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Hindu girl forced to convert to Islam April 24, 2010

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Posted: Apr 23, 2010 at 1755 hrs IST

Islamabad

A Hindu girl from Punjab province was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and is currently being held in a madrassa, leading Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney said today.

Burney said his rights organisation, the Ansar Burney Trust International, had learnt that 15-year-old Gajri, the daughter of Mengha Ram, was abducted by a Muslim neighbour from her home at Katchi Mandi, Liaquatpur, in Rahim Yar Khan district on December 21, 2009.

Gajri’s parents later found out that she was beingheld captive in a madrassa or seminary in southern Punjab and that she had been married and converted to Islam, Burney said.

The local administration is “refusing to respond to the abduction” of the girl, who is not being allowed to leave the madrassa or to speak to her parents, he said.

Burney, a former human rights minister, condemned the forceful conversion of the Hindu girl and demanded her immediate release.

“Pakistan is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which oblige authorities to protect religious minorities under international law,” he said.

According to Ansar Burney Trust, on 21 December 2009 Gajri disappeared from the home of her Hindu parents in southern Punjab.

On December 26 last year, the local police station in Gajri’s hometown received a letter with an affidavit from madrassa that said she had “embraced Islam and had married her neighbour Mohammad Salim”, Burney said. The letter did not enclose a marriage certificate, he said.

Police did not immediately inform Gajri’s parents about the letter even though they had tried to file a First Information Report after she had gone missing. The parents were discouraged from doing so by police, Burney said.

Mengha Ram and his wife then contacted the vice president of the National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony, Ramesh Jay Pal. With his help, the parents met the priest in charge of Darul-Uloom Madrassa in Khanpur, Maulana Abdul Hafeez. Hafeez reportedly told the parents that Gajri had “embraced Islam and was not allowed to meet her parents”.

In January this year, the parents of Gajri again tried to file a case of abduction against their neighbour and the madrassa but their application was refused by district police chief Imtiaz Gul. He allegedly told them that he had no power to intervene in matters of religious conversion and that their daughter was now the “property of the madrassa”, Burney said.

Burney said Gajri is a minor and “cannot arbitrarily be removed from the custody of her parents”. He urged President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer to intervene to ensure Gajri’s released.

http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Hindu-girl-forced-to-convert-to-Islam/610492/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+expressindia%2FiKgY+(Expressindia)

Saxon Vocalist Wants Metal To Be Recognized As Religion January 22, 2010

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Saxon vocalist Biff Byford is figure-heading a campaign to get heavy metal recognised as a religion in the UK.

Byford has teamed up with Metal Hammer Magazine for a campaign urging British rock fans to adopt heavy metal as their “religion” ahead of the 2011 census.

At the last census nine years ago, 390,127 people in England & Wales and a further 14,052 in Scotland stated “Jedi” as their religion thanks to a massive internet campaign.

It was ultimately ranked as the fourth most popular religion in the UK behind Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

In 2011, it may be heavy metal’s turn.

Metal Hammer editor Alexander Milas told Gigwise: “Ever since Black Sabbath made their debut 40 years ago heavy metal has grown to become one of the UK’s most significant cultural institutions, and a global phenomenon. Hell, if the Jedi can do it, why can’t metalheads? The force is strong in us.”

Biff Byford added: “Getting heavy metal recognised as a religion is a great bit of rebellion, isn’t it? This really is going to be a very cool thing.”

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/general_music_news/saxon_vocalist_wants_metal_to_be_recognized_as_religion.html

Hindus in Pakistan September 10, 2009

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Fearing Taliban, Pak Hindus take Thar Express to India

Vimal Bhatia , TNN 10 September 2009, 02:15am IST

JAISALMER: In the past four years, some 5,000 Hindus may have crossed over from Pakistan, never to return. It has not been easy abandoning their
homes, sometimes even their families, but they say they had no choice: they had to flee the Taliban.

It started as a trickle in 2006, the year the Thar Express was flagged off. The weekly train starts from Karachi, enters India at Munabao, a border town in Barmer, and runs up to Jodhpur. In the first year, 392 Hindus crossed over. This grew to 880 in 2007. The next year, the number was 1,240, and this year, till August, over 1,000 have crossed over. They just keep extending their visas and hope to become Indian citizens. Incidentally, these are official figures. Sources say there are many more who cross over and melt in the local milieu. And officials have a soft corner for these people, most of whom have harrowing stories to tell.

Ranaram, who used to live in the Rahimyar district of Pakistan’s Punjab, says he fell prey to the Taliban. His wife was kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam. His two daughters were also forcibly converted. Ranaram, too, had to accept Islam for fear of his life. He thought it best to flee with his two daughters; his wife was untraceable.

Dungaram, another migrant, says atrocities against Hindus in Pakistan have increased in the past two years after the ouster of Musharraf. “We won’t get permanent jobs unless we convert to Islam.”

Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangathan, a group working for the refugees in Barmer and Jaisalmer, says there’s unfortunately no proper refugee policy in India even though people from Pakistan reach here in large numbers.

He said in 2004-05, over 135 families were given Indian citizenship but the rest are still living illegally in the country and are often tortured by police because they don’t have proper citizenship certificates. “In December 2008, over 200 Hindus were converted to Islam in Mirpur Khas town of Pakistan. But there are several others who want to stick to their religion but there’s no safety for them in Pakistan.”

