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Indian group makes it to Guinness Book of World Records for longest underwater human chain

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A group of 182 Indians from Pune have created a new world record for the longest underwater human chain, earning an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. The feat was achieved under the banner of Chrysalis Entrepreneur Forum (India) at Koh Tao in Thailand on Tuesday. The earlier record was held by a group of 173 Italians. Milind Shalgar representing the group said that Dr Manish Gupta had led the team and they had been preparing for the Guinness record for the last six months. The group had carried an 8X12 feet​ tri-color flag and sang the national anthem before beginning their effort to create the record. They also performed a prayer for Lord Ganesha to succeed in their effort. All the 182 people had to wear scuba-diving attire, masks and cylinders and had to abide by the rules of the instructors. Video footage was sent to the arbitrator who interviewed all the members and then announced that the Indian group had broken the previous record to create a new Guinness Book World Record of the longest underwater human chain.

Ahead of Trupti Desai’s march, Kerala govt says women activists not allowed inside Sabarimala temple

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kerala government said that the entry of Bhumata Brigade chief Trupti Desai on Monday will not be allowed in the Lord Ayyappa temple here, even as the activist plans to lead 100 odd women to the famous hill shrine in Sabarimala. There are restrictions for the entry of women between 10-50 years of age in the temple.”The Sabarimala temple is administered by Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and its traditions and rules are applicable to everyone,” Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran told reporters here.”The matter with regard to entry of women of all age groups is already before the Supreme Court. There will be no change in the tradition and customs,” until a decision is taken by the Supreme Court, he said.The CPI(M)-led LDF government’s stand comes after it had filed an affidavit in the supreme court last month informing that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the Sabarimala temple.Trupti Desai had recently stated that she would be visiting the Lord Ayyappa temple next month with 100 odd activists and there was no change in her plans.Desai had earlier campaigned for the entry of women at the Shani Shingnapur, Trimbakeshwar Shiva temple and Haji Ali Dargah.

Goans celebrate Christmas with traditional fervour

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Goans celebrate Christmas with traditional fervourWith the peel of the midnight bells, churches across Goa celebrated the birth of Lord Jesus heralding the Christmas season which will culminate with New Year festivities.Lakhs of faithfuls attended the midnight masses which were held across the state celebrating birth of Jesus Christ, followed by traditional dances at various places.Goa has 27% of its population following Roman Catholic faith. Cribs were unveiled at many places after midnight masses, depicting the birth of Jesus Christ in the stable.Archbishop of Goa and Daman Fr Filipe Neri Ferrao’s Christmas eve message was broadcast across the state through cable network on television in which he emphasised for the nations to take unified action against environmental degradation and irresponsible development.”This Christmas let us make room for God to change us and through us change the world around us. Cutting across man-made barriers, let us commit ourselves to build a new society wherein everyone would be welcomed, accepted and loved,” the Archbishop said in the traditional message.The Archbishop’s Palace, located at Altinho in Panaji city, would be hosting a civic reception on December 28 which is expected to be attended by several prominent personalities, including Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Governor Mridula Sinha and Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, a spokesman for the church said today.While locals are busy celebrating Christmas, more tourists are expected to arrive in the state to usher in the New Year. “We expect good response for the New Year season this year. The visitors have already started arriving. This is the time when everyone wants to be in Goa and they are right in deciding Goa as their New Year celebration destination,” state Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar.He ruled out any impact of demonetization on the tourist inflow.”There was slight impact initially, but now things are normal,” he said.

Lord Venkateswara comes to Belapur

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) has allotted 2.4 acres land at Belapur in Navi Mumbai to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) for construction of a Lord Venkateswara Swamy temple. Its board approved the direct allotment of two plots at Parsik Hill, Belapur.According to a Cidco official, the TTD board chairman Chandalwada Krishnamurthy and executive officer D Sambasiva Rao had met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in April to this end.“They presented him a letter of representation from AP Chief Minister,” said an official.Early this month, Cidco board allocated two plots of 1900 and 2900 sq metre for the temple.

Morari Bapu’s Ram katha makes space for transgenders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Renowned guru Morari Bapu’s popular week-long Manas Ram Katha was special this week. The katha that started last Saturday in Thane, is dedicated to the transgender community.Called Manas Kinnar Ram Katha, this is the first time this community has been included in a spiritual milieu.Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, the popular Thane-based transgender activist, present at the Katha says, “No spiritual or religious leader in the world has ever done this kind of a community event for us and for that, I’m grateful to him.” The community lauds the non-judgemental attitude that Morari Bapu has; relating everything strictly from the religious texts, pulling out references from the books and texts of the past.One such reference was Tulsi Das’ mention of ‘kinnar’ in the Ramayana. The dedication of this Rama Katha has been widely appreciated by the members of the transgender community. Bapu says, “We all need to make efforts to involve them (the transgender community) in every aspect of our society. There’s one member here who has come from Lucknow who aspires to contest the elections in UP. And why not? It’s time we all support them.”Considering that this has been the first time ever in the history of India, that such an initiative has been adopted, people from the transgender community from across the country have ensured their presence here. A delighted Shamabai from Akola says, “It is unbelievable that Bapu has done this for my community, and made provisions for food and stay. I’m overwhelmed. Listening to him is like listening to Lord Ram.”“We all are enjoying this, and I feel that this the golden moment for the transgender community. We are hoping that after this, more and more people, especially the Chief Minister of Maharashtra looks into grassroot problems of the community,” says Lachitai, a transgender activist from Pune.Bapu has suggested that Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, noted transgender activist, should get the community to conduct a Ram Katha. “The day a person from the transgender community conducts a Ram Katha, I will light the diya and offer my team of musicians to the katha.”

The toxic waters of religion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as numerous steps are being taken towards cleaning the Ganga, Yamuna, and other rivers, researchers continue to suggest that various religious practices are responsible for polluting the holy waters on a much larger scale than toxic industrial waste.While yagnas (fire rituals), days of fasting, and walking barefoot to the shrine make up most Hindu activities, taking a ‘dip’ in ‘holy water’ to wash away the sins of mortals is a ritual often followed during various festivals. Even the immersion of deities after keeping them for days at home is another ritual causing damage to rivers.Every time a pilgrim takes a ‘holy’ dip in those river, they swallow copious amounts of toxic material flushed from power plants or the waste thrown in the river.In the latest trend, Chath puja in Delhi was observed by taking a dip in the pond at India Gate or at the already polluted Yamuna where huge idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali are also immersed every year. During the month of September, devotees flock to the beaches of Mumbai with thousands of Ganesh idols for immersion, days after which the idols often wash up on shore.Also, cremated remains are floated in the river, believing the dead will not attain salvation if the last remains are not immersed. This practice is adding to the woes of the rising problem of water pollution. According to a Rishikesh based NGO, Ganga Action Parivar, “When the river in Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar is cleaned for two months we collect a large quantity of wastes like matki, plastic bags, garlands, coins, etc. Not only this, Hindu’s mostly cremate ashes here. But these don’t harm the river as much as the idols made of cement, plastic, and other non-eco friendly things does which are dumped in the river. It resists the flow of water and makes it stagnant. The only way to prevent this is to use eco-friendly idols.”Poor Hindu pilgrims stand at their makeshift campsite. Devotees believe that taking a holy dip in the Ganges washes away their sins and paves the path to salvation. —Getty Images There are some religions which follow the practice of floating the dead bodies in the river which are then eaten by crocodiles. But with the increasing pollution even the habitat of crocodiles has been disturbed hugely. As a result, bodies now get stuck in the river plants or float to the banks adding to the degradation.“The bodies that are floated in the water to make sure it gains eternity, actually get stuck on the banks and infect the river and creates an imbalance to the ecosystem of the river,” said Vineet of Ganga Action Parivar.The Ganga was known to have self-cleansing effect but with the continuous abuse the losing its charm. According to Rakesh, a taxi driver from Uttar Pradesh residing in Mumbai, there is nothing wrong with the Ganga. “It is always needed and is done for good. Ganga can never be dirty, it is holy. Ganga water is used to cure all types of diseases and wash away sins,” he said.Water pollution experts estimate that around 32k human corpses are cremated each year in the Ganges river, Varanasi — GETTY IMAGESExpressing dismay over the deteriorating condition of Ganga, Saurav Tiwari a student of Benaras Hindu University said, “The Ganga river is not in a good shape. Along with industries, various religious practices have also joined hands in slowly poisoning the river.”Not only Ganga but the Yamuna in Delhi and the Mula Mutha in Pune get religiously polluted in the months of September and October.India’s chief sources of water are becoming increasingly unsafe for drinking and for aquatic life. The idea of implementing artificial ponds for devotees to take a dip and other alternatives have never seen the light of the day.

Bad news for Indians? UK planning to cut annual student visa figures by half

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The UK government is finalising plans to cut annual student visa figures by nearly half, from the current 300,000 to 170,000, a media report said today amid a sharp fall in students coming to the country from outside Europe including India. Some university chiefs are also warning that many Indian students are already being denied visas on minor grounds as part of a wider move to cut immigration into the UK.”They are telling some students there is exactly the same quality of course available in India so why are you coming here. That is outrageous,” a UK vice-chancellor was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.The move comes despite recent UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures indicating there has been a drastic drop in students coming to the UK from outside Europe.”There was a statistically significant decline in the number of non-EU citizens migrating to the UK to study, from 134,000 in the previous year to 111,000…there was a statistically significant decline in citizens of South Asia, with the number coming to study having almost halved,” ONS said in its ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: August 2016’.India is the third-largest category in terms of student visa applications after the US and China, with 10,664 granted between June 2015 and 2016.”International students contribute, directly and indirectly, 14 billion pounds to the UK economy, making higher education one of this country’s most valuable exports…Over the last five years, the number of Indian students attending UK universities has halved. I have consistently asked the government to remove students from the net migration target,” said Lord Bilimoria, leading Indian-origin entrepreneur and Cobra Beer founder, who himself came to the UK as a student.”We should immediately re-introduce the two-year post-study work visa, which I fought hard to introduce before its withdrawal in 2012, to allow foreign students to implement their much-needed skills here and help boost our economy,” he added.During British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed on the importance of access for Indian students to UK institutions.”Education is vital for our students and will define our engagement in a shared future. We must therefore encourage greater mobility and participation of young people in educational and research opportunities,” PM Modi had told May in his address at the UK India Tech Summit in New Delhi.However, senior university sources indicate the UK Home Office is on track for some dramatic immigration cuts in student visa numbers. While it has dismissed rumours of an annual cutback of more than two-thirds, the likely cut to around 170,000 seems likely to be enforced. A UK Home Office spokesperson said: “Claims the Home Office is modelling cuts to reduce international students to a third ie 100,000 a year are categorically untrue”.”We want to strengthen the system to support the best universities and those that stick to the rules to attract the best talent. The British people have sent a clear message that they want more control of immigration and we are committed to getting net migration down to sustainable levels in the tens of thousands,” he said.

Sushma Swaraj undergoes kidney transplant at AIIMS

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday underwent a kidney transplant at AIIMS, with the organ being harvested from a living unrelated donor.According to sources at AIIMS, the nearly five-hour-long surgery was conducted at the cardio-thoracic centre by a team of doctors including AIIMS Director MC Mishra, surgeons VK Bansal, V Seenu and nephrologist Sandeep Mahajan. “The surgery started at 9.00 am and ended at 2.30 pm following which the minister has been shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the same building,” the sources said. “Living, unrelated donor could be anyone who is emotionally attached to the recipient, such as friend, a relative, a neighbour or an in-law. As no suitable donor was available in the immediate family, the transplant was done with the kidney from a living unrelated donor. “The clearance from the authorisation committee was obtained prior to the procedure,” the sources at AIIMS said, adding.According to doctors, 64-year-old Swaraj has been suffering from diabetes for quite a long time. After the kidney failure diagnosis, she was put on maintenance dialysis. “She was undergoing dialysis thrice a week,” a senior doctor said.On November 16, Swaraj had tweeted that she was in AIIMS because of kidney failure. “I am in AIIMS because of kidney failure. Presently, I am on dialysis. I am undergoing tests for a kidney transplant. Lord Krishna will bless,” Swaraj had tweeted. Swaraj, who has been in and out of the hospital for last few months, was admitted to AIIMS on November 7.After Swaraj made public her health condition on social media, support had poured in for her with several people offering their kidneys for transplant. Earlier she was admitted to AIIMS in April for treatment of pneumonia and other health issues.

BJP dares Mayawati to clear stand on Ram Temple construction

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday called on the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati to stop playing politics over the Ram Temple issue and dared her to clarify if she was for or against the construction of the controversial temple.BJP leader Shrikant Sharma said the BSP and Mayawati should answer through a press conference whether they are in support or against the establishment of the temple.”They should answer, are they against the temple? Do they not want the establishment of temple there? ‘Sappa’ and Mayawati should say. We challenge them to answer through a press conference whether they are in favour or against the establishment of temple. If they are in support, then why play politics on it? This matter is not of politics but of faith. People are trying to politics in the name of temple.” Sharma said.He further said that it is the manifesto of Bharatiya Janata Party that temple of Lord Ram should be made in Ayodhya.”Crores of people have faith in that location. Grandeur needs to be provided. One way is through court and the other is through the general committee. I think we will be successful in finding a way soon. For us the temple has always been a symbol of faith and all of us want the establishment of lord ram’s temple.” he added.Since 1993, December 6th has been associated more with the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya than with Dr Ambedkar, whose death anniversary is also observed on this day.Earlier this year, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister accused BJP of raking up Ram temple issue with an eye on 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.She attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said like Delhi and Bihar, voters in the state will not fall for his ‘Natak’.”People here will not fall in his trap and in UP elections too BJP will have to face defeat. As UP elections are near, Prime Minister Modi who has ignored the state except his constituency Varanasi has now woken up for its development.” She said.Mayawati futher alleged that the Centre was trying to flatter Dalit voters in the name of B.R. Ambedkar, the government has given full freedom to communal forces, leading to chaos in the country and playing with religious sentiments for votes will not work.”The Centre should have passed bill for reservation in promotions. It should have provided reservation to poor, who migrated to other castes and also upper caste poor by amendment in the Constitution. But it did nothing in this regard,” she added.

