IAMC Weekly News Roundup - December 3rd, 2018 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 3rd, 2018

In this issue of IAMC News Digest


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


U.S. Groups Condemn PM Modi for Failure to Stop Attacks on Religious Minorities

December 1, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Religious freedom activists from across the U.S. have criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his failure to stop the violence carried out by Hindutva groups against religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians.

At an event titled “Religious Freedom in India: A Briefing on Capitol Hill”, organized by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) on the Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the activists urged the Indian prime minister to condemn such violence against religious minorities as well as take all necessary measures to curb the rise of Hindutva extremism and punish the Hindutva groups involved in violence.

“The failure of Prime Minister Modi to definitively condemn and to definitively distance himself from the extreme elements of his party has played a substantial and significant role in bringing about the situation that we see today,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan federal commission tasked with defending religious freedom outside the U.S.

Dr. Katrina Lantos speaking at the Religious Freedom In India Briefing at the Capitol Hill

“Inflammatory rhetoric and a conception of India’s national identity increasingly based on religion have contributed to an atmosphere of intimidation, exclusion, and even violence directed at non-Hindus,” she added, saying Muslims and Christians are the “primary victims”.

Dr. Lantos Swett, who is the daughter of Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to have ever been elected to U.S. Congress and who founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said India’s religious freedom violation had a “long-standing pattern of impunity and immunity”.

“We see it in the lack of accountability for large-scale communal violence such as the horrors we know took place in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, and in the more individualized crimes committed against members of minorities faiths,” she said.

The briefing was held in a Senate Building before an audience that also included Congressional staffs, officials from the Department of State and USCIRF, and civil society members.

Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern (ICC), quoted a survey saying 82% of Indian Christians were “very concerned” for their safety, 73% experienced discrimination “at least once” last year, 85% saw an “increase in aggression” by Hindu nationalists, and 84% said minorities were “less protected” under Modi.

“If the prime minister were to condemn acts of aggression and violence and push for prosecution, this [violence] would fairly quickly dry up,” King said. “But it’s not happening.” He asked Modi to “use the bully pulpit and condemn acts of aggression and violence.” King urged the Indian Government to allow a team of USCIRF to visit India on a fact-finding mission.

Matthew Bulger, Legislative Director of the American Humanist Association, a U.S. organization promoting theism and agnosticism since 1941, said that compared to global religious freedom standards, “India is failing”. Several Indian laws and policies “restrict religious freedom rights” and have led to arrests and prosecution of individuals, “which is just unacceptable”.

He criticized Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code as a “relic” of British colonial law and “essentially a blasphemy and anti-religious incitement law “inconsistent with the pluralistic and democratic values India publicly accepts. Laws which restrict religious freedom can serve as a catalyst for vigilante violence, such as that seen in India recently regarding the lynchings by Hindu nationalists of people, most often Muslims, suspected of smuggling or killing cows.”

Bulger noted that although Pehlu Khan, a Muslim dairy farmer murdered by cow vigilantes in April 2017, named six suspects in his “death-bed statement” criminal charges against them were dismissed. “Sadly, this is not an isolated case, as over a dozen similar murders have happened in the last two years alone.”

Rev. Sarah C. Anderson-Rajarigam, a Dalit Christian Lutheran church priest from Philadelphia, said the status of Dalits had worsened under the Modi government. “Modi’s government has deliberately and openly made violence against Dalits a non-issue by offering impunity.”

The perpetrators of violence against Dalits were not only free but “elevated to the status of a hero”, she said, adding: “The patter of violence continues unabated… But there is no shame experienced either by the perpetrators or by Prime Minister Modi and other ministers.”

Pawan Singh, a Sikh representing the Organization for Minorities of India, said the “fascist ideology” of the RSS that “a small group of people are born superior to others… needs to be checked.” He said: “There is the curtain of democracy that they use, and then go on with their business of killing individuals of dissenting opinion, or because they do not like them.”

Singh said the “pseudo institutions” connected with the RSS, such as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu American Foundation “were a threat to our freedom”.

Citing the World Hindu Congress organized in Chicago in September, Singh said the spread of Hindutva was “not just India’s problem any more… That is what gives me the shivers: these rightwing saffron terrorists [are] roaming in the free world, threatening our free institutions.”

