India, known for strong traditions of joint family and community support of individuals, is experiencing a rising suicide rate. In 1984 only 6.8 per 100,000 Indians ended their lives—a low rate compared to Russia (65/100m), Japan (33/100m) or USA (27/100m). By 1994, India’s suicides rose to 9.9 per 100,000, joining its top ten causes of death. Most alarming: those below age 30 comprise 55% of the total. High educational, career and marital demands on youth are cited as causing fatal des-pair. Housewives under marital stress, lonely, discontent with traditional roles, expecting more from their husbands, are a new high-risk group. Suicide crisis intervention services are rare in India. But three out of four suicides give advance distress signals. Vigilant awareness can spot and stop the terminal despair which leads to self-killing and the sufferings it engenders in the next life. A few compassionate souls in Bharat have begun centers that offer needed hot lines and counseling services.
Prime Minister offers juice to break Bahuguna’s 73-day fast
Bahuguna Slows Tehri Dam
Experts continue to warn that the tehri dam, a new “mega-dam” in the Himalayas, threatens one of mankind’s most sacred river systems near the source of the Ganges in India. Environmentalist Sundar Lal Bahuguna protested the dam in June with a 73-day “penance” fast, eating only medicinal bael fruit, water and honey. Prime Minister Gowda, fearing the popular watchdog’s death, pro-mised a review of the project by a committee of Bahuguna’s choosing. Bahuguna broke his fast, and dam construction has halted. The International Rivers Network claims the dam would displace 100,000 people and submerge 27,000 hectares of Himalayan land that has been home to sacred Hindu culture and ascetics for millennia. Built in an earthquake-prone region, if the Tehri dam failed or caught a landslide from the unstable mountains above, its flood would destroy the downstream holy towns of Rishikesh and Hardwar, killing tens of thousands.
Sixty top religious and
lay representives gathered the week of June 24 for the “United Religions Initiative Conference” in San Francisco. It was a bold attempt, conceived by Rev. William E. Swing, Episcopal Bishop of California, to create a religious body parallel to the UN—a kind of United Religions. Sri Ram Swarup of New Delhi sub–mitted a position paper for Hin-duism, and delegate Ravi Peruman of San Francisco proposed a “Religious Bill of Rights,” declaring each religion’s protections, including freedom from subversion by others. Input is requested from Hindus.
write: 406 skyharbour lane, bay point, california 94565 USA.
An unexpected coinci-dence brought India’s star prison reformer, Kirin Bedi, to Kauai, Hawaii, home of Hinduism Today. Neal Wagatsuma, warden of the island’s jail, is running an innovative, holistic program of prison reform similar to that begun by Bedi at Delhi’s 8,000-strong Tihar Prison, the largest in Asia. Like Bedi, Wagatsuma believes in rehabilitating criminals, and not letting jails become training grounds for criminal careers.
Informed of the local program, Bedi included Hawaii in her July USA tour. She visited three jails in the state. Finding a kindred spirit in Wagatsuma, she declared, “Neal’s program incorporates much I had hoped to achieve at Tihar.” The Kauai jail will be included in her new book on prison reform.
The 1996 international Ra–mayana Conference of India’s Vishwa Sahitya Sanskriti Sansthan convened at the modern, 13-year-old city of Shenzhen. Scholars from Shan-ghai, Chun-k-ing and Guandung participated. This classic Hindu ethical tale proved its power to inspire mutual understanding and cultural bonding, this time between two giant nations. Its central ideals: dharma, self-sacrifice and rising above personal and po-litical interests. Prof. Jin Ding Han of Beijing University, Chinese translator of Tulsi’s Ramayana, noted that the epic first appeared in China in the third century c.e. Hous-ton, Texas, will host the 1997 conference in May.