Decoing History: A conflict’s conflicting versions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Godhra, a sleepy municipality in Panchmahal District of Eastern Gujarat has become synonymous with the beginning of a series of communal riots which were ‘sparked off’ by an incident which took place off the Godhra railway junction on the morning of February 27, 2002. Conflicting versions of this incident abound and have confused the picture for neutral observers.Version 1.0
The official version of the Gujarat government The Sabarmati Express, zipping on that morning from Varanasi to Ahmedabad via Godhra Junction, had a large group of Hindu Karsewaks returning to Ahmedabad from Ayodhya after performing a ceremony to begin the construction of a temple dedicated to Lord Rama at Ayodhya on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid. The Babri Masjid, a Mughal era mosque, was demolished on December 6, 1992 by a consortium of Hindu revivalist organizations led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on the contention that it was constructed by the demolition of a Hindu temple marking the birthplace of Lord Rama. It has been a contentious issue. The Hindu organisations were seeking a grand Rama temple while the Muslim organisations sought the rebuilding of the demolished structure.Mass funeral of Godhra victims in AhmedabadAs the train which was delayed by about four hours, left the platform at Godhra at 7:43 am, it was halted by pulling the emergency chain, which led to its unscheduled halt slightly ahead at an area called Signal Falia. This is when allegedly a large mob of local Muslims attacked the train pelting it with stones and setting its S6 coach on fire, which resulted in the death of 59 occupants of the train, many of whom were women and children.According to the official version, the attack was pre-planned by local Muslim vendors who lived at Signal Falia with the procurement of an inflammable liquid (probably petrol) which was poured on the floor of the S6 coach before setting it alight. In this version, the key conspirators were local clerics and politicians belonging to the Ghanchi Muslim community and they were helped by the Pakistani intelligence agents. This version was endorsed by the Nanavati-Shah Commission appointed by the Gujarat government to investigate the incident.Version 2.0
NGO-secular activists’ versionAn alternate version claimed by various NGOs, ‘secular’ activists and later the Banerjee Commission set up by the UPA government spoke of a supposed altercation beginning with the molestation of Muslim girl followed by an altercation in S6 between the Karsewaks and a Muslim tea vendor, which led to a mob attacking the train. This version also controversially claimed that the fire was accidental and was used as a ploy to instigate the consequent riots. According to later claims, the fire was allegedly claimed to be planned and executed by the train’s occupants themselves.However, despite the two versions, the fact that the horrific incident led to the death of 59 innocent civilians is undeniable as many victims were charred to death beyond recognition.The violence continues…Naroda Patiya & Gulbarg Society, Ahmedabad on February, 28 2002The events that followed the burning of S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express were equally fast-paced as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a state bandh on February 28, 2002 with a controversial ‘parading of the burnt bodies’ in Ahmedabad. This was followed by incendiary speeches and insinuations that the attack was the work of Pakistani intelligence with the co-operation of local Muslims. It led to co-ordinated attacks on Muslim ghettos and business establishments by organised mobs. The mobs also allegedly violated many females of the minority community. In Ahmedabad, two organised riots took place that day; one in Naroda Patiya and another at Gulbarg Society, a residential complex with a Muslim majority. Naroda Patiya massacre resulted in the death of 97 Muslims which included 36 women, 35 children and 26 men. The attack was allegedly led by Maya Kodnani, a prominent BJP leader and Babu Bajrangi of the Bajrang Dal. The massacre of the women was particularly said to be more gruesome with sexual violence against them.Clockwise from top: Gulbarg Society witnessed 35 Muslim residents being burnt alive; By February 28, curfew was ordered in 27 towns and cities of Gujarat to control the situation; Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi were convicted on 29 July 2012 with heavy sentences for both leaders in the Naroda Patiya case. Right: Accused in the Naroda caseGulbarg Society saw its 35 Muslim residents being burnt alive; the victims included Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress Member of the Parliament. Zakiya Jafri, his widow, alleged that Jafri had made frantic calls prior to his killing to the CM’s office for assistance but received no help as the mob continued to burn and pillage the society despite the presence of police. She later alleged the state of complicity with the rioters especially implicating the CM of Gujarat. Gulbarg Society also had 31 missing residents who were later taken to be dead taking the body count to 69.By the evening of February 28, curfew was ordered in 27 towns and cities of Gujarat to control the disturbances with the deployment of Rapid Action Force in Godhra. However, by and large, the deployment of armed forces was delayed in preference to the Gujarat police by the state administration.Best Bakery, Vadodara on March 1, 2002The violence however continued, in Vadodara, when a mob attacked Best Bakery, a small Muslim-owned outlet in the Hanuman Tekri area of the city where the owner and the workers of the bakery which included 11 Muslims and three Hindus were burnt alive. The police filed a case on the basis of the information given by a nineteen-year old eye witness, Zaheera Sheikh.The political falloutThe major fallout of the Godhra train burning and subsequent riots was the allegations of complicity of the state government led by Narendra Modi. It was also alleged that the rioters had the backing of Hindu right-wing activists the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal. Modi was alleged to have given a go-ahead for the attacks, though the court-led inquiries did not find any proof of these allegations. However, there were protests by national media and the Opposition over the inept handling of the post-Godhra violence by the Gujarat government. There were calls for the resignation of the Chief Minister by these groups.The ruling BJP led by Atal Behari Vajpayee was forced to take cognisance of the violence and the matter was discussed at the party’s national executive meeting in Goa in April 2002 where the party decided that Modi was not responsible for the riots. Vajpayee was said to be opposed to the move to retain Modi but restrained by the party’s representatives who overwhelmingly supported the Gujarat leader. However, much later, Vajpayee wrote a letter to the Gujarat Chief Minister in June 2002 highlighting the poor condition of the relief camps and the delay in compensating the riot victims from the Muslim community. Importantly, he called upon Modi to “adhere to Raj Dharma and not discriminate between his subjects on the basis of caste, creed or religion.”However, Modi tried to prove his popularity and called for the dissolution of the Gujarat assembly in July 2002 leading to early elections. The results of the elections proved him right about the popular mood with 127 seats going to the BJP from the 182-member assembly. The results took out the steam of all opposition to Modi both within and outside the party. However, the allegations continued to haunt Modi’s political career for two consecutive terms as the Chief Minister. His scheduled visit to the USA in 2005 was cancelled due to objections by the United States Department of State which had a signature campaign by 125 academics under the ‘Coalition against Genocide’ opposing his entry to the USA.The 2002 Gujarat riots, however, proved to be a test of Indian secularism as many cynically saw the Gujarat election results as the popular mood against the ‘pseudo-secular’ parties in the Opposition. Interestingly, Modi’s popularity rose in his consequent two terms on the basis of his concentration on developmental politics. However, his detractors kept losing to his political acumen and he won the May 2014 elections to assume the post of the Indian Prime Minister. The media continued to blame him for long till he moved to the national stage by winning the May 2014 Indian elections with a thumping majority.Court investigations and the aftermathThe ordeal of the victims did not end with the train burning and the riots. There were a series of acquittals in many cases due to poor reports filed by the police, intimidation, or bribing of witnesses, etc. which led the Supreme Court to step in and transfer 2000 closed cases to the Bombay High Court in August 2004, strictly coming down on the Gujarat police and the government for lapses in investigation. In March 2008, the Supreme Court set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the leadership of ex-CBI Director, RK Raghavan to investigate the Godhra train burning and some of the important riot cases. Though criticised, the SIT managed to secure the prosecution and conviction of 249 accused in both set of cases.In May 2011, 31 Muslims were held guilty for the Godhra train burning and two important conspirators were nabbed later. In case of the post-Godhra riots, 184 Hindus were convicted for various criminal offences, about 40 police officers were investigated for their complicity with the rioters. In case of Naroda Patiya massacre, 32 people were convicted including Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi on 29 July 2012 with heavy sentences for both leaders. The cases failed to bring relief to many due to perjury or changing stances by the witnesses.

Gujarat temples introduce steps to accept cashless donations

Vadodara: With the demonetisation move resulting in a drop in donations, some of the famous temples in Gujarat have started introducing e-wallets, ATMs with deposit facility and swipe machines to accept cashless donations.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Dhanraj Nathwani, vice president of Dwarka Mandir Vyasthapan Samiti, told PTI over phone, “I have taken up this issue to help devotees make donations without crumbling under the impact of demonetisation.”

“Lakhs of people visit Dwarka and feel gratified and contended with the blessings of Lord Dwarkadhish,” he said.

To popularise cashless transactions among people, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had on Tuesday inaugurated the digital donation system at the famous Ambaji Temple in Banaskantha district to accept donations through debit or credit card using swipe machines.

He made a donation of Rs 31,000 using his wife’s debit card.

Sources in the Ambaji temple trust said after demonetisation, donations have come down by at least 30 percent. With the new cashless facility, the donations are again likely to go up, they said.

Somnath temple trust secretary Pravinbhai Laheri said they are now in talks with a digital wallet company to accept funds and donations digitally.

The trust has also begun accepting e-payment for the ‘prasad‘ (food offered to gods) at the temple located in Gir Somnath district.

Ravindra Upadhyay, manager of the famous Ranchhodraiji temple, located at Dakor in Kheda district, about 50 km from Vadodara, said they have initiated the process of introducing e-wallets, swipe machines and ATMs as they witnessed the donations going down by about 20 percent after 8 November.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 13:25 IST

It is tough to become a writer and get published: Jeffrey Archer

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>If suspense, thriller and anything between that is your thing, then Jeffrey Archer is the author you need. The author was recently in Mumbai for the launch of his latest book, This was a Man, the seventh book in The Clifton Chronicles. Addressing a huge crowd at the Crossword bookstore, Archer shared all about his life experiences, writing, and his love for cricket. “It is tough to become a writer, get your work published, and have a breakthrough to become the number one bestselling author. I am lucky to be gifted with the art of storytelling,” he says. Archer has the repertoire of releasing a book every year, for the last few years, and it seems as if he has the plot planned for every chapter. But in fact, the author admits, “I find myself lucky if I can even think of the beginning for a chapter. So plotting down all the chapters is a distant dream.” To draw out intriguing and engaging plots and outlining the personality of every character is no mean task, but for Archer, his life experiences and the people he meets are the best story tellers. This makes his characters seem much more real and believable. “My favourite Indian author is the master storyteller RK Narayan, who I believe is worthy of a Nobel Prize”, says Archer, adding that his books Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less and Paths of Glory are very close to his heart. Having written several fiction novels as well as a number of series, Archer believes writing the latter is a lot more challenging. Books have gone through a major transformation from being hardbound with thick pages to a small device holding the key to hundreds of books. “E-books are good for offers, and writers do get paid well for it. Forty per cent of my readers from the UK and the US use e-books, though I love reading a real book”, says the prolific writer. An ardent cricket fan, Archer loves the Test series, and is a huge fan of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. “I consider myself to be the cricket captain of England in spite of falling short in the bowling and batting department,” he jokes.Lord Archer has been a regular visitor to India and he attributes it to the love and reception he receives here. He sums up his trips to India, “If you were received like this, you would come back again and again.”

Nalanda Varsity chancellor Yeo resigns

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Four days after dissolution of Nalanda Mentors Group cum Governing Board, its second chancellor George Yeo also put in his papers on Friday protesting a “surprise” top administration reshuffle.In a strongly-worded letter to President Pranab Mukherjee, also the visitor of the varsity, Yeo expressed surprise as to why he was “not even given a notice” before taking the decision. “When I was invited to take over the responsibility last year, I was repeatedly assured that the University would have autonomy. This appears not to be the case now,” he said in his resignation letter. Yeo’s resignation coincides with NU’s foundation day.It may be recalled that Mukherjee on November 21 had dissolved NU’s founding Governing Body, comprising Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as well as Lord Meghnad Desai and Sugata Bose as its members, and consented for the constitution of a new Governing Board. NU’s founder vice chancellor Gopa Sabharwal was also asked to demit office in November 24, the last day of her extended term.“The order of dissolving the Governing Board and creating a new one came as a complete surprise to me and to most members of the old Governing Board. I was neither involved in the preparation nor consulted beforehand,” Yeo said in his opening remarks.At the time of his appointment in July 2015, Yeo said he was told that a new Governing Board would be formed under an amended Nalanda University Act. “For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Government of India has decided to form the new Governing Board with immediate effect before the Act is amended,” he said.Yeo said, “Despite difficult circumstances, the university has made remarkable progress through the tireless effort of VC Gopa Sabharwal and her colleagues. However, the board’s decision to extend the VC’s tenure till the appointment of a new one was also overridden by the visitor.”Bihar CM Nitish Kumar too expressed worry over the incident saying it has created an environment of uncertainty at the university. “Both Sen and Yeo have served the university well. NU has a historical and international, importance. The Centre should take positive steps to preserve and continue the institution’s glorious history and take necessary action in the issue to accelerate NU’s development,” Nitish said on Friday.

M Balamuralikrishna was a temple of music: Singer Sudha Raghunathan’s tribute to the legend

I did not want to believe what I had heard. So I rushed to his residence and was compelled to accept it as the truth. I stood beside him in stony silence. I doubt I would be able to express all that I would like to say about Padma Vibhushan, Knight Of Legion of Honour, Sangita Kalanidhi Balamuralikrishnaji… about his music and his fame that stood larger than life. A true son of the soil who, through his music, touched millions of hearts, leaving a void that can never be filled.

Having met him recently during his 85th birthday celebrations and singing his compositions before him, I had enjoyed his warmth and affection. During this occasion he spoke about how happy he was to see me and enquired of my family — after all did he not sing at my son Kaushik’s wedding and make all of us indebted to him for his kindness? Little did I know that this would be my last interaction with him! It had been on my mind to always drop by subsequently and enquire, but each day passed by, with me entangled in a web of my commitments. We always take for granted the ones we love assuming they will always be there.

What is he to me — a manseeka guru, a cherished family member, a benefactor, a friend, a guiding light or a genius? Be it at work while we discussed collaborations, or when I simply sat at his feet listening to him reminiscing, or when he blessed me during each of my achievements, or when he gave constant tips… he had a special aura that always drew me to him time and again to see how much more I could imbibe from this maestro.

New Delhi: File photo of Veteran carnatic musician M. Balamuralikrishna who passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. Blamuralikrishna acted as Narada in Telugu movie ''Bhakta Prahalada''. He has rendered some unforgettable playback songs too. He was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 1991. PTI Photo (PTI11_22_2016_000281B)New Delhi: File photo of Veteran carnatic musician M. Balamuralikrishna who passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. Blamuralikrishna acted as Narada in Telugu movie ''Bhakta Prahalada''. He has rendered some unforgettable playback songs too. He was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 1991. PTI Photo (PTI11_22_2016_000281B)

M Balamuralikrishna. PTI

Watching him perform was like a feast for the eyes and ears. The resonant voice would boom at every corner of the auditorium and open up spaces unknown of hitherto. When it came to imagination, the sky was his limit. The highest note would be caressed with masterly ease and he would then dive down to the crevices in the mandhra sthayi with equal élan. At any octave the voice would not lose its magnetic appeal. He could thunder and at the same time soothe. He could soar on his octaves, yet croon lullabies so beautifully that the Lord himself would have gone to sleep smiling. His manodharma flowed like liquid gold studded with the gems of ragams and swarams — his voice simply obeyed each of his commands.

His versatility knew no bounds. Balamuralikrishna was a multi-instrumentalist, an actor, a playback singer with golden hits such as ‘Oru naal podhuma‘. Not even a lifetime is sufficient to sing the paeans of this genius. His fine Telugu diction made his renditions of Tyagaraja, Annamacharya and Bhadrachala Ramadas immortal. The nuances, the highs and lows, the jaarus and gamakams spoke of his own unique style.

Like an eagle he soared high and built his nest on some lofty solitude. He was detached, yet attached. Being lost in his music, exploring, adventuring, creating, recording, teaching and weaving into our hearts silently, he ensured that we got attached to him, not ever wanting to let go.

Wielding a magic wand, he endeared himself to the masses with that twinkle in his eyes and a cherubic smile that lit up his face, belying his age. As he grew older and his frame shrunk, that charismatic face and his bewitching smile, however, remained intact, continuing to draw rasikas from far and near.

Blessed with immense kalpana shakti (power of creativity) his innovations and inventions are endless. His raga delineations, the cascading of swara prastharas, his creations of kritis in melakarta ragams and in rare ragams such as Mahathi, Ganapathi, Lavangi and Sarvashri… these are all treasure troves that stand the test of time. A grand parampara and a flaming trail left behind — so much for us to learn, imbibe and continue his legacy.

An inexplicable loss to the world of Carnatic music, his voice and his music will always remain with us forever. He was a temple of music, an encyclopedia of kritis, a sanctum of ragams and swarams, and a repository of knowledge — a musician who had a soul connect with his rasikas and stole all our hearts with his performances.

