domiciled in Bermuda, which is on the blacklist of tax havens in the EU. In a statement, Reliance Communications said: “Reliance Flag settled tax disputes as per legal framework available to all companies operating in France.”

The MoD said: “Any connections drawn between the tax issue and the Rafale matter is totally inaccurate and a mischievous attempt to disinform… neither the period of the tax concession nor the subject matter of the concession relate even remotely to the Rafale deal concluded during the tenure of the present government.”

No political interference: France

  • France has clarified a global settlement was reached between the French tax authorities and Reliance Flag, and that it was not subject to any political interference
  • “The settlement was conducted in full adherence with the legislative framework governing this common practice of the tax administration,” the French embassy said

It’s Modi’s kripa: Cong

“This is called zero sum choices, startling tax concession and Modi ‘kripa’… PM Modi is acting as middleman for Anil Ambani… It is clear only one watchman is the thief.” —Randeep Surjewala, Cong spokesperso


A salute to the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs Region comes together as The Tribune pays tribute to the heroes who impacted history

A salute to the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar presents a memento to Surinder Singh, nephew of Sunder Singh, who was martyred at the age of 17 at the Jallianwala Bagh, during a function organised by The Tribune Trust to commemorate the centenary of the massacre at Bhargava Auditorium, PGI, Chandigarh, on Saturday. Former J&K Governor and The Tribune Trust President NN Vohra, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and Himachal Pradesh Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj are also seen. tribune phot


We need to raise a memorial to hundreds of freedom fighters who went unrecognised in the annals of history, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said here today, addressing the centenary commemoration of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre organised by The Tribune Trust.The Tribune played a historical role in awakening the people across North India, before and after the massacre. It faced the wrath of the British Raj for speaking out the truth and reporting extensively on the episode.

 Capt Amarinder exhorted researchers to make correction in aberrations. He cited the example of the casualty figure of 379 given by the British after the April 13, 1919, carnage. “The actual number is much higher,” he said. “When on an official tour of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, we found there was no record on the hundreds of Punjabis who suffered torture there. I hope Vice Chancellors and researchers help us correct the narrative of our history.”Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said the danger to the freedom India had earned after incalculable suffering today came from terrorism, communalism and casteism. “The only tribute that the Indians can pay to the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh firing is to rise above divisive lines of religion, region and caste to build a united India.”He said The Tribune was the result of a growing awakening after the 1857 revolt. “Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia, a social reformer, established The Tribune Trust in 1881 in Lahore to contribute his bit to the struggle.”

The function began with a one-minute silence in memory of the Jallianwala martyrs.

Himachal Pradesh Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj said: “Inspired by The Tribune initiative, Himachal Pradesh will contribute to raising a memorial to freedom fighters at Amritsar. We expect Punjab and Haryana to join in.”

President of The Tribune Trust NN Vohra said the Jallianwala tragedy kindled the fire for freedom that was never extinguished till the country became free. Mentioning martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Udham Singh, he said an inspirational environment was set into motion by the Amritsar tragedy.

The national events that followed saw the emergence of Mahatma Gandhi, who took charge of the situation. He said today’s event was an occasion to remind ourselves about the role of the media which at that point of time were essentially newspapers.

The Tribune Editor Rajesh Ramachandran, in his welcome address, said: “Jallianwala Bagh was an epochal event that changed the course of Indian history. It made Gandhi a Mahatma. Today is also an occasion to remember The Tribune’s scholarly contribution during the freedom struggle. The resolve of the newspaper was best shown by Editor Kalinath Ray, who dared to show the real face of the British rule.”

Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Vijay Sampla and Member of Parliament Kirron Kher, Speakers of the Punjab and Haryana Vidhan Sabhas Rana KP Singh and Kanwar Pal Gujjar, Punjab Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Housing Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Animal Husbandry Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu, PWD Minister Vijay Inder Singla, Sports Minister Rana Gurmeet Sodhi and Haryana’s Health Minister Anil Vij also attended the function.

A book “Martyrdom to Freedom: 100 years of Jallianwala Bagh” edited by The Tribune Editor Rajesh Ramachandran, with a foreword by The Tribune Trust President NN Vohra, was released on the occasion.

