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VOL. 20 NO. 3 • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2014 • P.O. BOX 623 • SUGAR LAND, TX 77487 • PERIODICAL PERMIT USPS 017-699 25 Cents

The “Walk for Unity” event at the George Bush Park located off Westheimer Parkway in West Houston on Jan. 12 displayed Houston’s solidarity with the “Statue of Unity” movement in India which stands for strong and united India. Organized on Swami Vivekananda’s birthday, this walk was a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who unified India that was fragmented in over 550 princely states prior to its independence and to bring back the values he stood for – Unity, Good Governance, & Grassroots Development. Statue of Unity will be the world’s tallest statue, standing at 182 meters, nearly twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. This will be the world’s biggest symbol of Unity, and will remind the world of how Patel united a nation as diverse as India. Photo: VIJAY PALLOD.

Support for Modi spreads with ‘wedding fervor’ in India. A similar sense of urgency is now in the air. People of Indian origin, with a strong desire for a stable and secure India, have chosen to participate in Indian politics. And their participation seems to be unprecedented in size and scope. The kickoff meeting of volunteers saw nearly 200 “coordinators” signing up for the cause of “Voter mobilization for a strong, stable and secure India.” The number of volunteer coordinators crossed 500 in Achalesh Amar, left, Gitesh Desai, Ramesh Bhutada and Anand Bhattad at the kick-off meeting of the “Reference calling” project in support of electing Narendra Modi as India’s next PM. By SESHADRI KUMAR Members looking forward to Imagine a wedding in a the election of Narendra Modi typical Indian family and the as India’s next prime minister ensuing frenzied preparations, are treating the upcoming the boundless energy and elections as a wedding in the enthusiasm among family family. members. Thirty-five years ago Indians That is exactly the prevailing in the U.S. had organized atmosphere among Indians themselves to protest the living in the U.S. imposition of emergency rule

See MODI, Page 7

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, Houston chapter, Hindus of Greater Houston and the Gujarati Samaj of Houston organized the Makar Sankranti and kite-flying festival at George Bush Park on Jan. 12. PHOTO BIJAY DIXIT. See Page 13.

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Dr Durga Agrawal (center), founding member of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, was honored for his appointment as a member of the University of Houston Board of Regents. The program on January 8 also marked the opening event of the chamber for 2014. Also in the picture Sanjay Ramabhadran, chamber president, County Judge Ed Emmett, Pankaj Dhume, past president,and Jagdip Ahluwalia, executive director. See Page 12.

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Sewa International hosts volunteer appreciation dinner



Sewa International, Houston, honored some of its dedicated volunteers and community partners for their continued support and efforts in strengthening the organization and assisting the Houston community. The evening’s program on Jan. 9 was led by two of Sewa Houston’s newest members, AmeriCorps Volunteers, Alexis Angelo and Laura Frye. President Saroj Gupta began the festivities by sharing her gratitude with all of Sewa’s devoted volunteers. Through the efforts of volunteers Sewa has expanded its four program verticals, namely: Refugee Empowerment, Family Services, Get Inspired Houston, and Sewa Local Events. Ganesh Raghu spoke about community outreach involved in the Bhutanese Refugee Empowerment program and the great success in Screen Printing classes that were estab-

lished in the Los Arcos Apartments as a means for skill development. Sewa’s AmeriCorps VISTA team Aneel Bhimani, Bhakti Sharma, Laura Frye, and Alexis Angelo spoke about the expansion of Sewa’s youth programming into Alief Independent School District’s Language Institute for Newcomers program and future goals for outreach in the Alief area. Ritesh Seal and Kunal Deshmukh reported Sewa’s successes in helping to plan the De Ghuma Ke Cricket Tournament in October 2013 which raised $15,000 for Uttarakhand flood relief. Saroj Gupta, and Arun Kankani Spoke about the development of the Sewa Family Services Program, which has grown tremendously in the past year and is expanding to include a Stop Diabetes Movement in 2014. Finally, Kavita Tewary spoke to the audience about

Local Sewa Events and the great work that the high school volunteers have been able to accomplish in the last year, which led to Sewa being awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service by the Mayor’s Office. Sewa honored some of their community partners who were instrumental in Sewa’s growth over the past year. These partners included: Gujarati Samaj, Texas Children’s Mobile Clinic Program, Ibn Sina Foundation, Star Plus Dental, Alief ISD’s Language Institute for Newcomers program. Sewa also recognized Dal Bahadur Darlami, a dedicated participant in the Skill Building Program at Los Arcos Apartments. Each of these awards was presented by Sewa’s special guests: Ramesh Bhutada, Arun Verma, Surendra and Lalita Trehan, Vijay Pallod, and Subhash Gupta. The program was followed by a dinner catered by Madras Pavilion.

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TOPIC OF THE WEEK Not in AAP’s corner By Tavleen Singh The bubble of euphoria that is making a disturbingly large number of Indians see the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in soft focus needs to be pierced before it is too late. And, as someone who has been wary of Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare and friends from day one, I consider it my duty to perform this task. It will make me less popular than I already am with Leftists, secularists, Stalinists, Leninists et al, but I did not become a political columnist to win a popularity contest. So the venom they spew worries me not one bit. The truth is I worry much more when they agree with something I say, and it is partly because of their unstinting support for AAP that I feel the need to start ringing alarm bells. No matter how good AAP looks at the moment, no matter how humble Kejriwal’s demeanour and how sweet the song he sang at his inaugural, we need to be very, very careful. Incidentally, the song that he said was the AAP anthem is from an old Hindi film called Paigham, and it was disingenuous of him not to mention this. I thought it had been written by AAP’s resident poet and was quite astonished when a friend pulled it up on YouTube and I spotted Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala in starring roles. But, a small deception compared to the bigger deception that AAP is trying to pull off politically and economically, with the unstinting support of Leftist hacks and a caboodle of semi-retired ‘professionals’ who have leapt on the AAP bandwagon. These include bankers, businessmen, dancers and IT whiz kids, most of whom appear not to have noticed that the economic policies AAP stands for are the opposite of those they made their money from. So let’s talk about AAP’s economic vision. It is usually best expressed by Prashant Bhushan, who unfailingly makes it clear that he despises the private sector for ‘looting’ resources that in his view belong to the people of India. He forgets that this is exactly what Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi believed, so they banned the private sector from most areas of enterprise and poured people’s money into the public sector. It was when public sector companies failed to make profits (except for corrupt officials) that the private sector was allowed in, but only in a small way. No matter what the losses of ‘Coalgate’ and 2G, they are minuscule compared with the losses caused by coal that burns in underground fields and the natural gas that is wasted daily because public sector companies do not have the technology to exploit it. AAP’s ideologues know that corrupt officias have ruined India. That is why there was the movement led by the mighty Anna Hazare for a strong Lokpal. But what is puzzling is AAP’s solution. This in one simple sentence is: we know officials can be corrupt, so we must give more power to honest officials to catch the corrupt ones. Where are these honest officials going to come from and how long will they stay honest? And, if private investment is so evil, where is the money going to come from to give the ‘aam aadmi’ free electricity, water, schools and healthcare? AAP’s political vision is so frightening that if implemented (may the gods have mercy!), it could turn India into a Stalinist police state. Citizen Kejriwal has asked every citizen of Delhi to start conducting private ‘sting’ operations on officials who ask them for a bribe or indulge in other forms of corruption. What happens then? Will there be a guillotine in Vijay Chowk to which these officials will be led or will they be tried by an already clogged justice system? And, when every citizen becomes a policeman, what happens to the rule of law? As for AAP’s more gimmicky political ideas, these have already started to die their own death. All that drama about using public transport for the inaugural at Ramlila Maidan was just drama. Because the very next day Kejriwal gave his ministers Innova cars. And, all that talk about living humbly was just talk because the chief minister is now looking for a ‘smaller’ house, but smaller than two five-bedroom houses is not exactly small. As for the new ministers, will they be living in the filthy alleys and squalid bazaars in which the ‘aam aadmi’ lives in Delhi, or will they find ‘small’ houses in more salubrious areas? It will not be long before even the most gullible new voters see through the deceptions of AAP, but it is important that the deceptions become apparent before the 2014 general elections. Recent polls indicate that Kejriwal is being seen as a more credible prime minister than Rahul Gandhi. Can you hear the sound of those alarm bells? — Indian Express

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Reforms in the house of God By A Srivathsan For almost a century, the Tamil Nadu government has been trying to bring the Chidambaram Natarajar temple or the Sabanayagar temple as it is officially known, under state administration. The Dikshitars, the priest community controlling the temple, have resisted this. After litigating bitterly for two decades against the appointment of an executive officer to manage the temple, the priests have got a favourable judgment. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Dikshitars are a religious denomination, and the State has to protect their right to manage the temple as guaranteed by Article 26 of the Constitution. This judgment may appear to have settled a long tussle, but, in fact, it has raised new questions and brought back important old ones. In a State where even Jain temples are managed under a Hindu Act as approved by courts, accepting Dikshitars, who have many cultural commonalities with Smartha Brahmins, as a religious denomination, is bound to be contested. At the core of the debate is the critical question: whether temples are private or public places. If they are collective cultural assets and a part of a larger heritage, can they stay outside the purview of reforms that further public interest? State-administered temples are not a phenomenon limited to Tamil Nadu, nor are they a peculiar outcome of the atheist principles of Dravidian party politics. Across the country, various governments have approved state administration of temples. Congress governments too had actively pursued temple reforms. Jawaharlal Nehru’s wish, as T.S.S Rajan, a minister in the Madras government, explained in 1951, was not to have any private temples. Some of the earliest attempts to regulate temple administration commenced in Tamil Nadu. The first legislation passed in 1817 set the tone and objective. The emphasis was on proper management of endowments. In 1888, when there were discussions about amendments to the Religious Endowments Act, a government committee of “six Hindu gentlemen,” which included T. Muthuswami Iyer and V. Bashyam Iyengar, concluded that legal measures were indeed needed. It is necessary “for the removal of widespread and recognised abuses,” the committee reiterated. Newspapers such as The Hindu chided those who opposed legal reforms and compared them to a thief who might “object to the Penal Code that will look upon him as one deserving of punishment.” It was during this period that the Dikshitars approached the Madras High Court to designate the Chidambaram temple as a private one. The court after hearing the arguments ruled that the temple was a place of public worship and not a private property of the Dikshitars. Those who legally challenged

The Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu

state control of temples complained that it was interference in religion and sought protection under Articles 25 and 26, which provided for the right to freedom of religion. The government knew full well that not all aspects of temples were out of bounds. As Justice Gajendragadkar, who had adjudicated important religious disputes in Supreme Court, elucidated, when religions “impinge adversely on the secular rights of Citizens and the power of the State to regulate socioeconomic relations,” the state has the right to interfere in the interest of public good. Courts on several occasions have been supportive of this position. In the landmark case of the Durgah Committee, Ajmer and Another vs. Syed Hussain Ali and Others, the Constitution Bench of Supreme Court in 1962 held that the legal protection “must be confined to such religious practices as are an essential and integral part of it [religion] and no other.” It further cautioned that without such a separation, there is a danger that “even purely secular practices” could be “clothed with a religious form and may make a claim for being treated as religious practices.” Managing temple funds and property are secular activities, and they never qualified for protection. In 2009, the Madras High Court Bench, which upheld the government management of Chidambaram temple, reiterated this. It did not view as improper

the government’s decision to administer 400 acres of temple land belonging to the Chidambaram temple and manage the large contributions. The need for government intervention was best explained and fully realised during the temple entry movement. The need to treat temples as public spaces was significantly underscored then. In Tamil Nadu, temple entry movement, though it started in the 19th century, achieved its objective only in 1939 in Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. It was not easy. Priests opposed it as interference in their religious practice. Nevertheless, the government pushed the reforms through by passing suitable legislation. Some of the temples such as Venkataramana temple in Moolky Petta in Karanataka, which claimed denomination status, sought cover under Article 26 and denied entry to Dalits. The Court facilitated Dalit entry. Abolishing hereditary rights of priests was the next major step to make temples accessible to all. Priesthood for long was an exclusive preserve of select Brahmin families. Many reformers and governments considered this as unjust and felt it often led to abuse of position. The Andhra Pradesh government, through a big bold move in 1987, showed that not only removing hereditary rights of priests is necessary, but also legitimate. See Page 5



INDIA-U.S. Khobragade indicted, allowed to leave U.S. "Rajiv Gandhi could do it as also the Saudi government. It is only a matter of time. US officials have admitted the charges are frivoilous," he said. As for the Adarsh housing society report which has held his daughter ineligible for a flat, he said he has already written it off. "There are ups and downs in life. I do not think of it," he said.

U.S. diplomats’ insulting comments on India Uttam Khobragade with his daughter Devyani on her arrival in New Delhi last week.

NEW YORK/MUMBAI: The legal battle over Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade whose recent arrest in New York caused an uproar in India took an unusual turn on Thursday, Jan 9, when she was indicted by a federal grand jury in Manhattan but was then allowed to leave the United States. Khobragade was granted diplomatic immunity on Wednesday by the State Department, which then asked India to waive the immunity so that she could be prosecuted. That request was refused. The State Department then told her to leave the country. The diplomat left by plane for India on Thursday night, her lawyer said. The indictment, handed up in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accused Khobragade of illegally underpaying Sangeeta Richard, her domestic help from India, and exploiting her. It said that the diplomat had confiscated Richard’s passport and never returned it. Richard worked about 94 to 109 hours a week, the indictment said, with limited breaks for calls and meals. It also accuses her of trying to “silence and intimidate the victim and her family and lie to Indian authorities and courts.” The decision by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, to seek the indictment indicated that negotiations to try to resolve the case through a plea bargain had broken down. But the revelation that Khobragade had received immunity and had been told to leave the country suggested that a separate understanding had been reached with other United States officials with the goal of relaxing tensions with India. Khobragade’s lawyer, Daniel N. Arshack, said his client was pleased that the State Department “did the right thing” by recognizing the diplomatic status “to which Dr. Khobragade has always been entitled.” “She is pleased to be returning to her country,” he added. “Her head is held high. She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known.” Sangeeta Richard said in a statement issued through Safe Horizon, a victim services agency that had been representing her, “I would like to tell other domestic workers who are suffering as I did — you have rights and do not let anyone exploit you.” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said: "At the time of her departure to India, Counsellor Khobragade reiterated her innocence of charges filed against her. She affirmed her gratitude to the government of India, in particular to the external affairs minister, and the people of India, as also the media, for their strong and sustained support during this period." Khobragade arrived in India on Saturday and visited her native place, Mumbai on Jan 14. Her father retired bureaucrat Uttam Khobragade said her family will relocate to India -- her husband Akash is a US citizen. Her two daughters aged 7 and 4 are currently with the father as they are attending school. "Her family will return sometime after February," said Khobragade. Devyani declined to speak about the incident merely thanking the media for its support. The IFS officer was granted diplomatic immunity and returned to India last week on the day a jury in the US found her guilty of visa fraud. On Tuesday she arrived in Mumbai. Her parents reside in Versova in Andheri. "She will be posted in Delhi for some time," said Khobragade adding she would return to Delhi next week to attend a reception being hosted by the Dalit community to which she belongs. "My daughter refused plea bargaining and refused to pay any fine. This is a common scam in the US where criminal charges are pressed for permanent resident status and money extorted. This is then split between the so-called victim and those who aid them. My daughter refused to pay,” said Khobragade. In hindsight though he feels the family should have done a more thorough background check on the maid Sangita Richard. "We did make some inquiry but we could have done more," he said. The Indian government is now seriously considering recruiting domestic help as permanent staff to prevent similar recurrences. Khobragade is hopeful the new government at the Centre will be able to ensure the charges against his daughter are dropped.

