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Amritsar

Three killed, 15 injured in grenade attack near Amritsar

Three people were killed and at least 15 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a religious congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.
 
3 killed, 20 injured in grenade blast in Amritsar
Three people were killed and at least 15 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a religious congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.
 
The grenade attack took place on the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan of the Nirankari sect in Adliwala village, about 15 km from Amritsar. The sect campus is located in Amritsar's rural belt.
 
The injured were rushed to hospitals in Amritsar. A few of them were in serious condition, police said. All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the Sunday weekly religious meeting.
 
Witnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, their faces covered, forced entry to the sect campus by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate.
 
"Everything happened within a couple of minutes. They got in, threw the grenade and fled," one man told the police.
 
The attack came amid a high alert issued on November 14 by the Punjab Police regarding the movement of 6-7 terrorists in the state. 
 
Punjab Police Inspector General (Border Range) S.P.S. Parmar confirmed to the media that three people were killed in the grenade attack.
 
Asked if it was a terror attack, Parmar said that all angles were being investigated.
 
"The people had gathered for prayers. There were around 200 people. Preliminary reports suggest that the two persons threw one grenade. Three people have been killed and 15 to 20 are injured. No firing took place," Parmar said.
 
"We are investigating the incident from all angles," Parmar said.
 
Senior police officers rushed to the village following the grenade attack.
 
Congress legislator Raj Kumar Verka told the media that no compromise would be made by the Congress government in Punjab on terrorism.
 
"We will deal with it strictly," Verka said, admitting that the incident showed intelligence failure on the part of the Punjab Police.
 
The Punjab Police, along with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, had recently busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.
 
The Nirankari sect has millions of followers across the country and abroad. The sect has its headquarters in Delhi.
 
IANS
 

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58 dead, 72 injured as train mows down Dussehra revellers in Amritsar

As many as 58 people were killed and 72 others injured after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, sources said.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
As many as 58 people were killed and 72 others injured after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, official sources said.
 
There were conflicting reports about what exactly happened but it appeared that, as the effigy of Ravana was set ablaze and fire crackers flew all around in the dark, several people from the crowd unwittingly moved on to the railway tracks, close to the venue of the celebrations, to avoid being singed by the fire crackers.
 
The loud noise and the blinding lights appeared to have prevented the people from noticing that a train was speeding towards them. Before the people, engrossed by the spectacle before them, realised what had happened, the Jalandhar-Amritsar train went by in a flash, running over several of them.
 
Amritsar Police Commissioner S. S. Srivastava told reporters that 58 people had died and 72 had suffered injuries in the incident.
 
The injured, many of them in a critical condition, were rushed to the Civil Hospital, the Medical College Hospital and other hospitals in the city.
 
Hundreds of people gathered at the scene. While many of them were grieving for their near and dear ones, others were angry with the authorities for failing to ensure the safety of people participating in the celebrations. Similar crowds also gathered outside the hospitals.
 
Senior officials from the district administration, the police and the Northern Railway had reached the spot and were supervising the rescue and relief efforts.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he was rushing to Amritsar to personally oversee the relief effort. He was due to leave on a visit to Israel later tonight but the trip has now been called off.
 
Capt. Amarinder Singh also announced that the Punjab government would give Rs. 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who were killed in the incident and free treatment for the injured.
 
"Rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief & rescue in tragic rail accident on Dussehra in Amritsar. My govt will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased & free treatment to injured in govt & pvt hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on war footing," he said.
 
"We will do everything possible to assist the injured. Have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them," he said, adding that a Crisis Management Group had been set up to monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts.
 
"The state will remain in mourning tomorrow in view of #Amritsar train mishap. All offices & educational institutions will remain closed," he added.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the accident.
 
"Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required," he said.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, "The train accident in Punjab in which over 50 people have died is shocking. I urge the state government & Congress workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. My condolences to the families of those who have died. I pray that the injured make a speedy recovery."
 
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who was on an official visit to the United States, is flying back to India after cancelling his remaining engagements.
 
IANS adds:
 
A large number of some 700 people were watching the huge Ravan effigy in flames amid exploding crackers while on the tracks at Joda Phatak near Dhobi Ghat within the city when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train coming to Amritsar from Hoshiarpur came hurtling down around 7 p.m.
 
It took just about 10-15 seconds for the train to pass -- and leave behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
 
Amritsar Police Commissioner S.S. Srivastava told reporters that 58 people have died and 72 have been rushed to hospitals in the city. The toll could go up, Srivastava said. 
 
Video clips posted on social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away from the site. A few of them were also mowed down.
 
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Wails and cries filled the air as people frantically looked for their near and dear ones. Severed bodies, including those of children, were lying at the accident site hours after the incident with angry people not allowing authorities to remove them.
 
"I have lost my child. I want him back," an inconsolable mother was wailing at the disaster spot.
 
Most people reportedly could not hear the hooting of the train due to the exploding crackers.
 
"Out of nowhere came the train," said a man, while speaking to journalists. "Before anyone could realise what was happening, it ran over scores of people."
 
"When the effigy started to burn in full flow, people began running away from it fearing it may fall over them," said another man. "They did not realise that a speeding train was coming and the train did not sound its hooter."
 
Another man felt that the tragedy would have claimed at least 100 lives. The dead included several children, another witness said.
 
Ironically, moments before the tragedy, another train passed the area but there were no casualties, a railway official said.
 
A local resident, Nirmal Jit Sindhu, alleged that the Dussehra celebrations were organised by forcing the local administration to grant permission near the railway tracks.
 
He said last year the administration had not granted permission for the use of this venue for Dussehra celebrations owing to its proximity to the tracks.
 
Some people blamed Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur, who was the Chief Guest at the celebrations, saying her late arrival delayed the burning of the effigy by more than half an hour.
 
Sidhu told a news channel on telephone from Bengaluru that the death toll was alarmingly high.
 
BJP leader and former local bodies minister Anil Joshi blamed Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur for running away from the Dussehra celebrations site soon after the train accident.
 
"The Dussehra celebrations were organised without the local administration permission. She (Navjot Kaur) disappeared midway during the ceremony when she was apprised about the disaster," Joshi told reporters.
 
"The driver didn't slow down the train and was watching towards the burning Ravana," said one of the witnesseses.
 
Another woman was inconsolable as she said her son was missing.
 
"The administration and the Dussehra committee are at fault as they should have informed the railways authorities about the celebrations", said another eyewitness.
 
