Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the third International Yoga Day on July 21,2017, at Ramabhai Ambedkar Sabha Sthal in Lucknow. The event , despite light drizzle, saw nearly 50,000 participants, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. This marked the Prime Minister’s third mass yoga celebration, since he addressed yoga as “an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition” to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014.
Other BJP leaders, too, were seen hosting events across the country. BJP president Amit Shah joined yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, in Ahmedabad. Union Health Minister JP Nadda, too, gathered at Sector 17 Plaza in Chandigarh, along with Punjab governor VP Singh and Chandigarh BJP Chief Sanjay Tandon.
However, the event did not restrict itself to BJP leaders. In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal joined Union Ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Vijay Goel, along with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal for the celebration. BJP’s nominee for the upcoming presidential election, Ram Nath Kovind, was also present. Minister of State for the Ministry of Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman attended celebrations in Palakkad in Kerala
In 2014, the BJP government replaced Department of AYUSH with Ministry of AYUSH. This ministry laid foundation to the government-led research and development schemes about Ayurvedic health benefits. On June 21, 2015, the ruling government, along with the Ministry of AYUSH, organised the first mass Yoga Day celebration. The Ministry was credited with creating two Guinness World records, which were holding the largest yoga class in Rajpath, New Delhi, featuring 35,985 people, and for the largest number of participating nationalities with 84 nations.
Since then, the frenzy of International Yoga has expanded, where in 2016, the number of countries that joined in, rose to 135. The Prime Minister again was seen hosting the mass event in Chandigarh, which witnessed over 30,000 participants.
As the event came to an end in Lucknow, the PM, in a series of tweets, expressed his admiration for yoga and acknowledged its growing presence across the world.
Soon after his tweet, people on Twitter started promoting the event using the hashtag ‘IntYogaDay’. Inaugurating the State-level observance of International Yoga Day at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, said that yoga was not a part of any religion and it should be practiced with a free and secular mindset.
Bollywood stars also joined hands and showed their support towards the Prime Minister’s approach towards yoga.
Amitabh Bachchan tweeted this photo with the caption “International Yoga Day .. today .. lekin mera yoga DAY toh bachpan se chal raha hai .. aur ye toh Gujarat Tourisim ka drishya hai”!
In America, NBA legend LeBron James also uploaded a photo on Twitter, celebrating International Yoga Day.
I grew up in Palmyra, Syria, in a small house next to the Nabu Temple. Made of broken stone, and a little bit of granite, hardened sand and bamboo, it wasn’t much, but it was home.
I lived there with my husband and three children, aged four, six and nine. Next to our home was a small market that sold delicious almond dates, baklava, manaqish and minced beef, the last one being a favourite of my younger two.
Since I received education only till Class 8, and my husband till Class 5, we were determined that our children fluently learn Arabic, the fundamentals of Islam, mathematics and the three sciences. We enrolled our children in a government school that had around 500 more children, between the ages of three to sixteen. The enthusiastic little children that they were, woke early to read fajr, and walked to school with their father, who dropped them off before heading to the construction site he worked at.
It was a small, quiet life we lived.
And then, they came. Standing tall, with their masked faces like the cowards that they are, waving black flags – claiming to unite Muslims and destroy the Western civilisation, completely twisting the religion to justify their hunger for power and violence.
With all the destruction, bombings, airstrikes, gunfire and executions, the beautiful city we cherished for its ancient architecture, kind-hearted people, delicious fruits and more, just saw sights of rubble and blood.
Remember the government school I mentioned? The one where my children, and 500 other innocent, doe-eyed lives went to dream of a future full of happiness, wealth and satisfaction? You feel warm, humid wind blowing straight at your face, because where the school earlier stood, now is scattered with dust and sand, torn backpacks and notebooks, a headscarf here and and a sports shoe there – and, of course, splatters of blood, that once ran through my nine-year old’s veins.
