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Illegal Indian Migrants Languish in Guatemala
Posted on 2001/12/31 22:47:02 ( 726 reads )


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GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA, DECEMBER 26, 2001: Forty-two migrants from India have been held in Guatemala for four months, after four months of detention in Mexico. The undocumented immigrants have been held in a dark two-bedroom shelter equipped with bunk beds, locks, metal bars and armed guards. Acknowledging that the Indians were heading north, the U.S. pays the Guatemalan government about $8.50 per migrant per day as long as they remain behind bars. Since October, the embassy has spent $30,000 on what even Guatemala's director of immigration says may be the illegal detention of migrants. A brewing controversy surrounding Indian migrants in Guatemala city is the latest outcome of recent cooperation between Central American governments and Mexico, designed to stem illegal migration to the United States. Officials say deportations of Indians are often delayed because the home countries don't provide the paperwork necessary for repatriation. The recent suicide of one of the Indian migrants has drawn the attention of human rights activists. Activists say the migrant who killed himself this month faced a staggering debt to smugglers. People from India pay about $30,000 for voyage through Central America to the United States.




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Shrine Closed After Mandalam Festival
Posted on 2001/12/31 22:46:02 ( 563 reads )


Source: The Hindu





PATHANAMTHITTA, INDIA, December 26, 2001: The 41-day annual Mandalam festival at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple came to a close with the Mandala puja today. The Ayyappa idol was adorned with the sacred golden attire, the Thanka Anki, which was was brought to Sabarimala in a procession on Tuesday evening prior to the puja. The Ayyappa temple will be opened on January 1, 2002, for the Makaravilaku festival that begins on January 2 morning. the Makaravilaku day falls on January 14 and the temple will close after the 18 day Makaravilakku festival on January 20 morning.




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Sivagiri pilgrimage from December 30
Posted on 2001/12/31 22:45:02 ( 779 reads )


Source: The Hindu





THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA, INDIA, December 27. Religious and cultural meetings, seminars, group discussions and poetry sessions are being organized by the Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham in connection with the 69th Sivagiri pilgrimage which will commence on December 30 at Sivagiri math at Varkala. Announcing this at a press conference here today, the working president of the Dharma Sangham, Swami Sookshmananda, said discussions would be held on topics such as the importance of weddings without heavy expenditure, spirituality above religion, increasing rate of suicides in Kerala and media and social commitment. The Chief Minister, Mr. A.K. Antony, would inaugurate the pilgrimage on December 30.




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Delhi Congress Appeals for Preservation of Religious Diversity
Posted on 2001/12/27 22:49:02 ( 571 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, December 26, 2001: The World Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity was held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Delhi from November 15 to 17, 2001. Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati headed the Commission to preserve and protect the world's ethnic religions and to give them a collective voice in all matters relating to their well being. The new Commission was the primary outcome of a three-day international conference comprising representatives from some fifty religious and ethnic traditions from around the world. It was inaugurated by Atal Behari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India and His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. Once established, the Commission will provide a buffer zone, a forum and a collective voice to ensure the world's religions, cultures and the traditions of ethnic groups are propagated and preserved. "We met Mayan and Buddhist leaders and we saw how desperately they were trying to keep alive and to revive their spiritual traditions," Dena Merriam, Vice Chairman of the Millennium Summit told the Congress. The Congress also noted that billions of dollars were spent annually for aggressive conversion programs which targeted economically vulnerable tribal and ethnic groups. And a clear message came out that such conversion programs were acts of violence. The Commission intends to initiate dialogue with the proselytizing religions of the world to have such practices stopped. R.Venkatraman, former President of India, was chairman of the Congress organizing committee. P.M. Atal Behari Vajpayee said that in the light of the terrorist attacks on the United States and subsequent retaliation in Afghanistan the congress could not have been more timely. "At the very core of these familiar developments is religious intolerance of the most extreme and violent kind," he said. The resolutions included that the freedom of religion as promulgated in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights means freedom to practice one's own religion without interference or denigration from any group or individual; that proselysation is an act of violence; that conversion of children along with family groups is a violation of their rights; that defense of one's religious tradition from proselytizing is a legitimate exercise of religious freedom; that preservation of religious diversity is imperative and that appropriate legislation should be passed to protect diversity in religion and culture through the world. The honored guest was Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham who addressed the need for individuals to follow their own dharma and not be induced by money and political considerations to change to other religions.




