MCI (P) 078/03/2019
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
MAY 17, 2019
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FROM PAGES 16 TO 19
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Ms Ruby Shekhar (left) and followers of Demure Drapes Facebook page celebrating Singapore’s bicentennial.
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Museum on Mughals, war
memorial to open in Red Fort
A museum displaying the government’s
historical and rare collections of
Mughal antiquities and the Indian War
Memorial will soon add to the array of
British barrack buildings, redeveloped
as museums, in the Red Fort in Delhi. It
could open by 2019 end.
The announcement, coming ahead
of the International Museum Day on
May 18, was made by leading art
gallery DAG, which won the bidding
conducted by the Archaeological
Survey of India.
India to extend ban on LTTE
The Indian government has extended
for another five years its ban on the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE), which assassinated former
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in
1991, it was announced on Tuesday.
“The LTTE’s continued violent and
disruptive activities are prejudicial to
the integrity and sovereignty of India;
and it continues to adopt a strong
anti-India posture and pose a grave
threat to the security of Indian
nationals,” the announcement said.
The LTTE, which was described as a
militant and political organisation, has
been blamed for the May 1991 suicide
bombing at an election rally near
Chennai which killed Rajiv Gandhi and
several others, prompting one of the
biggest crackdowns in India.
Tension in Kolkata as election
violence breaks out
Clashes broke out in Kolkata on
Tuesday evening as the mega rally of
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit
Shah passed through the north Kolkata
According to eye witnesses, the
clashes were triggered after students
presumably from the Trinamool
Congress’ students’ wing of Vidyasagar
College held up “Go back, Amit Shah”
posters when his roadshow passed the
The first floor hall of the college was
ransacked and at least three
motorcycles were set on fire. Several
people, mostly Trinamool Congress
supporters, were injured.
At least 300 Himalayan yaks
starve to death
Indian officials said that at least 300
yaks (a large domesticated wild ox)
starved to death in a remote Himalayan
valley after a bout of unusually harsh
Officials in Sikkim said they received
the first distress call from 50 people in
the remote Mukuthang Valley in
December last year.
Following very heavy snowfall the
residents asked for help providing feed
for their herd of around 1,500 yaks, a
source of local milk, milk products,
transportation and wool.
Local official Raj Kumar Yadav said
several attempts to reach them were
made but it was impossible because of
the weather conditions.
Local families have reported the
deaths of 500 yaks due to starvation,
while 50 yaks are receiving urgent
Glucose, milk poured into Yamuna
Environment activists in Agra
symbolically poured glucose and milk
into the “dying and sick” Yamuna river
in Agra to raise awareness about the
chronic pollution plaguing the river.
Several members of the River
Connect Campaign gathered by the
Yamuna to express their concern for the
sacred river, considered to be almost
“dead” due to pollutants and effluents.
They offered boxes of glucose and
milk to “Yamuna Maiyya” (mother
Yamuna) on the occasion of Mothers’
It was also aimed at showing their
affinity and bonding with the lifeline of
the historic city.
“Unfortunately, the river has been
reduced to a vast sewage canal,” social
activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.
Grenade blast in Assam
At least 10 people were wounded in a
grenade explosion in Assam on Wednes-
day but no militant group has so far
claimed responsibility for the attack, po-
“It was a grenade blast probably tar-
geted against security personnel con-
ducting routine patrols in the area,”
said Deepak Kumar, police commis-
sioner in Assam’s capital Guwahati.
The blast in a busy street in Guwa-
hati occurred at night and those injured
included two police officers and eight
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‘Art of camouflage
A photograph of a snow leopard clicked by
wildlife photographer Saurabh Desai has
gone viral on social media after many
netizens found it hard to spot the animal on
a rocky mountain with patches of snow.
Mr Desai, who clicked the photograph
during his visit to the Spiti Valley in
Himachal Pradesh, shared the image on his
Instagram account with the caption “Art of
The image soon went viral, garnering
over 14,000 likes. Many netizens found it
difficult to spot the camouflaged leopard and
challenged their friends to do the same.
