October 23, 2014

India: they now worship iPads, laptops, computers and mobiles in their Diwali puja


Traders to worship electronic gadgets this Diwali!

Last updated on: October 23, 2014 15:13 IST

Along with Lord Ganesha and goddess Laxmi, electronic gadgets will also enter the pantheon of Hindu gods this Diwali.

The traders in Delhi are planning to worship iPads, laptops, computers and mobiles in their Diwali puja along with other traditional gods on Thursday.

The move comes at a time when e-tailers are giving a tough time to the trading community.

Priests and vedic scholars will be roped in for the puja. According to Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary of Confederation of All India Traders, the blend of age-old Indian culture and modern gadgets would drive home a message to the traders.

Offline retailers have been under severe pressure from growing competition from online retailers, though the latter is just about one per cent of India’s total retail market.

The battle escalated into higher levels with companies such as Flipkart and Amazon belting out huge discounts. The response from consumers has been motivating, as online retailers witnessed ten times more traffic this season.

India is seen as one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets with an estimated size of about $6 billion by next year.

Photograph: Ajay Verma/Reuters
BS Reporter in New Delhi

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see also 2012 Press Release by CONFEDERATION OF ALL INDIA TRADERS
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October 22, 2014

India: The Hindu hardline RSS who see Modi as their own (BBC 22 Oct 2014)

BBC News - 22 October 2014

The Hindu hardline RSS who see Modi as their own

Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu fundamentalist and hardline organisation, participate in a path march on the occasion of Dussehra festival in Bhopal, India, 03 October 2014 The RSS has been banned thrice in post-Independence India

India's state-run TV channel Doordarshan recently had an unusual programme - it telecast live the annual speech of Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteers' Organisation).
It's a group many believe to be a shadowy and violent Hindu organisation with umbilical ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mr Bhagwat spoke, among other things, about the past glory of Hindu kings and supported the new government's initiatives.
It was the first time in the history of independent India that the ideological fountainhead of the BJP had been given such prominence in the state media.
And considering India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi was once a full-time RSS worker, the broadcast predictably created uproar among opposition parties and liberals.
The main opposition Congress and the Communist parties criticised the decision, accusing the government of being remote-controlled by the controversial organisation.
In response, Doordarshan said Mr Bhagwat's address had been covered as a news event and the government had nothing to do with the decision.
Controversial past Established in 1925, the RSS (also known as the Sangh) has been banned three times in post-Independence India.
The first ban came after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 - the organisation was accused of plotting the murder of the national icon but was later absolved.
It was a major setback to the image and credibility of the group which it took nearly three decades to shake off.
Mohan Bhagwat Mohan Bhagwat is the head of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Shyamsevak Sangh
 In this photograph taken on September 6, 2009, Narendra Modi (3L) and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel (2R, front) at an RSS gathering in Gujarat India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre) was once a full-time RSS worker
The group was once again banned in 1975 when then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended all fundamental rights and jailed almost the entire opposition leadership.
The RSS used this opportunity to build alliances with anti-Congress forces and spread its political influence.
In the late 1980s, the RSS, through its affiliates, launched a massive movement to build a Hindu temple at the place of a medieval mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.
The Babri Masjid (mosque) was demolished in December 1992 by supporters of radical Hindu groups, including the RSS. The group was outlawed for a third time but the courts overturned the decision.
Critics, however, say the organisation continues to be a sectarian, militant group, which believes in the "supremacy of Hindus" and "preaches hate" against Muslims and Christian minorities.
Clad in khaki shorts and white shirts, RSS cadres regularly gather in small groups in parks and street corners in different Indian cities and towns to work out, sing patriotic songs, play games and talk about the past glory of "Hindu India".
These groups are called shakhas (branches) and are the backbone of the organisation's countrywide network of committed workers. The Sangh claims to have shakhas in 50,000 villages and cities across the country, but it does not maintain a membership register.
According to the RSS website, "only Hindu males" can join the group. For women, there is a separate organisation called the Rashtra Sevika Samiti (National Women Volunteers' Committee).
The controversy around the broadcast of Mr Bhagwat's speech has led to a wider debate about the future relationship between the government and the RSS.
Will the Sangh be able to force the government to follow its agenda? Or, will a "tough leader" like Mr Modi allow this to happen? Or, will both work together towards the similar goal of establishing Hindutva (Hindu-ness) as an all-encompassing, superior political ideology in modern India?
Some commentators have also raised the question as to why a non-elected body, outside the multi-party democratic system, should be allowed to influence the government's decision-making process. So far, Mr Modi has not commented.
The questions are being asked against a backdrop of a bitter turf war that was fought out in the open between the RSS and BJP when the party was in power from 1998 to 2004.
Changed strategy? But the situation has changed since then.
After the BJP lost the election to Congress in 2004, the RSS lost much of its clout. Commentators say the RSS has learnt the hard way that it needs a friendly government in Delhi if it wants to remain influential.
Political analyst Neeraja Chaudhary says the RSS showed great pragmatism by backing Mr Modi as the BJP's PM candidate in the 2014 elections over senior leaders like former deputy PM LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu fundamentalist and hardline organisation, participate in a path march on the occasion of Dussehra festival in Bhopal, India, 03 October 2014 Critics say the RSS is a sectarian, militant Hindu organisation
This, she says, despite the fact that as the chief minister of Gujarat, Mr Modi had sidelined the RSS leaders in the state.
"The RSS has taken a risk because Mr Modi will work on his own accord and may not necessarily take orders from the RSS," she says.
Senior journalist Ram Bahadur Rai, however, says there is "no rift between Mr Modi and the RSS".
Both Mr Rai and Ms Chaudhary agree that at the moment there is a clear understanding about the division of labour between Mr Modi and the RSS - that governance is the responsibility of the PM and that Mr Modi will ignore, within "acceptable limits", the Hindutva agenda being carried out at the grassroots level.
That, she explains, is the reason why Mr Modi keeps quiet when some of his party colleagues talk of "love jihad", accusing "Muslim boys of luring Hindu girls", or allege that "terrorism is taught in Muslim seminaries".
Ms Chaudhary says the RSS challenging Mr Modi is still a possibility sometime in the future, although "it is still premature to predict that situation because at the moment he is riding high".
"But pressure starts mounting the moment there is a decline in authority and acceptability of a leader."
It is probably then the pressure groups opposed to Mr Modi within the BJP and the RSS will think of making their move. But that situation, should it happen at all, is quite far away down the road.