काममय एवायं पुरुष इति। स यथाकामो भवति तत्क्रतुर्भवति।
यत्क्रतुर्भवति तत्कर्म कुरुते। यत्कर्म कुरुते तदभिसंपद्यते॥

You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed,. As your deed is, so is your destiny.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 17:00 IST

Man rapes 3-yr-old neighbour, leaves her in a pit for dead

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 35-year-old man raped the three-and-a-half-year-old daughter of his neighbour on Monday and dumped her in a ditch, taking her to be dead. The girl was rescued nine hours after the horrific incident, and the accused, identified as Birbal, was arrested from his home.The incident took place in the Harijan Basti locality of north Delhi. The victim is undergoing treatment at a city hospital, and her condition is reported to be stable.Around 9pm on Monday, the Police Control Room (PCR) received a call regarding kidnapping of a minor girl. A police team reached the location, where the father of the victim informed them that the child was playing outside their home before she went missing. She was last seen at 7pm.A case of kidnapping was registered and the police swung into action to find the child. A team including Assistant Sub-Inspector Naseeb Singh, and Constables Jaideep and Pradeep was formed to handle the sensitive matter.Locals in the area were questioned, who revealed that they had seen the girl playing.The elder sister of the victim then told the police that she had seen someone giving her a chocolate. On the basis of this input, the police started their inquiry. It then came to the fore that someone had seen a man, who lived in the same building as the victim, with her. Accused Birbal had worked with the victim’s father as well.Birbal was picked up from his home after midnight. “He was in an inebriated condition and could not even speak or stand properly. He denied that he was with the victim. Finally early on Tuesday morning, he regained consciousness and confessed that he had raped and killed the child,” a police officer said.Based on the information provided by the accused, the police started looking for the girl near the Sarai Rohilla railway station. After searching for almost an hour, they spotted her in a pit near the tracks. “The girl was numb and had no clothes on her body. We were shocked to see her,” said the landlord of the victim’s house. The only sign of life she showed was when she started crying on seeing her mother. She was immediately rushed to the Bara Hindu Rao Hospital.”A case under section 363 (kidnapping), 307 (attempt to murder), 376 (rape) and relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act has been registered at the Sarai Rohilla police station. Further investigation is underway,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), North, Madhur Verma.

Ailing Sushma Swaraj says she is touched by people’s wishes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, undergoing treatment for renal failure, on Thursday said she was touched by people’s wishes and expressed deep sense of gratitude to those who even offered to donate her kidney.64-year-old Swaraj also exuded confidence of being able to come out of the health condition with good wishes of people and blessings of God.”My heartfelt thanks for your kind words and good wishes. Some friends have also offered their kidneys for my transplant. I have no words to express my deep sense of gratitude towards them. “With your good wishes and Lord Krishna’s blessings, I will be able to come out of this situation,” she said in a series of tweets.In a twitter post, Swaraj had yesterday said she was admitted to the AIIMS due to kidney failure and has been undergoing tests for a transplant. Her announcement, which many saw as setting of new standards of transparency, drew a flood of wishes from politicians as well as people from a cross section of society. As soon as Swaraj, known for helping people in distress, tweeted about her health condition, a large number of people on twitter wished her speedy recovery with some even offering to donate kidney to her.

New Delhi: City welcomes specially-abled International artists

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This is the first time that Australian national Joanna, 20, a visually challenged artist, is visiting India. And she is not alone. Artists from as many as 15 countries around the world have gathered in the Capital for Sambhav — a three-day festival dedicated to specially-abled artistes.“I’m both excited and nervous at the same time,” said Joanna, who had started learning music at the age of eight. Now, she and four other artists have brought a slice of Australian music to the national Capital.Organised by NGO Association for Learning, Performing Arts and Normative Action (ALPANA), Sambhav, an initiative to celebrate the artistic abilities of specially-abled people, kicked off at the India International Center on Sunday.“Sambhav was started in 2006. Initially, we invited participants from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations. Gradually, we started inviting participants from other nations as well,” said ALPANA president Alpana Nayak, adding that this year, the participating countries include Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and Kenya.The festival will comprise a variety of performances from multiple nations, right from Bhutanese music to unique dance forms of Myanmar. “We are performing different dances from Myanmar and Burma, with the music on guitar,” said Brant, 18, a visually challenged artist from Myanmar.A three-member team of artists has come from Vietnam as well. “We have prepared Vietnamese music and dance performances for Sambhav this year,” said Khinkh from the country.A painting exhibition is also a part of the offerings at the festival. “We have some really talented hearing-impaired and mentally challenged students at the NGO who made these extraordinary paintings,” said Alka Aggrawal, who teaches painting and crafts at the NGO.Abhinav Rana, a partially-blind artist said: “I love playing with watercolours, though I can’t see them clearly. My muses are sky, sea, trees and rain.” From inside the country, teams have come from Odisha, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, among other states. “On Monday, our artistes will perform a fusion dance form, portraying 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu,” said Sushmita Rautray, who has come with a team of six from Odisha.According to Sambhav organisers, they are are creating a space for the specially-abled people to present their views, ideas and experiences through the media of art and performances. “We don’t believe in ‘helping’ the specially-abled. They don’t need help. They are as much a part of society as we are. All we need to do is to hold their hands and walk along with them,” said ALPANA vice-president BK Das.All praises for the effort, Nitisha Sharma, a visitor said: “It was a wonderful experience to see the artists performing with such confidence and vigour.”

River loses out to pollution

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What begins as a story of the blessing of Lord Shiva, Godavari originates from Bramhagiri mountain in Trimbaksehwar and flows through Nashik, making it a holy place of pilgrimage and the seat of Simhastha Kumbhmela. However, the modern day Godavari is much less than a river. With population around it increasing day by day, the river has not only lost its charm but is losing its life as well.It was in 2012 that once again the river was completely covered with hyacinths, disturbing its eco system. A few people stood up to raise a movement for the cause of Godavari. Godavari Gatarikaran Virodhi Manch was formed and activists approached authorities demanding that untreated sewage released in the river be stopped. With no heed paid, a public interest litigation (PIL) to save Godavari was filed by Rajesh Pandit, Nishikant Pagare and a few others in the Bombay High Court.”A criminal case about mischief with navigable river was filed under IPC section 431 against the then municipal commissioner for intentionally polluting the river upstream of Ramkund”, states Rajesh Pandit. In the hearings that proceeded, the High Court observed that the state and the citizens both were responsible. While the state has failed to protect the river, the citizens have failed to perform their fundamental duties.As part of the proceedings the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board reported that ‘the water of Godavari in Nashik is unfit for human consumption and dangerous to health’. The High Court then asked NMC to put up boards on the banks of the river stating so and give police protection to the river. “This had happened for the first time in the history of Indian rivers that any river was asked to give police protection. However, barring the kumbhmela, the compliance of this order is not met’, Pandit observes.As part of the awareness drive, students took oath for not polluting the river. Presentations on pollution free Godavari were made at different platforms. The National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) who was asked to conduct a survey by the court also gave a thought of Green Kumbh for 2014-15. Taking the developments seriously, the court appointed a committee for Godavari, headed by the divisional commissioner, to oversee the implementation of it’s orders.The divisional commissioner formed a committee for Green Kumbh, including all departments of the government and NGOS. The CM then announced that the Kumbhmela would be dedicated to nature. With a charged force, the huge task of cleaning the Godavari was taken up on June 5, 2014. Thousands, participated in the massive drive where even senior authorities were seen cleaning the dirt and slush. Lakhs of cloth bags were distributed to create awareness of no plastic use. “The movement was also strengthened by water man of India Rajendra Singh who helped in changing the perspective of the fight to a movement”, states Pandit.Another activist Devang Jani filed a case in the High Court demanding that the concretisation done to the Godavari in Nashik during the Kumbhmela in 2002 be removed. “It was for the first time in the history of the river that in May 2016, the Ramkund went dry due to concretisation of the river bed,” he said. With all the awareness and the legal fight that has been going on there have been some gains. These may not be sufficient measures but the fact that a movement is raised in itself is a step in the right direction.

Sabarimala entry: Opinion of women should be elicited, says Union minister? Pon Radhakrishnan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The opinion of the women should be elicited before deciding whether women of all ages should be allowed for ‘darshan’ at the hill shrine of Sabarimala in Kerala, Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan said on Tuesday.Though religious freedom was guaranteed to all, certain religious rituals and customs should also not be violated, he told reporters here to a question on the Kerala government favouring the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple. “Everyone has the right to offer prayers at a temple, but when certain rituals and customs are followed, they should not be violated,” Radhakrishnan said.The opinion of the women should also be taken into consideration to decide if they should be allowed entry into the temple, he added. The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala had yesterday informed the Supreme Court that it favoured the entry of women of all ages into the historic Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Swamy temple. The entry of women in the 10-50 age group is barred into the temple.

BJP switches gears to ‘nationalism’ in UP poll campaign

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With its ‘Hindu’ agenda of building a Ram Museum in Ayodhya getting a tepid response, the BJP is planning to walk the nationalism route ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections by promoting Kakori and Bithur, two towns that played a crucial role in India’s struggle for freedom but are remembered only in history books.The central government through the Culture Ministry will promote the two towns, both of which lie along the Lucknow-Kanpur route and have predominantly Hindu populations, as destinations of India’s glorious historical pride, an official told DNA.Kakori was the site of the historic train robbery of 1925 when Ram Prasad Bismil, Chandrashekhar Azad and Ashfaqullah Khan looted the British treasury. The town has 51 per cent Hindu population and 48 per cent Muslims. Bithur was the headquarters of the revolt of 1857. Nana Sahib and Rani Lakshmi Bai began their struggle for independence from the small town in Kanpur district which is also a Hindu pilgrimage destination. The town, with a 90 percent Hindu population, is also believed the birthplace of Luv and Kush, the two sons of Lord Rama.The ministry has asked the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a site study of the two locations and to submit its report on what all can be be done. “We are expecting a status report from ASI by the end of this month. The blueprints for developing tourism will be drawn on the basis of the ASI report,” the official said.While Uttar Pradesh remained the centre of the Indian freedom struggle, the two towns find mention in historical texts but have remained neglected by successive governments. The BJP now wants to promote them as symbol of Indian unity and oneness.With both Hindus and Muslims participating equally in the struggles for freedom, this is a campaign that the party is hoping will cut through communal lines. The Kakori train robbery was carried out by both Hindus and Muslim revolutionaries. And the army of Nana Sahib that fought the British also had a Muslim general and Muslim soldiers.”This time it is not the case of polarization but its pitching nationalism. Bringing the two historical towns on the national platform should be looked at an attempt to consolidate the vote bank but as an attempt to inculcate feeling of oneness,” said Professor Malvika Pandey of Banaras Hindu University.”While we find a mention of Kakori in school level textbooks, students get to read about Bithur only at the higher level. The way the government is trying to promote Sardar Patel, as a man behind unified India, it might use these two historical sites to inculcate a sense of national pride and build a bond,” added historian D.N Jha.Parivartan YatrasThe shift to ‘nationalism’ is likely to find space in the party’s Parivartan Yatras (transformational yatras) beginning November 5. It is hoping to change the perception that it is polarizing votes on religious lines, party insiders said.The BJP, which got fresh impetus after the surgical strikes against Pakistan, is also likely to rope in Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the face behind the surgical strikes to campaign in the state.

UK PM Theresa May hosts Diwali reception

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed people from across the Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities to celebrate Diwali at Downing Street in London. A British High Commission release in Delhi said Prime Minister Theresa May hosted a reception to celebrate Diwali and welcomed more than 150 key figures from across the Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities. His Excellency Dinesh Patnaik, Acting Indian High Commissioner and Jitendra Patel, Trustee of Neasden Temple were joined by the Prime Minister in the traditional lamp lighting ceremony.The Prime Minister was also joined by the Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, Sajid Javid, Lord Gadhia and Foreign Office Minister Alok Sharma. The Prime Minister said:”Thank you, and welcome to 10 Downing Street. It is great to have so many of you here at this special time of year and an honour to host my first Diwali reception as Prime Minister. For me, one of the most remarkable things about this festival is the sheer scale of its reach and the universal appeal of its message. Look at India, over a billion people, speaking hundreds of different languages, following various different faiths, united by this festival of light. Look at the rest of the world, and the colourful celebrations taking place from Singapore to South Africa, Australia to Nepal.And look at Britain, where, right now, people are buying gifts on Leicester’s Golden Mile, preparing pendas on Soho Road in Birmingham, and stringing up lights on Wembley’s Ealing Road all in time for 5 holy days that are such an important part of our national life. When we analyse the true meaning of Diwali, its relevance extends beyond India, beyond the Indian diaspora and even beyond the Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists who, in different ways, mark the festival. Its messages apply to every single one of us, whatever our background, whatever our faith. Now I have to say I haven’t read all 24,000 verses in the epic poem about Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya. But I do know the story of his homecoming from the many Diwali celebrations I have attended in my own constituency over the years.Over a number of years the children have acted out the story. The values he embodied are values which we can all heed. Values of charity, sacrifice and responsibility; to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi: losing ourselves in the service of others. Values of good conduct, dharma, taking the right path and ensuring that good triumphs over evil.Values of hope, optimism, of forgiveness of the new beginnings and clean slates represented by the Hindu New Year as people wear new clothes and say prayers for the year ahead.I think these are the values we need more than ever as we forge a new, positive, ambitious role for Britain in the world.The mission of my government that fairer Britain is to build a country that works for everyone a country where no matter who you are, you can achieve your dreams.The achievements of our British Indian communities one and a half million people demonstrate just how much a country can achieve when talent is unleashed and people of all backgrounds are able to fulfil their potential that’s what is important.Our political system becomes more representative and more effective and I am so proud to have Priti Patel in the Cabinet; Alok Sharma in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; MPs like Shailesh Vara and Rishi Sunak in the Commons; and peers like Jitesh Gadhia, Dolar Popat, Sandip Verma and Ranbir Suri in the Lords.When talent is unleashed, our education system offers more choice and opportunity. Indeed, it is Hindu Schools, like the Avanti Trust, who are achieving great things and underlining why we need to go further in supporting faith schools.Our economy becomes more successful and dynamic, including those up-and-coming industries that attract such a diverse range of entrepreneurs, like technology, film and, close to my own heart, fashion.And our society becomes stronger, as people from all backgrounds play their part in making our schools, hospitals, police forces and armed forces the best they can be.So as we gather here today, as we celebrate the achievements of British Indians and all our many diverse communities, I want us to remember the importance of removing the barriers that prevent people from reaching their potential.I want us to be proud of what Diwali means to our nation, after all, it was here in Downing Street that Prime Minister Modi chose to start the last Hindu New Year.And, next month I am delighted to be returning his visit when I go to India it will be my first bilateral outside of the European Union and I’m going from Delhi to Bangalore a true celebration of relations between our countries and our shared ambitions for the future.Above all, I want to wish you all a Shubh Deepawali and give my best wishes to those celebrating Bandhi Chhor Diwas too. Thank you.”

HRD ministry wants the ‘sex’ out of sex education: Let’s solve the problem by ignoring it?

According to a report in The Telegraph India, the NDA government had told an expert panel earlier this year that the words ‘sex’ or ‘sexual’ could not be allowed in its recommendations on adolescent education, which includes sex education for teenagers.

The reason: Words like ‘sex’ or ‘sexual’ could offend some people.