Mr Desai visited the Kibber village,
believed to be the highest motorable village
in the world, and caught a glimpse of the
snow leopard 8km from the village.
Cheap tools help parties bypass WhatsApp
WhatsApp clones and software tools
that cost as little as Rs1,000 ($19.50)
are helping Indian digital marketers and
political activists bypass anti-spam re-
strictions set up by the world’s most pop-
ular messaging app, Reuters has found.
The activities highlight the chal-
lenges WhatsApp, which is owned by
Facebook, faces in preventing abuse in
India, its biggest market with more than
200 million users.
With fervent campaigning in India’s
staggered general election, which con-
cludes on Sunday, the demand for such
tools has surged, according to digital
companies and sources in the ruling
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its
main rival, the Congress.
After false messages on WhatsApp
last year sparked mob lynchings in In-
dia, the company restricted forwarding
of a message to only five users.
The software tools appear to over-
come those restrictions, allowing users
to reach thousands of people at once.
Ms Divya Spandana, the social me-
dia chief of the Congress, and the BJP’s
IT head Amit Malviya did not respond
to requests for comment.
Mr Rohitash Repswal, who owns a
digital marketing business in a
cramped, residential neighbourhood of
New Delhi, said he ran a Rs1,000 piece
of software round-the-clock in recent
months to send up to 100,000 What-
sApp messages a day for two BJP mem-
“Whatever WhatsApp does, there’s
a workaround,” Mr Repswal said.
Reuters found WhatsApp was mis-
used in at least three ways in India for
political campaigning: Free clone apps
available online were used by some BJP
and Congress workers to manually for-
ward messages on a mass basis; soft-
ware tools which allow users to auto-
mate delivery of WhatsApp messages;
and some firms offering political work-
ers the chance to go onto a website and
send bulk WhatsApp messages from
At least three software tools were
available on Amazon.com’s India web-
When purchased by a Reuters re-
porter, they arrived as compact discs
tucked inside thin cardboard casings,
with no company branding.
WhatsApp declined a Reuters re-
quest to allow testing such tools for re-
porting this story.
“We are continuing to step up our en-
forcement against imposter WhatsApp
services and take legal action by send-
ing cease and desist letters to hundreds
of bulk messaging service providers to
help curb abuse,” a spokeswoman said.
“We do not want them to operate on
our platform and we work to ban
Modified versions of popular apps
have become common as technically-
savvy hobbyists have long reverse-engi-
Tools purporting to bypass What-
sApp restrictions are advertised in
videos and online forums aimed at
users in Indonesia and Nigeria, both of
which held major elections this year.
For Indian politicians, WhatsApp,
Facebook and Twitter are key campaign-
ing tools to target the country’s near
900 million voters.
Two Congress sources and one BJP
source told Reuters that their workers
used clone apps such as “GBWhat-
sApp” and “JTWhatsApp”, which al-
lowed them to cut through WhatsApp’s
Both apps have a green-colour inter-
face that closely resembles WhatsApp
and can be downloaded for free from
dozens of technology blogs.
They are not available on Google’s of-
ficial app store but work on Android
WhatsApp describes such apps as
“unofficial” and says its users can face
bans, which means the company can
block the account associated with a par-
ticular mobile number if it detects un-
Some Congress workers said they
did not care.
“WhatsApp occasionally bans some
of these numbers, but the volunteers
will use new (mobile) sim cards to sign
up,” said a Congress member.
In Mumbai, a person in the social me-
dia team of a senior BJP candidate said
no restrictions on JTWhatsApp meant
his team could easily send forwards to
up to 6,000 people a day, as well as
video files containing political content
which would be far bigger in size than
allowed on the official WhatsApp ser-
Reuters was not able to ascertain the
overall scale of such activities and
found no evidence that BJP and Con-
gress leaders officially ordered workers
to campaign this way.
Mr Repswal said he would typically
charge Rs150,000 for a month’s service
for creating digital content, providing a
database of mobile numbers and then
sending 300,000 WhatsApp messages.
He uses a piece of software named
“Business Sender” which he said he
also sells for Rs1,000. A person can add
many mobile numbers in a field and
compose messages with pictures.
