Sunday October 22, 2017
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Fundamentalists eclipsing democracy in Bangladesh

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Kolkata: Expressing concern over the atrocious rise of fundamentalist power in Bangladesh eminent Ajoy Roy, the father of slain secularist writer-blogger Avijit Roy, on Tuesday urged the youth to thwart the threat and uphold democracy.

Participating in a discussion on “Intolerance and Democracy” at Calcutta University, Ajoy Roy said Bangladesh was going through tough times where fundamentalists were running the show and wiping out the secular fabric and democracy in the country.

“Fundamentalists have now eclipsed free thinking and are now devouring the society. If we don’t stand up now, then I have to say, Bangladesh’s democracy is in real danger.”

“There is no alternative unless stopped, they will wipe out secularism, they will wipe out democracy,” he said.

Expressing deep anguish and grief over the killing of his son and other bloggers, Roy urged the youth to stand up against communal forces and take up arms if the need be.

“Our only hope now is the youth. But then, only writing or words will not suffice. We need to build a movement, we need to hit the streets. The onus is now on the youth to carry forward the legacy of our freedom fighters and save our country.”

“If the need be, they (youth) should be ready to take up arms against these elements.”

“When fundamentalists are charging towards you with swords, how do you counter them? You need to talk to them in a language which they understand,” he exhorted.

Besides Avijit Roy, three other bloggers — Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das and Niladri Chatterjee Niloy — were hacked to death by Islamist militants.

All four bloggers were involved with the ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’, a movement demanding maximum penalty for those who committed war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh freedom struggle and a ban on religion-based politics.

On the occasion, historians Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar expressed grave concern over the growing influence of Hindutva outfits, including the RSS and the VHP, and asserted intolerance was steadily rising since the advent of the Narendra Modi government.

“As writers or historians, we don’t know which of our work will enrage the Hindutva outfits and we will have to face their wrath.

“It would not be far-fetched to say that had Bhagat Singh been alive today and if he had written his last book ‘Why I am an Atheist’ now, maybe he would have met the same fate as Govind Pansare,” said Tanika Sarkar.

Referring to the murders of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, Tanika Sarkar congratulated all those who had returned their awards in protests against the growing intolerance.(IANS)

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Listening for Well-being : Arun Maira Talks About a Democracy in Crisis, Unsafe Social Media and More in his Latest Book

Maira asserts that we must learn to listen more deeply to 'people who are not like us' in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race.

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Arun Maira
Arun Maira (extreme left), during a public event in 2009. Wikimedia
  • Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira’s latest book is titled ‘Listening for Well-Being’
  • Maira observes that physical and verbal violence in the world and on social media is continuously growing
  • He also highlights the importance of ‘hearing each other’ in order to create truly inclusive and democratic societies

New Delhi, September 5, 2017 : Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira contends that “physical violence” in the real world and “verbal violence” on social media against people whom “we do not approve of” are increasing today. With such trends on the rise, the very idea of democracy finds itself in a crisis.

The solution?

“We need to listen more deeply to people who are not like us,” said the much-respected management consultant, talking of his latest book, “Listening for Well-Being”, and sharing his perspective on a wide range of issues that he deals with.

“Violence by people against those they dislike, for whatever reason, is increasing. It has become dangerous to post a personal view on any matter on social media. Responses are abusive. There is no respect for another’s dignity. People are also repeatedly threatened with physical violence.”

He said that gangs of trolls go after their victims viciously. “Social media has become a very violent space. Like the streets of a run-down city at night… not a safe space to roam around in.”

At the same time, streets in the physical world are becoming less safe too. “Any car or truck on the road can suddenly become a weapon of mass destruction in a ‘civilised’ country: in London, Berlin, Nice, or Barcelona,” Maira told IANS in an interview.

Maira said that with the rise of right-wing parties that are racist and anti-immigrant, there is great concern in the Western democratic world — in the US, the UK and Europe — that democracy is in a crisis.

In the US, for example, supporters of Donald Trump, Maira said, believe only what Trump says and watch only the news channels that share a similar ideology. On the other side are large numbers of US citizens who don’t believe what Trump says but they too have their own preferred news sources.

