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India doesn’t need lessons on rule of law, says Vice President after US, UN, Germany comment on Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest

New Delhi, Mar 30: Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar on Friday said that India is a democratic nation with a robust judiciary which can not be compromised by any individual or any group.Describing Indian democracy as unique, Vice President Dhankhar said India does not need lessons from anyone on the rule of law, in an oblique reference to recent observations by the US in connection with the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the excise policy case. The Vice President made the remarks while attending a programme to inaugurate the renovated premises of the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA). Addressing the 70th Founders’ Day celebrations of the IIPA here, Dhankhar said that “equality before law is a new norm” in India today and the law is holding those accountable who think themselves beyond the law. “But what do we see? The moment the law takes its course, they take to streets, high decibel debates, camouflaging culpability of the worst nature by human rights. This is happening under our nose,” he added.Describing the Indian judiciary as robust, pro-people and independent, he questioned: “What is justification for a person or an institution or an organisation to take to the streets when the law is set in motion?” Calling for deeper deliberations on this issue, Dhankhar asked: “Can people orchestrate, in complaining mode, a pernicious tendency to get away from the rule of law? How can one engaging in transgression of the law play the victim card?”Saying that corruption is no longer rewarding, Vice President Dhankhar said: “Corruption is not a passage to opportunity, employment or a contract anymore. It is a passage to jail. The system is securing it.”Praising the pro-people stand of the Indian judiciary, the Vice President said: “It is that institution of judiciary that has met at midnight, met on a holiday, and imparted relief.”Further advocating India’s case for the UNSC seat, he said that “United Nations cannot be as protective and effective unless you have representation of a country like India that has a unique position of being the only country in the world to have constitutionally structured democracy at all levels”.

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Mukhtar Ansari funeral at 10 am; security beefed up at gangster-politician’s Ghazipur residence amid huge crowd

Ghazipur/Lucknow, Mar 30: Security arrangements have been strengthened outside the residence of Mukhtar Ansari in Ghazipur and a burial ground in the Uttar Pradesh district ahead of the last rites of gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari on Saturday.The last rites of Mukhtar Ansari, who died due to a cardiac arrest on Thursday and whose body was brought to his home town around midnight on Friday, is scheduled to be held around 10 am, sources in the family said. Rituals related to Ansari’s burial are underway and the body will be taken to the Kali Bagh burial ground where a grave was dug on Friday, the sources said. Security personnel in large numbers have been deployed around the Ansari residence and the burial ground, which is located at distance of about a kilometre and a half. In a post on X on Friday, Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA and Mukhtar Ansari’s nephew Suhaib Ansari informed: “My uncle Mukhtar Ansari passed away last night. Tomorrow, at 10 am, he will be buried in our Kali Bagh graveyard of Yusufpur Mohammadabad (Ghazipur). All of you are requested to pray for the forgiveness of the deceased.”After the post-mortem on Friday, a convoy carrying Ansari’s body left Banda for his native place in Ghazipur at around 5:30 pm amid heavy security. The ambulance carrying the body was accompanied by police vehicles along the 400-kilometre route via several Uttar Pradesh districts.Mukhtar Ansari, who was lodged in the Banda jail, was rushed to the Rani Durgawati Medical College on Thursday night when his health condition deteriorated. He died at the hospital during treatment.

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Nazi concentration camp survivor Andrei Iwanowitsch on facing death, and finally seeing the world