Using a so-called “Group Contacts
Grabber” feature, the user can also ex-
tract a list of mobile numbers from a par-
ticular WhatsApp group with a click of
Mr Repswal didn’t name the two
BJP members he worked for, but in a
demonstration for Reuters, added
dozens of mobile numbers in the soft-
ware, typed a test message saying “your
vote is your right” and hit “send”.
Then, his WhatsApp web version
started delivering the messages almost
robotically, one after the other.
Business Sender was “not supported
or endorsed” by WhatsApp and was de-
veloped by “Tiger Vikram Mysore IN-
DIA”, its system properties said.
A member of the software support
team at Business Sender, Mr Rajesh K.,
declined to identify the developer by
his real name, but said the tool was de-
signed in Lebanon about four months
ago and takes advantage of what he
called a “loophole” in WhatsApp’s sys-
“This is not rocket science or fabri-
cated software,” said Mr Rajesh.
“There are hundreds of such soft-
Last month, when a Reuters reporter
responded to a text message with an
“Election Special” offer of sending
100,000“bulk WhatsApp” messages
for Rs7,999, he was invited to an office
in a dusty industrial area of Noida in
northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“How many messages you want to
send, tell us: 10,000, 1 million, 2 mil-
lion,” a representative asked, while
showing a black-coloured, password-
protected website they use for sending
bulk WhatsApp messages.
– A member of
Mr Rajesh K.
Digital marketer Rohitash Repswal checking a message that he sent using a software tool
that automates the process of sending messages to WhatsApp users.
With his neatly trimmed white beard
and a sleeveless jacket thrown over his
traditional shirt, Mr Abhinandan
Pathak turns heads thanks to an un-
canny resemblance to Indian Prime Min-
ister Narendra Modi.
But Mr Pathak – almost the same
height and build as Mr Modi and who
even walks in a similar way – is no ordi-
Bitter at Mr Modi’s “failed prom-
ises”, Mr Pathak is running as an inde-
pendent against the prime minister’s
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s
marathon election – and is getting a lot
The largest elections on earth wraps
up on Sunday after seven weeks of in-
tense campaigning and the votes of 900
“The anger (towards Mr Modi) is
real. I can feel it wherever I go,”
Mr Pathak, 58, told AFP from his one-
room shanty home in the northern city
of Lucknow, in India’s most populous
state of Uttar Pradesh.
When Mr Modi was elected in 2014,
Mr Pathak was a supporter. Because of
his resemblance to the prime minister,
people “adored me, they asked for self-
ies and hugged me.”
“I was showered with love. People
thought that if they can’t meet the real
Modi, they might as well meet me,” he
said. “But now they get angry when
they see me. They ask me ‘where are the
good days’,” he said, after Modi’s 2014
election slogan “achhe din ayenge”
(“good days will come”).
Mr Pathak’s brightest moment came
in May 2014, when, he says, Mr Modi
hugged him during a victory parade in
the city of Varanasi.
But it all went downhill after that. He
was ignored by the party and his many
letters to Mr Modi went unanswered,
Mr Pathak said.
Lookalike candidates are nothing
new in the colourful world of Indian pol-
itics. Their presence invariably invokes
curiosity, with crowds thronging to
catch a glimpse of the duplicates.
In Mumbai, another Mr Modi looka-
like – Mr Vikas Mahante – has been out
and about on the campaign trail in a dis-
trict of the city, and on a BJP ticket.
The 57-year-old businessman, who
even played Mr Modi in a little-known
2017 biopic, has been the star attraction
at rallies. But it can get hairy.
Once people threw stones at him and
he had to be rushed to safety. Now the
lookalike has his own bodyguard.
“Once I was chased by a gang of men
around midnight while I was returning
from a rally,” he told the Hindustan
Times in 2017. “(I) stepped on the accel-
erator, jumped all signals and didn’t
In 2014, Mr Prashant Sethi lapped
up being a dead ringer for Mr Rahul
Gandhi, the scion of the country’s
Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty and
Mr Modi’s main challenger in both the
2014 and 2019 elections.