Immigration officer at Munabao railway station, Hetudan Charan, says the arrival of Hindu migrants had suddenly increased as over 15 to 16 families were reaching India every week. “None of them admit they are to settle here but seeing their baggage, we easily understand,’’ he said. Ravi Kumar, who was Barmer collector till his transfer two days back, said the government in 2007 had given permanent citizenship to a few Pakistani immigrants.

Ref: Times of India, Mumbai, front page: 10 Sep 09 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/india/Fearing-Taliban-Pak-Hindus-take-Thar-Express-to-India/articleshow/4992774.cms)

‘Sri Lankan Tamils are India’s natural allies’ June 7, 2009

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Sheela Bhatt

November 29, 2006

On Monday we carried the first part of an interview with Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader V Gopalaswamy alias Vaiko. Today we present the second and concluding part of the interview with Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt:

Why do you say Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was misled?

I blame [former high commissioner to Sri Lanka [Images]] J N Dixit and Junior Parthasarathy (diplomat G Parthasarathy) and some other officers for the debacle in Sri Lanka. [Former President] J R Jayewardene cunningly trapped India into an agreement. He could not face the attacks by the LTTE so he cleverly invited India to face the LTTE.

As the events unfolded, [LTTE leader V] Prabhakaran was brought to New Delhi. He was told ‘you will be the only representative of Tamils’. They didn’t speak at all about the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement. He came with high hopes. On his arrival he was immediately locked up in Ashoka Hotel. I tried to meet him as a member of Parliament. When I attempted to enter his room I was stopped. I held a press conference to declare that Prabhakaran was being kept away from the public. Prabhakaran’s team was not given a copy of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement.

It was merely read out to them. Dixit read the terms of the agreement. Anton Balasingham was also present at that meeting. Prabhakaran was totally shocked. They never expected India to enter into such an agreement. They [Prabhakaran and his team] said they were opposed to the agreement. Dixit, who was puffing a cigar, said, ‘We don’t care. Who are you to oppose?’ Prabhakaran said, ‘We will oppose with all our might.’

Dixit said, ‘Before this cigar is over, smoke is over, within that time we will crush you.’

These are the words of J N Dixit. Balasingham told me the exact words.

Prabhakaran contained his disappointment. Somehow, they were persuaded to meet Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He said, ‘For the time being you agree. Keep some doors open. We will give you all help to rebuild Jaffna. Every month we will give Rs 50 lakhs. We will give security.’

Prabhakaran thought he cannot oppose India at that juncture. The Indo-Sri Lanka accord was thrust on them. Even after the accord the State-sponsored violence went on, Sinhalese were settled in Tamil areas in the Eastern province. In those areas Tamil Musilms were won over by the Sinhalese.

What made Rajiv Gandhi displease Prabhakaran? What could have been his calculations?

At that time the Bofors scandal exploded. It was a rude shock for them.

To divert the attention of the Indian people he thought if he could have this agreement he can show the world that he has settled the Tamil problem that was not possible for his mother. He was misled like this. And Jayewardene set the trap. I feel very sorry for Rajiv Gandhi. As per the agreement, internal administration was not done. The North and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka were to be merged into one unit as per the accord but it was not done. The accord also promised that there will be a referendum in the East which was not done. Before the ink on the agreement dried Jayewardene said, ‘I’ll propagate against the merger of North and East.’

Dixit didn’t visit the Sri Lankan Tamil leader who was on fast against settling the Sinhalese in Tamil areas. He died. There were many such mistakes by India.

As per agreement, on October 3, some 17 LTTE commanders were allowed to come to India but before that they were arrested by the Sri Lankan army and kept in custody. The LTTE contacted Indian officials. Indian generals had sympathy for the LTTE. They informed the government but Dixit misled the government. He allowed these commanders to be taken to Colombo so that Prabhakaran would come to terms and accept the Indo-Sri Lanka accord. In Palali, Indian soldiers had put a cordon to prevent Sinhalese soldiers from detaining the LTTE commanders. On October 5, instructions were given from New Delhi to withdraw the cordon. As the cordon was withdrawn Sri Lankan armed soldiers went to arrest them but they swallowed cyanide within minutes and 12 of the commanders died on the spot. This was the turning point. This was the major factor of confrontation.

On November 11 I raised questions in the Rajya Sabha, but Natwar Singh could not reply to them. In retaliation, the LTTE attacked the Sinhalese and in return the Indian army blasted two newspaper offices and television stations of the LTTE. The Indian army sent a Special Commando Unit to Jaffna. They landed by helicopter in Jaffna to capture Prabhakaran but no Indian commando could survive. In four days of heavy fighting 14 Indian tanks were crushed. The LTTE decided to fight and die.

Do you know what happened after that? Rapes and killings. How many women were raped! How many innocent people were killed! Sri Lankan Tamils thought India will be the saviour but India played a mercenary role for the Sinhalese government. These are all facts of history, and history should not be conveniently buried.

How do you see the US influence in the region?

Americans are helping the Rajapakse government because they think maybe it will allow them to have a foothold in Trincomalee. The Rajapakse government is getting weapons from Pakistan and China. [National Security Advisor M K] Narayanan is telling the government that if India doesn’t provide military help Pakistan and China will give weapons to Sri Lanka. I am asking whether any people of Pakistan origin are living there? Whether people of Chinese origin are living there?

Don’t forget we are 70 million Tamil citizens of India who have got an umbilical relationship with the Sri Lankan Tamils. Don’t play with fire. Let Pakistan and China give weapons. For your geo-political interests why should the Tamil people be made scapegoats? During the Bangladesh war the Sri Lankan government supported Pakistan. They allow them to refuel their planes.