NEW DELHI: Wayne May, the US diplomat expelled last week by New Delhi in tit-for-tat action over the Devyani Khobragade row, and his wife Alicia Muller, also an embassy official, made deeply offensive comments about India, its people and culture on Facebook during their stay here. In a photograph posted online, they said their pet dog Paco looks bigger and in better health than their Indian gardener. Mr May commented that this was because his dog got more protein in his diet than the gardener did. His wife, Ms Muller, who worked as a liaison officer, joined a discussion over a textbook that reportedly claims non-vegetarians are more inclined to commit violence and sexual crimes to say, "It's the vegetarians that are doing the raping, not the meat eaters - this place is just so bizarre." When another commentator joked that he had never raped anyone, Alicia wrote, "Applies only to Indians, not westerners!" In another post, Alicia put up the picture of a cow in India and called it "stupid cow". When someone observed, "You just insulted their god...," Alicia retorted, "Not the first time, not the last". The US state department has distanced itself from the couple's comments. State department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said today, "Those comments absolutely do not reflect US government policy, nor were they made on any official US government social media account." In an interview to a journal called Monitor International Interviews, in 2011, Mr May said about his three years here, "Challenges in India include unhealthy living conditions like air and water pollution, the threat of disease and sickness, bad traffic and everything else that one would associate with a developing country with a population of over 1.2 billion". Wayne May headed the security team at the US embassy in Delhi. He was expelled last week in retaliation for the expulsion from the US of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade accused of underpaying her domestic help from India and for lying on the visa application. Wayne was involved in arranging for the "evacuation" of three members of Sangeeta Richard's family from India two days before Khobragade was arrested in New York.

US hands over stolen antiques NEW YORK: The U.S. handover to India this week, of idols worth more than $1.5m stolen from temples in Rajasthan and Bihar or West Bengal, marked what seemed to be a gradual thaw in bilateral frost following a monthlong diplomatic crisis. In a repatriation ceremony at the New York Consulate of India, where the diplomat at the centre of the crisis, Devyani Khobragade, used to work, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE)’s Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) on Tuesday returned two sandstone sculptures of “Vishnu and Lakshmi,” respectively weighing 159 and 272 kg. The two antique carvings were said to have been purloined from the Gadgach Temple in Atru, Rajasthan, in 2009, following which the Archaeological Survey of India that in turn joined hands with ICE and Interpol in an investigation that is still in progress. While no suspects were named by officials in New A Vishnu-Lakshmi sandstone sculpture York, they firmly ruled out that (top), and a larger Vishnu-Lakshmi the elaborate idol theft network sandstone sculpture, two of three stolen being investigated was in any from India, were handed over at a way connected to Subhash repatriation ceremony of the artefacts Kapoor, the alleged master- at the Indian consulate in New York on mind behind a much larger Tuesday, Jan 14. trove of stolen artefacts seized in the U.S. in July 2012. A third, black sandstone sculpture of a Bodhisattava, a popular subject in Buddhist art, was also returned to the Indian government, and was said to date back to the 11th or early 12th century from either the Indian State of Bihar or West Bengal. New Delhi and Washington witnessed an uptick in diplomatic hostilities following the arrest and strip search of Ms. Khobragade on December 12, 2013 a crisis that culminated in her criminal indictment for visa fraud and dramatic departure to India under immunity from a new role at the United Nations. However on Tuesday Indian and U.S. officials were warm in their expressions of gratitude for cooperation in the case against the idol thieves, with HSI Executive Director James Dinkins saying, “The excellent cooperation between India and the U.S. led to the recovery and return of these priceless antiquities.” Indian Consul-General Dnyaneshwar Mulay said, “The successful investigations and repatriation of these cultural artefacts underscores the importance of growing institutional partnership, which is of great significance to both countries.” Speaking after the formal signing of a handover agreement along with Dinkins, Mulay said that coming from a village he was aware of how important such idols of deities were for the people of the local area, who were used to seeing the idols in temples as part of their daily routines or during pilgrimages. “I’d like really to express very heartfelt gratitude to U.S. authorities for having invested so much time, energy and resources in obtaining, securing and now helping us repatriate these [idols] to the place where they belong,” he added.

Oracle sued for salary discrimination SAN FRANCISCO: A former Oracle senior sales manager sued the company alleging he was fired for complaining when he was told to offer an Indian worker, he sought to transfer to California, a substantially lower pay than white workers in the same position. Ian Spandow, who was an ex-senior regional manager in database sales, claimed his December termination was in retaliation for his opposition to what he called a discriminatory practice "of paying Indian employees wages that are substantially lower than those paid to Caucasian employees," according to a civil rights complaint filed on January 7 in a federal court in San Francisco. When he objected to the practice, he was told by his sales director that the salary would be "good money for an Indian," according to the complaint. Spandow, who joined Oracle in 2005, sought approval in September to transfer an Oracle employee in India with seven years and a successful track record at the company to California, according to the complaint. Spandow said his request for salary equal to what the company pays white workers was denied and he was told to offer significantly less -- $50,000 to $60,000, according to the complaint. Oracle's human resources manager insisted that it was fair to offer the lower salary, Spandow alleged in the complaint.


INDIANS ABROAD Vaikunda Ekadasi and Goda Kalyanam celebration at Sri Meenakshi Temple

Devotees in a procession with Lord Narayana on Garuda around Sri Meenakshi temple. Photos: Kaushik G..

On a warm and beautiful wintery morning more than 500 devotees gathered and eagerly weaved their way in a winding queue to enter through a special door for the darshan of Lord Narayana, resplendent on the Garuda Vahana (mythical bird that is the mount of the Lord) with Sridevi (Mahalakshmi) and Bhoodevi (Mother Earth). Chants of “Govinda! Govindaa!!” rose amidst the singing of bhajans by enthusiastic devotees. The place was Houston’s own Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland, and the occasion was the Vaikunda Ekadasi celebration on Saturday January 11. The belief among devotees is that, Vaikunda Dwaram (or the gate to Lord’s Inner Sanctum) is opened on this day. This was symbolically rep-

resented at the temple by devotees entering the main temple through a special door which signified walking into Swarga Vaasal (the door to heaven). After taking darshan the devotees took a procession of the magnificently seated divine Lord Narayana with the divine mothers around the temple. The devotees at Sri Meenakshi Temple were treated to a second auspicious function, Goda Kalyanam, on the following morning Sunday January 12, which coincided with the celebration of the mandalam completion of the consecration of the new Ganesh temple. The month of Marghazi from mid-December to mid-January represents a holy month in the Hindu calendar. It is believed that

Park named after first Sikh settler in Canada AMRITSAR: To commemorate contribution of Sikhs in Canada's development, the country has named a new park in the city of Calgary after the legendary farmer Harnam Singh Hari, the first Sikh to tame the harsh climes of frigid Alberta province in 1909. Alberta's minister of human services Manmeet Singh Bhullar, who was in Amritsar on Tuesday, Jan 14, said the park was dedicated to Hari and his family, who identified fertile farmland and set the pace of agricultural progress in the province. Manmeet accompanied Alberta premier Alison Redford on an official visit to India to set up a trade office for his province in Delhi. With plans to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Alberta and Punjab, the two visited the Golden Temple on Monday to pay obeisance. Bhullar spoke about Sikhs' selfless service in Canada. "We have wings named after Guru Nanak Dev in almost all major hospitals in the country. Sikhs are enjoying great prosperity because of principles learnt from their forefathers, teachings of Gurus and inspiration from the divine," he said. In reply to a question about Canada's province of Quebec where the Parti Quebecois government is likely to introduce a bill to regulate religious symbolism, Bhullar said, "Even if they introduce the bill, Canadian Charter will overrule it as it has always protected minority religious and equality rights." Redford said she has signed two MoUs with Punjab government to boost cooperation and enhance trade and investment activities between the two states. "These agreements are focused on agriculture and animal genetics and would help increase trade in dairy production and piggery. Setting up of an agricultural working group is in the pipeline to encourage communication on projects of importance," said the Alberta premier. Redford served the devotees in the Golden Temple on Tuesday. "In Alberta, I have visited many temples but visiting Golden Temple, and to see the same spirit of service and worship was an honour," Alison remarked. Referring to Redford's keenness in langar, Bhullar, in a lighter vein, said, "Alberta is a major producer of lentils and she got to see where the lentils from Canada go - in feeding tens of thousands of people every day." According to Redford, "India is not only a big market for lentils and other products, but there's also a close commercial relationship between people in Punjab and Alberta." She also said that Alberta's large Sikh community contributes actively to political, social and business activities and thus, help making the province one of the best place to live, work and raise a family.

Sri Mahalakshmi took birth as Andal/Goda in Srivilliputtur. As one of the foremost among the 12 Alwars (great devotees of Lord Narayana), she composed the Thiruppavai (30 songs in praise of Lord Narayana) which are steeped in devotion while extolling the great Vedic philosophy at the same time. Andal’s penance undertaken this month, with the culmination of marriage to Lord Narayana as Sri Ranganatha is celebrated as Goda Kalyanam. After a brief prayer to Lord Ganesha in the new Ganesh temple, the traditional Seervarisai started with Andal’s Thiruppavai recitation and Nadaswaram music accompaniment in the background. All the devotees then gathered at the main temple and were enthralled to witness the holy occasion of Andal Kalyanam and to receive the celestial blessings. Prasadam prepared by volunteers, was distributed after the wedding. The Thiruppavai saying “Koodarai vellum Seer Govinda” translated as “Even for those who do not actively make the effort to seek the divine, Lord Govinda will seek out, to bless and protect them and win them over with his majesty, grace, compassion and love,” aptly describes the mood that the devotees felt on these twin celebratory occasions at Sri Meenakshi Temple. To find out about more of such wonderful upcoming events please visit

Facebook buys Bangalore-based startup Little Eye Labs Facebook has acquired Indian startup Little Eye Labs, the social network's first acquisition of a company in that country. Little Eye Labs announced on Wednesday that it has been acquired by Facebook. In April, the company officially released its tool, Little Eye Labs for Android, which analyzes and optimizes Android application performance for developers. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Although few details were shared on the Little Eye Labs site, the company said that its entire team will be moving to Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. The Little Eye Labs team plans on using its optimization tools to "help improve performance of [Facebook's] already awesome apps." Little Eye Labs customers won't be out of luck just yet. The company says that it'll inform current customers soon on its plans to offer its optimization platform for free until June 30. The Bangalore-based startup was founded in May last year by four programme analysis geeks -- Giridhar Murthy, who worked at Apple earlier, Kumar Rangarajan, who has worked at IBM and HP, Satyam Kandula, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus and ex IBMer Lakshman Kakkirala. This has been a fun and exciting journey. We're eager to be working alongside the incredible team at Facebook and together, we'll continue on our mission of building awesome analysis tools to aide in the development of brilliant apps," said Rangarajan, the CEO of Little Eye. The company has raised seed funding from from GSF Superangels and Venture East Fund. Rajesh Sawhney, founder of GSF Accelerator, added, "Acquisition of Little Eye Labs by Facebook is a transformative deal for not only the Indian startup ecosystem but also for the whole of the emerging world. This validates GSF's core tenet that Indian product startups are now ready for a global play."

COMPUTER SYSTEMS ANALYST Worldwide Oilfield Machine, Inc. Houston, TX seeks a Computer Systems Analyst to perform duties as follows: Expand System to improve workflow. Co-ordinate and link the computer systems within an organization to increase compatibility. Maintain and monitor programs and systems. Determine computer software or hardware needed to alter system. The position requires High School Diploma, three years training and Certification in Computer Science from a Technical Institute and 24 months experience as Computer Systems Analyst. 8 AM5 PM. Send resume to: Worldwide Oilfield Machine, Inc. 11809 Canemont Street, Houston, TX 77035


INDIANS ABROAD to become a national political Modi party. From Page 1

in the next four days. Most of these volunteers are working professionals like engineers, doctors, lawyers and accounts who are driven by vision for strong and stable India. It is a goal set by well wishers of India, working together under the umbrella of Global Indians for Bharat Vikas. The strategy is labelled “Reference calling� where an estimated 1,000 plus volunteers from Houston and 10,000 plus nationwide . will be making phone calls to their family members and friends in India. It is believed that at least 5 million voters in India can be contacted through this project. Again, the concept is to follow a wedding invitation and call those who would be invited to your family wedding. The project relies on a dedicated web portal where volunteers sign up in a couple of minutes, with their own log in name and password. The website helps in planning and executing the reference calls. “I hope this inspires concerned NRI efforts and inspires others to join this movement. By registering on this web site all relevant training material will be provided,� Ramesh Bhutada of Houston, a prime source of inspiration for Mission 2014 , making Modi India’s next PM, told the gathering at Madras Pavilion. Bhutada said that he was never involved in Indian politics for the past 35 years, but the time has come now. “India is at crossroads and pathetic conditions prevail in India. Ten years ago, India and China were being mentioned as the next global powers. Now, India has dropped out and only China is in the running,� Bhutada said. “We need a strong and stable India with Modi as the prime minister; otherwise fractured mandate will lead to instability which will provide back door entry to Congress,� he cautioned. While the Aam Admi Party’s entry in Indian politics is a welcome sign and its war against corruption, similar to the goal of Narendra Modi’s government in Guajarat, is laudable, the question remains if AAP can provide a stable, strong government on its own. AAP will play significant role in the long-term future of India. AAP cannot rest with challenging the establishment, but have to perform. Its sudden entry in national politics will lead to an unstable government. So voting for BJP and Modi in the next election is not a vote for a political party; it is a vote for strong and stable India ,� Bhutada said. “We are here for a strong India and the BJP and Modi are the vehicles to achieve this end,� Bhutada said in the context of AAP’s nascent popularity and its ambition

“Calls from non-resident Indians have a tremendous impact. We are all driven by a passion for a strong India,� he said. The GIBV Houston coordinating team comprising Achalesh Amar, Gitesh Desai, Manoj Rathi and Anand Bhattad presented the talking points for reference calling and a list of ‘do’s and don’ts. The corruption free government, good governance, economic development and growth, creation of jobs are some of the plus points of Modi government in Gujarat. The usual negative point about Gujarat riots can be met with the fact that he has been exonerated by the judiciary. Also, it has been well established that BJP-run states have no communal riots. Because of Modi clean image

and 10 years’ performance in Gujarat, he can lead corruption free government. This will include most of AAP party goals plus good development. On Jan. 12, Global Indians for Bharat Vikas participated in the “Walk for Unity� event at the George Bush Park in West Houston. The walk displayed Houston’s solidarity with the “Statue of Unity� movement in India which stands for strong and united India. It was a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who unified India that was fragmented in over 550 princely states prior to its independence and made it into one country that is India today. Before and after the walk, GIBV registered approximately 500 volunteers for reference calling to India in support of Narendra Modi as the next Prime Minister of India, Gitesh Desai, Houston coordinator, said.