Eyewitnesses said there were no barricading near the railway tracks and the people were forced to see the Dussehra ceremony by standing on tracks.
 
The effigy of Ravana was being burnt around 200 feet away from the railway track.
 
A railway official said in New Delhi that the drop gates at the spot were down but people still massed on the tracks in violation of railway rules.
 
Several senior railway officials were set to fly by an Indian Air Force plane to Amritsar to help oversee the relief and rescue effort.
 
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Modi thanks Imran, flags off pilgrimage to Pakistan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab on November 9, 2019.  (Photo: IANS)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab on November 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday thanked his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan for respecting the sentiments of India and flagged off the pilgrimage to Darbar Sahib in Pakistan after inaugurating the Kartarpur Corridor.
 
In the first-of its-kind occasion in seven decades, Modi sent the first lot of 500 pilgrims to visit Darbar Sahib, also called Kartarpur Sahib, the last resting place of first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev, in Narowal district in Pakistan's Punjab province.
 
"Visit to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib will become easy now," Modi said at the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration event before opening the state-of-the-art Integrated Check Post for the corridor that connects Dera Baba Nanak shrine here in Punjab's Gurdaspur district with the historic Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara across the border in Pakistan.
 
The event is ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of first Sikh master Guru Nanak Dev that falls on November 12.
 
"I thank all who have been associated with the construction of the corridor," he said, adding he also thanked "Imran Khan for understanding Indian sentiments, respecting and working in the way to the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor within timeframe".
 
Donning a saffron turban, Modi, in his half an hour address at the function organised by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), said the corridor and the Integrated Check Post would serve thousands of devotees daily.
 
"Guru Nanak's teachings are being translated into various languages so that the next generation can also be enriched from them. We must vow to imbibe the preachings of Guru Nanak, which are still relevant," Modi said.
 
"Every Sikh Guru, starting from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh have made efforts for the unity, defence and security of India. It is this tradition which has been carried forward by the Sikhs in the independence struggle and thereafter in protecting the country," the prime minister said.
 
Also expressing gratitude to Unesco for helping in spreading the message of Guru Nanak, Modi said after abrogation of Article 370, the Sikh families in Jammu and Kashmir could also exercise rights like other Sikhs across the country to visit Kartarpur sahib.
 
Modi also released a special coin and postal stamps on the occasion.
 
Before flagging off the first batch of pilgrims, who included former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Modi and other leaders partook at a 'langar'.
 
IANS
 

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Modi pays obeisance at Punjab's historical Sikh shrine

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Ahead of inaugurating the historic Kartarpur Corridor, a first in seven decades between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday paid obeisance at a highly revered Sikh shrine here.
 
Wearing a scarf, Modi spent time at the Gurdwara Ber Sahib located along the banks of the holy 'Bein', which is connected with many events in the life of the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev, whose 550th 'Prakash Purb' (birth anniversary) falls on November 12.
 
Modi was received by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Union minister Harsimrat Badal.
 
The Prime Minister flew in   Sultanpur Lodhi in a helicopter from the Amritsar airport.
 
The Shriomani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which has control over Sikh religious affairs, manages gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, including the holiest of Sikh shrines Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple in Amritsar, presented a 'siropa' (robe of honour) to Modi.
 
One of the main wishes of the pilgrims arriving in the historical Sultanpur Lodhi have been to take a dip in the 'Bein'.
 
To fulfil the wish, the Punjab government has spent Rs 4.96 crore on the development of the Bein and made arrangements for the pilgrims to take a dip without any hassle.
 
The pilgrims take a dip in the Bein before paying obeisance at the Gurdwara Ber Sahib.
 
From the Gurdwara Shri Sant Ghat to Busowal curve, the 4-km stretch of the Bein, has undergone transformation and several "ghats" have been developed.
 
Around 500 cusecs water is being released from the Mukerian Hydel Project to give a fresh lifeline to the ecology of the Bein.
 
The government has spent Rs 4.96 crore on the lining of the holy river's banks before releasing water in the Bein. A separate enclosure for the "shnaan" of women pilgrims has also been prepared.
 
For the benefit of pilgrims, two high-level bridges have also been constructed. The pilgrims are using these bridges for reaching the Bein and to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Ber Sahib.
 
IANS

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1,303 Indian Sikh pilgrims leave for Kartarpur Sahib in Pak

Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan  (Photo: Xubayr Mayo, Wikimedia Commons)
Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan (Photo: Xubayr Mayo, Wikimedia Commons)
A total 1,303 Indian Sikh pilgrims on Tuesday left for Pakistan via Attari border to participate in celebrations to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.
 
The pilgrimage, organised by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the body that manages Sikh shrines in India, will conclude on November 14.
 
The devotees will visit Sikh shrines, including Nankana Sahib -- the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev in Punjab province -- Panja Sahib in Hasanabdal city and Kartarpur Sahib.
 
The Kartarpur Gurdwara, located some 4 km from the border with India, is believed to have been built on the site where Guru Nanak died in the 16th century. It is going to be linked with the 4.2 km-long Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9 and dispatch the first lot of pilgrims to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan's Punjab province on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev that falls on November 12.
 
IANS

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IndiGo introduces daily flights from Amritsar to Sharjah

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Low-cost carrier IndiGo has announced plans to introduce a daily direct flight between Amritsar in Punjab and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with effect from October 1.
 
With the launch of this flight, IndiGo will be the first airline to provide direct connectivity between Amritsar and Sharjah.
 
This will be IndiGo’s second flight from Amritsar connecting a destination in UAE, after the launch of flight to Dubai last year, a press release from the airline said.
 
William Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo said, “We are pleased to announce the first direct connection between Amritsar and Sharjah, which will also be our second non-stop flight from Punjab to UAE. As Punjab government works towards increasing industrialization and investment in the state, the direct connections with UAE will not only enhance mobility but also promote trade opportunities between the two regions. As UAE finalises its plans for a mega food park in Punjab, increased connectivity will be an enabler for channelizing the business potential into commercial opportunities. These connections will also strengthen IndiGo’s presence in UAE and the Middle-east market”.
 
“IndiGo will continue to expand its network in middle-east to meet the requirements of both business and leisure travellers. It is our constant endeavour to provide flexibility of choice to our customers as IndiGo continues to offer them on-time, affordable, courteous and hassle-free flying experience always," he added.
 
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Rahul to pay homage to Jallianwala Bagh martyrs on Saturday

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi will visit the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial here on Saturday morning to pay homage to hundreds of people who were massacred by British forces on April 13, 1919.
 
