People light candles in the memory of the December 16, 2012 gang rape victim in New Delhi.(HT File)
People light candles in the memory of the December 16, 2012 gang rape victim in New Delhi.(HT File)

While you were away: Top stories to bring you up to date

Differing reactions to the December 16 gang rape verdict, Assam as a disturbed area, and censorship in Pakistan. Here’s a list of top stories to bring you up to date.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON MAY 06, 2017 08:17 AM IST

1) I can sleep peacefully tonight, says father of Delhi gang rape victim after SC upholds death penalty for convicts

Asha Devi is happy that her daughter will rest in peace finally. And her husband, Badri Nath Singh, will sleep peacefully on Friday night — four years, four months and 18 days since an evening in 2012 that wrecked the couple’s world. Devi and Singh let out sighs and tears when the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the four rapist-murderers of their daughter will hang to death. “We waited for this day for four years and I am happy with the verdict. It has restored my faith in the judiciary. It did take long, but we did get justice,” the mother said, regaining her composure in the packed courthouse abuzz with people applauding the judgment.

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2) Dec 16 gang rape verdict: Bilkis Bano wants death penalty for her rapists too

Hours after the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for the four rape accused in the December 16 gang rape case, Bilkis Bano also demanded the same punishment for those who gang-raped her and killed 14 members of the family during the Gujarat riots of 2002. “If we have to fight more, we will. We also want to get the same justice,” Bano told HT over the phone on Friday. A day earlier, the Bombay high court had refused to hand down the death penalty to three of the 11 people convicted of raping her. Instead, the court upheld the life sentences for all 11 accused persons, besides convicting 5 policemen and two doctors of complicity.

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3) Juvenile in 2012 Delhi gang rape case ‘unaware’ of verdict, now works as a cook

Away from the limelight on the verdict in the December 16 gang-rape and murder, the ‘juvenile’ convicted in the case, who was found guilty of raping and killing the 23-year-old physiotherapist on December 16, 2012 — has settled well in his new life. He is cooking at a prominent restaurant. The then minor is now 23 years old. “He was always worried about getting lynched and that is why he was sent to the southern part of the country. Now, the verdict has come, focus will again move to him but he is at a place where he might not even see the national news channels. His employer is not aware of his past and even he has left it behind,” said a NGO official, who was part of his rehabilitation process.

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4) H-1B visa woes: Cognizant to ramp up hiring in US, reduce work permit dependence

IT company Cognizant expects to “significantly” ramp up headcount in the US in a bid to woo the Trump administration that has been critical of outsourcing firms for unfairly taking jobs away from American workers. The US-based firm has over 2.61 lakh employees, with a large number of them based in India. While the company is hiring more locals, it is also consciously reducing its dependence on H-1B visas. Cognizant expects its visa requirements to go down further going forward.

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5) Government declares entire Assam as ‘disturbed’ area under AFSPA for 3 more months

The Centre has declared the entire Assam as a “disturbed” area under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act -- the AFSPA -- for three more months, citing various violent activities by insurgent groups ULFA, NDFB and others. In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry said the entire Assam, besides bordering areas of Meghalaya, have been declared “disturbed” under the AFSPA for three months with effect from May 3. The ministry said there were 75 incidents of violence in Assam in 2016 in which 33 people, including four security personnel, were killed and 14 others were abducted.

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6) Govt mulls passing on some cost of providing security at airports to air travellers

The government is mulling an increase in the passenger service fee (PSF) in order to pass on to air travellers a part of the cost of strengthening security at all airports. As of now, air travellers pay Rs 130 as security charge. This is part of the Rs 225 charged as PSF by the airlines while selling the tickets. “The security charge has not been increased in the last 15 years. But now, the cost of providing security to airports has gone up manifold. In all likelihood, the amount will go up,” a government functionary said.

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7) Opinion: Shivpal’s exit from Samajwadi Party will be good news for Akhilesh and UP

An imminent split in the Samajwadi Party, as announced by Shivpal Yadav on Friday, is good news for his nephew and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, for the people, and for the politics in Uttar Pradesh. Unencumbered by the vestiges of the past, Akhilesh can now embark on transforming the SP from a ‘Yadav-Muslim party’ into a modern political outfit that is in sync with people’s aspirations.

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8) NYT article criticising Pakistani army replaced with blank space in local paper

An International New York Times opinion piece criticising the powerful Pakistani army was censored by its local publisher Friday, replaced by a blank space in a country where it can be dangerous to speak out against the military establishment. The article was censored in the Express Tribune newspaper which partners with The International New York Times – the global edition of The New York Times. The online version of the piece by Mohammed Hanif, a high-profile satirist and novelist, was trending on Pakistani social media by Friday afternoon.

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9) China’s One Belt, One Road project causing maritime anxiety, says top US admiral

The maritime implications of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project are causing a “sense of anxiety” in the region, said Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet who is in India for consultations with his Indian counterpart and the defence ministry. Uncertainty over the OBOR initiative is being raised “in every country I visit”, Swift said. Chinese warships are making an “OBOR tour” of the Pacific Ocean now, he noted, and their actions may give some insight into what Beijing plans.

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10) Zurich recommends ban on Quran distribution campaign in public spaces

Zurich’s public safety office on Friday recommended towns in Switzerland’s most populous canton ban a campaign that hands out Korans in public spaces, describing it as a front for incitement of radical activities including jihadist involvement. The recommendation clashed with an assessment by federal intelligence services published three days before which concluded a ban on the campaign’s Koran distribution would lead to a “strong conflict with the exercise of religious freedom”.

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11) Trump signs $1 trillion spending bill, keeps government open

President Donald Trump signed his first piece of major legislation on Friday, a $1 trillion spending bill to keep the government operating through September. The bill cleared both houses of Congress this week and Trump signed it into law behind closed doors at his home in central New Jersey, well ahead of a midnight Friday deadline for some government operations to begin shutting down. But other budget battles lie ahead as the White House and Congress hammer out a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

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12) IPL 2017: Kings XI Punjab beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by 19 runs, stay alive for playoffs

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) suffered yet another humiliating defeat in the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL), this time by 19 runs to Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Friday night. Set a meagre target of 139 runs, the misfiring Royal Challengers batting line-up again collapsed to suffer their fourth loss on the trot.

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