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NIA raids against ISIS across TN, Kerala, Karnataka in blast cases

In a major crackdown against ISIS sympathizers, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) early Wednesday morning started raids at multiple locations across Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu in two separate blast cases under investigation, sources said.

According to sources in the elite anti-terror probe agency, the searches are being conducted in connection with last year’s blasts in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore and Karnataka’s Mangaluru which occurred on October 23, 2022, and November 19, 2022, respectively.

Sources said that nearly five dozen locations across the three states were raided simultaneously, including those Kodungaiyur in Tamil Nadu and Mannadi in Kerala. The NIA began a probe on October 27 last year in a bomb blast in a car laden with explosives in front of Kottai Eswaran Temple of Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu on October 23, last year.

Eleven accused persons were arrested earlier by the anti-terror agency in the case in which Tamil Nadu Police initially registered a complaint on October 23 last year.

The deceased accused, Jamesha Mubeen, after swearing bayath (allegiance) to ISIS was planning to carry out a suicide attack and cause extensive damage to the Temple Complex with the intention to strike terror in the community, said the NIA in a statement. “Investigations have revealed that the accused persons had entered into a criminal conspiracy in the interior of forested regions of Asanoor and Kadambur areas of Sathyamangalam forest, Erode district, in February, 2022,” the NIA stated.

“The meetings were led by previously arrested accused Umar Farook and participated by deceased accused Jamesha Mubeen, Mohammed Azharudin, Sheikh Hidayatullah and Sanofar Ali, where they conspired to prepare for and execute terror acts,” it added.

In December last year, the NIA took over the investigation into the November 19 pressure cooker blast in an autorickshaw in Mangaluru wherein a passenger, identified as Mohammed Shariq, was carrying a pressure cooker bomb made from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The auto-rickshaw exploded leading to injuries to the passenger, Mohammed Shariq, who was carrying a pressure cooker turned into an IED, and the auto-rickshaw driver Purushottam Poojari.

The cooker bomb was designed to carry out a large-scale attack to fuel communal tensions in the coastal region and in the state, the agency said. Shariq was en-route to a pre-decided location for carrying out the blast when the explosion took place.

The NIA started its investigation under the provision of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the investigating officers then questioned the main accused Shariq, as the state police found his links with the Islamic State (IS) during its investigation. It also learned that he had radicalized his schoolmates, Syed Yasin and Muneer Ahmed, and introduced them to IS as well.

Together, the three of them had experimented and rehearsed the explosion on the banks of the Tunga river in the Shivamogga district, sources said, adding that the practice explosion was also reportedly successful. Further, according to sources, the main accused, Shariq, had a handler who was orchestrating and instructing him regarding all these activities.

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Five held for planting ‘PayCM’ posters; Cong MLAs to stick posters next

A day after the ‘PayCM’ posters taking a dig at Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai surfaced in Bengaluru, the police swung into action, arresting five people who were reportedly behind the act.

Infuriated by the arrest, Karnataka Pradesh Congress chief DK Shivakumar said party MLAs would stick ‘PayCM’ posters on all government buildings on Saturday. Opposition leader Siddaramaiah, too, said he would join the campaign in the coming days.

The development comes in the midst of an aggressive campaign against the state government by Congress, which charged it with corruption in awarding public contracts and government recruitment. The contractors’ body had recently levelled bribery charges that contractors had to pay a 40 per cent commission to get public works contracts, a charge strongly denied by the government.

According to reports, scanning the QR code on the poster took users to the 40 per cent Sarkar website launched by Congress recently.

While the Congress workers threatened to stick posters on government buildings, the Bharatiya Janata Party released a booklet called ‘Scam Ramaiah’, targeting the Opposition leader. State BJP president Nalin Kumar Katil termed ‘PayCM” ‘Pay Congress Madam’ and released the ‘Scam Ramaiah’ booklet.
“Siddaramaiah will be arrested as per the court order. There were many scams during his tenure,” he said.
Not one to take things lying down, Siddaramaiah retorted, “How many people can be jailed by the BJP for seeking the truth? I will join my party workers in sticking posters about the 40 per cent commission corruption of the BJP government. Let the Government arrest all of us. Was Bommai sleeping when the BJP did a campaign targeting Congress leaders personally?’ he asked, referring to Bommai’s comment that the  ‘PayCm’ attack was personal.
He also said that even BJP made QR Code posters. “They have created an image where I was behind bars when I went before the ED inquiry. They have now arrested our workers.”