Bangladesh: Islamists coalition calls a countrywide shutdown

Dhaka Tribune - October 22, 2014

Islamic parties call hartal for Sunday
Manik Miazee

Party's Secretary General Mohammad Zafar Ullah announced the hartal

The Islamic parties have called a countrywide dawn to dusk hartal for Sunday, demanding maximum punishment for Abdul Latif Siddique for his comments on hajj.

Party's Secretary General Mohammad Zafar Ullah announced the hartal on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier, the alliance of Islamic parties had declared it would observe hartal on October 26 if the government did not arrest former Minister Abdul Latif Siddique by October 22.

While addressing a programme in the US on September 28, Latif made derogatory remarks regarding Hajj, Tablighi Jamaat and the Prime Minister’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy.

The minister’s “derogatory” comments on Hajj have sparked widespread criticism both at home and abroad.

Following the issue, the government sacked the minister from the cabinet on October 12 and the same day the Awami League also removed Latif from its presidium body and temporarily cancelled his primary party membership.
- See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/politics/2014/oct/22/latif-issue-islamic-parties-call-hartal-sunday

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The Hindu
DHAKA, October 22, 2014

Islamic parties alliance call for hartal in Bangladesh

Haroon Habib

AP [Photo] Members of an Islamic political group during a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, against the former telecommunication minister Abdul Latif Siddique after his criticism of the Muslim pilgrimage of Haj.

Even after sacking of the minister for his comments on Haj and Tabligh Jamaat, an alliance of Islamic parties has called a day-long countrywide hartal in Bangladesh on Sunday as the government has failed to arrest the sacked minister.

Under the banner of ‘Sammilito Islami Dal Samuho’ — Coalition of Islamic parties — it gave the government a 15-day ultimatum to arrest Abdul Latif Siddique, the former posts, telecommunications and information technology minister, but later it extended the date till October 22.

“The government did not pay heed to our demand within the deadline,” Zafrullah Khan, secretary general of the alliance, said at a press conference in Dhaka on Wednesday. The secretary of the alliance has also threatened the government to go for continuous movement if it creates any obstacle during the hartal programme. The Islamists also demanded blasphemy law to be enacted.

Following the minister's comments, BNP chief Khaleda Zia has dubbed the ruling party as “a party of atheists.” As many of the alliance members are components of the BNP- and Jamaat-led opposition combine, the ruling alliance has said the hartal is a ploy to fan up street agitation against the government.

The minister drew widespread condemnation after rubbishing the practice of Haj and Tabligh Jamaat at a programme in New York on Sept 28. A video clip of his remarks triggered a controversy as it went viral on the internet.