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Malaysia Hindu Sangam Protests TV Program on Conversion
Posted on 2001/12/27 22:48:02 ( 699 reads )


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KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, December 27, 2001: Malaysia Hindu Sangam president A. Vaithilingam (e-mail at "source") issued the following statement today regarding a TV program broadcast in Malaysia. "The Malaysia Hindu Sangam is shocked that NTV7 broadcasted a television program titled "Islam, Cara Hidupku" on Saturday, December 22 that recounted the experiences of one Muhammad Fitri Abdullah, a Hindu convert to Islam. The Malaysia Hindu Sangam is appalled that NTV7 has broadcast such a highly sensitive program abounding with statements, images and video clips that attack the religious sensitivities of Hindus in Malaysia. The sole aim of the program was clearly and unambiguously to encourage non-Muslims, and Hindus in particular, to abandon their religion and embrace the Muslim religion. The program gave the impression that only Islam is a true religion, only Islam provides a complete and satisfactory way of life and that there were Hindus who were lying and spreading untruths about Islam. The general tenor of the program clearly intended to paint a negative portrait of religions other than Islam, without giving an opportunity for non-Islamic religions to participate or give their point of view. The whole program was completely against the culture of tolerance we Malaysians have, and will disturb the religious harmony of our country."




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Recent Changes to Indian History Textbooks Spark Outcry
Posted on 2001/12/27 22:47:02 ( 620 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, Dec 23, 2001: Recent changes to Indian history textbooks have provoked an outcry that Hindu rightwingers are trying to "saffronise" the past. Critics see the move as an attempt to whitewash India's past or, as some would rather say, paint it saffron, the color most associated with Hinduism. The controversy over changes to the education curriculum has been seething for months, but the grumbling of the liberal intelligentsia erupted into rage when the government's National Council for Educational Research and Training (Ncert) decided to announce the changes to history books some weeks back. The outrage is by no means universal though. Indeed, those in favor of the changes say it is confined to the intellectual classes, who are assumed to range from mildly to ferociously Marxist. The ideologues of the Hindu right who are behind the changes argue that a nation should not be embarrassed or apologetic about its history. But there is a difference, their critics say, between that and the need to be true to facts, however embarrassing or inconvenient they may be. The right wing sees history as an essential ingredient in the process of nation building and the development of national self-esteem. Underpinning the controversy is a power struggle between two elites, the Hindu elite which believes in unapologetic, resurgent Hinduism, and the leftist elite whom rightwingers say have dominated the country's media and intellectual life for too long. The right wing also sees the Congress party, which has run India for most of the time since 1947 and under whom Marxist intellectuals flourished, as "pseudo-secular" liberals prone to policies of appeasement. The battle for moral high ground is nothing new; ruling regimes have given their own spin to history in other parts of the world: China, the erstwhile Soviet Union, apartheid South Africa, to name just a few. India is at a cusp, and the consequences of changes in the way the country sees itself will have far-reaching effects on the next generation and many after that.




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Tamil Nadu Plans for Tourists
Posted on 2001/12/27 22:46:02 ( 392 reads )


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KANCHIPURAM, TAMIL NADU, INDIA, December 29, 2001: Religious and historical sites will form the basis for a "golden triangle" proposed for development by the Union Tourism Ministry. The sites, already popular tourist destinations, are Gingee with its famed fortresses from the Vijyanagar empire and near the great temple town of Tiruvanamalli, Mahabalipuram with its ancient stone monuments and modern stone carving industry and Kanchipuram, one of the religious centers of the state. Under the plan, civic amenities and infrastructure would be improved in these places, he said. The state is recovering from the worldwide drop in tourism after September 11.




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Christians Evaluate Native American Religions
Posted on 2001/12/27 22:45:02 ( 703 reads )


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WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA, December 28, 2001: This story appearing on the web site of Christian Week is an interesting look into how missionaries deal with the ancestral religious practices of the native American Indians who convert to Christianity. Hindus are familiar with attempts of Christians in India to "inculturalize" their religion by incorporating features of Hindu puja, devotional songs and even dance. Here is the same deceptive process as applied to native American religions. The report states in part, "The complexity of making the Christian gospel culturally relevant to native North Americans is getting some serious study. Nearly 150 Christians from throughout North America came to Winnipeg in late November to probe the issue at a Native North American Missiological Symposium. Participants, including native and non-native missionaries, theologians, pastors and scholars from many denominations, wrestled with vexing questions about cultural practices that may water down spiritual truths, and teachings by Christians that unnecessarily denigrate native culture. In the past, missionaries fashioned the aboriginal church in a European image. They discouraged native languages and names, built square buildings that shut out the natural world, exchanged drums, rattles and native chants for pianos, organs and western hymnology and replaced native dress and dance with European garb and processions. The symposium attempted to navigate a middle road between assimilation (cultural genocide) and syncretism (blending incompatible beliefs)."