The report says that in its initial draft on education in India, the expert panel — headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian — had included half a page on adolescent education. The original draft had talked about the need to address “the health of adolescents, particularly the reproductive and sexual health needs”.

school children look at exhibits at 'Antarang' (inner view), India's first ever sex unicorn musuem. Reuters

School children look at exhibits at ‘Antarang’ (inner view), India’s first ever sex unicorn museum. Reuters

It had also talked about how ignorance and myths among adolescents about sex made them vulnerable to drug abuse and HIV/AIDS transmission.

But the HRD ministry, then headed by Smriti Irani, decided that this entire section on adolescent education needed to be reduced to one sentence: “The Adolescent Education Programme and National Population Education Programme need to be extended to all schools as early as possible.”

That’s it. All the problems regarding sex, sexual abuse, sexual frustration, drug abuse and the confusion or ignorance among youth regarding sex can obviously be addressed by that one sentence without mentioning the words ‘sex’ or ‘sexual’ even once, according to the government.

The rest of this article has been written by following the logic of the government, just to give you an idea of the implications of that logic. Therefore, from this point onwards, all the words that ‘some’ people will find offensive (according to the HRD Ministry) in this article have been replaced with less ‘offensive’ words. Here we go:

Let’s talk about sex unicorns. This sentence itself could get you into some trouble in schools in India (maybe), where the taboo associated with unicorns is so strong that the very mention of the word actually does offend a lot of people, much like how the name of Lord Voldemort He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named spread panic in the fictional wizarding world in the Harry Potter books.

In the books though, the characters eventually overcome their fear of the word. The same, unfortunately, is not true in our country.

This is exactly why sex unicorn education is so important for the teenagers in our country. It is very well known that adolescence is a time of raging hormones and some very crucial physiological changes in the body, which leads to a lot of confusion about unicorns among the youth.

But the state of unicorn education and unicorn awareness in India is very bad.

According to this report by Youth Coalition for Sexual Unicorn and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR), between 42 and 52 percent of young students in India felt they do not have adequate knowledge about unicorns.

More disturbingly, the report said that a study by Unicef and NGO Prayas, which interviewed 12,247 children and 2,324 young adults in 13 states in India, concluded that 53 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 12 were victims of sexual abuse.

In cases of child sexual abuse, “In most cases, children do not share it with anyone and even when they complain, the parents do not know where to take them and avoid going to the police stations,” Jaipur Police Commissioner Sanjay Agarwal had told The Indian Express. He added that children were not even aware of the concepts of ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’.

A big reason behind the large number of sexual assault cases and the rampant sexism unicornism in a large part of our society is the lack of proper unicorn education.

“A lot of the social issues we see today in India like rape or misogyny can be traced back to the fact that children are consuming the wrong kind of information,” Nilima Achwal, founder and CEO of Iesha Learning (which offers to teach adolescents about unicorns), had told The Hindu.

The YCSRR report also said that a survey conducted by India Today had revealed that in 11 cities in India, half of the youngsters interviewed did not know enough to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, parents also have incorrect ideas about unicorn education. The YCSRR report added that parents believe that unicorn education in schools will increase “risky behaviour” among adolescents. But a World Health Organisation (WHO) study showed that unicorn education, in fact, delays the start of unicorn activity and encourages safe unicorn activity.

Despite these crucial facts, the central government of India is not even willing to utter the words which matter. Basically, the government’s solution is to solve the problem by not talking about it.

Let’s get real.

The government, or any political party for that matter, tends to act on or talk about issues which fetches them votes. That is why the government was obsessed with not offending anyone. The truth is that the s-word does offend a lot of people in our society.

But the very denial of the presence of our sexual urges to the extent that we shudder if we utter the word ‘sex’ is as ridiculous as the usage of ‘unicorn’ in this article.

And that is the point. Until we get rid of the notion of evil or malice associated with sex, the powers-that-be will keep coming up with ingeniously daft ways to further obfuscate the issue.

India’s children of bonded labourers use memories to rescue others | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

BENGALURU (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – They are not easy to spot. Working in vegetable patches and on millet fields in Karnataka, farm labourers caught in debt bondage suffer mainly in silence. But Gopal V has lived with this silence for long enough. Now 44, the son of bonded labourers is on a mission to identify workers trapped in debt bondage – and to make sure they get justice.”My parents worked endless hours not for money, just food,” Gopal said. “They worked for a landlord in my village, whose house I still can’t enter. He paid them back with a little food, and my father died in bondage.”Now, he travels across villages around Anekal, near the city of Bengaluru, looking for people like his parents. There is an urgency to his search, he says, because he wants to “get them out before they die”.India banned the practice of bonded labour in 1976, but the country is still home to 11.7 million bonded labourers, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The labourers may be working to pay off a loan from their employer, or a debt inherited from a relative.Jeevika, a non-profit organisation that works to eradicate bonded labour in the southern state, said it identified 12,811 bonded labourers in Karnataka between 2012 and 2015. Most of them are still waiting for state authorities to give them release certificates and compensation money, it said.Its founder, Kiran Kamal Prasad, estimates that there are up to 200,000 bonded labourers across Karnataka.”It is a perennial problem that persists in the agriculture sector,” said Druthi Lakshmi of the state’s rural development department.”We know they are really poor, illiterate people who often go back to the same landlord for work after they are rescued because the rehabilitation money is not enough.”

The government is in the process of undertaking a more comprehensive survey to identify people in bondage, she added.Gopal and others like him who work in partnership with Jeevika use their childhood memories of suffering and debt bondage to encourage others to find a way out of it.”The fear of the landlord still exists in our (lower-caste) Dalit communities and people refuse to acknowledge they are in bondage,” said Ramakrishna V, also the son of a bonded labourer.”It takes a lot of talking before they break down and admit they are paying off a loan they took many, many years ago,” said Ramakrisha, now a lawyer fighting for workers’ rights in court.

Activists say most people trapped in bonded labour are unaware of the fact they might have paid off their initial loan 10 times over. In addition, the 1976 Abolition of Bonded Labour Act cancels any dues that may be pending when a worker is rescued from bondage, they said.Jayaboraiah, 47, recalled how he was studying in his room when the landlord of his hostel came knocking.”He said my father had disappeared without repaying the 800 rupees ($12) loan he had taken to start a sericulture (silk production) business. I dropped out of school and spent eight years working in his home and field to pay off that loan,” Jayaboraiah said.But a glance at a report on bonded labour in a newspaper one morning led him to a government office to ask for help.

“Now I know the law and am able to explain to families in debt bondage that they have repaid their dues and should now be demanding minimum wages,” he said.All three men said their personal experience of growing up in the shadow of debt bondage helps them to start a conversation about the issue in villages where traditionally lower-caste people still find it “almost impossible to leave the clutches of a landlord”.Gopal said: “We are constantly threatened and so are workers, but we keep going to villages and areas where Dalits live and we lived until recently. “It takes a lot of probing before anyone admits to having taken a loan and working to repay it. It takes us months to build trust,” he said.Gopal’s three daughters have documented the lives of their grandfather and uncles who worked as bonded labourers.”I tell them about it because it is the reality from which they have emerged, and it makes them sensitive to the fact that many more still need help,” Gopal said.($ 1=66.7827 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Jo Griffin and Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit

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Sabarimala temple row: High priest wants status quo to be maintained on the issue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst a debate on whether to allow women of all ages to offer worship at the hill shrine of Sabarimala, a high priest of the famous temple on Friday said status quo should be maintained on the matter.”Status quo should be maintained on the issue. The government should take into account the belief of the devotees while taking a decision on the matter,” Kandararu Rajeevaru, Sabarimala thantri, said.”The belief of the people is important, not controversy. With regard to women’s entry into the famed temple, various opinions have emerged,” he said.In this matter, government should be able to take an appropriate decision which protects the interests of devotees, the thantri said.”Women between the age group of 10-50 cannot be permitted to offer worship at the temple. We have earlier itself stated this in the court,” he added.The thantri’s statement comes in the wake of LDF government’s view that it stands by its commitment on allowing entry of women of all age group into the Lord Ayyappa temple, situated on the Sabarimala hill top. Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran has reiterated that the government stands by its 2007 affidavit which was in favour of allowing entry of all women.

BJP ‘selling’ Lord Ram’s name to win UP polls: Congress

Tue, 18 Oct 2016-10:30am , Lucknow , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress on Tuesday said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is selling the name of Lord Ram to siphon off a victory in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. Congress leader DP Singh said that the Congress has nothing to do with the BJP’s plan of constructing the Ram museum. “The Congress has nothing to do with the BJP constructing a museum there (Ayodhya), or the Samajwadi party organising things for the Ramayan mela. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is selling the name of Ram in the wake of coming UP polls,” said Singh. According to some reports, the BJP government is planning to build a Lord Rama museum in Ayodhya. Both, Lord Rama and Ayodhya, have a dominant influence in the politics of Uttar Pradesh. The union ministry of culture is also learnt to have increased the museum grant from Rs 175 crore to Rs 225 crore so that a state of the art museum can come up in the ancient town celebrated in Hindu epics as the seat of Ram?s birthplace and kingdom.

Mahesh Sharma denies political agenda, says Ram museum will ‘improve tourism’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma has downplayed the political uproar created by the announcement of the allocation of huge funds for the building a Ram Museum in Ayodhya. He said it is being taken to give a boost to tourism in India.”Elections are a different thing. Our Prime Minister wants that the nation should develop through all means and similarly he wants development of our country through tourism, and this step will attract tourists,” Sharma told ANI.”When our government came to power, so, from the tourism perspective, we announced plans for theme based circuits, which included a Ram circuit, a Krishna circuit and a Buddha circuit. And under that announcement for Ramayan circuit, the government announced Rs.225 crore, for the Krishna circuit Rs.15 crore and similar amount for the Buddha circuit,” he added.Sharma further said the Ram museum will educate the youth about Ramayan and Lord Ram.”Ayodhya is known by the name of Lord Ram. A lot of people impose their faiths in Ayodhya. We want that the infrastructure should be developed there. We want to build a museum on Ramayana and the life of Lord Ram there so that our young generation visits the place and learns from it,” he said.According to reports, Sharma is expected travel to Ayodhya next week to discuss the blueprint for the museum.He is also scheduled to visit the site of the proposed museum that is expected to come up on 25 acres.

Uttar Pradesh polls 2017: BJP won’t project chief ministerial candidate

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP will not project a chief ministerial candidate for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections which are a few months away, party’s state unit chief Keshav Prasad Maurya said on Monday.”All political parties are waiting for the chief ministerial candidate of BJP…It is clear policy of our party that we will contest the Assembly elections without projecting anyone as our CM candidate,” he told news persons in Bareilly.”BJP had projected CM faces in Assam and Delhi Assembly polls…While we succeeded in the former, we lost the latter …We fought Haryana and Jharkhand without projecting any CM candidate and won,” Maurya said. He said BJP will win over 300 of the 403 seats in UP and the party’s central parliamentary board will decide who has to be the chief minister.Earlier in Badaun, Maurya accused BSP chief Mayawati of degrading religious leaders for which, he said, the electorate will teach her a lesson in the coming polls.Reacting to Mayawati’s charges that RSS and BJP workers were presented as Buddhist monks in the ‘Dhamma Chetna Yatra’ in Kanpur last week, Maurya said, “Her mental balance appears a little disturbed as a large number of her party men have deserted her.”By making this statement, she has degraded religious leaders and Lord Buddha as well and she will see its result through the EVMs,” he said.To a question as to whether BJP will accept Akhilesh Yadav in its fold if he quits SP, Maurya said no member of the Saifai family has any place in his party. Saifai is the native place of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.When his attention was drawn to controversial SP leader Azam Khan facing sediton charges in a Badaun court, Maurya said only BJP government can arrest him in connection with various cases and charges.Terming ‘triple talaq’ as anti-women, he said it needs to be done away with. Maurya also warned Pakistan to desist from anti-India stance or “else Indian forces will unfurl the tri-colour in Islamabad soon”.

Unnikrishnan Namboodiri chosen as Sabarimala head priest

Mon, 17 Oct 2016-01:02pm , Sabarimala , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>TM Unnikrishnan Namboodiri was today selected as the new Melsanthi (head priest) of the famed Lord Ayyappa temple here. The new priest, hailing from Cheruplassery in Palakkad district, was selected through draw of lots at the temple.In another draw of lots, MA Manukumar from Changancherry was selected as the next melsanthi at the Malikappuram Devi temple. Both the priests will assume charge at the respective temples for the next one year beginning on Malayalam month Vrichikom (November 16 ) when the temples re-open for the annual pilgrimage season.

Ahead of UP elections, Modi govt identifies 25 acre plot for Ramayana Museum in Ayodhya

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Modi government’s plan to set up a Ramayana Museum in Ayodhya in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh has gathered steam with a 25 acre plot having been identified for it some 15 km away from the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex.Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma is expected to visit Ayodhya on October 18 to inspect the proposed site where the government plans to build the museum, which would be part of Ramayana Circuit, a government source said.Sharma is also expected to hold a meeting with Ramayana Circuit Advisory Board during the visit. The meeting would discuss routes for connecting Ramayana-related sites in Nepal and Sri Lanka with the proposed museum. Besides, the minister is likely to hold meetings with religious leaders on building the museum which would portray the epic journey of Lord Rama.Sharma would also deliberate on plans for an International Ramayana Conclave, which would be held either in Ayodhya or Chitrakoot district. The conference is likely to be attended by delegates from about 12 countries, sources said.Though the BJP has been insisting that Ram temple will not be an electoral plank in the UP elections to be held early next year, the proposed Ramayana museum and related activities are being seen as an attempt to keep pro-Hindutva elements in good humour.On Dusshera, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, in a departure from tradition, participated in the festivities in Lucknow where he started and concluded his speech with chants of “Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram”.

