China, Singapore Have It Easy; No Jantar-Mantar Protests, Says Minister Giriraj Singh


The street near Jantar-Mantar in New Delhi is known as a venue for protests and demonstrations

Gandhinagar: 

China and Singapore do not face obstacles to growth because they do not have to deal with “Jantar-Mantar” kind of protests against government policies, Union minister Giriraj Singh said Saturday.

The street near Jantar-Mantar in New Delhi is known as a venue for protests and demonstrations.

Mr Singh, the minister of state for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), was speaking at “MSME Convention” during the ongoing Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.

Speaking before him, Vice Chairman of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Prasoon Mukherjee said that despite being a small country, Singapore has achieved excellent economic development.

“He (Mukherjee) was talking about Singapore’s GDP. I said to myself, Mukherjee sahab, Singapore does not have Delhi and Jantar Mantar where people gather to protest against the policies announced by the government,” Mr Singh quipped.

“Neither you nor China have a Jantar Mantar,” the Union minister said.

Despite facing agitations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working hard to make India a strong economy, he added.





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Clashes Erupt In Paris As Yellow Vest Protests Enter 10th Week


The protests wreaked some of the worst violence seen in decades in Paris.

Paris: 

Scuffles broke out on Saturday as around 7,000 “yellow vest” demonstrators marched through Paris in a 10th consecutive weekend of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful but Reuters Television reporters said they saw clashes break out late in the afternoon between police and demonstrators, some wearing masks, in Paris’ Invalides district.

Protesters threw firecrackers, bottles and stones at the police who responded with water canon and tear gas to push them back.

Officials said there were around 7,000 demonstrators in Paris and 27,000 across France.

A Reuters reporter also said there had been clashes in the southern port city of Marseille, while similar demonstrations took place in other cities across France.

“Macron, resign!” some of the protesters shouted.

Some also carried mock coffins symbolising the 10 people who have died during the protests, mainly due to accidents when demonstrators blocked roads.

The “yellow vest” protests – which make use of fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to carry in their cars – began in November over higher fuel taxes.

Those fuel taxes were subsequently scrapped, yet the movement has morphed into a broader anti-Macron protest.

December’s demonstrations wreaked some of the worst violence seen in decades in Paris, as rioters burned cars and damaged shops and businesses.

Protests this month have not witnessed the same level of trouble, although video of a former French boxing champion punching and kicking police in Paris shocked many.

Macron has launched a series of national debates to help quell public discontent and restore his standing.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Assamese Singer Zubeen Garg Protests Citizenship Bill, Says “Please Return Our Votes”


Zubeen Garg had posted an emotional letter addressed to Sarbananda Sonowal on social media.

New Delhi: 

Five days after Assamese singer Zubeen Garg wrote to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, he demanded that the votes the BJP got using an election song sung by him in 2016 be “returned”.

In a Facebook post, Mr Garg also offered to return the remuneration received for the song. The singer has over 8.58 lakh followers on Facebook and the post has gone viral.

“Dear Sarbananda Sonowal Da, wrote a letter to you few days back. Guess you are too busy counting the black flags to respond,” the singer wrote, referring to the ongoing protests across the state where black flags were waved.

“So, can I get the votes back that you earned using my voice in 2016? I am ready to refund the remuneration,” he added.

On January 8, Mr Garg had threatened to protest if the chief minister failed to take steps to scrap the controversial Bill within seven days. The singer had posted an emotional letter addressed to Mr Sonowal on social media along with his photograph holding the letter.

“Even if the Citizenship Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha, Sarbada (Sarbananda Sonowal) can say no to it. Speak and see, rest will be seen later. I am still keeping my cool. I won’t be in Assam for one week. It will be good if Sarbada takes some action before my return. Otherwise this time, I will agitate on my own. What I will do, I don’t know,” he said.

Another singer from the state, Angarag Mahanta (Papon), opposed the Bill saying it hurts the “Assamese sentiments”.

Meanwhile, protests continued across the state on Sunday and over hundred agitators were picked up when they blocked the road to Kaziranga University, where Mr Sonowal had gone for the convocation.

The protesters from Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) shouted slogans and waved black flags.

Members of Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) shaved their heads in Jamugurihat demanding immediate withdrawal of the Bill. In Karbi Anglong district, hundreds of students blocked the National Highway-36 for hours, while Jogi and Kalita communities burnt copies of the Bill on NH-37 in Dudhnoi in Goalpara.

Criticising the BJP-led government at Centre and state, the Left Democratic Manch vowed to continue the agitation till the Bill is scrapped.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and entered India before December 31, 2014, after six years of residence in the country, instead of the current 12 years, even if they do not have any proper documents.