Four descendants of the Jallianwala martyrs were honoured — Sunil Kapoor, great grandson of Wasoo Mal; Surinder Singh, nephew of martyr Sunder Singh; Rajender Sharma, great grandson of martyr Amin Chand, and Mahesh Behal, grandson of Hari Ram Behal.

Managing Director of Rupa Publications Kapish Mehra was felicitated on the occasion. Senior television news anchor Rini Khanna conducted the stage.

The Punjab and Haryana governments were participants with The Tribune in the centenary commemoration.

A searing memory of horror lingers for victims’ families

AMRITSAR:It took place 100 years ago to the day. On April 13, 1919, soldiers of the British Indian Army, under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer, fired bullets into a crowd of civilians who gathered peacefully in Jallianwalla Bagh, near the Golden Temple in Amritsar, to celebrate the harvest festival of Baisakhi and protest against the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satya Pal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew.

A hundred years later, the massacre still remains a searing memory for families of the victims who heard about it from survivors and relayed the narrative to subsequent generations.

Satpal Sharma, an 82-year-old retired head teacher, says his father’s brother Lal Chand, who was a survivor, narrated to him the story.

“My grandfather, Amin Chand Sharma, a hakim by profession, was getting ready for taking part in the Jallianwala Bagh protest. In the meantime, my uncle Lal Chand, who was only 12 years old then, started imploring my grandfather to take him along,” said Satpal .

His grandfather and uncle both left for the venue and joined the crowd, which was listening to the speeches of protest leaders when Dyer arrived at the scene accompanied by soldiers. “They took up positions and opened fire on the gathering without any warning. During the firing, among others, my grandfather was killed. My uncle somehow survived; he was taken out a day later from beneath a heap of bodies,” Sharma recalled.

“It was a brutal killing of innocent people and we can’t forget this. Even today, whenever I go to the Jallianwala Bagh, tears roll out of my eyes,” said Sharma, whose grandfather was recognized as a freedom fighter in 2010.

Mahesh Behal, 73, president of the Jallianwala Bagh Shaheed Parivar Samiti, heard the story of his own grandfather, lawyer Hari Ram Behal, from survivors. He was in Jallianwalla Bagh to address the crowd, but he was gunned down by Dyer’s troops before it was his turn to speak . Behal calls Dyer a “butcher”. “Before going to Jallianwala Bagh, my grandfather had told my grandmother, Rattan Kaur, to prepare kheer (rice pudding). My grandmother kept waiting with a bowl of kheer in her hand. Since then, we have not been cooking kheer in April,” Behal said.

The death toll in the massacre is still disputed. The colonial government put the number of deaths at 376, far fewer than the Indian National Congress’s claim that more than 1,000 perished.

Mahesh Behal says the families of some of the victims are in Pakistan. “We have contacts of only half-a-dozen families. No contacts of other families have been traced by the government even after the passage of 100 years,” he said.

Member of Parliament, Shwait Malik, who is one of the members of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, said, “The list of identification of the victims is being finalised by Amritsar administration. Till now, the administration has prepared a list of 501 victims. As soon as the list is completed, I will ask the Centre to announce the status of martyrs to those killed during the massacre.”

Ratan Devi, widow of Chhaju Bhagat, spent the night of Baisakhi in 1919 in Jallianwala Bagh by her husband’s body.

“After passing through that heap (of bodies), I found the body of my husband. The way towards it was full of blood and bodies…By this time, it was 8 o’clock and no one could stir out of her house because of a curfew order. I stood waiting. I could not go anywhere leaving the body of my husband… Amid hundreds of corpses, I passed my night…A number of them were poor, innocent children… What I experienced is known only to me and to God,” read her account preserved in the records of Jallianwala Bagh.

The Bengali keeper of Jallianwala’s memories of pain

 AMRITSAR: Sukumar Mukherjee, the third generation caretaker of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial, says it deserves much more respect than what it gets from visitors. At the entrance of the memorial that was inaugurated in 1961, there is a gallery, full of words and photos on the massacre. The lines, “It’s a tragedy of national importance that cannot be allowed to be forgotten”, are a stark reminder of how India freed itself from colonial brutality.