Mr Sethi, who sells fried chicken in
Surat in the western state of Gujarat,
was reportedly offered a film role too.
But now the Mr Modi supporter has
He has transformed his look: Putting
on weight, growing a beard and chang-
ing his hairstyle – all to look different
from Mr Gandhi.
“Me and my family have been sup-
porters of the BJP since the beginning.
But because of my look I was always
teased,” Mr Sethi told AFP.
“People had started calling me
pappu,” he said, referring to a common
nickname – used by Mr Gandhi’s detrac-
tors – for slightly stupid individuals. “So
I had to change my look,” he said.
But feisty father-of-six Pathak has no
wish to change.
“Why should I? I have been in poli-
tics since the ’90s and I have always
sported the beard and kurta,” he said,
referring to a traditional Indian long-
sleeved shirt and showing a picture from
his younger days.
“I am the original one, Modi is my
‘I’m the original,
Modi is my lookalike’
Mr Abhinandan Pathak speaking to youths.
As India’s best-known female private
eye, Ms Rajani Pandit has posed as
crazy, blind and deaf to solve murders
and unmask unsuitable fiances. But elec-
tion time is boom time for the woman
dubbed “Miss Marple”.
In the world’s biggest elections, Ms
Pandit and others like her have been in
high demand from political parties to
dig up dirt on the opposition and make
sure their own candidates are squeaky
“It’s confidential but whenever a
party finds one of its own candidates or
an opposition candidate suspicious they
ask us to investigate them,” said Mum-
bai-based Ms Pandit, 57.
“Often we are asked to look into
their finances and how they have pro-
cured money to fund their campaigns.
We try to maintain a low profile.”
Ms Pandit added that her team has
been busy “integrating” themselves
into political parties since January, in-
specting finances and attending rallies
before submitting reports to their
“There’s usually a surge of cases
ahead of the elections. We’ve been inun-
dated with requests and were only able
to take on a few,” she said.
Mr Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman
of India’s Association of Private Detec-
tives and Investigators, said “there’s a
lot of due diligence”.
“(A candidate’s) local reputation, in-
fluence, his stance in his own caste... all
these things are looked into,” he said.
Private detective agencies are popu-
lar in India, with sleuths tasked with
solving everything from household
thefts to business deals gone wrong.
Ms Pandit has been conducting
covert operations across India for over
30 years out of her small office in Mum-
The investigator was dubbed India’s
first female private detective by media
outlets when she began cracking cases
in the early 1980s.
She has been featured in countless
newspaper articles, often referred to as
India’s “Miss Marple” or “Nancy
Drew”, Agatha Christie’s fictional spin-
ster sleuth and the ever-evolving Ameri-
can amateur detective.
This has encouraged scores of
women in male-dominated India to fol-
low in her footsteps.
Several women-dominated investiga-
tive firms now operate in the country,
such as Lady Detectives India and
Venus Detective which are both head-
quartered in the capital New Delhi.
“Clients are open a lot more to hav-
ing a female investigator. They feel we
are more empathetic and that they can
talk to us,” Lady Detectives CEO Tanya
Ms Pandit first started snooping as a
22-year-old at college, informing the
parents of a fellow student that their
daughter was drinking, smoking and
hanging out with boys.
Her most difficult case was when she
worked undercover for six months as a
maid for a woman who was suspected
of poisoning her husband to death and
then killing her son through a hitman.
She gathered evidence and handed it
over to police who arrested the hitman
and the woman.
Pandit has won numerous awards,
written two books and says she has com-
pleted more than 80,000 cases – most of
them pre-matrimonial investigations.
Parents in the ultra-conservative
country seeking a suitable husband or
wife for their children will ask her to in-
vestigate the potential spouse and their
She looks into whether they have the
job they say they have and tries to find
out if there is anything in their past that
might be deemed to bring shame to the
family they are marrying into.
Ms Pandit has had to be the master
of subterfuge to gather evidence, includ-
ing donning “various disguises”.
But she says she received no formal
“Detectives are born, not made. I
will keep doing this job until I am no
longer alive,” she said.
Indian ‘Miss Marple’ snoops on election candidates
May 17, 2019
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