“They should listen to each other, and understand each other’s concerns. Only then can the country be inclusive. And also truly democratic — which means that everyone has an equal stake and an equal voice,” he noted.

In “Listening for Well-Being” (Rupa/Rs 500/182 Pages), Arun Maira shows his readers ways to use the power of listening. He analyses the causes for the decline in listening and proposes solutions to increase its depth in private and public discourse.

Drawing from his extensive experience as a leading strategist, he emphasises that by listening deeply, especially to people who are not like us, we can create a more inclusive, just, harmonious and sustainable world for everyone.

But it would be wrong to say that the decline in listening is only restricted to the Western world.

“We have the same issues in India too. We are a country with many diverse people. We are proud of our diversity. However, for our country to be truly democratic, all people must feel they are equal citizens.

“The need for citizens to listen to each other is much greater in India than in any other country because we are the most diverse country, and we want to be democratic. So, we must learn to listen more deeply to ‘people who are not like us’ in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race,” he maintained.

Maira also said that India is a country with a very long and rich history. And within the present boundaries of India are diverse people, with different cultures, different religions, and of different races.

“So, we cannot put too sharp a definition on who is an ‘Indian’ — the language they must speak, the religion they must follow, or the customs they must adopt. Because, then we will exclude many who do not have the same profiles, and say they are not Indians. Thus we can falsely, and dangerously, divide the country into ‘real Indians’ and those who are supposedly non-Indians. Indeed, such forces are rising in India,” he added.

Maira, 74, hoped that all his readers will appreciate that listening is essential to improve the world for everyone. He also maintained that it is not a complete solution to any of the world’s complex problems but by listening to other points of view, we can prevent conflict and also devise better solutions.

Born in Lahore, Arun Maira received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College. He has also authored two bestselling books previously, “Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions” and “Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning”. (IANS)

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India and Canada to Jointly Issue Two Sets of Diwali Themed Postal Stamps

The stamps will be released on September 21 as per a MoU signed between the postal departments of the two countries

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Diwali
Diwali does not mean you will have to compromise on your health, Wikimedia
  • India and Canada have a long-standing close relationship based on shared values of democracy
  • The presence of a large Indian Diaspora in Canada provide a strong foundation for the relationship
  • The theme of Diwali was chosen considering the large presence of Indian Diaspora in Canada

New Delhi, August 31, 2017: India and Canada will jointly issue two sets of commemorative postage stamps on the theme of Diwali, the government announced on Wednesday.

The stamps will be released on September 21 as per a MoU signed between the postal departments of the two countries.

“India and Canada have a long-standing close relationship based on shared values of democracy, pluralism, equality for all and rule of law. Strong people-to-people contacts and the presence of a large Indian Diaspora in Canada provide a strong foundation for the relationship,” said a statement from the Indian government.

It said the theme of Diwali was chosen “considering the large presence of Indian Diaspora” in Canada. (IANS)

 

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Top Highlights of PM Narendra Modi’s Speech on India’s 71st Independence Day

10 Important points in PM Modi’s speech

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth Independence Day speech from Red Fort
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth Independence Day speech from Red Fort. Twitter
  • We have to take the country ahead with the determination of creating a ‘New India’
  • His government is serious about tackling various national security issues
  • I want to proudly tell people that within just three years, we have recovered black money of Rs 1.25 lakh crore

New Delhi, August 15, 2017: It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth Independence Day speech from Red Fort, Delhi. He talked about a variety of issues like GST, demonetisation, terrorism, and triple talaq among others. Here are the top 10 points of Modi’s speech:

  • A New India will be our democracy’s biggest strength

During his speech, Modi expressed that India should create a new India before 2022, the 76th year of Independence. Modi said, “We have to take the country ahead with the determination of creating a ‘New India’. Let us come together to create an India free of corruption, nepotism, casteism, communalism, and terrorism. Let us build a country which is clean, healthy and is self-determined.”

  • From Quit India Movement to a United India Movement

Modi has previously spoken about the Quit India Movement during the monthly address of Mann ki Baat as well as the special session of the Parliament to commemorate the event. During the Independence Day speech, he once again brought back the historic event.