SAMEER SEHGAL/ HT PHOTO■ Sukumar Mukherjee, secretary of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust in Amritsar on April 9. Mukherjee is the third generation caretaker of the memorial.For Mukherjee, secretary of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, this is both home and office – his residence is a short flight upstairs.

The 64-year-old with green eyes was born here, like his father Uttam Charan. The Mukherjees from the Hooghly district of West Bengal have been the caretakers of the Jallianwala memorial since its inception. Mukherjee’s grandfather Sashti Charan Mukherjee, a homeopath practising in Allahabad, was deputed by Congress leader Madan Mohan Malaviya to arrange a session in Amritsar in 1910. He never went back. Present at the bagh on the day of the 1919 massacre, Sashti Charan escaped death by hiding under the dais, and later moved a resolution for acquiring the site at the Congress session in Amritsar. This was followed by a nationwide appeal for fundraising by Mahatma Gandhi and a trust was set up with Malaviya as president and Sashti Charan as secretary. The British, it is said, wanted to obliterate the signs of the massacre by setting up a cloth market here but the Indians managed to acquire the land in 1920. Miffed, the authorities arrested Sashti Charan, who had the land deed, but he remained resolute.

Ever since, the Mukherjees have been the caretakers of the memorial. Sukumar, the youngest of three brothers, quit his bank job to take on the mantle from his father Uttam Charan when he died in 1988. “I was appointed by then PM Rajiv Gandhi,” says Mukherjee. “Most visitors treat it as a picnic spot, sometimes they don’t even care to read its history,” he rues.

Although the Trust is headed by the Prime Minister, managing the memorial is no cakewalk, says Mukherjee. In 2011, he had goons following him when the Punjab and Haryana high court ordered eviction of an illegal occupant from one of the Trust buildings.

During militancy in Punjab in the 1980s, a group of youngsters with swords apparently threatened to kill his father, saying they had seen people smoking in the bagh. “Papaji was very gutsy, he said, ‘kill me’ and they left,” Mukherjee recalls.

Living with a piece of history has its challenges. Kakoli, Sukumar’s wife who came here as a young bride in the 1980s when militancy had gripped the state, remembers the siege during Operation Bluestar. “We couldn’t step out for over a week, thankfully papaji (Uttam Charan) had a habit of storing ration.” It was due to the barter of onions and tomatoes that she came close to her neighbours during that period, Mukherjee says. “My daughters worry about my health and tell me ‘Papa, you’ve done enough sewa, come stay with us’, but I want to see the memorial through its 100th anniversary. Then, I will see,” Mukherjee says.


AMRITSAR: It’s widely believed that there would have been no Jallianwala Bagh massacre had it not been for one man who decided to teach Indians a lesson for being “wicked”. Ninety-one years after his death, Col Reginald Edward Harry Dyer — also called the butcher of Amritsar — remains an enigma, painted in either black or white.

But historians say though Col Dyer was the man on the spot, it was Sir Michael Francis O’Dwyer, the lieutenant governor of Punjab, who ordered the Jallianwala massacre. According to Indu Banga, a specialist in history of Punjab: “Dwyer was an arch imperialist who was responsible for this massacre. Dyer was merely following his orders.” Banga says even after his retirement, Dwyer continued to oppose any concessions for Indians.

Dwyer, says Banga, also raised money for a memorial to Dyer. Both men were born in 1864. While Dwyer was shot dead by Indian revolutionary Udham Singh in London’s Caxton Hall on March 13, 1940, Dyer died of cerebral haemorrhage and arteriosclerosis in 1927.

Few know that Dyer was born and raised in Punjab or that he was as wellversed in Hindustani as in English or that one of his favourite possessions was the photograph of an unnamed Sikh officer. What is well documented is his action at Jallianwala Bagh, which proved to be as much his undoing as that of the British Empire in India. Held guilty by the Hunter Commission, the moustachioed officer was forced to resign.

On April 13, 1919, Dyer, 55, was like a man possessed. Giving a first-hand account of the day in “Amritsar: The massacre that ended the Raj” by Alfred Draper, Dyer’s bodyguard Sergeant William Anderson recounted how the crowd seemed to “sink to the ground in a flurry of white garments”. When the soldiers had emptied their carbines, Dyer ordered them to reload and direct their fire where the crowd was the densest.