Amid the furor, the outspoken minister was stripped of his ministerial position, party’s presidium post and suspended of his primary membership in the ruling Awami League. The party also issued showcause notice against him asking why his membership should not be cancelled?

At the programme in New York, Mr. Siddique said he was against Haj and Tabligh Jamaat more than he was against the Jamaat-e-Islami. “Haj is a waste of manpower. Those who perform Haj do not have any productivity. They deduct from the economy, spend a lot of money abroad. Criticising Tabligh Jamaat, he said, “ (The) Tabligh Jamaat brings together about 20 lakh people every year. It has no specific duties. It just clogs traffic across the country.”

Speaking about the history of Haj, he also said Prophet Muhammad was worried about the people of Arab as they were “robbers”. The prophet then made an arrangement that his followers meet at a place every year, which will generate income.

Since then, over two dozen cases have been filed against him in different courts in several districts of Bangladesh, accusing him of hurting religious sentiments. Arrest warrants have been also issued in some the cases. Media reports said, Mr. Siddique, who did not return home, is reportedly in Kolkata.

India : Siddharth Varadarajan on film censorship by mobs


Vijay's 'Kaththi' Dodges a Bullet. What About Others?

by Siddharth Varadarajan [21 October 2014]
(Siddharth Varadarajan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Public Affairs and Critical Theory, Shiv Nadar University)

The violent attack by some fringe political groups in Tamil Nadu against a cinema hall which will screen the film Kaththi underlines a growing problem with the public sphere in India: we don't know where to draw the line between protest - which is legitimate and necessary in any society - and the forcible imposition of one's views and beliefs on others who think differently.
Radical Tamil groups do not like the fact that the producer of Kaththi, which stars the popular actor Vijay, allegedly has business links with President Mahinda Rajapakse of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan leader is reviled by a large section of the population in Tamil Nadu, which blames him for the war crimes the Lankan army undoubtedly committed in its fight against the terrorist LTTE, especially as the bloody conflict drew to an end. But instead of calling for a peaceful boycott of the film, these groups decided to take the law into their own hands, knowing full well that the state police would not act against them.

Thanks to their own competitive populism, mainstream Tamil political parties like the ruling AIADMK and DMK have either encouraged or tolerated violent outbursts by small Dravidian groups against Lankan targets and tried to establish themselves as the true champion of Tamil rights in Sri Lanka. Both parties pushed the Government of India to take a tough stand against the Rajapaksa regime at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and have actively discouraged visible contact between the island nation and Tamil Nadu.

The AIADMK protested when Sri Lankan military officers attended training courses at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington near Ooty. Lankan cricketers have been banned from playing in Chennai and Jayalalithaa, who was Chief Minister at the time, actually forced a Lankan school-level football team to leave the state before it could play any matches.

The legal justification for this strong-arming revolved around the claim that the presence of Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu would create a law and order problem. Given this kind of political signaling from the top, it is hardly surprising that threatening violence has become the preferred method for fringe leaders and parties seeking to gain influence by banning movies, books, games, exhibitions and other forms of cultural or intellectual expression with which they disagree.

Two years ago, a small group of Muslim organisations used the threat of violence to ensure Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam wasn't screened. After failing to get the Tamil Nadu government to uphold his rights as the producer of a film that had been duly certified by the Central Board of Film Certification, Kamal Haasan was forced to compromise with the protestors and cut a number of scenes.

Prior to that, Tamil nationalist groups successfully prevented the screening of Dam 999, a movie that allegedly took Thiruvananthapuram's side in the Mullaperiyar dam controversy between Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The irony is that this sort of mob censorship succeeds despite the Supreme Court repeatedly saying that once a film has been cleared by the censor board, it is the duty of the state government to allow its peaceful exhibition by acting against those who threaten violence.

In its landmark 1989 judgment in the case of the film Oru Oru Gramathile, the Supreme Court held that such a film "cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstrations and processions or threats of violence." To allow that to happen "would [be] tantamount to negation of the rule of law and a surrender to blackmail and intimidation." The same principle was again upheld by the apex court in 2011 when the Uttar Pradesh government banned Aarakshan citing a threat to law and order.

While district authorities are allowed to suspend the screening of a film if there is a clear and present danger of a breach of the peace, it is now settled law that state governments do not have the authority to impose a pre-emptive ban. That is why bans that state governments can no longer impose are now increasingly accomplished by threats against film distributors, cinema hall owners and others involved in the commercial side of the movie business.

