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Sri Lanka: War as Business
Posted on 2001/8/23 23:49:02 ( 692 reads )


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MADUGAHAWATTE, SRI LANKA, August 17, 2001: After almost 20 years of civil war with the loss of at least 62,000 lives, the fighting between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil rebels continues. Comprising 6.8% of economic spending in the year 2000 compared to 1% in the early 1980's, the military presence has become a way of life for many. Quoting a Western diplomat living in Colombo, "The war has become an institution. Rich people are making money on commissions, kickbacks, selling supplies to the army. The soldiers are fairly well paid too. Everybody seems to be making money. It's a highly democratic system." With over 215,000 serving in the military, many poor villager offspring join the Sinhalese army. Earning about $140 a month (two or three times the amount of wages offered in the garment business), soldiers are able to provide a good standard of living for their families. Lance Cpl Gamini Premaranthana who has served in the army for 11 years offers his input, "The children from the villages are fodder. None of the bigwig's children go. All the politicians shouting that we must have a military solution don't have sons in the war. Its only the village boys. The war would end sooner if the rich were dying too." Many in the Sinhalese south are removed from the fighting battlefields in the north and all the while the government seems determined to prevent the formation of a separate Tamil homeland in the north.




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Anthology Editors Bungle Facts On Tagore
Posted on 2001/8/23 23:48:02 ( 744 reads )


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KOLKATA, INDIA, August 1, 2001: Two American editors of an anthology of writings by some Nobel laureates are in the eye of a storm for churning out wrong facts on modern India's best known litterateur, Rabindranath Tagore. Leo Hamalian and Edmond L. Volpe, editors of the anthology Great Stories By Nobel Prize Winners, have irked lovers of Indian literature by not only providing wrong facts in the book's introduction to Tagore, but also by their selection of his work. Scholars and fans wonder why the book's editors had not even cared to check the accuracy of these details, including important dates, circumstances and geographical references of Tagore's life. His fans are outraged that a story like "Saved" which is not generally considered representative of Tagore, had been chosen for the anthology. Two explanations for inclusion: "The size of the story, only two printed pages, and the fact that it is one of the (few) translated versions available. Obviously, the editors didn't look beyond the published material (in English) on him," said Tapasi Dutta, an ardent Tagore reader.




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Idol Desecration Sparks Tension
Posted on 2001/8/23 23:47:02 ( 775 reads )


Source: The Hindu





JAIPUR, INDIA, August 19, 2001: Community tensions prevailing in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan took a serious turn today with the reported dismantling of an idol of a folk deity of the Mali community at a "chabutra" -- temporary festival platform -- in Subhash Nagar on the outskirts of Bhilwara city. The idol was found broken this morning while the platform was intact. The idol was that of "Jujhaarji," whom the Malis worship to invoke blessings for their ancestors. Malis refused to install a new idol at the platform, saying its consecration would be possible only at an auspicious time, which would take another two months to begin. Bhilwara district has experienced several similar communal incidents in the past month. Today's incident was the fifth in a row after the desecration of a mosque in Pander village last Monday.




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Royal Idol-Maker Carries Tradition Into 21st Century
Posted on 2001/8/23 23:46:02 ( 734 reads )


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VADODARA, INDIA, August 20, 2001: Following a wish Maharaja Sayajirao III made to shun violence and be totally religious, six decades ago, master craftsman Krishnarao Chavan, stopped making Ganeshas that showed the deity killing the "Sindrasur" demon. "The Maharajas of the Baroda state always worshipped Ganesha icon that showed the Elephant God vanquishing the evil "rakshas" with one of his tusks. When Pratapsinhrao became the Maharaja, he wanted to respect Sayajirao's sentiments and changed the idol," says Mansingh Chavan, who continues the family tradition of crafting the Ganesha idol for the Gaekwad royal family. Mansingh recalls how Pratapsinhrao invited Brahmins from Kashi in 1939 to decide on a new icon that would be "more solemn." The model designed by Mansingh's father caught the fancy of the Maharaja. "It marked a major change in the family tradition." says Mansingh, who makes icons along with his brothers -- Lalsingh and Pradip - at their studio in the Khanderao Market area.




