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Bengal bomb blast kills one

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Kolkata: On Thursday, a man was killed and two others injured in a bomb blast inside an electrical repair shop in Durgapur of West Bengal’s Burdwan district, police said.

“One man has been killed and two others received some injuries. Prime facie it appears to be a crude bomb explosion,” said Commissioner of Police, (Asansol-Durgapur), Ajay Kumar Nand.

The owner of the shop has been arrested.

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While people initially presumed the cause of the explosion to be the compressor of a refrigerator bursting, police upon inspection found shrapnel and recovered two more container shaped bombs.

“The two bombs have been defused and samples sent for forensic testing. As of now, it seems they are not IEDs as there was no trigger mechanism in them. We are probing the matter and awaiting the forensic test reports,” added Nand.

The man who died has been identified as Pappu Ram, 35.

A forensic team is slated to visit the site on Friday.

(IANS)

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This Durga Puja Brings Narratives of Communal Harmony

Durga puja is exemplifying communal harmony at a time when the world grapples with religious animosity and social polarisation

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Durga Puja
Durga Puja in at Bhopal Madhya Pradesh. Wikimedia

Kolkata, Sep 15, 2017: For over 200 years, the Nandi family in West Bengal’s Hooghly has been feeding Muslim fakirs during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. To the Nandis, this annual ritual has its roots in a family legend that is testimony to the generosity of the local Muslim community.

It is also one of the myriad instances of the festival — the biggest in Bengal — exemplifying communal harmony at a time when the world grapples with religious animosity and social polarisation.

According to 80-year-old Satipati Nandi, the ninth-generation descendant of the family that claims to have been the “largest importer of betel nuts in eastern India once upon a time”, this Hindu-Muslim syncreticism comes naturally.

“It may sound as a big deal today but it all started centuries ago. It is said that two brothers, Kuber Shankar and Kama Shankar, were selling pakodas (fried snacks) in Halishahar in North 24-Parganas when they chanced upon a fakir who gave them a gold mohar (coin) to start an enterprise… revolving around the first thing they spot,” Nandi told IANS.

The rest is history.

The Nandis ventured into the betel nut business and eventually branched out into real estate, acquiring multiple properties across the state, including the present family residence at Pandua in Hooghly as well as land in Garia in south Kolkata.

Also Read: What makes Hindu Festival Durga Puja so popular in India? Know its Meaning and Significance 

“In remembrance of the generous fakir, we feed two fakirs on Navami (the ninth day of the festival). Now we usually do not find fakirs; so we offer khichdi to any two members of the Muslim community,” Nandi explained.

This communal integration has spilled on to the state capital Kolkata as well.

In the heart of Kolkata is Kumartuli — the potters’ enclave — which is in a state of frenzy with Durga Puja that is round the corner. The clay idols of Durga and her pantheon are being daubed in paint and their curves clothed in vibrant saris.

Their bald heads are carefully draped in jute wigs that have been painstakingly fashioned into braids and curly tresses for the Hindu goddess by Muslim craftsmen.

Neither blinding rain nor religion get in the way of business in this buzzing maze-like colony of potters and their assistants, labourers, decorators and tourists with selfie sticks — the point of origin of around 5,000 clay Durga idols each year.

Around 400 “shilpis” (craftsmen) churn out Durga and her children in crammed 6 by 10 foot studios, cloaked in tarpaulin sheets. The final touches, which begin around a fortnight before Mahalaya (September 19), include decking the idols in accessories.

“Draping the hair is an essential part of the process. The jute wigs are fashioned by Muslim families from Parbatipur near Howrah and other areas. A typical ‘sabeki’, or traditional idol, usually dons a curly and wavy wig. Essentially, they are mostly black but we do have variants of the wig in dark brown, rust and beige,” Babu Pal, a spokesperson for the potters, told IANS.

Slightly rough in texture, they are almost indistinguishable from your average wigs. Packed in bundles starting off at Rs 100, these are available as plaits, straight extensions for the sides or as wavy locks.

“Everyone comes to look at the idols. They admire, take pictures and go away. But it’s not just the idols… you have to assemble the goddess piece by piece. Muslim craftsmen usually fashion the dress material and the wigs. You may talk about cow politics and put a religious spin on it, for us it’s the way of life here… no one talks about this (Hindu-Muslim issues)… it’s business,” Pal elaborated.

