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29 killed, 250 injured in violence after Panchkula court convicts Dera Sacha Sauda chief in rape case

At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana on Friday.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana today.
 
The quantum of punishment for the 50-year-old self-styled godman will be pronounced on August 28. Meanwhile, he was taken into judicial custody and flown in a helicopter from Panchkula to Rohtak, where he was lodged in a special jail.
 
Police officials said 28 people had died in Panchkula, which bore the brunt of today's violence, several of them in police firing. There were clashes between Ram Rahim's supporters and the police in Sirsa, where the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters are located.
 
One person died and four people suffered injuries in police firing in Sirsa, where the situation remained tense, with large numbers of Ram Rahim's followers gathered inside the Dera headquarters.
 
The officials said the police had been able to clear the mobs off the streets in all other towns in Haryana.
 
About 60 policemen also suffered injuries in today's incidents, including two senior superintendents of police and one deputy superintendent of police, they said.
 
In Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who returned during the day from a visit to Kyrgyz Republic, spoke to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and discussed the situation with them. Mr. Rajnath Singh assured them of all necessary assistance from the Centre.
 
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said he had talked to the Chief Secretary of Haryana who had told him that the situation was being brought under control. "The situation is tense but under control," he said, adding that the Centre was monitoring the situation continuously.
 
Thousands of Singh's supporters had gathered at different points in Panchkula and other parts of Haryana and Punjab and violence erupted shortly after news of his conviction came.
 
 
29 dead as Dera followers bring Panchkula to its knees
In Panchkula, scores of vehicles, including fire tenders, outdoor broadcast vans of television news channels and two-wheelers were set ablaze. The mobs also attacked some government property. Police used teargas, lathi-charges, pellet guns and finally resorted to firing to disperse the mobs.
 
A former follower of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had accused him of repeatedly raping her inside the Dera campus near Sirsa in Haryana in 1999. The first information report in the case had been filed in 2002.
 
The mobs targetted media vehicles and attacked some journalists reporting from the scene.
 
Incidents of violence were also reported from various other places in Haryana as well as Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi.
 
In Delhi, some buses in Jahangirpuri and other localities and two coaches of a train parked in the railway yard at Anand Vihar were partially burnt after they were set on fire by miscreants. Police said reinforcements had been rushed to all affected and patrolling had been stepped up all across the city. The situation was under control, they added.
 
Though thousands of policemen had been deployed in Panchkula and elsewhere in Haryana to prevent any untoward incident, they were unable cope with the wave of violence that started after the verdict was pronounced. Police used teargas shells to try and disperse the mobs. Curfew was imposed in some towns of Punjab.
 
Television pictures showed ambulances bringing scores of injured persons to the government hospital there.
 
The Railways had, as a precautionary measure, cancelled some 300 mail, express and passenger trains passing through  Haryana in the past few days.
 
The Centre had sent several companies of central armed police forces to Haryana at the request of the state government and the Army's assistance had been sought at some places.
 
Mr. Khattar urged people to stay calm and maintain peace. He said strict action would be taken against those who disturb the peace and took law into their own hands.
 
In Gurgaon, near here, the police staged a flag march which passed through Kherki Daula, IMT Manesar, Bilaspur, sohna, Bhondsi and Badshapur as a precautionary measure.
 
"A close watch is being kept on the anti-social elements and miscreants who try to take advantages of such situation," a press release from Gurgaon Police said.
 
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the "instances of violences" were "deeply distressing". He said he strongly condemned the violence and urged everyone to maintain peace.
 
"The instances of violence today are deeply distressing. I strongly condemn the violence & urge everyone to maintain peace," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"The law & order situation is being closely monitored. I reviewed the situation with the NSA & Home Secretary," he said.
 
"Urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required," he added.
 
In Delhi, the police has imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, banning the assembly of five or more persons, as a precautionary measure in 11 districts, including New Delhi.
 
"Adequate police arrangements in place & Law & Order situation under control. Officers with reserve force on rounds to maintain peace," the Commissioner of Police said on Twitter.
 
"Appeal to all to maintain peace & order. #DelhiPolice on full alert. Strict legal action will be taken against miscreants for any violation," he added.
 
Meanwhile, the Congress has demanded the resignation of Mr. Khattar and urged the Prime Minister to put the interests and safety of Indians before his party's interests.
 
Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed grave concern and shock at the violence.
 
Ms. Gandhi spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh about the situation. She urged the Governments of Punjab and Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh to ensure the safety and security of citizens. She also appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony.
 
"Violence & brutality have no place in our society. Condemn the rampage and lawlessness in Haryana & appeal to restore peace and tranquility," Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter.
 
Mr. Amarinder Singh appealed to the people of Punjab to maintain peace and harmony. "We won't allow anyone to disturb the peace and tranquility of our state," he added.
 
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Two main accused in Rewari gang-rape arrested

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The Haryana Police's Special Investigating Team (SIT) on Sunday arrested the two main accused in the Rewari gang-rape case.
 
The accused, Pankaj and Manish, were on the run for almost two weeks. They were arrested from Satnali in Mahendragarh district.
 
The victim, a 19-year-old school topper, was abducted and gang-raped after being drugged on September 12 while she was on the way to a coaching institute.
 
Earlier, the SIT announced the arrest of a third accused, Nishu and two other men - Deendayal, the owner of a tubewell room where the crime took place in Mahendragarh, and Sanjeev Kumar, a medical practitioner who had treated the victim.
 
Both Deendayal and Sanjeev were booked as they did not inform police despite knowing about the crime.
 
