17 May, 2009

Shahrukh Khan (Rare Photos)

Above: A drunk Shahrukh Khan abusing officials after an IPL match

Above: Shahrukh Khan kissing British actor John Barrowman

Above: Shahrukh Khan inspiring young children into smoking

15 May, 2009

Many Kandhamal victims alive

Times of India, 12th May, 2009

After having cited the Kandhamal riots as a reason for breaking with BJP, the Naveen Patnaik government has strongly challenged a list of those killed in the violence filed before Supreme Court alleging that some "victims" are still alive and even RSS activists have been included.

The BJD-led government on Friday said the list of dead filed by Cuttack archbishop Raphael Cheenath contained names of RSS cadre killed by naxalites and some who are still alive. While Cheenath's list included names of 93 persons killed in the riots that engulfed nine blocks in Kandhamal in the bloody aftermath of the murder of Swami Lakshmananand Saraswati last year, the state in its affidavit said the toll was not more than 42.

Explaining the wide gap between its own and Cheenath's toll figure, the state said: "The petitioner's list included the names of RSS activists -- Dhanurjaya Pradhani, Ajit Kumar Mallick and Prabhat Panigrahi -- allegedly killed by naxalites." Further, 10 persons, declared dead on Cheenath's list, were found alive, the state said, adding the archbishop's list also included three persons killed in police firing as well as two policemen.

It is ironical that the Orissa government is claiming the number of dead has been exaggerated as this is an allegation levelled by the saffron brigade as well. The Patnaik's government's initial response to the violence was that it was more an ethnic conflict than a purely religious one and was blamed for appearing reluctant to take action against the rioters. It was when BJD and BJP seat-sharing talks broke down amid considerable acrimony did Patnaik bring up the Kandhamal riots and claimed that "every bone" in his body was "secular".

Field inquiries from tehsildars and local police about missing names from the official list of those killed during the riots revealed that "in 10 cases, persons are still alive, in 25 cases persons have died because of chronic and other medical problems, in 12 cases reference/history of persons with reported names could not be traced in villages mentioned against their names, and in two cases villages mentioned could not be located," the Patnaik government said.

The state said the Kandhamal district collector has sought further information from the archbishop on these cases by letters dated April 22 and April 30. The response is awaited, it said.

The archbishop's counsel, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, told a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan that the petitioner would respond to the Orissa government's affidavit but as an interim measure the court should direct urgent payment of compensation for damaged houses to the victims, which till date has not been fully paid.

Appearing for the state, senior advocate K K Venugopal told the court that the government had done the maximum possible and paid compensation to all the families which had lost a member in the riots. He said the Centre has not provided its share of Rs 3 lakh to the victims.

This was refuted by additional solicitor general Amarendra Saran, who said the Centre has till date received recommendation for payment of ex-gratia for 33 deaths and has cleared 30 cases for immediate payment.

After the court directed expeditious payment of compensation, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi alleged that the scheduled caste community `Panas' in collusion with the Christians were grabbing the land of the scheduled tribes for construction of churches. The Bench issued notice to the state to respond to the allegations.

09 May, 2009

Lessons from Pakistan

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

When we retrace our steps in history perhaps we can learn some lessons from the unfortunate situation Pakistan is in today.

After partition Pakistan's population had 15 percent Hindus and 2 percent Christians. If Pakistan had promoted diversity then, the next generation would have grown up in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society and exercised more tolerance.

General Zia-ul-Haq during his tenure as President systematically erased this multi-cultural heritage replacing it by radical 'Islamicisation' of civil society and the army. The rich Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh legacy that was common between Pakistan and India was forgotten. Had they recognised that their ancestors were also part of these traditions, they would have imbibed and kept alive some of those values and that perhaps would have made them more tolerant and less violent. When people dispose of their own heritage it makes them intolerant and fanatical.

Pakistan, a land where many an ancient university existed and Ayurveda texts were written, where Hinduism and other religions flourished, has today seemingly forgotten its tradition with little respect for these religions. Unlike India, where the contribution of the Mughal empire is recognised and honoured, in Pakistan, honouring its diverse traditions and culture has been ignored. The result of this has been a mono-cultural, mono-religious education that has made them radical. Lack of exposure to her own heritage has cost Pakistan dearly.

When I visited Pakistan, I met with several journalists and interacted with thousands of people. To my amazement they seemed to know very little about India's freedom movement or Mahatma Gandhi and his principles.

The young people that I met there had very little knowledge of either ayurveda, yoga or our rich Sanskrit and Vedic heritage that is common to both countries. Tolerance and appreciation of other cultures have to be developed from a very young age. Children in Pakistan know nothing about the Bhakti movement, the spiritual renaissance which the continent once witnessed.

Their knowledge of Mahatma Gandhi is limited to the fact that he was a Hindu saint and a freedom fighter and not much beyond that. And they lack knowledge of many other saints and Sikh gurus who have traveled to and lived in Pakistan; even of people like Chanakya who wrote the Artha Shastra, and lived most of his life in a university in Taxila.

By tampering with history books educationists have done great damage to the society. The soft power they appear to wield ultimately brings out a hardened attitude in the people.

Extremist groups, who, by and large, comprise people not educated in the broad spectrum of knowledge, tend to be very insular. Unfortunately today, even in India, seeds of these tendencies can be seen in protests about "Vande Mataram" being sung in schools and colleges or a fatwa issued to an actor for visiting a Ganesh festival or objections about Valentine's Day celebrations.

This should be unequivocally condemned by society as a whole. A composite society will always promote harmony and peace and put a check on extremism. It is clear that people who espouse violence today such as Naxalites and religious extremists in India and across borders have little respect for Gandhi.

Since partition, the growth of the minority population in India has been manifold while Pakistan's minority population has dwindled from 15 percent to just 1 percent. The biggest mistake that Pakistan made was in not supporting its minority communities. Fifteen percent Hindus would have turned the country into a more democratic, liberal society. But when this 15 percent was annihilated, converted or sent out of Pakistan and were replaced by mono-religious zealots and it has weighed heavily on Pakistan, leading to total chaos and fundamentalism.

Though India also has seen communal tensions, by and large the society is tolerant. Extremism in one religion does not remain contained in one. Its shadow spills over to others as well which is evident in Buddhist monks taking to the streets in Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar.

Honouring the Hindu minority would not have been a threat to its Islamic identity, particularly because in Hinduism there is nothing such as proselytizing or conversion.

The two countries born to freedom over sixty years ago clearly took different paths.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living

04 May, 2009

Hindu Temples in Pakistan

Above: Katas Raj Temple is situated in Chakwal district of Punjab in Pakistan. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has existed before the days of Mahabharata and the Pandava brothers spent a substantial part of their exile here.

It is said that the five Pandava brothers, heroes of the Historical epic Mahabharata, stayed here four out of the 14 years that they spent in exile.

Its origin involves the death of Shiva's wife Satti. When she died, Shiva cried so much and for so long, that his tears created two holy ponds - one at Pushkar in Ajmer, India and the other at the Katas Raj Temple.

Watch the complete Photo-essay by clicking: Hindu Temples in Pakistan