My husband and I panicked. Approached government offices, but they turned a blind eye towards us. International organisations couldn’t penetrate deep into the villages to find each and every torn family, and we were left on the streets, clutching our two children, two blankets and the Quran – all that was left in our world.
We walked for days, towards the coast, trying to find someone, or something that could get us out of Syria. There were plenty of stories, of small and large boats taking groups of people to countries called Turkey, Greece, Jordan and Lebanon. We also heard of how our people were treated in other countries – defiled, defamed and misjudged, calling us names like untrustworthy, terrorists, dirty. The only difference between them and us? I’ll leave that to you to decide.
With the help of some friends, we reached the coast of Baniyas, a point where boats and ships take Syrians to Turkey or Greece. After reaching there, some important-looking people, in white shirts and black pants, with wooden clipboards in their hands, whistles around their neck and pistols in their belts, shepherded us into lines, and then, I went from being a mother, wife and daughter, to something new – a refugee. Refugee number 9U883HJ2, to be precise. A sticker was put on our hands as a mark of identification and told that henceforth, this would be our identity.
Chaos struck when the ship’s captain suddenly announced that they would have to cut down on a hundred people by demands of Turkish authorities. The authorities, fearing a stampede, at random picked people apart and sent them onto the boats, under threat of gunfire. There were people shouting; cries of anger, pain and fear over sound of gunshots, and suddenly, I was on the boat with my little one, separated from my husband and second child.
We screamed and shouted, tried to get off the boat. I wanted to find my husband and child, but feared running with the little one. The crowd was suffocating – with around eighty people on a boat with a capacity of only fifty. We set sail, into the unknown. The cold, salty air made us numb, while the boat rocked and sailed.
Around what seemed like an eternity later, we reached Turkey. After getting manhandled, frisked, groped and interrogated for hours, the security at the border gave me the option of only letting either my daughter or me into the country.
I’m a 35-year old woman, I have no husband, parents, children or possessions. After refusing to part with my child, they forcefully separated us – threw me into a camp for refugees and her, into an elite family’s house as a servant. At this camp, I sleep with 3000 strangers, answer pointless questions every week, haven’t had a clean towel in 13 months and have been infected with flesh-eating bacteria. My only solace, is the memory of my husband and children. I am told that my country is in ruins, with a massive civil war and even massive casualty number each day.
I have no name – I am refugee number 9U883HJ2.
February 27th marked 15 years since the infamous Godhra incident. The draconian face of humanity engulfed Gujarat across its length and breadth. State machinery remained paralysed for numerous days and the nation watched the murders and rapes in pin drop silence. The riot which brutally killed thousands of people (mostly Muslims), displaced them permanently and destroyed their livelihood was a much celebrated event in the state of Gujarat by the then Chief Minister and his party.
Like all the other cases, this case of 2002 is still in court. However, a few people like Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi have been convicted and sentenced by the special court for their roles in the Naroda Patiya riots. The irony of the situation is that, Maya is roaming freely and Bajrangi has been released on bail multiple times.
15 years down the line, the state of Gujarat has changed for the on-lookers but not for the minorities of Muslims. Harsh Mander, an activist, opines in an interview with Hindustan times, “15 years after the Gujarat riots, there is the new normalcy of Gujarat, in which Muslims have learnt to live separately, much like Dalits have been forced to exist for centuries… I feel an intense unrest and foreboding thinking about how fundamentally the idea of India and its practice is changing so rapidly today and how the politics of hate has so profoundly polarised and divided us.”
Today, Muslims in Gujarat have stopped revealing even their names to anyone in order to protect themselves from another communal feud. They have stopped showcasing any external symbolic representation of their religion. The displaced Muslims have not been able to return to their homes after the 2002 massacre. Many villages have banned Muslims and have proudly proclaimed to be a “Muslim free village.” While those villages who did allow their residency, have a set of stringent rules to be followed.