He criticized the U.S. government for giving a visa to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who, he said, “should be tried for crimes against humanity”, and slammed Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy for speaking at the Hindu Congress. “These people are wearing facades, while they carry big knives to kill us, to kill the dissenting opinion, to kill anybody and everybody who will speak for equality, for justice and freedom for all.”

Sunita Viswanath, Co-founder of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, a New York-based nonprofit, said the “chilling repression of open debate and political expression” in India and the violence against Muslims and Christians was alarming. “This repression and violence is taking place in the name of Hinduism, one that we do not recognize and cannot accept,” she said.

Viswanath noted that the police had named the Sanatan Sanstha, an extremist right-wing Hindutva organization, for the September 2017 killing of Gauri Lankesh, a Bangalore-based activist and journalist. “The Sanatan Sanstha was also involved in the killing of other activists,” she said. “Despite this, it has not yet been banned or classified as a terrorist organization.”

Vishavjit Singh, a cartoonist and performance artist from New York, and a survivor of the mass violence against Sikhs in the aftermath of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, said that violence targeting Sikhs “set the stage for the powers to be – doesn’t matter, BJP, Congress, anybody else – to know [that] you can kill with impunity, as many people as you like, in a democracy, and get away with it.”

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US activists, groups condemn PM Modi for failure to stop attacks on religious minorities (Dec 2, 2018, National Herald)

Religious freedom activists from across the U.S. have criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his failure to stop the violence carried out by Hindutva groups against religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians. At an event titled ‘Religious Freedom in India: A Briefing on Capitol Hill’, organised by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) on the Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the activists urged the Indian prime minister to condemn such violence against religious minorities as well as take all necessary measures to curb the rise of Hindutva extremism and punish those involved in violence.

“The failure of Prime Minister Modi to definitively condemn and to definitively distance himself from the extreme elements of his party has played a substantial and significant role in bringing about the situation that we see today,” said Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan federal commission tasked with defending religious freedom outside the US.

“Inflammatory rhetoric and a conception of India’s national identity increasingly based on religion have contributed to an atmosphere of intimidation, exclusion, and even violence directed at non-Hindus,” she added, saying Muslims and Christians are the “primary victims”.…



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Ex-CJI Dipak Misra Was ‘Remote-controlled’ by External Source, Alleges Kurian Joseph (Dec 3, 2018, News18.com)

Days after he retired, Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the four Supreme Court judges who held an unprecedented press conference in January, on Monday claimed that previous CJI Dipak Misra was working under the influence of an “external source”, adding this impacted the administration of justice.…

“The then CJI was working under some influence of some external source. He was remote-controlled by an external source. There was some influence of some external source that was impacting the administration of justice,” Justice Joseph told PTI.…

The Supreme Court on April 19 rejected the PILs seeking probe into the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, ruling he had died of “natural causes”. Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, died of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on December 1, 2014 when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter. BJP President Amit Shah was among others who were the accused in the case when he was the Minister of State for Home in Gujarat. Shah was subsequently discharged by a trial court.…



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Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections: EC replaces 250 faulty EVMs across state; malfunctioning VVPATs affect voting in many booths (Nov 28, 2018, First Post)

As the voting kick-started in Madhya Pradesh in the Assembly election, multiple instances of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) malfunctioning have been reported, thus temporarily stalling the polling process in the affected booths.

In Mohana booth number 55, the EVM has stopped working and no voter has been able to cast vote since morning, while in Ujjain, two EVMs were replaced due to errors. In Alirajpur, a total of 11 VVPAT machines were replaced and polling was resumed. In Burhanpur, five VVPATs and two EVMs were replaced after being found defective.

The voting process was halted for about 40 minutes at booth number 96 in Harda due to a technical glitch in the EVM while it remained affected for about an hour at polling booth number 168. In some places, like in Tilak Nagar polling booth in Indore-5 constituency, the polling remained halted for over two hours due to EVM malfunction.…



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Rahul Gandhi, Kejriwal Mount Attack on PM Modi at Mega Farmers’ Rally as Cries of Justice Rend Air (Nov 30, 2018, News18.com)

More than fifty thousand farmers from across the country, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, on Friday marched from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament in the national capital demanding that the government pass legislation guaranteeing loan waivers and remunerative prices for their crops.

In the massive rally, organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the protesters shouted slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre, alleging that it had failed to address their plight.