Gandhi arrived here in the holy city late on Friday night. 
 
After arriving here, Gandhi, accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, paid a visit to the Golden Temple complex where he offered prayers at the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion.
 
The sanctum sanctorum of 'Harmandir Sahib' was closed for the night when the Congress chief arrived.
 
April 13 (Saturday) marks the 100th anniversary of the massacre, in which British forces led by Brigadier General Reginald Dyer opened fire on hundreds of unarmed, innocent Indians, including women and children, who were protesting peacefully against the oppressive Rowlatt Act of the British government.
 
The massacre, on April 13, 1919, is one of the darkest chapters of India's freedom struggle against the British occupation. 
 
Hundreds of people, including students, local residents and visitors, held a candlelight march in Amritsar on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on Friday evening.
 
The British government, even after 100 years, has only regretted the massacre but stopped short of apologising for the killing of so many innocent people.
 
Rejecting the regret expressed by British Prime Minister Theresa May as "inadequate", Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday demanded "an unequivocal official apology from Britain" for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
 
Terming the tragic event "a heart-wrenching moment in India's history", Amarinder said that the people of India wanted an unequivocal apology from Britain for the atrocity.
 
Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu will arrive here on Saturday afternoon for the main function to commemorate the 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
 
IANS

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839 Sikh pilgrims on 10-day visit to Pakistan

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A batch of 839 devotees left for Pakistan on Friday to visit various Sikh shrines there on the occasion of Baisakhi.
 
The group, under the aegis of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), includes both men and women.
 
The visit comes amidst rising tensions between the two countries in the past nearly two months.
 
The batch was given a send-off at the SGPC office at the Golden Temple complex here on Friday. They later boarded a train from Attari railway station, 30 km from here, to go to Pakistan.
 
The pilgrims will visit Guru Nanak Dev's birthplace Nankana Sahib, Panja Sahib gurdwara and other Sikh shrines.
 
It will be a 10-day visit and all the devotees are set to return on April 21.
 
The SGPC officials said that 872 people had applied for Pakistani visa but only 839 got it.
 
IANS
 

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India, Pakistan officials meet at Attari to discuss modalities for Kartarpur Corridor

Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan  (Photo: Xubayr Mayo, Wikimedia Commons)
Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan (Photo: Xubayr Mayo, Wikimedia Commons)
Indian and Pakistan today held their first meeting to discuss and finalize the modalities for the Kartarpur Corridor  -- that will facilitate Indian pilgrims to visit the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur across the border in Pakistan -- at Attari, Amritsar on the border between the two countries.
 
The Indian delegation to the talks was headed by Mr. S. C. L. Das, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Pakistani delegation by Dr. Mohammad Faisal, DG, South Asia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 
The talks are being held in keeping with the Government's decision to operationalise the Kartarpur Corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, and meet the long pending public demand to have easy and smooth access to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.
 
The Union Cabinet had, in November 2018, approved the proposal to develop a Kartarpur Corridor from Gurdaspur in Punjab to the international border to facilitate pilgrims' passage to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan, on the banks of Ravi river in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab, where Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years and where he died in 1539. It is located 4.5 km from the border near the Dera Baba Nanak town in Punjab's Gurdaspur district. 
 
Since many pilgrims visit the location on the international border from where the gurudwara in Kartarpur is visible, the government decided to set up the special corridor with all modern facilities at the border terminal including visa and customs facilities for those who are permitted to cross the border. Pilgrims would then be able to visit the holy shrine throughout the year.
 
India has also urged Pakistan to complete building the corridor on its side with suitable facilities.
 
In November 2018, Pakistan issued over 3,800 visas to Sikh pilgrims for the ongoing celebrations of the 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
 
India and Pakistan share a bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines that was signed in 1974.
 
IANS adds:
 
The meeting started after the arrival of the Pakistani delegation via the Attari-Wagah joint check post land border. It is being held at the Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari on the Indian side.
 
Officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), National High Authority of India and other related departments represent the Indian side at the talks. Pakistan has sent an 18-member team headed by its Foreign Office's Director-General of South Asia, Muhammad Faisal, who is also the Foreign Office spokesperson.
 
India has made it clear that the meeting was in no way a resumption of a bilateral dialogue.
 
"It is not any resumption of bilateral talks, let me make it very clear that it is not in any way a resumption of a bilateral dialogue," the MEA spokesperson said earlier. 
 
The Ministry has said that the issue relates to emotions and sentiments of the Indian citizens of the Sikh faith and its decision regarding the meeting reflects a strong commitment to operationalise the corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. 
 
Sources said that security aspect was of paramount importance and there will be no dilution in that. 
 
India is wary of the Pakistan establishment's direct and indirect support to pro-Khalistan elements who would like to take advantage by reaching out to pilgrims from India.
 
They have also said that Pakistan will also be conveyed that places of pilgrimage should not be used for separatist propaganda by anti-India elements. 
 
India is keen for visa-free access to the pilgrims to the historic Sikh shrine across the border.
 
Officials from both sides were also expected to discuss the alignment of the project as there is some mismatch in the coordinates.
 
"Continuing with our spirit of constructive engagement and flexibility and in line with our sincere efforts to deescalate the situation for regional peace and stability," Faisal told Pakistani media before leaving for India for the talks. 
 
He said that this was the first in a series of meetings. "We hope this initiative of the Prime Minister (Imran Khan) will not only facilitate Sikhs, especially from India, but will be a step forward in the current direction from conflict to cooperation, animosity to peace and enmity to friendship," he added.
 
An Indian delegation will visit Islamabad for a follow-up meeting on March 28.
 
The meeting is taking place a month after a militant of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit on February 14 blew up a truck of a Central Reserve Police Force convoy killing 40 troopers, and triggering India-Pakistan tensions.
 
The governments of India and Pakistan are trying to facilitate the travel of pilgrims to offer prayers at the gurdwara -- a demand made by the Sikhs for the past over 70 years.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wants "passport and visa-free 'khule darshan' for pilgrims".
 
The Union Government has already announced the setting up of a Rs 190-crore state-of-the-art Passenger Terminal Building Complex at Dera Baba Nanak, with its design inspired by the symbol "Khand", which symbolises values of oneness and humanity.
 
It will cater to about 5,000 pilgrims per day with provision to cater to additional 10,000 pilgrims during festivals.
 
