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July 8, 2013

Buddhist UNESCO World Heritage site in India suffers terrorist attack

Buddhist UNESCO World Heritage site in India suffers terrorist attack

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Monday, July 8, 2013

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Mahabodhi Temple in December, 2006.
Image: Cacahuate.

A ‘terrorist attack’ took place yesterday in the form of reportedly at least four explosions at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, India. Four other explosions took place in the vicinity, including one near an eighty-foot tall statue of Buddha and three at Tergar Monastery. Three other bombs were discovered and all were diffused. Early reports claim little damage was done to the temple. Two Buddhist monks were injured. Police commented that Sundays are quiet days at the temple, or more could have been injured. One suspect has been arrested based on closed circuit television that recorded two men placing bombs at the temple.

Mahabodhi Temple is considered one of the holiest sites in Buddhism and in India. Totaling twelve acres, it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is located next to the Bodhi tree, where Buddhists believe that Buddha achieved enlightenment. The bombs were described as “low-intensity but not crude,” according to police. The bombs used comprised of a small container with gas, a detonator, and an analog clock. The bombs were timed to explode at 5:45 AM local time, when Buddhists start praying in the morning. The bombs actually went off starting at 5:25 AM and ending at 5:58 AM local time. Early reports state that while the temple suffered little damage, the staircase near the Bodhi tree suffered damage and windows were broken. The Bodhi tree suffered no damage. 200 monks live at the monastery, where daily classes take place during the times when the explosions happened. However, no classes were being held the morning of the attack.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has declared the explosions an act of terrorism. In October members of the Indian Mujahideen claimed to have visited Mahabodhi Temple to plan a terrorist attack. That led to the arrests of four suspects involved in the Indian Mujahideen, who were believed to have been involved in the 2012 Pune bombings. The four suspects named other members of the terrorist group and claimed that they planned to attack Mahabodhi Temple. The police in Delhi claim to have told the police in Bihar about the potential of a terrorist attack. Political conflict has risen in the wake of the attacks between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress. BJP is accusing the United Progressive Alliance, which is under the umbrella of the Indian National Congress, of ignoring the Indian Mujahideen’s threats about attacking the temple.

The Ministry also believes that it could be tied to conflicts in Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims, despite the rarity of violence against Buddhists in India. Additional security has been placed at Buddhist temples and Tibetan communities in India after the explosions. One suspect, Vinod Mistri, was arrested on Monday morning in Patna.



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October 22, 2009

India\’s ruling Congress party leads in three key state polls

India’s ruling Congress party leads in three key state polls

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

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India’s ruling Congress Party-led alliance scored victories in elections held in three states to choose local governments. The results will boost the Congress Party, as it re-emerges as the country’s major political force. The results from the elections, which were held last week, began to come in on Thursday.

The party and its allies scored clear wins in two states: the western state of Maharashtra and the northeastern Arunachal Pradesh state. In the northern Haryana state, it emerged as the largest party, but failed to secure a majority. The largest and most influential of these states is Maharashtra state, an industrialized region which is home to India’s financial capital, Mumbai.

“The government has worked in the last five years, and I feel that is the reason why we have been able to achieve this success,” said Ashok Chavan, the state’s Chief Minister. “People have shown confidence, placing us in a position to form a government.”

The Congress and its ally are currently ahead in 145 out of 288 seats in the Maharashtra state. If they manage to obtain those seats, it would enable them create a government without the help of other parties.

According to election commission figures, the main opposition alliance, consisting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, were leading in around ninety seats in the Maharashtra state.

This is the second time this year that the Congress Party has emerged victorious in key polls. Five months ago, the party scored a victory in national elections over the BJP.

Thursday’s results have widely been seen as another major vote of confidence for the party, and its national leadership. Political analysts have suggested that this will help the national government, as it presses ahead with its policies, which include economic reforms.

Professor of History at Delhi University and political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan said that the Congress Party’s winning streak showed its reemergence as a major political force. “It is continuing to retain its hold on large and very popular states, so it is in the process of re-emerging as the pivot of the Indian political system,” he said.

“Overall, this does indicate the secular shift of the voters towards the Congress as a party that can combine stability with inclusive growth. That trend which was clear in the recent general elections continues in the winter of 2009.”

After dominating Indian politics for decades, the Congress Party began to decline in the mid-1990’s as the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power. However, the BJP’s series of losses in recent elections have considerably weakened it.



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July 13, 2006

Investigation into Mumbai train bombings begins

Investigation into Mumbai train bombings begins

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The toll in yesterday’s serial bombings on Mumbai’s commuter trains has risen to 200 killed, with 714 people injured, according to the official estimate released by the Police. 127 victims have been identified and a further 56 remain unidentified, the estimate said. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attacks. Indian authorities have said that the Kashmiri militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) may be involved. An LeT spokesman has denied any involvement.