The Tamils of Sri Lanka will be India’s natural allies because we are brothers and sisters. Why should we support the Sinhala government?

Maybe, for geo-political reasons.

For geo-political reasons you should support Sri Lankan Tamils and support Tamil Eelam. Trincomalee will be there, too. Americans are trying to intimidate the whole world today but they are unable to shake even an inch of Cuba. Tamil Eelam will be another Cuba. Sri Lankan Tamilians will be with you. Why are you afraid? The southern most point will be your protection.

What will happen if you help the Sinhalese? The seeds of hatred and frustration will be sown in the minds of the younger generation of Tamils in India, if not today then it will happen tomorrow. India is trying to help the regime which is trying to decimate the Tamil population. Then, another Kashmir will be created in the south. I am worried about the unity of India. Some people say if Tamil Eelam is achieved then people will ask for a separate Tamil Nadu. This is idiotic. Bangladesh was created, are Bengalis of West Bengal asking for a separate State?

But the religion of the majority is different in both cases.

Hindus and Muslims were on both sides. If religion is so important then Iran and Iraq would not have been fighting.

You know how and why some people may quote the Kashmir insurgency if the Indian government took some bold steps.

No. Sri Lankan Tamil and Kashmir issues are not comparable. Kashmiris are not treated as second class citizen of India. They are enjoying more rights than the citizens of other parts of the country. You should not equate Kashmiris with Sri Lankan Tamils. For every conflict there are different views and causes.

In India also the LTTE doesn’t have support. People abhor its violence.

People don’t know the history of the issue. They don’t know the facts. The entire Tamil population of Sri Lanka is with the LTTE. Don’t think that Indian Tamils are not supporting the LTTE.

Blood is thicker than water! It’s smoldering the hearts and minds of ordinary Tamil people of Tamil Nadu. You go and ask the people in the villages. They will say, ‘If Tamils are fighting the Sinhalese my support is for them.’

Many believe that because New Delhi has to consider the Tamil opinion within India, it’s unable to take a bigger view to influence the Sri Lankan government to bring peace in the island. Do you agree?

Delhi has the binding duty to oppose the genocidal attack of the Sinhala government against the Tamils.

India has repeatedly said that India stands for the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. United States Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns recently said the Sri Lankan government has the right to protect its territorial integrity and security.

Who are they? India has no right, America has no right. We don’t want India to help the Tamils to separate their country. We don’t make any request to India to help the liberation movement. But, destiny has to be decided by the Tamils in Sri Lanka. What right India has got, you kindly tell me?

But because of domestic politics of Tamil Nadu India is taking a backseat and that vacuum is being filled by the European Union and the US.

You wait and see. When the Tamils are killed in Sri Lanka, Tamils in Tamil Nadu will not sit as idle spectators.

But Sri Lanka is not your country. Indians have limitations.

But don’t forget we have got an umbilical relationship with them for the past so many centuries. Just 200 years back what relationship did we have with the people of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?

Was India one country before the British came? You tell me, what relationship have I got with a UPwallah and Biharwallah? After the British left we accepted India as one country.

But what can you do beyond a point because Sri Lanka is a different country?

We will have to fight. We will give moral support. If the Indian government supports the Sinhala government we will go to the streets of Tamil Nadu to express our anger and will raise our banner of opposition against any such move.

What are your suggestions?

India will not commit any blunder that was committed earlier. Last year, India wanted to go for defence ties with Sri Lanka. I have managed to crush it.

As a result Sri Lanka will get military support from Pakistan, tacit support from China and diplomatic support from the US. India will get marginalized.

India will never get marginalized if it supports the Tamils. Just because Pakistan and China are helping Sri Lanka you are thinking of helping them, then I tell you, you are entering a dangerous path. The future generations in Tamil Nadu will not be the same. Changes will come in swiftly. Why do you want to sow the seeds of despair and frustration against India?

You are creating another Kashmir in the southern tip. What is more detrimental?

Lastly, can you tell me how you can bring peace in Sri Lanka?

There is no solution other than Tamil Eelam.

Tamils and Sinhalas co-existing is totally ruled out.

What are your suggestions to the Indian government in the short term?

The Indian government should prevail upon the Sri Lankan government to stop the killings of Tamils. They should open the A-9 highway [linking Jaffna to the rest of Sri Lanka]. India should not give any assistance, directly or indirectly, for the military pursuits of Sri Lanka.

It is believed that Parabhakaran is ageing and is not in touch with the latest global trends.

You should know he is a legend. I respect Fidel Castro. Mr Prabhakaran is more than Fidel Castro. His personal character is perfect. He is more or less running the government. In every Tamil household one boy or girl is giving up his/her life for the movement led by him. I claim that he will win the war. He will get Tamil Eelam and the world is going to witness it.

http://www.rediff.com/news/2006/nov/29inter1.htm

No appeal filed so set Q free, says AG, doesn’t mention he scuttled appeal June 7, 2009

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Posted: Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 1105 hrs IST

RITU SARIN & AMITAV RANJAN

NEW DELHI:

To justify withdrawing the Red Corner Notice against Bofors-accused Ottavio Quattrocchi, as first reported in The Indian Express today, both the Law Ministry and the Central Bureau of Investigation said they went by “advice from the highest legal quarters.”

That’s a reference to Attorney General Milon Banerji who, on October 24 last year, sent a four-page opinion pointing out that the CBI did not challenge the February 2004 order of the High Court quashing all charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act in the Bofors case. And argued: “Since no Special Leave Petition was filed on this ground…the Red Corner Notice is invalid.”

