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Land allotments in Guj when Modi was CM must be probed by SIT: Cong

New Delhi/Ahmedabad: Keeping up the pressure over the Gujarat land row, Congress today demanded setting up of a Supreme Courtmonitored SIT to go into all allotments of government land during the tenure of Narendra Modi as the state chief minister.

"The Special Investigative Team monitored by the Supreme
Court should cover all the allotments and grants of public
land when Anandiben Patel was the Revenue Minister and Modi
was the Chief Minister," party's senior spokesman Anand Sharma
told reporters in Delhi.

He alleged that there was "plunder" of public land and
forest land during Modi's tenure as Chief Minister as they
were given for a "pittance" to "corporate cronies" and others
without following due procedure.

In 2010, Gujarat government is believed to have allotted
250 acres of land next to Gir Lion Sanctuary to Wildwoods
Resorts and Realties Pvt Ltd (WWRRPL)for setting up a resort
which was allotted at a price of Rs 15 per square metre or Rs
60,000 per acre.

Asking Modi to "come clean" on the issue, Sharma sought to
know from him whether he was aware of "clear conflict of
interest" of the then Revenue Minister Anandiben Patel while
allocating government land near Gir Lion Sanctuary to the
company which allegedly has close business links with her
daughter Anar Patel.

"Was this allocation based on a Cabinet decision and
endorsed by (then) Chief Minister (Modi) and whether conflict
of interest, if any, was disclosed?" asked Sharma.

In her second Facebook post in two days, Anar Patel
admitted that owner of the company which purportedly got the
land was her "business partner" in another firm but she had
nothing to do with WWRRPL.

"I, Anar Patel, am neither a director nor a share
holder in WWRRPL, Anil Infraplus and Parshvatexchem. I don't
have anything with WWRRPL, anybody can check with government
authority," she said.

"Indeed, Daksheshbhai (Dakshesh Shah, who owns WWRRPL
along with Amol Shripal Seth of Anil Infraplus) is my business
partner but that doesn't mean that I am there in all his
companies. He is a selfmade businessman and is in business
since last 22 years," she wrote.

"We started a company named "Anar Projects" seven years
back with business interest in retails and services. We never
took any favour from any government organisation, we strictly
followed all rules and regulations in all manners," she said.

Congress also sought to know whether proper evalutaion or
price determination for the government land was done.

Sharma asked the Prime Minister whether the allocation of
250 acres of public land next to Gir lion sanctuary was in
public interest as also in conformity with laws, regulations
and established procedure for alienation of government assets.

"Mr. Prime Minister, we ask you offer yourself for a
fair probe so that accountability can be fixed. No Government
agency of the Central Government or State Government can be
trusted to conduct a probe about this matter when the
principal player happens to be a Chief Minister and the former
Chief Minister who is now the Prime Minister," the Congress
spokesman said.

Sharma insisted that a probe is needed as "it is very
clear that there was a deliberate, conscious promotion of
vested interests at the cost of the State exchequer."

Besides, he alleged that the Government then facilitated
to the same company purchase of agricultural land which is not

He said Congress will come out with details on what has
happened in Gujarat in this case and "in many other cases".

Asked about Anar's claim that that she has not committed
any wrong, Sharma said, "It is nothing but laughable. Nobody
can self certify his or her own actions. It can be done by SIT
or the Supreme Court".

Anar said, "It's disheartening that my individuality is
attacked based on sheer assumptions. I believe in my moral
strength not in anyone's favour."

This is her second Facebook post in as many days on the
issue amidst demand from Gujarat Congress for the resignation
of Anandiben Patel for alleged favour done to her daughter and
her business partners over allotting land purportedly worth Rs
122 crore to a private firm at a throw away price of just Rs
1.49 crore in 2010.

No large ISIS footprint in J&K but Intl Op needed to prevent ideology spread: Army Commander

Nowshera: Terror outfit ISIS does not have "very large footprint" in Jammu and Kashmir but care needs to be taken to ensure it does not make inroads, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D S Hooda said today and advocated an "Intelligence Operation" to prevent spreading of its ideology.

Islamic State has been talking about South Asia and India
region but "right now we don't see a very large footprint of
Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir. But I think we have to be
careful," the General Officer CommandinginChief (GoCinC)
told reporters here while responding to a question.