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Students Protest Ganesha on Campus
Posted on 2001/8/23 23:45:02 ( 689 reads )


Source: The Deccan Herald





HYDERABAD, INDIA, August 23, 2001: The installation of Ganesh icons for Ganesha Chaturthi in the hostels on Osmania University campus, here by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, has evoked protest from the Progressive Democratic Students Union which is seeing it as a step towards including more of Hinduism in the academic atmosphere on campus. The ABVP state secretary, Sri K. Sudhakar, said the festival was aimed at promoting "unity and national integration among the students besides inculcating the feeling of equality of all religions".




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Rice Row Unites India And Pakistan
Posted on 2001/8/23 23:44:02 ( 639 reads )


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INDIA, August 23, 2001: Pakistani and Indian officials have pledged to work together in a growing battle with the US about rights to basmati rice. A decision in the US this week to grant patents to a US company for new strains of rice similar to basmati has provoked an angry reaction. Commerce ministers from the two countries emerged from a meeting in Delhi late on Wednesday, describing basmati as the queen of rice and vowing they would never let it belong to anyone else. The US patents office has granted patents to a US company, Rice Tech, for three new strains of rice, which they are now allowed to promote as similar to or superior to basmati. Long-grained basmati rice has been grown for centuries in the Himalayan foothills of north-west India and Pakistan and has become popular internationally. Ownership has become a deeply emotive issue in recent years.




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PBS Radio: The Rising Profile of Hinduism in the United States
Posted on 2001/8/22 23:49:02 ( 801 reads )


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USA, August 19, 2001: At close to 1.5 million, Hindus now form the fifth largest religious group in America after Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. Recently, the increased attention to Hinduism has come from a clash with an American icon -- McDonald's. This PBS radio segment conducted by Fred de Sam Lazaro illustrates how the McDonald's french fry lawsuit is galvanizing the Hindu community into becoming more vocal, and therefore a more noticed and better-understood facet of American culture and society. It includes interviews with Attorney Harish Bharti, Columbia Professor Sreenath Sreenivasan, Dr. Uma Mysorekar, and first-ever Hindu state senator, Minnesota's Satveer Chaudhury.




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Lanka Airport Attack Puts Pilgrims and Industry in Trouble
Posted on 2001/8/22 23:48:02 ( 690 reads )


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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka Aug. 20,2001: Some 3,000 Sri Lankan Buddhist pilgrims in India cannot afford to fly home because airlines are demanding a $40 war-risk insurance surcharge. The pilgrims left the island before the LTTE attack, and were due to return this week. The pilgrims, who had saved to raise the money for the journey of a lifetime to visit Buddhist sites in India, were unable to pay the unexpected surcharge. The newspaper said the authorities were asking Indian Airlines to waive the surcharge for those who began their journey before 24 July. Airline fares have gone up by as much as 80 per cent since the attack.




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India Sets Up E-Post Offices
Posted on 2001/8/22 23:47:02 ( 693 reads )


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INDIA, August, 13, 2001: Under a new program launched by the Indian Postal Department, the country's villagers will be able to send and receive letters through email accounts set up in their name. The Postal Department has begun this novel scheme on an experimental basis in five southern and western Indian states. The department's secretary, BN Som, told journalists that the program has been launched to extend the benefits of the internet to semi-urban and rural areas. Currently only two percent of India's population has access to personal computers. Under the new plan, post offices will be wired up to computers and the internet. Mail received on the internet in the name of account holders will then be distributed by the local postman. More than 200 e-post centers have already been set up in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.




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India Assures Nepal on Not Flooding Buddha Birthplace
Posted on 2001/8/22 23:46:02 ( 679 reads )


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KATHMANDU, NEPAL, Aug 21, 2001: India has assured Nepal that it will not build a dam that could flood the birthplace of the Buddha, Nepalese officials said on Sunday. Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, who arrived in the Nepalese capital on Friday seeking closer trade ties, wants to soothe anger in this Himalayan nation over the dam that Nepal says could flood Lumbini. The Buddha was born there more than 26 centuries ago as Prince Siddhartha. UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural arm, has declared Lumbini as a World Heritage site. India had started building the Rassiyal-Khurda-Lautan dam across the Danav River, just 200 meters from the Nepal-India border, south of Lumbini, 270 km south-west of Kathmandu. The dam is meant to block and manage the flow of river water, mainly for irrigation, on the Indian side of the border. Construction of the dam, which started about four months ago, stopped this month after protests by Nepal.