The day after the blast, schools, colleges and offices functioned normally in Mumbai and the commuter train service targeted in the bombings was operational. Many commuters rode the trains to work, though their numbers were smaller than usual. The Bombay Stock Exchange, located in the city shrugged off the bombings, with the BSE SENSEX gaining 3 percent on opening, calming fears that economic confidence will be undermined by the blasts.

Investigation underway

The Maharashtra state government has announced a reward of Rs. 25,000,000 (about US $55,000) for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. A number of people, reported to be 350[1] have been detained for interrogation, but no arrests have been made. Police are working on preparing sketches of possible suspects, news reports say.

The Times of India newspaper reported that Indian intelligence officials believe that Lashkar-e-Toiba and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India were behind the blasts. The Home Ministry confirmed the involvement of Students Islamic Movement of India[2]. The Chief Secretary to the Maharashtra state government, D K Shankaran told Reuters news agency “So far it looks like there was a substantial involvement of Lashkar-e-Toiba with local support,”[3].

P.S. Pasricha, director-general of police in Maharashtra, speaking to reporters, said that while it was too early to say who is responsible for the attacks, the coordinated explosions were in the style of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which has been blamed for carrying out similar attacks before. Indian authorities have accused Kashmiri militant groups such as the Lashkar, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen of attacks on civilians before. The Mumbai underworld is another potential suspect – a series of bombings in Mumbai in 1993 which killed 250 people are believed to have been planned by a Mafia don Dawood Ibrahim. India alleges that Ibrahim lives in Pakistan and has long maintained that Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been trained and supported by Pakistan in the past.

Spokesmen for the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have denied any role in the attacks. The LeT spokesman said that LeT could “feel the pain of the victims” of the attacks as the people of Kashmir have been suffering “the same pain for the last 17 years at the hands of the Indian security forces”, adding that an “independent investigation should be carried out… so that the people behind the attack can be exposed”.

“Attacks on civilians are not part of our manifesto. We never carried out such attacks nor will allow anyone to do so,” said Ehsan Elahi, spokesman for the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

International condemnation

The attacks have been condemned by a number of countries around the world. India’s neighbours Pakistan, and Afghanistan; the UK, France, Italy and the EU; Spain, which witnessed a similar attack in 2004; South Africa, the United States, Australia and the UN Secretary General amongst others have spoken out against the attacks.

A statement released by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attacks, saying “Terrorism is a bane of our times and it must be condemned, rejected and countered effectively and comprehensively.”

India faults Pakistan Foreign Secretary statement

The Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, after condemning the attack, noted that not much progress has been made on Kashmir problem, he said, “incremental approach is good but now we must tackle real issues. And this is the best way of tackling extremism in South Asia”.

India took exception to this remark. External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna described the statement as ‘appalling’, saying Mr Kasuri’s “remarks appear to suggest that Pakistan will cooperate with India against the scourge of cross-border terrorism and terrorist violence only if such so-called disputes are resolved,”.

He urged Pakistan to “dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism” on territory under its control and act in the spirit of the joint statement reached between the two countries on January 6, 2004.

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told a news channel on Wednesday that India may review some of the confidence building measures it is jointly developing with Pakistan, following the attacks. A meeting between Mr. Saran and his Pakistani counterpart, scheduled to take place on July 20-21, is also under question, with the External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna failing to make any announcement regarding the date.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected these accusations in a statement, saying Mr Kasuri’s remarks had been misreported and denying he had drawn a link between the bombings and the Kashmir dispute. and said that Pakistan was “in the forefront of international efforts to fight [the] menace” of terrorism.

Prime Minister addresses nation

In an address to the nation, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his condolences to the victims of the attacks and to their families, saying that India stands by the people of Mumbai and Srinagar (where 8 people were killed in a grenade attack yesterday) “in this hour of grief”. “My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones”, he said.

He acknowledged the “courage and humanism” shown in the response to the attacks and the efforts of the emergency and service personnel and the public in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Saying that Mumbai is the symbol of a united, inclusive India, he said that India will “continue to walk tall, and with confidence despite the attack”.

The Union Home minister Shivraj Patil, the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav visited Matunga Road railway station late yesterday. Mr Patil appealed for unity and restraint in responding to the attack. Mr Yadav has announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5,00,000 (US $11,000) to the families of the dead and promised jobs in the railways for the families who have lost earning members in the bombings.

Opposition BJP calls for tougher anti-terrorism measures

The Leader of the Opposition L K Advani and President of the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party Rajnath Singh, who visited the blast sites and the met with the injured, called the bombings “an attack on India”.

A resolution adopted by the BJP office-bearers criticised the central UPA government, charging that it was sending “consistent signals that the initiative against terrorism can be traded for votes”. However, Mr. Advani said that “it was not the time for criticising the government”. He said that the blasts showed up the need for a stringent anti-terrorism law and that the authorities must not give an impression that they are willing to compromise national security.

