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Hardline Parliamentarian Claims Christian Missionaries Must be Driven Out of India

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A right-wing Hindu parliamentarian’s bid to drive Christian missioners out of India is being branded as a political ploy ahead of polls in three key Indian states. Parliamentarian Rakesh Sinha, who advocates turning India a Hindu nation, in a Sept. 27 newspaper interview accused Christian missioners of damaging Indian culture.

“It is time to launch a drive to get rid of Christian missionaries from the country,” said the ideologue from the Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS—National Volunteer Corps).

The RSS is widely seen as an umbrella organization working for Hindu hegemony.

“Christian missionaries in the past 300 years worked to destroy the culture of the indigenous people,” Sinha said in the interview published in the mass circulation Dainik Jagaran (Daily Vigil).

Christy Abraham, national general secretary of the ecumenical forum Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh, told an Oct. 3 media conference that Sinha’s sectarian statements aimed to project the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a champion of Hindu interests.

The states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, with 165 million people who are 90 percent Hindu, are facing polls at the end of this year that are seen as a curtain raiser for federal elections in May. All the three states are now ruled by the BJP and anti-incumbency factors threaten its re-election prospects because of what Abraham branded as sheer non-performance.

People were generally “fed-up” with the BJP making hollow promises as well as over price rises and growing unemployment.

“The BJP and its supporters know they have to play the communal card to get Hindu votes,” Abraham said.

Prabhakar Tirkey, who is the president of the Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh ecumenical forum, said at the press conference held in eastern Jharkhand state, that Sinha’s attack on missioners was not in keeping with the facts of history. Tirkey, a tribal native of Jharkhand state, said that people such as himself had benefited from health and education services provided by missionaries, these days known as missioners, adding that only a few decades ago government help in these fields hardly existed.

“Now many indigenous persons like me stand up for our rights and speak against their centuries old exploitation and discrimination under the Hindu caste system in which lower caste people and tribals are treated as inferiors,” he told ucanews.com.

He said Hindu groups feared tribal and lower caste people becoming educated and challenging their upper caste hegemony. They considered that missioners were in this regard undermining their notion of what India should be, Tirkey said. He challenged Sinha to substantiate with facts and figures his claim that missioners were destroying Indian culture and dividing tribal people.

Tirkey and others said they would petition Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian parliament, to expel Sinha. Deepak Tirkey, a Christian and native of Ranchi, told ucanews.com that the BJP and Hindu groups are upset with Christians and missioners in Jharkhand for resisting anti-tribal actions of the state government.

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Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet Access

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Iran imposed an almost complete nationwide internet blackout on Sunday one of its most draconian attempts to cut off Iranians from each other and the rest of the world as widespread anti-government unrest roiled the streets of Tehran and other cities for a third day, The New York Times reported.

The death toll for the three days of protests rose to at least 12; hundreds were injured; and more than 1,000 people have been arrested, according to semiofficial news agencies like Fars News.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters, called the demonstrators “thugs” and endorsed the government’s decision to raise prices it sets for rationed gasoline by 50 percent as of Friday and by 300 percent for gasoline that exceeds ration limits. Even after the price hike, gasoline in Iran is still cheaper than in most of the rest of the world – now the equivalent of about 50 cents a gallon.

In a speech on Sunday, Khamenei said he would support rationing and increasing gas prices because heads of three branches of government had made the decision.

Khamenei also acknowledged that Iranians had taken to the streets to protest and that some had died – however, he blamed the protests on monarchists and opposition groups trying to destabilize Iran, the Times added.

The widespread discontent on display across the country marked yet another crisis for the country. Iran has been struggling with an economic crisis after the United States exited a nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions that ban Iran’s oil sales.

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HASC Chairman Claims Legislation to Create a Space Force in 2020 ‘Still Possible’

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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said last week that negotiations on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act are “proceeding reasonably well” but he expressed doubt that the NDAA will include language to authorize a Space Force as a separate military branch, SpaceNews reported.

“It’s still possible but by no means guaranteed,” Smith told reporters on Capitol Hill last week. When asked for specifics, Smith said, “I don’t think it would be helpful for me to make predictions.”

The biggest sticking point in the NDAA negotiations is language in the House version of the bill that restricts the use of military funds to pay for the wall that President Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, SpaceNews adds.

There are other dealbreaker issues. The authorization of a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces is one of them, Smith said. Other contentious matters include extending the “war powers” legislation that authorizes the president to use military force, and allowing transgender people to serve in the military.

Smith said the House and Senate NDAA conference in recent weeks worked on compromise language on hundreds of provisions and “reduced the stack significantly, and we’re down to a few really contentious issues.”

Smith characterized the Space Force as a “higher echelon” issue that is proving divisive. Both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate continue to have reservations about the administration’s Space Force proposal, said Smith. “There is bipartisan concern on the proposal and bicameral concern about the specifics of that proposal.”

The House version of the NDAA creates a Space Corps and is closer aligned with what the administration proposed. The Senate bill would rename the Air Force Space Command the U.S. Space Force and does not specifically authorize a sixth branch of the armed forces.

Smith noted that the House has been a proponent of a military space branch since 2017 while the Senate had adamantly opposed it. “In their bill they didn’t have the same language that we did. But the president has persuaded them to look at it differently.”

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Gunman Kills Four at California Backyard Party

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Police in the California city of Fresno were investigating a mass shooting at a football game party on Sunday in which at least 10 people were shot, killing four, with five others left in critical condition and another wounded, Reuters informs.

Three men died at the scene and another died at a hospital, Fresno Deputy Police Chief Michael Reed said in a late night news conference. Six more were hospitalized, he said.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this thing,” Reed said. “This was senseless violence. We’re going to do everything we can to find out who the perpetrators were and bring them to justice.”

A gunman walked into a backyard and started shooting at a south Fresno home, where a gathering of about 35 family and friends was watching a football game before 8 p.m., said Reed. Neighbors soon flooded 911 dispatchers with calls for help, Reuters adds.

The suspect fled the scene and police were combing the neighborhood for witnesses and possible security camera footage, police said. Police did not release further information about the shooting in the city about 200 miles (320 km) north of Los Angeles, except that the dead were men between the ages of 25 and 35.

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