A host of opposition leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, came together in a show of strength at Parliament Street as the BJP-led government emerged as the common enemy.…



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HC upholds conviction of 70 in 1984 riots case (Nov 29, 2018, The Tribune)

The Delhi High Court today upheld the conviction of 70 of the 89 persons awarded a five-year jail term by a trial court for rioting, burning houses and violating curfew in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri area during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Sixteen of the remaining 19 persons died during pendency of appeals against the trial court’s August 27, 1996, verdict. The appeals of the remaining three were dismissed after they absconded. Justice RK Gauba asked the convicts to surrender forthwith to serve their remaining prison terms.

The court noted that the anti-Sikh riots were a “dark chapter” in the history of independent India. “The police force and the civil administration did not take timely or effective action to prevent the riotous conditions from spiralling out of hand. The criminal law process began but hesitatingly and belatedly.…



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Demonetisation was a ‘massive, draconian, monetary shock’, says former chief economic advisor (Nov 29, 2018, Scroll.in)

Former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian has said that demonetisation was a “massive, draconian, monetary shock” that accelerated the decline in economic growth to 6.8%.

In his upcoming book, Of Counsel: The Challenges of the Modi-Jaitley Economy, Subramanian has said that the informal sector had to bear substantial costs due to the ban on high-value currency, IANS reported. The book will be released on December 5.

However, the former chief economic advisor, who quit his post in June, has not indicated whether he was consulted before the decision to ban notes worth Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 was taken. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision on November 8, 2016, and said it was intended to reduce corruption in the system.…



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Muslims by their wisdom foiled attempt to disrupt peace over Ram temple : UP Minister (Nov 27, 2018, Ummid.com)

Om Prakash Rajbhar, a cabinet minister in Yogi Adityanath cabinet in Uttar Pradesh on Monday said that VHP’s Dharma Sabha in Ayodhya, was a planned conspiracy to disrupt peace but the attempt was foiled by the Muslims by showing wisdom and maintaing calm.

Rajbhar while addressing a program organised by Andolan Manch at a college in Kachauna village in Hardoi District of Uttar Pradesh said as the elections draw near BJP remembers Ram Ji and the name of Lord Ram is used as an election issue.…

Rajbhar said there are many important issues like unemployment that need to be addressed immediately. “When I talk of unemployment and the rights of oppressed people, the government doesn’t listen”, he said urging the oppressed sections to strive for their rights.…



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When Babri Masjid was demolished, PM was silent: Pinarayi Vijayan counters UDF’s CPM-BJP adjustment criticism (Nov 29, 2018, New Indian Express)

The government will not allow the Sangh Parivar to turn Sabarimala into another Ayodhya, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said. Responding to the notice for an adjournment motion in the House, the chief minister made it categorically clear that the government is bound to implement the SC verdict allowing women of all ages to the hill shrine.

The restrictions including prohibitory orders were imposed to maintain peace at Sabarimala, and the government is not planning to withdraw them for the time being, he said. Rejecting the UDF demand to lift the prohibitory orders, Pinarayi said restrictions have been imposed to help devotees have proper darshan.

“Currently there’s no situation to withdraw the restrictions. We can think about it once the police report favours the same,” he told the House. The police prevented the move to stage agitations at nadapandal. The government cannot allow such attempts. He pointed out that after restrictions were imposed there were no attacks on the media or devotees. Stating that it’s the bounden duty of the government to implement the SC verdict, he said the government will ensure protection if women devotees turn up.…



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In Telangana, Nearly Half of All Candidates Have Criminal Charges Against Them (Nov 27, 2018, The Wire)

An analysis of the candidates fielded by the major parties in the fray for the Telangana state elections has shown that almost 50% of them are facing criminal cases, including chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.

A group of civil society organisations, under the banner ‘Telangana Election Watch 2018’, have analysed the criminal cases against candidates fielded by the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress-Telugu Desam Party (TDP)-TJS-CPI combine and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM). These parties together have 365 candidates, out of whom 181 have cases against them.