Volunteers sign up for the Reference calling project during the kite festival at Gorge Bush Park in Houston.

TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN I welcome the opportunity to learn about your unique goals and needs. Together we can create a strategy designed to help guide you along the path to ďŹ nancial well-being. Call to schedule a consultation today.

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COMMUNITY CALENDAR ASIE inauguration Thurs., Jan 23 @ 6 p.m. Inauguration cCeremony for the newly elected Board officials of American Society of Indian Engineers (ASIE) for 2014. Includes talk on “Leadership” by Hasmukh (Sam) Doshi with Doshi Engineering and Surveying. Also recognition of the ASIE Board of 2013. Admission free for member and one guest. At Sankalp restaurant in Sugar Land. Call Vishal H. Merchant 409-225-6346 for more information.

HMM Makar Sankrant Sat., Jan 25, @ 4 p.m. Houston Maharashtra Mandal will celebrate 'Makar Sankrant' at Cross Point community church, 700 Westgreen Blvd in Katy. Funfair with games, authentic Maharashtrian food, jewelry and much more. Traditional haldikumkum and bor-nahaan are also an integral part of this event. Admission is free for HMM members. For more information, visit

Arya Samaj Satsang Weekly Havan Satsang every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. DAV Sanskriti School Sundays 10 a.m. to 12 noon. - Havan, Hindi and Naitik Shiksha classes. DAV Montessori School for ages 2 to 7 years. Call Arti Khanna 281-7593286. Free Yoga classes on Sat. Sanskrit & Upanishad classes Tue. 6-8 p.m. At 14375 Schiller Rd. (bet Westpark & Bellaire off Hwy 6). 281-752-0100.

Vedanta Society Vedanta Society of Greater Houston, 14809 Lindita Drive (77083) has classes every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, 1st & 3rd Sunday; Bhagavad Gita, 2nd Sunday; on works of Swami Vivekananda, 4th Sunday; Holy Mother Sarada’s Gospel, 5th Sunday. Swamis of Ramakrishna Order visit to conduct retreats and talks. or 281-584-0488.

Chinmaya Mission Sunday satsangs for adults, youth and children. Unique Bala Vihar program for each grade, from PreK to Grade 12. Satsangs

in two sessions between 8:35 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. 1p.m. Bala Vihar students can take shloka, bhajan and orchestra classes or classes for Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, and Gujarati. At 10353 Synott Road, Sugar Land (77498) New members visit welcome desk bet. 8 to 8:45 a.m. or 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. Visit www.chin or contact Bharati Sutaria 281-933-0233.

Durga Bari Temple Durga Bari temple is open from 9 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Mon. thru Sat. Sandhya aarti at 6:30 p.m. Temple closes at 7 p.m. Sunday special from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Puja services - Priest Bishnupada Goswami 281-597-8100 Temple is located at 13944 Schiller Rd (off Hwy 6 bet. Bellaire & Westpark). Call Ganesh Mandal at 713-7979057 / 832-423-8541.

Telugu Fellowship Telugu Christian Fellowship meets every third Saturday of the month at Triumph Church, 10555 W. Airport Blvd., Stafford TX 77477 at 6:30 p.m. Join us for a time of praise, worship and fellowship. Worship is in English. Call Chris Gantela 281-344-0707, or Rev. V. Gurrala 281-997-0757.

Sahaj Marg Meditation Sahaj Marg (Natural Path) Meditation and Spirituality (www. A natural, simple system of Raja Yoga meditation and spiritual practice. Weekly satsangs held in the Houston area. Email Radheshyam Miryala, MD at meditate_ houston@yahoo. com or meditate.galveston @gmail. com.

Hare Krishna Dham Houston’s original Vedic temple, ISKCON of Houston. At 1320 W 34th St. (77018). Daily Darshan & Arati Times: 4.30am, 7am, 8.30am, 12noon, 4.30pm, 7pm, 9pm. Sunday Festival: 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm. Weekly Gita classes for adults; 281-433-1635 or harekrishna

Sathya Sai centers Sathya Sai devotees meet on Sundays from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at two locations in North and South Houston; Sai Spiritual Education classes for children, meditation, study circle, bhajans and

Chandra & David Courtney Tabla and Vocal

Classes now ongoing Visit

or call for info.

(713) 665-4665

Classes in Houston, Mission Bend, & Sugar Land

SALES HELP WANTED Well-known Houston jewelry store is looking for saleswomen availabe to start immediately. Must be able to speak English and Hindi well.

Call 713-789-7575

service activities. Call Raghu Amara (North) 832-418-3842 or Ajit Paralkar (South) 281-7884786. www.saicenterofhouston.

Heritage Classes Ashirwad’s Heritage Classes in Katy, Cypress and Sugar Land for kids 4 to 18 yrs meditation, Yoga, slokas, stories from scriptures, Vishnu Sahasranam, bhajans, competitions and fun activities. Adult meditation classes by appointment only. Register at Sri Ravula 281-995-0930.

Gandhi Library Mahatma Gandhi Library Book Club: Meets 2nd Sunday of each month; 12:30 PM at Arya Samaj Greater Houston, 13475 Schiller Rd. Join the discussion of the great man’s autobiography – The Story of My Experiments with Truth. For info Call Manish Wani 713-829-6979.

Saumyakasi Sivalaya Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya is located at Chinmaya Prabha, 10353 Synott Road, Sugar Land, TX 77478. Temple timings: Monday to Friday: 9:00 AM - 12:00 Noon and 5:00 - 8:00 PM Saturday and Sunday: 8:30-2:00 PM and 5:00 8:00 PM. For more information Contact 281-568-1690 or Jay Deshmukh at 832-541-0059 or visit

Veerashaiva Samaja VSNA Houston is a group of families who believe in Veerashaiva dharma (Basava dharma). Monthly Mahamane program for prayer and discussion on Vachana Sahitya followed by Prasada. Contact: vsnahouston@gmail. com 832-545-1185 (Jyoti Biradar).

Shiv Shakti Mandir Sanatan Shiv Shakti Mandir, 5645 Hillcroft, Ste 701. Open daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. All major festivals, as well as birthdays, naam karan, engagement and other ceremonies. Call Pandit Virat Mehta or Pradip Pandya 713-278-9099 for puja or other ceremonies.

Gaudiya Math Sri Govindaji Gaudiya Matha at 16628 Kieth Harrow Blvd., Houston 77084 conducts weekly satsang every Sunday 5 to 7 pm. Program includes mantra meditation, kirtan and classes on Sanatan Dharma. Vedic Education and Hindi classes for kids 5yrs - 14 yrs. Gita classes noon - 1:30 pm Wednesdays. Hanuman Chalisa and Ramcharit Manas on Tuesdays 7:30–8:30 p.m. info@sggm. org or 281-499-3347

Guruvayurappan Temple Hours: Mon to Fri 6 a.m. -8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Weekends & Holidays: 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bhajans Saturdays 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Special poojas (weekends and holidays) Choroon (Annaprasam) for kids, Thulabharam, Vahana Pooja, Nirapara. Temple is located at 11620 Ormandy St (77035) Tel:

713-729-8994 email: temple@

Houston Namadwaar A prayer house where the Hare Rama Hare Krishna Maha-mantra is continuously chanted. Weekends: 8-11 AM & 4-7 PM, Weekdays: 7-8 AM & 6-7 PM. Weekly "Gopa Kuteeram" children's heritage classes and Srimad Bhagavatam classes. Call 281-402-6585; visit www.godivinity. org (Global Organization for Divinity).

Mar Thoma Church Trinity Mar Thoma Church every Sunday at 5810 Almeda Genoa Rd. Sunday School at 9:15 a.m. Malayalam service at 9:30 a.m. on 1st and 3rd Sundays. Adult Bible class at 9:30 a.m. English service at 10:30 a.m. on 2nd & 4th Sundays. Call 713-991-1557 or 281-2614603.

Arsha Vidya Bharati Sanskrit classes and special worship sessions for all ages. At 2918 Renoir, Sugar Land, TX 77479.Call 281-606-5607 or Web-site: avbtexas/classes

Sadhu Vaswani Center Sadhu Vaswani Center of Houston holds regular Satsang on 3rd Thursday of the month and daily Arti at 7.30 p.m. Call 281 463 0379 or e.mail ramolaj@

Preksha Meditation New facilities of JVB Preksha Meditation Center. Classes for Yoga and Meditation under guidance by Samani jis and discourses. New center is located at 14102 Schiller Road (off Hwy 6 bet Bellaire and Westpark - 77082). Tel 281-596-9642.

Patanjali Yogpeeth Free Yoga Classes every Sat/Sun at Arya Samaj from 8 am to 9:30 a.m. Call Anil 281-579-9433. For other free classes, call Indra 281537-0018. For Yoga/Herbal products, call Shekhar 281-242-5000. Web: and

Sanatana Dharma Discussions on confusion between Sanatna Dharma and religion. To protect, preserve and promote the wisdom of Dharma, the eternal, universal and natural tradition. Call 832 868 5656 (cell).

Houston Arts Alliance Houston Arts Alliance kicks off the new year with the Alliance Gallery opening of Michael Bise: Artist’s Picks this Thursday. In February, we are extremely excited to present Voices of the Spirit in its fourth year, featuring praise and chanting from the Buddhist nuns of Chung Mei Temple in Stafford, a cappella gospel by The Soul Influence and Hindustani melodic modes by Pandit Suman Ghosh. Attached please find the press releases for these events, as well as images of the artists to perform during Voices of the Spirit IV. February 8 & 9: Voices of the Spirit IV. Presented in partnership with Asia Society Texas Center. The fourth iteration of HAA’s popular annual concert series celebrating devotional music from Houston’s diverse faith communities, featuring Buddhist praise and chant, African-American a cappella gospel and Hindustani ragas. Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Blvd. For info, call Houston Arts Alliance 713.527.9330 x 126

AAHOA Unveils new logo and brand identity The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) has introduced a new logo, which becomes the basis for an updated visual identity that will be phased-in during coming months on all print and electronic materials, including the website. This is the first change in AAHOA’s logo since the group’s founding in 1989. “Our new outside look reflects the changes and the progress we have made on the inside of our association,” said Mehul Patel, who serves as current AAHOA chairman. “Those changes have included expanding our staff, revising our organizational structure, and enhancing our services.” Added Mehul Patel, “There’s no more appropriate time than now — as we begin our 25th anniversary year — to refresh our logo so it properly portrays AAHOA as an organization that is modern, forward-thinking, and positioned to confidently lead its members and its industry into the future.” The new logo reinforces the name by which the association is commonly known — namely, “AAHOA” — while prominently featuring the “H” to represent hotels and the “O” to represent owners. A curve runs through all the letters to convey unity and progress. “It’s a logo that is contemporary and has energy — just like AAHOA,” explained Pratik Patel, who serves as AAHOA vice chairman. During the past two years, AAHOA has conducted a thorough review of its branding. The process involved the association’s Board of Directors, its Ambassadors, and its past chairmen.


INDIA-U.S. Rahul Gandhi hints he is ready for PM’s job ing our PM or CM candidate and take away the right of the elected representatives to choose their own leader,” he told The Indian Express. His remarks came on a day Rahul — in an interview published in a Hindi daily — indicated he is ready to be the PM if his party returns to power. Said to be hesitant to take up the responsibility even Three days ahead of the AICC session, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh on Tuesday expressed reservations about projection of Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate. He said the elected representatives should not be deprived of their right to elect their leader and it was not the practice of the Congress to declare its PM or CM candidate before elections. He said this was his personal opinion and the party would take a call. “Personally, my view is that Rahul has the ability to lead the nation. But my view has always been that in a parliamentary democracy we should not be declar-

as the chorus to declare him the PM candidate grows in the party, Rahul said he has never been reluctant. He said he would take up whatever work his party gives him. Singh said the Congress was not shy of projecting Rahul as the PM candidate. “Don’t see this as a sign of weakness. We have the courage to face any adversity. For whatever little I have known of Rahul Gandhi, he has the courage to face any adversity. Let us not also not forget the fact that Indira Gandhi fought aggressively against all odds even in the worst scenario. Sonia Gandhi too faced adversities and came out of it.

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What was the situation of the Congress when she took over. It was in dumps and we have recovered,” he said. While Rahul — in his interview to Dainik Bhaskar signaled willingness to take up the PM’s post — he did not indicate if he would be the PM candidate, saying his party has never been specific on this. He made it clear that his sister Priyanka Vadra would not take up any electoral role. “Priyanka is my sister and friend. Besides, she is an active member of the Congress, because of which she is helping to strengthen me and the organisation. I do not think she will have any electoral role,” he said. On whether he would take up the PM’s post, he said, “We are a democratic organisation. We believe in democracy. The people of the country will decide through the elected representatives who will be the PM. It is imperative in the national interest that the Congress comes to power. And for that, whatever responsibility the organisation has given me and will give in the future, I will carry that out with full dedication.” On his earlier remarks that “power is poison”, which were being interpreted as his reluctance on the PM post, he said, “Power is poison does not mean I am not keen to take up responsibility. There is no word called reluctance in my life. Power is poison is an observation about the dangers that come with power and how to deal with it.” Asked why the party has not declared its PM candidate, he said, “The Congress has never been specific on this. Whatever work the Congress has given me, I have accomplished it, and what it will give I will complete it. I am a solider. I will follow whatever order is given to me.”


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AAP leader calls Kejriwal a liar NEW DELHI: Differences in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came out in the open on Wednesday with party MLA Vinod Kumar Binny accusing the Delhi Government of deviating from its principles and poll promises and calling Arvind Kejriwal a “liar”. Binny, a former Congressman who had publicly displayed his unhappiness after he was left out of the cabinet in December, also threatened to “expose” the party at a press conference tomorrow while slamming it for “failing” to fulfil the promises made to people of Delhi. Rubbishing the MLA’s criticism, Kejriwal said, “First, he had come to me for ministership, we refused. After that, he wanted to contest the Lok Sabha polls. He came to my house to ask for the ticket. The party has decided that all sitting MLAs would not be given tickets for the Lok Sabha polls.” Binny immediately denied demanding either ministership or ticket to contest the Lok Sabha polls, saying it was the “biggest lie if he (Kejriwal) has made the statement that I went to him for Lok Sabha ticket. I even never soght the post of minister.” Earlier, the MLA said there has been lot of difference between what the party promised and how the government was working. “I will divulge all these things in a press conference tomorrow to ensure accountability and transparency in the party,” the Laxmi Nagar MLA told reporters. Binny said he was not upset over not becoming a minister and wants to raise the issues in public interest. “I am not upset over anything. The party is drifting from the main issues. Hence, it is important for us to make them realise that we are in the party for its cause and the issues it raised,” the MLA said. Kejriwal said there was a meeting on Tuesday of all 70 candidates who contested the Delhi polls but the MLA did not raise a single point in the meeting. “I do not know what his intentions are and I do not even want to get into it. We are the most sensitive government towards resolving issues. We welcome criticism, be it the public, media or the BJP,” he said. The Chief Minister said party leader Yogendra Yadav will handle the issue.

