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New Delhi Government Clamps Down on Smoking
Posted on 2001/1/4 22:48:02 ( 788 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, December 30, 2000: With one life every ten seconds being claimed by fatal diseases such as lung cancer and chronic bronchitis, the Delhi government has decided to forbid the sale of tobacco products to youth under the age of 18 years. It is hoped that the new law will curb the wide-spread use of the habit which captures 5,500 new victims every day. Most of these new smokers are adolescents and children, some as young as ten years of age. Merchants and vendors are deterred from making sales to minors by the consequence of heavy fines or even imprisonment. See also www.timesofindia.com/today/01indi25.htm




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Ban on Bangles and Bindis
Posted on 2001/1/4 22:47:02 ( 766 reads )


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ORISSA, INDIA: Hindu girls are forced to tuck their bangles and bindis into their school satchels before entering the premises of St. Mary's Convent to attend school. Individuals have protested against the ban, including the mother of a young girl who said her daughter was beaten for wearing the traditional Hindu women's attire to school. The state chief of one Hindu group, Subash Chouban, has called the prohibition, "An act against Hinduism." However, no action has been taken against the school about the allegations as many individuals fear their children's expulsion from the well-respected convent that has a good educational record. Also school management will not bend long enforced rules.




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Finnish Fusion Fest
Posted on 2001/1/4 22:46:02 ( 885 reads )


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CHENNAI, INDIA, January 1, 2001: Finnish composer and pianist, Eero Hameenniemi, has been taken with Carnatic music ever since he first heard it. Eero and his ensemble, aptly named "Nada," are now in Chennai and were scheduled to perform with mridangam maestro Karaikudi Mani's "Srutilaya" January 4 at the Narada Gana Sabha.The Finnish group has been experimenting with improvisations in Western music and Carnatic music and has given a lecture demonstration. Eero has been organizing concerts of Carnatic musicians in Finland by arranging an exchange program between artists of Bridhaddhvani Music Reasearch Centre of Chennai and Sibilius academy of Helsinki. Eero Hameenniemi met Karaikudi Mani in 1996 and in 1998 invited him to be a part of the Helsinki biennial with Harishankar, T. V. Vasan and Kannan, to play with the Helsinki Philharmonic. The program was a great success. Eero Hameenniemi has been in Chennai since November, enjoying music concerts and brushing up on his Tamil.




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Rock 'N' Roll to Tagore
Posted on 2001/1/3 22:49:02 ( 908 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times





SANTINIKETAN, INDIA, December 28, 2000: Imagine tuning in to your favorite radio station and hearing Rabindranath Tagore's verses sung to a catchy pop tune. The Visva Bharati Trust, to which Tagore willed all his words, is trying to interest young singers and musicians in over 2,300 verses penned by Tagore. According to Trust chairman, Dilip Kumar Sinha, the verses would be well suited to Western pop, rock, jazz, and even blues music. Anyone can put the verses to tune, with, of course, permission from the Trust, to ensure that the music provided and the manner in which a verse is sung is in keeping with the spirit of the original verse. Sinha feels the works are in danger of being lost and forgotten and insists Tagore would have no objection to his verses being sung to Western tunes. What do you think? Madonna? Michael Jackson? The Backstreet Boys? Tina Turner......?




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Bal Thackeray Gets A Pat On The Back From Shankaracharya
Posted on 2001/1/3 22:48:02 ( 782 reads )


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MUMBAI, INDIA, December 30, 2000: The Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Swami Jayendra Saraswati is in Mumbai to present the National Eminence Awards instituted by the South Indian Education Society. In an interview the seer spoke of his support of Bal Thackeray's brand of Hindutva -- regarded as extreme even by Hindu nationalists -- and why he's forgiven the latter for rising to power on a hate-Tamilians campaign decades ago. "Thackeray was misguided then but now he has given it all up to espouse the cause of Bharat and Hindutva. [It appears] aggression is the need of the times. Even the scriptures recommend this. The Moslems have their supporters in the Persian Gulf, the Christians get money from the West through the Church and the government and the courts seem obsessed with protecting only the minorities. So what happens to the majority? How long should we sacrifice to appease minorities? It is here that leaders like Thackeray who can mobilize Hindus become crucial. If his style is high-handed then so be it. Like I said, it is necessary." Later in the same interview, the Shankaracharya comments on India' atomic bomb, "The use of science and technology to kill is wrong by itself. But you need to be prepared with preventive strike power since we are surrounded by enemies. In that light the bomb has fulfilled a big need. It has changed the way the world and our neighbors look at us (laughs). The bomb can take care of the enemies without but the real problem are the enemies within."




