Looking beyond the curtain of terror in Kashmir

Image Courtesy: btn.com

As the 2014 general elections approach, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and Indian National Congress President, Sonia Gandhi visited Kashmir valley. With the region experiencing the carnage of terrorism, development is the word which the people of the valley are looking up for.

After the inauguration of the new rail link and PM assuring support for the development of the state, the populace has now acquired new hopes to look forward to in a state where terrorism poses a colossal obstacle in the path of progress. Be it an election stunt or a general concern, the government is trying to develop its ideas of advancement to facilitate the people of Kashmir.

Will the government at the centre and at state level be able to subdue terrorism and remove the hindrance from the way or is it just a part of the campaign where only promises are made of development? People are getting slaughtered in the valley and poverty is still a setback. Kashmir is one issue, the solution of which with our neighboring country looks to be far-fetched and certain groups with radical thoughts will try to overturn the development projects in the area.

The people of Kashmir want peace and growth of opportunities and the security forces present at the valley have a very significant role to play in its development. There is a need of giving exposure to the people of Kashmir and the government has been working on it, but the bloodshed carried on by the terrorists has inculcated a sense of fear in the general public of the valley. The government will first have to get the people out of the ambit of terror and set an example in order to make them feel secure. A state can be called fully developed only when the people of that state know that they can use the resources provided by a progressing state with a mind without fear.

The government and the security forces are doing a commendable job to maintain peace in the state and are putting their efforts in the development of the valley but the terror activities are not coming to an absolute halt in the region. The state now needs a solution to the problem of terrorism with the government taking stern decisions to curb the peril and with that the development of the state should be carried forward in order to make the people of Jammu and Kashmir lead a better life.

‘If You Indulge in a Sexual Relationship, You are Considered Married’

 

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The headline is what a bench of the Madras High Court while ruling on the separation between an unmarried couple who have sired children.

According to the ruling, consummation in a relationship is the indicator of marriage between two people, there need not be an official marriage certificate or other such evidences to attain the status, as the court put it “Once the sexual relationship between a man and woman is consummated, they become husband and wife, and rituals are but formalities for societal satisfaction.”

The statement came about while deciding a case of alimony between a former Coimbatore couple. The man had fathered two children and separated, the woman was not given alimony on the grounds that she was not legally wedded to the man.

The court further pronounced that if a girl did not get pregnant in due course of a relationship, but if strong evidences pointed to consensual sex, then the couple could not separate without a decree of divorce from a court. This opens floodgates of conflict especially in a day and age of live-in and homosexual relationships.

A cause of concern lies in proving the evidence of a consensual sexual relationship. Parameters of this cannot be water-tight and hence can be misused.  This also opens floodgates of conflict especially in a day and age of live-in and homosexual relationships.

Sneha Suresh, a 25-year-ols student says that the statement is fraught with loopholes, saying “Sex is no more a taboo and youngsters are increasingly indulging in sexual activities, this does not mean they wish to marry their sexual partners.” The ruling is closely connected with the cultural traditions of India where, most say that sex is explored only after a prerequisite such as marriage or the intention to marry is present, yet in changing times, this may rake up a dissent.

However, a silver lining is the option of support being granted to single parenting women who do not have evidences of marriage and especially help grey areas such as child births as a result of prostitution, promiscuity and polygamy.

From Ladakh to Uttarakhand, we’ve learnt nothing

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An incessant downpour, ravaging torrents of water, livestock being swept away along with people as mighty river currents gushed through sub-urban streets and pilgrims seeking refuge midst the Gods. These were the scenes witnessed not just in Uttarakhand in the past few days, but also 1500 kilometres away in Ladakh. The difference just happened to be time.

On August the 6th, 2010, the area around Leh saw perhaps its most unusual natural phenomenon. It was described as a ‘high altitude cold desert’, for even at 3,500 metres from sea level, Ladakh stood under a constant rain-shadow. The average annual rainfall for the month was a meagre 15 mm. Not that day. Survivors would recall horror stories of cars, trucks and even people being carried away by flood water, after a massive cloudburst resulted in over 250 mm of rain in about 30 minutes in some parts.