What Banerji did not mention and what’s buried in confidential files accessed by The Indian Express is a telling fact: it was Attorney General Milon Banerji himself who, barely two months after the Congress-led Manmohan Singh Government came to power, overruled CBI investigators and directed the agency not to file the SLP against the High Court order.

This is what Banerji signed on file on July 5, 2004: “I have perused the papers, in particular, the careful summary prepared by Shri R L Meena, Law Secretary. I agree with the view of the Law Secretary that this is not a fit case for filing a Special Leave Petition.”

The Government also cited the views of O P Verma, Deputy Legal Advisor, who also argued against filing of the SLP. File notings show that CBI’s Joint Director and Additional Director both made identical comments: “We perhaps have no option other than to allow the matter to rest.”

Once the Law Ministry (read the Government) had ruled, the then CBI Director U S Misra fell in line. “In view of the opinion of the Law Department,” he said, “there is no merit in the case to file SLP in the Supreme Court against the order of High Court.”

The way in which the 2004 High Court order remained unchallenged is, perhaps, the most brazen instance of the CBI immediately changing its line of investigation in the Bofors case with regime change at the Centre.

Records obtained by The Indian Express show that before the UPA came to power, the CBI’s key investigators in the case (between February-April 2004) had recommended filing the SLP. These included N Natrajan, Chief Public Prosecutor in the case who prepared a 12-page opinion for an appeal; and Deputy Legal Advisor U R Prasad.

On April 24, 2004, barely three weeks before the UPA came to power, CBI’s Director of Prosecution S K Sharma stated: “Both these counsel have recommended to go in for SLP against the order of the Delhi High Court. We may act accordingly and send a proposal to the Cabinet Secretariat for instructin g the Central Agency Section to file the SLP in Supreme Court.”

This is the same Sharma who has now argued for withdrawing the Red Corner Notice under the UPA Government.

The 28-page draft SLP, in fact, is with The Indian Express. Questioned on this sudden turnaround after their Government came to power, Law Minister H R Bhardwaj today said if a draft SLP existed, it was not forwarded to the Law Ministry.

“It must have been circulated among junior CBI officers,” he said. Asked what he made of the AG’s opinion then and his opinion now, he said: “There is no conflict of interest.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/no-appeal-filed-so-set-q-free-says-ag-doesnt-mention-he-scuttled-appeal/452446/1

MGR gave us Rs 6-crore, says LTTE June 7, 2009

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Posted online: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 1235 hours IST

Chennai, January 27: Anton Balasingham, the LTTE ideologue, has claimed that the late M G Ramachandran had assiduously promoted the interests of his organisation. He helped them out financially too, giving them as much as Rs 6 crore from out of his personal funds, and in hard cash at that.

In an anthology of articles titled Viduthalai (Liberation), brought out recently in the United Kingdom, Balasingham has made several sensational disclosures, including the gift of an AK-47 to MGR by Prabhakaran. His almost unrestrained eulogy of MGR and tacit admission that the LTTE leaders played on his ego are quite revealing.

Their very first encounter, in 1984, came through in some unusual circumstances. At the time a number of Lankan militant groups were operating in Tamil Nadu, and MGR, in an attempt to unite them, had called a meeting of the leaders of those groups.

But DMK leader Karunanidhi, in an attempt to show off his commitment to the Lankan Tamil cause, also called a meeting of his own, a day earlier. Not wanting to get caught in the internal politics of Tamil Nadu, the LTTE kept out of the meeting convened by Karunanidhi. They decided not to meet MGR either.

But as it happened, when the meeting between Karunanidhi and three LTTE leaders made a splash in the media, a cut-up MGR peremptorily cancelled the meeting he had called. At the same time, he sent a senior police official to persuade the LTTE leaders to meet him at his residence. And Balasingham agreed, but only on condition that no other rebel leader would be present at the meeting.

(Prabhakaran, though still in Madras then, was not that easily accessible, even to the chief minister of the day. He would not meet MGR at the time, but would do so at a later stage.)

Balasingham and his associates quickly managed to strike a rapport with MGR, two key factors being their badmouthing his rival Karunanidhi for ‘‘playing politics’’ in an issue involving the very future of the Lankan Tamils and unashamedly flattering MGR on his face about his social concerns. His face lighted up when they described him as a ‘‘social revolutionary,’’ equating him with Prabhakaran himself, Balasingham writes.

And as the conversation proceeded apace, Balasingham slips in his request for money, towards training his cadres and for arms. MGR asks: ‘‘How much?’’ Rather hesitantly, Shankar, a senior leader of the LTTE, mumbles, ‘‘Rs 2 crore.’’ The response was prompt: ‘‘Come tomorrow and collect it.’’ Later the LTTE team wondered whether they should not have asked for more. The next evening Balasingham arrives at MGR’s residence in a van, is taken to the basement wherein he finds boxes (of what type, he doesn’t describe) stacked to a height of ten feet. MGR tells the security guards in Malayalam to take out ten of the boxes and pile them up in the van.

It is late in the night, and the LTTE folk are worried about the security and possible police interception. ‘‘No problem,’’ MGR says and the team goes to its destination under police escort.

Thus the foundation for a historic friendship was laid, Balasingham remarks and says that at the time it was essentially MGR’s money that kept the LTTE wheels moving.

