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Indian Workers Win US$160,000 Pay-Out


Posted on 2000/12/13 8:49:02 ( 1653 reads )


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ALPERTON, ENGLAND: Indian stonemasons who were paid a mere US$0.96 an hour have won $160,000 in compensation from their employers. The 10 men, all from the same region in India, were working on the construction of a $11.2 million Sanatan Hindu temple in Alperton, North London. Their employers, Shirco Ltd, based in North London, have been ordered to pay the money to the workers following an investigation by the Inland Revenue. The pay, retroactive to their hire date, will bring their salaries up to the minimum wage of $5.92, which is only a fraction of the wage many qualified stonemasons earn. Enticed to work in Britain by promises of high wages the men had their passports taken from them on arrival. They were told that if they disobeyed they would be sacked and have to find their own way back to India. They lived in a shack on the temple site. One stonemason earned just $200 a month while working eight hours a day, six days a week. The case has disturbed many in Britain's one million strong Hindu community.






Indian State Bans Beauty Contests


Posted on 2000/12/13 8:48:02 ( 1651 reads )


Source: Star TV, December 13, 2000





NEW DELHI, INDIA: In a nationwide broadcast, UP Chief Minister Raj Nath Singh, declared, "We will not allow holding of beauty contests in the state of Uttar Pradesh as they are indecent. Showing bare bodies is not a part of our culture and tradition. Beauty is something which is given by nature and there should be no competition about it." For the beauty and fashion trade of Uttar Pradesh the chief minister's announcement has come as a rude shock. Star TV interviewed some such people who condemned the UP chief minister for enforcing this kind of cultural policing in the state. Of late Indian contestants have won several international beauty contests.






McDonalds Adjusts to India


Posted on 2000/12/13 8:47:02 ( 1689 reads )


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BOMBAY, INDIA: To most North Americans, the golden arches of McDonalds restaurants means beef burgers. Not so in India, where the fast food chain has infiltrated the country since 1996 by using a clever marketing program that avoids offending both the culture of the land and the Indian pocket book. The company sells no beef or pork products and segregates vegetarian and meat preparation and cooking. The outlets sell chicken, fish, and mutton along with their vegetarian selections of potato cutlets and aloo tikki burgers. The restaurant chain got started in Bombay and Delhi and now plans to increase its outlets from 26 to 80. The middle-class customer base is estimated to be at least 100 million in these major cities. By the year 2003, over US$150 million will be invested in India as McDonalds further expands in the west and the north as well as opens outlets in Bangalore, in the traditional south land. In order to stay competitive, the company has focused on volume sales with low pricing. A family of 2 or 3 can eat out for about $1.40. Vikram Bashi, head of Connaught Plaza Restaurants, McDonalds joint venture in Delhi is quoted as saying, "We've proved that there is a place for the burger in India."






Gyanvapi Masjid Stringently Guarded


Posted on 2000/12/12 8:49:02 ( 1647 reads )


Source: India Today, December 9, 2000





BANARAS, INDIA: It was the early morning of December 6 when journalist Priya Solomon tried to photograph the ancient 16th century Gyanvapi Masjid, standing in the premises of the Baba Vishwanath Mandir in Banaras, a policeman prevented her from doing so. Her initial irritation vanished when realization dawned that the restrictions were meant to protect the location and to avert a situation like the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid, as speculation has it that the Gyanvapi mosque is one of two other targets (the other is in Mathura) the Sangh Parivar would like to see obliterated. Prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's statements supporting the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya has given impetus to the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir movement in India's holy city. One may ask "Why Gyanvapi?" According to Hindu organizations, the original Siva Lingam is inside the Gyanvapi Masjid, and since the Masjid is not being used for worship, it should be handed over to them. The Masjid is built upon the site of the ancient Kasi Vishwanath Siva Temple; its lower walls in fact can be clearly identified as the original walls of the temple, which is one reason police try to prevent the photographs. Unlike Ayodhya, there is no dispute at all that the Masjid was built upon the temple foundation. The Masjid is under 24-hour vigil throughout the year by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), security is further beefed up every year on December 6, the date of the Babri Masjid demolition. The nature of this town by the Ganges is volatile and vulnerable to religious tension with its 40:60 Muslim-Hindu ratio. "It is a religious town and people of this city are very sensitive," says Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith vice-chancellor R.J. Singh.






