INDIA, THE LAND OF COUNTLESS WONDERS

TRAVEL

One of many things that makes me a proud Indian is our amazing culture. While the world has always looked down on India as a country full of snake charmers and elephants, India has much more to offer than what meets the eye. Here are a few reasons why India is the cultural capital of the world.

Rust free since 912 BC!

The grandeur and the calligraphy of the world’s largest brick minaret Qutub Minar is certainly breathtaking. But what really intrigues me is the Loha Stambh or the Iron Pillar located in the Qutub Complex .

The iron pillar was built in 912 BC and suprisingly has not rusted till date. While stainless steel was discovered in the 20th century by the Western scientists, Indian metallurgists had already perfected their art more than 2000 years ago.

The floating pillar

Photo credits: unknown

A pillar that stands firm and yet doesn’t touch the ground? Yes, you read that right. The Lepakshi temple at Andhra Pradesh is an architectural wonder, the skill and the exemplary talent of Indian craftsman is evident from this stoned marvel.

A pillar located in the temple premises appears to float midair. While several theories exist till date scientist and architects from around the country have no explanation as to how this is even possible.

Ellora Caves

Ever wondered why these 34 caves ever made it to UNESCO World Heritage site list?

Well the answer is simple. These caves are neither natural nor a structure built with bricks. But these caves were CHISELED out from a mountain range.

Chandagiri mountain range was converted into a group of cave temples over a course of 500 years.
The caves temples houses both Hindu gods and Jain symbols.

Rani ki ‘wow’

At Patan, Gujarat exists a ‘temple’ like no other. Rani ki vav or the Queens step-well is a marvel.

From the beautiful apsaras to Vishnu sleeping underneath the thousand hooded serpents this seven floor step-well is indeed a treasure trove

While the list of monumental wonders in India are countless, one can only help but wondered how advanced our ancestors were in the field of art and science to produce these marvels.

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CAN PEACE EVER PREVAIL IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY?

National News

When Mughal emperor Jahangir visited the famed Shalimar Bagh located in Kashmir, it is said that he recited this famous Persian couplet written by Amir Khusrau.

“Agar firdaus bar rōy-e zamin ast, hamin ast-o hamin ast-o, hamin ast.”

Meaning

“If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”

But had Jahangir witnessed the state of affairs in Kashmir today, he most certainly would have taken his words back.

Kashmir, today is a pale shadow of her glorious past. The valley is amidst a major turmoil, both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir as it’s own and several Kashmiri’s are demanding an “Azad Kashmir” or Independent Kashmir.

But what led to this situation, what really plagues Kashmir today and most importantly does the Kashmir problem have any solution?

Birth pangs

To understand the present, one needs to understand the past and to understand Kashmir’s problem, we will have to go back in time.

In 1947, British crown wound up its rule in India. British India would would soon become India and Pakistan.

British India was at that point in time divided into Princely Provinces and British States. Princely provinces had the option of either joining India or Pakistan or the ruler could choose to remain independent.

As the map of both the countries were being formed, Muslim majority provinces and states chose sides with Pakistan, Hindu majority with India, but a very unique problem arose in Kashmir.

Kashmir, a princely province was ruled by a Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, but the majority of his subjects were Muslims.
Maharaja neither chose Pakistan nor India.

Both Sardar Vallahbhai Patel and Mohammed Ali Jinnah tried to woo Hari Singh to change his stand but he didn’t. Hari Singh indecisiveness and his failure to interpret the implications of his decision continues to haunt many Kashmiri’s.

On October 24, 1947 insurgents from Pakistan terrorised the Valley and the panic stricken King signed an ‘Instrument of Accession’ with Government of India. The war ended in 1948 after a cease-fire was laid out by United Nations. During the war Pakistan gained unauthorized control over 34% of Kashmir’s territory and has been controlling this region ever since.

The Hate Politics

For Kashmir however, the biggest problem is the politics it’s leaders played to remain in limelight. Be it the Abdullah family or the Mufti’s, politicians always ensured the flame of hatred remained alive among the public. No leader till date has anything concrete to solve the power, water and unemployment crisis in the state and in turn blame Indian government for the problems existent in the state.

Plus Pakistan which is unable to maintain its own state of affairs has always meddled in Kashmir’s politics. Pakistan has always encouraged the opinion of separatists and suppressed the real opinion of the residents of Kashmir.

Insurgency and the Exodus

The result of Pakistan’s support to the separatists voices was the rise in insurgency in 1989 -1990. Kashmiri Hindus( also known as Kashmiri Pandits) were targeted by the militants. Pandit women were raped, young children tortured and men killed in the most brutal manner all in the guise of ‘azadi’. Nearly 1,00,000 KP families left the valley and were made refugees in their own motherland. Families were forced to leave behind everything and start life from scratch in places distant from their homeland.

Does the Kashmir problem have any solution? Of course, yes!

However the answer is not so simple.

On the international arena, India must amp up support against Pakistan. Every cease-fire violation , every attempt to undermine peace in the valley must be taken up seriously. Be it the United Nations or any international forum, India must make it clear that any dialogue with Pakistan is not possible without peace.

As Pakistan controls a vast territory of Kashmir it would not be wise to disband talks with it, but clever use of pressure tactics by senior diplomat holds the key for Kashmir’s future.

On the national front, Kashmir can no longer remain aloof. Now hat Article 370 has been abolished, The government must take initiative and build better infrastructure in the union territory. Industry must be established to ensure job opportunities arise. Skills of the youth must be developed to prevent them from going astray and joining militancy.