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Couples Banned From Dancing In Rajkot
Posted on 2001/1/3 22:47:02 ( 973 reads )


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RAJKOT, INDIA, December 31, 2000: Three Hindu organizations, the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena, have banned couples from dancing together during New Year's parties in Rajkot, citing as their reason that it is against Hindu culture. Two hotels in the city, the Garden Water Park and Motel The Village, requested the police for permission to organize dance parties, but the police seemed to favor the right-wing organizations. Raju Dave, local president of the Bajrang Dal, told rediff.com that he believed that "these types of celebration are an attack on our culture." He added that if they found couples dancing "indecently," they would ask organizers to stop it or face the Bajrang Dal's wrath. Rajkot Police Commissioner Sudhir Sinha told rediff.com that dinner and music parties will be allowed but not dancing couples. The Bajrang Dal has also formed a special vigilante squad to stop such parties and keep a vigil throughout the New Year night.




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Rand Corporation Recommends De-South Asianization Of India
Posted on 2001/1/3 22:46:02 ( 773 reads )


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WASHINGTON, D.C., December 28, 2000: A leading US think tank has urged the incoming Bush administration to forge a special relationship with India and develop a foreign policy toward New Delhi independent of a "South Asia" policy that lumps India with all other nations in the sub-continent. The Rand Corporation, the Pentagon's think tank, has called on the Bush team to urge Pakistan to show restraint on Kashmir and partner the international community in its fight against terrorism.




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Singapore Hindus Celebrate Thai Pusam
Posted on 2000/12/31 22:49:02 ( 808 reads )


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SINGAPORE, December 30, 2000: The Times of London reporter Fiona Terry winced when she met Hindu devotees at a Singapore festival. She writes, "It seemed an ungodly thing to do -- parade two miles through the streets of Singapore with spears through cheeks, hooks piercing the skin and shoes of upturned nails. Yet this wasn't some inexplicable form of masochism -- this was true devotion, a Hindu ritual of body transcendence in honor of the deity Lord Subramaniam." This colorful display of courage occurs at Thai Pusam, this lengthy report goes on, a Hindu festival celebrated every new year in Singapore and Malaysia. The extraordinary pilgrimage with its mortification of flesh is the worshippers' way of seeking penance.




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Poachers Kill Elephant in India
Posted on 2000/12/31 22:48:02 ( 804 reads )


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LUCKNOW, INDIA, January 1, 2001: Ivory poachers killed an elephant in an Indian wildlife reserve but were driven off by furious villagers, who consider the elephants sacred, and forest guards, before they could remove the elephant's tusks, officials said Monday. The carcass of the poisoned elephant was found Sunday in Corbett National Park, home to nearly 600 elephants -- 100 of them with tusks, said Puran Chandra Joshi, field director of the park. The elephant was the second killed by poachers in a week in the park in the Himalayan foothills. On Friday, the mutilated body of an elephant with its tusks removed was discovered in the park. As ivory prices soar in the international market, poachers are preying on lone and aging elephants in the reserve's dense forests, Joshi said. Since the use of guns attracts attention, poachers have turned to poison to kill the animals.




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"Kali's Child" Comes in For Criticism
Posted on 2000/12/31 22:47:02 ( 897 reads )


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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, December 20, 2000: The review of "Kali's Child" by Swami Tyagananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, Boston, is up on the Infinity Foundation website. His review discusses every instance of the Bengali translation that he considers as false, misleading or from a non-existent source. It is 100+ pages in length. For those who are new to this matter, "Kali's Child" was the PhD dissertation by Jeff Kripal at Univ of Chicago. The thesis concluded that Ramakrishna was homosexual, based on referring to various texts in Bengali. But later when challenged, the author admitted that he was not an expert in Bengali language. The book has sold well. It has angered many Hindus for what they consider its unfounded analysis and use of discredited Freudian theories. The Swami's report is a welcome, in-depth analysis of what many believed to be flawed scholarship.




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Stonemasons' London Windfall Changes Their Life in India
Posted on 2000/12/30 22:49:02 ( 794 reads )


Source: The Sunday Times, London





DUNGARPAR, INDIA, December 17, 2000: Sharda Suthar, 30, and her family live a simple life in a tiny village in northwest India, until last week, when the illiterate mother of two heard that her husband, Suresh, 32, was one of 16 Indian stonemasons who had been awarded up to US$13,433 in back pay for their work on a Hindu temple in Wembley, north London. They had won a legal battle against employers who paid them as little as 45 cents an hour, less than a tenth of the minimum wage. In the villages of southern Rajasthan, it is a fortune. "We'll be able to build our own house and send the boys to good schools," said Suthar. "Perhaps my husband will also be able to start his own business." Such luxuries were unheard of even after Suthar was recruited in 1998, for $246 a month to be paid in cash back home. News of the windfall spread rapidly last week in Thana with newspapers still being read out to those who had never had the chance of an education. "Prosperity in the village will increase," said Deepak Acharya, a spokesman for the local authority. "Of course the money will not be for everyone, but for a few families and their relations it will be very good." Now that they are earning the minimum wage of $2.41 an hour, the men are happy to stay on in London.