The police had earlier announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for providing information on the absconding accused, all residents of Kanina village.
 
The victim, who has identified her attackers, and her parents had earlier accused the police of not taking action and dealing with the matter casually.
 
She said they gave her sedative-laced water to drink and gang-raped her in a room in agricultural fields till she fell unconscious. They later dumped her at a bus stop near her village.
 
IANS
 

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Punjab: Congress heads for landslide victory in Zila Parishad polls

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The ruling Congress in Punjab on Saturday won the most seats in the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections and headed for a landslide victory as counting was underway. The main opposition AAP in the state assembly faced a humiliating defeat.
 
Out of 113 Zila Parishad seats -- out of a total of 354 -- for which results have been declared, the Congress won 106, the BJP-Akali combine six and independents won one. The Aam Adami Party had not won a single seat.
 
Among prominent winners were former Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee President Bibi Jagjir Kaur's daughter Ranjit Kaur; Housing Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa's son Ravi Nandan Singh Bajwa; Congress legislator Ramanjit Sikki's son-in-law Maninderjit Singh Mani; and former Congress legislator Kawaljit Singh Lally's son Mehtab Singh.
 
In Patiala, the home constituency of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the Congress has won 43 Panchayat Samiti seats and the Shiromani Akali Dal four.
 
The Akalis suffered a humiliating defeat in their home turf Muktsar as the Congress won 10 of the 13 Zila Parishad zones.
 
All six Zila Parishad seats in Ludhiana were won by the Congress.
 
The Congress won a majority in Gurdaspur by securing 154 of the total 213 Panchayat Samiti zones. In Zila Parishad, the Congress won 15 of the 25 seats and was leading in the remaining seats.
 
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Out of the total 148 seats of the Panchayat Samiti in Bathinda, the Congress won 31, Akalis four and the AAP and independents three each. The counting for 107 seats is on.
 
Sporadic skirmishes, mainly between the Congress and the Akalis, were witnessed during the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls on September 19.
 
The voting percentage was 58 per cent.
 
A total of 354 Zila Parishad and 2,900 Panchayat Samiti members will be elected. There are 22 Zila Parishads and 150 Panchayat Samitis in the state.
 
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh congratulated his party on their victory saying people had endorsed the positive development and rejected the Akalis' "malicious campaign".
 
Pointing out that this was the fourth consecutive humiliating defeat of the SAD-BJP combine, after back-to-back victories for the Congress in the state assembly, Urban Local Bodies, Gurdaspur parliamentary and Shahkot assembly by-polls, he termed it a vindication of his party's efforts to bring the state out of the quagmire of devastation into which it had been plunged by the previous SAD-BJP government.
 
IANS
 

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Sidhu wants 'positive step' on Kartarpur gurdwara corridor

Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Undeterred by BJP criticism over his praise of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the issue of the Kartarpur gurdwara corridor, Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has written to the Centre seeking a "positive step".
 
"It is time for India to take a positive step on this highly emotional issue. When opportunity knocks, kindly step up and open the door. The opening of this corridor will be a huge thing for Sikh community all over the world. The corridor can usher in peace and prosperity between the two countries," Sidhu said in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that was released to the media on Sunday.
 
Sidhu, who was present at the swearing-in of his "friend" Imran Khan as the Pakistan Prime Minister on August 18 in Islamabad, has been claiming that he has been virtually instrumental in getting the Kartarpur corridor opened to devotees.
 
"Pakistan has shown a positive intent towards the long-pending corridor demand. Some positivity came out when I visited Pakistan for the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan. Now their Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary has categorically said that the corridor will be opened and even visas won't be required to visit the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara as part of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. It is time for India to take a positive step on this highly emotional issue," Sidhu said in the letter.
 
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Sidhu pointed out that after Partition in August 1947, several historical gurdwaras fell in Pakistan territory, including the Katarpur Sahib gurdwara associated with Guru Nanak Dev.
 
"Since then, Sikhs living in India always pray that they should be able to pay obeisance at the gurdwaras across the border. Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara holds great significance as it is the place where Guru Nanak Dev spent almost 18 years. The gurdwara is very close to the international border," he pointed out.
 
The Minister said that thousands of devotees in India visit Dera Baba Nanak area in Punjab's Gurdaspur district daily just to catch a glimpse of this holy shrine through binoculars arranged by the Border Security Force.
 
"With Pakistan showing a positive intent, the common belief is that this can turn into reality. Appropriate steps on the corridor must be taken due to strong Sikh sentiments attached to it. Hoping for a positive response from you," the Congress leader added.
 
Sidhu on Friday thanked Imran Khan for enabling the opening of the religious corridor, drawing flak from the BJP which said that the praise was an insult to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
IANS
 

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Traffic restored on Chandigarh-Manali highway

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Traffic on the Chandigarh-Manali national highway, which remained blocked for over 12 hours following a massive landslide along the Beas river in Himachal Pradesh, was restored on Saturday, police said.
 
Incessant rains have also caused massive rockslides in Chamba district, blocking the Pathankot-Chamba highway.
 
Likewise, the National Highway 5 has been blocked near Chaura village in Shimla district after a truck got stuck as a portion of the road caved in.
 
Nearly 100 metres of the Chandigarh-Manali highway was badly damaged in the landslide that occurred near Aut in Mandi district on Friday night. It was repaired temporarily.
 
"Work is on to clear the debris on the Pathankot-Chamba and removal of the truck on the National Highway 5. They are likely to be reopened late in the evening," an official told IANS here.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Landslide blocks Chandigarh-Manali highway

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Traffic on the Chandigarh-Manali national highway has been blocked following a massive landslide along the Beas river in Himachal Pradesh, police said on Saturday.
 