Still later, Prabhakaran demanded Rs 5 crore. This time MGR chose to dip into the funds collected by the government for the rehabilitation of the Lankan Tamils affected by the 1983 riots. A project for their health care, to be managed by an LTTE-front organisation, was to be the cover. After some hassles, Balasingham was handed a cheque for Rs 4 crore at the secretariat. (Only that much had been collected by the government.) But the media exposed the transaction, and all hell broke loose. (Incidentally, Balasingham mentions only the this website’s newspaper and not the upcountry newspapers in that connection.)

The then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, spoke to MGR rather sharply. The LTTE spokesman says that MGR was dismayed and wondered what wrong there could have been in handing the money meant for Lankan welfare to an organisation that was fighting for their rights.

But not wanting to lock horns with the Centre, MGR got the cheque back and compensated the rebels with cash from his basement.

It was not just monetary help that MGR was rendering. He went out of his way to go to their rescue whenever they were caught in one crisis or other. Once a consignment of arms meant for PLOTE, a rival organisation, was seized by the Madras Port authorities. Wiser by that experience, the LTTE promptly sought the Chief Minister’s help when its own shipment, worth thousands of dollars, docked. ‘‘No problem,’’ was the answer again. He pulled the necessary wires and they got their goodies cleared. It was as a token of his gratitude that Prabhakaran gifted an AK-47 to MGR, who was of course delighted at his new toy, says Balasingham.

Again when MGR’s most trusted police chief, Mohandas, ordered a crackdown on all militant outfits and seized their arms and communication equipment, and Prabhakaran went on a fast, the Chief Minister personally intervened and ordered the return of whatever had been seized. Plus, as a bonus, the arms seized from the other groups too went to the LTTE’s kitty.

Strangely, the book is silent on MGR’s failure to raise his voice against the IPKF offensive and Karunanidhi’s vociferous protests. It should, indeed, be galling to Karunanidhi that there is no reference at all to his role, except for an occasional dig or two.

Source: Newindpress.com

http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=27903

Kerala new hotspot for paedophiles January 25, 2009

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(Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times)

 

Trafficking of young boys for prostitution is on the rise with tourism hotspots like Kerala emerging as the new attraction for paedophiles, says a report on Status of Indian Children, released on eve of the first National Girl Child Day.

 

“With the increase of paedophilia as part of sex tourism, the demand for boys is rising,” the report said.

 

There are, however, no major studies to understand the magnitude of the problem, as male prostitution is an underground and clandestine activity in India. While Goa has been a major destination for some years now, Kerala is emerging as the preferred destination for pedophiles.

 

“There have been reports of increase in number of boys being trafficked to Kerala to become part of sex trade,” said Bharati Ali of HAQ, Centre for Child Rights, the NGO that brought out the report.

 

Chiding the government, the report said, “Unlike Sri Lanka and Thailand, this problem has not been seriously tackled or discussed in India and has more or less shrouded in secrecy”.

 

Ref:http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=NLetter&id=e930e5c8-44e9-4667-9cb3-95aaea0af905&&Headline=Kerala+new+hotspot+for+paedophiles 

 

Women worst sufferers in J&K? January 25, 2009

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(HT Correspondent, Bhopal, December 23, 2006)

 

“INDIA HAS a patriarchal society and women were the worst sufferers of violence in the Kashmir valley,” said noted writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker Justine Hardy during her visit to the ongoing Lyall Book Fair in the City on Saturday.

 

Hardy was at the fair where she signed copies of her first fiction, ‘The Wonder House’, set in Kashmir. This book is a story of three women living in Kashmir and their tumultuous lives in the valley.

 

The author’s other works include ‘The Ocher Border’, ‘Scoop-Wallah’, ‘Boat’ and ‘Bollywood Boy’. On the occasion she said in her book, ‘The Wonder House’ she had made an attempt to sensitise readers on the Kashmir issue.

 

She added reporting on Kashmir was restricted to issues between India and Pakistan. She said the sufferings of people of the valley particularly women were hardly reflected in the stories. There were better opportunities beyond the periphery of the State but they hardly had chance to move out of their world of miseries.        

 

Hardy who said her flight was delayed by six hours due to fog, said when she had visited Srinagar she had witnessed the plight of people.

 

She, however, appreciated the role of the Indian Army and Government in coping with the earthquake devastations in the valley. Commenting on the City of Lakes Bhopal she said it was an incredibly beautiful City and very clean.

She is currently writing a book, which is again set in India and deals with the caste system in the country, she said.

 

Ref: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=c9efd54e-2916-4f46-a316-d50a11a4d293

Vivekananda on Caste System January 25, 2009

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This article is a chapter from the book, “Swami Vivekananda on India and Her Problems”. This book (Code: AVE061) can be purchased from Advaita Ashrama.

 

CASTE PROBLEM IN INDIA

 

“I have a message for the world, which I will deliver without fear and care for the future. To the reformers I will point out that I am a greater reformer than any one of them. They want to reform only little bits. I want root-and-branch reform.”- Swami Vivekananda

 

CASTE IN SOCIETY AND NOT IN RELIGION

 

Though our castes and our institutions are apparently linked with our religion, they are not so. These institutions have been necessary to protect us as a nation, and when this necessity for self-preservation will no more exist, they will die a natural death. In religion there is no caste. A man from the highest caste and a man from the lowest may become a monk in India and the two castes become equal. The caste system is opposed to the religion of Vedanta. Caste is a social custom, and all our great preachers have tried to break it down. From Buddhism downwards, every sect has preached against caste, and every time it has only riveted the chains. Beginning from Buddha to Rammohan Ray, everyone made the mistake of holding caste to be a religious institution and tried to pull down religion and caste altogether, and failed. In spite of all the ravings of the priests, caste is simply a crystallized social institution, which after doing its service is now filling the atmosphere of India with its stench, and it can only be removed by giving back to people their lost social individuality. Caste is simply the outgrowth of the political institutions of India; it is a hereditary trade guild. Trade competition with Europe has broken caste more than any teaching.