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Amritsar's miracle baby boy: Flushed down train toilet, recovered alive

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A baby boy, who was flushed down the toilet of a train in Amritsar but was miraculously recovered alive by sweepers cleaning the train, was on Sunday being treated at the Amritsar Civil Hospital, officials said.
 
The new-born was recovered from the Amritsar-Howrah Express train by sweepers on Saturday afternoon when the train stopped for cleaning.
 
The baby, who appears to be just one-day-old, was apparently abandoned and flushed down the train toilet. 
 
The Government Railway Police (GRP) and authorities in the Punjab city of Amritsar were investigating the matter.
 
CCTV footages at railway stations were being examined to ascertain who was behind the act.
 
The sweepers have told the GRP that a 'dupatta' (traditional stole) was found tied around the neck of the infant prompting suspicion that it was done in order to strangulate it before flushing it down the toilet. 
 
However, the baby did not fall from the train toilet.
 
A doctor at the Amritsar hospital on Sunday said the baby, who was found without any clothes and was shivering, was out of danger.
 
Police officials and doctors said that the infant was lucky to have survived despite being dumped "so mercilessly and left in the winter cold in the toilet flush".
 
The GRP has registered a case under Indian Penal Code's Section 317 against unidentified persons for exposure and abandonment of child under twelve years, by parent or person having care of it.
 
IANS
 

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Mumbai man, released form Pakistani prison, reaches India

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Hamid Nehal Ansari, the Mumbai man who was released from a Pakistani jail after six years for alleged espionage charges, crossed over to the Indian side at the Attari-Wagah border in Punjab on Tuesday.
 
A weary looking bespectacled Ansari in a jacket, muffler and a pashtun cap, was welcomed by his parents, Nehal and Fauzia, who were waiting at the border along with a large contingent of India-Pakistan friendship activists and officials.
 
Stepping on to the Indian side, the 33-year-old along with his family knelt down and touched the soil of his motherland with their foreheads.
 
As Ansari, stood up, he first hugged his mother and then embraced his father in an emotional reunion.
 
The three were then whisked away by the authorities without allowing any small talks with the media. 
 
Pakistan had alleged that Ansari, an engineer, was an "Indian spy" who illegally entered the country. Islamabad accused him of involvement in anti-state crimes, forging documents, and jailed him.
 
For the family, it was an ordeal since November 2012 when he left the country for Kabul for employment and then was reported "missing".
 
He reportedly became friendly with a Pakistan girl on social media and reached Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to save her from a forced marriage.
 
On November 12, 2012, Ansari crossed over from Afghanistan border in Jalalabad to Peshawar in Pakistan where he was nabbed by Pakistan intelligence.
 
Later, a military court sentenced him to three years in jail, a term that he completed on December 15.
 
On Monday, the External Affairs Ministry said that it has received a note from Pakistan that they would be releasing Ansari on Tuesday.
 
"It is a matter of great relief, especially for the family members, that six years of incarceration of the Indian civilian in Pakistan jail is coming to an end," Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
 
"We would like Pakistan to take action to also end misery of other Indian nationals and fishermen whose nationality has been confirmed and who have completed their sentences, but continue to languish in Pakistan jails."
 
IANS
 

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Cabinet approves amendment of Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951

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The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the amendment of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951.
 
The decision aims to suitably amend the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 so as to secure representation as Trustees, “the Leader of Opposition recognized as such in the House of the People, or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in the House”.
 
In the existing Act, there is a provision for representation of a single national political party. Deletion of the party-specific member from the Trust will make it apolitical. The proposed amendment ensures representation of the Opposition Party in the Trust, an official press release said.
 
The proposed Amendment will empower the Government to terminate and replace a Trustee to participate in the functioning of the Trust or for any other reason.
 
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Amritsar train tragedy: Sidhu's wife gets clean chit

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Punjab cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur has been given a clean chit in a Punjab government-appointed magisterial probe into the Amritsar train tragedy on Dusshera evening in which 60 people died, sources said here on Thursday.
 
The probe, conducted by Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner B. Purushartha, has indicted Saurabh Madan Mithoo, the son of Congress councillor in Amritsar and a close political aide of the Sidhu couple, and officials of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation, local administration, police and railway authorities for lapses that led to the tragedy.
 
The officials have been blamed for giving permissions without ensuring safety while railway officials have been blamed for allowing the speeding train to move on the tracks without bothering about people crowding on the tracks.
 
The report has been sent to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for further action.
 
Over 60 people were killed in the tragedy when a diesel multiple unit (DMU) train mowed them down on a railway track near Joda Phatak in Amritsar on October 19 while they were watching the burning of a Ravana effigy.
 
A separate inquiry into the train tragedy conducted by the Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety had blamed "negligence" of the people, who were standing on the railway track, for the incident.
 
Mithoo was the main organiser of the Dusshera event while Navjot Kaur was the chief guest.
 
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Virsa Singh Valtoha said on Thursday that they had predicted earlier that the Sidhu couple would get a clean chit in the magisterial probe.
 
The probe commissioner submitted his 300-page report to the Punjab Home Department on November 21. Over 150 people were examined during the probe.
 
Sidhu and his wife were both summoned by the one-man probe commission. However, Sidhu, who was present in Amritsar on November 2 when he was summoned, failed to turn up and said he was not in Punjab from October 16 to 20 and could not give any "inputs".
 
Opposition leaders and locals alleged that Navjot Kaur, a former legislator, fled the scene after the train killings.
 
There were allegations that the event was organised without mandatory permissions, which had to be given by the municipal corporation which falls under the local government department headed by Sidhu.
 
IANS
 

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Kartarpur: Minister sees 'opportunity', warns on 'ground realities'

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Union Minister of State Hardeep Puri on Wednesday said there was an "opportunity and goodwill" in the decision of the Indian and Pakistani governments to build the Kartarpur Corridor, but sounded a note of caution: "We have to be acutely conscious of the ground realities" in the two nations.
 
"This is a historic day. This is a long standing demand of the Sikh community. At least, what I know, since 1994-95, we have been making this demand," Puri, who walked across to Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah check post, around 30 km from Amritsar, along with Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, told the media before leaving.
 
Both Ministers will represent India at the function where Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will on Wednesday afternoon perform the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor project near the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, where Sikhism's founder, Guru Nanak Dev, spent the last 18 years of his life.
 
"This decision is anchored in hope and goodwill. But we have to be acutely conscious of the ground realities. 
 
"And the ground realities are that the two countries, on account of a lot of factors, house distrust. 
 
