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CHANGE ON THE GROUND

15 Foreign Diplomats To Visit Jammu-Kashmir Today; EU Envoys Later

They will meet civil society leaders and will be briefed on the security situation by the Army and intelligence services.

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NEW DELHI: A group of around 15 foreign envoys based in New Delhi will be taken to Jammu and Kashmir on January 9-10 to see first-hand the efforts being made by the Government in the region, sources said.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been receiving requests from envoy for a visit to Kashmir and the government source said, “Our consistent position has been that we may consider the request only after analyzing the security situation and checking the situation on the ground with the J&K administration.”

While envoys of Latin America, ASEAN and Africa will be going on Thursday, envoys of the European Union (EU) are expected to go on a later date. Speaking on why they could not attend foreign envoy’s Kashmir visit, an EU envoy said, “It was communicated with very short notice and the majority of us need to get the agreement of our authorities,” adding, “in any case, we are still discussing with MEA”.


Government sources said that EU envoys have welcomed the initiative by the government and select EU envoys were invited since the aim was to keep the group broad-based. Asked, if any envoys had asked to meet anyone detained, the government source said, “no specific request was made and the group was free to interact with people subject to security considerations”. Australia is not able to be a part of the visit since they are preparing for the Aussie Foreign Minister’s India visit. The same stands true for another Asian country, whose delegation is in the town.

“We have been receiving requests from some envoys based in Delhi to undertake a visit Jammu and Kashmir.

Our consistent position has been that we may consider the request only after analyzing the security situation and checking the ground situation with J&K administration,” sources said.



Sources said that accordingly, a group of around 15 envoys — from the United States, Maldives, Norway, Argentina, Niger, Togo, Vietnam, Bangladesh, South Korea, Peru, Morocco, among others — who are based in Delhi, are being taken to the Union Territory.

They will meet civil society leaders and will be briefed on the security situation by the Army and intelligence services.

In October 2019, India took the EU Parliamentarians to Kashmir. It was the first such visit by an international delegation post-abrogation of Article 370. The visit by the members of the European Parliament had come at a time when the Centre was making efforts to restore normalcy in the region.

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CHANGE ON THE GROUND

HISTORIC: 644 Terrorists From 8 Terror Groups Surrender With Arms In Assam

The terrorists have deposited 177 arms, huge ammunition and other explosive materials.

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GUWAHATI (Assam): 644 militants from 8 outfits on Thursday laid down their arms in Guwahati, Assam before Chief Minister Sarbanand Sonowal and senior officials.

Among those who surrendered include 50 terrorists from ULFA (Independence), 8 of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), 178 from Adivashi Dragon Fighter (ADF).

The terrorists have deposited 177 arms, huge ammunition and other explosive materials.

Welcoming the militants to the mainstream, Chief Minister Sonowal appealed them to contribute in the nation-building process. He said that laying down of arms would further boost the peace process in the state.


Terming it as one of the largest instances of the terrorist surrender in Assam, Director General of Police (DGP) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said January 23 would henceforth be marked as a special day.

Mahanta said this will impact the peace process favourably. He hoped that more boys in different extremist groups would come forward to join this peace process.

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CHANGE ON THE GROUND

IRCTC To Pay Compensation Of Rs 100 Each To 630 Passengers Of Tejas Express

The Tejas Express and a few other suburban and outstation trains were held up due to a technical problem on the outskirts of Mumbai.

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MUMBAI (Maharashtra): Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has said that it will pay a compensation of 100 rupees each to around 630 passengers of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Tejas Express because of a delay.

The Express, the second IRCTC-run train which commenced commercial operations from January 19, was delayed for over an hour on Wednesday afternoon as it was entering Mumbai. The train reached the Mumbai Central station around 1 hour and 30 minutes late.

The IRCTC spokesperson said the passengers will have to apply as per the refund policy. They will be given a refund after verification.


According to railway officials, the premium train departed from Ahmedabad at 6.42 am, two minutes late. But it arrived at Mumbai Central at 2.36 pm instead of the scheduled time of 1.10 pm.

The Tejas Express and a few other suburban and outstation trains were held up due to a technical problem on the outskirts of Mumbai.

The IRCTC spokesperson said that as the train was delayed, around 630 passengers who travelled up to Mumbai Central will be given compensation.



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AGENTS OF CHANGE

‘Orange Cafe’ By Acid Attack Survivors To Open In Varanasi On January 29

After the Sheroes Hangout Cafe in Lucknow and Agra, acid attack survivors in Varanasi will soon have a cafe that will be run by them.

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BANARAS/KASHI (Uttar Pradesh): After the Sheroes Hangout Cafe in Lucknow and Agra, a new cafe, owned and managed by acid attack survivors, is set to be inaugurated in Banaras/Kashi on Basant Panchami (January 29)—a day which marks the advent of spring in north India.

The cafe is named The Orange — with reference to UNESCO’s ‘Orange the World’ Campaign which sets aside 16 days starting from November 25 every year to galvanise action against all forms of violence against women.

The man behind the project is Ajay Kumar Patel, who started the ‘Red Brigade’ in 2011 which is an NGO that trains women in self-defence.


Patel said: “We are starting The Orange Cafe from a rented place but we soon plan to get ownership of the place. Our aim is to make sure that the acid attack survivors own the café and run it themselves.”

‘The Orange’ was initially planned to be situated at the iconic and divine Assi Ghat—one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations—but the property rates there proved to be too prohibitive. Eventually, the selected sited is now at Varanasi’s Durga Kund area in a 600 square feet space.

Patel has been travelling through the state since the past two years to connect with acid attack survivors in various districts.



He short-listed four survivors, who were willing to shift to Varanasi and take on the responsibility of running the cafe.

So far, Patel has short-listed 4 candidates to run the café, namely, Rekha Devi (35) (acid attack during a loot attempt in 2015) from Jaunpur, Somvati (18) (acid attack following a village dispute in 2015) from Bareilly, Vimla Passi (39) (acid attack followeing rape in 2008) from Rae Bareli and Badam Devi (35) (acid attack over a property dispute in 2012) from Varanasi.

We are now training these women to cook food, serve the customers and undertake the billing. We do not want them to depend on others for these tasks. For the first four months, we will pay them a token amount but they will later share the profit among themselves,” said Patel.

Somvati from Bareilly, who is hopeful of a better life in this new venture, adds, “I want to ensure good education for my 10-year-old son and the cafe will help me fulfil my dream’’.

Somvati was attacked with acid by her neighbour three years ago when she spurned his advances.

The decor, with hints of orange and red to mark the struggles of women, has been conceptualised by the Visual Arts Department of the Banares Hindu University. “We wanted everything to be hand-painted, but time constraints have made us use flex as well”, said Patel.


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