Poet, activist Namdeo Dhasal dead MUMBAI: Renowned Marathi poet and firebrand activist Namdeo Dhasal passed away here on Wednesday after a prolonged illness. He was 64. Dhasal, who was battling colorectal cancer, died at the Bombay Hospital. His last rites would be performed here on Thursday Dhasal was one of the founders of the militant Dalit Panther movement which started after the casteist riots in Worli's BDD chawls in the late '60s. He was also a pioneer of the Dalit literature movement known for its deep concern for the under-privileged. The Padma Shri awardee also has a medical history of myasthenia gravis which is one of the lesser known auto-immune disorders. In 2007, actors Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan had helped raise funds for Dhasal whose family was on the verge of selling their house to pay his medical bills. Dhasal's writings represented the anger and reflected the untouchable's protest voice against oppression and societal discrimination. His first collection of poems Golpitha (1972) took Marathi literary circles by storm and broke all the rules of traditional Marathi literature. Golpitha, named after a red light district of Mumbai city, caused an uproar for its vivid language where Dhasal employed common (vulgar) language used in the red light area, shocking the traditionalists. Dhasal, also a rights activist, received the Nehru award for his book 'Golpitha'. In 2004, he was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akadami award for his contribution for literature. Dhasal's selected poems were translated into English under the title "Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld", Poems 1972-2006.

Italy moves SC for release of marines Dakshini R. Senanayake, B.S., LL.M. Licensed by the Supreme Court of New York Not Licensed in Texas nor certified by any Board of Legal Specialization

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The Italian government has resumed the efforts for the release of their marines, who are accused of killing two Kerala fishermen in Indian waters in Feb 2012. Italy has moved the Supreme Court seeking direction to Centre to expedite the proceedings in the case. According to the Italian government, no chargesheet has been submitted in the case even one year after the order of the apex court. It has pleaded the Supreme Court to discharge the marines in the case due to delay in the proceedings. The Supreme Court is slated to hear it on Monday. Meanwhile, National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought sanction to prosecute the two Italian marines – Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone – under the ‘Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf’Act (SUA), a provision which has only death penalty as punishment. India has, however, given an assurance to Italy that the two would not be awarded death penalty.



Pongal being cooked to celebrate the harvest festival at the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.

Vendors making brisk business by selling sugarcane on the eve of Sankranti festival in Hyderabad.

A group of women indulge in merry-making as the Sankaranti festival begins with Bhogi in Ongole.

Students celebrate Lohri in Lucknow. Lohri is a celebration of the winter solstice observed by Hindus and Sikhs in northern India.

Did U.K. help India in ‘Operation Blue Star’? A retired top paramilitary commander, who had led his troops during Operation Blue Star against militants in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984, on Wednesday rejected reports that Britain had helped India in planning and executing the action. “I have seen the reports in this regard emerging recently. But I can say it with confidence that the UK did not help us in any way. Mrs Indira Gandhi was a very proud person...she will not beg for anything from anyone leave aside this operation. “She was a Prime Minister who had a heart of steel. She could overcome any crisis. There is absolutely no question of anyone asking for help from the U.K. for this task,” retired chief of the Border Security Force (BSF) Birbal Nath told PTI. Mr. Nath, who retired as BSF DG in September 1984, was part of the planning of the June 1984 operation and instrumental in choosing an appropriate contingent of the force which was suppossed to help the Army in the Bluestar

Operation. The ex-DG said Indian forces and the Army were capable of undertaking the operation by themselves and it was totally “their” operation. “India never asked for help from anyone in Blue Star and this is a matter of record,” the 87-year-old Nath said. Recent reports suggested that declassified documents in the U.K. indicated that Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) officials had been dispatched to help India in the planning on the raid of the Golden Temple in Amritsar to flush out militants from the shrine, an operation that left more than 1,000 people dead. British probe British Prime Minister David Cameron has directed his Cabinet Secretary to establish the facts behind claims that Margaret Thatcher’s government may have helped Indira Gandhi plan Operation Blue Star in 1984. Labour MP Tom Watson and Lord Indarjit Singh had demanded an explanation after recently declassified docu-

ments indicated that Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) officials had been dispatched to help India on the planning on the raid of the Golden Temple to flush out militants from the shrine, an operation left more than 1,000 people dead. “These events led to a tragic loss of life and we understand the very legitimate concerns that these papers will raise. The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Secretary to look into this case urgently and establish the facts,” a UK government spokesperson said in a statement issued in London on Monday night. “The PM and the Foreign Secretary were unaware of these papers prior to publication. Any requests for advice from foreign governments are always evaluated carefully with full Ministerial oversight and appropriate legal advice,” he added. The documents being referenced were released by the National Archives in London under the 30-year declassification rule as part of a series over the New Year. A letter marked “top secret

and personal” dated February 23, 1984, nearly four months before the incident in Amritsar, titled ‘Sikh Community’, reads: “The Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. “The Foreign Secretary decided to respond favourably to the Indian request and, with the Prime Minister’s agreement, an SAD (sic) officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs Gandhi. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Indian Government may put the plan into operation shortly.” “These documents prove what Sikhs have suspected all along, that plans to invade the Golden Temple went back months even though the Indian government was claiming even weeks before that there were no such plans,” Lord Singh, also the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations in the UK, told PTI. “I have already approached the Indian government through the High Commission of India for the need of an independent

international enquiry to establish the exact facts. I will now raise the issue in the House of Lords,” he added. Some of the documents have been reproduced on the ‘Stop Deportations’ blog which focuses on Britain’s immigration policy and claim Thatcher sent SAS officials to advise Mrs Gandhi on the operation. “I’ve only seen the documents on Monday and am told there are others that have been withheld. This is not good enough. It is not unreasonable to ask for an explanation about the extent of British military collusion with the government of Indira Gandhi,” Mr. Watson, an MP for West Bromwich East, said. He has written to UK foreign secretary William Hague and plans to raise the issue in the House of Commons. “I think British Sikhs and all those concerned about human rights will want to know exactly the extent of Britain’s collusion with this period and this episode and will expect some answers from the Foreign Secretary,” he added.



Uplifting play on the power of truth

Vaibhava Shrivastava as Raja Harishchandra (left), Dipti Kanhere as Rani Taramati, Akshay Deshpande as Dev Tapas (right) did a superb job.

Jain Vishwa Bharati Meditation Center in Houston, on its fund raising event presented a highly uplifting play on the Power of Truth. The other purpose of this event was to bring forth JVB’s vision: To help the Houston community in leading a healthy, happy, and peaceful life by teaching the principles of non violence and providing training in the system of Preksha Meditation. The play depicts the life of Raja Harishchandra and Rani Taramati, who display tremendous fortitude and remain unfazed by a string of misfortunes in their resolute bid

to stick to the truth and to fulfill their promise. The story of Raja Harishchandra, whose name is synonymous with truth, has been known to Indians for thousands of years, and JVB Meditation Center picked the most suitable story to celebrate the life of Shri Tulsi, in the centennial birth celebration of the great Jain seer. Raja Harishchandra: The Power of Truth begins with a dance by the Apsaras in the court of Lord Indra. The lord asks his council of Devas what is the most priceless virtue in the universe. When the

council members propose wealth, justice, knowledge and happiness, Lord Indra disagrees and suggests truth as the finest virtue. He points to Raja Harishchandra of Ayodhya who has lived all his life devoted to that one principle. One of them, Dev Tapas, challenges Lord Indra and vows to test and break Raja Harishchandra’s resolve. Harishchandra’s travails begin when he unwittingly kills a pregnant deer thinking it is a ferocious animal. The deer belongs to a sage (Tapas in disguise) and Harishchandra pleads with the sage that it was an accident and he would pay any price to cleanse the sin. The sage calls him a liar and demands penance from him. The sage demands that the raja hand over his kingdom to him and then to pay dakshina - one thousand gold coins! Harishchandra agrees and asks his treasurer to give the sage. But since he has already given his kingdom away, he now has to earn that money to pay the dakshina. Harishchandra, with wife Taramati and son Rohit set off for Kashi where Harishchandra plans to work and earn the thousand gold coins to pay off the sage’s dakshina. They are accompanied by the sage’s understudy, Nakshatra. Thus begins a series of hardships that truly test his mettle but he is undaunted. Finally, as the day of reckoning arrives, and he

still has not earned the money, he decides to sell his wife and finally himself to a chandaal (keeper of a cremation ground). Taramati takes son Rohit along to the Brahman’s house where she works as a maid. The final searing test comes when Taramati brings the body of their son Rohit, who has died from a snake bite, for cremation. But Harishchandra, remains true to his new calling and demands the fee for the cremation. Taramati has nothing to give, but Harishchandra remains unmoved, even after realizing that it was his son, who was lying dead in front of him. At this time, Sage Tapas, impressed by Harishchandra’s fortitude and devotion to truth and his resolve to keep his promise, reveals himself. He accepts that he was wrong and that truth indeed is the supreme virtue. The play, 4th in the series of plays put together by JVB over the years, lasted a little over two hours and was marked by some superb acting by the lead actors — Vaibhava Shrivastava as Raja Harishchandra, Dipti Kanhere as Rani Taramati, Akshay Deshpande as Dev Tapas and Neer Jain as Prince Rohit. They were well supported by the big peripheral cast, who did a commendable job. The costumes and props were rich, pleasing and very appropriate. Superior stage design and lighting as well as melodious background music and narration (recorded in a studio in India) embellished the presentation. Two resident Samanijis, Samaniji Parimal Pragya ji and Samani Vikas Pragya ji, who guide the meditation and other programs at JVB Preksha Meditation Center, spoke about the importance of living by the truth in their introductory remarks and paid tributes to Acharya Tulsi. Emcee Meena Datt, who is never at a loss for the appropriate words or the unexpected humorous line, created the right level of anticipation in the audience. Swatantra Jain, chairman of JVB Preksha Meditation Center, welcomed the audience saying that the play about truth marks the start of a year-long celebration to commemorate the 100th year of birth of Acharya Tulsi, a proponent of Manav dharma. Pramod Bengani recognized the cast during the curtain call and the audience appreciated them with a standing ovation on their performance and heart rendering ending. Vivek Jain, as the president of JVB center thanked the director, producer, cast and volunteers for hundreds of hours put behind the scene for the success of this performance. He further thanked the sponsors and donors during his vote of thanks address to end the evening. The fundraising event was a big success with a sold out performance. Swatantra and Bimla Jain were the grand sponsors of the event with a donation of $51,000. The other major donors were Jainesh and Manta Mehta and Amit and Arpita Bhandari. The event was strongly supported by the community, which included philanthropist such as Vijay and Marie Goradia and Jugal and Raj Malani. — R.G.

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COMMUNITY NEWS Durga Agrawal feted on his appointment to UH Board of Regents

The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston held its inaugural reception for 2014 on Jan. 8 with the induction of Sanjay Ramabhadran, left, as the chamber’s president. Others are Pankaj Dhume, outgoing president of the chamber, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Jagdip Ahluwalia, executive director of IACCGH.

The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston held its inaugural reception of 2014 which focused on honoring Dr. Durga Agrawal on his recent appointment to the University of Houston Board of Regents. The event, attended by about 170 guests and members of the chamber, was held on Jan. 8 at the HESS Club. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who was the chief guest, complimented Agrawal’s sharp business acumen. Emmett said Agrawal honors us every day by being a dedicated public servant, creating jobs and taking a leading role in furthering IndiaU.S. ties. The always smiling Agrawal, a modest man who seems less impressed with his own success, said he has personally benefited by his association with the chamber. Because of the chamber, he said, he

learned to write and respond to emails. His trips to India with the chamber’s business delegation where MOUs were signed between MD Anderson Cancer Center and Indian hospitals, was a very fulfilling experience. Because of the chamber, he came into contact with and made friends with Dr John Mendelsohn and with David Leebron, President of Rice University. Agrawal is President and CEO of Piping Technology & Products, a company providing products and services worldwide for industrial and construction needs. He is also a licensed Professional Engineer and he serves on the Cullen College of Engineering Leadership board, is a Board Member of Friedman Industries, and past founding President and current Trustee of India House Houston. “I am very passionate about

India House and Harris Health System cordially invite you to join the celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony of the

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education,” he said referring to his appointment on the UH Board of Regents. (He served on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board from 2008 – 2012.) Agrawal proceeded to list several strong points of the University of Houston, including: 1. University of Houston is not just a regional university anymore. It is a Tier One national research university, one of only three in Texas. 2. UH is among the top 100 universities in the world that produce most millionaires. 3. Many UH students are now launching start-up companies. The university is now generating $17 million per year in royalties from commercialization of intellectual properties — that is #1 in Texas; higher than UT and Texas A&M. 4. UH awarded over 14,000 degrees in the year 2012-2013 from a total enrollment of 67,000 students — for all four campuses —— Main Campus (41000), Downtown (14000), Clear Lake (8000), and Victoria (4000). 80% of UH graduates stay and work in Houston and Harris County making an enormous economic impact. 5. UH has increased student enrollment in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – by 26% at the undergraduate level and 35% at the graduate level. 6. UH, the second largest residential campus in Texas, has more beds in the dorms than UT Austin. Also, its freshman retention rate is at an all-time high. 7. UH also leads in health science education, with 40% of its sponsored research going to various health areas. The College of Optometry is ranked #2 nationally. There are 11,000 students enrolled in degrees that serve and shape the healthcare industry, and 24% of all degrees granted by UH have a pathway – direct or indirect – to health-related jobs. 8. Many programs in the Cullen College of Engineering, Bauer College of Business, College of Technology, Law School and the School of Hotel and Restaurant management are all highly ranked nationally. Agrawal thanked Emmettt for his robust support to the IndoAmerican community and his backing of the India House Clinic. HarrisHealth is spending $2.5 million for equipment and $1.5 million per year in providing doctors, nurses and other services. Immediate past president Pankaj Dhume presented his annual report and thanked his team for their support which led to a very successful year. He presented retiring IACCGH board members Ajit Thakur, Nitin Kapadia and Amod Bavare with plaques of appreciation. President Sanjay Ramabhadran introduced the 2014 executive team and board of directors and presented Pankaj with a plaque thanking him for his leadership. The board made special note of the support from Asha Dhume and presented her with a special token of appreciation. The Chamber also congratulated the IIT Alumni Association on their successful global IIT conference held in Houston.


COMMUNITY NEWS Makar Sankranti & kite festival More than 4,500 people gathered at George Bush Park on Jan. 12 to participate in the Makar Sankaranti celebration and kite festival organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, the Hindus of Greater Houston and the Gujarati Samaj of Houston. Three school buses were used to bring people from the satellite parking locations, according to the event coordinator Girish Naik. The Gujarati Samaj served over 1100 plates of Khichadi, he said. Prakash Shah regional president of Ekal Vidyalaya southwest region, said the group served 1500 cups of free tea. This was a record year for the crowd and tea supply ran out by 3 p.m. Visitors bought different types of kites for a nominal fee. Narendra Modi kites were very popular this year. A major highlight of this year’s festival was the Walk for Unity, in honor of Sardar Vallabhai Patel and the Unity Statue. A yoga session, involving Surya Namaskar, was also held.