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Tensions Rise in Ayodhya
Posted on 2000/12/30 22:48:02 ( 797 reads )


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AYODHYA, INDIA, December 18, 2000: Masons assembling the stonework for India's most controversial Hindu temple in Ayodhya near the demolished Babri Masjid have been ordered to finish their work by March 31. Babri Masjid was built after the temple marking the birthplace of Rama was destroyed by Muslims. Almost daily trucks arrive in the town's two dedicated Ram temple workshops bearing tons of Rajasthan's finest rosy sandstone to be carved to designs by the architect of the Swaminarayan temple in Neasden, North London. Here workmen squat on semi-finished pillars chiselling images of Ganesh, Hanuman and Goddesses, all under the careful eye of the the VHP. Officials make no effort to hide the preparations, showing where 21 foundation stones lie finished, grooved and numbered waiting only for the order to start assembly. Even as foremen told how their 50 craftsmen have already finished 60 per cent of the work -- including 106 of the 212 ornately carved pillars required -- a giant crane bearing "Victory for Ram" slogans swung another chunk of pink across to a circular saw.




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Police Halt Widow's Self-Immolation Attempt in Uttar Padesh
Posted on 2000/12/30 22:47:02 ( 784 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times





LUCKNOW, INDIA, December 28, 2000: Police stopped a 32-year-old widow, Radha Rai, from committing sati -- burning herself to death on her husband's funeral pyre -- December 26. Radha, who had dressed as a newly-wed bride, said she had had a dream in which she was directed to commit sati, an ancient practice in some parts of India among martial castes. According to the news report, even her children did not try to stop her. However other villages alerted the police who arrived in time. They declined to arrest her, out of "human consideration." Had she succeeded, her relatives and others in attendance could have been prosecuted for murder. The last sati to be reported was November, 1999. Her village of Kidhauli is 270 miles miles southeast of Delhi. There are temples built at the site of satis, some visited by many devotees, mostly women.




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The Changing Face of Racism
Posted on 2000/12/29 22:49:02 ( 819 reads )


Source: The New Straits Times





BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, December 16, 2000: Birmingham and Leicester have found themselves in a demographic race to become the first British city with a majority non-white population. In Leicester, with a population of 270,500, the ethnic minority population is expected to surpass its white counterparts as early as 2011. Birmingham is not far behind. Both cities have large Asian communities from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as a substantial African and Afro-Caribbean residents. Currently, 45 percent of the school children in Leicester are from ethnic minorities. The 1991 census showed that Leicester had the largest non-white population in Britain with 28 percent. It was followed by Birmingham (21 percent), London (20 percent) and Bradford (19 percent). According to Operation Black Vote, a London-based organization that is trying to encourage ethnic minorities to participate in politics, the trend indicates the overall population mix will shift in a similar direction. It is estimated that this shift will take at least 50 years. Black and ethnic minority residents currently make up around seven percent of Britain's 57 million population. While such developments can be positive, bridging the racial, cultural and religious barriers can be a challenge. Intra-racial tension, unheard of in the past, is often a threat to the harmonious interaction between minorities. There is a marked difference between Africans who are obsessed with education and self-improvement and their Afro-Caribbean brothers who are considered less ambitious by the Africans. Divisions can be seen in the Indian community as people divide according to their faith -- Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The Chinese also find disparity in those who come from mainland China and the overseas Chinese who come from Hong Kong, The United States, Singapore and other countries. Even if all traces of white racism were to disappear, minorities must still contend with inter-ethnic prejudices.




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People in Kudus live in religious harmony.
Posted on 2000/12/29 22:48:02 ( 833 reads )


Source: Jakarta Post





KUDUS, CENTRAL JAVA, INDONESIA, December 18, 2000: The becak (pedicab) is the main mode of transport in this small town of Kudus, 55 kilometers east of the Central Java capital Semarang. Once at the forefront of the spread of Islam, now the town is home to people of all religions. Kudus Tower and Al Aqsa Mosque, or Kudus Mosque, attract many visitors because of their historical value. Jafar Shodiq, later called Sunan Kudus -- one of the nine Islamic saints that disseminated Islam -- founded Kudus Mosque in 1549. Sunan Kudus was a thinker and tolerant scholar who, in spreading Islam in the once Hindu-dominated area of North Java, did not want to alienate the locals and expressed this in the Hindu architecture used on the tower. Sunan Kudus banned his Muslim followers from slaughtering cows out of respect for the Hindus, who believe the cow is a holy animal, a tradition that continues today.




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