The “Gujarat model” which received laurels from the Country for its business-friendly administration over investment in social sectors, did not represent the entire state of Gujarat. The less recognised part of this model was systematic reduction of the minority religion to second-class citizens. These second-class citizens comprise of not only Muslims but also Christians, Dalit and tribal communities of Gujarat.
Even after receiving flak, the communal violence in the country has only been increasing with campaigns such as ‘ghar wapsi’, ‘love jihad’ and ‘beef lynching’. India’s constitution calls it as a ‘Secular state’ however, in the wake of these incidents, the idea of being secular as a Nation-state is in question.
One evening. One misunderstanding. One bullet.
That’s all it took to change the life of Sunayana Dumala, the wife of Srinivas Kuchibhotla an Indian who was killed in a hate crime in Kansas, United States of America on February 22, 2017. Srinivas was an Indian engineer who had been living in the US for the past decade.
Srinivas, referred to as Srinu by family and friends, was just like the thousands of Indians who go to America every year to fulfill their aspirations. He dared to be a part of the American dream and paid the price for it with his life.
America has always been called a land of dreams and opportunities, a land where people from all over the world come to reach their goals and realise their ambitions. Sadly, the same dreamland has now become a nightmare for the dreamers.
Ever since Donald Trump got elected as the President of the US, the atmosphere in the country has become really tense and hostile. Trump, infamous for his promises of building a wall around Mexico and cleansing the country of immigrants has actually delivered on his word in such regards. His decision on immigration ban has drawn severe criticism and divided the country even more.
The killing of Indian techie Srinivas is being considered as the first hate crime incident under Trump’s presidency. Adam Purinton, the shooter, had opened fire on Srinivas and Alok Madasani, both Indians working at an American company ‘Garmin’, inside a crowded bar in Olathe, Kansas after yelling at them “get out of my country”.
What has come as even more surprising is not just the late reaction by Trump, but also the lack of coverage by the mainstream media in the US. Even the White House didn’t really comment on the shooting until almost a week later stating the incident as “disturbing”. The President who was really vocal when an Egyptian man initiated violence at the Louvre in Paris a few weeks back, didn’t tweet anything about the shooting at all. Only in his address to the US congress on February 28, he spoke up against the incident and stated that America denounces “hate and evil in all its forms”.
On the other hand, Ian Grillot was a white American who got injured when he tried to restrain the shooter and protect the other two people. It is because of Grillot’s bravery that Madasani was saved. While the government decided to keep mute on the incident, citizens from all over America tried to convey their condolences and about $1 million were raised within 24 hours via crowdfunding for the next kin of Srinivas.
This act of murder by a white American against immigrants and the same night, the act of saving those immigrant lives by another white American by putting himself in grave danger shows the contrast and dichotomy that the US has become today.
All hope hasn’t been lost. In these difficult times, Sunayana has received support and prayers from all over America and has returned to the country to fulfill the dreams she had dreamt with her husband. Her loss can’t be compensated in any way.
But as Grillot said, “Hate is everywhere..but with the power of love and compassion for fellow humans, hate doesn’t stand a chance.”
Image Source: New Yorker
The last time I checked we were living in the 21st century where the women were being encouraged for being free of the society’s stereotypes. Everyone was trying to make a misogyny-free world for them to live in. There was a long way to go but everyone was trying. I, like many others, was hopeful that soon I will breathe in a world where there will be no feminism driven fights because the world will be a better place. However, while this thought was was only half the way in my mind the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) forced my thought to run back in fear.
The CBFC recently denied ‘Lipstick under my Burkha’ certificate for being lady-oriented. They made me wonder how can I hope for a better world for the females if we are seen as nothing more than objects and the sole purpose of our existence is to serve the man. They proved the world that Bollywood is still all about the male gaze and their pleasure. If something makes a man uncomfortable it is not worth the time.
Laura Mulvey, a British feminist theorist, gave the theory of male gaze. She argued how everything is designed for the visual pleasure of the men. The narrative of our cinemas has always been around a central male character. It is perfectly alright to show a man’s desire but a woman should be ashamed of hers.