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Ram Vilas Paswan’s Daughter Asha Paswan Protests Angootha Chhap Jibe At Rabri Devi


Asha Paswan on Sunday staged a protest against her own father today.

Patna: 

Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s daughter Asha Paswan on Sunday staged a protest against her own father for calling former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi an ‘angootha chhap’(illiterate).

Asha Paswan along with dozens of women carrying posters and banners staged the ‘dharna’ in front of the Lok Janshakti Party office near the Patna airport. 

She wants Ram Vilas Paswan to apologize to Rabri Devi. “My father should take back his words,” she said. 

A day earlier, Asha Paswan accused her father of insulting Rabri Devi, wife of the now jailed RJD leader Lalu Prasad and a former Chief Minister. 

Asha Paswan is daughter of Ram Vilas Paswan from his first wife Raj Kumari Devi. Asha Paswan’s husband Anil Sadhu is an RJD leader and considered close to RJD leader Lalu Prasad’s son, Tejashwi Yadav. 

In an obvious reference to Rabri Devi, Ram Vilas Paswan had said on Friday that RJD believe in merely raising slogans and making ‘angootha chhap’ (illiterate) the Chief Minister.





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France’s Yellow Vests Mobilise For Fresh Round Of Protests


Masked demonstrators stand amid smoke of teargas canisters launched by anti-riot police.

Paris, France: 

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched in cities across France on Saturday in a new round of “yellow vest” protests against President Emmanuel Macron, accused of ignoring the plight of millions of people struggling to make ends meet.

Officials have vowed zero tolerance for the violence that has marred the weekly protests since they began two months ago, deploying some 80,000 security forces nationwide.

In Paris, epicentre of the fiery street clashes and vandalism that have made global headlines, 5,000 riot police were on hand, using tall barricades and armoured vehicles to lock down the central Place de la Concorde and surrounding districts.

Hundreds of officers were also on guard on the Champs-Elysees, where banks, jewellery stores and other shops had boarded up windows in anticipation of renewed looting and violence.

Yet many cafes and retailers on the iconic avenue remained open for business, as several thousands of protesters marched calmly from the Place de la Bastille toward the Arc de Triomphe early in the afternoon.

Many sang the “Marseillaise” national anthem, while others held signs saying “Insecurity is not a job!”

At times the crowd yelled “Free Christophe!” in reference to Christophe Dettinger, the former professional boxer arrested last week after being filmed bashing two police officers during the Paris demos.

Police said some 30 people had been detained in the capital earlier for carrying weapons or other charges.

“We’ve come to Paris to make ourselves heard, and we wanted to see for ourselves at least once what’s going on here,” said Patrick, 37, who told AFP he had travelled from the Savoie region of western France.

‘Macron resign!’

In the well-heeled racehorsing town of Chantilly just north of Paris, 1,000 or so protesters marched through the centre before descending on the hippodrome where they delayed the start of a race, local media said.

And another 1,200 protesters gathered in the central city of Bourges, where some yellow-vest organisers were hoping to those from areas far from the capital.

Signs said “Macron resign!” and “France is angry,” while local prosecutor Joel Garrigue said five people had been detained after police discovered a cache of ball bearings during a search of their car.

The protests also spilt over the border into eastern Belgium late on Friday, where one of around 25 protesters manning a blockade died after being hit by a truck, Belgian media reported.

Mutual mistrust

Officials had warned of bigger and more violent protests than last week, when demonstrators rammed a forklift truck through the main doors of a government ministry in Paris.

“Those who are calling to demonstrate tomorrow know there will be violence, and therefore they are in part responsible,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a Facebook interview Friday with Brut, a digital news site favoured by many yellow vests.

But many yellow vests pointed to images of a police officer repeatedly striking an unarmed man on the ground during a protest last week in Toulon, accusing the police of excessive use of force.

The movement, which began as protests over high fuel taxes, has snowballed into a wholesale rejection of Macron and his policies, which are seen favouring the wealthy at the expense of rural and small-town France.

Politicians inspire ‘distrust, disgust’

Macron has called for a national debate starting next week to hear voters’ grievances, hoping to sate demands for more of a say in national law-making and tamp down the protesters’ anger.

He has already unveiled a 10-billion-euro ($11.5 billion) financial relief package for low earners, and axed the planned fuel tax hike.

But the public consultations risk being hobbled by record levels of distrust towards politicians and representatives of the state.

