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India's New President
Posted on 2002/7/18 1:49:02 ( 641 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 17, 2002: A. P. J. Kalam, the father of India's missile program, is a far cry from the somber men who have occupied the sandstone presidential palace during India's past 55 years. The man expected to be named the new president on Thursday is a scientist who believes that fear of nuclear conflict averted war with Pakistan last month. He's the son of a minority Muslim family who has embraced the Hindu beliefs of its majority. Kalam, with gray, shoulder-length hair, would also bring a wardrobe that includes short-sleeved shirts and flip-flop sandals to the 340-room palace. Although born to Muslim parents, Kalam does not describe himself as Muslim. He reads Hindu scriptures each day and is a vegetarian. When asked about who would act as his first lady, the unmarried Kalam waved his hands and said, "No, no, I'm a brahmacharya.'' The Sanskrit word means someone who has chosen not to marry but to live a celibate life style.




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Indians Working in Slavery Conditions Freed from US Factory
Posted on 2002/7/18 1:48:02 ( 652 reads )


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TULSA, OKLAHOMA, July 18, 2002: Thirty Asian-Indians held under conditions akin to slavery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been freed, a report said on Thursday. The Indians, without proper visas, were working for a pickle factory on half the minimum wages and were denied adequate food, NTV reported. They were made to sleep in a small room in a warehouse and were locked in with a guard outside, it said. Some of them managed to escape from the compound and went to a nearby church to tell their tale of woe. One of those in the church happened to be a former US Justice Department official in the Civil Rights Division who contacted the authorities and had them released. The young workers said through a spokesman that they came here chasing the American dream of prosperity, but were without proper visas.




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Religious Scholars Make Case for Peace
Posted on 2002/7/18 1:47:02 ( 640 reads )


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TIMES NEWS NETWORK, VADODARA, INDIA, July 15, 2002: It is not often that "saffron" [of Hinduism] meets "green" [of Islam] in post-Godhra Gujarat, however two religious scholars took on the task at a seminar on peace organized by the Lion's Club and Idara Khidmate Khalk. Islamic scholar and theologian, Maulana K. R. Sajjad Nomani said a majority of Muslims do not know what their religion stands for. "Muslims themselves have misinterpreted Islam and its practices. A modern and scientific religion is today looked upon as the refuge of fanatics. The Muslim community has to do serious introspection and educate their fellowmen on the true essence of Islam," Nomani said. He appealed to Hindus not to believe the wrong notions about Islam. "Just because somebody says that Islam is a religion of fundamentalists, don't believe it. Find out for yourself before making a judgement," he said.




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The Christian Theological Struggle with Yoga
Posted on 2002/7/18 1:46:02 ( 707 reads )


Source: Religion News Service





MOBILE, ALABAMA, July 15, 2002: This report from Religion News Service provides insight into what happens when the Hindu practice of yoga is attempted by those of other religions. The article states, in part, "A few years ago, Susan Bordenkircher wasn't comfortable doing yoga. It wasn't that she got bent out of shape by any of the asanas -- downward facing dog, half lotus forward fold or the scorpion, to name but three yoga positions. She just wasn't sure if it was an appropriate activity for a Christian. Long associated with mysticism and Eastern religions in particular, yoga is denounced by some who claim it promotes pantheism and worship of self." ... An 1962 yoga book called "An Invitation to Christian Yoga," included, "sketches and written instructions for 25 yoga postures; each one is prefaced by a verse from the Bible. ...also a Christian adaptation of 'Salute to the Sun,' a series of movements devout Hindus perform at dawn as thanksgiving for a new day. Roth offers 'The Salute to the Son,' a series of movements designed to accompany the Lord's Prayer." ... "In recent years, yoga's popularity has boomed as many have searched for a few minutes of stillness and for low-impact exercise that fosters flexibility and strength. Celebrities, too, have joined the masses on their yoga mats. With the ancient exercises' contemporary resurgence, Bordenkircher urges those interested in practicing yoga to choose their instructors carefully. "It can be very destructive. I've really literally sat there and just prayed for discernment' at some seminars, she said, noting that she feels uncomfortable with those who suggest that humans possess divine power. Cecil R. Taylor, dean of the School of Religion at the University of Mobile, said he would advise those interested in taking a Christian approach to yoga to 'make sure it's thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Christ.' 'You'd be able to judge a lot by checking your spirit,' Taylor said. 'Sometimes people just instinctively know, 'This is just not what I ought to be doing.' They don't know why. It may be theological perceptivity.' "




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Women Chain Snatchers Strike at Temple Festival
Posted on 2002/7/18 1:45:02 ( 631 reads )


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CHENNAI, INDIA July 15, 2002: A gang of women chain snatchers struck during a temple festival at Perambur this morning and relieved five women devotees of their gold chains, totally weighing about 30 sovereigns. They mingled with the crowd posing as devotees during the kumbhabhishekam of Dhandayuthapani Thirukkoil on Temple Road in Jawahar Nagar. They took away the chains from the victims when they were engrossed with the religious ritual. Their modus operandi is to target women devotees at temple festivals. While one woman would cut the gold chain, her associate would collect it as it fell to the ground. The other associates would keep pushing the victim to divert her attention. The bold operation of these women chain snatchers caught the police by surprise. A woman suspect was picked up later in the evening.