Suresh Patel, Rau Patel and Sailesh Patel of Gujarati Samaj serve kichadi.

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Sharad Patel, center, as “Sardar Patel’ joins the unity walk.

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Record opening for Dhoom 3 in Pakistan despite ‘ban’ Salim-Javed: Arrogance of clarity

India and Pakistan may be intransigently hostile nuclear-armed enemies, but their peoples tend to enjoy some of the same cultural pursuits. For one thing, Pakistanis have an insatiable appetite for Bollywood films, those frothy, romantic musicals with happy endings that have hundreds of millions of Indians in a vise grip. Bollywood Life reported that a new film called “Dhoom 3” from India is breaking box-office records across the border in Pakistan, setting a new peak for the highest gross receipts on its opening day last month. The crime caper, racked up ticket sales of 20 million rupees across more than 50 screens in the city of Karachi alone on its opening day. Some theaters and multiplexes in Pakistan are showing the film five times daily to meet the huge demand from the public. (The average price of a movie ticket in Pa-

kistan ranges from Rs150 to Rs350). The Indian film has replaced Pakistan’s own popular Waar, last year’s blockbuster, for having the biggest opening week in the country. Dhoom 3 also set opening records for an Indian film in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. “Waar grossed 11.4 million [Pakistani rupees] on its opening day, but Dhoom 3 has surpassed that by a large margin,” said Nadeem Mandviwalla, a top Pakistani exhibitor and distributor. “There is no doubt that Dhoom 3 has been a massive hit, and the reason for this is clearly Aamir Khan and the pre-release publicity for the film.” Abdul Haq, manager of the Capri Cinema in Karachi, gushed: “There is great interest in the film and we are getting audiences of all ages and sexes.” Pakistan's theater owners are likely wondering if Dhoom 3 can break the all-time record for aggregate box-office takings – currently held by Chennai Express, which has so far grossed at least 100 million Pakistani rupees. Dhoom 3 was cleared by the

Virat-Anushka game is still on! Want to send a letter to India's vice-captain Virat Kohli? Mail it to Badrinath Towers, 20th floor, Seven Bungalows; yes that is the address of actress Anushka Sharma's plush new pad. India's whitewash in South Africa did not seem to have rattled the young cricketer who till he left for New Zealand with the Indian team early on Jan 12, not only painted the town red with Anushka Sharma but had also parked himself on the 20th floor of Badrinath Towers where the actress recently bought three flats. The 25 year old is one of the most popular cricketers in the current crop and easily recognisable. One of the watchmen on duty said: “Virat saab kal raat Anushka madam ke ghar par hi the. Paanch din se toh yahin par hain.” His colleague further said

Virat and Anushka in the shampoo ad

that Virat has been living in Anushka's pad since he came back from South Africa and while he would generally leave the building after 2 p.m. every day, he always returned by 8.30 p.m. Virat had also visited her before departing for South Africa. She came down to the building's lobby to see him off and the pair parted with a quick kiss. Upon landing in Delhi from South Africa, his luggage was loaded in Anushka’s Range Rover which entered the scene a trifle late. Virat was seen waiting for some 20 minutes at the airport as Anushka’s car was delayed. Anushka and Virat first met when they were shooting for a shampoo commercial in August last year. And from the looks of it the game is still on.

Pakistani censor board without a single cut, a good sign for Bollywood. However, the release of Dhoom 3 (or any such product from India) in Pakistan raises a raft of thorny and confusing legal questions. Consider that last month, the Lahore High Court prohibited the exhibition of “illegally” imported films, a ruling that applied to Bollywood fare. Lahore High Court Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan ruled that Indian films and television programs were included in the “negative list” for products that cannot be traded under the two nations’ bilateral trade regime. The Lahore Court actually reinstated a ban on Indian films and TV programs that has been lifted in 2006 by former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. But, in the same court, a petition filed by Pakistani television talk-show host Mubashir Lucman seeking to ban Indian films was withdrawn last month, according to the DNA news agency of India. Lucman, himself a former film producer known for his stridently anti-India views, cited that the importation of Indian films and TV serials violated Pakistani laws and regulations. Lucman reportedly agreed to withdraw the petition after a compromise with the Pakistan Cinema Owners’ Association and film distributors under which cinemas in Pakistan must share screen time for both Indian and Pakistani films equally. Bollywood producer Mahesh Bhatt told Indian media that the Lahore petition invoked an old law from 1965 that essentially banned films produced in India from being screened anywhere in Pakistan. “When General Pervez Musharraf came to power, he took a soft line and did not insist on strict implementation of the law [as a result of] which Hindi [language] films were shown in Pakistani cinema halls,” Bhatt told DNA. “I am planning to ask the Indian film producers guild to write to [Pakistan's current] Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take a liberal stand and ensure that Hindi See Page 16

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Salim-Javed, one of the most celebrated scriptwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, were seen as arrogant during their prime and the two feel that "every person who knows his job" is arrogant. The duo scripted commercially successful films Zanjeer, Sholay and Deewaar before parting ways about 32 years ago. They reunited to celebrate the 3D version of one of Bollywood's biggest hits, Sholay, that released Jan 3. Once dubbed "arrogant" and "cocky", the writers explained why they were inflexible about their price, and discussed the clout they wielded, and they could make casting decisions on the films they wrote. Asked why people said of them that they were very cocky and arrogant in their prime, Salim Khan replied: "Every person who knows his job and is aware of that is an arrogant person. There is a term in psychology -- 'the arrogance of clarity'. If you are clear that this is black, you will not encourage any discussion on that. “When we entered the industry, writers had no say in anything. We got an edge after giving 10 hits in a row,” Salim Khan said. Javed Akhtar said there were multiple reasons for that. “One, of course is that we were extremely young. He (Salim) was in his 30s and I was in my 20s when we did all the work... We came to film writing and cinema when writers were totally marginalised. They were very poorly paid. Their names were not put on posters and banners. It has happened again now. So, I suppose one will have to write scripts again to set the record straight... (laughs)” “So, there was no tradition of a writer putting his foot down or talking like an equal. If a downtrodden person, a backward person talks to you like an equal, he would sound arrogant. So it was this equality, which sounded like arrogance, that's the point number 1. And point number 2 is that we were always so sure of ourselves,” Javed Akhtar said. “Now with age, I realize that you have to become successful and you have to make your success palatable for others. Perhaps we didn't do that. But perhaps that was the need of the hour, who knows...if we’d have been more gentle, they’d have trampled us.”

Aamir teary-eyed at Satyamev Jayate shoot The second season of Aamir Khan’s popular show, Satyamev Jayate, is now on the floors. And if the first day of the shoot is any indication, then this new season is going to be an equally, if not more, overwhelming experience for its emotional actor-host. The first day of shooting started with the makers highlighting India’s most troubling issues of last year, of which violence against women was, and still is, a crucial one. Aamir began with an introductory speech, and then, as the women’s testimonies started, they began talking about their experiences. Listening quietly, after a while, Aamir could not hold his tears back. So much so that the shoot had to be stalled for 30 minutes for the actor to gather himself. Aamir is an emotional man and he was in no condition to resume shooting at that moment. So everyone took a break so Aamir could compose himself. After four episodes that will be aired in one month, there will be a gap before the next set of episodes begins.

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REVIEW/PREVIEW Dedh Ishqiya: Soak it in!

Cast: Madhuri Dixitm Arshad Warsi, Naseeruddin Shah, Huma Qureshi. Director: Abhishek Chaubey It’s the enchanted world of Urdu shayari, the rustle of precious silks and ada (style) beautifully contrasted with ruthless treachery and dark humour. Aesthetics seep through every pore of the film -- be it the language (soak in words like lamhat, raks, uns, roobaroo), the elegant embroidery on a character's costume, the andaaz, the dance, the subtly powerful performances, or the setting itself. Which is a fictional town called Mehmoodabad in mofussil North India. Here, the widowed Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit) is organizing a shayari (poetry) competition to pick her suitor. It is at this symposium that Babban (Arshad Warsi) spots his Khalujaan (uncle, played by Naseeruddin Shah), dressed like a nawab. How did this happen, he wonders? It was only some time back that they had separated while running away from the cops for a robbery. And in this merry mess involving Begum Para, Khalujaan, Babban, and Munniya (Begum's trusted confidante, played by Huma Qureshi), there’s this slithering, enticing piece of jewellery that does the rounds. The film is as humorous as it is dark. Though the film essentially trails criminals -- the definition itself is re-examined. There are those "criminals" that defy society's conventional notion of love, those that remember their manners around a children's school, and those that don't mind narrating a "lateefa" or "afsana" as their dying wish. And it’s not just the women who use their beauty to get what they want. The men are complete peacocks preening in front of the mirror, fussing about whether they look the part, swathed in rich fabrics and accessories.

There's no doubt about it -- such exciting, arresting characters haven't been seen in Bollywood in some time now! About the only grouse is the physical violence a character unleashes on another he claims to "love". Both Babban and Khalujaan are more impish than actually wicked (a character actually calls them ‘masoom’ at one point), this portion stands out as being ‘out of character’. And one so wanted to see more of the dance, choreographed by Pandit BirjEu Maharaj and rendered by Dixit. Abhishek Chaubey’s sequel (he also directed Ishqiya in 2010) is just as entertaining as the first, if not more. Chaubey tells the story (by Darab Farooqui with hints from a popular literature work by an Indian Urdu writer whose name could be a possible spoiler) like a fairytale with the urgency of a graphic novel. Delightfully bereft of moral judgment, the film, in a stroke, exposes the underbelly of royalty in India that is bound by chauvinism and tradition. The twist in the second half is delightfully original and amusing! Add the crackling dialogue, superb production design (you are indeed transported to this fictitious Mehmoodabad), luminous cinematography and soulful music. The performances are effortlessly brilliant. Naseeruddin Shah is masterful as the roguish uncle who is called ‘Mareez-e-Ishq’ by a doctor, and Arshad Warsi matches step as the aggressive and equally foolish Babban. A pair made in cinematic heaven, Shah and Warsi complement each other beautifully. Madhuri Dixit lights up the screen with her screen presence, acting and beauty. Perfectly cast as the graceful Begum, it’s a pleasure to see Dixit onscreen in a worthy picture. Huma Qureshi brings out her character’s varied hues expertly. Then there’s Vijay Raaz who plays a local MLA Jaan Mohamed and you forget blinking for those moments. So powerful and humorous is his rendering of this character, he often turns out to be the scene-stealer. There's so much to be savoured in the film -- from the performances, aesthetics, music, and the story itself. You don’t watch a film like this, you soak it in!

Sunny Leone in Marathi adult film? Sujay Dahake is all geared up for his next project, Vulgar Activities Incorp, the film will explore the world of sex, porn and vulgarity. The filmmaker has decided to rope in Sunny Leone for his project. "When Sunny was invited to Pune last year for the Dahi Handi celebrations, a lot of people had raised objections. But after witnessing the crowd frenzy, I realized the double standards of people. And that's exactly how the idea of making this film struck me. I will be approaching Sunny for the film soon; I hope she agrees," he says. The story is about a young boy from an orthodox family who falls in love with a porn star, whom he has seen in porn movies. He and his friends use all means to invite the porn star as a guest for a festive event. The film will progress to show how society reacts to this act and the consequences they face on an emotional and social level.

Veeram: Crude dramatics, piles of clichés Cast: Ajith Kumar Tamannaah, Nasser. Director: Siva A family with five brothers, another family with representatives from three generations, annan-thambi sentiment, amma sentiment, appa sentiment, and in the middle of all this, a big star giving his fans what they want — if Faazil and Vikraman collaborated on a ‘mass’ masala movie, it might end up looking like Siva’s Veeram. Early on, we learn that Vinayakam (Ajith Kumar) hates the idea of marriage because he thinks the bride who enters the household will cause a rift among the five brothers, who sing songs with lines that go ‘One-two-threefour-five / Venaam enga kitta wrong-side drive’. But, of course, Vinayakam cannot hold on to this lofty ideal forever. Of course, he has to fall in love and shake a leg in a touristy mountainside (What else is Tamannaah getting paid for? Certainly not her thesping abilities). And so we get this little gem of screenwriting. We learn that Vinayakam, in school, was in love with a girl named Koperundevi (fondly called Kopu). And his brothers hatch a plan to find her and reintroduce her to Vinayakam, so he can fall for her all over again. But... she’s married now. She has kids. So the brothers conspire to do the most logical thing, which is to find another woman named Koperundevi (fondly called Kopu), because, you see, Vinayakam was not in love with that girl so much as her name, and when he meets another (completely random) girl with that name, he is sure to lose his heart to her, just because she bears that name... In a different filmmaking culture, we might wonder: Who dreams up these scenarios, and what do they keep smoking? Here, though, we just hope that these scenes pass by as quickly and as painlessly as possible, given the two-hour-and40-minute running time.

Besides, the heroine is utterly inconsequential. Veeram is about the hero. It is about his declaration that he doesn’t count himself as Thevar or Nadar or Vanniyar, and that his jaathi (caste) is the working class. It is about his breaking away from the metro mode of Billa and Arrambam, and donning a white veshti and driving a bullock cart and routing villains in front of shrines of fearsome village deities. It is about him proving to his future father-in-law (Nasser, in a reversal of the iconic character he played in Thevar Magan) that ahimsa, as a concept, is all very dandy, but sometimes you just have to kick some serious butt. Everything else — the crude dramatics, the piles of clichés, the characters (especially the bad guys) who come and go as they please — is secondary. In any case, whatever one says is sure to be drowned out by the screams of delirious fans.

