India’s Congress party names Rahul Gandhi president

Rahul Gandhi, Vice President of India’s main opposition Congress Party, is garlanded by supporters during an election campaign meeting, in Dakor, India, Dec.10, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 December 2017
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India’s Congress party names Rahul Gandhi president

NEW DELHI: India’s opposition Congress party named Rahul Gandhi as its new leader on Monday after years of speculation, calling it a “historic occasion.”
Senior Congress leader Mullappally Ramachandran said the 47-year-old had stood unopposed for election as the president of the party his family had led for generations.
“I hereby declare Shri Rahul Gandhi elected as the President of the Indian National Congress,” he told reporters outside the Congress headquarters in New Delhi.
“This is a historic occasion.”
The announcement caps years of speculation that the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty would take over from his 71-year-old mother Sonia who has led the party for nearly two decades.
Rahul, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister, has been her deputy since 2013 and led the campaign for the last general election.
He will officially take over on Saturday at a ceremony in New Delhi.
Congress party workers let off firecrackers and cheered as they celebrated the announcement.
“I have waited for this day for so many years. My joy knows no bounds,” said Prem Chowdhury, a long-time party member and former municipal councillor.
Rahul was strongly criticized for a lackluster campaign for the 2014 general election, in which Congress recorded its worst-ever showing and lost power to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Since the national election defeat, the party has lost polls in many states to the BJP, exposing him to further criticism.
But few inside the party have been willing publicly to criticize the family that has been at its helm for generations.


Civilian killings spark protests in Kashmir

Indian police try to arrest senior seperatist leader Yasin Malik, second left, during a protest march in Srinagar on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 23 min 19 sec ago
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Civilian killings spark protests in Kashmir

  • Kumar called on Pakistan to take credible action against all kinds of support for terrorism” within its own borders, “rather than supporting and glorifying terrorists and terror activities against India and its other neighbors

NEW DELHI: Daisy Begum is inconsolable, waiting with bated breath for her son Aqib Malik, 16, to come out of the intensive care unit of Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, where he has been in critical condition since Sunday.
Malik is one of several young men who were seriously injured on Sunday in the village of Larnoo, 75 km south of the city of Srinagar, by explosives and munitions left behind by Indian security forces after an encounter with militants.
Seven civilians were killed and more than 40 injured by shrapnel when locals gathered to see the site where the encounter took place.
“The blast occurred minutes after people gathered outside the house where the encounter took place,” Malik’s father told Arab News.
“Those who were inside their houses remained safe, but those who went outside became casualties.”
He blamed the police, asking: “How did this unfortunate incident happen? Isn’t this a deliberate attempt to scare people by hurting them?”
Dilbagh Singh, director general of police, said: “People, especially youths, should avoid going to gunfight sites or touching debris. We express sympathy with the families who lost their kin in the incident.”
Police on Tuesday arrested separatist leader Yasin Malik and his supporters in Srinagar when they tried to organize a protest march.
And leaders of the National Conference (NC), one of the mainstream political parties in Kashmir, were stopped when they came out to protest against the civilian killings.
“The government wants to suppress the voice of the people by putting restrictions on our rally,” Ali Mohammad Sagar, an NC leader, told Arab News.
He blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for “targeting the common people with bullets,” adding: “You can win people with love, not by destruction. It’s only through dialogue that matters can be resolved.”
BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur blamed separatists and opposition parties for “politicizing the incident,” telling Arab News: “We’re also pained by the incident, but those who are trying to gain political mileage out of the tragedy are playing with the blood of the innocent victims.” He added: “People should understand that the encounter site isn’t a playground for kids.”
Kashmir-based civil rights activist Khurram Parvez questioned the “impunity” enjoyed by security forces, which “have never been held accountable for extrajudicial killings and gross human rights violations.”
He blamed the BJP government for “pursuing a militaristic policy in Kashmir for electoral gains,” telling Arab News: “It’s a shame, for a country that boasts about being a democracy and a secular nation, if people are being lured by militaristic policies toward Kashmiris who happen to be Muslim.”
Journalist Manzoor-ul-Hassan, who visited the site of the incident, told Arab News: “There’s palpable anger among people. They hold security forces responsible for killing innocent civilians. It shows how casually Indian security forces take the lives of people in Kashmir.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned “the new cycle of killings of innocent Kashmiris... by Indian security forces.”
He tweeted: “It’s time India realize it must move to resolve the Kashmir dispute through dialogue in accordance with the UNSC (UN Security Council) resolutions & the wishes of the Kashmiri people.”
Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, called the tweet “deeply regrettable” and urged the Pakistani leadership to “look inwards and address its own issues.”
Kumar called on Pakistan to take “credible action against all kinds of support for terrorism” within its own borders, “rather than supporting and glorifying terrorists and terror activities against India and its other neighbors.”