I was born in 1926 in a small village called Budionovka, in northern Ukraine. I was the eldest of four children. When I was six, my mother died of typhus. My father remarried and had two more sons. My parents worked on a collective farm. Everyone worked at least 100 days a year on the farm and in return we were given food in the autumn and winter. Every family had a small strip of land to grow vegetables. We all worked, regardless of our age. My job was to take care of the horses. I went to a village school. It was a simple, barefoot life. Nazi invasion In 1941, the Germans invaded Ukraine and my father was drafted into the army. He died on the front lines. Not long after, my stepmother was caught in German gunfire and was killed on the spot. Soon our neighbourhood fell under German occupation. I was 16 and as the eldest I was responsible for us children. I got a backpack and walked to the nearby villages to ask for food. The other villagers were also poor, but they gave what they could, sometimes just potato peelings. I was on the way home to my siblings when I was stopped by the local police. They checked my backpack and said, “We know you want to feed your siblings. We’ll send you to Germany where you can earn money and send it back to them.” Forced labour I was taken with others even younger than me to the train station and we were forced onto carriages. The wagons were packed, and we were all very afraid. They only spoke the truth: anti-Nazi resistance an example of moral courage When we arrived in Leipzig, we were taken to a market where farmers picked the people they wanted to work on their farms as forced labour. I was in a group that was taken to a transit camp. There were only about a dozen kids like me, the rest were all adults. In the mornings, we were given breakfast and then put on a tram and taken to an ammunitions factory called Hasag. At Buchenwald … Many of us were skin and bones. … I don’t know how I survived, but I did. Andrei Iwanowitsch The kids mostly did the cleaning up and the adults worked on the machinery. We kids stuck together and would sing the Soviet songs that we knew. There was no lunch. At the end of the day, they took us back to the camp and gave us soup made from rotten cabbage. We slept on three-deck bunk beds. I had to climb to the top bunk and the adults were on the lower bunks. From the camp to the factory and back to the camp – that’s how I lived for one-and-a-half years. Under interrogation The Germans had a record of who was literate. I’d done seven years of school and it may have been because of this that I was moved to work in the spare-parts department. I had learned some German at school and after a year at the camp I could make out what they were saying. Although I could understand a lot, I spoke very little German. I had friends working in the ammunition factory where there were a lot of accidents because of sabotage, putting nails in the machinery and things like that. The children were suspected and were gathered together for an interrogation. Because they sometimes visited me at lunchtime, I was also under suspicion. We were gathered to go on a death march. We walked towards the quarry where we would be shot and then buried. We marched for two days. Andrei Iwanowitsch I quickly realised that the Polish translator wasn’t accurately translating what we said to the German officers. I spoke directly to the German officer and he understood what I was saying, and we were released. After that, the interrogation continued, but only with me. At one point, the Gestapo officer left his pistol on the table and walked to the window. I was sure it was an empty pistol and it was a test to see if I would take it. I didn’t. After that, I was sent to a Gestapo prison in Leipzig for two months. To this day, I’ve no idea why I was sent. Deadly beatings After two months in prison, I was moved to another prison briefly and then sent to Buchenwald (concentration camp) at the end of 1943. My prison number was 19852. We worked in the day, sometimes in the quarry carrying stones. On the way to work, we had to pass through a gate. The SS officers standing on either side of the gate beat us, so we passed through as a group, with the adults protecting the younger ones. If someone was struck directly, they’d fall down dead. If I’d been hit, I wouldn’t have survived. The food at Buchenwald was even worse than at Hasag. The European prisoners received packages from the Red Cross, but not the Soviet prisoners. Many of us were skin and bones. Uncovering the truth behind a Chinese-American soldier’s World War II death When I had a chance to walk through the camp and pass the barracks of the Czech and French prisoners, they’d sometimes give me a little bread and butter. I don’t know how I survived, but I did. Death march On April 12, 1945, when the allies began approaching, we were gathered to go on a death march. We walked towards the quarry where we would be shot and then buried. We marched for two days. The SS guards were accompanied by vehicles and they walked in shifts. After three or