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India's Government Contends Minorities Have no Absolute Rights to Run Education Institutions
Posted on 2002/7/18 1:44:02 ( 676 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 16, 2002: The Centre (e.g., the federal government of India) on Tuesday said the religious and linguistic minorities cannot enjoy "absolute rights" under the Constitution to establish and administer their educational institutions. Solicitor General Harish Salve representing the Centre told an eleven-judge bench of the Supreme Court that the minorities' constitutional rights should be subject to reasonable restrictions. Salve said the content of Article 30 conferring on minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions was not so wide as to exclude the operation of other laws designed to protect secular objectives. For instance, Salve said if the provision is made absolute, the government cannot interfere with the affairs of a minority institution which teaches secession or armed revolution. He said the content of the right should not overlap other provisions in the public interest. The bench headed by Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal was hearing a bunch of petitions on the extent of the rights the religious and linguistic minorities can exercise in running their educational institutions. Under India's constitution, minority religions, including Christianity and Islam, can set up and run their own educational institutions with government funding, and can teach their religion in those institutions. Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikhs can set up educational institutions and receive government funding, but are subject to close government management and cannot teach religion in their schools.




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Ahimsa Can Destroy Terrorism
Posted on 2002/7/15 1:49:02 ( 835 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 14, 2002: Speaking at the celebration honoring the 83rd birthday of the Jain Saint Acharya Mahapragya, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj said, "If only we could all accept ahimsa (nonviolence), it will help in destroying terrorism from its very roots everywhere in the world." Referring to terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir she said, "We have seen utmost efforts everywhere to put an end to the menace of terrorism, but everything would be solved only if we all adopt the concept of ahimsa as preached by our saints."




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Gujarat State Trys Spirituality to Reduce Addiction
Posted on 2002/7/15 1:48:02 ( 786 reads )


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MUMBAI, INDIA, July 10 2002: Having failed in its endeavor to reduce addiction to liquor and tobacco-related products through its various programs, the Prohibition Department of the Maharashtra government has now turned to spirituality. The minister concerned, Dr Dashrath Bhande, has directed the district collectors to seek the help of kirtankars and provachankars (those who deliver spiritual discourses through sermons or songs) to popularize de-addiction throughout the state. These de-addiction ambassadors will be given numerous benefits including free travel by the state transport buses for the said purpose. In addition, their efforts will be lauded through block, district and state-level annual awards which includes a citation and US$204 in cash. ''The state has spent a lot of money implementing numerous de-addiction programs but cannot create the right impact. In contrast, mere words uttered by them become an aadesh (order) for the addicts,'' said Dr Bhande. ''Their sabhas attract more people than our rallies. Today, all forms of addiction in the state stand at an estimated 70%. This is extremely alarming. After due thought I feel that state policy, however strict, will not help. Only spirituality will," admitted the minister.




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Gujarat Tense After Rath Yatra-Related Riots
Posted on 2002/7/15 1:47:02 ( 735 reads )


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KHEDA & PETLAD, INDIA, July 13, 2002: While peace prevailed in most of the state, it was central Gujarat that witnessed communal flare-ups on the day of the Jagannath Rath Yatra. Both Kheda and Petlad towns witnessed pitched battles between the Muslim and Hindu communities on Friday night and the situation was tense even on Saturday, as a curfew continued in Kheda. "There were several people who came out on the streets to see what was happening. Some irate youngsters participating in the procession might have used derogatory slogans or gestures that led to stone pelting," said Anand District Superintendent of police B.D.Vaghela.




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Uttar Pradesh State to Create Own Hardwar
Posted on 2002/7/15 1:46:02 ( 668 reads )


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LUCKNOW, INDIA, July 14, 2002: The historically rich Garh Mukteshwar may well turn out to be Uttar Pradesh's "Hardwar,'' which it lost to the new state of Uttaranchal, carved out of UP in 2000. Hardwar is one of the foremost pilgrimage destinations of India. The star attraction at both sites is the holy Ganga, which the UP government is all set to cash in on at Garh Mukteshwar in its ongoing drive to lure tourists. Situated 75 km from Ghaziabad, on the Delhi-Moradabad national highway, the Garh Mukteshwar Bridge Ghat has been a pilgrimage site every Kartik Purnima for well over 5,000 years. Today about 200,000 people congregate here on the occasion of the Kartik Purnima Mela. State's housing secretary, Jai Shankar Mishra, whose department is actively involved in the project says, "Our aim is on a focused development of the area. We have petitioned the Centre for US$10.2 million.''