"We have felt for very long that we have been at the receiving end of actions of a country which should not have allowed certain forces on their territory. I don't want to touch on those now," Puri said.
 
The Minister made it clear that he was not going for any bilateral discussions with Pakistan.
 
"I am not carrying any bilateral brief. But equally, if the ground-breaking ceremony and these atmospherics is done in a positive way and we are able to invoke the Guru Maharaj's blessings, I am sure that it will become a stepping stone to positive things happening in the future," he said.
 
"This is a corridor that should have been operationalised many years ago. The cartographer who made the (boundary) line made a fundamental mistake. I think this (gurdwara) should have been on this (India) side (of the border). 
 
"But let's accept the ground realities. We should take one step at a time without getting euphoric," he said.
 
Puri said that both countries now need to operationalise the corridor project smoothly.
 
"I am expressing hope in my personal capacity and as a member of the Union Council of Ministers, that there is an opportunity here that the demand of the Sikh community has been met but we need to operationalise the decision. 
 
"And (for) making the corridor operative and to take this process further will require actions by all the stakeholders. 
 
"Let's take these things one step at a time. I don't want to jump the gun, I think we must allow the goodwill of the Guru Maharaj that is the essence of his teaching. 
 
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"He was a person at least half a century ahead of his times. And the kind of teachings he has given, if those teachings can be invoked to resolve our problems, it would be a very proud day for me as a Sikh," he added.
 
"I can tell you that I regard myself as particularly privileged and blessed to be able to make this pilgrimage and go and pay obeisance at the gurdwara sahib which has a very special significance in the life of every Sikh as it is the final resting place of the Guru," Puri said.
 
He added that the cabinet decisions of November 22, also brought about the opening of the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib that was "one of the more significant measures".
 
Asked to comment on the statements of Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is projecting himself as the person who was instrumental in getting the Kartarpur Corridor project cleared by both countries, Puri said: "I don't want to comment on my colleague (Sidhu) in any way. 
 
"I have desisted from that. I never comment on what other people say. There is no scope for personalisation here. This is a demand of the Sikh community."
 
It was at the Kartarpur gurdwara, which is located around two to three kilometre from the India-Pakistan international border (IB) and is right opposite the border belt in Dera Baba Nanak in India's Gurdaspur district in Punjab, that Guru Nanak Dev spent his last days till he died in 1539.
 
The gurdwara, which fell inside Pakistan's territory following the Partition of India in August 1947, has huge significance in Sikh religion and history.
 
For the past over 71 years, ever since the Partition, Sikhs have been offering prayers near the IB watching the gurdwara from a distance.
 
IANS
 

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Thousands throng gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana to mark 'Gurpurab'

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Thousands of devotees thronged gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh on Friday to offer prayers on the occasion of 'Gurpurab' - the 549th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.
 
It also marks the start of the year-long celebrations leading to the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539) next year.
 
The holiest of Sikh shrines Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple, in Amritsar and other gurdwaras elsewhere saw religious fervour to mark the occasion. 
 
Long queues of devotees could be seen waiting to offer prayers inside the sanctum sanctorum.
 
People braved the early morning chill to offer prayers at gurdwaras. 
 
Guru Nanak Dev was born in 1469 in Nankana Sahib town (now in Pakistan), around 80 km west of Lahore city.
 
Reports of Gurpurab celebrations were received from Nankana Sahib also.
 
Over 3,000 Sikh devotees have gone to Pakistan to celebrate at Nankana Sahib.
 
Tight security arrangements were made around all leading Sikh shrines in Punjab in view of recent terror-related incidents in the state.
 
The Golden Temple complex was decorated with lighting since Diwali and Bandi Chhor Diwas earlier this month. 
 
Hymns were being rendered at the holy shrine and scores of other gurdwaras across the region to mark the occasion. 
 
At other gurdwaras in cities, towns and villages, hundreds of people could be seen coming to offer prayers. 'Langars' (community kitchen) were arranged at most gurdwaras.
 
Punjab Governor V. P. Singh Badnore and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh greeted people on the occasion and urged them to follow the Guru's teachings and to maintain peace and harmony.
 
IANS
 

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It's clear case of terrorism: Amarinder on grenade attack

Even as the Punjab Police maintained that some leads were being investigated, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said the grenade attack on a religious congregation of the Nirankari sect was a clear case of terrorism and there was no religious connection to it.
 
Amritsar blast: NIA team reaches blast site
Even as the Punjab Police maintained that some leads were being investigated, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said the grenade attack on a religious congregation of the Nirankari sect was a clear case of terrorism and there was no religious connection to it.
 
"It is a clear case of terrorism. This has been carried out to create panic. There is no religious link to it," Amarinder, who visited the grenade attack spot at Nirankari Satsang Bhawan in Adliwal village near Rajasansi, told the media.
 
Three persons were killed and 20 injured when two motorcycle-borne youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation about 15 km from Amritsar. All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the weekly Sunday religious meeting.
 
The Chief Minister visited the injured in the hospital here and announced a government job for the next-of-kin of the three people killed in Sunday's grenade attack.
 
Amarinder had earlier on Monday announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh to anyone giving information regarding the two youths who carried out Sunday's grenade attack on the Nirankari prayer meeting.
 
The Punjab Police, which has remained clueless for the last over 24 hours regarding who carried out the attack, has formed several teams to investigate the grenade attack. CCTV footage of places near the blast was being scanned to know more about the two masked attackers.
 
Forensic teams and a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached the spot late on Sunday to investigate the attack.
 
Inspector General (Border Range) S. P. S. Parmar told the media on Monday that the probe would look at all angles and police teams were trying to trace the culprits.
 
The attack at the compound located in the rural belt, around three kilometres from the Guru Ram Das Jee Amritsar International Airport, created panic.
 
Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who rushed to the spot on Sunday along with senior officers, admitted that it was a "terror act".
 
The Punjab Police has drawn flak for intelligence failure regarding the attack despite the border state being on high alert since November 14 over reported movement of six to seven terrorists in the state.
 
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Eyewitnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, with their faces covered, forced their entry into the sect compound by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate. There were around 200 followers in the compound at the time.
 
Amarinder Singh, who on Sunday directed the police to immediately enhance security arrangements at all sensitive places, terming it "the first such indiscriminate attack on innocent people in recent past", said that the "possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/ Kashmiri terror groups can't be ruled out".
 
The Nirankari sect, with headquarters in Delhi, has millions of followers across the country and abroad. 
 