In 2004, The UPA government had repealed such a law, the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act enacted by the previous BJP-led government.

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June 12, 2006

Tamil Nadu cuts diesel prices by 0.45 rupees

Tamil Nadu cuts diesel prices by 0.45 rupees

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Monday, June 12, 2006

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The Tamil Nadu Government on Sunday said it would forego sales tax on the incremental component of the recent diesel price and yet maintain bus fares of State Transport Undertakings (STUs) at existing levels. Announcing this, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said following the decision, the incremental retail price, inclusive of the sales tax component, would come down from Rs. 2.23 a litre to Rs. 1.78. As a result, the price of diesel, that increased from Rs.33.72 a litre to Rs.35.95 on Tuesday, would come down to Rs. 35.50. But, by foregoing the sales tax of 45 paise a litre, the State Government would lose Rs.180 crore annually. The decision not to increase the fares would result in Rs.100-crore additional burden on the STUs, Mr. Karunanidhi said in a statement.

His announcement came after a similar initiative by Maharashtra and a day after Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora met him in Chennai. A couple of days ago, the Chief Minister had said that any reduction in the sales tax could result in the bus fares going up. In the statement, Mr. Karunanidhi said the rising crude oil prices globally necessitated an increase in fuel prices. It had become routine for the ruling party to explain the circumstances leading to the increase and the Opposition to protest. The upward revision in petrol and diesel prices was being talked about by the Centre for some months now, but was put on hold. The Centre, he said, had little option but to increase the price despite some of the coalition partners opposing the move and even the President of the Indian National Congress (Congress Party) Sonia Gandhi not favouring it.

While a reduction in levies on petroleum products by the Centre and the State Government was a temporary solution, the long-term solution was to reduce consumption of petroleum products and promote research on their alternatives. In a statement, AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa said the State Government could reduce the price burden by reducing the sales tax on petrol and diesel. Noting that it was not her suggestion but what Mr. Karunanidhi had given when she was Chief Minister, she said the Centre had recently said that such a move could reduce the impact of petrol and diesel price increase.

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May 11, 2006

Legislative Assembly election results declared in 5 Indian States

Legislative Assembly election results declared in 5 Indian States

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Political Map of India

The ruling Left-Front Party in the Indian state of West Bengal retained power in the state after winning 232 out of 294 State Legislative Assembly seats. This is the seventh consecutive victory for the left front in West Bengal. The chief opposition National Aemocratic Alliance managed to bag only 30 seats while the Congress managed to get only 21 seats.

In Tamil Nadu, the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA) led by Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) has won 162 seats . The DPA have won a clear majority over it’s closest rival, an alliance led by the ADMK, which has won only 71 seats out of 234 Assembly seats. The DMK alone doesn’t enjoy a simple majority and political negotiations are on to finalize the government structure.

The Left Democratic Front has won 95 out of the 140 seats in the Kerala State Legislative Assembly, beating it’s rival the UDF by 42 seats, thereby securing the majority.

In Assam, the Indian National Congress has won 55 seats in the 126 seat Assembly, thereby beating the AGP, which has managed to get 26 seats. Other regional parties have won 45 seats. This implies, however, that the Congress has not achieved the majority required (64 seats out of 126 is the minimum) to form the State Government. The Congress will now have to form a coalition with other parties to get the required number of seats.

The DPA has won 21 out of 30 seats in the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory of Pondicherry, thereby securing a majority over the ADMK, which managed to get only 6 seats.

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Marxists retain West Bengal, regain Kerala

Marxists retain West Bengal, regain Kerala

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Thursday, May 11, 2006 Marxists retained West Bengal and regained Kerala in assembly elections in 5 Indian states whose results were declared today. Tamil Nadu is likely to have its first coalition government headed by DMK’s leader M Karunanidhi. Assam faces a hung assembly, while the Congress-led Front won overwhelmingly in Pondicherry

The Left Front, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), won 235 out of the total 294 assembly seats in West Bengal. West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has scored a thumping victory in Jadavpur, winning by a margin of over 58,000 votes.

“It is our victory. All credit goes to the people,” Bhattacharjee told reporters.

Veteran CPI(M) leader and previous Chief Minister Jyoti Basu hailed the ruling Left Front’s “march to power” in West Bengal for the seventh successive term as “unprecedented in parliamentary history”. Basu was Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000.

Tamil Nadu is likely to have its first coalition government headed by DMK leader M Karunanidhi after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is voted out of power. The DMK-led front won in 162 out of 230 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu. And for the fifth time, DMK chief M Karunanidhi is all set to become the chief minister of the state.

In Kerala, The Left Democratic Front was victorious in 98 seats out of 140 constituencies. The UDF, which came to power last time with 99 seats, won only 41 seats.

Assam is heading for a hung assembly, whereas in Pondicherry, a Union Territory of India, Indian National Congress-led Front won 20 of 30 seats.

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