Often, the message is conveyed violently, as has happened in the case of Kaththi. But in Gujarat, films on the 2002 riots like Parzania and Firaaq which portrayed the Narendra Modi administration in poor light were "voluntarily" not screened by movie halls across the state as an act of "solidarity" with the then Chief Minister. Aamir Khan's 2006 film, Fanaa, was also informally banned in Gujarat because the actor had spoken out in favour of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

In the five months since Narendra Modi has been Prime Minister, the censor board has itself become less tolerant of films that the government does not like. On the Home Ministry's advice, the censor board withdrew the certificate it had earlier given to the Punjabi film Qaum de Heere on the assassination of Indira Gandhi. And last month, it simply banned En Dinon Muzaffarnagar, a documentary film by Meera Choudhary and the late Shubradeep Chakravorty on how the recent communal riots in that UP district were politically engineered.

At a time when Bollywood is striving to innovate, and several new film makers have emerged who wish to show India as it is, chances are that the number of organisations which claim their sentiments have been hurt by a story or an actor or a producer or a film is likely to grow. Unless the courts act firmly in defence of the freedom of expression, there will almost certainly be many more bans.

World Hindu Congress is coming up in Delhi (at The Ashoka Hotel, Nov 21-23, 2014)


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India: Delhi University asked to purge Left slant in all history textbooks (Mail Today | New Delhi, October 22, 2014)

[useful report except for the incorrect name of the head of History Dept., Delhi University]

Delhi University asked to purge Left slant in all history textbooks
Heena Kausar | Mail Today | New Delhi, October 22, 2014 | UPDATED 12:24 IST

Indian history is being remade in the Capital. Delhi University's Sanskrit department has decided to undertake a thorough study of history textbooks of various state and national boards to prepare a detailed report on the representation of 'Vedic Age and Aryan Culture' and suggest revisions to correct 'misrepresentations'.

The Sanskrit department, which recently announced that it will be embarking on a project to prove India's Aryan people were indigenous, and not migrants as claimed by Western and Marxist historians, will start its study of history textbooks soon and submit its final report to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) with a request for corrective measures. "Aryan culture and Vedic age is not being reflected in its true picture in textbooks of almost all boards, including the Central Board of Secondary Education and state boards. Only Western and Marxist views are being reflected at present. We will study and make a report on what should be reflected in books. The Aryan Migration Theory (AMT) is debatable, so why not give students the version of Indian historians too? We will rely on textual evidence and research findings of the last 100 years. We want a revision," Sanskrit department head Ramesh Bhardwaj told Mail Today.

Bhardwaj said he is aware that the move could take political colour, but insisted it should be looked upon as a purely academic initiative. "We are academicians and our work will be purely based on available texts, recent findings and studies. We do not have expertise on the Mughal or Buddhist era so we can't comment on that. Our expertise is in Aryan and Vedic culture so we will limit ourselves to that," he said.

Divided we stand

Bhardwaj said a team of research students and retired as well as currently serving professors from the department will work on the revision and submit their report within a year. "This will be a massive academic effort and will take at least one year. We aren't in touch with anyone from the HRD Ministry as of now and will contact them only when we have all the documents to prove our findings," said Bhardwaj.

Historians are a divided lot. Many suggest that academically such a study should be welcomed, while others declare that history-writing should be best left to historians. Historian and former DU Professor D.N. Jha called the Sanskrit department's move "laughable". "The Sanskrit faculty is incurably gripped by the 'Batra Syndrome'. My sympathies! They do not know history. They do not know Marxism. They do not know what Westernisation is. What they will present will be a big joke. One can only laugh at what they are doing," Jha said.

Noted historian and Head of DU's History department Upinder Sharma said that while everyone is entitled to a view on history, history-writing involves a rigorous, critical analysis of sources and analytical thinking. She said that making pronouncements on history-writing, whether in school books or elsewhere, is something that is best left to historians. "I do not know about this project and am not sure whether this is exactly what the Sanskrit department proposes to do.

Ancient Indian history is a very rich subject that consists of numerous issues besides Vedic and Aryan culture. There can be many interpretations of the past, and one can agree or disagree with them, but to claim that prevailing representations in school textbooks are 'untrue' and that these have to be 'corrected' suggests a very simplistic understanding of the discipline of history," she said.

Nirmal Kumar, an Associate Professor of History at Sri Venkateshwara College, said that there is no harm in looking at this as an academic step as there can be many versions to history. "I am in favour of regular revision of interpretation in the view of new facts and new material conditions, and hence there is no harm in revision of books in an academic manner," he said.