However, there were no reports of any casualties.
 
Nearly 100 metres of the national highway was badly damaged in the landslide that occurred near Aut in Mandi district on Friday night.
 
Hundreds of vehicles remained stranded on both sides of the affected area.
 
District authorities claimed that traffic was partially restored for small vehicles through diversions on alternate roads.
 
"JCB machines are trying to clear the debris and likely to restored by afternoon," said a district official.
 
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and district authorities have deployed equipment to remove the debris.
 
IANS

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Haryana's Hathnikund barrage releases water, floods threaten Delhi

 
Water level in Yamuna river crosses danger level
 
 
With heavy rains continuing in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, authorities in Haryana's Hathnikund barrage on Saturday released excess water into the Yamuna river, posing a flood threat to New Delhi.
 
"On Saturday morning over 200,000 cusecs of water was released into the Yamuna from the Hathnikund barrage -- which provides drinking water to New Delhi," an official told IANS in Chandigarh.
 
In the national capital, the water level in the Yamuna crossed the danger level by 10 a.m., a Flood Control department official said.
 
The official said villages along the Yamuna river have been alerted about the release of the excess water. The city government have already begun evacuating people from low-lying areas. 
 
The water-level at the Hathnikund barrage along the Haryana-Uttarakhand border rose to alarming levels owing to overnight heavy rains in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
 
The Yamuna river passes through Yamunanagar, Karnal and Panipat districts in Haryana before entering New Delhi.
 
The Met has predicted that Haryana's neighbouring hill states would continue to experience heavy rains.
 
IANS
 
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Haryana puts sports notification on hold after controversy

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Within hours of a controversy generated by the issuing of a notification asking sportspersons to deposit one-third of their earnings with the Haryana Sports Council, the state government put the notification on hold.
 
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar tweeted that he had put the notification on hold and called for the file.
 
"I have asked for the relevant file of Sports Department to be shown to me & the notification dated 30th April to be put on hold till further orders.We are proud of the immense contribution by our sportspersons & I assure them of a just consideration of all issues affecting them," Khattar tweeted on Friday evening.
 
The Haryana government had flak from the sporting fraternity over the move to seek one-third earnings of its sportspersons who have government jobs.
 
The state government had earlier on Friday defended its decision to do so. The notification issued by the Sports and Youth Welfare Department Principal Secretary Ashok Khemka had directed sportspersons from Haryana to hand over one third of their earnings from professional events and endorsement to the sports council.
 
"One third of the income of sportspersons from professional sports or commercial endorsement will be deposited with the Haryana State Sports Council. The money shall be used for development of sports in the state," the order signed by Khemka on April 27 read.
 
Though the move has drawn widespread condemnation from athletes, Sports Minister Anil Vij as well as Khemka, a senior IAS officer, defended the move.
 
"There is nothing new in this decision. It is an old government rule. Under Rule 56, if a government employee earns professional or commercial income, he has to deposit one third of the earning with the state government. We had allowed (international boxer) Vijender Singh to play professionally. The (Punjab and Haryana) High Court asked us to frame rules in this regard. We have brought out the rules now," Vij said on Friday.
 
Khemka said the notification had been issued after the state gave an assurance to the court that the Haryana government would bring a policy vis-a-vis those who play professional sports.
 
"Normally, government employees are not allowed to play professional sports. The money will be used for the benefit of sportspersons only," he said.
 
On the other hand, star wrestler Geeta Phogat told a TV channel: "This new rule makes a mockery of sportspersons. There is no such rule for cricketers who earn much more than those from other sports. Cricketers make a lot of money from endorsement but those from other sports like boxing, kabaddi, and wrestling do not earn much." 
 
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"If we give up a third of our earnings, what will be left for us?" she asked.
 
International sportspersons like wrestler Sushil Kumar and others have also questioned Haryana's move to "take away the hard-earned money of sportspersons". The notification has a direct bearing on a number of international and national sportspersons from Haryana, employed by various state government departments.
 
That is not all. 
 
Sportspersons employed by government departments and participating in professional sports or commercial endorsements with the approval to be treated as on duty will have to deposit their full income with the council.
 
"In case a sportsperson is treated on duty with the prior approval of the competent authority while taking part in professional sports or commercial endorsement, the full income earned by the sportsperson on this account will be deposited with the Sports Council," the notification added.
 
Sportspersons from Haryana, including several women, have brought laurels to the country in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in recent years.
 
As many as 22 of the 66 medals won by India at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in April were won by sportspersons from Haryana.
 
IANS
 
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A day after talks with Shah, Akali leadership meets Modi

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Just a day after meeting BJP president Amit Shah in Chandigarh, the top leadership of the Shiromani Akali Dal met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Friday and emphasized that the BJP-Akali Dal alliance in Punjab was "durable and time-tested".
 
The meeting with the Prime Minister assumes significance in view of some of the allies of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) openly criticizing the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) attitude.
 
The Akali Dal on Thursday reiterated its alliance with the BJP for the 2019 general elections.
 
It urged the BJP leadership to ensure that minorities feel safe under the NDA rule and that the Sikh community, Punjab and its farmers get their dues.
 
"The Prime Minister at the very outset expressed his profound appreciation of the fact the Shiromani Akali Dal is the oldest and the most dependable ally of the BJP in the entire country," a press statement of the Akali Dal in Chandigarh stated.
 