According to Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, Hindu-Muslim integration during the Durga Puja was not uncommon in undivided Bengal.

“It has continued despite geographical barriers because the festival now is a huge industry. It provides employment to people from all communities. It’s only some politicians and communal-minded people who give it a different spin. During immersions too, everyone comes together to bid adieu to the goddess and family. She is looked at as a source of strength and not as a religious symbol,” Bhaduri added.

And you don’t have to look further than Begampur town in Hooghly district to see several Muslim families celebrating Durga Puja as a symbol of the common culture of the festival that unites Hindus with other minorities, at least in Bengal.

(This story is part of a special series that will showcase a diverse, plural and inclusive India and has been made possible by a collaboration between IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at sahana.g@ians.in)

-IANS

 

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Teen Gun Violence is turning into a major issue in Georgia’s Savannah and New York’s Syracuse

From 2014 through this past June, 57 youths aged 12 to 17 in Savannah and 48 in Syracuse were killed or injured in the gun violence

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A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals decorates a South Side street corner, Aug. 21, 2017, in Syracuse, N.Y. The memorial was created for 15-year-old Akil Williams, who was shot earlier this summer. From 2014 through this past June, 48 youths aged 12 to 17 in Syracuse were killed or injured in gun violence
A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals decorates a South Side street corner, Aug. 21, 2017, in Syracuse, N.Y. The memorial was created for 15-year-old Akil Williams, who was shot earlier this summer. From 2014 through this past June, 48 youths aged 12 to 17 in Syracuse were killed or injured in gun violence. VOA

Savannah, Georgia, September 10, 2017: On the surface, Savannah, Georgia, and Syracuse, New York, don’t have much in common beyond their size. Both are smaller cities, with populations hovering around 145,000 people. Yet their streets share a grim reality: Teenagers are being killed or wounded by firearms at rates far higher than in most U.S. cities, according to an Associated Press and USA Today Network analysis of shootings compiled by the non-profit Gun Violence Archive.

From 2014 through this past June, 57 youths aged 12 to 17 in Savannah and 48 in Syracuse were killed or injured in the gun violence. The cities’ rates of teen shootings per capita are more than double those seen in the vast majority of U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more.

“It’s getting worse,” said Barbara O’Neal, who started the group Mothers of Murdered Sons in Savannah. “They’re still shooting. And they still don’t care.”

Her son, Alan O’Neal Jr., survived his teenage years, only to be shot dead during a robbery attempt six years ago at age 20.

The unrelenting gun violence in both cities is tearing at the adults who struggle to find answers and the kids who try, often in vain, to avoid mayhem.

Sheryl Sams speaks with a mix of weariness and disbelief about teen shootings in Savannah. She directs a program called Youth Intercept, which dispatches volunteers to the hospital emergency room to offer assistance to young people being treated for gunshot wounds.

Some successes

Sams says Youth Intercept has its share of successes; roughly 75 young people have graduated from the program since 2010. But she estimates only about 1 in 3 victims accept the program’s help.

“We have a kid who’s been shot three times and his mom finally tried to enroll him, but she hasn’t done all the follow-through,” Sams said, adding the mother and son stopped answering phone calls and knocks at their door. “He’s 14 now and he’s been shot three times. To them, it’s a way of life.”

Founded in 1733, Savannah is Georgia’s oldest city, and its downtown area forms the largest National Historic Landmark District in the U.S. An estimated 13 million visitors pumped $2.8 billion into the local economy last year. But beyond the Greek Revival mansions and manicured public squares, nearby neighborhoods struggle with poverty and violence.

In a case that typifies Savannah’s shootings, 17-year-old Wayne Edwards was on his way to a party in August 2014 when he got into an argument with another teen standing outside his car. That teen raised a gun and fired five shots, with one bullet killing Edwards. He wasn’t shot over money or drugs; the evidence pointed to violence sparked by tough talk and bluster.

The 18-year-old shooter was sentenced to life in prison, but the crime still makes no sense to Edwards’ father.

“It’s still hard after three years,” Wayne Blige said of his son’s slaying. “You know what happened, but you still don’t know why.”