 

THE UNDERLYING IDEA OF THE CASTE SYSTEM

 

The older I grow, the better I seem to think of caste and such other time-honored institutions of India. There was a time when I used to think that many of them were useless and worthless, but the older I grow, the more I seem to feel a difference in cursing any one of them, for each one of them is the embodiment of the experience of centuries. A child of but yesterday, destined to die the day after tomorrow, comes to me and asks me to change all my plans and if I hear the advice of that baby and change all my surroundings according to his ideas I myself should be a fool, and no one else. Much of the advice that is coming to us from different countries is similar to this. Tell these wiseacres, “I will hear you when you have made a stable society yourselves. You cannot hold on to one idea for two days, you quarrel and fail; you are born like moths in the spring and die like them in five minutes. You come up like bubbles and burst like bubbles too. First form a stable society like ours. First make laws and institutions that remains undiminished in their power through scores of centuries. Then will be the time to talk on the subject with you, but till then, my friend, you are only a giddy child.” Caste is a very good thing. Caste is the plan we want to follow. What caste really is, not one in a million understands. There is no country in the world without caste. Caste is based throughout on that principle. The plan in India is to make everybody Brahmana, the Brahmana being the ideal of humanity. If you read the history of India you will find that attempts have always been made to raise the lower classes. Many are the classes that have been raised. Many more will follow till the whole will become Brahmana. That is the plan. Our ideal is the Brahmana of spiritual culture and renunciation. By the Brahmana ideal what do I mean? I mean the ideal Brahmana-ness in which worldliness is altogether absent and true wisdom is abundantly present. That is the ideal of the Hindu race. Have you not heard how it is declared he, the Brahmana, is not amenable to law, that he has no law, that he is not governed by kings, and that his body cannot be hurt? That is perfectly true. Do not understand it in the light thrown upon it by interested and ignorant fools, but understand it in the light of the true and original Vedantic conception.. If the Brahmana is he who has killed all selfishness and who lives to acquire and propagate wisdom and the power of love – if a country is altogether inhabited by such Brahmanas, by men and women who are spiritual and moral and good, is it strange to think of that country as being above and beyond all law? What police, what Military are necessary to govern them? Why should any one govern them at all? Why should they live under a government? They are good and noble, and they are the men of God; these are our ideal Brahmanas, and we read that in the SatyaYuga there was only one caste, and that was the Brahmana. We read in the Mahabharata that the whole world was in the beginning peopled with Brahmanas, and that as they began to degenerate they became divided into different castes, and that when the cycle turns round they will all go back to that Brahmanical origin. The son of a Brahmana is not necessarily always a Brahmana; though there is every possibility of his being one, he may not become so. The Brahmana caste and the Brahmana quality are two distinct things. As there are sattva, rajas and tamas – one or other of these gunas more or less – in every man, so the qualities which make a Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya or a Shudra are inherent in every man, more or less. But at time one or other of these qualities predominates in him in varying degrees and is manifested accordingly. Take a man in his different pursuits, for example : when he is engaged in serving another for pay, he is in Shudra-hood; when he is busy transacting some some piece of business for profit, on his account, he is a Vaishya; when he fights to right wrongs then the qualities of a Kshatriya come out in him; and when he meditates on God, or passes his time in conversation about Him, then he is a Brahmana. Naturally, it is quite possible for one to be changed from one caste into another. Otherwise, how did Viswamitra become a Brahmana and Parashurama a Kshatriya? The means of European civilization is the sword; of the Aryans, the division into different varnas. This system of division into varnas is the stepping-stone to civilization, making one rise higher and higher in proportion to one’s learning and culture. In Europe, it is everywhere victory to the strong and death to the weak. In the land of Bharata (India), every social rule is for the protection of the weak. Such is our ideal of caste, as meant for raising all humanity slowly and gently towards the realization of the great ideal of spiritual man, who is non-resisting, calm, steady, worshipful, pure and meditative. In that ideal there is God. We believe in Indian caste as one of the greatest social institutions that the Lord gave to man. We also believe that through the unavoidable defects, foreign persecutions, and above all, the monumental ignorance and pride of many Brahmanas who do not deserve the name, have thwarted in many ways, the legitimate fructification of this glorious Indian institution, it has already worked wonders for the land of Bharata and it destined to lead Indian humanity to its goal. Caste should not go; but should be readjusted occasionally. Within the old structure is to be life enough for the building of two hundred thousand new ones. It is sheer nonsense to desire the abolition of caste.

 

INEQUALITY OF PRIVILEGE VITIATES THE SYSTEM

 

It is in the nature of society to form itself into groups; and what will go will be these privileges! Caste is a natural order. I can perform one duty in social life, and you another; you can govern a country, and I can mend a pair of old shoes, but that is no reason why you are greater than I, for can you mend my shoes? Can I govern the country? I am clever in mending shoes, you are clever in reading Vedas, that is no reason why you should trample on my head; why if one commits murder should he be praised and if another steals an apple why should he be hanged? This will have to go. Caste is good. That is only natural way of solving life. Men must form themselves into groups, and you cannot get rid of that. Wherever you go there will be caste. But that does not mean that there should be these privileges. They should be knocked on the head. If you teach Vedanta to the fisherman, he will say, “I am as good a man as you, I am a fisherman, you are a philosopher, but I have the same God in me, as you have in you.” And that is what we want, no privilege for anyone, equal chances for all; let everyone be taught that the Divine is within, and everyone will work out his own salvation. The days of exclusive privileges and exclusive claims are gone, gone for ever from the soil of India.