Along with CM Rao, his son K.T. Rama Rao and nephew T. Harish Rao (both of whom are also ministers) are among the high-profile candidates facing criminal cases. Ministers Jogu Ramanna, P. Srinivas Reddy, Etela Rajender and Talasani Srinivas Yadav also have criminal cases pending against them. The Congress and BJP state presidents, N. Uttam Kumar Reddy and K. Laxman, along with MIM’s leader Akbaruddin Owaisi are all facing criminal charges.…



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Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case: Nitish Kumar govt’s treatment of case ‘tragic, shameless and inhuman’, says Supreme Court (Nov 27, 2018, First Post)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the Bihar government over its failure to file correct FIR in the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case and gave the Nitish Kumar government 24 hours to add charges under Section 377 (rape) of the IPC and the POCSO Act in the FIRs, ANI reported. The FIR against Bihar’s former social welfare minister Manju Verma and her husband Chandrakant Verma in connection with the case was filed in August under the Arms Act.

The Supreme Court came down heavily on the Bihar government and asked, “What are you (Bihar government) doing? It’s shameful. If the child is sodomised you say it’s nothing? How can you do this? It’s inhuman. We were told that matter will be looked with great seriousness, this is seriousness?” The top court added that it was “tragic” to go over the file of the case each time.

In stern words, the apex court told the government that “if we find that there were offences under section 377 of IPC and the POCSO Act and you did not register FIR, we will pass an order against the government.” Taking note of the other shelter home sexual abuse cases in the state, the court asked: “There are 17 shelter homes where allegations of sexual abuse were cited in the TISS report. Why should each case not be investigated? Are these children lesser citizens of the country?”…



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Opinions and Editorials

Saffron stands for political power, not renunciation – Editorial (Nov 29, 2018, The Telegraph)

Division is the flavour of the season. The season that has befallen India since 2014. Sadhus gathered in Varanasi for the Param Dharma Sansad expressed their disapproval of both the Dharm Sabha conducted by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Ayodhya – they called it an adharm sabha – and the rumoured plan of the Narendra Modi government and of Yogi Adityanath to build a statue of Ram 221 metres tall. The sadhus meeting in Varanasi are ‘apolitical’. That men garbed in saffron, the colour of renunciation, should need to say this is enough to underline the divisiveness that now affects every sphere of Indian life.

Saffron is today also the colour of political power that thrives on the mantra of religious majoritarianism; anyone rejecting this association of politics and religion must assert his ‘apolitical’ position. Power in the name of religious majoritarianism is unconstitutional: it systematically goes about shredding the fabric of a secular democracy. But for the Bharatiya Janata Party, this is the only route to power and the only means of retaining it.

The dazzle of powerful saffron accompanied by aggressive rhetoric helps cover up failures in governance and the economy. The demand of the holy men at the VHP-organized Dharm Sabha that a Ram mandir be built immediately on the site of the Babri Masjid is in frank defiance of the Supreme Court – the issue is sub judice – and in contravention of the spirit of law and the Constitution. The holy men in Varanasi found in this serious reason for censure.…



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Modi govt “interfering” in judiciary, is “destroying” autonomy of statutory bodies – By Fr Cedric Prakash sj (Nov 26, 2018, Counterview)

On November 26, the country observes yet another Constitution Day, the day on which in 1949, the Constituent Assembly adopted and gave to the people of India a landmark Constitution. The Constitution of India besides being sacrosanct to every citizen of the country is the bulwark of fundamental rights and directive principles, which are a prerequisite for any healthy democracy.

…The Constitution of India with its minute details is undoubtedly a unique one. Thanks to the women and men of the Constituent Assembly, most of the people of India, take genuine pride in our forward-looking and all-embracing Constitution.

Sadly, in the recent past, several efforts are being made to tamper with the Constitution, to negate its essence and even to delete core dimensions like the words secular and socialism which are deeply interwoven into the pluralistic fabric of Indian society. The current BJP/RSS combine, including some of their ministers and leading functionaries have gone on record saying that once they have the pre-requisite numbers in Parliament, they will have no qualms of conscience to change fundamentals of the Constitution like that of secularism and equal rights for all.…



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How an internal enemy like RSS will spell the doom for democratic-secular Indian polity – By Shamsul Islam (Nov 26, 2018, Sabrang India)

It is shocking that ‘Maoists’, ‘Urban Naxals’, ‘Khalistanis’ and ‘Islamists’ who according to the Indian State want to destroy Indian polity are hanged or put behind bars regularly but the RSS cadres rule India despite their open declarations/deeds of undoing Indian constitutional polity.