"This is the oldest, the most durable and time-tested alliance and the BJP profoundly values it. The alliance signifies the social and political consensus in Punjab and elsewhere and is a symbol of peace and communal harmony throughout the country, especially in Punjab," it quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
 
Besides, Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, the Akali Dal delegation comprised Sukhdev Sigh Dhindsa, Ranjit Singh Brahampura, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Union Cabinet Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, MP Prem Singh Chandumajra and Delhi Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa.
 
The president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, Gobind Singh Longowal and Manjit Singh GK also attended the meeting.
 
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The Akali Dal delegation thanked Modi for the Union government's "unprecedented and decisive" initiative in exempting Langar from the GST.
 
"The delegation expressed its wholehearted appreciation for the fact that the decision on exemption on all purchases for Guru ka Langar for all Gurdwara Sahibaan throughout the country was a first ever initiative of its kind by the Government of India since Independence," the statement said.
 
The Akali Dal leadership also urged the Prime Minister to expedite the implementation of the Swaminathan Report by which the farmers would be ensured a profit margin of 50 per cent over and above the costs incurred by them.
 
The delegation also asked the Prime Minister to set up a National Committee under his own chairmanship to ensure that the 550th Parkash Utsav (birth anniversary) of Guru Nanak Dev is celebrated as a major national event.
 
It urged Modi to ensure that all Sikh and Punjab detainees languishing in jails even after completing their sentence, in many cases lasting 20 years, should be immediately released.
 
"Keeping them in custody after the expiry of their sentence is both illegal and immoral," the party statement said.
 
IANS
 
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BJP chief meets top SAD leaders in Chandigarh

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BJP President Amit Shah arrived here on Thursday afternoon and held a closed-door meeting with the top Shiromani Akali Dal leadership.
 
Shah met Akali Dal patron and five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and party President Sukhbir Singh Badal.
 
The meeting was held as part of Shah's initiative to connect with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJPs) allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Shah had met NDA ally and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackerey in Mumbai on Wednesday.
 
Sukhbir Badal's wife, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, is the Union Minister for Food Processing in the Narendra Modi government.
 
The alliance of the two parties did not do too well in the Punjab Assembly elections early last year. They also did not fare well in the Lok Sabha polls in April-May 2014 despite a clear Modi wave in most other states in north India.
 
The Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab, which has been there for over three decades, was relegated to the third spot in the 2017 Assembly polls.
 
New entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got 20 seats in the 117-member Assembly and became the principal opposition party.
 
The Congress, which was out of power in Punjab for a decade (2007-2017), during which period the Akali Dal-BJP alliance ruled Punjab, got 77 seats in the Assembly (the Congress tally increased to 78 after win in Shahkot by-election last month, giving the party a two third majority in the house).
 
Out of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, the Akali Dal-BJP combine holds five (four Akali Dal; one of BJP), while the Congress has four seats and AAP another four.
 
IANS
 
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Congress wins Punjab's Shahkot by huge margin

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The ruling Congress won the Shahkot Assembly bye-election on Thursday by a huge margin of over 38,800 votes, wresting the Shiromani Akali Dal stronghold after more than 20 years.
 
Congress' Hardev Singh Ladi Sherowalia got 82,745 votes against the 43,944 votes polled by his Akali Dal rival Naib Singh Koha.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Punjab Assembly bye-election: Congress leads in Akali Dal stronghold

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The ruling Congress built a formidable lead of over 16,000 votes in the Shiromani Akali Dal stronghold of Shahkot in Punjab after seven rounds of counting in the by-election to the Assembly seat on Thursday.
 
Congress candidate Hardev Singh Ladi Sherowalia was leading over his Shiromani Akali Dal rival Naib Singh Kohar after the first few rounds of counting.
 
Ladi received over 34,000 votes while Kohar got only around 18,000 votes.
 
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Rattan Singh was trailing far behind. He got just over 1,100 votes.
 
The seat fell vacant following the death of sitting Akali Dal legislator Ajit Singh Kohar in February. 
 
Kohar, a former minister, was elected five times from this seat. His son Naib Singh Kohar was fielded by the Akali Dal.
 
The Shahkot seat remained a stronghold of the Akali Dal for over two decades in the past.
 
There were 12 candidates in the fray this time. A total of 76 per cent voting was reported on May 28.
 
Punjab has a Congress government since March 2017.
 
IANS
 
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Budding Punjabi singer found shot dead

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A budding Punjabi singer Navjot Singh was found shot dead in Dera Bassi area of Punjab, around 15 km from here, following which police launched an investigation on Monday to catch the culprits.
 
Navjot's body was found in a pool of blood with five gunshot wounds near a factory plot past midnight on Sunday. His Nissan Micra car was found parked nearby.
 
He was shot in the chest from close range. A murder case was registered against unidentified persons.
 
The police ruled out robbery as the reason for the killing since nothing had been taken away from his person. Since he was a struggling artiste, extortion by gangsters was also ruled out.
 
The singer, aged around 22, was living in a rented apartment in S.A.S. Nagar, adjoining Chandigarh. 
 
He had called up his mother minutes before he was killed and told her that he was returning home in Behra village. The family began searching for him when he did not return home.
 
IANS
 
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Purpose of scientific research to find answers to development questions, says Kovind

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President Ram Nath Kovind has said that the purpose of scientific research was three-fold for its role in nation building, finding answers to development questions like providing low-cost healthcare and also helping business and industry in product invention and process innovation.  
 
Addressing the 7th convocation of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) here yesterday Mr Kovind said, though a young institution, IISER was well on its way to fulfilling its mandate of promoting and providing facilities for basic science research and integrating these with the needs of the country and the wider society.
 