Kanpur couple fooled into giving kidneys

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It seldom happens that unsuspecting patients and perpetrators languish alongside each other in the jail. The kidney racket run out of private-based Apollo Hospital at Sarita Vihar in New Delhi, that was busted by Delhi police in June this year, is a case in point.44-year-old kidney donor Umesh Srivastav is one of the seventeen accused booked by Delhi police in the organ transplant scandal that rocked the city recently. Umesh is currently holed up in Patna along with his wife Neelu (44) at her mother’s residence. Umesh said, “I was unaware of the fact that Neelu’s kidney would be removed at the operation table on the ill-fated day. We only knew so as to what transpired when the police showed up to arrest us.”Neelu has been suffering from a tumour in her abdominal area, since many years. “In October last year, her pain aggravated. We ran from pillar to post for her treatment. The doctors quoted a figure of one and a half lakh to get her surgery done. In the meanwhile, an acquaintance named ‘Gauri,’ made us meet Ashu. They promised us to get Neelu operated for free for her tumour, if I was ready to part with my kidney,” said Umesh.In April earlier this year, Ashu, the accused tout in the scam, brought Umesh and Neelu to Delhi. He put them up at Hotel Dimple Lodge and Signature Inn at Paharganj. “We were served food regularly at the hotel. We were ferried around to the hospital for our medical check ups. We were asked not to open our mouths. The touts assured us that Neelu’s tumour will be removed,” Umesh said.The touts forged Umesh’s identity and showed him to be one ‘Suresh Chand,’ a make-believe uncle of 24-year-old Ghaziabad resident Ashutosh Gautam. Ashutosh was a sick patient, who needed a kidney. “I was taken by Ashutosh’s family before the doctor and made to stand there. After all the documents are forged, it is a mere formality to stand in front of the doctor,” he said.In Neelu’s case, papers were forged and she was shown to be the 54-year-old wife Baby Gupta of 62-year-old Jia Lal Gupta, a Jammu resident. Jia Lal was in need of a Kidney. “The touts promised to get my wife treated for her tumour. They told me that by forging papers they can avail of low-cost treatment for my wife. Just that I would have to part with my kidney. I willingly gave up my kidney hoping that my wife will avail of good treatment in a hi-fi facility. But they removed her kidney as well. They never gave us any money,” said Umesh.Umesh used to work as a mechanic at BK Automobiles in Kanpur until some months ago, where he earned close to Rs 7000 a day. Now he is left jobless and homeless. He and his wife stand accused of ‘selling a kidney.’Their two sons, one 18-year-old and another 17-year-old are in Dhanbad and Allahabad. “We could not manage to collect their mark-sheets from school, neither could we manage to get them admitted to college, after our arrests. We have sent them away to work,” he said. “After our arrest, our landlord came and locked the rented house in Kanpur. We had to flee from Kanpur shame-faced. Neighbours would gossip all day along about the police case, leaving our heads hanging low in shame. We are red-faced.”Neelu’s health is not improving. “They never removed her tumour. Instead they removed her kidney. She kept writhing in pain. We were holed up in jail for almost three months, only a week after our surgeries at Apollo Hospital. There were no check-ups or follow-ups in jail. We languished in utter distress. We had to pay Rs 22,000 to obtain bail,” said Umesh.A harangued Umesh ends up coughing out Rs 20,000 every month as the case progressed in the court. “The lawyers charge close to Rs 14,000 every month for appearance. There are two hearings every month. I end up spending Rs 5000 in travel. My relatives are arranging loans to fight the case. For how long will the ordeal go on?,” Umesh pleads desperately.Umesh and Neelu have been named in the racket chargesheet with fifteen other accused who are donors, recipients and touts, by Delhi police, under the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The doctors who had conducted the transplants were called in for questioning by the police but have not been charge-sheeted. The scam is spread over Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and West Bengal.(Tomorrow, in the series, we explore the plight of a middle-aged donor who sold a kidney to pay off his mounting loans)

Mansa: Family refuses to cremate murdered Punjab Dalit youth till assailants arrested

Mansa: Family refuses to cremate murdered Punjab Dalit youth till assailants arrested

Updated: Oct 12, 2016 16:02 IST

#Dalit #Mansa #NewsTracker #Punjab Police


Chandigarh: The family of a 20-year-old Dalit youth, who was brutally murdered in Punjab’s Mansa district, on Wednesday refused to cremate the body till his missing leg was found and his assailants arrested.

Sukhchain Singh, the murdered Dalit youth, was said to have been a member of one of the gangs engaged in illicit liquor business in the Mansa area, about 250 km from Chandigarh.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

He was allegedly murdered by members of a rival gang on Monday night. The accused chopped off his leg and took it away.

The young man’s family said his attackers belonged to upper caste landlord families and the Punjab Police was not taking action against them because they wielded considerable clout.

The victim’s father Resham Singh said his son was threatened by the rival gang in the past.

Another Dalit man, Bhim Tank, was brutally attacked in another liquor gang war last year in Fazilka district. His limbs were chopped off and he later died of his injuries.

A prominent ruling Akali Dal leader, Shiv Lal Doda’s men were alleged to have been involved in the attack that took place at his farmhouse.

At Kanpur’s Dashanan Mandir, Ravana worshipped on Vijayadasami for his scholarship

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When the nation was celebrating Vijayadasami by burning effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna, and his son Indrajit (Meghnaad) as a mark of victory of good over evil, people, in a small pocket of Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur city, people were seen worshipping Ravana at Dashanan Mandir (temple) located outside Chinmastika Temple at Shivala.The temple, which was built in 1868, opens only once a year – on the morning of Vijayadasami and devotees offer prayers and worship Ravana as per tradition.Devotees consider Ravana an astute scholar and a brave warrior. They believe Ravana had mastery over all the ten ‘Mahavidyas’ (great wisdoms) or ‘Dasha-Mahavidyas’ and the people who worship Ravana on this day gets wisdom. A devotee said, “On Vijayadasami, we recall only the bad image of Ravana and burn his effigies across the nation, but his positive side remains hidden. When Ravana was dying, Lord Rama asked his brother Lakshman to take a lesson from one of the greatest scholars of the world and touch his feet.”They added, “Lord Rama was so great that he even respected his enemy. He killed Ravana because of his vices. At the same time, Lord Rama also acknowledged the scholarly side of the Lankan king and we are simply continuing that tradition.”Dashanan Mandir priest Pandit Ram Vajpayee said: “Our last three generations have been offering prayers at the temple of Ravana. We worship him for his scholarship. The temple is closed in the evening after burning his effigy.”

War necessary at times to save humanity: PM Narendra Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Making his first public address after the surgical strikes by the Indian Army in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday started with “Jai Shri Ram” and ended with a note of peace saying “our last refuge should remain with Buddha”.While invoking the symbol of peace, he also said that yudh (war) at times becomes necessary to save humanity. “Hum yudh se Buddh ki ore chale jaaten hain, Yudh bhi kabhi kabhi zaroori hota hai. Yeh desh sudarshan chakradhari ka bhi hai, isi desh me charkha dhari Mohan ki pratigya ko bhi manta hai. Dono tarazuon par balance rakhna hai.” (We move from war to Buddha. Sometimes war is also necessary. This country is also Lord Vishnu’s and also revers Mahatma Gandhi. We have to maintain the balance on the weighing scales),” he said addressing the gathering at Ramlila Samiti Maidan at Lucknow.This is the first time that an incumbent prime minister has stepped out of Delhi for Dussehra celebrations and that too in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, at a time when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is being accused of politicising the Indian Army’s surgical strikes.

On Dussehra, PM Modi calls for united efforts to eliminate terrorism

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Breaking from tradition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday attended the historic Ramleela celebrations in Lucknow where he launched a veiled attack on Pakistan, saying those who help and provide shelter to terrorists cannot be spared, but made no reference to the surgical strikes.Making terrorism the centerpoint of his over 20-minute speech, he said terror was the worst enemy of humanity and called upon the world community to speak in one voice against the menace to put an end to it.PTI”Terrorism does not have any boundaries. It is bound to destroy all…a need has arisen to root out those who spread terrorism. Those who help terrorists and provide shelter to them can no longer be spared,” he said in an obvious reference to Pakistan without taking its name.”Terrorism is against humanity. The entire world is being destroyed…if you think that we are insulated against terrorism, then we are wrong. It is a virus affecting our societies. All forces across the world have to talk in one voice and end it. It will not be possible to save humanity without eradicating terrorism,” the Prime Minister said.”The forces of humanism should unite globally to end the menace,” he said.Modi became the first Prime Minister to attend a Ramleela event outside Delhi and his participation at the Aishbagh celebrations assumes significance in the context of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh early next year. The theme of this year’s Dussehra in Lucknow was ‘destruction of terrorism’. In the run up to the event on Tuesday, there have been many references to the surgical strikes by characters enacting Ramleela.In significant gestures, Modi was presented a Sudarshan Chakra, bow and arrow and a mace at the event, symbolising valour. (PTI)PTIAt the Delhi event at Ramleela Maidan, as usual, President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were present. “No one should have this misunderstanding that they are safe from terrorism as terrorism has no boundary, no morality, it can go anywhere and it is bent upon crushing humanity…it is essential for all to come together against terrorism,” Modi said.”The entire world is being harmed. For the last two days we are seeing the picture of a little girl of Syria….and so today, when we are buring Ravana, all human forces as one will have to resolve to fight terrorism as humanity cannot be saved without bringing an end to it,” he said.Modi recalled his meeting with a top US official who had then not recognised terrorism as a problem and had instead termed it as a law and order issue. He said the world’s perspective towards terrorism changed after 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. He also urged the people to remain vigilant against terrorists, saying their attempts to carry out attacks can be thwarted by alert citizens.While celebrating Dussehra, which signifies victory of good over evil, the Prime Minister said Lord Ram represented humanity and its rich values and traditions. He said the first person to fight terror was neither a soldier nor a politician, but the mythological bird Jatayu who fought against Ravana to protect a helpless Sita, whom he was trying to kidnap.Noting that war at times becomes inevitable due to prevailing circumstances, he said India is a country which follows the principles of peace as taught by Lord Buddha. “We balance between the Mohan of the Sudarshan Chakra, and the Mohan of the Charkha (Mahatma Gandhi)…we are the people who have seen yudhh (war) and Buddha. We can go from yudh to Buddha. Buddha’s path (of peace) should be our final path,” he said.PM Modi also condemned female infanticide prevailing in the countryTerming castiesm, communalism and nepotism as the forms of social evils present inside people, he said and there is a need to get rid of these ‘Ravanas’. Modi said on side the country was celebrating Vijay Dashmi and on the other the world was observing the day of the girl child today and called upon people to end the menace of female infanticide and foeticide.”We have pledged to burn Ravana’s effigy every year for abducting Sita. But we continue to discriminate between the male and female child. It should end. Who will end the Ravana inside us that kills many Sitas inside a mother’s womb. We should stop killing Sitas in this 21st century,” he said. He said women athletes brought laurels to the country in the recently-held Rio Olympics and they are a fine example of what girls can achieve.Modi also used his speech to drive home the importance of sanitation and called for a fight against the social evil of manual scavenging which continues to eixist despite efforts. Using the occasion, Modi said just as we burn Ravan every year, people should draw lessons from the tradition by taking a pledge to end all evils from our lives.Highlighting the significance of Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls early next year, Modi said this land has given us Ram and Krishna. Modi began and concluded his speech with chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram; Jai, Jai Shri Ram’ the slogan often heard at the height of Ram temple movement. BJP has in recent elections, however, desisted from making the Ram temple issue an electoral plank.Earlier, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who also represents the Lucknow constituency in Lok Sabha, thanked the Prime Minister for being successful in eradicating corruption and for enhancing the country’s image across the world.”Wholesale corruption was at its peak earlier. I thank the PM for being successful in eradicating corruption,” he said, apparently targeting the previous Congress-led government. He said Modi has also helped improve India’s global standing by showing to the world its strength.

Dussehra 2016: Facebook and WhatsApp messages for your loved ones

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Durga Puja and Navratri celebrations drawing to a close, it’s time for the festivities of Dussehra or Vijayadashami .According to mythology, on this day, Maa Durga triumphed over the demon Mahishasura. It also marks the defeat of the demon Ravana.It has been customary across India, to wish each other good health and celebrate the day. But just in case you have to wish your loved and dear ones over messages, here is a list of messages that could be of help. Happy Dussehra!1. A time for celebration, a time for victory of good over bad, a time when the world sees the example of the power of good. Let us continue the same spirit. Happy Dussehra!2. I pray this Dussehra showers upon you: 1. Shanti 2. Shakti 3. Saiyam 4. Samman 5. Saralta 6. Safalta 7. Samriddhi 8. Sanskaar 9. Swaasthya *Happy Dussehra!*3. Wishing you good health and success. May you be surrounded by the spirit of goodness. Happy Vijaya Dashami!4. May God bless you with all success on the auspicious occasion of Dussahra and you may be capable of defeating all evils in your life.5. On this occasion, I wish all the colors, bliss and joy be with you and your family… Happy Dussehra!6. Everyday the sun rises to give us a message that darkness will always be beaten by light. Let us follow the same natural rule and enjoy the festival of ‘Good defeats Evil’. Happy Dusshera!7. May Lord Rama always keep showering his blessings upon you… May your life be prosperous and trouble free throughout. Happy Dussehra.8. Jaise Ram ne jeeta Lanka ko, / Waise aap bhi jeeten saari duniya. / Is dussehra mil jayen aap ko, / Duniya bhar ki saari khushiyan. Happy Dussehra!9. May the happiness that Durga Puja brings, stay with you throughout the year. Happy Vijayadashami!10. Maa ki jyoti se noor milta hai. / Sabke dilon ko surur milta hai. / Jo bhi jata hai mata ke dwar, / Usse kuch na kuch zaroor milta hai.Hope you and your family have a Happy Dussehra!

In a first, PM to celebrate Dussehra in Lucknow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi is breaking another trend — that of heads of government celebrating Dussehra in the national capital. He is likely to spend the evening of October 11 at the Aishbagh Ramlila Samiti ground of Lucknow, the capital of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma has extended the invitation to the Prime Minister. Though the written acceptance is yet to be sent, the Prime Minister’s Office has informally conveyed that Modi was likely to attend the Ramleela programme at Lucknow.This will be the first time that an Indian Prime Minister will be celebrating the festival at Lucknow. Though former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Lucknow, which was his Lok Sabha constituency five times, he too never attended Dussehra celebrations in this 1807 Ramlila ground of the city.Modi, an MP from Varanasi, will be spending 90 minutes at the venue in Lucknow. This comes at a time when the BJP is gearing up for the crucial UP assembly polls early next year. This will also be his first visit to the state after the surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC), which have raised the hopes of the BJP rank and file in UP. Party leaders said people see Modi as a hero who has lived up to their expectations. Though the party leaders have been asked to restrain from chest-thumping, the BJP is like to cash in on the Centre’s response to the Uri attack.Home minister Rajnath Singh, who represents the Lucknow seat, has called upon the people of the state to end the BJP’s 14-year exile from power, apparently drawing parallels to the period when Lord Rama had to suffer exile, as per the mythological tale around which Dussehra revolves.Besides, the Prime Minister has been trying to send the message that he wanted to change the tradition of Delhi being the Centre of major events. So far, he has done this mostly on the diplomatic front. The move began with bilaterals with visiting world dignitaries. He now plans to summit-level meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Goa later this month. The Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) summit will also be held in Goa on those dates. Vajpayee had also met Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf outside Delhi in 2001, when they held talks in Agra.Modi has been celebrating Diwali too outside Delhi. The first Dussehra after he came to power was made an apolitical affair with Modi sharing the dais with Opposition leaders Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan.

West Bengal: Police recover huge cache of arms from illegal factory

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Police on Sunday recovered a huge of arms from an illegal factory in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. Over 100 arms and ammunition were recovered from a house in Santoshpur. Most of the arms were semi-finished, which points toward an illegal manufacturing unit existing in the area. “From a house in Santoshpur, we have recovered hundreds of semi-finished arms and a huge cache of ammunition. Besides that, we have recovered seven 7mm pistols and twenty-two 9mm pistols. Other recoveries range from gas cutters to lead machines. We had specific inputs and when we conducted the raid, we found a full-fledged illegal arms factory existing in the area,” said Chandrasekhar Bardhan, Additional Superintendent of Police, West, South 24 Parganas District. Preliminary investigations reveal that one person had rented the house from landlord, Samsher Ali and later got labourers from Bihar to manufacture arms in this particular house. Investigators told reporters on Sunday that the house had been sound-proofed and a music system would play to prevent any sound from being heard outside. “We have also begun an investigation into the case to find out which state the consignment was meant for. The gang might have its roots in other states too. However, existence of similar illegal arms factories in the district cannot be ruled out at this moment,” added Bardhan. While the police arrested the landlord of the house on charges of harbouring anti-socials, all the others, including the mastermind, are at large. Meanwhile, the police have registered a case and have begun a lookout for all the accused. This is the third such illegal arms factory that the police stumbled upon within a span of a month in the same district. On September 9, a similar factory came to light in Maheshtala’s Rabindranagar and on September 27, police found another illegal arms manufacturing unit at Baruipur.