For all those who don’t know, a rain gauge measure the intensity of rainfall by allowing water to trickle down its funnel in drops. These trickles when stacked up are measured by a scale on the gauge in millimetres. Now imagine the amount of rainfall over the area which amounted to 25 centimetres of water in a gauge. It was almost beyond imagination.

The following morning, Ladakh wasn’t as everyone remembered. The flood water brought in silt from the mountains that piled mud as high as 10 feet. Long forgotten boulders were tossed into houses as if stones flung by a child. Rescue efforts lasted well into the week. 255 people lost their lives that night. The Government described it as an unforeseen event of nature; an occurrence that no one could predict. Strangely enough, that wasn’t the case in Uttarakhand.

The Char Dham Yatra began on June the 13th of this year. The Indian Meteorological Department [IMD] predicted moderate to heavy showers in the region and notified the state government of the same. Over 60,000 pilgrims were set to embark on this journey and the state asked the IMD to confirm with its stations in the region. The IMD was unable to predict the exact intensity of rainfall over the dhams of Kedarnath or Badrinath because the proposed weather centres were never established in those areas. It was impossible to give an accurate forecast. The government flashed the green light on the yatra.

Graphic courtesy: downtoearth.org.in
Graphic courtesy: downtoearth.org.in

For the next three days, the IMD predicted heavy rains in the area, summarizing between 3.5 cm to 12 cm. It rained moderately in Dehradun that day. All was well for the journey, the state assured. The next day’s forecast was similar – heavy to very heavy rainfall. The government took no efforts to warn the pilgrims to find shelter as a precautionary measure. What followed those three days was something both the IMD and the state never saw coming. Dehradun itself measured 37 cm of rain on the 16th of June. The flooding had begun. The state still hadn’t reacted. Only an advisory committee was set up. The morning of the 17th of June, India woke up to nature’s fury. It was as if the mythical tales of devastation by Lord Shiva had come true. The holy shrines of Kedarnath was swept away by water and covered with 5 metres of silt. The government finally reacted. The army was called in. Roads were being repaired. Food was being transported. Sadly, it was all too late. 550 people were no more and some 100 hundred were still missing.

What happened in Ladakh was unforeseen, but in Uttarakhand, the IMD had warned about the weather. The state had sanctioned over 15 weather stations to be set over the past year in and around the holy dhams. They never happened. Even a slight degree of caution would have ended up in many lives being saved. Uttarakhand 2013’s flash flood’s page on Wikipedia was avoidable.

All that went wrong with the “Chennai Express” trailer

 

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A popular serial in the 90’s, Pankaj Kapur’s ‘Zabaan Sambhal Ke’ had a bunch of students, with distinct, different and stereotypical accents which contributed to the show’s comic element. Rohit Shetty’s ‘Chennai Express’ trailer reminds you of the show. Just that this time, the Tamilian (viz. Deepika Padukone) has an accent that no Indian has heard of or can comprehend (though it sounds pretty close to the accent Sheikhs have in Bollywood movies).

The film which is about a man’s journey from Mumbai to Rameshwaram has come under the scanner since the day it was announced. After committing the grave mistake of signing a Rohit Shetty film (probably to join the 100 cr club), Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) was seen posing in front of dreadful, dark-skinned goons in the posters, stereotypical, again.

One might say the best thing about the trailer is that the actor at least admits of being 40 year old in the first few seconds (unlike the usual 28-year-old Raj). After that, the leading lady adopts an atrocious accent. Shetty probably didn’t realise that SP Balasubramaniam, who was once Salman Khan aka Prem’s voice in most Rajshri productions and has also sung the title song for Chennai Express is a Tamilian, who sings in Hindi, without the ‘Chennai jati’ accent.

But the accent is not the only issue here. Throughout the trailer, Deepika is seen wearing the traditional davani (a half saree) like low-waist jeans. Kathakali, a product of Kerala, becomes a part of Chennai. But with every South Indian being a Madarasi in this country, we can’t blame Shetty alone for this.

From Hema Malini, Sridevi to the latest Asin, Bollywood has seen many South heroines make a mark devoid of Deepika aka Meena-amma’s accent, but Shetty seems to have ignored it again. Just like he ignored all aspects about Goa apart from partying and other appearances of life, apart from flying cars in his films.