Jilla: Almost like Veeram

Cast: Mohanlal, Vijay, Kajal Aggarwal. Director: Neason Watching Jilla after Veeram, you could be forgiven for experiencing déjà vu. Both films are set in Madurai. If the hero there hated the idea of marriage, this hero (Vijay) hates cops. Thambi Ramaiah plays a buffoon from the heroine’s family here; he plays a buffoon from the heroine’s family there. Here, too, the hero is fatherless, the heroine (Kajal Aggarwal) is role-less. Here too, an action sequence involves a truck smashing into a car, and there’s a chase where the hero tries not to let the passengers in his car know that they are in danger. What’s new in Neason’s Jilla is the presence of Mohanlal. He plays Shiva, a Nayakan-like figure who seems unsure whether he is a nallavan (he helps the needy through unconstitutional means) or a kettavan (he’s essentially a rowdy who lords over everyone else by strong-arming them). This part needs Mohanlal, who shows us how a good actor with good screen presence can keep us from laughing a poorly written character off the screen. The plot is essentially that of Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti with reversed polarities (Vijay’s character is even named Shakti). Here, the father is the criminal, From Page 15 the son the unwavering cop. This [language] films are allowed a free run in his country. Sharif himself sort of setup needs to play out as loves Hindi films.” rock-solid drama. We need situaStill, the legality of publicly showing Indian films in Pakistan re- tions like, say, Shakti storming out mains cloudy. The Hollywood Reporter noted that some kind of ban of his father’s house after a clash or other on Indian films has been in place since 1965. Even after of ideologies. Musharraf eased such restrictions in 2006, allowing for a boom in But Neason doesn’t care about film rentals, although the prohibition remained in the books. any of that (We barely register that Bollywood has its own incentives for seeking to expand the Paki- Shakti seems to be living elsewhere stani entertainment market to allow more Indian product, but pro- after he becomes a cop). He wants ducer Bhatt noted that given the widespread popularity of Indian to fashion a Vijay showcase that films and movies in Pakistan, complete export legality would destroy allows the actor to remain in his the smuggling industry in videos and DVDs and benefit both nations. lightweight comfort zone. But other voices in Pakistan object to the exhibition of Indian movSo every attempt at seriousness ies in the country for reasons that have nothing to do with trade. The is punctured instantly by a stab at Daily Bhaskar newspaper of India reported that some Pakistani mili- comedy, and the film never seems tary figures worry that the popularity of Bollywood films – particu- comfortable with its subject larly those that advocate friendship and warmth between Hindus and (Shakti’s transformation comes off Muslims – threaten Pakistan’s stability. looking especially ridiculous). Meanwhile, since the ban on Indian films in Pakistan remains amA.R. Murugadoss, with biguous, piracy of Bollywood videos will likely continue, given the Thupakki, made the ideal Vijay huge demand in the country. vehicle, never letting the stakes get Many hold out hope that India and Pakistan may find some com- too serious. But that’s different mon ground by enjoying the same forms of entertainment. The feel from there being no stakes at all, both the countries can work together to defeat the hawks and ex- with everything looking preortremist elements and build a bridge of long lasting relationship. So far dained. Some nice tunes by Imman Bollywood, they say, has served this cause very well and hope that apart, there’s nothing in Jilla to jus[any] political confrontation between Pakistan and India would be tify the three-hour running time. But minimized in the future due to cultural cooperation. try telling that to the delirious fans.

Bollywood films in Pakistan


BOLLYWOOD IIFA 2014 awards nite to be held in Florida

Houston’s Bollywood show promoter Rajender with Priyanka Chopra and (right) with Anil Kapoor.

Bollywood glamor is heading to Tampa Bay, Florida, as the 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards weekend will unfurl there April 24-26. Organized by Mumbai-based Wizcraft Entertainment, the award show is held each year at a destination outside India, but this is the first time it will take place in the U.S. The Hilton Tampa Downtown hotel is preparing to host Indian film stars and Bollywood fans from around the world in April, when it will be the headquarters hotel for the International Indian Film Academy Weekend & Awards. The hotel has reserved all of its 520 rooms, “minus a few rooms here and there,” for the “Bollywood Oscars,” said General Manager Nabil Salloum. IIFA will use the entire space for events and activities, he said. IIFA’s weekend itinerary April 24-26 lists a workshop and post-

party, as well as media briefings on all three days at the hotel. The awards will be promoted with a three-city U.S. tour headlined by top star Anil Kapoor and actress/aspiring international pop star Priyanka Chopra. The tour will visit Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and New York from Jan. 13-15. Houston’s show Bollywood show promoter Rajender of Star Promotion was at the kickoff on Jan 13 and he expects the maiden IIFA awards program in the U.S. to be a big hit. “I look forward to

this event; all the big Hindi film stars are going to be there. It is a dream come true for every Bollywood fan in the U.S.,” he said. “We are very excited to bring IIFA to Tampa Bay... There will be music, dance and a whole lot of spice! We’re looking forward to giving our fans and new audiences the experience of a lifetime,” said Chopra. “As a friend of IIFA, I am delighted as IIFA makes its debut in the U.S. through Tampa Bay,” added Kapoor. “It has been my pleasure to be associated with IIFA for over a decade and once again on behalf of IIFA and the Indian film fraternity we commit to give our audience an opportunity to witness one of the finest celebrations of culture and cinema.” With 100 days to go, the International Indian Film Academy said Monday that tickets for its awards show in Tampa would go on sale immediately. Ticketmaster's website said tickets for the April 26 show at Raymond James Stadium would go on sale at 8 a.m. Individual ticket prices, with fees and taxes included, range from $93.50 in the upper levels of the stadium to $3,294.75 on the field near the stage. The awards weekend includes events focused on Indian film, fashion, music, business and culture. It is expected to draw 30,000 or more visitors to the bay area. Following its 2000 debut at London’s Millennium Dome, the IIFAs have traveled to various destinations, including Macau, Singapore, South Africa, Dubai, Sri Lanka and Canada.

Salman flies kites with Modi, but will vote for Priya Dutt AHMEDABAD: Salman Khan on Tuesday, Jan 14, called Narendra Modi "a good man", even "a great man", and acknowledged his development work in Gujarat while giving him his "best wishes". Not surprisingly, Modi used social media with abandon -- four tweets, including two photographs in three hours -- to emphasize his interaction with the Dabangg filmstar. Salman, who had come to the city to promote his forthcoming movie 'Jai Ho', flew kites at Uttarayan, the kite festival. So did Modi. In his lifetime, the Bollywood star has faced many tricky situations: his alleged involvement in a black buck killing case (2006) and his alleged role in a hit-and-run case (2002) being two such examples. But to be in Modi's company in public glare was a different kind of delicate situation for him, forcing the usually unflappable star to take a circuitous route to make his point at the media interaction. He said everyone should vote for the best candidate in every constituency.As for his own vote, he pretty much hinted that in Bandra, where he lives, the candidates for him were Baba Siddique (MLA) and Priya Dutt (MP), both belonging to the Congress. His general pitch was: You vote for your best candidate (Modi) and let me vote for mine. Salman also revealed that his father, Bollywood writer Salim Khan, often spoke with Modi. Towards the end of the meeting with the media, he said of the BJP leader, "Aaj pehli baar mulakat hui hai and I hope yeh mulakatein badhti rahe. We get along. He is a great man. I wish him all the very best in real life." At 12.58 pm, Modi tweeted, "Enjoying Uttarayan in Ahmedabad. Salman Khan will join for lunch." About an hour later, he posted a picture of them together. Shortly thereafter, he said, "Having undhiyu

for lunch with Salman Khan. Undhiyu is a Gujarati delicacy and is a must-have during Uttarayan!" Two hours later, he tweeted again, "It was good to see Salman Khan trying his hand at flying kites! He flew the kites well." The odd couple stayed with each other for almost the whole day and visited several places to celebrate the festival. Zafar Sareshwala, a leading Ahmedabad-based businessman, who coordinated their meeting, said Modi and Salim Khan were old friends. "Modiji considers Salimji as guru in many things," he said. Modi referred to the day as a chaturangi parba. He wished everyone who was celebrating Uttarayan, Bihu, Pongal and Milad-un-Nabi.

SPORT Skipper Dhoni: Not taking New Zealand lightly

NAPIER: Describing New Zealand as a force to reckon with on their home turf, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that his team will not be taking the Black Caps lightly in the upcoming ODI series starting January 19. “New Zealand are a fantastic side. They’ve got good bowlers and their recent performances have been really good. And especially at home, they’ll know the conditions better than us and for some who have not played here it will be a challenge,” Dhoni was quoted as saying by ‘The New Zealand Herald’. The Indian team arrived in

Napier on Monday for the fivematch series which would be followed by two Tests next month. “We’re not taking New Zealand lightly, we’ll give them the respect they should get and we know their experienced players are dangerous enough to win games by themselves,” Dhoni said. The skipper feels the tour would be a good exposure trip for his teammates as they start preparing for the World Cup to be staged in New Zealand and Australia next year. “It’s good exposure for them. The grounds here are a very different shape and it’s difficult to exactly pinpoint the fielding positions. They are quite different to where you usually place your fielders. Overall, it’ll be a fantastic tour for all the guys,” he said. Dhoni said he is hoping for a good performance from his bowlers. “Overall I’m quite happy with the bowlers. Again it really depends on the conditions. But if the wicket is favouring the fast bowlers we’ve definitely got bowlers who can make the most out of the new ball,” he said.

World Hockey League: India earns a draw against Germany India earned its first point in the Hockey World League Final with a well-fought 3-3 draw against Olympic champion Germany on Monday, Jan 13. It was the best performance by the host in the tournament so far and though the Indians finished at the bottom of Pool A, they would take away a lot of positives from the game. Rupinderpal Singh and Dharamvir scored for India while one was an own goal. For Germany, Thilo Stralkowski and Martin Haner scored while India conceded an own goal as well. Earlier in the day, World No. 2 Australia finally proved its class, after two matches that saw it struggling to score, with a 6-1 thrashing of Argentina in its last Pool B league match of the Hero Hockey World League at the National Stadium here on Monday. With this win, Australia also climbed to the top of Pool B with six points, same as Argentina but with a better goal difference. It was also a reality check for the Pan-American champion Argentina, which had been unbeaten in the tournament so far. The goal-fest began in the third minute when Daniel Beale slammed a backhand shot high into the net from the top of the striking circle. The kookaburras scored field goals and converted penalty corners and strokes to be up 3-0 inside 15 minutes of play. Argentina, which had been impressive with its attacking play in the previous two games, was clueless in the face of the relentless attack. Australia scored at will, piercing the defence with sharp passes. The experienced Glenn Turner and Russell Ford kept played their role of providers to perfection. The Australians played at a pace that left their opponents struggling to play catch-up. The lone goal for Argentina came when Facundo Callioni beat Australian goalkeeper Tyler Lovell in the 32nd minute with a low shot from the left. In another Pool B match, the Netherlands and Belgium played out a 2-2 draw to complete their league engagements.

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Give thanks with gratitude

Life, the greatest show on earth By Prashant Solomon Imagine a story without conflict. Would it even be called a story? Every successful novel or drama has to have conflict in order to be interesting. Imagine a novel about a mundane ordinary existence, a tale of only happiness, of only love and bliss, a tale of only light and no darkness. Would it be interesting? Would anybody want to read it? What if the hero of an epic would be able to get whatever he wanted without an iota of challenge? It would indeed be a boring exercise to read such a tale. So if we like challenges and conflicts in our fiction, why do we shy away from challenges, hardships and problems in our own lives? Why is it that when we are faced with tragedy, betrayal, loneliness or sorrow in life we ask ‘Why me?’ Our lives a drama in the theatre of the Divine; perhaps we have been created for His merriment and pleasure! We are immortal souls that have voyaged to this Earth plane to experience what we call life. And if that be the case, how can we learn and grow as souls without getting rattled by problems in life? If there were only light in this world and no darkness, an image would never form. There can be no creation without the duality of good and evil, pain and pleasure, laughter and tears, light and darkness, prosperity and poverty and so on. If we, as lovers of creativity, literature, drama and art, can marvel at the contrasts between various shades of light and darkness, we ought not to be so reluctant to accept bad times in our own lives. Let’s not feel wronged, abandoned and deserted by God in times of trouble. When there is a storm, we

know that even after the darkest of storms, the sun will come. Why is it then that we doubt God’s will in our own lives? There is no need to feel doomed after a bout of darkness for this is actually the time when our faith, patience and perseverance are tested. We can only learn lessons from these times. Generally, we only surrender to God in such times of perceived hopelessness. These events in our lives are reminders that we are not alone. We have never been alone and will never be alone. A grand celestial audience is watching our drama on planet Earth! Our lives are a living story; a story that was written by us along with our Creator in order to experience different feelings, learn different lessons and dream different dreams. Like all dramas, our lives also need their share of conflict that we, as spiritual protagonists, must overcome challenges to achieve our goals. We must never lose our faith in the Divine Director of this Earth Drama, who will ensure that things will go as planned. Things will not always be easy; but no one says that life is meant to be easy. We have to work hard to earn the Divine Oscar for our efforts on Earth. As William Shakespeare says in ‘As You Like It’, “All the world's a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players:?/ They have their exits and their entrances.” So when tragedy strikes or hardships come - whether in relationships, career, health or anything else remember that the greatest of heroes are not those who didn’t face conflicts (for all heroes have), but those who overcame them. When we overcome and leave this Earthly stage, we can have comfort in the promise of Christ in Revelation 3:12 “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.”

About Faith When faith is strong enough it is sufficient just to be. It’s a journey towards simplicity, towards quietness, towards a kind of joy that is not in time. It’s a journey that has taken us from primary identification with our body and our psyche, on to an identification with God, and ultimately beyond identification. — Ram Dass Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. — Mother Teresa Faith is knowledge within the

heart, beyond the reach of proof. — Khalil Gibran Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. — Voltaire Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. — Saint Augustine A living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm. — M K Gandhi Faith: Not wanting to know what is true. — Nietzsche

By Ashok Vohra Expression of thankfulness and gratitude is a virtue. While thankfulness is expressed in words; gratitude is shown in acts and deeds. So, one can say that thankfulness is the beginning, and gratitude is an end. Cicero regarded gratitude not only as “the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others”. You feel gratitude towards the person who goes beyond the call of duty. Gratitude requires that the person feeling grateful demonstrates his recognition of the good done to him. Gratitude is natural and is the sincere desire in human beings to repay others for what has been received from them. You are grateful for receiving and wish to repay a debt – a rina. The Bhagwad Gita calls those who do not have this natural urge and tendency to be urina (free from debts) -- as ‘demoniacal’ – asuras. They do not understand “what is not to be done; nor does purity or even good conduct for truthfulness exist in them”. They have “vanity, pride and arrogance”. The puranic narrative of Bhasmasura is the paradigm of ungratefulness in the Indic tradition. Bhasmasura wanted to become the most powerful king, even though he lacked in courage, strength and other qualities required of an authoritarian king. Bhasmasura performed sacrifices to please Shiva, and a pleased Shiva granted him a boon. At the outset, the crafty Bhasmasura tells Shiva with hu-

Meditation Meditation is a special kind of concentration. In ordinary concentration, the mind is focused on one particular subject, and there can be many divergent thoughts related to that particular subject. Here the subject is one, but thoughts are many and dissimilar. By the world ‘meditation’ we mean dhyana or contemplation. It is a special type of concentration. In the first place, meditation is a fully conscious process, an exercise of the will. Secondly, meditation means concentration on a spiritual idea which presupposes that the aspirant is capable of rising above worldly ideas. And finally, meditation is done usually at a particular center of consciousness. It is clear that true meditation is a fairly advanced state, attained after long practice.

