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‘Good to be back’: IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman on Indian soil after 58 hours in Pak Army custody



Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India on Friday night, two days after he was captured in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, potentially capping for now a week of heightened tension that threatened to snowball into a wider military conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Varthaman, dressed in civilian attire, crossed the border at Wagah a little before 9pm and walked across to the Indian side where hundreds of people had gathered since the afternoon to greet him on his return. He was captured on Wednesday after his MiG-21 aircraft was downed in a dogfight over the Line of Control in Kashmir. “Wing Commander Abhinandan has just been handed over to us. He will be taken now for a detailed medical checkup. This checkup is mandatory as he had to eject from an airplane which would have put his entire body under stress,” said Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor in a brief statement to reporters before a fleet of vehicles left the border crossing for Amritsar, from where Varthaman was set to be flown to New Delhi.

The release of the 38-year-old Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot was announced by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday in a “gesture of peace”.

This was seen as the first sign of a de-escalation after Islamabad retaliated on Wednesday to an Indian “non-military preemptive action” against a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp deep inside Pakistan.

Varthaman had been expected to be repatriated by evening, but his release was delayed by the Pakistani side, which did not offer an explanation, according to Indian officials.

“We had hoped he would have been handed over sooner but it was delayed for some reason by the Pakistanis. At this point, we are happy to have him back,” Amritsar district collector Shivdular Singh Dhillon said.He added that Varthaman said “it is good to be back in my country” when he stepped onto Indian soil.

His release coincided with a heavily edited propaganda video that was released to Pakistani TV channels. The video showed the Wing Commander making certain comments, the circumstances of which were not immediately clear. Social media users criticised Pakistan for the video, with some saying it cast doubt over Pakistan’s claims of the release being a peace gesture.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the IAF pilot’s return. “Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians. Vande Mataram!” he wrote in a tweet.

Opposition leader and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, too, welcomed Varthaman. “Wing Cdr. Abhinandan, your dignity, poise and bravery made us all proud. Welcome back and much love,” he said in a tweet, his first since Wednesday when he had last tweeted about the IAF pilot’s capture.

According to defence officials who asked not to be named, the Wing Commander was set to be flown to the Palam airbase near New Delhi in a special flight and then likely to be taken to the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital for a thorough medical examination. If his condition permits, he will then proceed to a debriefing session with senior air force officials. In between, he will get a chance to meet his family, who had earlier on Friday flown from their hometown, Chennai, to the national capital.

IAF jets on Tuesday bombed a training camp run by JeM, 12 days after the outfit claimed responsibility for a car bombing that killed 40 troopers in Kashmir’s Pulwama. On Wednesday, a fleet of Pakistani combat aircraft entered Indian territory and dropped explosives before being engaged by Indian fighter jets, including the MiG-21 flown by Wing Commander Varthaman.

According to officials who asked not to be named, the Wing Commander engaged an F-16 of the Pakistani Air Force (a jet far superior to his) and shot it down before being downed by Pakistani firing. He was captured in PoK after ejecting from his aircraft.

Shortly after Khan’s announcement of the pilot’s release on Thursday, top generals of the Indian military issued new details of the Pakistani operation on Wednesday, saying they had evidence that the targets were military installations in Kashmir. Indian and Pakistani forces are in a state of alert and both have warned of a strong retaliation if the other launches any operation. World powers have urged both to exercise restraint.



Justice Served: UP Gangster Atiq Ahmed and 2 Others, Sentenced to Life Term for Kidnapping



Photo : PTI

In a recent development, a court in Prayagraj has sentenced Atiq Ahmed, a well-known gangster turned politician, along with two others, to rigorous life imprisonment. The verdict was pronounced after they were found guilty of the 2007 kidnapping case of Umesh Pal. Pal was an eyewitness in the murder case of BSP MLA Raju Pal. The court has also acquitted seven others, including Atiq’s brother Ashraf.

The sentencing of Atiq Ahmed and his accomplices comes after a long-drawn legal battle. They were found guilty of abducting Umesh Pal, who was a crucial witness in the murder case of Raju Pal. The court’s decision to award rigorous life imprisonment to the three accused has been welcomed by many, who see it as a step towards justice for the victim and his family.

In another development, earlier today, the Supreme Court refused to entertain Ahmed’s plea seeking protection in connection with the case. The apex court directed Ahmed’s lawyer to approach the High Court with his grievances instead. This decision has come as a setback for Ahmed, who was seeking protection from possible harm in jail.

The verdict in the case is being seen as a significant victory for the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies, who have been working tirelessly to bring the accused to justice. It sends a strong message to anyone who thinks they can get away with heinous crimes like kidnapping and murder. The case has also highlighted the need to protect witnesses in such cases, who play a crucial role in ensuring justice is served.

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Covid cases increasing in Delhi, more than 150 cases in 24 hours, infection rate also increased.



Representational Image | Photo by Firosnv. Photography on Unsplash

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Delhi has been on the rise again in recent days. The capital has seen a continuous surge in the number of cases, with 152 new infections reported in the last 24 hours alone. The infection rate has also risen to 6.66%. This represents a significant increase from the 117 cases reported on Thursday, indicating that the situation is worsening rapidly.

Experts have suggested that the rise in COVID-19 cases may be linked to the increasing number of cases of H3N2 flu in the city. As more people have been getting tested for H3N2, some have been found to be positive for COVID-19 as well. The trend is reflected in the figures from the past few days, with 84 cases reported on Wednesday and 83 on Tuesday, before the sudden spike on Friday.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has issued several recommendations to hospitals in the city to help tackle the situation. Hospitals have been advised to screen patients with fever and maintain an adequate supply of essential medicines. They have also been instructed to ensure that ventilators and other equipment are in good working order.

The Corporation has urged hospitals to promote the booster vaccine dose to their employees and patients and to follow all government guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A nodal officer has been appointed to ensure that hospitals maintain cleanliness, prevent the spread of infection, and manage biomedical waste effectively.

The situation is not limited to Delhi, as cases of COVID-19 are rising rapidly in other parts of India as well. Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka are all areas of concern, and the central government has held a meeting to discuss the matter. The focus remains on testing, tracing, and treatment, as authorities work to contain the spread of the virus.

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Traffic chaos in Delhi as marshals struggle to control heavy vehicles on Ashram flyover



Representational Image | Image Courtesy : Paramjit Dhillon @Paramjitdhillon (Twitter)

Delhi, India – Chaos ensues as the Ashram Flyover becomes a traffic nightmare for commuters in the city. But fear not, as a group of marshals has been deployed to restore order and bring some sense to the madness.

The Ashram Flyover, a major artery in the bustling metropolis of Delhi, has been a headache for commuters for quite some time now. The flyover, which connects the city’s south and central areas, sees heavy traffic congestion during peak hours, causing long delays and frayed nerves.

But things have taken a spicy turn as marshals have been brought in to keep things under control. These marshals, donning bright green jackets, have been tasked with managing the traffic flow, ensuring that vehicles move smoothly and without incident.

The marshals have their work cut out for them, as the chaos on the flyover seems to have no end in sight. The heavy traffic, coupled with the city’s notorious lack of lane discipline, has resulted in a free-for-all on the flyover, with vehicles jostling for space and tempers flaring.

But the marshals are undeterred. Armed with whistles and hand signals, they are determined to bring some order to the chaos. And their efforts seem to be paying off, as traffic has started moving more smoothly, and the honking and shouting have reduced considerably.

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