Worse in smaller, midsize cities

The Gun Violence Archive compiles information on shootings nationwide from media and police reports. The AP-USA Today Network analysis of those cases found that smaller and midsize cities have higher rates of teen gun violence than major American cities. Chicago, plagued for years by teen violence, is the exception.

Wilmington, Delaware, a city of 72,000, had by far the highest rate of teen gun violence, nearly twice that of Chicago.

Syracuse sits just beyond the vineyard-rich hillsides of the Finger Lakes region of central New York, a tourist destination of spectacular waterfalls, deep gorges, and rolling hills. The city has a grittier past, built not by pressing Riesling grapes but by stamping out parts for automobiles and air conditioners.

Most of those factories have closed. The city is now known mostly for Syracuse University and its basketball team.

The university’s stately halls sit atop a hill that looms over the city’s South Side, a sprawling mix of neighborhoods that are often blemished by boarded-up clapboard homes sitting in overgrown lots. Many of the shootings cataloged by the Gun Violence Archive occurred here.

On one South Side street corner, mourners piled teddy bears where 15-year-old Akil Williams was shot and killed this summer during an argument. The corner is blocks away from where another 15-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2015. A year ago, 18-year-old Tyshawn Lemon was killed as he talked to a girl on her porch nearby.

‘It can happen to anyone’

“When I was growing up … if you were a regular kid and going to school and working, it didn’t happen to you,” said Lateefah Rhines, Tyshawn’s mother. “But now it’s touching everybody’s lives. And I feel like if it can happen to Tyshawn, it can happen to anyone.”

Researchers have linked high poverty rates to gun violence, and some South Side neighborhoods are plagued by both. They are among the poorest areas in a city with a poverty rate of 35 percent, well above the national average.

Despite the reasons for despair, some residents are not ready to give in to the violence.

Over the slap of boxing gloves at the Faith Hope Community Center, Arthur “Bobby” Harrison said some teens who get mixed up with guns are good kids but confused. His gym offers a place where neighborhood youths can shoot hoops, lift weights or spar in a ring next to a wall plastered with pictures of local boxers and role models such as Muhammad Ali and former President Barack Obama.

Harrison, who was serving a sentence in Attica state prison during the infamously deadly uprising in 1971, provides a firm hand for the teens who train here. But the gym also is a sanctuary for teens such as Quishawn Richardson.

“It doesn’t remind you of all the violence that’s going on outside,” said Quishawn, a lanky 15-year-old who dreams of playing basketball up the hill at the university. “It shows you that Syracuse has got some places you can go to without getting hurt.” (VOA)

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Reason to worry over Communal Violence in Basirhat, says Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen clearly sees reasons to worry over the communal riots erupted between two communities at Baduria on July 3 night over a Facebook post by a youth

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Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday said there is a "reason to worry" over the communal violence in Basirhat. Wikimedia
  • The communal violence that has engulfed pockets in Basirhat sub-division of West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district are indeed worrisome
  • Violence erupted between two communities at Baduria on July 3 night over a Facebook post by a youth
  • In no time  the violence spread to various pockets in Basirhat

Kolkata, July 10, 2017: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday said there is a “reason to worry” over the communal violence that has engulfed pockets in Basirhat sub-division of West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district.

“Why is it happening? Is it because someone is inciting it? We are all worried. How much political mischief is to be blamed for this? We have to ponder all these. There is a reason to worry over this,” Sen told a television channel here when asked about it.

“Bengal has a culture of co-existence of Hindu-Muslim communities and for a long time this co-existence was possible without any communalism, and suddenly this returns. We can’t be dismayed over this and let this be, thinking there is nothing to do in this matter… We have to take measures to get rid of these things,” he said.

The celebrated economist is in the city to attend the screening of a documentary on him directed by Suman Ghosh.

ALSO READKolkata: Special Screening of Amartya Sen documentary “An Argumentative Indian” on July 10

Violence erupted between two communities at Baduria on July 3 night over a Facebook post by a youth.

He was soon arrested but violence broke out with mobs attacking shops and houses, torching vehicles, including those of police, and putting up road blockades.

Several police personnel sustained injuries as the violence spread to various pockets in Basirhat. (IANS)