 

UNTOUCHABILITY – A SUPERSTITIOUS ACCRETION

 

Formerly the characteristic of the noble-minded was – (tribhuvanamupakara shrenibhih priyamanah) “to please the whole universe by one’s numerous acts of service”, but now it is – I am pure and the whole world is impure. “Don’t touch me!” “Don’t touch me!” The whole world is impure, and I alone am pure! Lucid Brahmajnana! Bravo! Great God! Nowadays, Brahman is neither in the recesses of the heart, nor in the highest heaven, nor in all beings – now He is in the cooking pot! We are orthodox Hindus, but we refuse entirely to identify ourselves with “Don’t- touchism”. That is not Hinduism; it is in none of our books; it is an orthodox superstition, which has interfered with national efficiency all along the line. Religion has entered in the cooking pot. The present religion of the Hindus is neither the path of Knowledge or Reason – it is “Don’t-touchism”. – “Don’t touch me”, “Don’t touch me” – that exhausts its description. “Don’t touchism” is a form of mental disease. Beware! All expansion is life, all contraction is death. All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. Love is therefore the only law of life. See that you do not lose your lives in this dire irreligion of “Don’t- touchism”. Must the teaching (Atmavat sarvabhuteshu) – “Looking upon all beings as your own self” – be confined to books alone? How will they grant salvation who cannot feed a hungry mouth with a crumb of bread? How will those, who become impure at the mere breath of others, purify others? We must cease to tyrannize. To what a ludicrous state are we brought! If a bhangi comes to anybody as a bhangi, he would be shunned as the plague; but no sooner does he get a cupful of water poured upon his head with some muttering of prayers by a padri, and get a coat to his back, no matter how threadbare, and come into the room of the most orthodox Hindu, I don’t see the man who then dare refuse him a chair and a hearty shake of hands! Irony can go no farther. Just see, for want of sympathy from the Hindus, thousands of pariahs in Madras are turning Christians. Don’t think that this is simply due to the pinch of hunger; it is because they do not get any sympathy from us. We are day and night calling out to them “Don’t touch us! Don’t touch us!” Is there any compassion or kindliness of heart in the country? Only a class of “Don’t-touchists” ; kick such customs out! I sometimes feel the urge to break the barriers of “Don’t-touchism”, go at once and call out, “Come all who are poor, miserable, wretched and downtrodden”, and to bring them all together. Unless they rise, the Mother will not awake. Each Hindu, I say, is a brother to every other, and it is we, who have degraded them by our outcry, “Don’t touch”, “Don’t touch!” And so the whole country has been plunged to the utmost depths of meanness, cowardice and ignorance. These men have to be lifted; words of hope and faith have to be proclaimed to them. We have to tell them, “You are also men like us and you have all the rights that we have.”

 

SOLUTION OF THE CASTE PROBLEM

 