A poll by the Cevipof political sciences institute released Friday showed 77 percent of respondents thought politicians inspired “distrust”, “disgust” or “boredom”.

And Macron may not have done himself any favours on Friday, when he told a gathering at the Elysee Palace that “too many of our citizens think they can get something without making the necessary effort.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Amid Protests, Tripura Police Attack Ambulance Carrying Injured Men


Cops stopped the ambulance while it was taking the injured to a hospital outside Khumulwng. (Video Grab)

Agartala: 

Shocking videos of Tripura policemen allegedly attacking an ambulance carrying two injured protesters to a hospital went viral on social media earlier this week, giving credence to allegations of a brutal crackdown against those opposing the central government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill-2016 in the state. The people inside the vehicle, who were apparently wounded in police firing, could be seen crying for mercy.

The first video of the incident that occurred on January 8 shows a Tripura State Rifles team stopping an ambulance transporting the two bullet-hit protesters to a hospital outside Khumulwng in the western part of the state. The next shot has them beating up the driver, who runs from the spot as the injured shriek in agony. The policemen, clad in anti-riot helmets and vests, can be seen hitting the vehicle with batons while one smashes its windscreen. The second clip, an apparent follow-up of the first shot, bears visuals of the two injured men lying inside the wrecked ambulance.

The police have denied the incident. “I cannot comment on the video because I haven’t watched it. All I can say is that the police were the ones who took the injured to hospital. We don’t attack ambulances,” Additional Director General of Police Rajiv Singh said over the phone from Agartala.

The brutal incident followed the injury of six tribal youngsters in police firing during a protest by the North East Students’ Organisation against the controversial bill. The authorities said police and paramilitary personnel had no choice but to lathi-charge and fire in the air to disperse the protesters. The injured included a Tripura State Rifles personnel and six Twipra Students Federation members who were part of a group that blocked the Assam-Agartala National Highway in Madhabbari.

The incident was condemned by the opposition and allies of the BJP alike, with an NDA partner — the Indigenous Nationalist Part of Tripura (INPT) — even demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb. They have also sought a judicial probe headed by a sitting High Court judge, and compensation of Rs 20 lakh as well as government jobs for families of the injured. “Police personnel under the BJP-led government opened fire on unarmed innocents while they were protesting against the bill in a democratic manner on Tuesday,” INPT general secretary Jagadhish Debbarma told reporters in Agartala, calling for a 12-hour shutdown on Saturday.

Tripura BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharjee dismissed the allegations, claiming that the tribal parties responsible for the shutdown “have no base among the masses”. He also alleged that these organisations were “conspiring against the state government” in connivance with the Left parties.

The Lok Sabha had passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 — which seeks to grant speedy citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from three neighbouring states — on January 8 amid strong protests by political parties such as the Congress and the Trinamool Congress. The opposition terms the legislation as discriminatory.





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Bomb Hurled At BJP Office In Meghalaya, Protests Against Citizenship Bill


A team of forensic experts on Monday visited the BJP headquarters to collect samples (Representational)

Shillong: 

Unidentified people hurled petrol bombs at the state headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Meghalaya late on Sunday night, a police official said on Monday.

No one was injured in the attack but the windows of the office chamber of state BJP President Shibun Lyngdoh were damaged.

The petrol bomb attack comes amid the protests against the Modi government’s bid to get the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 passed in Parliament.

The Bill aims to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for citizenship of India.

“We were informed that the incident occurred at around 11.20 p.m. and a fire engine doused the flames,” Superintendent of Police (Shillong City) Stephan Rynjah told IANS.

A team of forensic experts on Monday visited the BJP headquarters to collect samples and took possession of the CCTV footage capturing the incident.

BJP legislator and Health and Family Welfare Minister Alexander Laloo Hek, who visited the party office, demanded the immediate arrest of the perpetrators.

“We don’t know the reason behind this cowardly attack which is totally unacceptable,” Mr Hek told IANS.





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Where Are The Police? Tweets Sweden’s Envoy To France As Protests Rage


Protesters gather near a statue during a demonstration of the “yellow vests” movement (Reuters)

Paris: 

With no police in sight, Sweden’s ambassador to France called on neighbours to help put out a small fire lit outside her Embassy during “yellow vest” protests against high living costs and the policies of President Emmanuel Macron.

“And where are the police??? Thanks to friendly neighbours we were able to put out the fires,” ambassador Veronika Wand-Danielsson tweeted on Saturday, attaching photographs to her post.