Tension in Village When Dalits Insist On Entering Temple


Posted on 2000/12/12 8:48:02 ( 1520 reads )


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PERAMBALUR, INDIA, December 12, 2000: Tension prevailed for over three hours this morning in Alagapuram village, 25 km from Jayamkondam, when over 2,000 upper caste Vanniyars blocked the streets leading to the Alageeswarar temple, to prevent the proposed march to the temple by "untouchable" Dalits who had been denied entry to the temple for the past several decades. Police posted on all approach roads, and around the temple, enabled the Dalits, headed by Mr. S. Thirunavukkarasu, state general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Workers Union to march and press their right for entry into the temple, as guaranteed under India's constitution. Peace talks were held between the leaders of the Vanniyar community and the Dalit leaders. Mr. R. Perunargili, headquarters speaker of the PMK, said he would impress upon the villagers that it was illegal to prevent the Dalits from entering the temple. Both groups agreed to further talks on December 21 at Jayamkondam. The temple, built by Rajaraja Chola, was under the care of hereditary trustees belonging to the Vanniyar community for decades until three years ago when the HRCE department took over administration. Until recently, the Dalits were not insisting on entering the temple, but during the past week, with support of Marxist leaders, they claimed the right to entry, and posters announced the decision of the Dalits to enter the temple today. Today both groups attended the peace committee meeting and decided not to precipitate the issue until the next round of talks.






Hindu Prime Minister Re-elected in Trinidad


Posted on 2000/12/12 8:47:02 ( 1590 reads )


Source: Hinduism Today, Anil Mahabir,





PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD, December 11, 2000: The United National Congress (UNC) secured another term in office when it won the general election. The UNC with its Hindu leader Basdeo Panday got 19 seats as opposed to 16 which was won by the Christian party, the Peoples' National Movement (PNM). The thrust of the UNC campaign was equality of all before the law in a cosmopolitan society. The UNC leader, in his victory speech, has vowed to continue to take the country along the road of "respect for all, animosity towards none," and has even, in an unprecedented move, called upon his opponents to join his government, in a "goverment of national unity." Government Minister Sadiq Baksh, a Muslim, who held a Ganesh Puja when the new airport was opened, said last night that he intended to have another Ganesh Puja to mark his victory. Baksh won a seat that was never lost by the PNM since the country gained independence from British Colonial rule in 1962. Speaking to Hinduism Today correspondent Anil Mahabir yesterday, Baksh admitted that, on a daily basis, he is becoming more and more partial towards Lord Ganesh, and even attributed his victory, in large measure, to the Mahaganapati.






Women's College to Train Priests


Posted on 2000/12/9 8:49:02 ( 1585 reads )


Source: Star TV, December 10, 2000





KANPUR, INDIA: Mrs. Asha Rani Rai of Vidya Mandir Women's College, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, has started training girls as purohits, Hindu priests, based on the curriculum of University Grant Commission [UGC]'s Sanskrit course. Everyday for seven hours these would-be female pundits learn about Vedic rituals. In an interview to Star, Asha Rani Rai said that she herself is an expert in Vedic rituals and has performed over two dozen marriages and several cremation rites as per scriptures. As in the case with other training programs for women as priests, the cause is dissatisfaction with the existing men, who many people feel display little devotion or knowledge. The female pundits are also being taught astrology and vaastu shastra. They will be taught all the sixteen sanskaras of Hinduism ranging from and related to, birth and death. Asha says that it is incorrect to state that Vedas cannot be studied by women and this has no sanction from scriptures. Rather Asha feels that women are purer and can do the job of a pundit in a better manner. The development of women priests in Hinduism, where men traditionally fulfill this roll is often regarded as a challenge to orthodoxy. However, the women say they would not want to do the priest's job if the men themselves were handling the responsibility correctly.