Thirdly the government needs to incorporate the real voice of Kashmir. Several politicians and separatist ‘leaders’ have hijacked the Kashmir issue. India is still unaware of aspirations of Kashmiris and the real voice is still suppressed. All the communities from the valley be it Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians must be treated as equal stakeholder. Their opinion and their demands must be taken into account before any decision is taken.

It’s been over 70 years since India’s independence and it’s about time normalcy and peace returns to Kashmir and the Paradise has witnessed enough and it’s residents have suffered enough!

49 CELEBRITIES WRITE A LETTER TO PM, SPARK INTOLERANCE DEBATE

NEWS

The debate over rising intolerance in India gained fresh ammunition after 49 celebrities from various walks of life wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The lengthy three page letter claimed that the ‘hate crimes rate’ had risen in the recent path. Categorically mentioning that Lynchings against Muslims, Dalits & other minorities are on a rise.

Here are a few excerts of the letter.

‘DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT NUMBER OF TRAGIC EVENTS’
‘LYNCHING OF MINORITIES MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY’
‘PM HAS CRITICIZED LYNCHINGS IN PARLIAMENT’

‘CRITICISING IS NOT ENOUGH’

‘LYNCHING SHOULD BE DECLARED NON-BAILABLE OFFENCE’

‘EXEMPLARY PUNISHMENT SHOULD BE METED OUT’
‘NO CITIZEN SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE IN FEAR’
‘JAI SHRI RAM HAS BECOME A PROVOCATIVE WAR CRY’
‘STOP RAM’S NAME FROM BEING DEFILED IN THIS MANNER’

‘CAN’T BRAND DISSENT AS ANTI-NATIONAL’

‘DISSENT MAKES COUNTRY STRONGER’

Even claiming the chants of Jai Shree Ram were being used as a war cry.

49 signatories of the letter included the following prominent personalities

SHYAM BENEGAL, FILMMAKER
REVATHY, ACTOR
ANURAG KASHYAP, FILMMAKER

APARNA SEN, FILMMAKER/ACTOR

KONKONA SENSHARMA, FILMMAKER/ ACTOR
MANI RATNAM, FILMMAKER
RAMCHANDRA GUHA, HISTORIAN
SHUBHA MUDGAL, SINGER/ MUSICIAN
This however drew sharp criticism from the ruling party. Many questioned the artistes & accused them of spreading panic in the name of condemnation against hate crime.

In the meanwhile those backing the letter say, this move by the celebrities will only help the government as it backs the government in strengthening laws against hate crimes.

The debate of intolerance has gained pace in the last 5 years, but what remains to be seen is will the government change this perception in the next coming 5 years.

‘CHOW-CHOW BATH’ SARKAR CRUMBLES, BUT WHAT NEXT IN KARNATAKA?

NEWS

In exactly 14 months, the coalition government of Karnataka collapsed.

The government failed to secure the trust by a margin of 4 votes. While BJP secured 105 votes, Congress-JDS only had 99 votes. This means 20 MLAs skipped the session bringing down the total to 204.

The magic number was 103 & coalition didn’t have the numbers during the trust vote.

The coalition had tried hard to delay the trust vote. Every tactic in the rule book was tried and after 4 days of intense debate and face off, the trust vote took place.

The session witnessed a Division Vote wherein head count of MLAs took place in the assembly. Following the vote count it was clear Kumaraswamy didn’t have the numbers.

The Chief Minister then submitted his resignation to the Governor.

The Governor then immediately accepted his resignation and requested him to continue as a caretaker CM

What next in Karnataka?

What happens next in the big question on everyone’s mind. BJP President Yeddyurappa is expected to stake claim after meeting the Governor Vajubhai Vala.

Fate of the 15 rebel MLAs remains unknown. As the speaker is yet to accept or reject their resignations.

Scenario 1:

If their resignations are accepted, there could be re-election on their seats, which means the tussle for power could extend

Scenario 2:

If resignations are rejected, then under anti-defection law they could be disqualified as the whip remains. This drama could also escalate in Supreme Court.

BSP in the meanwhile also sacked its lone MLA for defying the party whip. The MLA was asked to cast his vote for the coalition, but he refrained from the proceedings

Situation in Bengaluru

Meanwhile section 144 was imposed in the capital city of Bengaluru. However once the reports of trust vote results emerged, BJP supporters celebrated the win.

DRAFT EDUCATION POLICY ROW: RAJINIKANTH BACKS SURIYA

NEWS

Over the last few days Tamil Actor Suriya has faced flak from both the Bharatiya Janta Party & the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu over his comments on the controversial Draft Educational Policy. The actor is now however drawing support from his peers.

Superstar Rajinikanth backed the actor at the launch of a music festival. India Today reports that the actor said the following in his defence of his colleague,

Suriya’s statement will echo in the Prime Minister’s Office. I second what Suriya said about the National Education Policy. Suriya has been witnessing the hardships faced by students and has experience of working closely with them through his Agaram Foundation. People say Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hear when I speak. But this time his views on the subject will be heard by the prime minister

The new Education Policy created massive uproar last month after it proposed the controversial three language policy. A policy that could make Hindi Compulsory across India drawing widespread criticism from Southern states especially Tamil Nadu, later forcing the centre to clarify.

Previously Suriya faced massive flak for saying that the Government’s latest policy will not help those from the rural background as the draft education policy didn’t focus on quality education, three language policy & also criticised the fact that anganwadis with less than 10 students can be shut down.

The actor runs an NGO called as Agaram Foundation, a trust that reportedly helps underprivileged students.

After Actor turned politician Kamal Haasan had also previously backed Suriya

However both BJP & AIADMK slammed the actor over his comments. The actor was accused of being ignorant and has been accused of instigating people against the policy.