The revision move comes even as a section of historians are crying themselves hoarse over a series of attempts by right-wing academicians and social organisations to saffronise education since the swearing-in of the BJP government. Recently, Dina Nath Batra, convener of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, claimed that he met HRD Minister Smriti Irani and suggested reforms which are already being incorporated by the new government.

The HRD ministry has maintained a stony silence on the issue of saffronisation of education with Union Minister Smriti Irani maintaining her ministry will abide by all "constitutional modalities". There were unconfirmed reports that Irani had asked her ministry to develop educational material that encapsulates the contribution of ancient Indians. Irani later rejected allegations that her ministry was trying to push books written by Hindutva ideologues.

Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/delhi-university-left-slant-history-textbooks-du-sanskrit-department-vedic-age-and-aryan-culture-hrd/1/397030.html

October 21, 2014

India: Who is this Manohar Lal Khattar the new Chief minister of the state of Haryana ?

Indian Express

Manohar Lal Khattar – From RSS pracharak to Haryana CM
Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh | October 21, 2014 6:03 pm

khattar-l Manohar Lal Khattar, who is a bachelor and a first-time MLA, has worked for almost 40 years as an RSS pracharak. (Source: PTI photo)

Former RSS pracharak Manohar Lal Khattar, who will be the next chief minister of Haryana, is a master strategist known for his political acumen. Khattar was appointed chairman of the BJP’s Haryana election committee for the recent Lok Sabha elections.

Khattar joined the RSS in 1980, and has spent nearly 35 years as an active pracharak. He joined the BJP two decades ago. He was born in Haryana, and is a bachelor. In 1994, Khattar was made the Sangathan Mahamantri in Haryana.

In 1996, BJP had allied with Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party to form the government in the state. However, Khattar felt that the alliance was proving costly for the party, and favoured withdrawal of support from the government. BJP then decided to provide outside support to Om Prakash Chautala. Later, this coalition with the INLD won all 10 seats in Haryana in the 1999 parliamentary elections.

It was in 1996 that Khattar first began working with Narendra Modi, who was then in charge of Haryana. In 2002, Khattar was given charge of elections in J&K. In the aftermath of the Bhuj earthquake, Khattar was called upon to manage elections in Kutch district. BJP won three out of six seats there.

In 2004, Khattar found himself in charge of 12 states, including Delhi and Rajasthan. He then worked under the leadership of the veteran RSS ideologue Bal Apte, who was at the time heading the Chunaav Sahayak Yojna.

Immediately thereafter, Khattar was entrusted with the responsibility of Regional Sangathan Mahamantri for Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh. His tenure saw several successes for the party.

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Freedom must have limits too, girls should dress decently to not lure boys, says BJP's Karnal candidate

Pragati Ratti,IBNLive.com | Oct 10, 2014 at 10:52am IST

Karnal: Another politician has blamed girls for rapes. Karnal BJP MLA candidate Manohar Lal Khattar has said that girls must be dressed decently and not 'lure' boys.

On a question about Khap panchayats and their rulings, Khattar said that to an extent Khap rulings were justified as they 'tried to abide by the Indian culture'. Khattar, who is also being seen as a possible CM candidate if BJP wins the October 15 Assembly elections in Haryana, said that girls need to be dressed decently so as to 'not attract the opposite sex'.

Speaking to IBNLive, Khattar said, "Khaps maintain the tradition of a girl and boy being brother and sister. They are just making sure that a girl and boy do not see each other in the wrong way. These rulings help prevent rapes too."
Freedom must have limits too, girls should dress decently to not lure boys, says BJP's Karnal candidate
Khattar also went on to say pre-marital sex is wrong, calling it 'ulti seedhi cheezein'.

He also went on to say pre-marital sex is wrong, calling it 'ulti seedhi cheezein'. "Pre-marital sex is a blot. Sex after marriage is acceptable. Pre-marital sex happens as the minds of the girls and boys are not on the right track," he said.

"If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way," Khattar added. When interrupted and asked about the freedom of choice to girls and boys, he said, "If you want freedom, why don't they just roam around naked? Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are western influences. Our country's tradition asks girls to dress decently."

While Khattar holds these views, his own party member, Ambala Cantt BJP MLA Anil Viz disagreed with him. "I personally disagree with him. We can't hold such views in 21st century," said.

BJP's Karnal MP Ashwani Kumar Chopra too said he disagreed with Khattar's views. "At his age, people tend to become slightly orthodox," Chopra commented on Khattar's remark.

The Congress too hit out at him saying, "One needs to change with time. Change is the only constant. Such views are wrong," said Congress Karnal candidate Surender Singh Narwal.