four hours, we’d have a break and sit down and wait for the guards to finish eating. I ran towards a small bush, but I saw someone was already hiding there. There was a spray of machine gun fire. The person was killed. That could have been me. Andrei Iwanowitsch on a close call They’d toss bones and bits of bread aside as they ate. Sometimes one of the adults, crazy with hunger, would try to snatch a bit of discarded food, but before they could reach it a guard would shoot them. The adults kept to themselves, but we children stuck together. We walked in groups of about four and supported each other. At one point I saw stars in front of me and fainted. My friends took me on either side and helped me keep going. After about five minutes, I was OK. When one of the adults collapsed, everyone walked over them and then there would be the sound of gunfire. After they were shot, their body was loaded onto the vehicle so as not to leave a trace. Americans, Americans We suddenly changed direction, probably because the allies were approaching, and they marched us towards another quarry. We saw low-flying aeroplanes approach and dropped to the ground. On the left, I saw grass and on the right were meadows. From behind us came a tank with a machine gun loaded on the front. As it started shooting at us, people jumped up and shouted, “Americans, Americans!” A wave of euphoria spread through us and we were all on our feet. The SS guys threw their guns to the ground and ran towards the fields. It’s hard to describe the scene. People were crying, shouting, laughing and hugging, there was a huge emotional outburst. Some people jumped on the SS guys and tried to beat them while other SS guys were caught by the Americans. Close call The Americans told us to walk to the next town, which was 2km (1.3 miles) away. On the way there, German planes passed overhead, and they fired at us with machines guns. We ran for cover. Some people hid under the tanks. I ran towards a small bush, but just before I reached it, I saw someone was already hiding there. There was a spray of machine gun fire and the bullets kicked up dust as they hit the dry ground. The person hiding under the bush was killed. That could have been me. I was just a few metres from death. We watched the aeroplanes fly off and carried on towards the city. When we got there, it was deserted. We went into the houses and salvaged pickled food. I quickly realised it was impossible to get a job if I told people I’d been in Buchenwald, so I kept silent. Andrei Iwanowitsch on looking for work after his discharge from the Soviet Army The adults got drunk with the American soldiers. They couldn’t speak English, the only thing they could say was, “Roosevelt, Stalin!” During the two weeks we were there, the Americans encouraged us to emigrate to America, the UK and even Australia. I didn’t want to emigrate. On May 1, I turned 18, and four days later I was drawn into the Soviet Army. Those who were younger or a lot older were sent home. There weren’t enough soldiers, so instead of just two years’ service, I served six years in the 120th Guard Unit in Minsk, Belarus. Finding love I was released from the army in November 1950. I had no family, so I decided to stay in Minsk. I quickly realised it was impossible to get a job if I told people I’d been in Buchenwald, so I kept silent. I got a job at an engineering company called Amkodor and four times a week I went to evening school. I met my wife, Claudia, in the summer of 1953 and we married three months later. She was the love of my life, we had two sons. When I finished my schooling, I went to the Belarusian National Technical University for evening classes. I graduated in 1960 and got a job in an engineering company where I worked for 35 years until I retired. My wife died in the 1980s. Later, I had a girlfriend, Galya, but she has also died now. Opening up In 2005, I was invited by the German government to the Buchenwald Commemoration Day. I had spent my life not talking about Buchenwald, but the invitation meant that I could speak about what had happened more openly. Aside from two years during the pandemic, I’ve been to the commemoration day every year. Each year fewer people attend – from 500 people, it’s now just me left. I will go this April. When I’m there, they treat me well and show that they care about me. I’m very glad that there has been this reconciliation. Captured on film My life has been very narrow. I went from Buchenwald to the army and after that I worked, learned and studied hard. I didn’t see anything of the world. In 2012, I met (Hong Kong-based German business representative) Hannes Farlock. We became friends and he made a documentary about me, Ja, Andrei Iwanowitsch. Hannes invited me to Hong Kong in February. It is incredible to see this super city. Even in 150 years, Belarus will be nothing like this city. My wife, children and siblings have all died. I’m the only one who is still alive. I’m grateful for every day that I have. I feel very content that in my later years I have this possibility to see the world.