Markandey Katju booked for sedition following his comments on Bihar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As the row over his remarks on Bihar raged on, former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju has been booked on sedition charge following a complaint by a JD(U) MLC against his online post that Kashmir should be offered to Pakistan on the condition that it takes Bihar too. Another complaint was also filed on Wednesday in the district court against Katju, who hit back at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for his critical remarks and churned out more taunting posts.Reacting on the sedition charge, Katju on Facebook said ‘Hari Om!’Katju has been booked under 124-A (sedition) and other sections of IPC, according to SHO of Shashtrinagar police station Birendra Pratap. JD(U) MLC and its state spokesman Neeraj Kumar had last evening lodged a complaint in the police station here against Katju seeking his prosecution for alleged sedition .Meanwhile, lawyer, Arvind Kumar, filed a petition in the court of Patna Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Om Prakash against Katju. The complaint sought registration of a case under sections 124 (A) (sedition), 500 (Punishment for defemation), 501 (Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory and 505 (Statements conducting to public mischief) of IPC. The date for hearing the plea is yet to be decided.Katju’s comments on Facebook about Bihar have drawn sharp criticism. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had ridiculed him for trying to become ‘Mai-Baap’ (guardian) of the state. His comments had also invited the wrath of Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Prasad Yadav, former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and JD(U) leaders K C Tyagi and Shyam Rajak among others.Though Katju had sought to backtrack on Tuesday after a barrage of protests by writing on his Facebook account “I was only joking about Bihar” but today he again continued with his jibes on the social media. “I suggest Biharis should take their complaint against me to the UN. When ‘cheer haran’ of Draupadi was being done, she appealed to Lord Krishna to save her honour,” Katju wrote on his Facebook post today.”Nitish Kumar says that I regard myself as the ‘ mai baap’ of Bihar. No Nitishji, I am not the ‘mai baap’ of Biharis but their Shakuni Mama,” he wrote in an another post.

PM Modi lauds Amma for her contribution to Swachch Bharat on her birthday

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday praised spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi, popularly known as ‘Amma’ around the world, for her commitment to his government’s Swachch Bharat programme on the occasion of her 63rd birthday.”Particularly, Amma’s initiative on building toilets has been a great help in our Swachh Bharat Programme. Amma has pledged to contribute one hundred crore rupees towards sanitation efforts in Kerala. This pledge includes the construction of fifteen thousand toilets for the poor. Today, I am informed that throughout the state, Amma’s ashram has already completed construction of two thousand toilets,” Prime Minister Modi said through a video conference address.Prime Minister Modi said, “On this pious and sacred occasion, I offer my deep regards to Amma. I also pray to the Almighty to give long life and good health to her. She is the guiding light for millions of devotees. Not only that, she has become the synonym of life for many devotees. Like a real Maa, she nurtures her devotees through direct and indirect acts; visible and invisible hands.””I am very fortunate to be among those who have Amma’s blessings and unconditional love. Three years ago, I had the opportunity to be present at Amritapuri, to pay my respects on the occasion of Amma’s 60th birthday celebrations. Today, though I am not so lucky as to be present at the celebrations in person, I am delighted to be able to greet her, through technology. I have just returned from Kerala, and I was touched by the love and affection showered on me by the people of Kerala,” he said further.The Prime Minister said that India is the land of such saints who have seen God in everything that can be seen. Mankind is prominent among those things. That is why service to mankind has become their main motto.”I am aware that even in her childhood Amma was fond of giving her own food to others. Serving the old and the aged, and helping the needy have been her childhood passions. Also, she used to worship Lord Krishna in her childhood. These two qualities have been her strength. Devotion to God and Dedication to the Poor is thus, the message which I have personally taken from my association with Amma. Millions of devotees from all over the world also believe in the same,” Prime Minister Modi said.”I am aware of the social and charitable works done by various institutions and programmes run by Amma. She is always keen to help the world’s poor in meeting their five basic needs – food, shelter, health care, education, and livelihood. I would like to particularly mention the works done and donations made in the field of sanitation, water, housing, education and health. I understand that some of those beneficiaries will get their certificates today,” he said.”One year ago, Amma generously donated one hundred crore rupees to the Namami Gange programme. I am also aware of Amma’s helping hands to mitigate the sufferings in the aftermath of natural disasters. It is also heartening to note that the researchers at Amrita University are innovating new approaches to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems,” he said.

Tirupati: Hair offering at Balaji temple fetches Rs 17.82 crore in 2 months

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The auction of human hair made as offering by devotees in the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara has fetched Rs 17.82 crore in July and August this year.The auction of human hair held in July netted Rs 11.88 crore while in August Rs 5.94 crore, said top officials of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which administers the cash-rich temple thronged by lakhs of devotees.Briefing reporters after a monthly meeting of the TTD Board, its Chairman Chadalavada Krishnamurthy and Executive Officer Dr D Sambasiva Rao said it had been decided to buy 39.32 lakh litres of toned milk this year at a cost of Rs 11.28 crore for free distribution to infants of devotees waiting for darshan in massive queue complexes.The temple management also made a decision to buy 2.25 lakh kgs of cow ghee from Karnal Milk foods Ltd of Haryana at a cost of Rs 376 per kg, aggregating to Rs 8.46 crore for use in the making the much sought after ‘Tirupati Laddu’ and other prasadams for next six months, they said.TTD Public Relations Officer Dr Talari Ravi later told PTI that the sale of human hair was expected to fetch about Rs 150 crore in 2016-17 as per the projection made in the Rs 2,678 crore budget of TTD for 2016-17 fiscal.Anually, about 10 million devotees, including women and children, get their heads tonsured as fulfilment of vow before entering the more than 2000-year old hill temple, he added.

Pampore terror attack aftermath: Three-tier security for Amarnath yatra

Focus has now shifted to the security of the Amarnath yatra which takes off in Jammu and Kashmir on July 2.Spurt in terror attacks particularly on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway has prompted the security forces to rejig the entire security network for the annual pilgrimage.”We will secure entire stretch (of the highway) for the yatra. That is going to be done. And that is where we are going to sit down and do brainstorming,” said K Durga Prasad, director general of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sources said three-tier security arrangements have been made to ensure secure and hassle-free yatra. CCTV surveillance, area domination, specialised road opening techniques and round the clock monitoring is all planned for the 48-day yatra.More than 125 additional companies of paramilitary forces will be deployed en route to cave shrine. Several National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) teams will also be deployed to meet exigency, if any, during the yatra period.The central forces are in addition of the existing manpower available in the state. Indian army has been entrusted the job of area domination and securing the upper reaches around the cave shrine. ITBP men will also be deployed on the important axis en route to holy cave.Paramilitary forces and army troops would also be deployed on the highway to ensure security of the pilgrim buses. Laced with state of the art equipments the forces would be conducting anti IED drive round-the-clock to keep militants at bay and ensure smooth convoy movement.Pilgrim convoy will be escorted by the paramilitary forces from Jammu base camp right up to the Pahalgam and Baltal base camps. Jammu and Kashmir police will be entrusted the job of securing the areas from Pahalgam and Baltal base camps up to the cave shrine.Situated in a narrow gorge at the altitude of 3,888 metres, the holy Amarnath cave is accessible from two routes in Kashmir valley. The 46 kilometer Pahalgam – Holy cave trek is an ancient pilgrimage route which is covered in five days. And there lie the ice lingam of Lord Shiva formed naturally that waxes and wanes with the moon. The new 14 kilometer Baltal-Holy cave route is now preferred by the pilgrims since it is shorter though steep and journey can be completed in a day.Authorities are also deploying X ray machines to check the baggage of the people before proceeding to the cave shrine. Cops will also be gathering intelligence to preempt any untoward incident and keep militants at bay.All busy places including langars (free community kitchens) are being brought under security cover CCTV cameras are being utilised to get footage of busiest places. Round the clock functioning of joint control rooms and supervision of arrangements by the senior officers is also planned.Chairing a high-level review meeting, director general of police K Rajendra Kumar asked the officers to identify the sensitive places and strengthen the security grid after making joint efforts.”Joint patrolling should be carried out round the clock in these areas and also on National Highway should be kept under continuous surveillance to foil any attempt of disruption by the miscreants,” he said.Central team to visit stateSecurity establishment has sent a special team under secretary (border management) in the Uunion home ministry Susheel Kumar to review the security preparedness in Kashmir for Amarnath Yatra which begins on July 7and is expected to attract about 10 lakh pilgrims and tourists.”The team will hold talks with top commanders of army, paramilitary forces and J&K Police to beef up the security arrangements and tweak them wherever needed,” a highly placed home ministry official said.The team will also take a decision on reinforcing buses that carry paramilitary forces from one place to another.”We are thinking of putting special steel plates developed by the DRDO on the sides of the buses. These plates can withstand bullets of AK 47 easily,” added the source.

Uber India’s first female driver found dead in Bengaluru

A 40-year-old woman cab driver, V Bharathi, was found dead in her unlocked rented house, in Bengaluru’s Nagashetty Halli area, police said on Tuesday. Bharathi was one of Uber’s first female driver in India in 2013.

“It appears to be a case of suicide, as the victim’s body was found hanging by a cloth-like rope from the ceiling of a room by her landlord on Monday night,” Sanjay Nagar police inspector Prakash told IANS here.

V. Bharathi drove Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Founder & CEO of Biocon, to her workplace. Image Courtesy: Uber.comV. Bharathi drove Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Founder & CEO of Biocon, to her workplace. Image Courtesy:

V Bharathi drove Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Founder & CEO of Biocon, to her workplace. Image Courtesy:

No suicide note was found in her house. The police registered a case of unnatural death and shifted the body to a state-run hospital for autopsy to ascertain the cause of Bharathi’s death.

“The landlord went to the third floor of his house where Bharathi was staying in the rented portion to check her whereabouts as he had not seen her since Sunday night. He found her body hanging through the room’s window and alerted us,” Prakash recalled.

While the police are convinced that Bharathi’s death is a suicide, the fact that her door was unlocked is creating some mystery.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, her landlord Shankar Singh hinted at depression and said that she told him that she was frustrated as she was single. He was reported to have denied that she had any financial problems.

Hailing from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Bharathi was staying alone in the house as she was single and orphaned. Her cab was found parked in front of the house in the northwest suburb.

A News18 report quotes police officials saying that Bharathi wanted to return to her hometown and had informed her landlord about shifting her gas connection to Andhra Pradesh.

“As per our records, Bharathi was one of the first women taxi drivers in the city and joined the all-women cab service, Angel City Cabs two years ago and later registered her vehicle with aggregator Uber, the online personal transportation firm,” Prakash added.

Bharathi had come into the spotlight last year after she drove Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Founder & CEO of Biocon, to her workplace on Women’s Day.

Speaking about her future plans, she recently told The News Minute, “I’ll do this job as long as I can. Jitne din taakat rahti hai. (Till I have the energy to do so).”

With inputs from agencies

Odisha: Ahead of annual Rathyatra, Jagannath Temple official and son-in-law arrested for assault

Member of Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee and Secretary of Daitapati Nijog, Premananda Das Mohapatra, and his son-in-law were arrested on Friday for allegedly assaulting a doctor and grievously injuring him, a police officer said.The servitor and his son-in-law, Nabakrushna Prusty were booked for various offences including attempt to murder for the alleged attack on the duty doctor at the district headquarter hospital here, said Inspector In-Charge of Kumbharpada police station, KC Sethi. The incident took place last night when Das Mohapatra had gone to the hospital with and others for the treatment of his grandson who was unwell, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dr Khirod Chandra Pal advised the servitor to get a ticket from the hospital counter, but Das Mohapatra reacted furiously and asked for the phone number of the Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO), Sethi said quoting the complaint lodged by the doctor. When the doctor refused to give the CDMO’s phone number, Das Mohapatra started abusing using vulgar language and physically assaulted him causing grievous injuries, he said.
ALSO READ Odisha: Congress demands white paper on safety of Jagannath TempleSoon after the incident the doctor lodged a complaint at Kumbharapada police station. Later, Das Mohapatra also lodged a similar complaint against the doctor, the officer said.The doctor, who has sustained serious injuries including a severe haematoma near the eye, has been referred to SCB Medical College and Hospital, the IIC said.
ALSO READ CM Naveen Patnaik inspects cracks in Sri Jagannath temple, central team to visit PuriThe doctors and other staff of the district hospital had stopped work in protest against the attack and normalcy was restored after the administration intervened and assured them that action would be taken, police said.Police said Das Mohapatra faces several criminal cases and had been arrested in the past for allegedly attacking an electoral official, police said, adding he was also arrested recently for gambling and subsequently released on bail. The arrest of Das Mohapatra ahead of the annual Rathyatra of Lord Jagannath has sparked apprehension about various rituals performed by the servitors as he is the secretary of the Daitapati Nijog.

Compliment UP govt for handling Mathura clashes, says Amar Singh

Defending the Uttar Pradesh government’s handling of the Mathura clashes, Samajwadi Party MP Amar Singh on Sunday “complimented” it for tackling the “ticklish” issue and blamed the Centre for not sharing inputs on the presence of extremist elements at Jawahar Bagh.”I compliment the state government for handling the ticklish (Mathura) issue. Home Minister Rajnath Singh cannot shed his responsibilities. Can he tell whether central intelligence agency had given any input to state regarding presence of Naxalites of Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and Odisha in Mathura,” Singh told reporters.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We were not informed about presence of extremist elements there”, Amar said.Responding to BJP Chief Amit Shah’s allegations that senior party leader and Cabinet Minister Shivpal Yadav had provided patronage to the cult, Singh said, “A big leader from Gujarat has demanded resignation of the state government over Mathura incident. I want to know if he asked for the same from the CM of Madhya Pradesh, where Vyapam scam took place, or from Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, after Naxalites killed Vidya Charan Shukla or the Haryana CM, after rapes took place during the quota stir.”Replying to a question, Singh said Shivpal had known Jai Gurudev, who was the spiritual head of the sect occupying the Jawahar Bagh, but added that it was a matter of personal faith.”Even I used to visit his ashram and will again go,” he said, adding that the one that occupied Jawahar Bagh was a “break-away faction”.The state government had followed court orders in Mathura and sent a small force of police as women and children were there, he said. “The state was defamed during Badaun rape and leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Ram Vilas Paswan, Mayawati visited there. But when CBI gave clean chit no one uttered anything”, he said.Singh said he appreciated Narendra Modi for pursuing India’s entry into the 48-nation Nuclear Supplier Group, but added that the BJP “stood with China and Pakistan, when UPA government was entering into the nuclear deal (with USA).””SP supported the then Manmohan Singh government after taking advice of APJ Abdul Kalam, who termed it necessary,” he said.Taking potshots at the saffron party, he said, “I pay obeisance to lord Ram but do not play politics in his name. No one has patented Ram, he is for everyone.”Asked about Kairana issue, where several families were allegedly leaving their homes due to fear of criminals, Singh said that whatever action was required would be taken at the administrative level.”But can the Centre tell about exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from Jammu and Kashmir,” he asked.Singh also spoke about his connection with RLD, saying he had contested elections on its ticket and the party helped SP in MLC and Rajya Sabha polls.On Shankaracharya of the Dwarka-Sharda peeth, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati’s allegation that “Yadav” community was responsible for Mathura incident, he said he condemned any such statement.”He is Shankaracharya of Dwarka, Lord Krishna will not be happy with him for his comments on Yadav community,” he added.