Temple Staff Resorts to Strike


Posted on 2000/12/9 8:48:02 ( 1508 reads )


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CHENNAI, INDIA, December 8, 2000: Normal activity in more than 36,000 temples in Tamil Nadu, India's southern-most state, was interrupted as temple employees went on a day's stay-in strike in support of their 15-point charter of demands. They are asking for pay parity with other temple staff, pension and other benefits. According to official sources, the strike was near-total success with about 80 percent of the employees participating. Pay for temple employees is fixed on the basis of revenue of the temples. The result of this in many small temples is that priests and employees are getting a pay of less than US$2.00 a month. Even this meagre salary is not paid regularly, according to employees. The normal pujas of the day were still conducted by all priests, but special requests for archana were not available.






Asian Domestic Violence in America


Posted on 2000/12/9 8:47:02 ( 1608 reads )


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NEW YORK, NEW YORK: Imagine travelling thousands of miles away from home to marry a man in a country where the language and culture are foreign, only to find out that your husband, supported by your in-laws, is a wife-beater. Isolated and terrified, many of these Asian women from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are battered, beaten and burned at the hands of those who should be offering love and nourishment. An organization called Sakhi, "female friend," has been in operation in New York City for over 10 years. A phone call away, this support group offers language assistance and legal advice in court cases, finds women places to live and teaches them about their rights in America. Sakhi volunteers, who are of Asian origin themselves, work with the abused women until they have established themselves. A database is now in place at Sakhi to log in the 15-30 new calls for help each month. Dr. Margaret Abraham, a Ph.D. from Syracuse and head of the sociology department at Hofstra University, has published her book, "Speaking the Unspeakable: Marital Violence Among South Asian Immigrants in the United States." Doctor Abraham believes that the Asian community needs to be aware of and take action to rectify its social problems. By attending Hindu temple committee meetings with its campaign, Sakhi is trying a new approach to make the community accountable for the domestic violence.






Corporal Punishment


Posted on 2000/12/9 8:46:02 ( 1656 reads )


Source: Frontier Post, December 4,2000





LAHORE, PAKISTAN: The government of Punjab, Pakistan's second largest state, joined other countries in eliminating hitting of children in school. The Frontier Post states,"Directives have been issued to all private and public sector educational institutes strictly banning teachers from awarding corporal punishment to students." If non-compliance persists, disciplinary action will be brought against the teachers involved.






Sacred River Discovered in Cambodia


Posted on 2000/12/8 8:49:02 ( 1875 reads )


Source: Sunday Times, London





CAMBODIA, VIETNAM: In the jungle of Cambodia, at the site of Phnom Kulen, 20 miles from the temple complex at Angkor Wat, a priceless devotional work of art, the "River of a Thousand Lingas," has been discovered. Carved in the rock of a riverbed, the Siva Lingas blessed the water flowing over them from the mountain as it irrigated the rice paddy fields or provided a water source to the ancient city of Angkor on the plains. Similar river carvings exist in India. Dating as far back as 802 ce, when the Hindu Khmer Empire ruled most of IndoChina, the Phnom Kulen plateau has multiple temples with sculptures of elephants and lions six meters high. However, the Vietnamese war has left its mark on this holy site. The area is infested with landmines and the Cambodian government, lacking in funds to nurture the temples, has tendered its development out to a company headed by Seang Nam, the MP for Siem Reap. A road has been cleared to the Phnom Kulen temples where there are plans for a hotel. Looters are stealing precious carvings from the site to sell in Bangkok.