History is replete with instances when the democratic polities have been destroyed not by the foreign enemies but inimical forces from within, camouflaged as saviours. Germany’s take-over by the Nazi Party led by Hitler and the Fascist Party in Italy by led by Mussolini are the living examples of this trend. The Indian polity governed by a democratic-secular constitution passed by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, seems to be in process of being captured by RSS and its appendages which rule India today.…

The blue-eyed boy of both RSS and PM Modi, a minister in the latter’s cabinet, Anantkumar Hegde addressing an event organised by the Brahman Yuva Parishad in Koppal district of Karnataka declared “We are here to change the Constitution” and decried those who believe in secularism as “people without parentage”. We have forgotten how many times the present RSS boss, Mohan Bhagwat like his predecessors declared India to be a Hindu nation where Hindutva politics will rule.…



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Arvind Subramanian calls note ban ‘draconian shock’: This is why wisdom came late to him – By Valson Thampu (Nov 30, 2018, Dailyo.in)

Too late in the day, Arvind Subramanian, the former chief economic adviser (CEA) to the Government of India, has assumed an oracular role and pronounced demonetisation to be “a massive, draconian monetary shock”.

Wonder why it has taken him – the man who saw it all from within – so long to see what ordinary folks, who had to bear the brunt of demonetisation, had been saying in their polite and fearful fashion over the past two years.…

But how did this extremely hard-working and well-meaning individual feel while he was within the system, monitoring how his fellow citizens were reeling under this “massive, draconian monetary shock”?…



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Sohrabuddin Encounter Case & Amit Shah: All the Perfumes of Arabia – By Vivan Eyben (Nov 27, 2018, News Click)

Despite attempts to cover up all memory of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter, while the hearings continue, the case will continue to haunt BJP president Amit Shah along with the others involved. The latest depositions before the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai – according to Manini Chatterjee writing for The Telegraph – have once again established the link between Amit Shah and the Sohrabuddin fake encounter.

Amitabh Thakur who was investigating the Sohrabuddin encounter named Amit Shah, D.G. Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian, Dinesh M.N. and Abhay Chudasama as conspirators before the CBI court on November 19. Sandeep Tamgadge who investigated the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter named Amit Shah, Vanzara, Pandian and Dinesh M.N. as being behind the killing.

The proceedings in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter at present relate to around 22 others involved. According to Thakur’s deposition, the 22 involved were only following the orders of their superiors and hence were discharging their official duties. It need not be spelt out again who exactly these ‘superiors’ were. Yet the story of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Amit Shah goes back to 2003 with the murder of Haren Pandya, a BJP leader and minister in Gujarat government, who fell out with then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.…



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In Allahabad name change, MHA rules flouted – By Faizan Mustafa and Navneet Krishna (Nov 27, 2018, The Tribune)

Yogi Adityanath has not only changed his own name (Ajay Mohan Bisht) but his revulsion to Muslim names has also led to the change of names of localities in Gorakhpur, such as Urdu Bazar to Hindi Bazar, Miapur to Mayapur, Humayunpur to Hanuman Nagar. The BJP’s goal is to change the names of 704 towns named after Mughals. Union Minister VK Singh wants to rename Akbar Road in New Delhi though Akbar was a liberal and pro-Hindu king.…

Interestingly, the proposal to change the name of Allahabad was earlier mooted in 2001, when the then Chief Minister Rajnath Singh had sent a proposal to the Home Ministry. The Minister of State for Home Affairs of the Vajpayee government said on the floor of the Lok Sabha (July 24, 2001) that the UP Government’s proposal did not fit in the criteria set by the MHA and hence they should reconsider their proposal keeping in view the guidelines framed by the Ministry. Today, Rajnath Singh himself is Union Home Minister and, therefore, he may approve the change and overlook MHA guidelines. But since guidelines have not changed, such a concurrence to name change will be contrary to the MHA’s own guidelines.

Similarly, the Vajpayee government did not agree to the change of names of Ahmedabad and Bhopal. But the Modi government, in the last one year, has agreed to some 25 name change requests, though, to the embarrassment of Mamata Banerjee, it has put its foot down on changing the name of West Bengal to Bangla. The UP Government’s notification under Section 6(2) of the Revenue Code, 2006 renaming Allahabad as Prayagraj is thus not only arbitrary and ill motivated but also in violation of the MHA rules.



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