Asking Indians to take inspiration from the 1942 movement, Modi said, “Within five years, the British had left the country because of our unity. We have to take a sankalp of new India and take the country forward.” Remembering the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom movement, “There was a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi once. People with cotton in their hands support Gandhi and eventually, the country got freedom,” he added. He said on the Independence Day that the need of today’s India is Bharat Jodo, a united India.

  • 2018: A crucial year for India

Modi put special emphasis on January 1, 2018, telling Indians that 2018 will be the year that will mark the coming of age of a whole generation, the generation which will steer India forward.

1 January 2018 will not be an ordinary day. “The people who were born in the 21st century will find that this date will decide a lot in their lives. I welcome all the youths who will turn 18 in 2018. Now, you are getting an opportunity to be a part of the force which develops India,” said the prime minister. He called them the Bhagya Vidhatas’ of our country

  • Surgical Strikes and National Security

Modi hailed the surgical strikes (29 November 2016) on the Independence Day and stressed upon the fact that his government is serious about tackling various national security issues. He said, “After the surgical strike, the entire world had to acknowledge India’s strength.” The concern for national security is a natural one in an independent India. Our armed forces always showed their capabilities in handling both terrorism and during the war.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi Condemns Religious Violence on 71st Indian Independence Day, Warns “Will Not Accept Violence In The Name Of Faith”

  • Breakthrough measures of Modi government

Modi said that people are celebrating a Mahotsav of honesty today. His government implemented various praise-worthy measures like One Rank One Pension, GST, and demonetisation.

Talking about his government’s commitment to armed forces, Modi said, “For 30 or 40 years, the matter of One Rank One Pension was stuck. But our government took steps to fulfill the demand of our security personnel.” He said that GST gave the nation a new direction to competitive federalism and that GST was rolled so fast across the country, all thanks to technology. He said, “After GST enrollment, our truck drivers save 30 percent of their time in travel now.”

PM Modi spoke on demonetisation, “Today, I want to proudly tell people that within just three years, we have recovered black money of Rs 1.25 lakh crore.” Through Note ban, the black money came out. It was their endeavor to recover black money and then to make it a constructive part of the economy. Demonetisation proved to be a successful move against corruption. “The businessmen with black money used to run shell companies. After demonetisation, three lakh shell companies were found. And out of that, we canceled the registration of 1.75 lakh companies,” said the prime minister.

On development measures, he said, “Today, roads and railway tracks are being constructed twice as fast. Today, over 14,000 villages have got electricity. 29 crore people have got bank accounts now.”

  • Modi opposes Triple Talaq

His government supports the movement against Triple Talaq and India will also support Muslim women in their struggle. “I believe India will fully support the women in their struggle. The women of this country created a revolution against Triple Talaq. There was an atmosphere against Triple Talaq in the country with even the media supporting the women,” he said.

  • Gorakhpur tragedy

The prime minister was being criticized for not speaking on the Gorakhpur hospital tragedy which has killed over 70 children so far. But, Modi broke his silence today. He said, “In the last few days, some of our innocent children died in a hospital. All the countrymen stand together at this time.”

  • Militancy in Kashmir

On Independence Day, taking a peacemaking approach towards Kashmiris, Modi expressed his opinion that the Kashmir issue can be solved only through peaceful means.  He said, Na gaali se samasya sulajhne wali hai, na goli se, samasya suljhegi har Kashmiri ko gale lagane se (Kashmir problem can’t be resolved by either bullet’s or by abuses. It can be resolved only by embracing all Kashmiris).

He promised to bring prosperity to the militancy-infested state. “The development of Jammu and Kashmir is also a commitment of the people and the government there,” said Modi.

  • No leniency for terrorism

Prime Minister spoke of involving common Kashmiris in India’s growth story but took a tough stance on militancy. “A lot happens in Kashmir. A lot of claims have been made. A lot of people abuse each other. There are a lot of separatists. But there will be no leniency for terrorism. I have told many to become a part of democracy,” said the prime minister.

  • Communalism and Casteism are poison for the country

Modi said that violence in the name of faith is not acceptable and described casteism and communalism as poison for the country. The comments assume importance in the backdrop of various incidents of lynching by cow vigilantes. He said that issues like communalism and casteism can’t benefit the country in any way. “Therefore, violence cannot be emphasized in the name of faith,” Modi said.

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