Time Magazine Names Six Innovators in Religion


Posted on 2000/12/8 8:48:02 ( 1630 reads )


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USA: Time Magazine has named a black Pentecostal megachurch leader in Dallas and the founder of the Internet's hottest religion-based Web site among its six "innovators" in the world of religion and spirituality. Cable network CNN is preparing a televised companion to the 18-month series, which Time launched in June. Spiritual leaders cited by the magazine and sharing the honors are as follows: Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of the 26,000-member Potter's House in Dallas and a prophet of the "prosperity gospel;" Rev. Virgilio Elizondo of the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas, who pioneered the belief that Jesus was of mixed racial heritage; Steve Waldman, a 38-year-old Internet entrepreneur who founded Beliefnet.com, the Web's hottest religion site; Byron Kate, a 58-year-old divorced grandmother who developed "The Work," a New Age-Zen Buddhist program to help people take responsibility for life's problems; Tariq Ramadan, a Geneva-based lecturer who says European Muslims need to develop an "Independent Islam;" Jan Willis, a professor of Buddhism at Wesleyan University, who was able to find peace in a racist society through Buddhist meditation.






Houston's Thriving Vietnam Buddhist Center


Posted on 2000/12/8 8:47:02 ( 1612 reads )


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SUGAR LAND, TEXAS: Houston is home to over 100,000 Vietnamese immigrants. The city's Vietnamese population is second only in size to that of Los Angeles. Helping to unify the large immigrant population is the Vietnam Buddhist Center located on 10 acres in suburban Houston. Along with an 8,000-square-foot temple containing a 35-foot-high Buddha, the property houses a monastery where monks live and train. Under the guidance of Thich Nguyen Hahn, the monastery's abbot and founder, about 20 resident monks serve the community by helping the areas newcomers adjust to American life while preserving the Buddhist philosophy and Vietnamese culture. Since 1994 when construction began, the center has been gaining recognition. Immigrants and visitors from all parts of the country travel to the monastery, which Hahn is working to make an international training facility.






Gujarat Ayurved University Advocating Global Standards


Posted on 2000/12/8 8:46:02 ( 1615 reads )


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JAMNAGAR, INDIA: The second international seminar on ayurveda is being held in Jamnagar, India from January 5-7, 2001. This will coincide with the Gujarat Ayurved University's 35th Foundation Day. Taking a leading role in ayurvedic medicine, the university has advocated that a "Memorandum of Understanding" to create uniform standards for ayurvedic practice and medicines be signed between six countries; namely Australia, Japan, Argentina, The Netherlands, Italy and Germany, as well as the State of California. Proposals are in the final stages for the official signing of the memorandum on January 5, 2001. The Naami Institute of Russia has already connected itself with India and the university. Through this process of affiliation, uniformity of education and training programs will be discussed at the international seminar, as well as the availability of raw materials, and clinical aspects of ayurveda.






Vandals Target Temple Site


Posted on 2000/12/7 8:49:02 ( 1645 reads )


Source: Express & Star News Paper, November 30, 2000





SMETHWICK, ENGLAND: Vandals have smashed down the walls of a US$1.6 million temple and community centre being built in Smethwick, causing damage put at $16,000. Community leaders have condemned the "misguided, weak minded" thugs and say they are very much hurt by the attack on the Durga Bhawan site in Spon Lane south. The vandals used scaffolding poles stored on the site to demolish the six-foot-high, partially-built walls of the Hindu temple last night. It followed the theft of tools worth $8,000 from the building site two months ago. Work on the building started in August, and the Hindu Cultural Resource Sandwell, which spent ten years planning the community facility, hoped to open in August, 2001. The temple and community center complex will house exhibition, conference, wedding, leisure and sports facilities, a day centre for the elderly, a youth wing, and counselling and legal services. Classes will also be run in a range of subjects, including History, English, music, languages and literacy.




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