In the last few months, Khalistani and Kashmiri activists have been trying to foment trouble in Punjab, which shares a 553-km barbed wire-fenced international border with Pakistan.
 
The state police, along with its Jammu and Kashmir counterpart, had busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir. The Maqsudan Police Station was targeted by Kashmiri terrorists on September 14 with hand grenades though no one was injured in the attack.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.The Chief Minister said 15 terror modules had been busted in the past 18 months, including those with Kashmiri terror links.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar attack: CM announces Rs 50 lakh for information

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Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh to anyone giving information regarding the two youths who carried out Sunday's grenade attack on a prayer meeting at the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan of Amritsar district.
 
The Punjab Police has formed several teams to investigate the grenade attack in Adliwal village in Rajasansi area. CCTV footage of places near the blast was being scanned to know more about the two masked attackers.
 
Forensic teams and a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached the spot late on Sunday to start the probe.
 
While some injured have been discharged from the Amritsar hospital, others are still recuperating. One of the injured was still serious, a police officer said.
 
Inspector General (Border Range) S. P. S. Parmar told the media on Monday that the probe would look at all angles and police teams were trying to trace the culprits.
 
In a major terror attack, three persons were killed and 20 injured when two motorcycle-borne youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation about 15 km from Amritsar. 
 
The attack on the campus located in the rural belt, around three kilometres from the Guru Ram Das Jee Amritsar international airport, created panic.
 
All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the weekly Sunday religious meeting.
 
Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who immediately rushed to the spot along with senior officers, admitted that it was a "terror act".
 
The Punjab Police has drawn flak for intelligence failure regarding the attack despite the border state being on high alert since November 14 regarding the movement of six to seven terrorists in the state.
 
Eyewitnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, their faces covered, forced entry to the sect campus by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate. 
 
There were around 200 followers in the campus at the time.
 
Amarinder Singh, who on Sunday directed the police to immediately enhance security arrangements at all sensitive places, terming it as "the first such indiscriminate attack on innocent people in recent past", said that the "possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/Kashmiri terror groups cannot be ruled out".
 
The Nirankari sect, with headquarters in Delhi, has millions of followers across the country and abroad. 
 
In the last few months, Khalistani and Kashmiri activists have been trying to foment trouble in Punjab, which shares a 553-km long barbed wire fenced international border with Pakistan.
 
The Punjab Police, along with its Jammu and Kashmir counterpart, had busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir. 
 
The Maqsudan police station was targeted by Kashmiri terrorists on September 14 with hand grenades though no one was injured in the attack.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.
 
The Chief Minister said 15 terror modules had been busted in the past 18 months, including those with Kashmiri terror links.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar grenade attack kills three; DGP admits terror act

In a major terrorist incident, three people were killed and 20 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.
 
3 killed, 20 injured in grenade blast in Amritsar
In a major terrorist incident, three people were killed and 20 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.
 
The grenade attack took place at the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan of the Nirankari sect in Adliwal village, about 15 km from Amritsar. The campus is located in Amritsar's rural belt, around three kilometres from the Guru Ram Das Jee Amritsar international airport.
 
The injured were rushed to hospitals in Amritsar. Two of them were in serious condition, police said. 
 
All the victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the Sunday weekly religious meeting.
 
Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who rushed to the spot along with senior Punjab Police officers, said that it was a "terror act".
 
"We are taking it as a terror act. This incident is against a group and not an individual. That's why we are taking it as a terror act. We did not have any specific input of a strike against any particular group," he told the media in Adliwal village.
 
Describing it as an unfortunate incident, Arora said that further investigations will reveal details about who was behind the attack.
 
Witnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, their faces covered, forced entry to the sect campus by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate.
 
"Everything happened within a couple of minutes. They got in, threw the grenade and fled," one man told the police.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday directed the police to immediately enhance security arrangements at all sensitive places, terming it as "the first such indiscriminate attack on innocent people in recent past".
 
"Preliminary investigations had so far revealed that two men, one of them with a flowing beard, with covered faces, allegedly forced their way into the hall by brandishing a pistol. They detained the sewadar, lobbed the grenade into the prayer room, and escaped on a motorcycle," he said.
 
A crater three inches in diameter was formed by the impact of the explosion and was being examined by the forensic team. The safety valve of the grenade has also been found, he said.
 
"The possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/Kashmiri terror groups cannot be ruled out. Police teams are investigating various angles," the Chief Minister said in a statement.
 
The attack on Sunday happened amid a high alert issued on November 14 by the Punjab Police regarding the movement of 6-7 terrorists in the state.
 
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Punjab Police Inspector General (Border Range) S.P.S. Parmar said that all angles, about who could be behind the attack, were being investigated.
 
"The people had gathered for prayers. There were around 200 people. Preliminary reports suggest that the two persons threw one grenade. No firing took place," he said.
 
The Nirankari sect, with headquarters in Delhi, has millions of followers across the country and abroad. 
 
In recent months, Khalistani and Kashmiri activists have been trying to foment trouble in Punjab, which shares a 553-km long barbed wire fenced international border with Pakistan.
 
The Punjab Police, along with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, had recently busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir. 
 
The Maqsudan police station was targeted by Kashmiri terrorists on September 14 this year with hand grenades though no one was injured in the attack.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.
 
The Chief Minister said he would ensure that the culprits were apprehended.
 
"Though the state had been hit by a series of cases of targeted attacks since 2015/16, this was the first attempt, in a long time, to disturb the peace in the state through indiscriminate killings. Pakistan is continuing with its nefarious activities to disturb the state's peace," Amarinder Singh said.
 
He pointed out that 15 such terror modules had been busted in the past 18 months, with Kashmiri terror links also indicated in some instances, as evidenced in the arrest of Kashmiri students from Jalandhar and in the Maqsudan police station grenade blast case.
 
The Chief Minister announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next-of-kin of the dead.
 
IANS
 
 

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3 killed, 10 injured in grenade attack in Punjab

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At least three people were killed and 10 others injured on Sunday when a grenade exploded after it was flung at a religious gathering in Punjab's Amritsar district, police said.
 
Two youths, their faces covered, rode to the venue of the Nirankari sect's congregation in Rajasansi area, lobbed the grenade and escaped, a police officer said. There were around 500 people at the venue.
 
The attack came amid a high alert issued by the Punjab Police that six-seven terrorists had entered the state.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety, Lucknow to probe Amritsar accident

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The Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS), Lucknow will conduct a statutory inquiry into the accident in which at least 58 people were killed and 72 others injured after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations in Amritsar in the evening of October 19.
 