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More blue skies ahead for Sydney’s Easter long weekend

Blue skies, no breeze and 27 degrees – Sydneysiders waking up on Easter Sunday can expect another picture-perfect autumn day. Both Good Friday and Easter Saturday saw the mercury nudge 27 degrees on two cloudless Sydney March days, with crowds flocking to the city’s beaches, parks and markets. Easter Sunday is forecast to be similar. “There’s more of the same for Easter Sunday. There’s a chance of a little bit of fog as far west as Richmond,” Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Angus Hines said on Saturday. “There’s more warm weather on the way, we’ve got clear skies and high of 27 on Monday too.

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Volunteers uncover fate of thousands of Lost Alaskans sent to Oregon mental hospital a century ago

Lucy Pitka McCormick’s relatives cooked salmon, moose, beaver and muskrat over an earthen firepit on the banks of the Chena River, just outside Fairbanks, as they honored her life. They whipped whitefish, blueberries and lard into a traditional Alaska Native dessert, and dolloped servings onto a paper plate, setting it in the flames to feed her spirit. The family prayed as McCormick’s great-grandson built a small plywood coffin that was filled with gifts and necessities for the next world, such as her granddaughter’s artwork and a hairbrush. The weeklong Koyukon Athabascan burial ceremony in September was traditional in all ways but one: McCormick died in 1931. Her remains were only recently identified and returned to family. McCormick was one of about 5,500 Alaskans between 1904 and the 1960s who were committed to a hospital in Portland, Oregon, after being deemed by a jury “really and truly insane,” a criminal offense. There were no facilities to treat those with mental illness or developmental disabilities in what was then the Alaska territory, so they were sent — often by dog sled, sleigh or stagecoach — to a waiting ship in Valdez. The 2,500-mile (4,000 km) journey ended at Morningside Hospital. Many never left, and their families never learned their fate. They are known as the Lost Alaskans. For more than 15 years, volunteers in Fairbanks and in Portland have been working to identify the people who were committed to the hospital. Many were buried in Portland cemeteries, some in unmarked pauper graves. A few, like McCormick, have been returned to Alaska for proper burials. “It was pretty powerful that we had Lucy back,” said her grandson, Wally Carlo. “You could feel the energy when she came back to Alaska, like she had to wait 90-some years for this.” A new database went online in February to help families see if their long-lost auntie or great-grandfather were among those sent to Morningside. The website, which builds on an earlier blog, is a clearinghouse for research performed by the volunteers. Finding information has been laborious. Most records at the private hospital were lost in a 1968 fire, and territorial officials didn’t document those who were committed. The volunteers became history detectives in an investigation that has spanned more than 15 years. Among them: former Alaska health commissioner Karen Perdue; two retired state judges, Niesje Steinkruger and the late Meg Green; and two other Fairbanks residents, Ellen Ganley and Robin Renfroe, aided by Eric Cordingley, a cemetery volunteer in Portland. They combed through dusty Department of Interior records at the National Archives, the Alaska and Oregon state archives, and old Alaska court records for any tidbit: the results of commitment trials, cemetery files, death certificates, old newspaper stories and U.S. marshals reimbursement records for the costs of escorting patients. Ganley and Perdue started the search at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, in 2008. Armed with laptops and a scanner, they gave themselves a week to find any reference to Perdue’s uncle, Gilford Kriska, who had disappeared from the village of Nulato, on the Yukon River in western Alaska, when he was a boy. They found a wealth of information about others in Morningside’s payment requests for housing Alaskans. Finally, they saw her uncle’s name on a patient trust account, showing the federal government owed him a few cents. That entry provided his patient number, which they used to uncover more about Kriska, including that it was village nuns who had him committed. Kriska eventually returned to Fairbanks, where Perdue said she met him once in the 1970s. “He was mildly what we would call developmentally disabled today,” she said. He could read and write but had few life skills. Perdue said that while she was health commissioner, from 1994 to 2001, many people approached her with similar stories of long-missing relatives. That pain had been passed down in the families for decades — “intergenerational trauma,” Perdue said. There are several thousand names in the new database, with more names and details being added. Users might be able to find when and why a patient was committed, when they left or died, a burial location, and a death certificate. The hospital was founded in the late 19th century by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, initially in his home and later on a bucolic farm in Portland. It operated under several names before it was called Morningside. In 1904 it received a government contract to care for mentally ill Alaskans, a contract that lasted until after Alaska gained statehood in 1959 and began to build its own mental health facilities. A variety of Alaskans wound up there: miners, housewives, Alaska Natives, a co-founder of Juneau, a banker from Fairbanks. Causes included postpartum depression, cabin fever, epilepsy, addiction and syphilis. The youngest patient was 6 weeks old; the oldest was 96. Parents sometimes would frighten their children into behaving by mentioning the hospital. “Inside, outside, Morningside,” became a common phrase denoting people could stay in Alaska, move away or be committed. It was likely letters written by the patients were never sent, and they never received mail meant for them, according to evidence found by retired judge Steinkruger. Morningside’s treatment of its residents came under public scrutiny by the 1950s. Congressional hearings and public outrage eventually helped force its closure in 1968. A shuttered mall off Interstate 205 now sits on its former grounds. From Portland, Cordingley documented burial sites at several cemeteries and obtained 1,200 Oregon death certificates. “I’m just glad that I happened to be here when they needed someone to help,” said Cordingley, who has volunteered at his neighborhood cemetery for about 15 years, helping to clean headstones and decipher obscure burial records. In 2012, he began creating his own databases to help families find lost loved ones. He built three virtual cemeteries at www.findagrave.com, including photos of death certificates, burial sites and in some cases the patients. One virtual site is dedicated to Alaska Natives who died at Morningside, a second to other patients and a third for Alaska children who died at another Oregon institution, Baby Louise Haven. Cordingley found Lucy McCormick’s grave marker in Portland, informed the family — they were stunned — and later watched as she was disinterred. McCormick’s aunt, Fairbanks furrier Helen Callahan, claimed she was “insane,” and McCormick was admitted to Morningside April 5, 1930, after a jury confirmed Callahan’s diagnosis, records show. In January 1931, doctors performed a hysterectomy. McCormick died within weeks from a post-surgery infection. Wally Carlo said his father and uncles never talked about McCormick, and he never knew what happened to her. After Cordingley found her grave, the family decided to bring her home, Carlo said. On a beautiful fall day, relatives launched four boats on the Yukon River to take her to her birthplace in the village of Rampart. They were escorted by eagles and swans, “like a salute to Grandma Lucy,” he said. She was laid to rest on a hill overlooking the village of 29 people and the river. “Don’t ever give up hope and try to get them back to where they belong,” he said. “Their spirits don’t rest until they’re found and brought back home.” ___ Online: The new database: www.lostalaskans.com A prior blog: www.morningsidehospital.com Alaska Natives who died at Morningside: https://www.findagrave.com/virtual-cemetery/552288 Other patients who died at Morningside: https://www.findagrave.com/virtual-cemetery/152302

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