He noted that Mohali has become a hub for the knowledge economy, for Information Technology, biotechnology and bioinformatics and related fields. “It is critical therefore that we see IISER as not just a standalone institution but as the fulcrum of an entire ecosystem. That is how this institution must grow and develop,” he added.
 
“The purpose of scientific research is three-fold. First, science and technology must continue to play a role in nation-building. As our nation evolves and as our society changes, our needs too, are transformed. Yet, science and technology will always be required to find answers to developmental questions.
 
“Today, the questions before us range from battling climate change to provide low-cost but effective healthcare solutions. And from helping our farmers overcome productivity and water-scarcity challenges to building sustainable cities and houses that are socially inclusive and provide a life of dignity to the last family in the last mohalla. The IISER network must immerse itself in these tasks,” Mr Kovind said.
 
“Secondly, science and technology have a symbiotic relationship with business and industry. Product invention and process innovation; converting the learning of the lab into commercially viable products; using technology to promote efficiency, enterprise and employment – there is so much science and commerce can do together.
 
“The combination of research institutions, technology start-ups incubated in campuses, and a knowledge-based business culture can be transformational. Silicon Valley in California and Bengaluru in India are examples of this. IISER must strive to play a similar role in Mohali and neighbouring cities,” he said.
 
“Third, institutions of scientific education and research are important in themselves for blue-sky innovation and for expanding the frontiers of knowledge. This is the fundamental and most critical value of scientific research.
 
“It is to keep alive the instinct of curiosity that is at the root of our civilisation. As the history of science tells us, this route requires patience. But it can lead to unexpected and dramatic leaps in human imagination,” he added.
 
The President urged students of IISER to keep these three motivations in mind as they climb higher. “In their own way, these three motivations of science and research will help them to serve our fellow citizens, to serve our society and country, and to serve the larger cause of humanity,” Mr Kovind said.
 
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Chandigarh airport to remain shut till May 31

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The Chandigarh International Airport was closed for all air traffic on Saturday until May 31 to carry out runway expansion and repairs, officials said here.
 
"No civil and military flights will operate from Chandigarh from May 12 to May 31," a Chandigarh International Airport Ltd (CHIAL) spokesman said.
 
The 20-day closure would affect over 100,000 passengers, especially during the summer vacation season.
 
This is the second phase of runway repair. It involves improvements and extension of runway ends from the existing 9,000 to 10,400 feet.
 
The first phase was carried out from February 12 to 26.
 
The expansion would enable operation of wide-bodied aircraft that will help air carriers to connect Chandigarh with destinations in Europe, the US and Australia.
 
The airport is a frontier base for the Indian Air Force (IAF) which has a transport unit based here catering to the forward areas in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Ladakh region.
 
During the closure, the IAF has relocated all its aircraft to other bases in north India.
 
The Chandigarh base was established in 1961 as a major air logistics node of Indian troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. 
 
It is home to fighter squadrons deployed for the air defence of the Punjab sector. With time, the base grew in size and operated heavy and medium lift air mobility aircraft like the AN-12, AN-32, IL-76, Mi-26 and C-17 Globe Master, a Defence Ministry spokesman said.
 
The Chandigarh airport handles nearly 30 commercial flights daily, including those to Dubai, Sharjah and Bangkok. The city is linked to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Srinagar, Jaipur and a few other cities in the domestic circuit.
 
IANS
 
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Rains lash Chandigarh; Haryana, Punjab on storm alert

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Early morning rains lashed Chandigarh and surrounding areas on Monday while authorities in Haryana and Punjab remained on high alert following a storm advisory issued by the Met Department.
 
Schools in Haryana were ordered to remain closed for two days (Monday and Tuesday) as a preventive measure in view of the weather warning.
 
A few private schools in Chandigarh also announced closure for two days.
 
The maximum temperatures at most places in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh remained between 31.5 to 38.5 degrees Celsius on Sunday with rainfall at some places and overcast sky at several in others.
 
The Met office has predicted thunderstorms, accompanied by strong winds and rain, in Haryana and Punjab and Punjab starting from Monday to Wednesday.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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9 new ministers inducted into Amarinder government; other hopefuls sulk

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Nine new cabinet ministers were inducted into the Amarinder Singh government in Punjab on Saturday, while two women ministers were elevated to cabinet rank.
 
Governor V.P. Singh Badnore administered the oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers - all first-timers - at the Raj Bhawan here on Saturday evening.
 
Two women ministers, Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana, who were in the rank of ministers of state, were also promoted as cabinet ministers on Saturday. They were administered oath as cabinet ministers by the Governor.
 
The new ministers are O.P. Soni, Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Gurpreet Kangar, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Vijay Inder Singla, Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Sunder Sham Arora. 
 
With the cabinet berths being full now, a number of hopeful leaders in the ruling party are sulking. Some of them have offered to resign from Congress party posts to show their resentment.
 
Strong contenders who got left out included Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Kuljit Singh Nagra, former Olympian Pargat Singh and Dalit leader Raj Kumar Verka.
 
Congress legislators Sangat Singh Gilzian, Surjit Dhiman and Nathu Ram resigned from party posts after the list of new ministers was announced.
 
It is learnt that senior Congress leaders, including Congress party in-charge for Punjab Asha Kumari, spoke to some of the disgruntled legislators to pacify them.
 
Decks were cleared on Friday by the Congress high command for the induction of nine new ministers.
 
Their names were approved in New Delhi on Friday following two days of meetings between Amarinder Singh and Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders.
 