Watch the trailer here.

Limca pays tribute to the Centennial of the Indian film industry

Indian Cinema has not grown because of the Government, but despite it!”, remarked Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Manish Tiwari, while addressing the audience present during the release of the 24th edition of the Limca Book of Records. The book was launched on the 10th day of April, at the FICCI Auditorium, New Delhi and the book’s theme this year celebrates the Centennial of Indian Cinema, while focusing on people who have left their footprints in their respective fields of specialization.

Leading quizmaster Barry O’Brien was the anchor for the event and lived up to his title ‘Master of Ceremonies’ by keeping the audience enthralled and in splits with comments like “Are you related to my wife? She always has counter-questions”. During breaks between the sequence of events, O’Brien tested the audience on their knowledge of the Indian film industry with picture quizzes of the most popular personalities, and asking questions like “Which Indian holds the record of 50,000 fan clubs across the globe?” (Rajnikanth, for the uninitiated). O’Brien then went on to speak about how the book can help people from different backgrounds — teachers, students, quizmasters like himself, film-makers.

A short screening followed, which was a montage of the establishment of 2 decades of Coca-Cola in India, in addition to the 24th edition of the Limca Book of Records. The book boasts of over 10,000 achievements which have been compiled over 20 chapters — all of which weave inspiring stories of people from the film industry who had a thirst for more than just films, and like O’Brien aptly put it, “if the thirst is alive, then the show will go on..”, and how! Stories of not only “stars”, but also photographers, musicians, documentary film-makers, editors, cinematographers, and regional film-makers were just some of the many luminaries who have excelled in their respective fields and found their way to secure a position in the book.

Minister Tiwari was then welcomed with a bouquet of flowers and the ceremonial ‘tankha’, and went on to light the lamp.

Atul Singh, the President of Coca-Cola, South-West Asia, then stepped on to the dais and spoke about how each year, the jury appointed by the company diligently nominates and selects ‘People of the Year’. “Many people have contributed over the years, but we’re honoring just 20 of these people today,” he said. Members of the afore-stated jury include H.K. Dua (Member of Parliament), and film critic of South Indian cinema, Pratibha Sastri.

They say a few passions unite Indians. One of them is cinema.

Following this, a brief tribute was played, to 25 legends that are no longer in our midst, but touched our hearts and lives nonetheless. Some of these magnates included the “Iron Man” Dara Singh, T. Damodaran, A.K. Hangal, Jaspal Bhatti, Gavin Packard, Raj Kanwar, Achala Sachdeva and Jose Prakash. Out of the 20 people honored, 7 were present at the function and were then called on stage to be awarded individually — Actress Shabana Azmi, Director Jahnu Barua, Cinematographers V.K. Murthy and Santosh Sivan, Choreographer Prabhu Deva, Editor Sreekar Prasad and Documentary Filmmaker Mike Pandey.

Mike Pandey, whose film, “The Vanishing Giants”, triggered a campaign, spoke about the urgent need for documentary channels and threw light upon the alarming rate (67%) of Indians who are without information and education. “Dcoumentaries can fill that gap, being agents of change.” Pandey then went on to urge a very poker-faced Manish Tiwari to provide such a platform.

The remaining 13 people couldn’t make it to the event, as each one of them was busy shooting for their respective films — Actors Naseeruddin Shah, Kamal Haasan and Ranbir Kapoor, Directors Mira Nair, Aparna Sen, Mani Ratnam, K. Vishwanath and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Scriptwriter Gulzar, being some of them.

This book, that strings together ‘Indian’ achievements, was launched in 1986. Since then, its objective has remained simple – providing a platform to seemingly “ordinary” Indians to portray their talent[s] in their search for excellence. Since its inception, the book has been an amalgamation of sorts – combining thrills with humor in equal measures, but simultaneously informative and perhaps even inspiring.

Twenty-eight-year-old Mangalorean, Vilas Naik painted a magnified version of the Book, within 3mins.
Twenty-eight-year-old Mangalorean, Vilas Naik painted a magnified version of the Book, within 4mins.