Our solution of the caste question is not degrading those who are already high up, is not running amuck through food and drink, is not jumping out of our own limits in order to have more enjoyment, but it comes by every one of us fulfilling the dictates of our Vedantic religion, by our attaining spirituality and by our becoming ideal Brahmana. There is a law laid on each one of you in this land by your ancestors, whether you are Aryans, or non-Aryans, rishis or Brahmanas or the very lowest outcaste. The command is the same to you all, that you must make progress without stopping, and that from the highest man to the lowest pariah, every one in this country has to try and become the ideal Brahmana. This Vedantic idea is applicable not only here but over the whole world. The Brahmana-hood is the ideal of humanity in India as wonderfully put forward by Shankaracharya at the beginning of his commentary on the Gita, where he speaks about the reason for Krishna’s coming as a preacher for the preservation of Brahmana- hood, of Brahmana-ness. That was the great end. This Brahmana, the man of God, he who has known Brahman, the ideal man, the perfect man, must remain, he must not go. And with all the defects of the caste now, we know that we must all be ready to give to the Brahmanas this credit, that from them have come more men with real Brahmana-ness in them than from all the other castes. We must be bold enough, must be brave enough to speak their defects, but at the same time we must give credit that is due to them. Therefore, it is no use fighting among the castes. What good will it do? It will divide us all the more, weaken us all the more, degrade us all the more. The solution is not by bringing down the higher, but by raising the lower up to the level of the higher. And that is the line of work that is found in all our books, in spite of what you may hear from some people whose knowledge of their own Scriptures and whose capacity to understand the mighty plans of the ancients are only zero. What is the plan? The ideal at the one end is the Brahmana and the ideal at the other end is the chandala, and the whole work is to raise the chandala up to the Brahmana. Slowly and slowly you will find more and more privileges granted to them. I regret that in modern times there should be so much discussion between the castes. This must stop. It is useless on both sides, especially on the side of the higher caste, the Brahmana, the day for these privileges and exclusive claims is gone. The duty of every aristocracy is to dig its own grave, and the sooner it does so, the better. The more he delays, the more it will fester and the worse death it will die. It is the duty of the Brahmana, therefore, to work for the salvation of the rest of mankind, in India. If he does that and so long as he does that, he is a Brahmana. Any one who claims to be a Brahmana, then, should prove his pretensions, first by manifesting that spirituality, and next by raising others to the same status. We earnestly entreat the Brahmanas not to forget the ideal of India – the production of a universe of Brahmanas, pure as purity, good as God Himself : this was at the beginning, says the Mahabharata and so will it be in the end. It seems that most of the Brahmanas are only nursing a false pride of birth; and any schemer, native or foreign, who can pander to this vanity and inherent laziness, by fulsome sophistry, appears to satisfy more. Beware Brahmanas, this is the sign of death! Arise and show your manhood, your Brahmana-hood, by raising the non-Brahmanas around you – not in the spirit of a master – not with the rotten canker of egoism crawling with superstitions and charlatanry of East and West – but in the spirit of a servant. To the Brahmanas I appeal, that they must work hard to raise the Indian people by teaching them what they know, by giving out the culture that they have accumulated for centuries. It is clearly the duty of the Brahmanas of India to remember what real Brahmana-hood is. As Manu says, all these privileges and honors are given to the Brahmana because, “with him is the treasury of virtue”. He must open that treasury and distribute to the world. It is true that he was the earliest preacher to the Indian races, he was the first to renounce everything in order to attain to the higher realization of life, before others could reach to the idea. It was not his fault that he marched ahead of the other castes. Why did not the other castes so understand and do as they did? Why did they sit down and be lazy, and let the Brahmanas win the race? But it is one thing to gain an advantage, and another thing to preserve it for evil use. Whenever power is used for evil it becomes diabolical; it must be used for good only. So this accumulated culture of ages of which the Brahmana has been the trustee, he must now give to the people, and it was because he did not open this treasury to the people, that the Muslims invasion was possible. It was because he did not open this treasury to the people from the beginning, that for a thousand years we have been trodden under the heels of everyone who chose to come to India; it was through that we have become degraded, and the first task must be to break open the cells that hide the wonderful treasures which our common ancestors accumulated; bring them out, and give them to everybody, and the Brahmana must be the first to do it. There is an old superstition in Bengal that if the cobra that bites, sucks out his own poison from the patient, the man must survive. Well then, the Brahmana must suck out his own poison. To the non-Brahmana castes I say, wait, be not in a hurry. Do not seize every opportunity of fighting the Brahmana, because as I have shown; you are suffering from your own fault. Who told you to neglect spirituality and Sanskrit learning? What have you been doing all this time? Why have you been indifferent? Why do you now fret and fume because somebody else had more brains, more energy, more pluck and go than you? Instead of wasting your energies in vain discussions and quarrels in the newspapers, instead of fighting and quarreling in your own homes – which is sinful – use all your energies in acquiring the culture which the Brahmana has, and the thing is done. Why do you not become Sanskrit scholars? Why do you not spend millions to bring Sanskrit education to all the castes of India? That is the question. The moment you do these things, you are equal to the Brahmana! That is the secret power in India. The only safety, I tell you men who belong to the lower castes, the only way to raise your condition is to study Sanskrit, and this fighting and writing and frothing against the higher castes is in vain, it does no good, and it creates fight and quarrel, and this race, unfortunately already divided, is going to be divided more and more. The only way to bring about the leveling of castes is to appropriate the culture, the education which is the strength of the higher castes.

 

Ref: http://hubpages.com/hub/caste

 

The Exile: A maharaja’s tragic journey January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in History, Uncategorized.
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What do you do when you have to chronicle the tragic life and death of the last Sikh maharaja? You write a fiction novel to capture the emotional churn that a human being, of the stature of a maharaja whose kingdom is systematically annexed by the British, goes through without distorting historical facts.

That’s what author Navtej Sarna, Ambassador-designate to Israel has done in his second work of fiction, aptly titled The Exile. His first book, We Weren’t Lovers Like That was published by the same publisher Penguin in 2003.

 

Sarna, during his interaction with readers at the book reading session at Crossroad in Mumbai was at his animated best as he read selected passages from The Exile and answered queries from those gathered for the event.

 

Incidentally, the author spent almost nine years to research his subject — Maharaja Duleep Singh, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s youngest acknowledged sons. It was under Ranjit Singh — also popularly known as the Lion Of Punjab — the kingdom of Punjab spread from the Sutlej to Khyber Pass. His death in 1839 led to a slow and painful downfall of the Sikh kingdom which was sytematically annexed by the British.

 

The Exile is the heartrending story of Maharaja Duleep Singh who was separated from his mother Queen Jindan after his father’s death in 1839 and converted to Christianity. Later he was disillusioned by the treatment the British meted out to him and became a Sikh again. However, this rebellion came in a tad too late as the British botched every attempt Duleep Singh made to return to his motherland. As fate would have it, Duleep Singh met his tragic end in a cheap hotel room in Paris.

 

The story is narrated by six voices including that of Duleep Singh. Each one was chosen because the author was looking for a person who’d have an authoritative voice; somebody who’d have easy access to the maharaja throughout the 55 years of his life.

 

To gather as many facts as accurately as possible the author traced Maharaja Duleep Singh’s footsteps across several continents and countries. His love of labour took Sarna to England, Moscow, Paris, Lahore (capital of the Sikh kingdom) and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

 

Actually, being a diplomat helped — he was posted in Moscow, Warsaw, Thimphu, Geneva, Teheran and Washington, DC — as most of his travel to these places was work-related. Sarna, though, had to spend time beyond work for his research.

 

Ref: http://specials.rediff.com/news/2008/oct/15sl1.htm