"The unfortunate incident of run over by a train at Amritsar leading to several deaths and injuries has become a matter of great public discourse especially raising concerns regarding safety of persons trespassing on railway tracks," an official press release from the Ministry of Railways said.
 
The release said Mr. Gurjeet Singh Aujla, the MP from Amritsar, had met Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and handed over a letter dated October 23 seeking an inquiry by the CRS in the incident.
 
"Ministry of Railways has considered this request and other facts, circumstances and legal provisions. As per law, in such cases, it is not mandatory to conduct inquiry by Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS), but it is not impermissible either. In past, CRS inquiry was conducted in an incident of run over of persons on railway tracks. 
 
"Though, prima facie, Railways does not appear to be responsible in this incident, issue of inquiry by an independent and technically competent authority not reporting to Ministry of Railways was considered and request was made to CCRS to conduct an inquiry in this matter. Considering this, Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS), Lucknow has ordered statutory inquiry into this incident," the release added.
 
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Police injured as Amritsar tragedy protesters take to stone-pelting

People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track on the previous night; in Amritsar on October 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track on the previous night; in Amritsar on October 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Protests staged by residents here against the Punjab government and the Railways, after 59 people were killed when a train crushed them as they were watching Dusshera celebrations, turned violent on Sunday leaving a few policemen injured following stone-pelting.
 
The injured policemen, including Punjab Police commandos, were rushed to a government hospital for treatment.
 
Police officials said that reinforcements were rushed to the area near the Joda Phatak (railway gate) where the situation turned violent on Sunday afternoon.
 
Residents of the area indulged in stone pelting on the police when the latter tried to remove them from the railway tracks where the tragedy occurred on Friday evening.
 
The protesters were demanding action against organisers of the Dusshera function near Joda Phatak for which hundreds of people had gathered to see the burning of the Ravan effigy.
 
The people were watching the proceedings from the live railway tracks when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU (diesel multiple unit) train crushed them.
 
The angry residents blocked traffic from crossing the Joda Phatak (railway gate) to show anger against the authorities not bothering about the families who had lost their loved ones, including women, children and youth.
 
Plying of trains on this section has been stopped since Friday evening.
 
Family members of the train tragedy victims said that Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife Navjot Kaur, who was the chief guest at the Dusshera function on Friday, had not even bothered to meet them despite their loss.
 
The Punjab government on Saturday ordered a magisterial probe into the train tragedy.
 
The railways said they were not responsible for the tragedy.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident, including finding out if mandatory permissions for holding the function were given.
 
Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal demanded that a case of murder be registered against the organisers, who were mostly ruling Congress leaders.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar tragedy: Amarinder orders magisterial probe

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Saturday that a magisterial probe into the Amritsar train tragedy in which 59 people watching Dusshera effigy burning were crushed to death by a train will reveal if mandatory permissions for holding the function were given.
 
Punjab CM orders magisterial probe, visits injured
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Saturday that a magisterial probe into the Amritsar train tragedy in which 59 people watching Dusshera effigy burning were crushed to death by a train will reveal if mandatory permissions for holding the function were given.
 
Amarinder, who visited the accident site and the injured in hospitals on Saturday, said the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner will conduct an inquiry within four weeks.
 
"Action will be taken against those responsible for the tragedy once the inquiry report comes. The probe will cover all aspects of the tragedy," he said. 
 
Asked if there were any lapses on the part of the railways, the Chief Minister said the probe would look into the matter.
 
"It (the probe) will ascertain whether approvals for holding the function were given or not," Amarinder said.
 
The Chief Minister said that nine of those killed were yet to be identified, while 57 other Dussehra revellers were injured as the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train mowed them down at Joda Phatak in Amritsar.
 
Amarinder Singh, who reached the accident site on Saturday from Delhi, said the inquiry will look into all aspects, including whether the train followed the signals and if there was any trespassing. 
 
"It's a terrible tragedy, we all accept it. The inquiry will find out who is at fault and who is not. I cannot prejudge an inquiry. Let them come up with the report. I have given four weeks for the inquiry to be completed," he said. 
 
He said while the Railways were also probing the causes, the state government will hold its own inquiry. "This is not the time for making allegations. The tragedy needs to be dealt with in a proper manner. All parties should come together at this time of grief," he said.
 
On Friday, hundreds of people watching a huge Ravan effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers spilled on to the tracks at Joda Phatak when the passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m. 
 
People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track on the previous night; in Amritsar on October 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track on the previous night; in Amritsar on October 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Most people reportedly could not hear the train hooter due to the exploding crackers. 
 
Asked why the Chief Minister reached Amritsar after 16 hours of the tragedy, he said, "I was supposed to go to Tel Aviv. I came back from New Delhi to Amritsar." He also said he did not want the administration to get busy making arrangements for his visit.
 
The Amarinder government is under fire for reacting late to the massive tragedy and also for not taking action against organizers of the Dusshera function since they are from the ruling Congress and close aides of Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. 
 
THe Chief Minister urged all political parties "to rise above petty politicking to join hands to mitigate the sufferings of the victims and their families".
 
"The three-member Crisis Management Group, headed by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, will camp in Amritsar for as long as required to monitor and assist in the relief operations," the Chief Minister said.
 
He said he was at the Delhi airport, ready to leave for Tel Aviv, when he heard of the incident and rushed back after postponing his Israel visit.
 
"Though I wanted to visit Amritsar last night itself, I was advised against it by the district authorities which did not want a VIP movement to divert attention from the urgent rescue and relief efforts needed at that hour," he said.
 
The Chief Minister expressed grief at the tragic incident, extending his government's full support to the victims and their families.
 
He said two little girls he met in the hospital had lost their entire families in the accident.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar train tragedy: Railways deny responsibility

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Hours after 60 people were crushed to death by a train while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy here, the Railways on Saturday said it was not responsible for the tragedy.
 
Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said in a statement that the event was organised in an area which does not belong to the railways. 
 
It also said that neither the area administration nor the organisers informed it about any Dusshera ceremony at the spot. 
 
"Therefore granting permission from the Railway's does not arise," he added. No information about the event was given to the railway authorities by the civil administration."
 
He said at the time of the incident on Friday evening the gates of the manned level crossing were closed.
 
A senior Railway Ministry official, however, admitted that the loco-pilots of the Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Jalandhar-Amritsar Passenger train did not apply emergency brakes.
 