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India's Likely Next President Visits Satya Sai Baba
Posted on 2002/7/14 1:49:02 ( 782 reads )


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PUTTAPARTHI, INDIA, July 14, 2002: India's missile man and National Democratic Alliance candidate for the presidential election A P J Abdul Kalam made a low-profile visit to Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh over the weekend to meet the religious leader, Satya Sai Baba. Kalam flew into Bangalore on Saturday afternoon without any fanfare and, in the evening, left by car for Puttaparthi for a private meeting Sai Baba. After being nominated as the presidential poll nominee, which he is expected to handily win, Kalam has been to several pilgrimage centers including the Ajmer Darga in Rajasthan, Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, where he met the Shankaracharya, and Kanyakumari near his hometown, Rameshwaram.




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Dalits and Women Training as Priests
Posted on 2002/7/14 1:48:02 ( 691 reads )


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LUCKNOW, INDIA, JULY 14, 2002: Recently the Union Human Resource Development Ministry felt that the standards of conducting Hindu rituals were declining. The answer, the "Karma Kand Kriya," a three-month training course for students aspiring to become priests conducted by the Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Sansthan, opened to Hindus, including the Dalits ("outcastes). "I had 24 Dalit students in a class of 30," said Avdesh Kumar Shukla, an instructor in Unnao near Lucknow. "They were all deeply interested in the religion. If caste Hindu society moderates its attitude, conversions will not take place." Instructors from Banaras Hindu University and Sanskrit Vidyapeeth trained 2,500 aspirants-more than half of them Dalits and women-in 60 districts of Uttar Pradesh. "The Indian way of life has high regard for rituals and we wanted to preserve this in the spirit in which it was intended," said Dr Sachidanand Pathak, chairman of the Sanskrit Sansthan. "Nothing in the scriptures stops casteless from becoming priests. When we are born, all of us are casteless. According to the Vedas, only a person who dedicates himself to knowledge becomes a Brahmin."




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Fifteen Thousand Troops to Guard Amarnath Pilgrims
Posted on 2002/7/14 1:47:02 ( 705 reads )


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JAMMU, INDIA, July 14, 2002: 15,000 soldiers and 500 commandos will be deployed to protect pilgrims when they make their annual pilgrimage this month to the revered temple cave of Amarnath in Kashmir, officials said on Saturday. Security forces will guard the 320-km pilgrimage route from the start of the month-long religious event, when pilgrims make their way from Jammu to the hilltop temple in eastern Kashmir. Usually, it takes three days for a group of pilgrims to complete the journey as it involves two overnight stops at camps. Pilgrims walk the last 35 km to the cave. "Indian troops have taken positions on sensitive areas along the mountains so that Islamic militants can do no mischief," defense officials said. Dilbagh Singh, deputy inspector general of police in the Jammu region, said all the batches of pilgrims will be provided police escorts from Jammu. Sniffer dogs will also be used to detect any explosives that may have been planted by the militants. Two weeks ago, soldiers checking the mountain route were injured when explosive devices planted on the route by militants went off, police said. "Even though this year no Islamic militant outfit has banned the Hindu pilgrimage these tight security measures have been taken in the light of previous militants attack on the pilgrimage," Singh said. In 2001, militants opened fire on a camp of pilgrims in Sheshnag, 23 km from the temple cave, killing 10 people, including police as well as the visitors.




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Junior Pontiff of Aadheenam Arrested for Attempted Murder
Posted on 2002/7/14 1:46:02 ( 727 reads )


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TRANQUEBAR, TAMIL NADU, INDIA, July 13, 2002: The junior pontiff of Thiruvaduthruai Aadheenam, Kasiviswanatha Paramachraya, was arrested on Saturday in connection with the attempt on the life of the Aadheenam's chief guru Maha Sannidhanam Sri Sivaprakasa Paramacharya Swamigal on the night of July 7. A case has also been registered against him for attempting to commit suicide after the alleged conspiracy came to light, police said. The younger pontiff is alleged to have hired mercenaries to murder the pontiff by administering a poisonous injection. However, the alertness of a security man foiled the murder plan, police said. The police have arrested eight persons in connection with the murder attempt. Thiruvaduthrai Aadheenam is one of the affluent monastery-temple complexes in the state, owning property worth US$61 million. It owns land in various places including Banaras in Uttar Pradesh.




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Puri Chariot Festival Peaceful
Posted on 2002/7/14 1:45:02 ( 714 reads )


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BHUBANESWAR, ORISSA, INDIA, July 12, 2002: The Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in the temple town of Puri was incident-free, but for the death of a 30-year-old man who fell from the temple while trying to have a glimpse of the yatra. More than 800,000 devotees participated in the day-long parade of giant chariots. The three chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra were pulled by devotees from the Jagannath temple to the Gundicha temple. The English word "juggernaut," "An overwhelming, advancing force," is derived from this chariot festival. Some 4,000 police personnel were deployed on the Grand Road, the route of the Yatra.




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