The Congress won the Assembly elections by a thumping majority in March last year, getting 77 legislators in the 117-member Assembly. The state cabinet can have a maximum strength of 18 ministers, including the Chief Minister, under the law.
 
IANS
 
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Phagwara clash: Internet services suspended in four Punjab districts

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Internet services were suspended in four districts of Punjab on Saturday after tension gripped the industrial town of Phagwara following clashes between Hindu and Dalit groups over a poster of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar.
 
The Punjab Police on Saturday remained on high alert in Phagwara town following the clash. Tension prevailed in the industrial town, around 130 km from here, on Saturday following the clash that started late on Friday over the putting up of the Ambedkar's poster at the Goal Chowk.
 
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered suspension of mobile Internet services in Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Shaheed Bhagat Singh (SBS) Nagar (Nawanshahr) districts as a precautionary measure, to check rumour mongering on social media.
 
Informed sources in the police said that shots were allegedly fired during the clash, which also witnessed some stone pelting. Taking serious note of the clash between the Dalits and "upper caste men", Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said: "Would not spare the culprits. 
 
"Will not allow Punjab's peace to be destroyed at any cost. My government will bear all expenses for treatment of all those injured in the incident."
 
The Chief Minister directed the Ludhiana district administration to ensure the best treatment for Yashwant Kumar Bobby, reported to be seriously injured in the clash and undergoing treatment at DMC Hospital in Ludhiana. 
 
Trouble arose on the eve of Ambedkar Jayanti when one group tried to put up the poster at the crossing which was opposed by the other.
 
Shiv Sena leader Rajesh Palta was beaten up allegedly by the Dalits during the clash. Senior police personnel along with additional forces have been deployed in the town following the clash. 
 
Amarinder appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony and warned of "stringent action against anyone found disturbing the law and order in the state".
 
IANS
 
 
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Dangerous, false binary surfacing in political discourse: Manmohan

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Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday that a dangerous and false binary between freedom and development was emerging in the country's political discourse which could be a danger to the democratic system.
 
Addressing the first Prof. S.B. Rangnekar Memorial lecture at his alma mater Panjab University here, he said that it was time to ask if people were losing patience with democracy 70 years after getting independence.
 
"We need to ask ourselves whether we are losing patience with democracy and turning to more authoritarian alternatives that may well yield superior short-term results but in the long term, will end up destroying our country and all the achievements of the last 70 years.
 
"Governance is complex. It is messy. It is slow. Its benefits are long term. It requires great patience. Above all, democracy is a system in which people without privilege have a decisive voice in governance. If this is lost, democracy becomes meaningless," he added.
 
On the present day scenario, Manmohan Singh said: "A dangerous and false binary is now surfacing in Indian political discourse, which must be firmly rejected. It is that we have to choose between freedom and development. It is not a new binary.
 
"Dr. Ambedkar once worried that the day may come when people may prefer government for the people to government by and of the people. He saw that as a great danger. 
 
"On this 70th anniversary, we must ensure that we do not fall into the trap of choosing government for the people over government by and of the people," he said.
 
Manmohan Singh said democracy is based on a stubborn insistence that every human being should have an equal voice in the formation and operation of arrangements of governance - irrespective of various differences and that the economic liberalization that he was associated with in 1991-1996 and 2004-2014 was, above all, a process of opening up new opportunities for people born without social and economic privilege. 
 
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"This was for me the guiding vision behind our economic reforms," he said, adding that while economic growth remains a high priority, there is now a growing concern that the concomitant commitment to ensuring that disparities and inequality do not grow is weakening. "This can be a serious potential threat to our democracy," he said. 
 
Noting that equality and freedom were pre-requisite for democracy, he said "freedom is the freedom to question, the freedom to express one's views, howsoever troubling they may be for others" and without a firm commitment to this, our democracy will not survive.
 
He said democracy is as inseparable from fraternity as is equality and freedom. "Only a fraternal people can maintain a democracy. And, conversely, only a democratic nation can maintain fraternity."
 
"I need not dwell long on the current deep concern that attempts are being made to divide the Indian people on the basis of religion and caste, language and culture. Atrocities against minorities and dalits are increasing. If unchecked, these tendencies can only harm our democracy. As a people, we must strongly reject divisive policies and politics."
 
Manmohan Singh said electoral reforms to cleanse elections of money and muscle power were another vital area for securing and strengthening of Indian democracy.
 
IANS
 
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Protests against dilution of SC/ST Act hit Punjab, Haryana

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Activists from various Scheduled Castes (SC) organisations held protests in Punjab and Haryana against the dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act following a Supreme Court order.
 
Hundreds of protesters carrying swords, sticks, baseball bats and flags forced shopkeepers and other establishments in Jalandhar, Amritsar and Bathinda to shut down.
 
According to reports, some protesters tried to stop a train in Amritsar district earlier on Monday morning but relented following talks with railway officials. 
 
Demonstrators also entered the Jalandhar Cantt railway station, shouting slogans and burnt effigies on the tracks. 
 
Some highways and roads were also blocked. Traffic in and around Chandigarh was severely affected.
 
Protests were also reported from Rohtak and other towns in neighbouring Haryana.
 
Shops, educational institutions and other establishments remained closed in Punjab. The final practical examinations of Class 10 and 12 of Punjab School Education Board, which were scheduled to be held on Monday, will now be held on April 11.
 
Various SC organisations will submit memorandums to district officers against the dilution of the Act.
 
The Punjab government on Sunday ordered a security clampdown across the state as a precautionary measure in view of Monday's protest.
 