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Karnataka’s anti-conversion law, and its easy passage

The ruling BJP passed the controversial Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, popularly known as the Anti-Conversion Bill, in the Upper House of the state legislature. The Bill, which seeks to regulate religious conversions in the state, has made forcible conversions a non-bailable and punishable offense.

The BJP managed to pass this Bill without a hitch since it enjoys a majority in the Legislative Council. Earlier, it lacked the required numbers in the Council and Congress and JDS may have fought the Bill. But, after the recent MLC elections, the BJP has a clear majority of 41 members in the 75-member Council, while the Congress has 26 members and the JDS has eight.

Karnataka has now become the 10th state to introduce an anti-conversion law after Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Odisha.

The government has justified this move by saying the law has been implemented to mainly prevent Dalits from being converted to other religions under undue influence, coercion, pressure, etc. According to Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, the law will “protect the gullible” from falling victims to forcible conversions through “allurement” and fraudulent means.

Also, the BJP, for a long time, had been mulling over introducing an Act that will stop forced conversions in the name of ‘love jihad’. However, when drafting the Anti-Conversion Bill, ‘love-jihad’ didn’t make it, as it is not part of any legal terminology. Yet, the Bill has been drafted in such a way that ‘love jihad’ cases will also come under its purview, said a BJP leader. Meanwhile, in the Upper House, Jnanendra said on Thursday (September 15) that many Dalits, who were converted by other religions, continue to get the benefits given to Dalits and minorities even after conversion. And, so the new law will now stop such misuse of provisions.

The Bill will allow anyone connected to the converted person to file a complaint, he pointed out. “If the converted person belonged to an SC community, then he or she would lose facilities and entitlements meant for SCs. That’s the reason we have given this provision that any nearest person can file the complaint,” said Jnanendra.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai commented on the new law: “It will not stop anyone from choosing any religion but only prohibits forcible conversion and conversion done by allurement.”

Anti-conversion law

Marriages with the sole intention of unlawful conversion will be considered null and void by courts if a petition is filed either by the husband or wife. Also, a case registered under this Act is cognizable and non-bailable.
The jail term under this Act will be 3-5 years with ₹25,000 as a penalty for a first-time offense. And, it will be from 3-10 years with a ₹50,000 fine for converting minors, persons of unsound mind, women, or persons belonging to the SC/ST. The jail term will be 3-10 years with a ₹1 lakh penalty for mass (two or more) conversions and not less than a 5-year imprisonment with a ₹2 lakh penalty for a second-time offense.

The Bill is that it protects a person’s right to freedom of religion and prohibition unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, or any fraudulent means. As per the Bill, allurement, that aids conversion is an offense. It can be any offer to tempt a person — be it a gift, gratification, easy money or material benefit, either in cash or kind; employment, free education in school or college run by any religious body; promise to marry; better lifestyle, divine displeasure or otherwise; or portraying practice, rituals, and ceremonies or an integral part of a religion in a detrimental way or glorifying one religion against another religion.

“Coercion” means compelling an individual to act against his will by the use of psychological pressure or physical force, causing bodily injury or threat, and “conversion” means renouncing one’s religion and adopting another religion. Using “force for conversion”, means using force or a threat of injury of any kind to the person converted or sought to be converted or to any other person or property. The fraudulent way of conversion means impersonation of any kind by a false name, surname, religious symbol, or otherwise.

The Bill says activities such as conversions are supported by legal entities, educational institutions, orphanages, old age homes, hospitals, religious missionaries, non-governmental organizations, and other organizations. It prohibits a person under 18 years of age from converting. It clarifies that the “religion converter” is the person of any religion who performs any act of conversion, like a Father, Priest, Purohit, Pandit, Moulvi or Mullah, under undue influence.
Any converted person, their parents, brother, sister or any other person who is related to them by blood, marriage or adoption or in any form associated with, or colleague, may complain of such conversion, as per the provisions under this Act.

Also, if any person wishes to convert, he or she should give a declaration in a prescribed format, within a minimum of 30 days in advance, to a district magistrate. He or she will notify the proposed religious conversion on the notice board at his/her office and the tahsildar’s office, calling for objections. After inquiry, if the officer concludes the commission of an offence under the Act, he shall direct the police to initiate criminal action for contravention of the provisions of the Act.