Sanatan Shiv Shakti Mandir Rudrabhishek every Monday followed by Aarti and mahaprasad. Everyone is invited to join the puja. Our prayer hall is large enough to accommodate up to 125 guests for your celebrations — birthdays, babyshowers, engagement or any other ceremony. Plenty of free parking

mility that he wants his blessings and his darshan alone. Later, at his pleading, Shiva granted him the power to reduce to ashes anyone by touching his head. Once the boon was granted, the demeanour of Bhasmasura changed. There was a wicked gleam in his eyes and he wanted to test the effectiveness of his newly granted power on Shiva himself before trying it on others. Shiva ran to save himself from destruction. Bhasmasura chased Shiva wherever he went. Shiva was ultimately saved by Vishnu who appeared before Bhasmasura in the form of a very beautiful young damsel, Mohini. Bhasmasura was so enamoured by her looks that he proposed to marry her. Mohini asked Bhasmasura to take an oath by putting his right hand on his head not to marry another woman in future. The lovelorn Bhasmasura put his hand on his head to take the oath. As soon as he did so, he was burnt to ashes. When a person is given something without deserving or earning it, he does not appreciate the favour. He becomes ungrateful and lazy. He wishes to harm the person who has bestowed the favour on him. The French King Louis XIV observed, “Every time I appoint someone to a vacant position, I make a hundred unhappy and one ungrateful”. This experience is shared by most people who have anything to do with promotions and appointments. However, the possibility of ingratitude should not be a hindrance to helping others. As the Stoic philosopher Seneca said, “It is another’s fault if he be ungrateful, but it is mine if I do not give. To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are not so”. Modern research has also shown that ‘those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships than those who do not practice gratitude’. That is why we must like the poet George Herbert and pray, “Thou that has given so much to me, Give one thing more, a grateful heart”.

Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments British philosopher, mathematician, historian, and social critic Bertrand Russell endures as one of the most intellectually diverse and influential thinkers in modern history, his philosophy of religion in particular having shaped the work of such modern atheism champions asChristopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, andRichard Dawkins. From the third volume of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 19441969comes this remarkable micro-manifesto, entitledA Liberal Decalogue — a vision for responsibilities of a teacher, in which Russell touches on a number of recurring themes from pickings past — the purpose of education, the value of uncertainty, the importance of critical thinking, the gift of intelligent criticism, and more. It originally appeared in the December 16, 1951, issue of The New York Times Magazine, at the end of the article “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism.” Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. “The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows: 1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything. 2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light. 3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed. 4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband/wife or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory. 5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found. 6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you. 7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. 8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter. 9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it. 10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.”

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INDIA Ex-home secy who slammed Shinde wanted a AAP effect: Vasundhara Raje cuts VIP security job after retirement, says Digvijaya NEW DELHI: Hours after former home secretary R K Singh levelled a series of charges against Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said Singh had lobbied with the UPA for a postretirement job, and had sent “feelers” to him. R K Singh, who retired in June 2013, joined the BJP last month, saying he shared the party’s “hardline orientation on national security issues”. His accusations against Shinde, made over Monday and Tuesday, included the charge that the minister had misled the country about the US helping to bring back Dawood Ibrahim, and that his office had interfered in transfers and postings of Delhi Police officers. On Tuesday evening, Digvijaya Singh told The Indian Express: “He (R K Singh) didn’t meet me, but there were feelers coming through that he is angling for some post-retirement post in Delhi.” Digvijaya Singh did not say which post R K Singh was allegedly eyeing, but other sources in the Congress claimed he had wanted to be Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. Digvijaya Singh said these days, “bureaucrats after retiring suddenly develop political ambitions”. A cooling-off period for them “could be considered”, he said. Ironically, it was Shinde who had backed the then home secretary in the face of loud demands for his sacking in the aftermath of the December 16, 2012 Delhi bus gangrape. At a meeting of senior Congress ministers in Parliament, it was suggested that R K Singh be removed, but Shinde had let the officer, who was six months from retirement at the time, continue. The minister only registered a for-

Digvijay Singh

mal complaint with the cabinet secretary, asking him to pull up R K Singh. Singh was the only home secretary in recent years who was not considered for a post-retirement assignment by the government. All his predecessors — G K Pillai, Madhukar Gupta, V K Duggal — still continue to be offered jobs. Shinde had announced the name of Singh’s successor — Anil Goswami — two months in advance. At the fag end of his tenure, Singh had attempted to mend fences with the home minister, naming terror accused with alleged links to the RSS. This came after Shinde, speaking at the Jaipur plenary of the Congress, accused the BJP and RSS of running terror camps. Singh, a Bihar cadre IAS officer, shot to fame when, as district magistrate, he arrested L K Advani in Samastipur during the 1990 Rath Yatra. A couple of years earlier, Singh had received accolades for overthrowing the mafia as managing director of the Bihar State Cooperative Marketing Union (Biscomaun). Singh worked at the union home ministry during the NDA government from 1999-2004. He served in Bihar for the next five years, before being picked by Defence Minister A K Antony to

head the department of defence production in 2009. He became union home secretary after G K Pillai retired in 2011. After Shinde took over as home minister in August 2012, Singh sometimes took decisions without consulting him. Earlier that year, Singh had triggered a controversy after reportedly telling state bureaucrats called to discuss the NCTC not to be “stenographers” of politicians. On Tuesday, Digvijaya Singh tweeted, “Shocked at the Opportunistic behaviour of RK Singh ex HS [home secretary]. Why did he not bring this to the notice of Cabinet Secretary or the PM? “Is it not a fact that he tried to get a post retirement position from UPA? Is it not a fact that he approached Nitish (Kumar) for a position? His charges are extremely serious and and if he kept quiet then he is guilty also of not fulfilling his assigned responsibility. Shocking!” Shinde, Digvijaya tweeted, was a politician who had held several responsible positions, and “such false charges by an ex HS are condemnable”. I&B Minister Manish Tewari described as “extremely unfortunate” the “very pernicious tendency of bureaucrats after retirement trying to make allegations in order to occupy media space”. To “shoot from the hips” after joining a political party was “really low”, Tewari said. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, on the other hand, said, “After inquiry if he (Shinde) is found to have intervened as there is contemporaneous evidence of home secretary saying so, he must be sacked. He has no political, moral or legal authority to remain as the home minister even for a moment.”

Popular Indian elephant mourned A US-based animal welfare advocate has joined Indian wildlife lovers in paying tribute to a giant 73-year-old retired working elephant who died Tuesday, Jan 7, in Assam state. Joyraj, a majestic 3.35m tall elephant had lived and worked in Kaziranga National Park in Assam. Keepers at the park said other elephants had also mourned Joyraj. Elke Riesterer told the BBC: "There was a great soul residing in that massive grey body. I was very fond of this elephant and I am grieving [over] his death.” Kaziranga National Park lies 130 miles east of Assam state's main city of Guwahati. Mohan Karmakar, Joyraj's "mahout", or keeper, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday: "He was the darling of Kaziranga for decades and I could not stop crying when he breathed his last this morning. A number of other elephants nearby were trumpeting loudly and had tears rolling down their faces - a sight best seen than told,” Karmakar said. Joyraj worked at the Kaziranga reserve for 65 years until he re-

JAIPUR: More than 300 Rajasthan policemen have been relieved of VIP security following chief minister Vasundhara Raje's decision to scale down measures for the protection of legislators in what is widely seen as the effect of Aam Aadmi Party's example. These policemen will instead be sent back to their original chore: maintaining law and order. Raje has scaled down her own security by half. Although security officials refused to share the exact details, about 100 security guards and gunmen who were part of the security at her house, office and cavalcade, are being relieved. The step will ease an already over-burdened police force which has 17,000 vacancies. A senior police officer said one guard was deputed for the security of each MLA in the 200-seat assembly in Rajasthan. Two gunmen and five security guards are deputed for the security of each minister. "The government has decided not to depute guards for the new MLAs. The ministers, however, will continue to have the same security," an officer said. He added that security will be provided to MLAs on the basis of threat perception, which will be reviewed regularly at the police headquarter. In a conference of district collectors and SPs held at the chief minister's office on Thursday, Raje had asked ministers to use minimum security. "The number of guards has been reduced at CM's bungalow and office," said the officer. The security guard relieved from VIP duty will be deputed for maintaining the law and order, said DGP Omendra Bhardwaj.




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INDIA US-based Muslim body uploads video on Muzaffarnagar ‘riot victims’ LUCKNOW: Close on the heels of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) distributing a magazine titled `Muzaffarnagar Danga’, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an organization of Indian Muslims in the United States, has released a 30minute video, `Muzaffarnagar Bleeds’, terming the riots as “a reenactment of the 2002 Gujarat riots” and blaming the Jats for the killings of Muslims, the Indian Express reported. The IAMC plans to distribute the video, uploaded on YouTube and Muslim news portals, across the country. The video begins with the footage of burnt houses and shops purportedly of Muslims and has statements of alleged Muslim riot victims, both men and women. The video claims that 113 people, including 97 Muslims, died in the riots and that Muslims were driven out of 25 villages. Footage of dead bodies are also shown in the video. The video also shows alleged riot victims narrating the killing of a two-month-old child and of a woman being set on fire with her four-month child. It also has stills of BJP leaders Hukum Singh, Sangeet Singh Som, Kunnwar Bhartendu Singh giving speeches. When asked, IAMC justified uploading of such a video, saying political forces engineered the Muzaffarnagar riots in preparation for the elections in 2014.

IAMC vice-president Khalid Ansari, in an email, said: “Creating such awareness is aligned with our wider objective as an advocacy organisation dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos.” He said the video was made with cooperation from Impact Media Group in India and from journalists working on the ground. He said the script was finalised by the IAMC. Ansari said the video has been released through various portals and will also be sent to the mainstream media. “Our effort is to distribute it across India, including UP.” On January 1, IAMC had written to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav that the Muzaffarnagar riots reflected his administration’s lack of commitment to uphold the rule of law and safeguard the life and property of every citizen. Lucknow: Facing heat for allegedly ignoring the plight of riotaffected people in Muzaffarnagar, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav Tuesday met a delegation led by a prominent Muslim cleric from the district that had accused officials of apathy. Maulana Arshad Madni said they apprised the SP leaders of their grievances and have sought compensation as well as government jobs for the kin of those missing. The delegation also alleged

AAP’s Vishwas visits Dalit home where Rahul spent one night

they were not getting any help from local officials. Both Mulayam and Akhilesh assured them that their demands will be looked into. “We appreciate what the state has done for the victims…. We, however, have some demands such as compensation and government jobs for the kin of missing people as well, just as it was announced for those who died…” Madni, who led the delegation, told reporters.“If these demands are also met, it will be of great help to the victims,” he said. Ashu Malik, a minister of state and who was part of the delegation, said “we are here because the victims wanted to meet Mulayam and Akhilesh and tell them about their problems.” The Special Investigation Team probing Muzaffarnagar riots has identified 22 out of 27 accused in six gangrape cases in Phugana village here and has asked the local police to arrest them. Cases were registered against 27 people separately, out of which 22 have been identified by the SIT and remaining five are under investigation, police said. Six women lodged complaints that they were gangraped during the clash and their houses were burnt by rioters, police said. The rape victims were produced in court, they said. However, none of the accused has been arrested so far as they are absconding, police said.

AAP leader Kumar Vishwas at the Dalit home in Amethi on Jan 13.

AMETHI: Stepping up his campaign against Rahul Gandhi in his home turf, AAP leader Kumar Vishwas Monday, Jan 13, visited the home of a Dalit family where the Congress leader had spent a nightin January 2008. Vishwas claimed the family of Sunita in Jawaharpur village was still leading a “miserable” life and that the visit by Rahul Gandhi had not changed the family’s situation. Vishwas spoke to Sunita about her problems and directed party workers to ensure that she got a roof over her head. “We have no permanent residence till this date. Our children are like orphans now. No proper food or education is available,” Sunita told reporters. Later, while talking to people, Vishwas said Rs 55,000 crore was reportedly spent on Amethi’s development. “But even today there is no electricity...there is no water in tubewells, no development in villages…people should ask Rahul,” he said. “Sleeping in Dalit houses under SPG security or eating with Dalits won’t help or change things. That is not the job of an MP. His job is to worry if all Dalits have eaten food even before he has his own… This fight is not easy. I have come here to stay. I will not go back till you put your stamp on me,” he said. Z-SECURITY FOR KEJRIWAL: Arvind Kejriwal may have refused security cover but the Chief Minister of Delhi is now getting police protection from two forces — Delhi Police and Uttar Pradesh Police. The Uttar Pradesh government started providing Z-category security to Kejriwal from Monday. This is over the Personal Security Officers (PSOs) of Delhi Police who tail the chief minister in plainclothes wherever he goes. The only other person in Ghaziabad who gets Z-category security is BJP president Rajnath Singh.

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BANGLADESH/SRI LANKA Sheikh Hasina sworn-in as PrimeMinister aside Hasina's insistence that her victory was legitimate. The political standoff will likely stoke instability after the deadliest year of unrest since Bangladesh broke free from Pakistan in 1971, according to experts. The former East Pakistan is the world's eighth most populous nation but also one of the poorest. The turmoil will also likely undermine efforts to improve the lot of its population of 154 million -- a third of whom live below the poverty line.

DHAKA: Sheikh Hasina Wajed was sworn in for a third spell as Bangladesh's prime minister on Sunday after a deadly general election boycotted by the opposition amid an ongoing political crisis. President Abdul Hamid administered the oath at the presidential palace in the capital in a ceremony broadcast live on television channels, one week after the polls condemned by the opposition as a farce. "I am, Sheikh Hasina, taking oath... that I will discharge my duties faithfully as the prime minister of the government as per the law," Hasina said, prompting applause during the ceremony which included recitations from the Koran. Hasina's 48 cabinet colleagues were also sworn into office during the ceremony attended by about 1,000 government and top military officials, along with foreign diplomats and newly elected members of parliament. Hasina has insisted her walkover win in the January 5 polls was legitimate, despite a boycott by the opposition and its allies and the deadliest election violence in the country's history. Hasina's Awami League party won nearly 80 percent of the seats, which should allow her to rule for another five years. But analysts say the new government could be short-lived since Hasina faces a deepening political crisis and mounting calls for new polls from the international community and the opposition. The opposition, led by twotimes former prime minister and arch enemy Khaleda Zia, has since Wednesday called for a blockade of roads, rail and waterways to try to topple the government. Zia, who has been under de facto house arrest, was allowed to leave her home in Dhaka late Saturday for the first time in more than two weeks. She was permitted to attend a meeting at her office but it is unclear if her house arrest, which authorities have officially denied, has been completely lifted. Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party dismissed the new government as a farce just like the "farcical elections". "All the ministers are either from the Awami League or its allies," senior party official Mahbubur Rahman said. Sunday's ceremony comes af-

ter the country's newly elected lawmakers were sworn in on Thursday. A total of 153 Awami League members or allies were elected unopposed ahead of polling day as a result of the opposition boycott, imposed over Hasina's decision to change the electoral system. Hasina, who first came to power in 1996 and then thrashed Zia in a 2008 comeback, has vowed to take a tough stand to bring stability. Crippling opposition protests, strikes and transport blockades have left around 180 people dead since October, when the opposition first called for the polls to be halted, and cost an estimated $4 billion in lost production. "We will take a hard line stand as it is required to ensure the safety of public and properties," said Hasina on Friday. Police have confirmed the arrest of more than 1,000 opposition activists in recent weeks, stressing that there have been specific charges against each of the detainees. At least 26 people were killed during the election, making it the bloodiest vote in Bangladesh's history, while hundreds of opposition supporters torched or trashed polling stations. Zia has demanded new elections be held under a neutral government headed by a caretaker leader, fearing poll rigging. The United States has led international pressure for a swift rerun of the elections to include all of the major parties, brushing

Turmoil squeezes garment sector DHAKA: On the outskirts of Dhaka, Babylon Garments has shortened work shifts to eight hours from the usual 10 and plans to shutter production lines as months of election-related violence disrupts transport and prompts global retailers to curb orders. The company, which supplies shirts, trousers and other apparel for global retailers including WalMart Inc, is one of the biggest players in Bangladesh's $22 billion garment industry that has seen orders cut nearly in half in the last three months - the worst drop in two decades, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA). "December is usually a season when we are packed with orders to a point where we can't take any more but look at this year - it's a completely different story," said Muhammad Saiful Hoque, assistant general manager of Babylon Garments, as workers sewed checked shirts for British-based Tesco Plc. Industry officials say the unrest in the run-up to Sunday's disputed election has been worse for business than the April collapse of Rana Plaza in which more than 1,100 workers were killed that prompted calls for safer working conditions and more accountability on the part of the global retailers that buy Bangladesh's clothing exports. Garment orders are typically placed at least three months in advance.

