Chief Minister of India’s Telangana state issues shoot at sight orders for defying virus curfew

Security personnel patrol a deserted street during the first day of a 21-day nationwide lockdown in Siliguri on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Updated 26 March 2020

Chief Minister of India’s Telangana state issues shoot at sight orders for defying virus curfew

  • Experts worry about impact of lockdown on economically marginalized people

NEW DELHI: Hours after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days on Tuesday night, the southern state of Telangana sent a stronger warning saying authorities would issue “shoot on sight” orders if the curfew was not observed.

Telangana Chief Minister K C Rao’s statement came in the wake of several people defying the lockdown by venturing out onto the streets.

“Please don’t let it come to this. The administration cannot stop everyone, and I will have to call in the army or issue ‘shoot on sight’ orders,” Rao said in a press briefing late on Tuesday night, hours after Modi’s address to the nation where he decreed a three-week lockdown for 1.3 billion people.

He further requested people to “stay at home” as, otherwise “the entire society will get hurt. Nobody should step out of their homes strictly after 7 a.m. 

“If they need something, they can dial 100 and the police will help them. If need be, we will also shut down petrol pumps,” Rao said.

Political analysts said that the shoot order reflected “the frustration of the government at a time when an unmanageable crisis” was unfolding.

“The government has woken up late to the escalating coronavirus crisis. It now wants to control it somehow. But you cannot stop people from stepping out on the street who survive on daily wages,” Prof. Venkat Narayan of Telangana-based Warangal University told Arab News.

By Wednesday, Telangana had reported 36 positive cases compared to the all-India figure of 562 – a jump of 19 cases since Tuesday.

Close on its heels was another southern state, Tamil Nadu, which also registered its first death due to the virus, taking the total toll across India to 11.

Meanwhile, many places across India witnessed panic buying after Tuesday’s announcement of a nationwide lockdown.

“We were already preparing ourselves for a tough time ahead, but the sudden announcement of the nationwide lockdown on Tuesday night has taken us by surprise. On top of that the government’s harsh measures to control mobility on the street has compelled us to stock rations,” Ganesh Kumar, a resident of Mokama in the eastern state of Bihar, told Arab News.

The government, however, assured people that essential services would be maintained and that there was no need to panic.

“People don’t need to worry about essential services. The government will ensure a supply of essential items,” Modi said in his address to the nation.

Some experts said they were worried about the impact of the lockdown on economically marginalized people.

“We cannot allow a virus safety protocol only for the middle-class who have homes and secure jobs and force the poor to stay hungry, walk hundreds of kilometers to their villages, with the police beating them. The government must find ways to save us all, rich and poor together,” Delhi-based social activist Harsh Mander said.

Prashant Kishore, a Patna-based political activist,said: “We are paying the price for being behind the curve. The decision to lockdown India may be right, but 21 days might be a bit too long.

“But then this is the price one pays for being behind the curve. With the shaky preparedness to deal with the Covid 19 crisis and very little to safeguard the poor, we could be staring at some tough days ahead,” he said.

Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

Updated 30 March 2020

Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

  • The 1884 painting, titled the ‘Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,’ was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam
  • The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million

THE HAGUE: Thieves stole a painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh early Monday in a daring heist from a museum that was closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 1884 painting, titled the “Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,” was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam.
The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million ($6.6 million).
“I am shocked and unbelievably annoyed this theft has happened,” Jan Rudolph de Lorm, one of the museum’s directors, told a press conference.
“Art is there to be seen, to be enjoyed, to inspire and to bring solace, particularly in these troubled times in which we find ourselves,” De Lorm said.
The theft happened on what would have been the 167th birthday of the brilliant yet troubled artist.
“Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring” comes from relatively early on in Van Gogh’s career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist paintings such as “Sunflowers” and his vivid self-portraits.
The painting was on loan from its owners, the Groninger Museum in the north of the Netherlands, as part of an exhibition.
The Singer Laren museum closed two weeks ago in compliance with Dutch government measures aimed at tackling the spread of COVID-19.
Dutch police said the criminals had broken in at around 3:15 am (0115 GMT).
“Police officers immediately rushed to the scene but the perpetrators had escaped,” Dutch police said in a statement, appealing for witnesses.
The painting has an estimated value of between one million and six million euros, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand said.
“The hunt is on,” said Brand, who is known for recovering stolen Nazi art including “Hitler’s Horses.”
It was the third time the famous Dutch master’s works have been targeted in the Netherlands since the 1990s, Brand said.
“To me this looks like the work of a copycat,” Brand told AFP, adding the modus operandi was similar to the other two cases.
“The thieves only went for a Van Gogh, while there are other works too in the museum,” he said.
Asked whether he thought there was enough security at the museum Brand said “it is very difficult to say.”
“Securing a painting is very difficult. It is something that has to be displayed for people to see,” he said.
The museum’s 3,000 pieces also include works by Dutch abstract master Piet Mondrian and Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, as well as a casting of “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin.
Singer Laren was targeted in 2007 when thieves stole a number of castings from its gardens including “The Thinker,” Dutch media reports said. The castings were recovered two days later.
Two Van Gogh masterpieces went back on display at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum last year after they were stolen from the museum in 2002.
The paintings — the 1882 ” View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and the 1884/5 “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” — were recovered by Italian investigators in September 2016 when they raided a home belonging to an infamous mafia drug baron near Naples.
Previously three Van Goghs that were stolen from the Noordbrabants Museum in 1990 later resurfaced when a notorious Dutch criminal made a deal with prosecutors.