"We need to study the the situation properly (with regard
to ISIS). We need to make sure that Islamic State does not
make inroads. So it is more of an 'intelligence operation'
that we need to look at and make sure this ideology of Islamic
State is not allowed to spread in India," he added.

He was replying to a question about footprints of ISIS in
J&K and its spread in India.

When referred to a threat issued by ISIS that it would
launch its operations in J&K, Lt Gen Hooda said "We need to
study the situation properly. We need to make sure that they
do not make inroads."

The Army Commander played down the threat issued by
LashkareTaiba Chief Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed about more attacks
on the Indian soil by terming them as "nothing new".

"See we know that there is a threat from Lashkar. They
have been talking about it every time. So frankly I don't find
anything new unless there is some kind of control on his
activities by the Pakistan State and the Pakistan government.
Otherwise we see it as part of his normal routine and he keeps
on talking about it," Lt Gen Hooda said.

With regard to infiltration, he said a "better fence" is
coming up along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan which
will be equipped with better sensors and other equipments.

"It is something (cross border infiltration) that we deal
with, year in and year out, and it is nothing new for us. As
the snow melts, our measures are in place. You are aware we
are trying to build a better fence now so that with good
sensors and equipments and have a much more credible counter
infiltration posture," he said.

"We have in the recent past moved additional troops along
the LoC and I think we are confident of how our posture is,"
the top commander said.

Kerala supports in SC ban on women's entry at Sabrimala temple

New Delhi: The Kerala government has told the Supreme Court that banning entry of women of menstrual age in historic Sabarimala temple in the state, is a "matter of religion" and it is duty bound to "protect the right to practice the religion of these devotees".

In an affidavit, the state government said administration
of the temple vests with the Travancore Devaswom Board under
the TravancoreCochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act and the
decision of the priests is final in the matter of worship.

"In the context of Sabarimala, the administration vests
with the Travancore Devaswom Board under the provisions of the
TravancoreCochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950.

"Under the Act, there is a statutory duty cast on the
Board to arrange worship in temples in accordance with the
usage. Therefore, in matters of religion, it is the opinion of
the priests that is final," the affidavit filed by state chief
secretary Jiji Thomson said.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana would take
up the matter on February 8.

The Congressled UDF government, while withdrawing the
affidavit filed earlier in the apex court by the previous LDF
government in November 2007 supporting entry of women into
this temple, said, "the restriction on women between the age
of 10 and 50 has been prevailing in Sabarimala from time
immemorial. This is in keeping with the unique 'pratishta
sangalp' or idol concept of the temple."

"The same is an essential and integral part of the right
of practice of religion of a devotee and comes under the
protective guarantee of the Constitution under Articles 25 and
26 which have been held to contain guarantee for rituals,
observances, ceremonies and modes of worship which are an
integral part of religion," it said.

Urging the court to dismiss the PIL filed by Indian Young
Lawyers' Association, the affidavit said, "the present
petition which seeks to change the beliefs and customs of
crores of devotees by judicial process is wholly misplaced and
liable to be dismissed".

It added that the state government is "duty bound to
protect the right to practice the religion of these devotees".

The government also said "the right to exclude persons who
are not allowed to participate in worship according to the
tenets of the religious institution in question is a matter of
religion" and such essential or integral parts of religion are
"immune" from challenge under Article 14 (right to equality).

"Since the deity is in the form of Naisthik Brahmachari,
it is believed that young women should not offer worship in
the temple so that even the slightest deviation from celibacy
and austerity observed by the deity is not caused in the
presence of such women," the affidavit said.

The previous government had supported entry of women in
the hilltop shrine saying, "it is not fair to deny a section
of women from entering Sabarimala temple". It had also
favoured appointment of a commission of scholars to facilitate
the change.

The present government, however, said the previous stand
favouring a change had no legal basis and that it wanted to
rectify the "mistakes" by withdrawing the stand taken in 2007.

The affidavit was filed on a PIL by the association
seeking entry for all women and girls in the Sabarimala temple
which, as a practice, does not allow girls after attaining
puberty to enter the premises. However, women, who have
crossed menopause, are allowed.

On January 11, the bench had questioned the tradition of
banning entry of women of menstrual age group in the temple,
saying it cannot be done under the Constitution.

The bench had also asked why women cannot be allowed
inside and whether the government was sure that women have not
entered the temple premises in the last 1,500 years.

It had observed that it was a public temple and everyone
needed to have "the right to access".

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