Katju The Incredible

Well it seems that Former Justice Katju is not so harsh after all. We seem to see more and more of controversies involving him in the media. The most reason being his public spat with BJP leader Arun Jaitley . And more often than not his statements have made controversies irrespective of the issue, his only competition seems to be Digvijay Singh of whom recently we haven’t seem much, Katju seems to fill that void pretty well .
In a grand scheme that is reportedly going to change journalism in India, Katju has set up a committee to recommend the minimum qualifications required for a person to enter a journalism course. The reason for this can be ascertained from the fact that in his view in India the journalists are of low intellectual caliber, with poor knowledge of economics, history, politics, literature and philosophy.

imagesBefore taking a view on Katju one must realize the sanctity of the office Mr Katju holds. He is the Press Council Chief of India. One expects him to be objective and neutral, he should treat everyone equally especially given his background as a former judge of the Supreme Court.

Just after the verdict in which Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt was sentenced to 5 years in prison, Katju appealed to the Maharashtra Governor K Sankarnarayanan to pardon the actor. One helps but not wonder why does the PCI chief want to get involved. Why this preferential treatment. If Sanjay Dutt was not a celebrity would the justice have bothered to make the appeal. Why does he need to meddle in this case where law is taking it own course. Is it for media attention? Which of course in his view is of low intellect and poor in knowledge of basically everything.
Maybe after all the controversies he has decided to show the softer side of him. To show that he cares. To let it be know that if an actor purchases a AK- 56 from an terrorist who later goes on to bomb a city, Justice Katju will be there for you. Ironically Digvijay Singh has also expressed his support for the actor, it seems the congress leader is waking up to the competition. I am a trainee journalist and even with my ‘limited intellect’ I can with confidence say that Justice Katju is the most famous and controversial Press Council chief ever.

Impact on Afghanistan after the United States withdraws from it.

 

When U.S.A and its allies would withdraw their forces from Afghanistan, it will leave Afghanistan on the midway as well as in such a nature that will surely affect the internal and external affairs of Afghanistan. Rapid disengagement of Western powers from Afghanistan will definitely pose a threat to the nearby region, mostly due to the fear of instability. Afghanistan being the home of many groups (ethnic, political, religious and cultural) may perhaps rise again on the geo political arena where countries like India and Pakistan will quickly jump to get the spoils of war and increase their influence in Afghanistan so as to continue their proxy war against each other on their territory and exploit its vast resources

One of the most immediate concerns over the withdrawal of United States from Afghanistan is how it will affect Afghan security. The Taliban and other Afghan militants still launch regular attacks against Western forces, and the Afghan military and police forces that NATO has been training are not yet prepared to take on responsibility for their own security. This suggests that

1)      Taliban would try to stage a comeback and fulfill their vow of returning to power, most notably claimed by their commander Mullah Omar after the invasion by U.S.A

2)      This would demoralize and catch the Afghan police forces off guard due to their lack of training or being as battle hardened like the Taliban.

Since Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s opium, and draws roughly a third of its GDP from the drug trade. Some worry that the withdrawal of Western troops will lead to a boom in the heroin market where the Taliban finds much of its funding.

 

 

As 90 percent of the Afghan government’s budget comes from foreign sources, and about 97 percent of the country’s GDP has come to depend on foreign aid and international military spending, it becomes imperative for Afghanistan to find new sources of income to fund itself otherwise it might lead to a collapse of their economy which is to invite bids for foreign companies to invest in the country and mine out their vast resources which could ease their dependence on foreign aid.

 

A US withdrawal from Afghanistan also raises concerns about what might happen to the fragile social reforms that have been initiated since the Taliban fell, particularly those that have been aimed at women like getting women into education and freedom to do jobs. The fear of Taliban re-emerging could destroy the whole process where women were suppressed and denied basic human rights and kept under burqas by the chauvinist men.

Finally, what the Americans are really hoping for is that the Afghans should consider them as liberators rather than occupiers which otherwise would really be a setback for them in terms of psychological warfare against the Taliban and could only help in Taliban legitimizing their comeback. The goal is to achieve a moderate path.