In Karnataka, any bill passed in the Legislative Assembly has to be passed in the Legislative Council too before going to the Governor for the final signature. If the Council doesn’t pass the Bill for some reason, the government can pass an ordinance through the Governor for six months,  and then it becomes law.
Though it was cleared by the Assembly on December 23, 2021, it was not introduced in the Upper House, as the BJP lacked a clear majority at the time. In May 2022, an ordinance was issued to facilitate the introduction of the anti-conversion law.
However, on September 15, the Bill sailed through the Upper House amid objections by the Congress and the JDS, and was sent to the Governor. BK Hariprasad, the leader of the Opposition in the Council, slammed the Bill, calling it “unconstitutional”. “It will snatch the people’s fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution to profess, practice and propagate any religion of their choice. It is a conspiracy against equality and to continue treating Dalits and people from other down-trodden sections of society as second-grade citizens,” he added.

Earlier, the BJP government found it difficult to pass any Bills siding right-wing ideology, including the Cow Slaughter Bill and the Anti-Conversion Bill. The former was tabled in the Belagavi Assembly session in December 2021 and in the Council, though it was strongly opposed by Congress and JDS. However, the absence of JDS members helped the BJP to pass the Bill.

Interestingly, at that time, senior MLC Basavaraja Horatti from JDS was contesting for the post of council chairman as a candidate of the BJP-JDS alliance. Moreover, the BJP strengthened its position in the Council after the term of 25 MLCs ended. It is hence in a position to pass any bill.

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Wipro is among big names on Bengaluru encroacher’s list

Bengaluru, the Silicon Valley of India, was left paralyzed after the heavy rains in the city led to floods, disrupting life and residents and causing significant damage to properties and roads. Bengaluru civil authorities have released a list of encroachers, which includes 700 structures, that were the main cause of the floods in Karnataka city since they blocked the stormwater drains in the city, as per media reports.

Encroachers in Bengaluru who are currently facing the threat of demolition are big and high-profile companies and IT parks, such as Wipro and Prestige. Though demolitions are advancing in full force in the city, these mammoth companies still remain untouched by the authorities.

As the BBMP said that some of the big names included in the list of encroachers who caused the floods are

  • Bagmane Tech Park and Purva Paradise in Mahadevapura,
  • RBD in 3 locations
  • Wipro in Doddakannelli
  • Eco-Space in Bellandur
  • Gopalan in multiple locations & Diya school in Hoodi.

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike informed the high court on Monday that 980 illegal buildings had been discovered throughout the city in a recent survey. Many of these illegal structures had been blocking drains which led to waterlogging and floods in the city during the recent wet spell. BBMP already started a demolition drive in the illegal commercial & residential buildings of the Mahadevapura area.

Many residents said they were given no prior notice of the demolition and found out about it only when they heard the bulldozers in action.

“They have not informed us. We were not informed. When the demolition began, we were inside our homes,” said Alok, a resident of the four-story building that was being demolished. I was sleeping. I had finished my night shift and was fast asleep. I woke up suddenly to the loud noises of the demolition,” said Praveen, another resident of Bengaluru.

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Bengaluru Rain Live Updates: All tanks in city full, Girl dead

Karnataka’s Bengaluru remains under the siege of heavy rainfall and waterlogging in the streets, which is making the lives of residents more and more difficult in the Silicon Valley of India. Due to the second round of heavy rains, the streets in the city remain flooded, causing kilometers-long traffic jams. Further, the drinking water supply in the city has also been hit majorly due to heavy rains battering Bengaluru over the past few days. The drinking water supply in several parts of Bengaluru has been disrupted on September 6, as per the latest advisory.

Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board’s (BWSSB) pump house unit that manages Cauvery water supply to the city at TK Halli near Mandya has been flooded and the flood has caused damage to machinery there. Due to this, BWSSB has warned of water supply disruption in several areas of Bengaluru on Tuesday, September 6.

Many offices in Bengaluru and nearby affected cities have been shut down and employees are being urged to work from home for the time being due to heavy rains. Several residential areas have suffered significant damage with reports of houses collapsing and roofs giving out coming from several parts of Bengaluru.

Traffic jams as long as 2 km have been reported in several parts of the city due to damaged roads and heavy waterlogging. Further, the Karnataka government also had to send in boats to rescue residents stuck in heavily waterlogged areas.

A 23-year-old woman’s death due to electrocution after slipping on a waterlogged street in rain-hit Bengaluru has triggered outrage, with many questioning the Karnataka government for mismanagement and negligence. Akhila got off her scooter near Mayura Bakery where a stretch of the road was waterlogged. While towing the two-wheeler through the knee-deep water, she lost her balance. She tried to right herself by grabbing onto an electric pole but got electrocuted.

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