The state has the highest concentration of scheduled castes among states. They constitute nearly 32 per cent of the state's 2.8 crore population.
 
Mobile internet services have been suspended from 5 p.m. on Sunday till Monday evening.
 
Noting that the Central government had already announced its decision to file a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to the SC/ST community to defer its protest till the final decision on the petition comes.
 
IANS
 
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Punjab orders clampdown ahead of SC protest on Monday

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The Punjab government on Sunday ordered a security clampdown across the state as a precautionary measure in view of Monday's protest by some organizations of the Scheduled Castes, objecting to the dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
 
While ordering closure of all educational institutions and suspension of state-owned road transport services, the Punjab government has asked the Army and para-military forces to be on alert.
 
Mobile internet services in the state were suspended from 5 p.m. on Sunday till Monday evening in a bid to check rumour mongering on social media, while all public and private transport will remain suspended during the bandh to prevent any untoward incident, an official spokesperson said here.
 
The orders were issued after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh reviewed the security arrangements with top police and administrative officials here on Sunday evening. The review was followed by a video conference by the Chief Secretary with the Deputy Commissioners and other senior officials of all the districts.
 
Punjab has the highest concentration of scheduled castes among states. They constitute nearly 32 percent of the state's 2.8 crore population.
 
Giving details of the precautionary measures taken by the government, the spokesperson said four battalions of the Rapid Action Force, four of Border Security Force, along with 12,000 additional police personnel will remain on duty Monday to maintain law and order.
 
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"PRTC, Punjab Roadways and PunBus, as well as buses run by private operators, would not ply on the roads through the bandh duration," the spokesperson added.
 
All the educational institutions, government or private, will remain closed on April 2 as a precautionary measure, the spokesperson said.
 
The final practical examinations of Class 10 and 12 of Punjab School Education Board, which were scheduled to be held on Monday, will now be held on April 11.
 
While issuing strict orders to police and security forces to deal with any attempt to disturb the peace and harmony in the state with an iron hand, the Chief Minister reiterated his appeal to the organisations, that have called the bandh not to take the law in their own hands and, in particular, not to impede transport movement in any way or harass commuters.
 
With Punjab a key route for transportation of essential provisions to the armed forces at the borders, any disruption on the highways could seriously hamper the supply of the necessary supplies, he said.
 
Amarinder Singh also appealed to the protestors to ensure that the mortal remains of the Iraq victims, that are expected to arrive in Amritsar on Monday, are allowed to be transported to their native villages without any impediment.
 
He also directed the Punjab Police to provide strict security for the same along the routes, from the airport to the respective native villages of the victims. 
 
Noting that the Central government had already announced its decision to file a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict, he appealed to the SC/ST community should defer its protest till the final decision on the petition comes.
 
IANS
 
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Kovind addresses golden jubilee celebrations of MC Mahajan DAV College for Women, Chandigarh

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President Ram Nath Kovind today said the MC Mahajan DAV College for Women has been playing an important role in the field of female education drawing inspiration from the vision of the great social reformer Swami Dayanand Saraswati as well as the former Chief Justice of India, late Mehar Chand Mahajan.
 
Addressing the golden jubilee celebrations of the college, Mr Kovind said the institution has contributed greatly to women’s education in North India in the past five decades. He expressed the hope that this college will continue to be a model in the region and will rise to even higher prominence in the coming 50 years.
 
The President paid tributes to Chandigarh as the first planned city of independent India. It offers an example, he said, for town planning for the country.
 
The city is a symbol of ‘Green India’, ‘Swachh Bharat’ and ‘Swasth Bharat’. He congratulated the citizens and administrators of Chandigarh for their contribution.
 
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Football: Minerva beat Aizawl to roar back into title hunt

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Minerva Punjab FC beat Aizawl FC 2-0 in their own backyard to go to the top of the Hero I-League table at here today.
 
Akash Sangwan (51?) and Bazie Armand (90’+5?) struck twice in the second half to help their side roar back into the title race.
 
The home side dominated the first half in terms of possession as well as the number of attempts on goal. The first chance for them came in the 7th minute when Chencho lofted the ball for Bali who was on the run at the edge of the penalty box but the pace in ball was just too much for him to have a contact.
 
Chencho tried his luck in the 11th minute with a dummy rank near the box before unleashing his shot which sailed over the crossbar. William got another chance in the 27th minute when he found himself in an excellent position to score from Kamalpreet’s pinpointed cross but his effort went inches wide of the goalpost.
 
Aizawl, meanwhile, almost took the lead against the run of play when in-form striker Lalkhawpuimawia missed an opportunity to convert an immaculate cross from Ionescu in the 37th minute.
 
Minutes later, Chencho missed a header to leave the Aizawl dugout relieved. William missed arguably the easiest one-on-one opportunity against Avilash Paul but his horrible chip went wayward before the referee blew the half-time whistle.
 
Minerva took the lead early on in the second half when a brilliant combination play between William, Chencho and Akash resulted in the first goal of the match, incidentally, it was the first goal by the youngster in the premier league of the country.
 
Chencho was left open on the right flank from where he crossed the ball low towards the path of local boy Akash who made no mistake in converting from 6 yards out. Aizawl almost scored an own goal in the 63rd minute when Sukhdev’s long throw shook Aizawl’s defence.
 
A series of injuries to both teams interrupted the flow of play since then. Aizawl had a chance in the 75th minute when Ionescu made his way inside the Minerva box but his powerless shot was blocked by Minerva defenders.
 