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South-east Asia Becomes New Theatre of Muslim Terrorists Operations
Posted on 2001/8/22 23:45:02 ( 701 reads )


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SINGAPORE, Aug 20, 2001: South-east Asia has become the new theatre for terrorist operations by Muslim extremist groups, and experts warn this makes Singapore a possible target. They said that the number of supporters of Saudi billionaire-fugitive Osama bin Laden and his global terrorist network Al-Qaeda is growing in countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. As the network strengthens, existing links with groups like the Abu Sayyaf separatists and infiltrates Muslim organizations, including unsuspecting charities, Singapore could be placed increasingly at risk because of the perception that the republic is pro-America.




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Christian Divorce Laws To Be Amended
Posted on 2001/8/22 23:44:02 ( 762 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, August 17, 2001: Divorce laws are about to change dramatically for Christian women. The Cabinet has accepted all recommendations of the Law Ministry on major changes in the Indian Divorce Act. The changes, which have been approved by the most prominent church groups, will be passed in Parliament next week. Under the new provisions, divorce by mutual consent would be allowed and Christian women would be entitled to greater alimony than before. So far, the law is loaded in favor of Christian men, and women from the community have been lobbying for years for these changes. India does not have a uniform civil code for all citizens, but rather has personal codes for members of each religion, allowing, for example, Muslims to have four wives, but not Christians or Hindus.




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Row Over Teaching of Hindu Culture
Posted on 2001/8/22 23:43:02 ( 664 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, Aug 22, 2001: Controversy has erupted in India over what opponents are calling the federal government's bid to change the secular nature of the education system by introducing new syllabi glorifying Hindu culture and leaders and emphasizing Sanskrit, Vedic studies and astrology. The move has upset intellectuals and liberal political parties, including some allies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who say they will go to battle over the issue which has the potential to change the face of the country. Citing the fact that the secular nature of India's education system is defined in the Constitution, several BJP allies said on Monday they would oppose the introduction of new syllabi. But Hindu nationalists see nothing wrong in children being informed of India's ancient indigenous heritage and in putting right what they say are overly liberal and apologetic views of history. Thus, many schools across the country have over the past four years or so, or approximately the period the BJP has been consolidating its power, incorporated Hindu prayers in their morning assemblies and Hindu religious rituals on special occasions. Nearly all schools in India are supported by government funds. But Muslim and Christian schools have always taught religion, while Hindu and public schools have not.




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RSS Meets With Native American-Indian Groups
Posted on 2001/8/22 3:56:50 ( 697 reads )

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NEW DELHI, INDIA, August 20, 2001: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is making efforts to forge close ties with native American-Indian groups, saying the two have "many things in common." RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan met with leaders of such groups during his recent visit to US and Canada at the invitation of the Center for World Indigenous studies, a United Nations initiative and the World Council of Elders of Ancient Traditions. "Hindu and native American cultures have many things in common and probably these two cultures originated from the same root. Both inherit the glory and wisdom of ancient traditions and respect mother earth and we all should work together to restore proper balance on earth." said Sudarshan. Sudarshan has been fascinated by the reports of fire worship by the Native Americans that seem

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Student Activists Revivify Rajasthan Desert
Posted on 2001/8/21 23:48:02 ( 709 reads )


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RAJASTHAN, INDIA, August 13, 2001: Tarun Bharat Sangh, a group of college activists, is committed to reclaiming regions the government had written off as "black zones" due to the severe water shortage. Lead by Rajendra Singh, the young activists got the villagers involved in making their own decisions about water, forests and other local resources. Previously, locals lacked the motivation and, crucially, the money to do it. The village undertook one-quarter of the total cost by contributing cash as well as labor. Singh has been named this year's winner of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Prize for Community Leadership. He says the surge of publicity that has accompanied the prize announcement may put pressure on government officials to adopt a more positive attitude toward community-based efforts. Starting with just one village in 1986, the Tarun Bharat Sangh has spread its success to more than 700 villages in Rajasthan.




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