India, Sri Lanka fishermen exchange NEW DELHI: India and Sri Lanka are to release 20 of each other's fishermen, marking the beginning of a reciprocal process to tide over an issue that has caused tension in bilateral ties. The gesture comes ahead of the Tamil festival of Pongal, and was announced here by the external affairs ministry spokesperson. "As a goodwill measure prior to the Fishermen's Association meeting to be held Jan 20, an understanding has been reached between the government of India and the government of Sri Lanka to release fishermen in custody prior to the talks. On our side, government of India is in touch with the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in this regard," a statement said. The statement said: "Government of India attaches the highest importance to the safety, security and welfare of Indian fishermen. The government has worked assiduously to secure the release of Indian fishermen who are apprehended by the Sri Lankan authorities on charges of fishing in Sri Lankan waters. Similarly, Sri Lankan fishermen have also been apprehended by our authorities for straying into Indian waters. "Keeping in mind the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of the fishermen's issue, government had reached an understanding though a joint statement with the government of Sri Lanka Oct 26 2008, to put in place practical arrangements to deal with bona fide Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

US envoy records accounts of Sri Lanka army abuses

A protest was sparked when Rapp told the main Tamil party TNA that the upcoming March resolution would push for a international war crimes investigation.

COLOMBO: A top American official probing war crimes has recorded eyewitness accounts of alleged serious “abuses” and violations of international human rights law by Sri Lankan army during the final stages of its war with Tamil Tigers, according to a statement from the US embassy on Thursday, Jan 9. Sri Lanka said Friday it would protest to the United States over its allegations that army shelling killed hundreds of families during the final days of the island's ethnic civil war. "Our minister (G. L. Peiris) will take it up face-to-face with ambassador Rapp," the official told AFP, asking not to be named. "It is a baseless allegation. It is uncalled for," he said. "This could be part of a much larger campaign that they (the US) intend on launching in the near future," Sri Lanka's military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said in a statement. US envoy Stephen J Rapp concluded his week-long visit during which tweets from the US mission carried photos of alleged sites in the north where people were killed allegedly due to Lankan mili-

tary shelling in 2009 war against the LTTE. Rapp had listened to eyewitness accounts of rights abuses “including those that occurred at the end of the war”, the statement said. In May 2009, Sri Lankan military had defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels. Colombo has resisted calls to probe claims that over 40,000 ethnic minority Tamils were killed by the military during the final phase of the civil war. The US encourages Sri Lanka to seek the truth through independent and credible investigations and to carry out prosecutions, the statement said. The Lankan military has denied US accusations levelled through photographs during Rapp’s visit which came ahead of the March sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. The US has told Lanka that it could introduce a third successive resolution over rights accountability and reconciliation with the Tamil minority at the Council. Two previous resolutions both US moved were supported by India. Rapp’s visit met with a protest opposite the US embassy. A nationalist group slammed the US for interfering in the country’s internal affairs. A protest was sparked when Rapp told the main Tamil party TNA that the March resolution would push for a international war crimes investigation.

Sri Lanka-Saudi Arabia labor pact RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka will sign a landmark labor pact on Monday in a renewed bid to regulate hiring of domestic workers from the island nation and to ensure protection to all domestic help already employed in the Kingdom. The labor agreement will be signed by Dr. Ahmed F. Al-Fahaid, deputy labor minister for international affairs on behalf of the Kingdom and the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Employment, Promotion and Welfare Dilan Perera. Giving details of the pact, Al-Fahaid, told Arab News: “The agreement will have the same provisions including protection mechanism for domestic help like the one we signed with India earlier this month.” He said the labor agreement for domestic workers recruitment was a joint effort by Riyadh and Colombo to create a unified and wellregulated system for recruitment with emphasis on monitoring the working conditions of workers. “The pact will cover 12 categories of domestic workers including housemaids, drivers, cleaners, and waiters employed by individuals,” Al-Fahaid explained. Sri Lankan Ambassador V. Krishnamoorthy welcomed the joint initiative stating that it ensures rights and safety to domestic workers who travel to Saudi Arabia for jobs. “In fact, the new agreement will ensure that all job contracts entered into by domestic maids or workers traveling to the Kingdom are with the consent of the three parties concerned,” he said. “All parties including the sponsor, the agent and the recruitment agency will have to be aware of the details of the contract,” a report explaining the clauses of the new pact said. The pact also offers a protection mechanism, including insurance for domestic workers. At present, around 350,000 Sri Lankan workers are in the Kingdom, with domestic workers accounting for 80 percent of the workforce.


PAKISTAN Fears of Islamization at leading university ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan studies lecturer is in mid-flow when his students stand and rush for the door -- his class interrupted yet again by the call to prayer. "They won't come back for at least 30 minutes and some of them even decide not to return to class," Sajjad Akhtar said, gathering his notes and sitting down to wait for his students to return. At Quaid-i-Azam University, rated the best public university in Pakistan and the best Pakistani university in Asia, this is an everyday reality across all academic departments. The university grants a 15minute break for prayers but any student is allowed to get up as soon he hears the call to prayer in what critics call a chaotic interruption of academic life. They say increased Islamisation in Pakistan's top teaching institutes and among the growing middle classes is helping to dumb down academic standards and restrict students' social life. “At Quaid-i-Azam University there are four mosques, but still no bookshop,” says Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear physicist and one of Pakistan's most prominent academics who used to teach there. Established in 1965 in Islamabad, it was considered a liberal campus until 1977 when military ruler Zia-ul-Haq seized power. During his 10-year rule, until his death in a plane crash in 1988, Zia embedded a conservative form of Islam into politics and affairs of state, and ushered in Sharia law to run alongside the penal code. Trade unions and student bodies were banned in educational institutions, and Arabic and Islamic studies were made mandatory for all students until university level. Additional marks were given in exams to students who learned

5 die in bomb attack on PM’s aide MINGORA: A bomb attack targeting an aide of Pakistan's Prime Minister killed five people in the country's north Sunday, police said, though the official escaped unharmed. Hours later, gunmen shot and killed a secular anti-Taliban politician and his two aides on the outskirts of northwestern city of Peshawar, police said. The two bombs exploded in the Shangla area near the convoy of Amir Muqam, a Cabinet aide and former parliamentarian, Deputy Inspector General Abdullah Khan said. While Muqam wasn't hurt, the blast killed two police officers and three of his private guards, Khan said. He said it was not clear whether both or one of them were suicide attacks. Muqam told private television station Geo News that it was the sixth such attack against him in recent years. He didn't name the militants directly but said that "the terrorists" wouldn't win. "Such attacks can't stop me from siding with the truth," he said.

the Koran by heart. Over the subsequent generations, the trend has got deeper and more embedded. “There are far fewer students today who can sing and dance, recite poetry, or who read novels than 20 years ago,” Hoodbhoy told AFP. "The university is very much like a school for older children, where rote-learning is considered education. There's no intellectual excitement, no feeling of discovery, and girls are mostly silent notetakers, you have to prod them to ask questions." Strolling through the various departments, most female students wear the hijab and none wears jeans. None dares sit next to a man, a common sight at more liberal privately-run universities which have become the preserve of the elite as schools like Quaide-Azam cater to the lower and middle classes. Though no specific place is allocated for men and women in the central cafeteria, both genders sit as far apart as possible. Hifza Aftab, a hijab-wearing MBA student, says there is no such thing as a "liberal" girl at the university. Any young woman who arrives on campus without wearing a hijab or the looser dupatta traditional to Pakistan quickly changes the look in two or three months, she says. It was not always thus. Jamil Ahmed, who graduated in 1991, told AFP that in his days the hijab was rarely seen and male and female students would mingle. Hasan Askari, a former professor at Punjab University, said students are becoming increasingly attached to religion and drifting away from rational thinking. "The increasing Islamisation has affected quality of education as today, teachers stress more on conspiracy theories than logic," he said. Last year a private school in Lahore dropped human reproduction from the biology syllabus after an outcry in the conservative Urdu-language press claiming it was "obscene". Quaid-i-Azam University Vice Chancellor Masoom Yasinzai admitted academic standards had slipped over the years but insisted it was a country-wide problem and

not to do with the growing focus on religion. "Here at Quaid-iAzam University, academic standards are not falling at an alarming rate," he said, adding that the expression "Islamisation" was being used out of context. "We have given students the freedom to practise their religion and I think practising religion is one's individual choice." With sectarianism and violence against minorities on the rise in Pakistan, some fear encouraging a religious mindset in universities is storing up problems for the future. "If you have a very dominant view and very authoritarian worldview which this curriculum is teaching you, that 'You are Muslims, Islam is a good religion and other religions are not good,' that value system will create a crisis in society," education analyst Farzana Bari told AFP. At one of the mosques on campus, a number of religious books are on display on the bookshelves and free for students to take away. One of them, entitled "Put an end to obscenity" has pictures of a computer, CD player and a drum set on its cover with a red cross on top of each. The book explains how playing music during marriage ceremonies affects "the next life" and how angels pour melted copper into the ear of anyone who listens to music or the female voice. At the mosque, cleric Habibu-Rehman Saleem says floods and earthquakes are God's punishment for gay sex. "Some people are trying to create an environment like that of the West here, but God willing the students are religious and they will never let any such conspiracy succeed,” he says. Touseef Ahmed Khan, chairman of the Federal Urdu University in Karachi, said he could see no change coming soon. “A whole generation was Islamised and those who started their academic career during the Zia regime are now retiring from their jobs," he said. "This phenomenon of Islamisation has been there for three decades, you cannot reverse it in one year -- it will take decades to do so."

Workers refuse to give polio vaccine LANDI KOTAL: As many as 70 ‘front-line health workers’ in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency have refused to take part in a threeday polio vaccination campaign beginning in the region on Saturday, Jan 11, citing security concerns. The refusal came only two days after Agency Surgeon Dr Rehman announced end of a boycott and told reporters that the delayed campaign would be launched on Saturday in Jamrud and Landi Kotal. Haji Sadeeq, a spokesman for the 70 health workers, told Dawn that the circumstances, especially in Jamrud, were not favourable for his colleagues to take part in the campaign. “We feel threatened and everyone is frightened after the killing of our colleagues last month.” He said it was not possible for the health workers to conduct the door-to-door campaign because of the presence of militants in parts of Jamrud. Sadeeq said they were even ready to sacrifice their jobs if they were forced to conduct the vaccination. A member of the local paramedics association said none of the ‘front-line workers’ had been consulted when their office-bearers announced ending the boycott on Wednesday. He said the Khasadar and Levies personnel themselves were targets and their presence during the vaccination would make them more vulnerable to militant attacks. Health officials expected that over 50,000 children below the age of five would be vaccinated against polio in Jamrud.

Bravery award for teenager who stopped suicide bomber Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has recommended a bravery award for Aitzaz Hasan, 15, who died when tackling a suicide bomber who targeted his school. The Sitara-e-Shujjat award can only be awarded once Pakistan's president has approved it. The incident on Jan 6 prompted an outpouring of praise and gratitude across Pakistan. "Shaheed Aitizaz's brave act saved the lives of hundreds of students and was a sterling example of gallantry and patriotism," Aitizaz Hasan a statement from the prime minister's office said. Local authorities have also said they will offer compensation for Aitzaz's family. The incident took place in Ibrahimzai, a Shia-dominated region of Hangu, in north-western Pakistan. There were almost 2,000 students in attendance at the time of the attack. Despite pleas of his fellow students, Aitizaz decided to confront and capture the bomber who was approaching the school, his cousin told the BBC's Aleem Maqbool. "He told them 'I'm going to stop him. He is going to school to kill my friends'. He wanted to capture this suicide bomber. He wanted to stop [him]. Meanwhile the suicide bomber blasted himself which resulted in the death of my cousin," Mudassar Hassan Bangish said. On Twitter, users have been paying tribute to Aitzaz using the hashtags #onemillionaitzaz and #AitzazBraveheart echoing the language used online around figures such as Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai.

Top Karachi cop, Taliban nemesis, dies in bomb attack KARACHI: A powerful explosion targeted a convoy of police vehicles in Karachi on Thursday, Jan 9, killing senior police official Chaudhry Aslam Khan. Chaudhry Aslam, who had survived numerous assassination attempts in the past, died along with two other officers when the bomb targeted the convoy on the Lyari expressway in Karachi. Senior police officer Iqbal Mehmood confirmed to reporters that SP CID Chaudhary Aslam Khan died in the attack, which took place around 4:40 pm near Chaudhry Aslam Khan holds a the Essa Nagri area. machine gun confiscated in a raid A suicide bomber smashed his vehicle into Aslam's convoy and he and two other policemen were killed, Iqbal Mehmood, a senior officer with the criminal investigation department, told news agency AFP. Police in Karachi have named Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah in the FIR for the murder of Chaudhry Aslam. The suspected bomber’s hands were intact, he was identified through his fingerprints by Nadra records as 36-year-old Naeemullah, son of Rafiullah and a resident of the Pirabad area. Rafiullah was the caretaker of a local madressa. The suspected suicide bomber’s father and brother have been arrested. The blast was so powerful that it threw the shattered wreckage of Aslam's vehicle some 20 metres (65 feet) from where it was hit. The Mohmand agency chapter of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. Sajjad Mohmand, a spokesman for the militant group said Aslam was targeted for carrying out operations against the TTP. “Aslam was involved in killing Taliban prisoners in CID cells in Karachi and was on the top of our hit-list,” he said. This was not the first time that the Aslam was targeted by the banned group. The slain officer was targeted at least three times earlier for his bold stance against Taliban militants. Aslam had been receiving threats from the Pakistani Taliban, which tried to kill him in September 2011 in a huge explosion that tore off the front of his house. After that attack he appeared before the media, saying: “I will give my life but I won't bow to terrorists.” Earlier on Thursday Aslam had claimed the killing of three suspected members of the Pakistani Taliban in an encounter in the city. Police are currently involved in an operation aimed at clearing Karachi of militants and hardcore criminals including hired killers, gun runners and drug peddlers. Tributes, condemnations and condolence messages started pouring in from several high-profile politicians and officials on the assassination of the senior officer.


PAGE 24 â&#x20AC;˘ INDIA HERALD â&#x20AC;˘ WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2014

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