Minerva Punjab goalkeeper made a brilliant save in the 85th minute to keep the scoreline unscathed after a series of deflection seriously threatened Minerva’s defence. Minerva hit the final nail in Aizawl FC’s coffin in the last minute of added time when Bazie, who was introduced to the game only two minutes before, converted William’s cross from handshaking distance.
 
With the win, Minerva Punjab go one point clear at the top having played one match less than second-placed Neroca FC. The Punjab outfit will now travel to Coimbatore to face Chennai City FC on March 2, whereas the reigning champions Aizawl FC will host Gokulam Kerala FC on the same day.
 
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Minerva confident of settling scores with Aizawl in Hero I League

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Hero I-League title contenders Minerva Punjab are set to host defending champions Aizawl FC at their new home of Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula near here tomorrow.
 
Minerva Punjab, who sit on the third spot in the league table with 29 points in 15 matches, can re-write the fairytale script the same way it was written by Aizawl FC last year who were considered to be the most unlikely option to triumph the silverware before the league embarked.
 
The difference, however, between the clubs is that Aizawl FC managed to remain unbeaten at home throughout the season. However, Minerva Punjab have suffered two back to back defeats at home before welcoming the Highlanders, first to Kingfisher East Bengal on 13th February followed by another humbling to ‘Giant Killers’ Gokulam Kerala, causing a shock among fans and players alike.
 
Defending Champions Aizawl FC, on the other hand, started their season well but then went onto an eight-match winless run which eventually, ended with a comfortable 3-0 victory over young Indian Arrows team.
 
On being asked to sum up Aizawl FC’s season so far, coach Santosh Kashyap stated, “I think most of the players left the club. New coach, new squad. He (Paulo Menezes) tried his best from his side but again expectations were high as defending champions. They started well I think but later on, eventually injuries took a toll. Aizawl scored and then conceded goals in later matches.”
 
“When I took over the team, there were many injuries and lot of mistakes in defending, attacking and transition. So I had to make quick changes. I had to mould four sessions into one session”, Kashyap added.
 
“We almost got a positive result in my first match itself but couldn’t. Finally, we got a 3-0 win over Indian Arrows. Now we are here and, I think, we are improving every moment. Our main 8-10 players are out so I am taking all my youngsters. We will play attacking football,” he said.
 
Minerva Punjab FC’s Head Coach Wangkhem Khogen Singh said that his team is focusing on tomorrow’s match as the title is still in their hands regardless of the results elsewhere.
 
“Tomorrow it will be a very good game as well as a tough one. Their morale is high because they have won the last match against Indian Arrows and we lost the away match against them by 2-1. Now after defeat to Gokulam Kerala, we have to win this match in order to go for the title. We have to take 3 points. There is no pressure on us but we don’t want to lose the game”, he expressed in the pre-match press conference held today.
 
Minerva’s young playmaker Moinuddin completely denied the fact complacency cost them two vital matches at home.
 
“It’s nothing like that. The matches we lost is because of some reasons because we couldn’t perform, rather our opponents were superior on the field. We were not overconfident at all. Our focus is still very much in the title and we’ll remain positive in the next match as well”, he explained.
 
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Gokulam Kerala FC stun Minerva Punjab FC in crucial encounter

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The Hero I-League title battle took an interesting turn once again as home favourites Minerva Punjab faced a surprise defeat at the hands of Gokulam Kerala FC in their own backyard. 
 
Gokulam hit the cross bar thrice before getting their hard earned goal in away conditions. With this win, Gokulam Kerala have now astonishingly beaten Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Minerva Punjab in back to back games.
 
Minerva Punjab made four tactical changes in their squad from their previous encounter against East Bengal as Amandeep, Shouvik, Bazie and Rakshit made way for debutant left back Akashdeep, left winger Akash Sangwan, defensive midfielder Randeep and Nepal international goalkeeper Kiran. Gokulam Kerala were also forced to make four changes to their squad due to suspension and injury issues. Clearly, the tactical changes made by Minerva Punjab did not pay off and Gokulam scored the winner in the 75th minute with the help of a bicycle kick by Henry Kisekka.
 
Gokulam showed their attacking edge from the very first minute itself as the attacking trio of Kivi, Henry and Salam made life difficult for the Minerva defenders. William tried his luck in the 15th minute to give home side an early lead but his powerful shot was blocked. Minerva’s gameplay was sloppy in the first half due to the fact that they could not keep the ball in midfield. The combination of Randeep, Kassim and William was not working too well although Minerva attacked really well near 35th minute mark but could not tickle the scoreboard.
 
Randeep, who was on yellow card, was taken off in the 40th minute and first team regular Amandeep took his place in defensive midfield. There were a total of four bookings which indicates the general play of the first half was pretty rough.
 
The first half ended with both the teams failing to convert with the scoreline at 0-0.
 
Minerva tried to control the game from the start of the second half but constant injuries to Gokulam players disrupted their play. The injury break in game helped Gokulam to organize themselves well as their vicious attacks kept Minerva defence on their back foot. Finally the moment of the match came in 75th minute when a short cross by Lakra was taken first time by Henry. The ball hit the crossbar and fell straight to Henry again who scored with a sensational bicycle kick to silence the home crowd. Minerva then went on an all-out attack in the final few minutes of the game to try and find a vital equalizer but both William and goalkeeper Kiran missed the goal post by a whisker in 89th and 95th minute, respectively.
 
There wasn’t enough time for any more attack and referee blew the final whistle. With this win Gokulam climb to 6th in the table whereas Minerva Punjab are still at second position behind Neroca.
 
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