While some social media users apologised for the protesters’ behaviour, others were more tongue-in-cheek. One responded to her tweet: “Thank you Madame Ambassador for coming out with a bucket of water to douse the burning box. A true Viking!”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Protests In Assam After PM Modi Says Government Working On Citizenship Bill


PM Modi said that citizenship for Hindus from neighbouring countries is an emotive issue.

Silchar, Assam: 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched the BJP’s campaign for the upcoming national elections in the northeast on Friday, has made it clear that his government is going forward with the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which has been vehemently opposed in Assam.

At a rally in Silchar, PM Modi said that citizenship for Hindus from neighbouring countries is an emotive issue, but his government is protecting the interests of the indigenous communities of Assam by setting up a high-power committee for the implementation of the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord that safeguards the socio-political rights and culture of the “indigenous people of Assam”.

Protests erupted across the state after his rally. The agitators burnt effigies of PM Modi in Lower Assam and Dibrugarh, even as Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal assured the people that he would protect the interests of the state.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant nationality to people belonging to minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of their residence in India.

Several indigenous organisations in the state have been opposing the bill as they believe it would harm their cultural identity.

“The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is linked with emotions and related to people’s lives. It is not for the benefit of anyone but a penance against the injustice and many wrongs done in the past. I hope the bill is passed in the parliament soon,” PM Modi said. 

But his remarks drew sharp reactions from both allies as well as the opposition. 

Former Chief Minister of Assam Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and leader of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a BJP ally, said, “Our party’s stand is clear that if they go ahead with this bill and make it a law, we will part ways. Our alliance with BJP is a pre-poll alliance, so the BJP should have the morality to face the verdict of the people. Their decision on the bill will impact the prospects of the alliance.”

The Congress alleged that his rallies are an excuse to skip the parliament where he will be asked tough questions.

“On Thursday, he had a rally in Punjab and a day later he was in Assam. All this is nothing but an excuse to run away from discussions on two of his major blunders — the President’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir and the overpriced Rafale deal. He wants to avoid parliament,” Gaurav Gogoi, Congress MP from Assam, told NDTV.

The powerful All Assam Student Union (AASU) that spearheaded the anti-illegal migrant crusade is also up in arms against the BJP.

“They are violating the Assam accord by trying to bring the citizenship amendment bill. The high-level committee is a complete eyewash. During the 2014 election campaign, he said all Bangladeshis will have to go. He asked them to pack their bags. He is trying to protect the interest of Bangladeshis. It’s a double standard,” said AASU’s adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjee.

Around 70 organisations, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), took out protest rallies in the state capital this morning. The KMSS members had plans to march to the Asom Gana Parishad headquarters to ask the party to break off its alliance with the BJP, but the police prevented them from doing so, its leader Akhil Gogoi told reporters.

“The bill will put the identity of the indigenous people at stake. We cannot tolerate a leader coming from Delhi and threatening our very existence while the chief minister and other BJP leaders applaud him,” Mr Gogoi said.

But Mr Sonowal urged all to maintain calm. “I am the chief minister of Assam and I have been entrusted with the duty of protecting the interest of the people of both Brahmaputra and Barak Valley. People should not doubt the government’s intention,” he told reporters.

(With inputs from PTI)





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Prime Minister Narendra Modi To Launch BJP Poll Campaign In Northeast Amid Protests, Boycott Call


PM Narendra Modi will kickstart BJP’s poll campaign in the Northeast from Assam’s Silchar. (File)

Guwahati: 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will kickstart BJP’s poll campaign in the Northeast from Assam’s Silchar, its oldest bastion in the region, on Friday. He will also inaugurate a dozen projects in Manipur, and address a public rally.

The 25 Lok Sabha seats in the Northeastern region are key to the BJP’s political prospects in the upcoming parliamentary polls.

However, resentment may be building in Silchar. A majority of the people in this region — the hub of Assam’s Barak Valley — are Bengali-speaking people, and a number of Bengali Hindus who voted for the BJP in the last elections were left out of the National Register of Citizens draft.

Many of the people in the region had supported the BJP in the 2016 assembly election because of its unfulfilled promise to bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The legislation — which aims to change the definition of illegal migrants of certain communities — has been termed “anti-Assam” by many regional parties.

Meanwhile, workers of the Hindustan Paper Corporation plan to hold a demonstration at PM Modi’s rally to protest the BJP’s unfulfilled promise of reopening the Nagaon and Panchgram mills. Terrorist groups in Manipur have called for a boycott of PM Modi’s rally and organised a general strike as a mark of protest.

Despite Silchar being its stronghold, the BJP could not win a single Lok Sabha seat in Barak Valley, Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong region in 2014.





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