Fire breaks out in Tirupati temple kitchen, none hurt

Tirupati: A fire broke out in a kitchen outside the hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara temple near here
on Friday but no one was injured.

Tirupati temple. Image courtesy: AFPTirupati temple. Image courtesy: AFP

Tirupati temple. Image courtesy: AFP

Talari Ravi, PRO of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams that manages the shrine, told PTI that a ghee soaked wall accidentally caught fire from the embers of a large burning oven in the kitchen which was engaged in preparing ‘Boondi’.

The sacred laddu prasadam is made inside the temple with the ‘boondi’, he said.

Two fire tenders rushed to the spot immediately and brought the fire under control. No one was injured and no damage was reported in the mishap, he said.

High tech edge to monsoon forecast: Here’s why India is spending $60 million on a new supercomputer

India’s forecasting of the monsoon – the crop-nourishing seasonal rains that are the lifeblood for farmers in the country of 1.3 billion people – is getting a high-tech makeover.Jettisoning a statistical method introduced under British colonial rule in the 1920s, India’s meteorology office is spending $60 million on a new supercomputer to improve the accuracy of one of the world’s most vital weather forecasts in time for next year’s rains.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The new system, based on a US model tweaked for India, requires immense computing power to generate three-dimensional models to help predict how the monsoon is likely to develop.Experts say better forecasting could help India raise its farm output by nearly 15%, by helping farmers tweak the best time to sow, irrigate or apply fertilizer to crops and if rains fail plan state-wide measures. This would be a major boon for a country already either the world’s biggest or second-biggest producer and consumer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton.”If everything goes well, by 2017 we’ll make this dynamical model operational by replacing the statistical model,” said M. Rajeevan, the top scientist in the ministry of earth sciences, which oversees the weather office on a 30-acre campus in the heart of New Delhi.The June-September rains are relied on to replenish reservoirs, recharge aquifers and for half of all farmland that does not have irrigation.Many areas receive more than 70% of their annual rains during the monsoon and plentiful rains means more money in rural communities, sustaining some 600 million people and boosting demand for an array of goods and services.MELTING SNOWRajeevan declined to name the companies the bureau was talking to obtain the new supercomputer, but said it would be 10 times faster than the existing one supplied by IBM.The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issues forecasts for the country as a whole and five regions, though does not give separate ones for the country’s 29 states.”We didn’t adopt the dynamical model earlier because it was not able to forecast monsoons. Now, it can and with better results than the statistical model,” said Rajeevan.The existing model uses historical relationships between rainfall and six to eight predictors such as sea-surface temperatures and southeasterly winds over the Indian ocean.Because of India’s size, one national forecast is of little help to farmers spread across diverse climatic zones.”I’ll cherish the day they’ll come up with a forecast for my state. It’s going to mitigate our risks and help us plan our crop better,” said Dharmendra Kumar, whose farm is in Uttar Pradesh, a state roughly the size of the United Kingdom and with a bigger population than Brazil.The IMD, set up in 1875, produced its first monsoon forecast in 1886 after the famine of the 1870s.Back then, it relied on melting snow in the Himalayas to predict rains. Early forecasters also observed plants and animals, consulted almanacs and invoked Lord Indra, the rain God of Hindus.Now, about 5,000 IMD employees gather data, obtained from radar, observatories, ships, sensors and satellites, for the weather office, where staff peer at computer screens flickering with charts, graphs and multi-coloured maps of India.In 2015, the IMD accurately forecast a second straight drought year, in contrast to predictions of bountiful rains by Skymet, India’s only private forecaster.But the weather office failed to foresee the worst drought in nearly four decades in 2009 and, as this year’s monsoon starts, farmers hope its forecast of above-average rains will be right.”In the last one decade we’ve gained a greater degree of precision in forecasting rains, but monsoon still remains a very complex weather system which only God has the ability to understand fully,” Rajeevan said.

LDF govt not to ‘hurt’ anybody on Sabarimala women entry issue

The LDF government in Kerala would not take any decision that would hurt anybody on the issue of entry of women of menstruating age in the famous hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, state Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran on Tuesday said. Addressing a meet-the-press here, Surendran said, “The government will not take any decision that would hurt anybody …it will take any decision only after consulting all groups.” The issue had not yet been discussed either in the ruling front or by the ministry, he said. He further said he was only a politician and not competent enough to say how the entry of women would affect the rituals of the temple. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The case is under the consideration of the Supreme Court and it will take a decision in this regard. I am not the right person to say how the entry of women will affect the rituals of Ayyappa Temple. There are competent people to comment on the matter and they will speak,” the Minister said. Women in the age group of 10-50 are banned entry in the temple, which attracts lakhs of devotees. Asked about the decision to dissolve the Devaswom Recruitment Board and entrust the job to the state-run Public Service Commission, he said there was no need for an institution like Devaswom Recruitment Board for the purpose. “Our decision was only to leave the recruitment of clerical staff and engineers, who are very less in number, to PSC. And not the recruitment of priests. There is no need for a separate devaswom recruitment board for the purpose,” he said. Surendran slammed the previous UDF government for constituting the board. The PSC would make appointments after meeting all necessary formalities and procedures, he added.

Entry to women in temples: Supreme Court questions practice of barring women at Sabarimala

The Supreme Court on questioned the centuries-old practice of barring entry of women between the age group of 10 to 50 years to Sabarimala temple in Kerala saying it would test whether “faith and belief” can differentiate among persons of same “denominations”.”The question is should there be such a religious practice which creates a dent on the concept of gender equality. You must have some kind of cosmopolitan belief which treats denominations of same faith equally,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra, V Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph said. The “tussle” and “differentiation” between the right of men and women will have to withstand constitutional scrutiny, it said when senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the Travancore Devaswom Board which manages the hill-top shrine, vehemently said, “Nobody, possibly the court also, can question the faith and belief.” <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Venugopal, referring to an apex court judgement, said such a judicial intervention would cause “injustice” to the age- old faith and belief and would adversely affect religious institutions of all faiths.He also said the President of Indian Young Lawyers’ Association, which has filed the PIL on the issue, is a practicising Muslim and now demands have started coming up for allowing entry of women in the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai which, they say, is against their religious practices.He also reiterated that women are not discriminated on the ground of gender as girls and women of a particular age-group are allowed. At the outset, the counsel for Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar sought to intervene in the ongoing hearing of the PIL.Favouring the age-old traditions, he said the devotees of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala have a “fundamental right of practicing their religion in accordance with the beliefs, cultural traditions and rituals associated with the particular deity i.e., the celibate Lord Ayyappa who presides over the Sabarimala Temple”.Besides the lawmaker, advocate M L Sharma and two Kerala- based organisations, Hind Navotthana Pratishtan and Narayanashrama Tapovanam, also sought nod to intervene. The court, which did not allow these pleas for the time being, however, assured them of a hearing at a later stage. Venugopal also referred to some constitutional provisions to drive home the point that courts should not venture into the territory of “faith and belief” and stressed that there was no gender discrimination in the instant case. He also referred to the 1993 Kerala High Court judgement on the issue and said that it has already been settled. The hearing remained inconclusive and would resume on May 6.The management of the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Pathanamthitta district, had told the court that the ban on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years was because they cannot maintain “purity” on account of menstruation.

Is it really worth living the life of a tiller in India?

It has been a bad year for wheat production as rains have been erratic. The estimates suggest the overall production will be down by 14% but some small farmers are complaining of still larger losses. A farmer I spoke to said that he and his neighbours’ production of wheat is down 40% from last year. These are farmers who have almost no irrigation for their crops and only depend on the rain gods.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Agricultural productionAccording to the World Bank, India has 60.6% of the land under agriculture and China has 54.8%. However, the yield of wheat in India is just 3.2 M/ha whereas in China it’s 5 M/ha. The figures of yield of rice also describe the same story. In spite of having vast tracts of land under agriculture, the productivity of land in India is quite low.There are several reasons for such an anomaly such as small land holdings, dependence on rainfall, lack of use of good quality seeds, inadequate implementation of land reforms etc. However, one of the major reasons for low agricultural productivity in India is landlessness. According to an article in Foreign Affairs, more than 20 million poor rural families across India own no land, and millions more lack legal rights to the land they work and live on.With no ownership of land, the farmer who tills the land has no incentive to invest in the land to improve its productivity. Also, this farmer with no collateral, has no access to institutional credit to buy raw materials and equipment for tilling the land.Tiller – owner of landAfter Independence, one of the major tasks before the Government of India was the introduction of land reforms and ensuring its successful implementation. However, even after 68 years of Independence, the land reforms remain unfinished and incomplete. They have not been able to bring about any significant change in the economic conditions of the cultivator of the land.There were four major reforms: abolition of zamindari (intermediaries), tenancy reforms to ensure security of tenure, ceilings on holdings and consolidation of land. The underlying objective of all these land reforms was (a) enhancing productivity of the land by improving economic conditions of the farmers, thus incentivising them to invest in agriculture (b) to create a system where tiller/cultivator is the actual owner of the land.The land reforms achieved considerable success in the states of West Bengal and Kerala where CPI(M) was the ruling party but in the rest of India, their performance was way below the average. Operation Barga in West Bengal was instrumental in providing ownership rights to the cultivator but that also fizzled out by the second phase. Also, due to discrepancies and loopholes in the laws on land reforms, Zamindars retained ownership of majority of their land under ‘personal cultivation’ or registering the land in name of their family members. Thus, the tiller is still suffering and toiling day and night on a piece of earth that he/she can’t claim to be his own.According to an article in Landesa, 54% of the rural population in India lives without any ownership of land.When one studies the figures of land use pattern of India, it is observed that almost 24 million hectares of cultivable land lies uncultivated. This includes the cultivable waste land and fallow land. One may wonder why these lands are lying uncultivated when we could produce food out of these and feed an impoverished nation like India where many people go hungry every single day.Ambiguous land ownershipIn Bihar, under the tenancy law, a tenant has the right to acquire land from a landlord without paying money if the tenant cultivated the land continuously for 12 years. However, this reform is of little benefit to the farmers of Bihar. This is because many small farmers have been tilling land on ‘oral agreements’ and do not have paper records to prove their 12 years of hard work. In India there is some effort at digitisation of land records and but still the organisation is not complete.There have been instances when a farmer has been asked to produce legal records of his land. The documents produced are so old and have yellowed over the years that the text is erased and one cannot read it. Such episodes further highlight the ambiguity surrounding ownership of land in India. In Andhra Pradesh, 20% of land has ambiguous ownership.An NGO working for land rights, Landesa estimates that at least 250 million rural men and 400 million rural women around the world lack secure legal rights to land on which they depend for cultivation. According to a report by McKinsey and Company, ambiguous land ownership and laws cut an estimated 1.3% off India’s yearly GDP growth. And, according to an article in foreign affairs, if there are secure land rights, there can be a 60% increase in agricultural production and a 150% increase in family income.Thus, there is a clear need for providing secure land rights to the cultivators to incentivise them to invest in their land and improve its productivity. Land is a limited resource. We can’t generate more land but what we can do is produce more from what we have.Land reforms in other countriesImplementing land reforms and developing mechanisms for land rights is not an easy task. However, countries that have invested their efforts in ensuring the same have seen remarkable improvement in the economic conditions of their rural communities and in turn the entire agricultural sector.China has done some work on the farm land rights. In China, the largest poverty alleviation programme involved ensuring land rights reforms where communes were turned into family farms and farms households were endowed with 30 years of transferable rights to land. These reforms have considerably uplifted the economic situation of millions of farmers of China.Rwanda in Africa embarked on the journey of key constitutional and legislative reforms in 2011-2013 with the focus on land rights “titling” process for its rural communities. After the introduction of these reforms, there has been an improvement in livelihoods and overall agricultural management and growth.Recently, in India the Rajasthan government has passed the “titling” law for urban areas to ensure security of land rights. This is the first such law in the country passed in any state. It may inspire other states to also adopt similar laws.One day the tiller will not just toilAbout 3,00,000 farmers have committed suicide in India in the last 20 years. Many have described these as “debt deaths”. The tiller seems to be having a tough time surviving. The land holding are quite small and it is their only source of income in many cases. When the crop fails everything in their life comes crumbling down.Mahatma Gandhi deriving from John Ruskin’s work “Unto this last”, said,”The life of a tiller is a life worth living.” Is it really worth living the life of a tiller in India?Rohit Gandhi is the Editor-in-Chief of dna and ZEE’s upcoming global English news channel WION. Follow him on Twitter @RohitGandhi_

Strict action against those who depict me as God: UP BJP chief Keshav Maurya

Recently, posters showing Keshav Maurya as Krishna, Uttar Pradesh as Draupadi and Akhilesh Yadav as Kauravas created controversy. BJP’s newly appointed UP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya on Sunday warned of strict action against those who depict him as God in posters or hoardings, days after posters appeared in Varanasi showing him as Lord Krishna and his rivals, including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, as Kauravas.In a statement in Lucknow, Maurya appealed the workers that he should not be depicted or compared to God in hoardings, banners and posters. He also warned of stern action against those who put up such objectionable material.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Varanasi posters had stoked a controversy prompting the BJP to say it had nothing to do with it. The poster depicted Uttar Pradesh as Draupadi being disrobed by the Kauravas.

All you need to know about Puthandu and Vishu

Tamilians and Malayalees all across the globe are celebrating the start of the Hindu new year today. A bright array of pictures and wishes have brightened up the face of social media. Political leaders too, have taken to social media to wish the country on this occasion of Hindu New Year. Pranab Mukherjee wished the country and said in a message,”On the auspicious occasion of Vishu, Rongali Bihu, Vaisakhi, Puthandu Pirappu and Naba Barsha, I extend my warm greetings and good wishes to all fellow citizens.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Puthandu defines the beginning of Tamil New yearTamil solar calendar’s first month Chitterai is ushered in with a mix of traditional customs, celebrated on the day of April 14. The tradition of placing three fruits (jack fruit, mango and banana), jewellery (mostly gold or silver), coins, flowers, beetle leaves and a mirror happens on the eve of Puthandu. This then becomes the first thing for the devotees to view upon waking up. Houses are generally decorated with ‘kolams’, and a feast marks the celebration of a prosperous new year. Here is what Vishu celebration is all about!Similar to the Tamil way of celebration, the morning begins with the sighting of Vishukkani, which is the first thing devotees view immediately after they wake up. Usually consisting of fruits, vegetables, rice, coins and holy texts, Lord Krishna’s statue forms the crux of this beautiful sight as it is decorated with garlands and lighted lamps. This is followed by the custom of elders giving money to the young ones, symbolic of sharing wealth and prosperity, known as Vishu kaineettam.No festival is of course, complete without a sumptuous meal. Several popular dishes cooked during this are mampazha pulissery, Vishu kanji, Vishu katta, and payasam, amongst others!

Following Kollam tragedy, fireworks banned in AP temple festival

Vijayawada: The Endowments Department of Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday issued an order banning use of fireworks as part of any temple festival in the state, days after the tragic Kollam temple fire in Kerala claimed 113 lives.

Revenue (Endowments) Principal Secretary J S V Prasad issued an order to this effect and directed executive officers of all temples in the state to take necessary precautionary measures with immediate effect.

Prasad also directed the Endowments Commissioner to take further action in the matter.

Referring to the Kollam temple fire, he said lesson must be learned from this unfortunate incident that turned a temple festival into a “tragedy of grave proportions”.