Now that you think about it, we are the living example of it. While movies like Mastizade and Kya Kool Hain Hum are perfectly fine, the movie like Lipstick under my Burkha is against our values or is not sanskaari.
Today, item numbers play a major role in a Bollywood film. A catchy-groovy item number helps to attract eyeballs. We listen to the songs like ‘Munni Badnam hui, darling tere liye’ and ‘Mai tandoori murgi hu, ghatkale muje alcohol se’. The sad reality is that we enjoy the songs which objectify a woman’s body and depicts the only purpose of a woman is to satisfy the man. They earn and pass the censor board without any second thought because this is what a man wants to see. No wonder a man after harassing or raping a woman feels no guilt and moreover, things he has the right to do so.
While the time and the world are moving forward, we are stuck with the values which do not even celebrates the existence of one of the section of the society. The government is exploiting these very values for their benefit and are least bother to change the society for good. They are celebrating ignorance and we are letting them in one way or the other.
The struggle of women for her rights begins even before her birth. It haunts me to even imagine our race back in the time. Is it really important to make a woman carry the burden of values and pride of her family? When will we let her walk for herself, enjoy for herself and most of all when will we teach her she should not be ashamed of her mind or body?
IMAGE SOURCE- https://i.ytimg.com/vi/EpHqeHF8NM0/hq720.jpg
Hate crime against Indians in the United States seems to be on the rise, especially in the last few months. It only came to the forefront after the shooting incident in Kansas. Srinivas Kuchibotla became the victim of a hate crime. His colleague Alok Madasani was also injured in the shooting spree.
Both of them worked for Garmin, a technology-based firm. What made matters worse is the fact that the murderer was not a thug or a gangster but a veteran navy officer named Adam W. Purinton. He taunted these men before shooting indiscriminately at them. He shouted “Get out of my country” before opening fire.
This statement indicates the burning hatred across scores of Americans against the immigrants. Not all Americans have jingoistic feelings towards particular religion or ethnicity. However, with people getting influenced by inflammatory speeches, the society seems to divide fast and give way for lone wolves like Purinton to commit such crimes.
The undercurrent of chauvinism and jingoism was visible during the election campaigning when Trump proposed ideas such as creating up a wall between U.S.A and Mexico and suggested anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies. Now that he is in power he is giving effect to all these campaigning planks. The major issues which concern the Indians are the H-1B visa reforms which Trump has suggested.
The US government provides about 65,000 visas every year. Many tech companies including Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services hire people based on this Visa criterion. If alterations are made to this VISA criteria it is doomed to affect Indians and thus having an effect on the remittance which India gets through these jobs. According to 2015 data, USA is the second largest source of remittance after Saudi Arabia. Trump in his book “Time to Get Tough” have stated a 15 percent tax on the companies which will outsource jobs.
In fact, USA’s current president won the election by stirring people against immigration. Does this suggest that Indians are insecure in the world’s largest democracy? Trump made a brief statement about the crime, a week after the attack took place. Trump stated, “we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms”. White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer, said that the incident is tragic, however, it should not be linked to Donald Trump. Former secretary of State Hillary Clinton lashed out at Trump for not speaking at length about this issue.
Before Trump assumed power, there were less than ten cases of hate crime daily, however, 10 days after he assumed power more than 800 cases of hate crime was reported. Though Trump has called for a stop on such attacks there is an unspoken legitimacy given to hate crimes. Madasani’s father is telling the youth in India that the USA is not anymore a safe place to visit at all.
All is not lost as there are some people like Ian Grillot who jumped forward and took two bullets for the injured Indian. Grillot made a heart touching statement “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being”. Purinton is booked by the federal agency and if he is proven guilty, he would face an imprisonment for 50 years without parole.
The USA has to ensure that strict actions are taken in order to improve its situation both with India and within its borders. The entire world waits for the actions by the country.
Image Source: CNN