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Unprecedented Rush at Sabarimala Temple
Posted on 2001/12/26 22:49:02 ( 602 reads )


Source: The Hindu





PATHANAMHITTA, December 24, 2001: The Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple has seen unprecedented crowds since Saturday. The police had to detain pilgrims for up to three hours as part of crowd-control measures. The line of devotees was extended on the trekking path this morning with many pilgrims waiting for eight to ten hours to enter the temple. Meanwhile, traffic bottlenecks added to the delays of the pilgrims. It took four to five hours for many vehicles to cover a 22-km stretch of the main trunk road to Sabarimala due to traffic snarls. The delay in issuing the entry pass at the two counters at the toll gate, inadequate police deployment to control traffic and illegal parking of vehicles has reportedly contributed to traffic congestion. According to the Devaswom sources, the temple will close at 11:00 p.m. on December 26 and reopen at 5:00 p.m. on December 31 for the Makaravilakku festival that begins on January 1, 2002.




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India's Computer Language Barrier
Posted on 2001/12/26 22:48:02 ( 595 reads )


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INDIA, December 24, 2001: With 90% of Indians unable to speak and write English, the language barrier has become a real issue as most modern day computers have an English keyboard. In an attempt to develop software that will adapt the English language alphabet so that the keys produce Indian text, many companies did not coordinate their efforts. As a result, text could not be read on a computer using rival software and the whole idea of computer communication was jeopardized. To remedy the divisions, the South Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have recently developed their own uniform standards, and one computer company in Pune has figured out a way to send and receive e-mail in 11 Indian languages. Affordability has become an issue with many of the software programs and users are pushing for free software. A free operating system called Linux is readily available over the internet and has been adopted by the Indian Institute of Technology and the National Centre of Software Technology for the cities of Chennai and Bombay to communicate in Tamil and Hindi.




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Church of England Losing Congregation
Posted on 2001/12/26 22:47:02 ( 664 reads )


Source: Chicago Tribune





LONDON, ENGLAND, December 27, 2001: The days when people identified with the Church of England as an institution are past, according to this report. One recent study predicted that within a few decades, Anglicans will rank third in weekly worship, following Catholics in second place and Muslims in first. A church spokesman disagreed with the numbers, stating that Sunday attendance is no longer "the gold standard" for measuring church participation.




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Yoga For Positive Health Workshop In Houston
Posted on 2001/12/26 22:46:02 ( 573 reads )


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HOUSTON, TEXAS, December 27, 2001: An international yoga conference and workshop will be held March 2 -7, 2002, at the University of Houston's University Center on the main campus. Experts in yoga and related fields will give lectures and participate in panel discussions, while yoga therapy workshops will cover the applications of yoga in the following conditions: heart disease, asthma, cancer and mental health. Sponsors are Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana Research Foundation and University of Texas School of Public Health Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. For more information go to "source" above.




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Chakrapani's Astrology Newsletter Available by E-Mail
Posted on 2001/12/26 22:45:02 ( 737 reads )


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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, December 27, 2001: Chakrapani Ullal, one of America's foremost Vedic astrologers, offers a monthly astrology newsletter by e-mail. It contains articles by him as well as his travel and lecture schedule for the month. Subscribe at "source" above.




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Afghanistan Sends India SOS on National Anthem
Posted on 2001/12/25 22:49:02 ( 666 reads )


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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN, December 25, 2001: With the erstwhile Taliban regime destroying all musical instruments in the country because they were "un-Islamic," the new Afghan interim government has sent an SOS to India for despatch of a set of musical instruments to compose the new national anthem. The Afghan cultural ministry said the country had only one recorded cassette of the new national anthem, which was not in proper format. The musical instruments asked by Kabul include a set of harmonium, tabla, sarod, sitar, tanpura, surmandal, sarangi, pakhwaj, and a traditional dhol. They also asked for a violin, guitar, piano, flute and a banjo. India is the only country to have been approached by the Afghan regime with cultural ministry officials saying the SOS has been dispatched as New Delhi and Kabul had common cultural heritage.




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Temple Workers Strike Over Assault on Cook
Posted on 2001/12/25 22:48:02 ( 626 reads )


Source: The Hindu





MYSORE, INDIA, December 25, 2001: The priests and employees of Sri Lakshmi Venkataramana Swamy Temple at V.V. Mohalla staged a dharna (picketing) outside the temple premises in protest against the alleged assault of a cook by a temple trustee. The representatives of the Temple Staff and Workers' Union lodged a complaint with the V.V. Puram police. They called off the agitation only after the Chairman of the temple trust, Mr. Sampath Iyengar, assured them that action would be taken. According to the union representatives, a temple trustee assaulted' a cook in the temple kitchen when the latter reportedly refused to give a "bucketful" of prasadam (blessed food offered to the Diety) to a devotee.




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