A file photo of Kollam fire. PTIA file photo of Kollam fire. PTI

A file photo of Kollam fire. PTI

“The government has noted that a competitive fireworks display which flouted rules and regulations has turned the temple festival in Kollam, Kerala, into a tragedy of grave proportions. It is necessary to draw lessons from this unfortunate incident so that such tragedies can be averted,” Prasad said in an order.

No fireworks shall henceforth be used as part of any temple festival.

“Even if it is contemplated as per tradition of any particular temple, prior approval of the local District Administration must be taken,” he added.

The Executive Officer of the most famous Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams has been asked to undertake a thorough review of Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateswara, as well as other shrines under his control and upgrade facilities to prevent fire accidents.

He suggested fire safety measures like widening of Mada streets (surrounding the main temple), proper electrification, installation of fire safety devices, ensuring clear entry and exit routes and also emergency fire escape routes and not raising thatched structures on temporary basis during summer.

Executive officers have also been asked to take steps to see that good quality electrical wiring was done and wires
passed only through conduits.

Adequate circuit-breakers should be installed to avoid short circuits, Prasad added.

Jallianwala Bagh massacre: Read Tagore’s heart-rending letter renouncing his knighthood

After the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore had written a public letter to Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy of India protesting the massacre and renouncing the knighthood conferred to him in 1915. The letter was published in the Statesman (June 3, 1919 and the Modern Review (July 1919). Calcutta31 May 1919Your Excellency,The enormity of the measures taken by the Government in the Punjab for quelling some local disturbances has, with a rude shock, revealed to our minds the helplessness of our position as British subjects in India. The disproportionate severity of the punishments inflicted upon the unfortunate people and the methods of carrying them out, we are convinced, are without parallel in the history of civilised governments, barring some conspicuous exceptions, recent and remote. Considering that such treatment has been meted out to a population, disarmed and resourceless, by a power which has the most terribly efficient organisation for destruction of human lives, we must strongly assert that it can claim no political expediency, far less moral justification. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The accounts of the insults and sufferings by our brothers in Punjab have trickled through the gagged silence, reaching every corner of India, and the universal agony of indignation roused in the hearts of our people has been ignored by our rulers-possibly congratulating themselves for what they imagine as salutary lessons. This callousness has been praised by most of the Anglo-Indian papers, which have in some cases gone to the brutal length of making fun of our sufferings, without receiving the least check from the same authority-relentlessly careful in smothering every cry of pain and expression of judgement from the organs representing the sufferers. Knowing that our appeals have been in vain and that the passion of vengeance is blinding the nobler vision of statesmanship in our Government, which could so easily afford to be magnanimous as befitting its physical strength and moral tradition, the very least that I can do for my country is to take all consequences upon myself in giving voice to the protest of the millions of my countrymen, surprised into a dumb anguish of terror. The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part wish to stand, shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen, who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.
ALSO READ Jallianwala Bagh massacre: Modern India’s worst atrocity remembered in tweetsThese are the reasons which have painfully compelled me to ask Your Excellency, with due reference and regret, to relieve me of my title of Knighthood, which I had the honour to accept from His Majesty the King at the hands of your predecessor, for whose nobleness of heart I still entertain great admiration.Yours faithfully,
ALSO READ PM Modi salutes martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh massacreRabindranath TagoreSource: Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson, eds., Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Maharashtra: Trimbakeshwar revokes its April 3 ban on men’s entry in sanctum

The Trimbakeshwar Temple authorities have gone back on their April 3 resolution wherein they decided to ban entry of men too into the core worship area at the famous Lord Shiva shrine here.A meeting of the Trimbakeshwar Devasthan Trust held here yesterday cancelled its earlier resolution restricting entry of males into the ‘garbhgriha’ (sanctum sanctorum), Nivrutti Nagare, one of trustees and Chief Officer of Trimbakeshwar Municipal Council said today.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Trust revoked its decision of April 3 owing to pressure from locals, Nagare, who presided over the meeting of the trustees said.The meeting did not decide anything on the centuries-old ban on women’s entry into the core area, he said.However, the temple trustees were unanimous about seeking further guidance from the Bombay High Court in the matter even after its recent ruling that it is the fundamental right of women to go into places of worship.The court had also directed the Maharashtra government to take pro-active steps for ensuring compliance with the law for the prevention of discrimination against women vis-a-vis entry to places of worship.Continuing with the old practice, men devotees were today allowed between 6-7 AM into the core area where the main ‘linga’ is placed. They can enter this innermost part only after donning a specific gear called the sovala (silk clothing).Women, can, however have ‘darshan’ from outside the core area.The ancient temple, located 30 kms from Nashik, is a major Lord Shiva shrine of the country, which has one of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’, drawing devotees from far and wide.According to Ghule, a member of the Trimbakeshwar Temple Trust, the ban on entry of women into the ‘garbhagriha’ is an age-old tradition and not something enforced in recent times.The ban goes back to the Peshwa period.Some priests in the temple town said most of the women devotees might not want to defy the tradition.They claimed that there are certain rays that concentrate in the core area which could probably be harmful to the health of women.Trustees Kailas Ghule, Yadavrao Tungar, Advocate Shrikant Gaidhani, Sachin Pachorkar, Lalita Shinde, Satyapriya Shukla and Jayant Shikhare were present in the meeting, Nagare said.On April 3, the temple authorities had imposed a restriction on men’s entry too into the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine with an aim to provide “equal treatment” to both the genders.

India doesn’t need lessons from the UK on religious freedom

When was the last time the Indian Parliament debated anything related to the internal affairs of an alien nation? Forget alien nation, the record of nearly 20-plus years shows that our political parties are busy pulling each other down in Parliamentary debates and very few, if any of these debates have been about or in the Indian national interest or how to protect and defend it at all times in various spheres of activity on the global stage.

Is it perhaps this that gives a license to alien nations to have all sorts of debates about India with India issuing no rebuke or response to such “debates”?

It is also this that gives a meddling body like the USCIRF to pronounce pompous judgements about religious freedom in various nations including India. In the specific case of the USCIRF, India to its credit, has consistently shown it its place. However, India was unable to question or reprimand some Indians who flew all the way to the US to testify in the USCIRF’s Kangaroo court about matters purely internal to India.

The latest in this line of prying in India’s internal affairs comes in the form of the 17 March 2016 UK House of Lords debate, the gist of which is this: since the time Narendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister, there has been a marked increase in violence against minorities of all hues, freedom of expression of writers and artists have been threatened, there is all-round intolerance, and the BJP and its affiliates are making India “more Hindu” (whatever that means).

None of this is new. Indeed, these are but mere outward manifestations of a discourse that was set in motion originally by the Communists whose antipathy towards anything Hindu or nationalistic is well-known and well-documented. Equally well-documented is the fact that this sort of discourse seeks to drive a wedge between various sections of India—both religious and social. It thus stands to reason that any party or organisation that has the Indian national interest in mind is met with fierce and vicious resistance and slander from the purveyors of the aforementioned discourse.

The 17 March debate in the House of Lords on religious freedom in India was first initiated by Lord Singh of Wimbledon and endorsed by Baroness Berridge, Lord Hussain, Lord (Bishop) Harries, and Lord Ahmed.

Lord Singh, a native of Rawalpindi and a long time British citizen (his parents migrated to the UK in 1933) is recognised widely as a prominent voice of the Sikhs in England. From his presentation in the House of Lords debate, it’s quite clear that he harbours irrational animus against Hindu groups, dubbing everybody in the “extremist” bracket, and blames them for every real and imagined wrongs done against the Sikhs in India.

While his concern for Sikhs is admirable and genuine, he errs on the basics of his own faith and history when he claims that

Today, the pressure on Sikhs is more subtle but perhaps even more serious. It is nothing less than an attempt to dilute Sikh identity and absorb the community into the Hindu fold…India’s constitution in which Sikhs are—without their consent—described as a subset of Hinduism…Sikhs are also frequently shown participating in Hindu religious ceremonies involving idol worship, contrary to Sikh teachings.

The first Sikh Guru, Nanak followed the path of the earlier Bhakti saints and continued the practice of chanting the name of the Divine, “Rama Nama” either mentally or orally or both.

Writing in A Secular Agenda, Arun Shourie notes that the Granth Sahib

“invokes the name of Krishna ten thousand times, of Rama two thousand four hundred times. It invokes Parabrahma 550 times, Omkar 400 times. It invokes the authority of the Vedas, Puranas, Smritis about 350 times. The names of the Nirguna Absolute – Jagdish, Nirankar, Niranjan, Atma, Paramatma, Parmeshwar, Antaryami, Kartar – are invoked twenty six hundred times. Those of Saguna deity – Gobind, Murari, Madhav, Saligram, Vishnu, Sarangpani, Mukund, Thakur, Damodar, Vasudev, Mohan, Banwari, Madhusudan, Keshav, Chaturbhuj, etc, – are invoked two thousand times” and how Guru Tegh Bahadur was “executed explicitly for his defence of the Hindus of Kashmir, he is executed in the company of his Hindu devotees. Guru Gobind Singh composes a paean to Rama – Ramavatara – and another to Krishna – Krishnavatara.”

Here is what Guru Gobind Singh also declares:

Sakal jagat mein khalsa panth gaaje
Jage dharma Hindu, sakal bhand bhaje

Let the path of the pure prevail all over the world
Let the Hindu dharma dawn and all delusion disappear.

This apart, here is what Maharaja Ranjit Singh who founded the greatest Sikh empire and carved out a separate Sikh state did:
– He paid homage to Brahmins
– He made cow slaughter a capital offence
– He gave three times more gold to the Kashi Vishwanath temple than to the Har Mandir in Amritsar

By today’s Communist-Left-Liberal standards, and by Lord Singh’s own pronouncements, these Sikh Gurus and Ranjit Singh will qualify as Hindu extremists or variations thereof.

It therefore behooves the good Lord Singh of Wimbledon to state the basis of his claims. I would point him gently to the classic Hindu-Sikh Relationship by Ram Swarup.

Sikhism as a subset of Hinduism doesn’t mean that its identity is or will be subsumed by Hinduism. It is as much a subset as any of the numerous panths, margas, sampradayas, etc which have independent standing the proof of which lies in the enormous numbers of adherents each of these command even today.

And then Lord Singh goes on at some length to cite examples of how minorities in India under the Modi government are being persecuted, feeling insecure etc, by quoting instances of Church attacks and quotes the selfsame USCIRF “report” on religious freedom in India!

As to the Church attacks, they have been shown to be the handiwork of thieves and vandals and in one case, an employee who stole some money. The Indian media which reported these incidents as the work of “Hindu extremists” stood exposed once again for its dubious journalism.

Let’s now examine what Baroness Berridge says in the debate.

The predominant religion of the Commonwealth is Hinduism, a fact which derives directly from India’s membership. The Commonwealth’s second most widespread religion, Islam, is also well represented in India with 172 million people… By 2050 India is predicted to have the largest Muslim population in the world. India currently has the world’s largest populations of Sikhs, Jains, and Zoroastrians, as well as substantial numbers of Christians and Buddhists and people of no religion at all. India has more people who are not Hindus—a quarter of a billion—than most countries have people. India’s religious diversity has always been part of its national identity and history.

Given all this, it is defies logic how this Baroness doesn’t mention the fact that it is the all-accommodating nature of India’s majority religionists, the Hindus, who continue to allow and grant this freedom to these faiths. Historically, adherents of every persecuted religion on the planet found safe harbour in India be it the Jews or Zoroastrians.


Prime Minister Modi in the UK Parliament’s House of Lords. AFP

We also need to face the other uncomfortable historical truth that alien Muslim invasions since the 8th century and subsequent Muslim rule for about 800 years wreaked havoc on the native Hindu population, tradition, temples, and way of life. The Hindu response was one of resistance, reclamation, but most importantly, toleration and digestion of such sustained attacks over this prolonged period. Other countries have erupted in bloody wars and splintered for far less severe reasons.

Yet the learned Lord Singh finds it prudent to blame the current Indian government “to make India more Hindu.”

Now, there’s no other way to say this: Lord Singh for all purposes is a British citizen and a Lord and reports to Her Majesty the Queen of England. While this is not to take away from his concern for Sikhs, it stands to reason that he cannot speak for the Sikhs in India much less comment on religious freedom in India. It is purely a matter internal to India, which has enough checks and balances and systems to deal with such issues. He also cannot invoke the cloak of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights to condemn and/or interfere in India’s affairs or to demonise Hindu groups who have mostly been maligned unfairly. Here’s a question: why has no Human Rights or other similar body sought justice for the 59 Hindu pilgrims roasted alive in a train coach and for the 254 Hindus who died in the Gujarat 2002 riots?

Lord Singh, in his closing remarks claims

Today I appeal to our Government to move from the usual anodyne comment that we take human rights very seriously… in giving a more robust condemnation to attacks on freedom of worship and human rights abuse, regardless of the country in which it occurs.

In which case, Lord Singh first needs to look in his own backyard where people of his own community are attacked by Muslim extremists and are targets of racism.

We can begin with this 2015 The Telegraph report:

British Sikhs are often the silent victims of any backlash against Islamic extremism…Last month, during heighted community tensions post-Charlie Hebdo, a Sikh was attacked with a machete in a Tesco store in Wales, sustaining what police described as “life-changing injuries.” The attacker was reported to shout “white power.” … The first person to be murdered after the terror attacks in New York was a Sikh, and the first place to be attacked after 7/7 was a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Kent. In 2012, there was a mass shooting of worshippers at a gurdwara in Wisconsin by a “white supremacist”.

Or perhaps Lord Singh is unaware of the extensive research done by the UK Sikh community on how a significant number of Sikh girls have become targets of Love Jihad. Or of this incident where a Sikh man was burned alive in an arson attack.

May we also draw Lord Singh’s attention to the reasons for which a book like Londonistan gets written or the fact that 800 UK Muslims have travelled to fight for the ISIS or to his own Government’s 2011 report which identified 40 UK universities as the “breeding grounds for terror?” Or to that gut-wrenching expose of the grooming of more than 1400 non-Muslim minor girls as sex slaves to “service” radical Islamists in Rotherham.

One can go on and on about the real, appalling problems confronting England but these samples should suffice. And in each of these cases, the response of the British Government has ranged from whitewashing, political correctness, evasion, silence and denial.

Lord Singh therefore needs to first adhere to the timeless dictum of a physician first healing himself before pointing fingers at the real or manufactured problems of other nations.

Towards the end of the House of Lords debate, the Earl of Courtown claims that “The relationship between the United Kingdom and India is a partnership of equals.”

Which is interesting and amusing. This relationship was never one of equals neither in the past, when their traders came to India as supplicants to be allowed to trade, and later realised that they were superior because of their skin colour, which justified the oppression and plunder of India. Today, England is a struggling nation, far gone in dealing with immigration, terror cells, soaring crime, rapidly falling educational standards, and jihadism. It has been reduced to a country that largely survives by playing handmaiden to the US.

It’s clear that the UK needs India more than India needs it. The kind of response that Prime Minister Narendra Modi received during his UK visit in November 2015 is just the latest proof of this fact.

India doesn’t need to take any lectures on religious freedom from such a nation. What India should do instead is to respond to such House of Lords adventures strongly and ensure that repeat attempts are not made. The US shows the way on how to do this. When Tehelka published a 20-plus-page investigative report on the George Bush government’s covert support for evangelism in India in 2004, the press attache at the American embassy in Delhi immediately wrote a letter rebuking Tehelka thus: “I hope that in future issues Tehelka will take time to ensure that its material is not only ‘free and fairless’ but also responsible and objective.”

That is the mark of a nation which takes itself seriously and ensures that others do, too.