"He informed the station master at Amritsar about the train hitting the crowd immediately after the accident," he said. He told the Amritsar official that the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing.
 
The official agreed that the gateman should have communicated to the nearest station about the assembly of a large crowd near the railway crossing that had spilled over on to the tracks.
 
The station master should have been informed and he should have alerted the loco-pilots.
 
On Friday, a 700 strong crowd was watching a huge Ravana effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers when on the Joda Phatak tracks near Dhobi Ghat the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m.
 
In just 10-15 seconds it left behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
 
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Doctors at the Civil Hospital said that the death toll could rise as some of the injured were critical. Many killed were migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
 
The Punjab government has declared state mourning on Saturday and all offices and educational institutions would remain closed, an official spokesperson said, adding that a probe has been ordered.
 
Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away as train came mowing down all on its path.
 
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who was in the US, cancelled all his engagements and was set to return.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced Rs 5 lakh compensation each to the kin of the deceased and cancelled his proposed Israel visit to rush back to Amritsar.
 
The Chief Minister would visit the accident spot on Saturday later.
 
President ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi condoled the deaths on Twitter late on Friday.
 
The Prime Minister also announced Rs 2 lakh compensation each to the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 each to the injured.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar train tragedy: Train driver detained, questioned

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The Punjab and Railway Police on Saturday questioned the driver of a train that crushed at least 60 people to death here while they were watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track.
 
Punjab Police officials said that the DMU (diesel multiple unit) driver had been detained at the Ludhiana railway station and was being questioned regarding the incident that took place on Friday night at the Jora Phatak near Dhobi Ghat within Amritsar city.
 
Sources said that the driver claimed that he was given green signal and all clear and had no idea that hundreds of people were standing on the tracks when the train crossed the area.
 
No action has so far been initiated against the organisers, who are leaders of the ruling Congress in Punjab, of the Dusshera event. Police sources said that the organisers had gone underground.
 
Railway officials were also gathering information from the railway linemen posted along the tracks near the Jora Phatak area who failed to inform the DMU driver regarding the presence of over 700 people on the railway tracks who were watching the burning of the Ravan and other effigies during Dusshera celebrations.
 
As the Ravan and other effigies went up in flames with the deafening noise of bursting fire crackers, the people standing on the live railway tracks did not realise that a speeding train was approaching.
 
Nearly 150 people, most of who were watching the burning of effigies or were recording the event on their mobile phones, were mowed down by the train.
 
The disaster was over in 10-15 seconds, people at the spot said.
 
Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha visited the accident spot late on Friday night.
 
Sinha said that the incident was being probed and that the tragedy was unfortunate.
 
Railway authorities here and in New Delhi defended themselves saying that they had not been informed about the Dusshera event at that spot and the local police did not prevent the people from coming on the live and busy railway tracks.
 
IANS
 

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About 50 dead as train mows down people celebrating Dussehra in Amritsar

About 50 people were killed after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations at Amritsar on Friday evening, sources said.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
About 50 people were killed after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, sources said.
 
There were conflicting reports about what exactly happened but it appeared that, as the effigy of Ravana was set ablaze and fire crackers flew all around in the dark, several people from the crowd unwittingly moved on to the railway tracks, close the venue of the celebrations, to avoid being singed by the fire crackers.
 
The loud noise and the blinding lights appeared to have prevented the people from noticing that a train was speeding towards them. Before the people, engrossed by the spectacle before them, realised what had happened, the Jalandhar-Amritsar train went by in a flash, running over several of them.
 
Police officials at the scene told journalists that the number of casualties could be between 40 and 50. Unofficial sources said the toll could be higher.
 
More than 60 other people suffered injuries and were rushed to various hospitals in the city, many of them in a critical condition.
 
Hundreds of people gathered at the scene. While many of them were grieving for their near and dear ones, others were angry with the authorities for failing to ensure the safety of people participating in the celebrations. Similar crowds also gathered outside the hospitals.
 
Senior officials from the district administration, the police and the Northern Railway had reached the spot and were supervising the rescue and relief efforts.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he was rushing to Amritsar to personally oversee the relief effort. He was due to leave on a visit to Israel later tonight but the trip has now been called off.
 
Capt. Amarinder Singh also announced that the Punjab government would give Rs. 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who were killed in the incident and free treatment for the injured.
 
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"Rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief & rescue in tragic rail accident on Dussehra in Amritsar. My govt will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased & free treatment to injured in govt & pvt hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on war footing," he said.
 
"We will do everything possible to assist the injured. Have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them," he said, adding that a Crisis Management Group had been set up to monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts.
 
"The state will remain in mourning tomorrow in view of #Amritsar train mishap. All offices & educational institutions will remain closed," he added.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the accident.
 
"Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required," he said.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, "The train accident in Punjab in which over 50 people have died is shocking. I urge the state government & Congress workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. My condolences to the families of those who have died. I pray that the injured make a speedy recovery."
 
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who was on an official visit to the United States, is flying back to India after cancelling his remaining engagements.
 
IANS adds:
 
It took just about 10 to 15 seconds for the train to pass -- and leave behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
 
Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away from the site. A few of them were also mowed down.
 
The Punjab government, in a statement in New Delhi, put the death tool at 40 but Amritsar Police Commissioner S.S. Srivastava told reporters that "it is definitely more than 50-60" and that people were still being rushed to hospitals.
 
Sub-divisional Magistrate Rajesh Sharma said 50 bodies have been recovered.
 
"Out of nowhere came the train," said a man, sounding angry while speaking to journalists. "Before anyone could realise what was happening, it ran over scores of people."
 
"When the effigy started to burn in full flow, people began running away from it fearing it may fall over them," said another man. "They did not realise that a speeding train was coming and the train did not sound its hooter."
 
The dead included several children, another witness said.
 
Ironically, moments before the tragedy, another train passed the area but there were no casualties, a railway official said.
 
A local resident, Nirmal Jit Sindhu, alleged that the Dussehra celebrations were organised by forcing the local administration to grant permission near the railway tracks.
 
He said last year the administration had not granted permission for the use of this venue for Dussehra celebrations owing to its proximity to the tracks.
 
Some people blamed Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur, who was the Chief Guest at the celebrations, saying her late arrival delayed the burning of the effigy by more than half an hour.
 
Sidhu told a news channel on telephone from Bengaluru that the death toll was alarmingly high.
 
A railway official said in New Delhi that the drop gates at the spot were down but people still massed on the tracks in violation of railway rules.
 
NNN

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